Spring Clean Yourself!


Shocking video about our food

I was reluctant to post this video due to the strong conspiracy theory tone, but the information on food additives, FDA approvals, Monsanto cross-breedings and the research is all true. Shockingly and disappointingly true. Please watch this video and learn from it. If you have ever wondered what the big deal is about buying organic and non-GMO, here are a bunch of reasons. And people can't seem to figure out why our infertility, autism, diabetes, IBS and cancer rates are higher than they have ever been.

Please do your grocery shopping at health-food stores, farmer's markets, Trader Joe's and/or Whole Foods. And even then, you still need to be vigilant with reading the ingredient lists.

Avoid the following ingredients at all costs: aspartame (really difficult to avoid as it is in nearly every sugar-free item, including most chewing gum and soda), monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrogenated oils-especially cottonseed oil, Splenda and anything that takes more than a minute to try to pronounce. Yes, it takes extra time and effort when shopping, but this is your health and your future. So do whatever it takes to protect yourself.

This is hope out there. There is now more organic and non-GMO foods available than ever before. Farmer's markets are in nearly every city and there are watch-dog groups and certifying bodies to make sure you can find healthy foods.

Here are some links to informative sources:

The Non-GMO Project is a wealth of information on avoiding genetically modified foods and has a PDF shopping guide to help you at the store. There is even a free downloadable app.

The Organic Consumers Association has info on all things organic.

The Center for Food Safety keeps updated information of what is going on in the news and in courts about our food.


The Fountain of Youth

What are Antioxidants?
There are hundreds of antioxidants found in most fruits and vegetables and also produced in the body. They protect your cells from the damage caused by free radicals and not only keep us healthy, but they also keep us young, energetic, mentally alert, prevent disease and prolong our life. Dr. Packer, the leading scientist in the study of antioxidants, describes them best: “Their role in the human body is nothing less than miraculous” (Packer, 1999, p. 8).

What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are constantly being produced by your body. Everyday activities and environmental factors like UV light, chemicals, cigarette smoke and pollution all produce free radicals. Traveling around our body, free radicals oxidize our cells (like what happens when you leave food out), weakening our defenses and destroying our DNA. When kept under control, they can do important things like controlling blood flow--but when antioxidants can’t keep levels of free radicals under control, it causes rapid aging. That includes all aspects of aging, such as wrinkles, mental fog, poor eyesight, loss of memory, delayed reactions and many degenerative diseases.
"Scientists now believe that free radicals are causal factors in nearly every known disease, from heart disease to arthritis to cancer to cataracts." (Packer, 1999, p.8)
The Antioxidant Network
The following are the five antioxidants that make up the Antioxidant Network. These special antioxidants work together in the body to enhance, strengthen and even recycle one another. When an antioxidant neutralizes a free radical, it becomes useless. The other antioxidants in the network, when kept in balance, recycle each other back to functioning antioxidants. This complex system works nonstop with every breath to neutralize the harmful free radicals in your body. Dr. Packer (1999) describes the antioxidant network as “a shield that protects the body against the forces that age us before our time and rob years from our lives” (p. 9).

Co-enzyme Q10- Found in every cell in our body and it is essential for the production of energy. CoQ10 is very important for heart health. Studies have found people with heart disease have very low levels of this antioxidant and because it enables energy production, it is vital to a heart that works harder to pump. Japan has been successfully using CoQ10 to treat heart patients and also gum disease since 1965 (Packer, 1999, p. 95). In addition to its benefits for heart disease, CoQ10 has also shown the ability to rejuvenate brain tissue, help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and has increased the life span of breast cancer patients. Being a fat-soluble antioxidant, CoQ10 recycles vitamin E in the network.

Lipoic Acid- Referred to as “the antioxidant’s antioxidant” (Packer, 1999, p. 32), it is the strongest working and most amazing of all the network antioxidants. What makes lipoic acid different from the others is that it can recycle all the other antioxidants in the network and can even regenerate itself. It is incredibly powerful in protecting your body from cellular damage, especially following stroke and heart attack. It can also rejuvenate the liver, helping to treat all liver diseases like Hepatitis C and can reverse mushroom poisoning, which is often fatal. Lipoic acid is also effective in preventing and treating diabetes, used successfully in Europe for the last 20 years. 
Glutathione- One of the most important antioxidants, it is vitally important for maintaining a strong immune system, proper protein production and detoxifying the liver from everything you put in your body. Glutathione is necessary for healthy lungs, protecting lung tissue from damage and inflammation. It can also help prevent cancer by regulating your genes. As we age, glutathione levels decline and since low glutathione levels are associated with poor health, illness and death, it is very important to keep your levels high. It is not absorbed well from supplements, but fortunately, lipoic acid supplements increase your glutathione levels.

Vitamin E- The ultimate antioxidant for anti-aging, it protects you from wrinkles, sun spots, heart attack, stroke, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E was originally used as a preservative because it would prevent food from oxidizing (turning rancid). It also does the same in your body, especially protecting lipids (fats) from oxidizing—the main cause of heart disease. Being fat soluble, it can travel to all the fatty cells and clean up where the other antioxidants cannot. Vitamin E improves quality and elasticity inside and out, working to protect your veins, arteries and skin. It can be regenerated by vitamin C and lipoic acid.

Vitamin C- Unlike most animals, humans are not able to produce vitamin C. Therefore, it is very important to ensure that we get it from our diet and supplements. Popular for preventing and shortening colds and flu and for its ability to produce collagen, vitamin C has many more potent abilities. In the network, vitamin C is the most effective at regenerating vitamin E, which plays a large role in helping with heart disease. It has also proven effective in preventing cancer by strengthening the immune system, fortifying connective tissues, preventing damage to DNA and protecting genes from going haywire. Cancers shown to respond best to vitamin C are cancers of the esophagus, stomach, mouth and pancreas (Packer, 1999, p. 84). Vitamin C is crucial for men’s fertility, as it protects the DNA in sperm, preventing transmission of defective genes to the child. New research shows that vitamin C can also prevent cataracts.

Network Boosters-  The following support, or boost the functions of your antioxidant network.
Flavonoids- Antioxidants found in the pigments of plants. Also known as plant phenols, the richest sources are tea, berries and wine. Flavonoids scavenge free radicals, regenerate vitamin C, lower high blood pressure and prevent blood clots. They can also improve concentration, memory and sexual function in men. Two of the best sources are ginko biloba and Pycnogenol.
Carotenoids- Found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, they can protect you from macular degeneration, cataracts, many types of cancer and heart disease. Well known carotenoids include alpha and beta carotene, producing vitamin A in your body, which heals and protects your skin; lycopene which has proven effective in preventing prostate cancer; and lutein, which helps your vision. 
Selenium- A trace mineral found in broccoli, egg yolks, garlic, red grapes, onions, wheat germ and in some areas, drinking water. Selenium assists several enzymes in detoxification and is important for producing glutathione and supporting vitamin E. It may also help prevent heart disease, blood clots and cancer.

Antioxidant Cocktail for Longevity
The Packer Plan- Dr. Packer insists on the importance of 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Eating a wide variety of colors is the best way to ensure a wide variety of nutrients. For your network antioxidants, follow this basic regime, plus any of the boosters below:
Supplements in the A.M.
·      Vitamin E:
      100mg tocotrienols
      200 mg mixed tocopherols
·      30 mg CoQ10
·      50 mg lipoic acid
·      250 mg ester vitamin C
·      400 mcg folic acid
·      300 mcg biotin
·      2 mg vitamin B6
Supplements in the P.M.
·      Vitamin E:
            200 mg natural alpha tocopherol
·      50 mg lipoic acid
·      250 mg ester vitamin C
·      30 mg ginko biloba
·      200 mcg selenium

Recommended Boosters for Special Needs-If you fit into one of these categories, add the listed supplements to the basic AM or PM regime.

With each breath of smoke, smokers and second hand smokers are exposed to an incredibly high amount of toxins. This can overload the system with free radicals and quickly deplete the body of antioxidants.  Add the following to the above plan:
§  100 mg lipoic acid
§  100 mg tocotrienols
§  50 mg CoQ10
§  20 mg Pycnogenol
*Caution: Smokers should not take supplemental carotenoids, as they could react with cigarette smoke.

Diabetics lack an enzyme that produces gamma linolenic acid (GLA). USDA studies show the mineral chromium improves glucose tolerance by helping the body use sugar and metabolize fat (Packer, 1999, p. 190).
§  100 mg lipoic acid
§  1,000 mg GLA
§  200 mcg chromium
Menopausal Women 
Calcium is an important supplement for women of advanced age and tocotrienols can protect against breast cancer.
§  1,200 mg calcium
§  100 mg tocotrienols

High Risk of Cancer 
Having a close relative die before age 60 puts you at an increased risk of developing cancer. In addition to regular check-ups, taking additional supplements can provide your body with extra help in fighting carcinogens.
§  100 mg lipoic acid
§  100 mg tocotrienols
§  50 mg Co Q10
§  20 mg Pycnogenol

High Risk of Cardiovascular Disease 
High blood pressure, cholesterol or having a parent that died early of heart disease or stroke puts you at high risk. Get regular check-ups and tell your doctor you’re taking antioxidants as they are naturally anticoagulants (blood thinners).
§  50 mg Co Q10
§  100 mg tocotrienols (p.m.)
§  100 mg lipoic acid
§  20 mg Pycnogenol



Dangers of Bottled Water

Do you constantly carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day? Well, you should be, right? That’s what healthy people do, right? After all, there has been unrelenting advertisements about switching to water and in the last ten years we have made an unbelievable shift in drink consumption from soda to water. We have been educated, trained, warned and informed. And it is great that so many of us stay hydrated throughout the day. But there’s a problem. A big problem. A problem so huge and expansive that most of us can’t even fathom.

We have been hearing lately of the massive overload on our environment from tossed plastic bottles ending up in streams, lakes and oceans. That is a huge problem. We are polluting our environment, overwhelming our landfills and poisoning marine life. But this still isn’t the worst part…

Plastic bottles are manufactured with styrene, which is made from refined crude oil, and through a very toxic process forms the small, thin bottles which will slowly leach out proven neuro-toxins into your water. Independent tests have been made on water in plastic bottles and shows significant levels of these chemicals and phthalates, which are estrogen like compounds that act in your body just like estrogen. Natural water sources where grey water is deposited consistently have fish with hormonal abnormalities due to phthalates from plastic and other sources being poured back into our streams and lakes. Bottles exposed to heat or sun, like those left in your car or out in flats on a loading dock, have much higher levels of these chemicals.

The larger, thicker plastic bottles, like those for water coolers are even worse. This type of plastic is proven to leach Bisphenol-A (BPA) into the water. The FDA maintains that low doses of this chemical is not toxic, but they base that off of two studies carried out by the industry that manufactures BPA! Conflict of interest anyone? Meanwhile, over 200 other independent studies have scientists very alarmed about the affects on our bodies.

At low doses, BPA interferes with natural estrogen getting into cells, and with increased exposure, can completely shut-off male reproductive systems. At high doses, it can shut down you body’s production of thyroid hormone. Vom Saal, a scientist interviewed for the documentary film Tapped says that BPA is: “one of the most toxic chemicals known to man”.
The Tapped website states that of these 200 independent scientific studies on BPA, they find it “relates to obesity, prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, brain disorders like ADHD, liver disease, ovarian disease, disease of the uterus, low sperm count in men—the list is endless.” (accessed 9/21/2010)

Bottled water companies also have MONDO marketing budgets to make sure we think we are drinking superior, natural mineral water. The problem is, most companies are just selling minimally filtered tap water. Now, there are brands that do bottle water at the source, providing in clean, spring water. But the percentage is sooooo small. Plus, it turns out that any regulation that we might assume exists on bottled water standards—don’t really exist. Thanks to a nifty interstate loop-hole, the FDA only regulates product that crosses state lines. The majority of bottled water companies, like Coca Cola and Pepsi, sell bottled water that was bottled in that state. Therefore, there is zero regulation or inspection on the water quality.

Are you mad yet? I am. So what can we do about all this? The first, and most important thing is to stop drinking out of plastic bottles!!! But what about the water? In the film Tapped, they make a strong argument for how safe tap water is and how often and rigorously the quality is checked and that it is not only perfectly safe to drink it, but you can’t tell the difference anyway.  Personally, I just can’t agree with that. I think that the water quality completely depends on the city, how the water treatment plant works, and the surrounding environmental factors. The constant safety tests done on municipal water is only include the specific things they check for. But pollutants like pesticide run-off and industrial pollution deep in the ground water are not on their tests. There is also the new discovery of pharmaceutical pollution from all the antibiotics used in farming and the runoff from human excretion (like the synthetic estrogens in urine from birth control pill use—my MD told me about that one). These things are not checked for. Plus, some treatment centers use more natural means of filtration, and others, like Phoenix, just dump tons of chlorine in the water.

Personally, I can taste the difference. I can’t stand the taste of most tap water. Even here, in Norway, where the tap water is as pure as the melted snow pouring down the mountain behind me, the water that comes out of our faucet tastes like tap water. But at my parents’ previous house, it tasted just fine and I liked it. So, the pipes in your home will also affect your water. Tap water may be just fine at the testing site, but it has to travel a very long way through all sorts of pipes to get to your faucet.

Luckily for you, dear reader, one of my first textbooks, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, had a very long and specific section of the book devoted to water treatment and filtration. According to Dr. Elson Haas, the best filtration system that is widely available to the public is reverse-osmosis. Having one of these little tanks under your sink will provide you with a very thorough filtration of your water. RO units filter out almost everything from chemicals like chlorine to organic materials and some bacteria. It will even filter out the minerals. However, these units are quite expensive and they take a while to do their work. The second best is a compressed charcoal filter, which even include the faucet mounting Brita and Pur systems. While these filters are not the best for removing all the bad stuff, they are pretty effective. Dr. Haas actually recommends using both systems together, first the RO, then the charcoal, but I don’t think that’s really realistic in a normal household.

So stop buying plastic bottled water and start carrying your own filtered water in a glass or stainless steel bottle. There are many of these new, stainless steel water bottles popping up all over the place now. I haven’t tried one, and I’m a little suspicious that my water would taste like metal. Personally, I prefer glass; but as it can be impractical to travel with, these other bottles seem to be fine.

Happy hydration!


Staying Healthy with Nutrition, By Elson Haas, MD 2008. (see Amazon link at right)

Tapped, a behind the scenes documentary on the bottled water industry.


The Wonders of Vinegar

I came across a great article on Yahoo! about cleaning with vinegar and I thought I would share it. Here is an excerpt of the article "25 Ways to Clean with Vinegar" by Emily Hsieh:

"The cleaning aisle at just about any grocery store is stocked with a dizzying array of options—and when it comes down to it, there are a lot of expensive, toxic, superfluous products crowding the market. Chances are, you already have one of the best, all-purpose cleaning agents in your pantry: white vinegar. As noted earlier, vinegar actually works as a great laundry booster, stripping away the chemical build-up that detergent leaves behind (and gets rid of clingy odors in the process). And beyond that, there are tons of other applications for the stuff around your home..." For the complete article: http://shine.yahoo.com/event/haven/25-ways-to-clean-with-vinegar-1371277/

The article also lists a great website for 1001 cleaning tips with vinegar. Here are some of the tips I like from www.vinegartips.com:
  • Avoid the bad smell when you heat up a newly cleaned oven by using a sponge soaked in diluted white distilled vinegar for the final rinse.
  • To clean a grease splattered oven door window, saturate it with full-strength white distilled vinegar. Keep the door open for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.
  • Remove soap buildup and odors from the dishwasher by pouring a cup of white distilled vinegar inside the empty machine and running it through a whole cycle. Do monthly.
  • To prevent good glassware from getting etched by minerals, wash then spray with full-strength white distilled vinegar. Give the glasses a hot water rinse before letting them dry or drying them with a towel.
  • Remove white water rings from wood with a solution of equal parts white distilled vinegar and vegetable oil. Rub with the grain.
  • Remove perspiration odor and stains on clothing, as well as those left by deodorants, by spraying full-strength white distilled vinegar on underarm and collar areas before tossing them into the washing machine.
  • Forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? Pour a few cups of white distilled vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Then run a normal cycle with detergent.
  • Get cleaner laundry! Add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. The acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. Besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.
  • Eliminate manufacturing chemicals from new clothes by adding 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar to the water.
  • Give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. A cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.
  • Stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.
  • Discourage cats from getting into the kids’ sandbox with white distilled vinegar.
  • Preserve cut flowers and liven droopy ones by adding 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar to a quart of water in a vase.
  • Kill weeds and grass growing in unwanted places by pouring full-strength white distilled vinegar on them. This works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.
  • Create an all-purpose window cleaner with a few ounces of white distilled vinegar in a quart of water.
  • Give leather upholstery an extra shine by cleaning it with hot white distilled vinegar and rinsing with soapy water.
  • Make your car extra shiny by adding a few drops of white distilled vinegar to your bucket of water.
There are so many more great tips on the website, so check it out!


How Toxic Is Your Shampoo?


Herbs For Healthy Digestion

Keeping Your Digestion Healthy
We all know what it feels like when our digestion isn’t working properly. For some, this is an occasional occurrence brought on by a heavy meal or excessive stress. For others, it can be a constant problem, where each meal causes discomfort, bloating, acid indigestion or worse.

What causes digestion problems?
There are many causes and factors to digestion problems, as each person’s body is unique. However, unhealthy digestion is one of the most common afflictions worldwide. The modern lifestyle, with its face pace, high stress and meals on the run is the biggest factor in digestive disorders. Eating fresh, local and simply prepared meals in a relaxed environment has been replaced by industrialized, processed meals that can be bought on the street corner, frozen and shipped thousands of miles to a microwave oven, picked up through the window of a car and all gulped down within minutes. All this has led to a diet of processed, sugar laden, nutritionally devoid foods that clog our organs and cause numerous digestive complaints. Thorough chewing, the first and major part of digestion, has also become a victim of this faced-paced lifestyle. 

How do you know if you suffer from digestive difficulties?
The symptoms of poor digestion are numerous; from acid indigestion/heartburn to constipation; from bloating after eating to feeling sluggish and heavy; from flatulence and belching to loose stool or diarrhea. Weight gain and weight loss are signals that food is not getting processed correctly. Even skin eruptions, foul breath and mental fog can be signs that you’re not digesting your food properly.
Assimilation is the process of your body breaking down all the nutrients from your food and utilizing them. Vitamins, minerals, protein, and fats are all important nutrients that protect your cells and organs and give them the fuel they need to function. When your digestion is off, your assimilation is affected and that can prevent your cells from getting their nutrients. Balancing your intake of these nutrients is important. According to Michael Tierra (1998), a healthy diet should be made up of primarily whole grains and beans, secondarily fresh vegetables and thirdly, of dairy, eggs, fruits and oils (p. 47). 

Look in your spice rack for help...
Did you know that many of the common spices in your kitchen can help with your digestive ailments? Many herbs and spices are carminative (gas relieving), like anise, caraway, cardamon, clove, cumin and fennel. Chewing on a mixture of anise, caraway, dill and fennel seeds can help digest a heavy meal, expel gas and soothe the stomach. Fennel can also stimulate digestion, neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines and regulate hunger. (Gladstar, 2008, p. 331) Ginger, a digestive superstar, is excellent for all types of stomach and intestinal upset, including nausea, gas pains, cramps and indigestion. Thyme is fantastic for the intestines. As a natural parasiticide, it can combat intestinal worms, treat diarrhea and chronic gastritis (Tierra, 1998, p. 80).

What supplements can help digestion?
Probiotic supplements are important for maintaining healthy intestinal flora. Digestive enzymes are also very important to healthy digestion. Enzymes break down your food so your body is able to assimilate the nutrients. Enzymes are easily available as supplements, and some are also found in fruits. Proteolytic enzyme supplements containing papain and bromelain are usually derived from papaya and pineapple.

What herbs can help digestion?
Herbs can provide the most effective treatment for many digestive ailments. Artichoke is a common digestive bitter in Europe, as it is also a diuretic, fat reducer and blocks cholesterol (Tierra, 1998, p. 88). One of the safest natural laxatives is cascara sagrada, which stimulates the entire digestive system and is also beneficial for colitis. Psyllium husk is another laxative that works as a bulking aid for dry constipation. Chamomile, a well known herb for stomach aches, is also good for most digestive problems, even diarrhea.

How are herbs supposed to be taken?
There are several ways to prepare herbs. The simplest way is to just eat the herb or seeds as needed, like with the anise and fennel seeds. But with other herbs, the most common preparation is as an infusion, where dried herbs are steeped in boiling water for several minutes. This way is good for any herb that is in a leaf form or finely ground. For whole pieces and harder roots, a decoction is recommended, which involves simmering the herbs for twenty to sixty minutes. Both of these methods involve drinking one to four cups of liquid to get an appropriate dose. In contrast, a tincture can be made with either an alcohol or vinegar base. This is then taken in a few drops and can be stored much longer than dried herbs, and is helpful when the taste of an herb is difficult to palate. Lastly, when herbs are very bitter, or just taste terrible, the finely ground powder can be put into gelatin capsules and taken with water.

Gladstar, Rosemary. (2008). Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. “North Adams”: Storey Publishing.

Tierra, Michael. (1998). The Way of Herbs. “New York”: Pocket Books