Friday, January 30, 2015

End of the Cleanse!

Another January cleanse is drawing to a close for me - this month seemed to fly by very quickly this year!  Each of my cleanse suppers were simple and easy to make.  I also was able to have leftovers for supper 2 times per week which reduced the amount of cooking time/overwhelm.  I always had supper leftovers for lunch which also made it easier to manage through the extra work required during the cleanse.  I made hummus 3 times and had it as a snack and even as a light supper a few times after a late lunch.   Generally at the end of a cleanse, a person will slowly reintroduce each food they haven't eaten for the past month back into their diet in a separate 3 day block (only 1 food at a time) to determine if any of the foods cause an aggravation for them.  Because I have done the cleanse many times, I no longer do the food reintroduction, but it does serve as a great learning experience for people who are doing a cleanse for the first time.  In general, the cleanse has been a great experience again for me helping to start the year off in a positive and healthy direction.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meditation and Mental Health

In the June 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Tina Kaczor discusses a study involving meditation and mental health.  There were 39 participants (average age 60.3 years old) that completed the 8 week study.  Each participant had mild depression and were caregivers to loved ones with dementia.  The intervention group (23 people) did 12 minutes daily of kundalini yoga based (kirtan kriya) meditation while the placebo group (16 people) listened each day to a 12 minute relaxation CD.   The intervention/meditation group were found to have significantly greater improvements in depression and their mental health at the end of the 8 week study.  This study highlights that meditation offers further support than just basic relaxation techniques.  I am currently reading a great book called Sit Like a Buddha by Lodro Rinzler.  It is a concise and clear manual on how to easily integrate meditation practice into our daily lives.  Having a daily meditation practice doesn't have to be complicated and it can offer great support for our overall mental health.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Green Tea and Digestive Health

In the February 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Kaycie Rosen Grigel looks at the Shanghai Women's Health Study involving green tea consumption and digestive system related (including colon, esophageal, gall bladder, pancreatic, rectal, stomach) cancer risk.  Almost 70,000 women between the ages of 40-70 participated in this study.  The participants were divided into different categories based on their tea consumption and the primary tea consumed was green tea (88% of participants drank green tea only).  The regular tea drinkers were found to have a 17% lower risk of developing digestive system cancers than the participants who were not regular tea drinkers.   Participants who drank 2-3 cups per day had a 21% lower risk and the ones who were regular tea drinkers for 20 years or more had a 27% lower risk of developing all digestive system related cancers and a 29% lower risk of developing colon cancer specifically.  The information from this study provides additional great guidance around simple changes we can make in our diet to support our overall health.  

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Infant Eczema and Maternal Dairy Intake

In the November 2013 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Sarah Bedell Cook looks at a trial investigating infant eczema and maternal cow based dairy intake.  The breastfeeding mothers that participated in this trial all had a history of allergies (including food allergies, eczema, hives, asthma).  The infants were all exclusively breastfed and were monitored from birth to age 4 months.  Half of the mothers ate a diet that restricted dairy products (30 women) and the other half did not restrict their dairy intake (32 women).  At age 4 months, the incidence of eczema was significantly lower in the infants whose mothers restricted their dairy intake (only 2 infants developed eczema compared to 8 infants in the unrestricted dairy group).  Eczema is a relatively common concern for infants and this trial provides very helpful information around potential support for eczema management.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Benefits of Vitamin D

In the research news section of the December 2014 issue of Integrated Healthcare Practitioners, several studies involving vitamin D are highlighted.  One study found that women with lupus who had low vitamin D levels had an increased incidence of insulin resistance.  Another study found that 3 years of vitamin D supplementation was associated with improved (lower) HBA1C levels (which measures blood sugar/glucose stability over the previous few months) in African Americans with type 2 diabetes. Another study looked at vitamin D levels and risk of dementia and found that women with higher vitamin D levels had a lower risk of developing dementia.   Another study found that fatigue symptoms improved significantly when people with previously low vitamin D levels had their vitamin D move into expected range through vitamin D supplementation.   Each of these studies further highlights the wide range of support vitamin D offers for our overall health and that it is an important vitamin for us all to include in our daily routine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nut Consumption and Mortality

In the July 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor looks at a study analyzing nut consumption and mortality.  The data analyzed in the study was gathered from 2 long term studies (starting in 1976 for one and in 1986 for the other) involving over 170,000 participants (approximately 121,000 women and 51,000 men).  Nut consumption (including both peanuts and tree nuts, which includes cashews, almonds, walnuts) was monitored through food questionnaires every 2-4 years.   There was an inverse association between eating nuts and total mortality levels - the participants who ate a higher amount of nuts had a lower rate of mortality.  The participants who ate nuts daily were 20% less likely to have died during the course of the study than the participants who never ate nuts.  There was also an inverse association between nut consumption and death from cancer, heart disease, and lung disease (the participants who ate nuts had a lower rate of death from these causes).  This study provides great guidance on another simple step we can take to support our overall health.  Nuts are a great protein source that help to stabilize our blood sugar and make for a great daily snack.  I prefer to purchase refrigerated nuts, when possible, and I store them in the fridge at home.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Flax Seeds and High Blood Pressure

In the March 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor looks at a study involving flax seed and hypertension (high blood pressure). There were 110 participants in the study, 75% of whom had high blood pressure.  Approximately half of the group ate 30 g of ground flax seed per day for 1 year, while the other half of the group (placebo group) did not include flax seed in their daily diet.  The flax seed participants who started the study with high blood pressure had a 15 mm Hg decrease in their systolic blood pressure (the top number of the ratio) and a 7 mm Hg reduction in their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number of the ratio).  The participants who did not consume flax seed had an increase of 3 mm Hg in their systolic blood pressure and their diastolic blood pressure remained the same.  
This study highlights an easy step we can take to support healthy blood pressure.  Flaxseed is best ground shortly before consuming.  Grinding it in a coffee grinder or a high powered blender will break it down most efficiently.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Green Tea and Breast Cancer

In the February 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, authors Alschuler and Gazella look at a study involving green tea and breast cancer.    There were 28 participants in the study, all of whom were post menopausal breast cancer patients in between the time of their diagnosis and the time of their surgery.  The participants either received green tea capsules (containing 725 mg of green tea and 314 mg of ECGC per cap at a dose of 3 capsules per day) or no green tea capsules.  The average length of time the participants were dosed with the green tea capsules was 35 days.  The participants who received the green tea capsules were found to have a lower biopsy tissue Ki-67 activity level (which reflects the level of cancerous cell growth) compared to the ones who did not receive the green tea capsules.  The equivalent dose of the capsules in tea form is 8-10 cups per day.  This study provides a great insight into a simple step for supporting and strengthening women's health as they navigate through a breast cancer diagnosis.  

Benefits of Beetroot Juice

In the February 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Jacob Schor discusses a study looking at beetroot juice consumption and its impact on performance levels in cyclists. The study consisted of 9 male participants who were amateur competitive cyclists.  The average age of the participants was 28 years old. The participants either consumed 70 ml of beetroot juice or a placebo. Four exercise trials were done, one prior to the beetroot juice or placebo consumption and three following. The beetroot juice participants were found to have improved test markers (higher plasma nitrate levels and lower VO2 levels) and significantly faster time trial performances. In general, beets/beetroot juice are known as an excellent support for healthy liver cleansing and this study offers an insight into additional support beets can provide for our overall health. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ashwagandha and Cognition

In the May 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Robin DiPasquale discusses a study looking at ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and cognitive and psychomotor performance. The completed study involved 20 healthy men between the ages of 20-35 years. The men were dosed with either ashwagandha (2 X 250 mg capsules of standardized extract 2 times per day) or placebo for 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off, and then another 2 weeks on. The participants were assessed through 6 psychomotor performance tests. The individuals who received the ashwagandha showed significantly improved reaction time in 5 of the 6 tests compared to the individuals who received the placebo. The article also mentions another study where ashwagandha was shown to improve auditory response time and mental arithmetic abilities. In general, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic or tonifying herb that helps us to manage our stress levels more effectively and feel more grounded. This article helps to highlight further support ashwagandha can offer towards strengthening our overall health. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Iodine and Cancer Prevention

In the June 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Tina Kaczor looks at iodine and the support it can offer around cancer.  In addition to supporting healthy thyroid function, iodine also has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can offer anti-cancer support.  Iodine is also involved in cellular pathways that are implicated in cancerous cell growth and death.  Iodine is effective in reducing breast tenderness (non cancer related) and also has the potential to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer and reduce the activity of estrogen receptors in breast tissue.  As well a number studies around gastric cancer have found people with gastric cancer to have lower levels of iodine.  And an US survey (NHANES I) found that men who excreted the highest amount of iodine (indicating higher levels of iodine in the body) had a 29% lower risk of prostate cancer than the men who excreted the lowest levels of iodine.  On a supplemental level, molecular iodine is more well tolerated and easier on the thyroid/body than iodide salts although it can be hard to find.  It is important to note that people with auto immune mediated thyroid concerns/thyroid antibodies can have difficulty with supplemental iodine.    One way to increase iodine in our diet in a way that is gentle and easy on most of our systems is to focus on whole foods that are rich in iodine.  Seaweed (kelp, dulse, nori) is rich in iodine and easy to integrate either as a snack or mixed in with soups, grains, beans.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Sulforaphane and Autism Spectrum Disorder

In the December 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Matthew Baral discusses a study looking at sulforaphane and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Sulforaphane is an extract from broccoli with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  There were 43 males participating in the study, some were dosed with sulforaphane and same were given placebo.  The dose of sulforaphane was dependent on weight and ranged from 50 to 150 micromoles per day.  The dosing lasted for 18 weeks and participants were also followed for another 4 weeks, post dosing.  The people in the sulforaphane group were found to have significant improvement in mood, energy, and hyperactive behavior, as well as in communication, motivation, social interaction, and awareness levels compared to the people in the placebo group.  The improvements did decline once the sulforaphane was discontinued and the participants did move back to their baseline/pre treatment behaviour patterns.  Based on the improvements seen when the participants were taking the sulforaphane, this study provides an interesting insight into a potential support for people with ASD.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Topical Use of Coconut Oil

In the May 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, authors Elmore, Nance, Singleton, and Lorenz review studies on the topical use of coconut oil.  Components of coconut oil (lauric, caprylic, and capric acid) have anti-microbial activity and coconut oil can be used topically to treat/address skin infections.    Topical coconut oil was found to be effective in reducing staph aureus colonization of atopic dermatitis/eczema lesions, in reducing the level of the main bacteria that contributes to acne, and in reducing candida/yeast infections.  For the most part, coconut oil is hypoallergenic and well tolerated, topically, by most people and is a good oil to consider for skin health support.  It is best to buy certified organic extra virgin coconut oil and I prefer to buy all fat rich foods in glass containers to prevent any plastic based toxins from transferring from the container into the oil/food.  

Turmeric and Depression

In the November 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, author Ajay Goel discusses a study looking at turmeric extract (curcumin) in the treatment of major depressive disorder.  The study involved 56 people treated either with curcumin (500 mg 2 times per day) or placebo for 8 weeks.  During the first 4 weeks, the improvements seen were similar in both groups, but in the last 4 weeks, the people taking the curcumin showed a more significant improvement in their emotional/mental health and wellness.  Previous studies have linked chronic inflammation and depression/mental illness and the authors of this current study suggest curcumin's anti-inflammatory properties may be playing a role in the improvements that were seen.  Turmeric is a safe and gentle herb (although not indicated for people with clotting/bleeding disorders) that offers a wide scope of support including the potential to offer support for overall emotional health.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Flax Seed Consumption and Prostate Cancer

In the February 2014 Natural Medicine Journal Special Oncology supplement, author Tina Kaczor discusses a study that looked at men with prostate cancer and flaxseed consumption.  Within the study, some of the men didn't consume flax seeds.  The group who did consume flax seeds (30 g or 1/4 cup per day) though had a significantly lower proliferative index/ki-67 level (which indicates less tumour growth).  Previous studies suggest that compounds in flax seeds can increase apoptosis/death of cancer cells and reduce the activity of insulin-like growth receptors which also results in an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells.  Even though the exact mechanism through which flax seed consumption can positively influence prostate cancer isn't clear, this study points to flax seeds being a supportive part of the diet for men dealing with prostate cancer.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Urban Green Space and Mental Health

An article by Kurt Beil in the July 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal focuses on a 17 year (1991-2008)  British study that examined shifts in mental health status in people who moved to new homes which were surrounded by either more or less urban green space.  Mental health status was assessed by a General Health Questionnaire provided by the British Household Panel Survey.  People who moved to a new home with increased surrounding urban green space were found to have improved mental health status not just immediately but for years following the move which suggests the improvement was permanent.  People who moved to a home with less surrounding urban green space did not experience any shift in mental health status.  Even though less surrounding urban green space didn't impact mental health, the improvement in mental health seen with increased exposure provides insight into a support for our overall mental health that we can all easily access.  While we may not be able to actually move to a home with increased surrounding urban green space, ensuring that we get outside and connect with the green space that is within our own neighbourhood or our own city can potentially help to boost our mental health.  This is a fun (even in the winter!), refreshing, and free way for us to support our overall health.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Breast Cancer and Exercise

An article by Jacob Schor in the October 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal looked at a study investigating breast cancer mortality risk in breast cancer survivors who ran and in those who walked as their form of exercise.
With exercise in general, it was found the risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by 24% per MET hour (1 MET hour = approximately 1 mile of brisk walking and 2/3 of a mile of running) per day.  When separating the running and walking groups, the women who ran had their risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by 40% per MET hour per day while the women who walked had their risk of breast cancer mortality decreased by only 5% per MET hour per day. 
These statistics are confusing but basically point to the women who used running as their form of exercise, post breast cancer diagnosis, having a more significantly reduced risk of breast cancer mortality than the women who walked.  
Even more interestingly, the study found that women who ran more than 2.25 miles per day were at a 95% lower risk for breast cancer mortality than breast cancer survivors who did not meet current exercise recommendations (which are moderate intensity physical activity for 30 minutes 5 times per week or vigorous intensity physical activity for 20 minutes 3 times per week).  
The information from this study provides valuable guidance on the form of exercise that is most beneficial for breast cancer survivors to integrate into their regular routine.  

Friday, January 2, 2015

BPA Levels and Miscarriage Risk

In the October 2014 issue of the Natural Medicine Journal, Setareh Tais discusses a study that investigated pregnant women's serum/blood bisphenol A (BPA) levels and miscarriage risk. 
BPA is a chemical with endocrine/hormonal disrupting properties and has the potential to impact reproduction and embryo development.  The study found that the women who were in the highest quartile of serum BPA levels had an 83% higher risk of having a first trimester miscarriage than the women with serum BPA levels in the lowest quartile.   
This study highlights the importance for everyone, but especially women who are aiming to get pregnant, to limit their BPA exposure.  BPA is found in the lining of metal cans, as well as plastic food/beverage containers and thermal receipts.  Aiming to limit our use of canned food by buying bulk/dried and fresh foods, storing our food/drinks in glass containers, and limiting our contact with receipts are all relatively easy steps we can take to decrease our BPA exposure.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!!

With the start of a new year, I  have started my yearly (since I think 2001?) January cleanse!  Normally I start my day off with a green smoothie, but I am out of ingredients, so I used up some of the frozen fruit stock I have (banana, blueberries), added my regular almond butter, hemp seeds, coconut oil, and water, and had a fruit smoothie instead.

In general, I do not have meat, dairy, eggs, caffeine (outside of chocolate!), alcohol, or refined sugar in my diet, but for the cleanse, I also remove gluten, soy, nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers), and unrefined sweeteners (including chocolate!) for the month.  I also focus on only home made food during the month of January and limit my processed food intake to rice cakes and occasional rice pasta.

I like that the cleanse always helps me to start the new year off in a simple and back to basics way - I find it helps me to set a healthy and positive tone for the year ahead.

I suspect the cleanse will be made up of mainly simple suppers, so there may not be many recipe postings, but I hope to focus on other ways to support and strengthen our overall health.

For the 2015 cleanse, I am aiming to get more sleep.   In a 2014 webinar on integrative strategies for supporting people diagnosed with breast cancer that I listened to, the teacher, Lise Alschuler ND,  mentioned that women who routinely had less than 6 hours of sleep per night had a 62% increased risk of developing breast cancer than women who routinely had 7 hours of sleep per night.  As a night owl and resulting chronic under sleeper, this information serves as a good signal to get my sleep habits more in balance and I plan to use the cleanse as a starting point.