A Different Approach To Spring Allergies

One of the most important aspects of addressing any health issue is to understand the cause and effect of how and why you are experiencing your symptoms and what they represent. Seasonal allergies are, for many, the down side to the beauty of spring and summer. Itchy, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and even wheezing can dictate an individual’s activity choices, where they can go, and even what they can eat.

None of this is desirable, and much of it has been shown to be preventable. To understand how you can take control of your seasonal allergies, let’s explore where they come from. Foreign proteins are found in many airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, and ragweed. When mucous membranes that come in contact with these foreign proteins are not immunologically competent enough to break down the proteins, the membraneS secrete mucous, fluids, and histamine. This causes the itching, swelling, irritation, and watery excretions that make seasonal allergies so challenging.

To improve allergy symptoms, steroid or steroid-like medications are often prescribed. These are anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce the allergic immune reaction to the foreign proteins.

By building up our immune and adrenal system, we can enable our bodies to be better able to handle these allergens, which cause the allergy reactions. Our adrenals are located either on top of or within the kidneys and produce cortico-steroids and other natural anti-inflammatory as part of our “national guard” system. Hans Selye, MD, PhD, who spent over 50 years researching the adrenals and immune system, discovered the important nutrition and lifestyle components to keeping this important body system working well: 

  • A diet rich in B, C, E, and A vitamins (or supplementation)
  • Unsaturated fatty acids, such as fish oils
  • Adequate protein intake
  • Minerals to aid the production of natural allergy fighting anti-inflammatories 
  • Adequate sleep and rest
  • Elimination of infections
  • Reduction of emotional stress
  • Moderate exercise
  • Avoidance of over exertion
  • Avoidance of traumas as well as dental and medical surgery
  • Elimination of extreme temperatures indoors and out

Seyle’s research demonstrated that by taking good care of our adrenal and immune system, allergies may be greatly reduced and, in some cases, eliminated. Applying some of these principles may allow you to enjoy this spring more while experiencing fewer symptoms.

Healthy Habits: Eat More Colors

The living world around us is filled with color. Look around and you may see blue sky, green grass, aqua oceans, and an unlimited array of tress, flowers and plants bursting with intense, vibrant color. Health is associated with color as well. When we are healthy we have pink cheeks, bright eyes, and a healthy flush to our skin. Quite interestingly, aging is the gradual loss of color. This fading of color marks the slowing or ebbing of life vibrancy.

It is no wonder then that colorful foods are the healthiest foods we can nourish our bodies with. They contain nutritional benefit in the form of phytonutrients, which means plant nutrients. The fruits and vegetables with the most vivid colors contain the highest amount of these important plant nutrients. Their hues act as a table of contents for the phytochemicals found inside the plant.

Listed below is a color guide for choosing the fruits and vegetables that will provide these powerful healing plant nutrients. Make a conscious effort to include a variety of these healthy colors in your daily diet. Not only will you get more nutrients, but your meals will become more fun and enjoyable.

  • Orange = Contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports immune function.
  • Yellow-Orange = Provides vitamin C, which detoxifies and inhibits tumor cell growth.
  • Red = Holds lycopen, an antioxidant that reduces cancer risk.
  • Green = Contains folate and iron, which are essential to building healthy cells and genetic material.
  • Green-Light =Provide indoles and lutein, which eliminates excess estrogen and carcinogens.
  • Green-White = Hold allyl sulfides. These can destroy cancer cells and support a healthy immune system.
  • Blue (fruits) = Contain anthocyanins that destroy free radicals.
  • Red-purple (fruits) =Provide reservatrol, a plaque reducer and mineral chelator.
  • Brown (legumes, whole grains) = Are high in fiber, carcinogen remover and digestive aid.

Filling your diet with many colorful fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need to stay healthy, happy, and vibrant. Think 'rainbow' the next time you prepare your plate.

A Healthier Relationship With Food

 

Our mood and our food are intimately connected. It's interesting that the emphasis is usually on how things from outside our bodies affect our insides when in reality so much of what is going on inside affects our outsides. This is really evident in terms of weight loss and weight gain. The way we feel about ourselves, our work, or our life, whether we are fulfilled or dissatisfied, has more to do with what or how much we choose to eat than eating a certain food affects how we feel.

One of the reasons diets don't work is because the "work" is being done on the outside of the problem instead of the inside. I have been a nutritionist for over 30 years and have seen thousands of patients who want to change the way they look or the way they eat.

When we start to "work" on the goal, within a relatively short period of time, they become aware of underlying feelings and emotions associated with not eating foods that "medicate" or mask their feelings. They often become discouraged because the feelings are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It is our human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It takes courage to truly tackle and confront the underlying issues of "food and mood." Rather than focusing on the outside of the problem, we need to focus on the inside instead.

Here is an exercise you may find to be of value. If you are dealing with mood or food issues, keep a journal for 10 days. Write down everything you eat. Also write about how you feel when you don't eat what you want and how you feel when you do eat what you want.

Just becoming more aware of what you are putting in your mouth, and how it translates to how you feel after you eat a particular food, can be the start of a healthier and happier relationship with food and your mood.

 

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Eat Less, Think Better

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If you want to boost your brainpower, put down your fork. According to a research study published in National Academy of Sciences Journal, there is a link between “energy metabolism and brain adaptation that is potentially relevant to accelerated brain aging by over-nutrition and diabetes.”

Dangerous Overeating

This means that overeating can result in more rapid aging and an accelerated loss of brain functioning. It can also lead to mature-onset diabetes that accelerates oxidative stress on our brains. On the other hand, the research, conducted in Italy, demonstrates that eating less turns on a molecule in the body that keeps the brain from aging as quickly.

The team of Italian researchers at the Catholic University of Sacred Heart in Rome discovered that this molecule, called CREB1, is triggered by low-calorie diets in the brains of lab animals. CREB1 apparently activates specific genes that are linked to brain functioning and a longer life span.

Obesity And Brain Harm

There have been numerous studies demonstrating that obesity is bad for the brain and actually slows its functioning. This can lead to early brain aging that can be fertile ground for the diseases to which older brains often succumb, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s syndrome.

In comparison, caloric restriction keeps the brain from aging and keeps the mind young.

“Our findings identify for the first time an important mediator of the effects of diet on the brain,” says researcher Giovambattista Pani. “This discovery has important implications to develop future therapies to keep our brain young and prevent brain degeneration and the aging process. In addition, our study sheds light on the correlation among metabolic diseases as diabetes and obesity and the decline in cognitive activities.”

With this important information coming to light, it makes sense for all of us to consider reducing our caloric intake each day. This will not only assist with weight control, but will also help reduce aging and prevent type 2 diabetes.

 

The Science of How What We Believe Becomes Our Reality – Part I

thoughts become things"Mind is the Master Power that molds and makes, and we are mind. And ever more we take the tool of thought, and shaping what we will, bring forth a thousand joys, or a thousand ills. We think in secret, and it comes to pass, environment, is but our looking glass."    James Allen

At some point we have all heard the adage "Thoughts are things," which serves as the central tenet of such popular New Age philosophies like the Law of Attraction, featured in best-selling books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. And while many skeptics have been quick to dismiss the idea of "As a man thinketh, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7) as nothing more than a pop psychology platitude, the ongoing findings of medical science are telling a different story.

In an article from the January – February 2013 edition of Harvard Magazine Cara Feinberg profiles the pioneering work of Dr. Ted Kaptchuk, Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. In the article, Feinberg chronicles the exciting findings made by Dr. Kaptchuck and his team in conducting a "clinical drug trial" charting the effects of prescription medication vs. acupuncture in relieving the pain of the trial participants:

"Two weeks into Ted Kaptchuk's first randomized clinical drug trial, nearly a third of his 270 subjects complained of awful side effects. All the patients had joined the study hoping to alleviate severe arm pain: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, chronic pain in the elbow, shoulder, wrist.

In one part of the study, half the subjects received pain-reducing pills; the others were offered acupuncture treatments. And in both cases, people began to call in, saying they couldn't get out of bed. The pills were making them sluggish, the needles caused swelling and redness; some patients' pain ballooned to nightmarish levels.

"The side effects were simply amazing," Kaptchuk explains; curiously, they were exactly what patients had been warned their treatment might produce (emphasis added)." Even more startling, "…most of the other patients reported real relief, and those who received acupuncture felt even better than those on the anti-pain pill. These were exceptional findings: no one had ever proven that acupuncture worked better than painkillers.

But Kaptchuk's study didn't prove it, either – the pills his team had given patients were actually made of cornstarch; the "acupuncture" needles were retractable shams that never pierced the skin. The study wasn't aimed at comparing two treatments. It was designed to compare two fakes (emphasis added)."

Although Dr. Kaptchuk doesn't contend that patients can simply "think themselves better" his study – along with many others conducted on the placebo effect – does prove a very important, and critically under looked, fact in health care: "patients' perceptions matter, and the ways physicians frame perceptions can have significant effects on their patients' health."

Beliefs are powerful things and what we tell ourselves and others tell us can make us better or worse. We all have "our narrative" and we tell it over and over again both to ourselves and to others. We believe it, we expect it and we project it. When we change our beliefs and our story, we change the outcomes.

One of the better known studies which demonstrates how changing our narratives can change our outcomes (and our lives) is the 1980s breast cancer support group study that was written up in the journal Advances. All of the women had breast cancer that had metastasize before the study began.

Their prognosis was poor but they became a group who listened to each other's stories, supported each other, cared about one another and helped each other manage their symptoms and disease. They also helped each other change their story. It is not surprising that the women in this support group lived on average 18 months longer than breast cancer patients with the same degree of metastasis.

This article has previously appeared on Huffington Post

Do We Unknowingly Create Unhappiness?


Most people identify themselves as a “glass half full” kind of person.  We don’t intentionally set out to wreck our moods or think ourselves into unhappiness… do we?  However, we can feel like tumbleweeds in the wind, our moods – which can create stress may quickly shift from the impact of a difficult work environment, a nagging spouse, or even something as seemingly benign as the weather.  And all these mood stressors impact us on a physical level too – by increasing the body’s production of a stress hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol initiates a vicious cycle of food versus mood, wherein we crave sugary, carb-laden foods and shun healthier alternatives like fish and vegetables.  Of course, eating all this garbage makes us feel more depressed and more negative, which floods the body with more cortisol.  But the good news is that you can break the cycle – and it all starts with something as simple as a thought.

As it turns out, the more frequently you have negative thoughts, the more depressed you feel [1].  Conversely, the happier you feel, the more your health and your mood improves.  Classes in understanding happiness have even sprung up on college campuses.  Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D ., an associate of the Harvard Psychology Department teaches the single most popular course on campus – a course about how our levels of happiness and unhappiness are rooted in our thoughts, deeds and words.[2]

But can we really learn to be happy?  A new school of thought put forward by psychologist Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychology Association believes that we can all be happier by recognizing how our thoughts and words contribute to our moods.   The good news is that you can start feeling better today by following a few proven steps that boost your body’s natural “happiness chemicals”.

According to an article by the Cleveland Clinic,[3] you can quell a bad mood almost instantly by:

·         Holding hands or hugging – A 20 second hug with your spouse releases the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin, which in turn helps you relax and feel calmer.

·         Get social – Resist the urge to hibernate in your home alone and grab a pal (or two, or three) for an evening out.  When women are emotionally close to their friends, the hormone progesterone is increased, which subdues anxiety and reduces stress.  Men get the same benefits whether they’re with their buddies or with women.

·         Enjoy more of nature – The fresh air, the trees, the crisp leaves under your feet, the warmth of the sun on your face… getting out into nature revitalizes your body and mind while clearing out the cobwebs of too much time spent indoors.

·         Laugh out loud – Rent a comedy movie or listen to your favorite comedian. Boisterous laughter releases endorphins which help you feel happier and more at ease.

Feeling happier is not a matter of willing your body to do so.  Your brain is smarter than you think, and no amount of telling yourself “I am happy…I am happy” is going to change your mood.  Instead, combine your affirmative statement with a reason – such as:

Today I am going to feel happy BECAUSE…(I’ll finish that big project at work / I’m grateful for my family / I’m taking better care of my health, etc.)

Back to the cortisol culprit – how do you slam the breaks on a seemingly never ending cycle of cravings that can disrupt your mood?  Follow these tips, from the Food and Mood connection by the Mayo Clinic [4]

·         Keep your blood sugar levels even throughout the day by consuming more whole grains, fruits, and leafy green vegetables

·         Avoid alcohol as it can interfere with your body’s natural ability to get a good night’s sleep

·         Eliminate caffeine as you’re likely to experience a “crash” later when your blood sugar takes a nose-dive

·         Consider eating 5-6 smaller meals per day rather than 3 large ones as this also contributes to better blood sugar levels.

Overall, you can learn to improve your mood and well-being by taking these simple steps. Try it out and let me know your results in the comments below!

[1] The Effects of Reducing Frequency of Negative Thoughts on the Mood of Depressed Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/620107

[2] Tal Ben-Sharar: The Secret to Happiness:
http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/01/the-science-of-happiness.html

[3] The Cleveland Clinic: Mood Boosters: Think Happy Thoughts to Boost Your Mood
http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/mind/moodboosters/Pages/ThinkHappyThoughtstoBoostYourMood.aspx

[4] The Food and Mood Connection:   http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Copyright 2013 G. Donadio
 

Love Can Be Fattening



I ran across a great article, written by Nicholas Bakalar, about a study that was published on the relationship between the weight gain of women who live with a mate in comparison to women who do not. Rather than excerpt material from the article, I would like to share it with you in is entirety. Hope this information is useful for you or someone you know.

Study Says Women With Mate Get Heavier
by Nicholas Bakalar

It is widely known that women tend to gain weight after giving birth, but now a large study has found evidence that even among childless women, those who live with a mate put on more pounds than those who live without one.

The differences, the scientists found, were stark.

After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner. The number of women with a baby but no partner was too small to draw statistically significant conclusions.

There is no reason to believe that having a partner causes metabolic changes, so the weight gain among childless women with partners was almost surely caused by altered behavior. Moreover, there was a steady weight gain among all women over the 10 years of the study.

This does not explain the still larger weight gain in women who became pregnant. The lead author, Annette J. Dobson, a professor of bio-statistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested that physiological changes might be at work.

“Women’s bodies may adjust to the increased weight associated with having a baby,” Dr. Dobson said. “There may be a metabolic adjustment that goes on when women are pregnant that is hard to reverse. This would be more consistent with our findings than any other explanation.”

The study covered more than 6,000 Australian women over a 10-year period ending in 2006.

At the start, the women ranged in age from 18 to 23. Each woman periodically completed a survey with more than 300 questions about weight and height, age, level of education, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol consumption, medications used and a wide range of other health and health care issues.

By the end of the study, published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, more than half the women had college degrees, about three-quarters had partners and half had had at least one baby. Almost all of the weight gain happened with the first baby; subsequent births had little effect.

Also by the end of the study period, there were fewer smokers and risky drinkers than at the beginning, more women who exercised less and a larger proportion without paid employment.

But even after adjusting for all of these factors and more, the differences in weight gain among women with and without babies, and among women with and without partners, remained.

Despite the study’s limitations — weight was self-reported, for example, and the sample size diminished over time because people dropped out — other experts found the results valuable.

“It’s interesting and brings out some important points,” said Maureen A. Murtaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Utah who has published widely on weight gain in women. Perhaps, she suggested, a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight.

“Think of going to a restaurant,” Dr. Murtaugh said. “They serve a 6-foot man the same amount as they serve me, even though I’m 5 feet 5 inches and 60 pounds lighter.”

The study included only women, but the researchers cited one earlier study that showed an increase in obesity among men who had children, adding further evidence that social and behavioral factors are part of the explanation.

Dr. Dobson said the finding of weight gain among all the women, with families or without, was troubling.

“This is a general health concern,” she said. “Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain.

“From a prevention point of view, one can look at these as particular times when women need to be especially careful.”
© 2013 BlueCross BlueShield Association – All Rights Reserved.

Weight Loss and the White Stuff

Take all the “white stuff” out of your diet. You’ve read it in popular magazines, heard it from your friends and even from the lips of the long reigning queen of day time television. Taking away all things white from your diet – bread, pasta, bakery items and sugar can be an excellent way of reducing empty calories from what you eat as well as losing weight.

There is little doubt that refined sugar and flour, for the most part, have been stripped of nutrients and fiber and are little more than a significant amount of complex carbohydrate starch. These complex starches are not only high in calories but can be quite troublesome for our bodies to metabolize.

However, the white stuff is by no means the only grain based complex carbohydrates that can be eliminated to enhance weight loss and also aid in reducing the current cause of many of the leading health conditions claiming the lives of Americans today. A serious health condition, Metabolic Syndrome, occurs in approximately 20-30% of all industrialized populations. It is a growing medical condition that can be directly linked to diets high in complex carbohydrates and lifestyle behaviors.

The symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome relate to elevated insulin levels and include high blood pressure, obesity, increased risk for type 2 diabetes, increased risk of dementia, fatty liver and potential kidney damage. In addition, many complex carbohydrates of grain derivitatives are linked with allergies, skin conditions, ear infections especially in children, fatigue, sleep problems and depression.

Given the risk for Metabolic Syndrome, taking out the white stuff should be a positive preventative way to avoid metabolic syndrome and its accompanying symptoms. But there’s more to addressing the issues of grain based complex carbohydrate consumption than just removing the “white stuff”. As humans we do not possess the enzymes required to digest cellulose, the protective fiber found on the outside of all grains, which is why we have to mill flour – to breakdown the cellulose that we cannot digest or gain nutritional benefit from.

Cellulose protected plant foods are edible only by rudiments – double bellied animals which possess the enzyme system and digestive engineering to utilize grain foods as their dietary staple. Thousands of years ago, when the continents divided and humans went from migrating, nomadic hunter -gathers to stationary agriculture based tribes, we needed to identify a dependable food supply and grains became just that.

We quickly learned however that we needed to do something to the grain to be able to ingest it. Trying to chew on wheat or even rice without altering its structure in some way was impossible and resulted in not only sore tongues and lips, but upset digestive systems. Milling of the cellulose rich wheat, rye and corn grains produced flour which could easily be chewed and ingested, unlike the raw grains.

Thus began our use of grains, which are sweet, versatile to cook and a dependable food source. Evolutionary problem solved. Or was it? Let’s look at the positive side of making the switch. Simply switching from white to whole wheat bread can lower heart disease risk by 35% according to the Harvard Nurses study of 75,000 nurses, who ate whole grains in place of white flour.

There two big differences between white bread and whole wheat bread is the processing and the amount of fiber the flour retains after processing. While there are three parts to a wheat berry which both are made from, white flour processing only uses the “endosperm”, the starchy part of the berry. Whole wheat flour uses the bran outer layer which is the cellulose we cannot digest and the germ part as well. We’ve all heard of wheat germ, which contains the plants nutrient stores.

White bread has almost zero nutrient value unless it is enriched, while whole wheat flour is much higher in fiber, does contain vitamin B6, E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and chromium. The bad news here is that generally the baking or cooking process destroys much or all of the vitamin content. Some minerals and certainly the fiber can remain even after baking. The most important difference however is the fiber.

Harvard studies on fiber show that this indigestible portion of grains, can lead to fewer heart attacks, decreased diverticular disease, type 2 diabetes and constipation. It also provides fullness, hunger satiation, aids bowel integrity. So then why any concern about whole grains? Whole grains still require the secretion of insulin to utilize the complex carbohydrate in the whole grain products and it is the insulin that is the main culprit in metabolic syndrome.

If an individual replaces the same amount of white flour products with whole grain products they will enjoy increased nutrient benefits, however if they have already developed a high insulin secretion due to the white flour products they have consumed and probably over consumed, switching to whole grain products will not necessarily produce the positive outcomes they are hoping for.

In my more than 30 years of practicing nutrition, I have seen countless individuals with a wide span of conditions improve dramatically when all flour based products were eliminated from their diets. Many of us are not genetically or enzymatically built to ingest and handle the metabolism of grain foods.

While they may appear not to be as bothersome for some individuals, many of us gain weight, develop skin problems, sugar regulation issues, bowel problems, acne and other chronic concerns that can be either greatly improved or eliminated by simply removing all flour products from the diet.

The reasons can be twofold. First, the gluten contained in grains and secondly, the insulin secretion required for metabolizing the carbohydrate starch. When the Islets of Langerhans beta cells of our pancreas have enlarged over time to produce higher levels of insulin to accommodate the amount of complex carbohydrates we are eating, they will continue to do so if complex carbohydrates are ingested, even when a more nutrient rich alternative such as whole grains is consumed.

In my experience and practice based research, weight loss and improved overall health is the general outcome for individuals, both with and without hypertrophy of the insulin secreting cells, when all flour and sugar products are removed or dramatically reduced in their diet. There is, however, a satisfying and delicious alternative to not consuming any flour products that many are using with great success. There will be more to share on the subject in the upcoming Part II of this discussion.

(c) 2012 Georgianna Donadio

http://www.medicinenet.com/metabolic_syndrome/page2.htm
http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/wheat-allergy
http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhs/
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fiber-full-story/index.html