Saturday, March 28, 2015

Brain Health

Can we improve the way our brain works? There is new evidence that we can. With the almost epidemic of Alzheimer’s and Dementia in our elderly it makes sense to do everything we can to keep our brains healthy. How much more sense does it make to do these things to help our brains heal if they have already been injured?

Exercise comes in many forms. When it comes to the brain there are many benefits to multiple forms of exercise.

Stretching our brains by expanding our knowledge has been shown to reduce or postpone dementia in most of its forms.  One of the keys to this expansion of knowledge is to truly want to use the information you are learning. Memorizing a shopping list does more good than memorizing a random list of words. Learning a new hobby or a new language does even more.

Our brains can become dehydrated just like our body. When the brain is dry thinking becomes harder, and slower.

Physical exercise is just as important as mental exercise. Exercising while listening to music seems to do the most good. You don’t have to spend hours at it, but you do need to get your heart beating a little faster each and every day. Depending on your fitness level this can mean as little as standing for thirty minutes a day. If you can’t manage even that then start with the amount of time you can stand before your knees feel weak and your heart is pounding.

Certain foods are important in boosting your brain power. The antioxidants found in green tea are a good example. Healthy fats are another example. The healthy fats are the ones your body uses to build and maintain brain and nerve cells. Healthy fats include coconut oil, avocados, walnuts, and Omega 3 fatty acids that can be found in fish (look for mercury free) flax, hemp oil, and organic free range meats and dairy. Many people think only of Vitamin E when they think of healthy oil, but all Omega 3 fatty acids work in similar ways.

The spice turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that crossed the blood/brain barrier.  Celery contains luteolin, which has also been shown to reduce brain inflammation. Broccoli and cauliflower are known for their choline, which supports brain development. Eggs and meats (organic grass fed) are very high in choline.  Blueberries are a well-known antioxidant.

On the flip side there are foods we want to avoid for healthy brains. Grains and sugars top that list. 

Both cause inflammation.

Fasting can also trigger brain rejuvenation.  An easy way of doing this is simply skipping one or more meals per day. This has been shown to increase the neurotransmitters in the brain.

Anything that lowers the immune system lowers the brain system. This includes antibiotics, anti-psychotics drugs, and anti-inflammatory medications (not supplements).

Controlling stress is another key to brain health. EFT (emotional freedom technique) is a very handy tool in relieving stress. With its help you can take the pain out of past events, rendering them unable to trigger an emotional reaction in the present.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Arthritis increases as weather decreases

Cold, damp weather seems to bring out the worst for people suffering from arthritis. Most doctors recommend daily doses of NSAIDS, but these carry dangers with them. The prescription drugs that are offered carry even worse side effects. Many people are wondering what they can do for themselves without having to waste time at the doctor, or take daily medications.

A raw food diet is a good place to start. Grains are especially well known for causing inflammation. In some people meat can be just as problematic. Both of them increase the acidity of the body. This causes inflammation and pain. Most people can have a little bit of meat if they make sure they also included plenty of alkalizing fruits and vegetables. Grains can’t be as easily overcome.

The lack of Vitamin D can make your joints hurt more. So can the lack of healthy fats. Many people don’t think of sulfur as a necessary nutrient, but if your joints are hurting it is a sign you may be deficient in this nutrient. Increasing you sulfur intake is easy if you make your own soups out of bones.  It also increases your collagen and keratin, both essential for healthy joints. Collagen restores elasticity to the joints, as well as reducing inflammation.

Magnesium is another nutrient to look at whenever you are hurting. Topical supplements don’t cause the cramps and bloating so often associated with oral supplements. You can get it in oil, gel, or lotion forms. In a pinch and Epsom salt bath is a good substitute. It is also very relaxing.
Don’t forget your turmeric. This herb is known to be extremely anti-inflammatory.

Astaxanthin is another supplement to consider. It also reduces inflammation throughout the body.
New research has linked a lack of good bacteria in the gut to an increase in rheumatoid arthritis.  You can increase your gut bacteria through oral supplementation and through eating fermented foods. You can even ferment your own foods. You can buy cultures from multiple sources. If you purchase fermented foods make sure they haven’t been pasteurized. When they do this they kill the bacteria before you get a chance to eat it.

It hurts to move, so the last thing you want to do is exercise, but that is exactly what you should be doing.  If you are overweight it is doubly important. Weight puts more strain on your joints, especially the weight bearing ones. But even if you are not overweight moving the joints will improve the lubrication in the joints, and make moving them easier. Start slow and work up even more slowly, but try to move the joints on a daily basis.

Sometimes ice seems to help an inflamed joint. At other times heat seems to bring about faster relief. 

Don’t be afraid to try either one.

Adjusting your body’s pH seems to work wonders for some. Something as simple as drinking (all at once) an 8oz glass of water mixed with a 1/2tsp of baking soda. Some of the relief comes from the baking soda, but it can also come from the water. There is a tendency in our world today to be dehydrated, and this can cause joint pain as well. Another way to adjust you pH is through Apple cider vinegar. Although this is an acid it makes the body less acidic. Kind of like fighting fire with fire.

There are many ways to find relief from arthritis, both immediate and long term. Think about trying some of them out before you reach for that bottle of NSAIDS or prescription medications.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Is HFCS harmful?

Many people blame hormones for the dumb decisions teenagers make. What if it isn’t the hormones? What if it is the high fructose corn syrup in all the processed foods they are eating?

More and more processed foods are containing HFCS. This is because as Americans our taste buds have been trained to seek out sweet things. Spaghetti sauce, catsup (or ketchup) and many other tomato based processed foods contain this sweetener. One reason is that they can use unripen tomatoes and you still get the sweet taste you expect from a ripe tomato. But many other foods are now containing HFCS. What is scary is that this corn syrup can be listed in the label multiple times and you may not be aware of it. This is because manufacturers realize we are becoming aware of the dangers, so rather than it being one of the first ingredients they list it multiple times with different words so it appears later in the list. It is even being added to baby food. The average American is consuming approximately 35 pounds of the stuff every year.

What are the dangers? Different studies are showing multiple dangers that we should be aware of. It isn’t just the obesity epidemic that can be blamed on this sweetener. One study on teenagers shows it impairs the ability to learn. This is the major sweetener in sodas, which for many teenagers is consumed many times more than water. It does this by damaging the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls both learning and memory functions. It can show up as difficulty learning, confusion, depression, ADHD, ADD or even autism.

Another study links HFCS to liver damage. Sometimes it is referred to as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is possible even if the person does not gain excess weight from it. In the study the gut flora was also compromised, which usually leads to leaky gut syndrome, which in turn can lead to some serious health problems.

It has also been shown to increase the potential for diabetes three fold.

One substitute that doesn’t improve health is Agave.

Agave is made from the same plant that is used to make the adult beverage tequila. The sweetener is made from the root bulb of the plant. It is a member of the yucca family of plants.  Unfortunately the way the agave syrup or nectar makes it nothing like the plant. It has more fructose than the high fructose corn syrup; the only difference is that it wasn’t made from corn.  Although some contain 55 percent fructose, others are closer to 70 or even 97 percent. These are the ones that are dangerous. They raise the insulin levels as much or more than its corn cousin. This causes insulin resistance, which is another name for diabetes.

Fructose, whether from corn or the yucca plant, also raises your uric acid levels. Uric acid is what causes gout. It also causes chronic inflammation with in turn increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis and premature aging.

The best way to avoid high fructose corn syrup is to avoid the processed foods that it is hidden in. Cooking the food at home gives you the opportunity to use other sweeteners, or leave them out entirely. We can train our taste buds not to crave sweetness.  Many times a piece of fruit or cup of herb tea will calm those cravings. Other choices are all natural sweeteners such as stevia. Artificial sweeteners are not a good choice. They carry more risks than fructose does.