Controlling Arthritis and Inflammation With Essential Oils

30 May

EOs-for-Inflammation

 

Arthritis and the painful inflammatory conditions associated with it plague millions in our country and more around the globe. For those who are plagued with arthritis in some form, pain is a regular – often daily – occurrence.

Managing pain and helping to prevent flare ups is a constant struggle when you have arthritis. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and supportive essential oils can help to ease the strain of day to day life with arthritis.

How Arthritis Works

Typically, we refer specifically to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis when we speak generally of arthritis. One is primarily related to aging, while the other is genetic. One lays down calcium deposits while the other attacks joints and tissues with painful inflammation.

Really, though, arthritis refers to any of around a hundred different diseases that cause pain in the joints, bones, and surrounding tissues. It affects nearly one in 10 adults in the US, and far too many children. (1)

Arthritic diseases can be either inflammatory – like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia – or non-inflammatory – like osteoarthritis. Some basic lifestyle considerations apply for all types of arthritis, like getting good exercise and dropping extra weight, while others will depend on the inflammatory nature of a specific diagnosis.

Pain Relieving Essential Oils

If you could address arthritic pain without prescriptions, would you?

The most immediate and pressing need for arthritis relief is that of pain relief. Struggling against an illness defined by its various manifestations of pain isn’t easy. Often, the medications tied to relief are also laced with unpleasant and even dangerous side effects.

Unfortunately, they are often necessary – and even more unfortunately, they are often unable to eliminate or even scratch the surface of pain related to arthritic illness.

You may not be able to replace your arthritis medications with these essential oils, but they are likely to help take the edge off, sooth sharp pains, and relieve secondary conditions like insomnia.

Peppermint

A soothing oil with cooling effects, peppermint essential oil is a go-to for pain relieving applications. In one study on arthritis and essential oils, peppermint was part of a blend intended to relieve arthritic pain and depression associated with it. (2) The results were good – the pain relieving and stimulating effects of peppermint make it a valuable part of your natural arthritis remedy toolkit.

Frankincense

Inflammation is among both the most prevalent conditions in our society and the most difficult to treat. Natural solutions for inflammation are prized and sometimes life-changing substances. (3)

Because of the connection between inflammatory processes and pain, oils that are anti-inflammatory (as we will see below) are often analgesic, as well. Frankincense plays this double role well. The pain relieving ability of aromatherapy massage was tested with patients struggling with cancer. Treated with an aromatherapy hand massage that included frankincense, pain was relieved significantly. (4)

While the trial might have been directed toward cancer rather than arthritis, the hands are a common site of pain for people with arthritis, and the analgesic effects can be enjoyed by all.

Use these pain-relieving essential oils in diffusers, topical body care products, and directly inhaled.

Anti-Inflammatory Essential Oils

With pain relief in the making, a focus on the cause is warranted and necessary in order to build a lifetime of health. For inflammatory arthritic illness, anti-inflammatory oils, herbs, and even foods are more than welcome!

Incorporate these anti-inflammatory oils into your regular, daily essential oil use routines in order to begin chipping away – so to speak – at the very cause of your arthritis.

Lavender

Typically used to improve sleep or treat the skin, lavender essential oil once again displays its wide range of effects when considering it for therapeutic benefits for arthritis.

As an anti-inflammatory oil, lavender can help to relieve the painful swelling and inflammation that arthritis in its various forms creates. Not only is it helpful in this way, but it is also an analgesic as well, tackling arthritic pain from multiple angles. (5)

Revisiting its uses for anxiety and depression, lavender may also help to relieve secondary issues that arise in a life of chronic pain.

Its gentle nature makes lavender a reliable choice for most people in many application forms.

Chamomile

Roman chamomile essential oil is a must have for its calming, soothing, and anti-inflammatory effects. (6) As a whole herb, chamomile is renowned for its healing, soothing, and calming effects. The essential oil isolates some of these abilities, especially as an anti-inflammatory substance.

Add roman chamomile to topical massage oils to work the anti-inflammatory compounds into the skin and onto joints and other sites of pain. Additionally, you can diffuse chamomile for relaxing an anxious or depressed mind.

Yarrow

As a soothing and healing herb, yarrow essential oil also carries anti-inflammatory components that can be beneficial for arthritic ailments. As part of the Ayurvedic tradition, yarrow essential oil is used in many preparations, anti-inflammatory included. (7)

Topical preparations of yarrow can help to improve anti-inflammatory and pain relieving combinations. Making the most of synergistic reactions – oils working together to make each other more effective – creates one of a kind blends that help to relieve pain and inflammation for your specific arthritis conditions.

Wintergreen

Known as “liquid aspirin wintergreen oil is another traditional analgesic that has helped countless arthritis patients. Used with peppermint, it is particularly potent to reduce inflammation. In the words of 2014 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,

“The predominant natural ingredient in wintergreen oil is methyl salicylate, which is a compound closely related to acetyl salicylic acid, or aspirin. When applied to the skin, including tissues at the site of pain, wintergreen oil has analgesic properties… A combination of wintergreen oil and peppermint oil is commonly used because it is believed to give far better pain relief than either wintergreen oil or peppermint oil alone. In addition, the combination of the two oils may potentiate the individual effects of each oil, thus enabling the use of lower doses of each, which, as a consequence, is likely to produce fewer side effects.” (8)

Arthritis or Fibromyalgia?

Distinguishing the type of inflammatory joint disease you have is important for treatment protocols. If, for example, you have osteoarthritis, your body is likely depositing calcium around joints – probably a specific joint – and has gotten worse with age.

On the other hand, you may have fibromyalgia, which is not inflammatory by nature, and affects women primarily

Now, an anti-inflammatory medication is probably on your list, and anti-inflammatory herbs and essential oils are most likely not a bad idea in general. But the specific approach that works for an inflammatory arthritic illness might not be the same as for a non-inflammatory arthritis.

Pursue a diagnosis and understand what it means so that you can most effectively choose the whole-body approach that will work for you.

Resources:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/general.htm
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15778570
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18203964
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18753801
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26247152
  6. https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/about-aromatherapy/most-commonly-used-essential-oils/
  7. http://ayurvedicoils.com/tag/ayurvedic-health-benefits-of-yarrow-essential-oil
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995208/

Dr. Eric Z

How 13 Types of Cancer Can Be Reduced With Exercise

27 May

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Everyone knows the advantages of staying active, but new research is providing further evidence for how its scope of benefits can be expanded.  A comprehensive new study reported in The New York Times found that in addition to its known benefits, exercise also has the potential to significantly reduce any risk of developing 13 types of cancer. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine  involved scientists within the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute, along with Harvard Medical School and a number of institutions worldwide that have a large amount of epidemiological health studies conducted throughout the United States or Europe.

Each of these institutions looked at 12 large scale studies and this involved around 1.44 million participants. The researchers examined the type of exercise, along with how often and how vigorously it was performed. They also looked at the study’s start, on whether and when the participant had been diagnosed with cancer. After using the elaborate statistical methods, they found that the role of exercise in particular along with brisk walking, jogging or other forms of vigorous activity could also play an important role in people’s risk of cancer.

What the researchers found is that those who exercised moderately even if this wasn’t done regularly, became significantly less likely to be at risk of developing 13 types of cancer, as compared to those who didn’t partake in exercise. There was found to be a decreased association with breast, colon and lung cancers, along with reduced risk of tumors in other areas such as the blood, bladder, bone marrow, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, head, neck and rectum. The researchers discovered that the more exercise that was involved, the more the risk of getting cancer was reduced, from the top 10% to the bottom 10% of exercisers – showing a risk reduction of about 20%. This is further supported by a researcher from the National Cancer Institute along with a study leader who found that factors playing a significant role in the risk of cancer included digestion, energy balance, hormone levels and inflammation.

Physical activity is vital to improving health and well being in the long term and keeping your body in an alkaline state. When accompanied by a healthy diet consisting of whole living foods on a daily basis, this is when the real change can begin and lasting positive changes start to become evident. It doesn’t have to be strenuous either – walking every day, cycling a couple of times a week, choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator – all of these activities can have a beneficial impact on our physical health. The key is to get started and to get moving daily.

Robert Redfern

The Face of Sjogrens

23 May

This_is_Sjogrens.-1

What is Sjögren’s?

Sjögren’s (“SHOW-grins”) is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. Along with symptoms of extensive dryness, other serious complications include profound fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies and lymphomas.

Today, as many as four million Americans are living with this disease and nine out of ten patients are women with an average age of onset in the late 40’s. However, Sjögren’s can occur in all age groups, even in children.

Sjögren’s is not a “cookie cutter” disease & affects patients differently. Many patients experience dry eyes, dry mouth, fatigue and joint pain, but Sjögren’s also causes dysfunction of other organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. And while some people experience mild discomfort, others suffer debilitating symptoms that greatly impair their functioning.

There are many different types of neuropathies in Sjögren’s. These neuropathies can have different causes and may require different diagnostic techniques & therapeutic strategies. Unlike other autoimmune disorders, in which the neuropathies predominantly cause weakness, the neuropathies in Sjögren’s primarily affect sensation and can cause severe pain.

Recognition of unique patterns & causes of neuropathies in Sjögren’s is important in arriving at appropriate therapies.

Top 10 Peripheral Neuropathy & Sjögren’s Facts:

1. Recognize that neuropathic pain is a chronic disease. Just as most causes of neuropathies and neuropathic pain in Sjögren’s do not come on suddenly, reduction of neuropathic pain can take a while.

2. Initial and predominant neuropathies in Sjögren’s can occur anywhere in the feet, thighs, hands, arms, torso and/or face.

3. Many different symptomatic therapies for neuropathic pain are available. Both physician and patient awareness of potential benefits and side-effects can help tailor an appropriate approach.

4. While the class of tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs) often constitutes a first-line tier of therapy in other neuropathy syndromes, the TCAs can increase mouth and eye dryness and therefore are not routinely used as front-line therapies in most Sjögren’s patients.

5. Electrophysiologic tests may help in the diagnosis of neuropathies affecting larger nerves which are coated by an insulator called myelin. However, neuropathies affecting smaller-fiber nerves that lack this myelin coating cannot be detected with these tests.

6. Special diagnostic tests, including the technique of superficial, punch skin biopsies (small biopsies of three millimeters and not requiring any stitches), can help in the diagnosis.

7. A relatively rare neuropathy can cause significant weakness in Sjögren’s patients. In contrast to other neuropathies which develop slowly, this neuropathy can present with very abrupt-onset of weakness. This so-called “mononeuritis multiplex” occurs because the blood-flow through vessels which nourishes nerves is suddenly compromised.

8. In general, immunosuppressive medications are almost always warranted to treat “mononeuritis multiplex” neuropathy. In contrast, the role of immunosuppressives is not well-established in other neuropathies, including neuropathies that cause pain but are not associated with weakness.

9. Sjögren’s patients frequently wonder whether pain associated with a neuropathy means they are at an increased risk for more severe motor weakness. While there are exceptions, if weakness is not present at onset, it most likely will not occur.

10. Neuropathic pain can be alleviated and assuaged, although there may initially be a “trial-and-error” process with different and perhaps multiple agents.

Dr. Birnbaum for Sjogren’s Foundation

How To Find Safe Natural Beauty Products

20 May

As the international beauty market continues to skyrocket, it’s definitely disquieting to watch people purchase products that are unquestionably risky for their health.

This market is anticipated to reach $265 billion in 2017. (1) Liken this to the most advantageous industry in the United States (health care, $21.8 billion in 2014), and you’ll get a feel for the importance of this kind of profit.

Believing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and individual manufacturers, most people have forgotten that health and beauty manufacturing is a business and many companies will do whatever it takes to save money, even if this involves using additives, fillers, and preservatives that are not safe to apply to the human body!

Unhealthy Body Care Ingredients

The lineup of uncertain ingredients is lengthy and can be eye-opening because it doesn’t seem to end as new chemicals are introduced nearly every day.

As health and beauty manufacturers quickly make a lot of money, the entire world is taking the chance of developing an abundance of health conditions because of questionable ingredients that are used as fillers and preservatives.

Regularly used ingredients that you should be apprehensive of are:

  • Coal Tar – Also listed as FD&C Red No. 6, coal tar is banned in Europe because it’s a known cancer-causing agent. It is a primary component in anti-dandruff/anti-lice shampoos. (2)
  • DEA (Diethanolamine) – Known to form nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which has been linked to bladder, esophagus, liver and stomach cancers, DEA is a foaming and wetting agent that is highly reactive to other ingredients. (3)
  • Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde is a deadly neurotoxin and carcinogen that is added to nail products to extend shelf life. (4)
  • Fragrance/Parfum – The overall term for an entire group of chemicals that give lotions and potions their addictive smell, fragrance and parfum. These chemicals should be avoided because they can cause allergic reactions or hormone disruption. Up to 50% of the products listed in the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Review contain the ingredient “fragrance.” (5)
  • Mineral Oil – According to Green Med Info, there are “at least two dozen adverse health effects linked to exposure to mineral oil.” (6)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – More than 16,000 studies about sodium lauryl sulfate have made it clear that it might not be as dangerous than previously thought. Nonetheless, EWG has still linked it to organ toxicity and a number of health concerns like skin irritation. (7)
  • Parabens -Though related to breast cancer, decreased sperm counts and premature puberty (early onset of puberty), parabens, a class of widely used synthetic preservatives, have earned the FDA’s recognition with no hesitation. According to their report, the “FDA is aware that estrogenic activity in the body is associated with certain forms of breast cancer.” (8)
  • Propylene glycol – A synthetic liquid material that absorbs water, propylene glycol is used to manufacture everything from brake fluid to hand lotion! (9) It has been linked to allergies, eye irritation, indigestion, respiratory problems, and skin irritation.
  • Talc – In its natural form, some talc contains asbestos; a deadly carcinogen. It is made from the purified mineral bearing the same name. Although the American Cancer Society states that, “No increased risk of lung cancer has been reported with the use of cosmetic talcum powder,” it is still a known poison when inhaled or swallowed. (10)

Some people may disregard these dangers because they’re only putting these items on their skin and do not ingest them. Our skin is our largest organ and anything that comes into contact with it will be absorbed and will enter the body. It’s simply impossible to avoid contact with these dangerous chemicals if you purchase ordinary, conventional products.

It’s inevitable, for example, that you will:

  • Swallow lip balm and lip-gloss.
  • Absorb makeup, shampoo and soap through your skin.
  • Inhale hair spray, perfume and powder.

Eliminate Toxic Body Care Products

The reason why it’s so important to revamp your home with natural beauty products is because it’s virtually impossible to find safe beauty items in your local stores.

Now it’s even more important to become an avid label reader and determine when something isn’t 100% safe.

It’s important to realize that even though something is sold at your local Co-op, Trader Joes or Whole Foods there’s no guarantee that it’s safe to use.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has evaluated over 72,000 products and have ranked them in an easy-to-understand guide to make sure that people have a resource to keep their families safe. (11) Check it out for yourself. You’ll be surprised that even most “all natural” products aren’t what they seem to be!
Exposure to these toxins cannot be avoided, unless you make your own!

Some of Our Favorite DIY Recipes

The only way to guarantee that you aren’t exposed to these dangerous toxins is to make your own beauty products. These items are cost-effective, easy to make and you’ll be happy with the results!

Take a look at this list of our favorite DIY recipes that you can effortlessly include into your daily routine:

When making your own beauty products, be sure to use the right kind of carrier oils and base moisturizers.

Coconut oil – In the past 5 years, coconut oil has come into the forefront as one of the most popular and widely sold products in grocery stores across the country. In addition to being a fabulous super food, it is an anti-fungal agent that has wonderful moisturizing properties.

Shea butter – Rich in vitamin A, the fat extracted from African sheaf tree nuts has been a staple in health and beauty products for centuries. Used to treat everything from sunburn to eczema, it can be whipped up easily as a perfect moisturizer.

Essential oils – Adding essential oils to your body care products provides significant health benefits. Lavender is known as the universal calming agent, tea tree is known as the wound healer, rosemary can enhance memory and the list goes on and on. Just add 10 drops of essential oil per ounce of the carrier oil of your choosing, and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of what many consider to be God’s Medicine!

Dr. Eric Z

Ashwagandha’s Amazing Health Benefits

18 May

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Ashwagandha is a powerful herb primarily used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote general wellness and general health. It has many amazing properties that can promote strength and good health and its name even means ‘smell of a horse’ in Sanskrit. This refers to the strength and stamina of those who take this medicine.

This is because Ashwagandha is an adaptogen and they enable the body to better handle stress, which is why they are often given to people who are feeling weak and run down as it can give them an extra energy boost.

Ashwagandha is similar to Indian Ginseng in its properties although perhaps not as potent, it can have relatively calming properties and this is why it’s often suggested for people who are suffering with anxiety or insomnia. It is a very powerful herb for promoting clarity, clear thinking and concentration so is ideal if anyone wants to reduce their stress levels and improve their learning and memory capabilities.

Ashwaganda Health Benefits

Eases Anxiety and Stress. Studies have indicated that Ashwagandha has anti-stress properties and could help with easing any feelings of anxiety. It does this by reducing the concentrated levels of cortisol and providing an immunosuppressive effect on stress.

Promotes Fertility. Ashwagandha can address many fertility issues and improve reproductive abilities. For women it can ease any painful symptoms of menstruation and can stimulate a low libido when it’s combined with Shatavari, another Ayurvedic herb. Ashwagandha can also strengthen the uterus in women who have suffered with miscarriages, although it’s not suggested for pregnancy. For men, it can address impotence, problems with premature ejaculation, while improving the quality and quantity of sperm. All of this means it’s an excellent herb for anyone who is looking to improve their fertility and start their own family.

Anti-Cancer. Certain lab tests have shown that Ashwagandha could slow down the growth of cancer cells, while animal studies have shown that Ashwagandha could boost the effects of radiation therapy. These are early results however and more research may be required to determine its wide range of benefits. Although several studies are indicating that Ashwagandha can make chemotherapy and radiation therapies more effective.

Supports a Low Thyroid or Adrenal Burnout. Ashwagandha is a chemical complex that is full of vitamins, minerals and alkaloids along with phytochemicals that can act as hormonal precursors within the body. This makes Ashwagandha beneficial for anyone who is currently undergoing a lot of stress or who wishes to ease the effects and lower their cortisol levels. Eventually this can ease any stressful effects and lower cortisol and this can help to bring the cortisol levels back into balance. This is one of the reasons why Ashwagandha is often used in herbal adrenal formulas for maximum effectiveness.

Ashwagandha is a powerful herb primarily used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote general wellness and general health. It has many amazing properties that can promote strength and good health and its name even means ‘smell of a horse’ in Sanskrit. This refers to the strength and stamina of those who take this medicine.

This is because Ashwagandha is an adaptogen and they enable the body to better handle stress, which is why they are often given to people who are feeling weak and run down as it can give them an extra energy boost.

Ashwagandha is similar to Indian Ginseng in its properties although perhaps not as potent, it can have relatively calming properties and this is why it’s often suggested for people who are suffering with anxiety or insomnia. It is a very powerful herb for promoting clarity, clear thinking and concentration so is ideal if anyone wants to reduce their stress levels and improve their learning and memory capabilities.

Ashwagandha Health Benefits

Eases Anxiety and Stress. Studies have indicated that Ashwagandha has anti-stress properties and could help with easing any feelings of anxiety. It does this by reducing the concentrated levels of cortisol and providing an immunosuppressive effect on stress.

Promotes Fertility. Ashwagandha can address many fertility issues and improve reproductive abilities. For women it can ease any painful symptoms of menstruation and can stimulate a low libido when it’s combined with Shatavari, another Ayurvedic herb. Ashwagandha can also strengthen the uterus in women who have suffered with miscarriages, although it’s not suggested for pregnancy. For men, it can address impotence, problems with premature ejaculation, while improving the quality and quantity of sperm. All of this means it’s an excellent herb for anyone who is looking to improve their fertility and start their own family.

Anti-Cancer. Certain lab tests have shown that Ashwagandha could slow down the growth of cancer cells, while animal studies have shown that Ashwagandha could boost the effects of radiation therapy. These are early results however and more research may be required to determine its wide range of benefits. Although several studies are indicating that Ashwagandha can make chemotherapy and radiation therapies more effective.

The extract has been shown to help inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells – specifically breast, lung, stomach, and colon cancer cells which are among some of the leading types of cancers in the world. It’s believed that ashwagandha helps to prevent the growth of cancer cells mostly due to its immune boosting and antioxidant abilities. Supplementing with ashwagandha is correlated with an increase in white blood cells within the body, which indicate that the immune system is better able to protect the body from disease and harmful invaders   Another way that ashwagnadha helps prevent cancer is due to its ability to stop blood vessels around cancer cells from feeding into the growth of cancerous tumors.

In addition to preventing cancer cells from growing, studies have shown that ashwagandha can be a very useful addition to chemotherapy in treating existing cancer. Taking the extract seems to be effective in halting the immune system from becoming suppressed during chemotherapy.

Ashawagandha is able to counteract one of the biggest concerns with chemotherapy- the count of white blood cells in the body becoming lowered, which puts cancer patients as much higher risk for things like infection. Many cancer experts are now recommending ashwagandha extract be both a cancer prevention method as well as an addition to typical cancer treatments. In fact some studies have shown that some patients are even able to reverse signs of cancer using ashwagandha alone over other standard treatment methods

Supports a Low Thyroid or Adrenal Burnout. Ashwagandha is a chemical complex that is full of vitamins, minerals and alkaloids along with phytochemicals that can act as hormonal precursors within the body. This makes Ashwagandha beneficial for anyone who is currently undergoing a lot of stress or who wishes to ease the effects and lower their cortisol levels. Eventually this can ease any stressful effects and lower cortisol and this can help to bring the cortisol levels back into balance. This is one of the reasons why Ashwagandha is often used in herbal adrenal formulas for maximum effectiveness.

Animal studies reveal ashwagandha has a thyroid hormone balancing effect.  In a 20 days study mice were give ashwagandha and their T3 and T4 levels were analyzed along with lipid peroxidation (anti-oxidant protection).  Significant increases in serum T4 were found which indicates this herb has a stimulatory effect on a sluggish thyroid.

Also, ashwagandha may benefit thyroid function because it greatly reduced lipid peroxidation by promoting scavenging of free radicals that cause cellular damage.  These results prove ashwagandha can be useful in treating hypothyroidism.

There are currently millions of people who struggle with thyroid problems (many who don’t even know it) and ashwagandha may just be the solution they are searching for.

Ashwagandha Adrenal Rejuvenation

Ashwagandha has also been proven effective in supporting adrenal function helping you overcome adrenal fatigue and chronic stress.

Your adrenal glands are endocrine glands that are responsible for releasing hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) in response to stress on your body.

If your adrenals are overtaxed due to an overabundance of emotional, physical and mental stress, it can lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue. As you can see from this chart below, if your adrenals become exhausted it can also disrupt your other hormones, including progesterone, which can cause infertility and lower DHEA — which can cause you to age faster.
diagram

Medical studies have shown that ashwagandha improves cortisol levels, improves insulin sensitivity and naturally balances hormones. A case study reported a case of a 57-year-old woman with non-classical adrenal hyperplasia. She was treated with ashwagandha for six months, and after her treatment she saw improvements in four adrenal hormone markers, including corticoosterone and 11-deoxycortisol, which decreased by 69 percent and 55 percent respectively — a major improvement!

This hormonal improvement was also accompanied by a noticeable reduction in hair loss

Benefits Brain Health

Emotional, physical, and chemical stress can all have damaging effects to the brain and nervous system.  Recent research has proven ashwagandha is more than a stress reliever, it also protects the brain from degeneration and improves symptoms of Alzheimer’s, depression, and anxiety.

One of the main reasons ashwagandha is so effective at healing the brain has to do with its powerful antioxidants that destroy free radicals that cause aging. A study published in Phytotherapy Research explains these benefits:

Several studies have revealed that natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene, may help in scavenging free radicals generated during the initiation and progression of this [Alzheimer’s] disease.  But we found Ashwagandha afforded lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects more potent than commercial antioxidants.

Researchers at the National Brain Research Centre found that mice with Alzheimer’s were unable to retain what they learned, but after 20 days of supplementing with ashwagandha, this improved significantly. The results of the study found a reduction in amyloid plaques (these cause degradation of the brain).

Improves Mood

There is also now evidence that ashwagandha is effective at treating both anxiety and depression.  In fact, in a recent study its results were comparable to common pharmaceutical drugs lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects.

In the 12-week controlled study, 87 participants with anxiety were given 300mg of ashwagandha two times a day or two placebo pills two times per day.  The group treated with ashwagandha resulted in much greater improvements in anxiety as well as focus, reduced stress, and decreased fatigue than the placebo group.

The other major benefit of ashwagandha is that there are no adverse reactions by taking it compared to anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications which can have terrible side effects.

Increases Stamina and Endurance

Studies have shown that ashwagandha can boost endurance during physical activity by sharpening brain function and reducing bodily pain. Due to its positive calming, yet energizing, effects on the brain and ability to lower stress hormones, ashwagandha showed improvements in concentration, motivation, and stamina in conducted studies.

One particular study found that when lab rats were given ashwagandha, they actually were able to swim twice as long compared to the same type of rats that were not given the supplements. Researchers believe that similar effects take place in humans due to the extract’s ability to balance adrenal hormones that are involved in physical activity. The extract was also shown to reduce bodily pain in the muscles and joints while at the same time keeping energy levels more steady, which is another reason why it could be a promising supplement for athletes, or for those who find it difficult to be physically active due to pain.

Is Ashwagandha safe to take?

Yes, everyone from children to the elderly can take Ashwagandha to receive its benefits. While there is no standard dose to take, it’s suggested that 1-6 grams of the herb taken daily is recommended for best results.

Is Ashwagandha safe to take?

Yes, everyone from children to the elderly can take Ashwagandha to receive its benefits. While there is no standard dose to take, it’s suggested that 1-6 grams of the herb taken daily is recommended for best results.

Robert Redfern, Dr. Axe

Chaga Mushroom Benefits

16 May

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus), often referred to as the “king of medicinal mushrooms”, looks like a dark black woody mass rather than a mushroom and, in fact, you probably wouldn’t even recognize it as a mycelium species when walking through the forest.

chaga-mushroom-benefits

However, this unusual looking variety is one of the most powerful adaptogens and superfoods on the planet, exhibiting immune supporting complex polysaccharides that are considerably more potent than most any other medicinal mushroom.

Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus), often referred to as the “king of medicinal mushrooms”, looks like a dark black woody mass rather than a mushroom and, in fact, you probably wouldn’t even recognize it as a mycelium species when walking through the forest.

However, this unusual looking variety is one of the most powerful adaptogens and superfoods on the planet, exhibiting immune supporting complex polysaccharides that are considerably more potent than most any other medicinal mushroom.

 

In addition to sterols, polyphenols and polysaccharides, the mushroom also contains a host of other superhealthy antioxidant constituents including melanin and superoxide dismutase as well as triterpenes, like betulin, inotodiol and lupeol.

Furthermore, it is also gaining recognition around the world for its ability to help inhibit tumor growth via certain anti-mutagenic compounds like betulinic acid which it concentrates in high amounts from birch bark.

What is Chaga and Where Does It Grow?

medicinal-mushroom-benefits-of-chaga

The Inonotus obliquus species is classified as a “white-rot fungus”, like other medicinal mushrooms such as maitake, coriolus and reishi.  This means that it feeds off of the lignins in the tree host but does not necessarily damage the primary cellulose or integral composition of the tree.

There are debatable theories, however, about its natural life cycle and whether it is protecting the health of the tree as a endophytic mushroom or whether it will eventually act as a parasite over a period of time and hinder the host’s growth.

“Some wood conks once seen as parasites on trees may in fact be symbiotic endophytes.” Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

 

The tree of choice for Inonotus obliquus is the white and yellow birch tree, although it may also grow on other hardwoods like alder, elm and beech trees.  The mushroom used exclusively for medicinal use, usually comes from the birch tree only.  Higher quality mushroom harvests are usually wildcrafted from birch tree forests growing in Eastern Europe and Northern Russia, especially Siberia.

It is a polypore mushroom (with pores instead of gills) that grows in cold, Northern climates and produces a thick black mass on the side of tree trunks, often referred to as a “conk.”  They usually grow up to 10cm thick and 1.5 meters in length or much longer depending on the age.  While the exterior of the mushroom looks like burnt black charcoal, when split open it has a deep clay orange cork-like center.  The mushroom has actually been used as a long burning firewood source as well as a clothing dye in many parts of the world.

History of Use

This black tree fungus has long been respected in Northern Europe, Canada, China, Finland and Russia for its immune boosting qualities.  Chaga mushroom tea has played a significant role in Russian herbalism and Siberian folk medicine for hundreds, if not thousands of years, particularly for its ability to help humans adapt to cold harsh climates.

chaga-mushroom-benefits-to-health

Acknowledged by the Chinese Monk Shen Nong in the book “The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing” written in 100 B.C., it was described as “the king of herbs” and “a precious gift of nature.”

In Traditional Chinese Medicine it was used as a special mushroom for balancing “Chi”, preserving youth and maintaining a strong immune response.  Today it is also considered a Chi, kidney and Shen tonic in Asian culture.

The fungi became popular here in the West in 1968 when the Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published the book, “The Cancer Ward”,  in which he speaks about “the tea from the birch tree mushroom”, its healing components and potential benefits to cancer patients.

chaga-mushroom-benefits-inonotus-obliquus

Chaga Mushroom Health Benefits

High in Antioxidants – Betulinic Acid and Beta Glucans

There is an exceptional amount of immune boosting antioxidants found in Inonotus obliquus such as beta glucans and betulinic acid, in addition to various other triterpenes and sterols as well as melanin and superoxide dismutase (SOD).

High in Betulinic Acid – An Anti-tumor Compound

The mushroom draws upon and concentrates nutrients out of the birch tree lignins and bark, converting them into a form that is easily digested by humans.  One of these nutrients is a triterpene called betulin, which it absorbs specifically from the bark and further converts to betulinic acid.  This is one of  the active compounds and tumor inhibiting components that is inherent to the chaga mushroom species.

Along with coriolus (turkey tail mushroom) and cordyceps, it is viewed by many mycologists and health experts as one of the strongest anti-tumor mushrooms available.

Betulinic acid induces apoptosis (PCD) through its direct effects on the mitochondria and once inside the cancer cells is believed to influence cell death within the tumor itself.  Other research coming from Poland suggests that the betulinic acid is also activated by and drawn to the lower pH of the tumorous tissues.

According to Christopher Hobbs, extracts of chaga were approved as an anticancer drug, called Befungin, in Russia as early as 1955 and has been reported successful in treating breast, lung, cervical and stomach cancers (Hobbs 1995).

chaga-bulk

Mushroom mycologist Paul Stamets writes that the betulin concentrations in Inonotus obliquus have shown promise in treating malignant melanoma, completely inhibiting tumors implanted in mice, causing apoptosis of cancerous cells.  The extracts are also beneficial as an antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.  In addition, they are a known immune enhancer as well as a liver tonic (Stamets 2005).

In a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms is was noted that, “Chaga fraction elicited anticancer effects which were attributed to decreased tumor cell proliferation, motility and induced morphological changes.” (Source)

Contains Beta Glucan Polysaccharides

In addition to a full spectrum of phytonutrients, chaga mushroom also contains 29 long-chain polysaccharides, protein-bound xylogalactoglucans and beta glucan derivatives.

The beta glucans in chaga, especially 1-3 ß-glucans, help to activate our immune cells or macrophage defense systems, working on both the surface immune system as well as stimulating stem cells deep within the bone marrow reserve.  This further “supercharges” and activates various other immune cells such as natural killer cells (NK cells) and T cells.

chaga-tea-dried-mushroom

Studies on Other Beneficial Sterols and Triterpenes

The triterpenoid element found in the mushroom called inotodiol, which is derived from lanostane compounds, show promising effects as anticancer agents in a study conducted in 2010.  “The results suggest that I. obliquus and its compounds in these subfractions isolated from I. obliquus could be used as natural anticancer ingredients in the food and/or pharmaceutical industry.”

In a 2013 study entitled “Anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of extracts and compounds from the mushroom Inonotus obliquus“, it states that “Compound ergosterol, ergosterol peroxide and trametenolic acid showed anti-inflammatory activities and obvious cytotoxicity on human prostatic carcinoma cell PC3 and breast carcinoma MDA-MB-231 cell.  The results obtained in this work might contribute to understanding the biological activity of mushroom I. obliquus for food and drug application.” (Source)

Helpful Adjunct to Chemotherapy Treatments

Some medicinal mushrooms, like reishi and chaga, can be particularly supportive adjuncts to chemo and radiation therapies.  Chaga’s triterpene lupeol and the sterol trametenolic acid not only display antiviral and anti-tumor activity but also chemo-protective qualities that may be helpful when undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

Additionally, betulin in chaga is known to help detoxify the liver and protect against the potentially damaging effects of radiation or chemo chemicals.  Also, the high amount of antioxidants, including melanin (which binds to radioactive isotopes), are particularly helpful for rejuvenating healthy immune responses.

chaga-conk-chunk

Melanin and Beta Glucans – Great for the Skin

Melanin is a phenolic pigment and potent antioxidant found in the surface layer of the mushroom and is the chief ingredient responsible for its distinctive coloration.  Chaga is one of the highest sources of melanin known in any food or herb.  It has been demonstrated that chaga’s melanin has a strong genoprotective (DNA/gene protective) effect on the body.

chaga-tea-for-the-skin

This is the same compound that makes up the main pigment in human skin, the retina of the eye and the pigment-bearing neurons within the brain stem.

According to David Wolfe, “Having a nutritional source of melanin such as chaga lightens the body’s load of nutrient-demanding processes involved in melanogenesis (formation of melanin).”  Melanin supplementation via chaga consumption can enhance, beautify and protect the skin from sun damage and is additionally beneficial for the eyes and hair.

The melanin found in the mushroom may help those with white blotches that sometimes appear on the skin as we age.  This may indicate a disrupted melanin distribution possibly caused by factors such as stress, viral issues, genetics and/or nutritional deficiencies.

Moreover, consuming beta glucan-rich polysaccharides are known to help nourish, hydrate and heal the skin tissue.

SOD (Superoxide Dismutase)

Superoxide dismutase, also called SOD, is a natural antioxidant enzyme produced within the body that plays a significant role as a free radical scavenger.  It acts as a “bodyguard” that essentially protects against DNA damage and helps to reduce the work load placed on the immune system.

Certain superfoods, like fo-ti root, increase SOD levels when consumed and chaga is one of the highest sources of this nutrient, offered in an easily utilized bio-available form.

In a lab test sponsored by Dove Health Alliance the following mass-based comparison of SOD showed the following results:

Reishi – 1,400 units/gram
Agaricus – 1,500 units/gram
Chaga – 35, 000 units/gram

Chaga, like several other important tonic herbs, is a rich source of the trace mineral zinc. “Zinc is a critically important constituent of SOD, our most important innate antioxidant.”  Ron Teeguarden

what-is-chaga-dried-mushroom

Immune System Adaptogen

It is always best to keep the immune system strong, so it can function optimally. We are all bombarded with immune stress in our daily lives from environmental pollution and toxins that effect our health in ways we may not realize.

Chaga is an immune modulator and “double-directional” adaptogen that powerfully balances immune response and helps the body maintain optimal homeostasis.

It is on our top superfoods list as the #1 super mushroom for autoimmune disorders, a seemingly common health issue in our modern times.

Acts as an Anti-Inflammatory

Many of chaga’s unique complexes such as betulinic acid, lupeol, trametenolic acid, inotodiol, ergosterol and others act directly to reduce inflammation in the body.  Decreasing chronic inflammation helps reduce risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis as well as degenerative diseases.  The mushroom extracts have also proven helpful for gastrointestinal disorders and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (Study)

Additional Vitamins and Minerals

  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin D2
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • sulfur
  • potassium
  • rubidium and cesium
  • silicon
  • germanium
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • antimony
  • barium
  • bismuth
  • boron
  • chromium
  • copper

How to Use

Fresh Mushroom

Fresh chaga can be used and decocted straight off the tree, but it is often dried first to remove any moisture content.  It can be grated or broken into smaller pieces and/or powdered in a high speed blender.

It is generally believed that the older the mushroom the more medicinal it is when we consume as prepared liquids and extracts.  When harvesting fresh “conks” the larger the fungi, the older mushroom.

chaga-tea-benefits

Raw Pieces or Powder

If you don’t happen to live by a wild chaga forest, some herb companies sell pure dried bulk chaga pieces or powder that can be further decocted or tinctured to release their beneficial components.

Chaga Tea and Tinctures

Most all of chaga’s antioxidants and polysaccharides are only extractable in hot water and alcohol solutions.

Bulk chaga pieces can be brewed for many hours in water as a dark rich mushroom tea.  Additionally, the chunks can also be tinctured in vodka for a few weeks.

Another chaga tea making method is to simply add the powdered extracts to hot water.  The extract powder turns the water a dark brown color that looks similar to a cup of coffee.  In fact, because of its slightly bitter nature it is often used as a alternative coffee substitute.

Mushroom Extracts

Another medicinally effective way to use this mushroom is to consume high quality hot water extracts.  Mushroom Science is an excellent brand that offers a tested potent extraction of chaga, by far one of the best on the market.

chaga-tea-wild-siberian-extract

Dragon herbs also has a superior grade of Wild Siberian Chaga that is harvested in the pristine black birch forests in the Kama River Basin of arctic Siberia.

These extracts usually come in capsule form that can be taken whole or opened and blended with shakes or herbal teas.

The dried mushroom or extract is especially great to use with other adaptogens like any of the Chinese tonics and/or Ayurvedic herbs.

 Chaga Cappuccino Recipe

chaga-tea

Packed with adaptogens, this recipe is a favorites because it has that coffee like flavor so many people enjoy, but without the eventual adrenal burn out that leaves you feeling depleted.

In other words this “java” does not superficially stimulate the body, instead it works to increase “real” energy by building “chi”, strengthening the internal systems and nourishing life-force.

This recipe uses some unique and new products that make it easier to get that “coffee flavor” you may be missing.

 Herbal Tea Base:

  • 1/8C reishi mushroom pieces
  • 2T ground astragalus root
  • 2T pao de ‘arco bark
  • 1T fo-ti root
  • 1/2 long pepper
  • 1T goji berries or jujubee dates

Decoct (simmer) the above in a little more than one quart of water for 20-30 minutes.

Blend the quart of strained herbal tea with:

  • 12 chaga caps (the powder)
  • 1t shilajit
  • 2T MacaPro Xpresso (a slow roasted maca root product)
  • dropper of English Toffee Stevia
  • 1t carob butter
  • 1-2 droppers of carob extract

Add nut milk cream if you prefer.  Serves two or more.
Chaga Latte

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon Chaga Extract Powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8oz hot water
1 teaspoon raw honey or coconut sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk

Directions:
Add the ingredients into a blender. Blend until well combined and frothy. You can also stir the ingredients together in a mug. It won’t have the same frothiness but it will still taste delicious. Sip and savor.

 

http://www.superfoods-for-superhealth.com/chaga.html

Does Choosing Organic Food Improve Your Health?

10 May

Is ‘Organic’ Food a PR Scam? | PRNewser

Organic food has often been touted as the healthier and more nutritious option to consider, especially when shopping for fruits and vegetables from your local supermarket. But how healthy is it to eat organic, as compared to non-organic fruits and vegetables?

Yes, when it comes to Higher Omega-3’s

The scientific findings from over 150 papers on organic and non-organic foods published in The British Journal of Nutrition found that there were significantly clear differences between the two. The study found that the amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids in the organic meat and dairy products were consistently about twice as abundant in organic properties as opposed to the non-organic. The organic milk products were also found to have an average of 56% more Omega-3’s as compared to the non-organic.

The Omega-3s were found to have a wide variety of benefits within the body and this includes keeping the heart at a steady rhythm and even reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can also help with lowering blood pressure, improving blood vessel function and even lower the risk of atherosclerosis at higher doses.

As the human brain is primarily made up of Omega-3 fatty acids, and a higher intake of this is believed to have a positive impact on neurological development and function compared to a lower intake.

Yes, when it comes to a Higher Level of Antioxidants

Similar studies on the differences between organic and non-organic produce has found that there is compositional differences between the organic and the non-organic. After a review of 343 studies examining these differences, it was discovered that switching to organic fruits, vegetables and cereals can provide additional antioxidants that observational studies have shown can play a big role in the prevention of and treatment of cancer. These antioxidants include Vitamins A, C, E, lycopene, lutein and selenium that are essential for proper cell growth, function and general health.

Yes, for Lower Pesticide Levels and Other Toxic Substances

Organic produce has been shown to have a lower rate of nitrogen compared to non-organic with nitrate being 30% lower and the nitrate at 87% lower. Pesticides have been found to be over 400% more likely to occur in conventional produce, while much lower concentrations were found in the organic produce. Heavy metals have been found in high-concentrations throughout non-organic produce too and these have been known to be destructive to both the mind and the body. Cadmium, one of the three heavy metals, has been found to have a maximum contamination level as set by the European Commission. This was also shown to have a 50% less prevalence in organic crops as opposed to the more conventional crop.

For all of the above reasons, it’s a good idea to avoid conventional produce from the supermarkets. Yes it may be cheaper in the short term, but the long term consequences on your health when it comes to avoiding toxicity, pesticides and any illnesses associated with it are not really worth any temporary gains. To find genuine organic produce, ensure that it is USDA Organic Certified where possible as this means the organic farmers have followed a defined set of standards to produce the organic food and fiber. Ideally all food should be eaten organic but where it cannot, choosing wholesome or healthy alternatives is a good idea.

 

Robert Redfern

6 Beauty Hacks Using a Lemon

6 May

 

While you may see lemon as primarily a tangy ingredient to use in your recipes, many beauty companies see it differently. Lemon has powerful properties that function in a variety of ways to help strengthen and beautify. Rather than using chemical-based manufactured products that include a touch of lemon, it’s a good idea to apply the pure, fresh and natural juice of a lemon from your kitchen. Once you try these great beauty hacks with lemons, you’ll understand that this citrus fruit doesn’t just belong in your kitchen.

When your shoes make your feet blister

Sometimes, if you want to wear fashionable new shoes, the price to pay is damaged feet. Blisters and cuts on your heels and toes can be the way your feet protest.

Women often try over-the-counter products such as Neosporin, but find that they don’t help. Rather than throw away your new shoes, you should throw away the medicine, and try a beauty hack with a lemon. Try squeezing straight lemon juice on your cuts and blisters. It’ll sting greatly for a minute; you need to take it and let it do its work. It’s an effective antibacterial, and quickly takes care of all blisters. It’s a great way to take care of any kind of rash, or even acne and blackheads.

Make your nails prettier

Lemon juice can be a great way to make your nails stronger, shinier, and brighter. All you need to do is to mix a teaspoonful of olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice, smear it all over your fingers and nails, and let it soak for several minutes. With this kind of treatment at least once a week, you’ll have nails that always look like something from a nail polish ad.

Forget $20 highlighting products by Clairol and L’Oreal – try lemon

Lemon has citric acid, a natural bleaching agent. If you want beautiful, natural-looking streaks that are better than anything that chemical products can do, you need to put lemon in your hair. The mild almost-not-there streaking will make you look amazing. Just squeeze lemon juice all over your hair, and then go out in the sun for a day. When you come back, you’ll have great highlights.

Lose weight much faster with lemon

Models and actresses love their lemonade diet for an important reason — it’s a powerful way to help with your weight-loss effort. The pectin in lemons can help tone down appetite, and slow down the rate at which the body absorbs sugar. A lemon drink made of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and honey in a sipper bottle can be the best way to make sure that you get all the benefits of lemon all day.

Never mind Brilliant HD and Crest 3D – use lemon to whiten your teeth

Chemical teeth whitening kits achieve their results with caustic substances and leave behind a troublesome after-effect — sensitive teeth. You can do much better by going natural. Use a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda, and rub it on your teeth with your finger. After 30 seconds, brush your teeth, and rinse. When you do it a couple of times, you will have fresh, white teeth and no sensitivity, at all.

If you can’t find your Dove Lemongrass or Fa Caribbean Lemon deodorant

Lemon is huge with the deodorant industry — nearly every brand has a lemon-scented variety. It’s popular for a simple reason — lemon is one of the best possible ways to kill odor-causing bacteria. If you can’t find your deodorant, find some lemon juice.

DIYHCG

Autoimmune Disease Support

4 May

 

Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders in which the immune system attacks the body and destroys or alters tissues. There are more than 80 serious chronic illnesses in this category, including lupus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and type 1 diabetes. Due to the complexity of treating autoimmune disorders, integrative medicine solutions have received much attention as successful therapies in their treatment. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine are specifically noted for use in pain relief, regulating the immune system, managing symptoms, and improving overall quality of life.

Multiple Sclerosis: A progressive disease wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective wrapper on nerve cells, known as myelin. As the damage accumulates, the brain and body communicate less well. Individuals may experience symptoms that include a loss of coordination, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, dizziness, blurred vision, and paralysis.

Although multiple sclerosis can involve an array of symptoms, it is possible that no two patients will share the same underlying pattern. In Oriental medicine, as a whole, patients with MS present either wind- or dampness-based symptoms. Symptoms with an underlying wind factor arise and abate suddenly, can be quite intense, and jump between different areas of the body. Symptoms with an underlying dampness factor cause swelling and bloating, lead to muscle weakness or a sense of heaviness, and can cause unclear thinking. Oriental medicine may help restore balance and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups.

Lupus: Lupus involves an overactive immune system that fights unnecessarily and can injure the skin, joints, organs (heart, kidneys, and lungs), and the brain. Symptoms may include red facial rashes, sore joints, upper abdominal pain when breathing deeply, severe chronic fatigue, memory problems, and scalp hair loss.

While every lupus patient may present symptoms differently, Oriental medicine views lupus as a reflection of toxic heat. Good health requires balanced yin and yang, which reflect cold and heat, respectively. While yin and yang both nourish and restrain each other, yang tends to multiply (or worsen) more quickly, whereas yin is slower to change. Having more estrogen than testosterone, women are more yin and vulnerable to yang conditions.

In a small study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that by stimulating acupuncture points along the spine and on the four limbs, patients with lupus experienced less pain. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help clear heat and nourish yin. Combined with exercise and reducing stress, these modalities can work double-duty towards improving your overall health and reducing the likelihood of a lupus outbreak.

Celiac Disease: In patients with celiac disease, the small intestine becomes damaged and cannot absorb nutrients efficiently. Celiac disease may also cause fatigue, bone disorders, fertility problems, and skin rashes.

Treatment of celiac disease typically revolves around symptom management and dietary changes. Any products known to contain gluten (bread, pasta, processed foods, vitamins, and even cosmetics) may trigger symptoms and should be avoided.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) involves alternating constipation and diarrhea. Individuals with IBS have a noticeable and sustained increase or decrease in frequency of elimination. Patients may experience pain during stool elimination, cramping, nausea, bloating, gas, headaches, and backaches.

While other patterns may be present, irritable bowel syndrome is generally considered a disharmony between the liver and spleen meridians. The liver meridian is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. This flow can be upset by emotions or stress, causing Qi stagnation.

The spleen meridian is associated with the function of digestion and transforming food into energy (Qi). It can be weakened by a number of factors, including overeating unhealthy foods, overwork, stress, fatigue, and lack of exercise. When the spleen meridian is weak and the liver meridian is not moving smoothly, the liver overacts on the spleen and can manifest as symptoms of IBS.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine support Qi flow throughout the body, ensuring that all physiological and emotional processes run smoothly.

Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms and correcting any underlying imbalances through a variety of Oriental medicine techniques that may include acupuncture, stress management, dietary changes, and exercise.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: when we are unable to do our basic daily activities, we may need more rest. For those with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), rest doesn’t help. Sufferers may feel tired for more than six months and experience reduced memory, insomnia or a wide range of other symptoms, including, but not limited to, headaches, flu-like symptoms and chronic pain. Contributing factors can include severe stress or trauma, a history of infection, and exposure to toxins.

From an acupuncture and Oriental medicine perspective, CFS reflects a disharmony. When we are out of balance, we may experience digestive upset, unclear thinking, habitual fatigue, muscle weakness or discomfort, and insufficient elimination. At the University of Hong Kong, researchers included acupuncture points in a protocol for patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients who received acupuncture experienced less physical and mental fatigue.

Oriental medicine can help relieve many of your symptoms because it is exceptional for relieving aches and pains, helping to avoid getting sick as often, recovering more quickly, and improving vitality and stamina.

Christina Sarlo LMT, L.Ac., NCCAOM
Experience Your Chi
www.christinasarlo.com

Vitamin D Deficiency How to Reverse it Naturally

2 May

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Up until recently, the true significance of vitamin D has been relatively uncovered. Traditionally, because it is well known for assimilating calcium from the foods that we eat, vitamin D is usually associated with being essential for bone health. Today, however, researchers are discovering that it can help protect against a host of other, more serious health problems such as: type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and even multiple sclerosis!

Common Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Relatively unheard of 100 years ago when people regularly spent time outdoors (regardless of the temperature or weather conditions!) vitamin D deficiency is quickly becoming an epidemic.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), hypovitaminosis D (low vitamin D levels) is usually a result of:

  • Lack of sunlight exposure– Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Lack of dietary vitamin D – Mostly affecting vegans, vitamin D is naturally rich in foods like grass-fed dairy and beef as well as wild caught fish.
  • Kidney diseases – Your kidneys convert 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25-OHD) to its “active form” in the kidneys, which basically means that it can be used by the body for certain functions like absorbing calcium in the GI tract.
  • Poor food absorption – GI disorders like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and others can prevent proper vitamin D assimilation.
  • Use of certain medicines – Phenytoin, phenobarbital, rifampin and other barbiturates are the main culprits of stealing your body’s ability to convert 25-OHD to active vitamin D.

Also, because of the high content of melanin in their skin, hypovitaminosis D is also commonly seen in African-American children (especially during the the winter).

Common Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency

Many people with hypovitaminosis D experience bone and joint pain in addition to muscle weakness, yet the symptoms can be very subtle. Nonetheless, low levels have been associated with a wide range of health conditions including:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Hair loss
  • Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels)
  • Hypophosphatemia (low blood phosphate levels)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Rickets (bone softening in children)
  • Osteomalacia (bone softening in adults)
  • Severe asthma
  • Weight gain

Additionally, “sub clinical” vitamin D deficiency, defined as a lower-than-normal vitamin D levels without visible signs or symptoms, is also relatively common.

Medical Research

To say that vitamin D has been “thoroughly evaluated” is an understatement. More than 60,000 studies have referenced this critical nutrient in scientific journals! When I was reviewing the literature, I found that the most recent research focused on the following key health concerns:

  • Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) – Being the #1 cause of death world wide, it may seem unbelievable that regular sun exposure can help prevent a heart attack, but it can! Low vitamin D has been associated with CVD because of its effects on oxidative stress, lipid metabolism and the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Moreover, an interesting study published this past year in the highly regarded journal Circulation, highlighted vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory and vascular regenerative properties. Truth is, science is just literally tapping into this vitamin’s heart healing power. Only time will tell how far-reaching it really is!
  • Pain and Quality of Life Oftentimes going hand-in-hand, enjoying a high level of quality of life while suffering from a pain condition is extremely challenging. Thankfully, it looks like vitamin D can help. Rheumatology International just published a study confirming that hypovitaminosis D is directly related to higher pain intensity, which can lead to lower quality of life scores in patients with chronic widespread pain. On the flip side, normal or elevated vitamin D levels can help mitigate pain, which will enhance quality of life!
  • Prostate Cancer – According to an article published this past August in the journal, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, “Plasma 25-OHD levels were associated with a linear decrease in prostate cancer risk for high-grade cancers in African American men.” In other words, as vitamin D levels went up, the risk for prostate cancer went down and vice versa. 

In an effort to dig a little deeper, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, set out to determine exactly which type of prostate cancer is affected by low vitamin D levels, and uncovered that Gleason 8-10 prostate cancers responded most dramatically. The Gleason System is the most common prostate grading system used today, and the fact that these types of cells are susceptible should encourage most men because Gleason 8-10 are the “poorly differentiated” or “undifferentiated” cells that generally require more intensive treatments. In other words, these are the deadly cancers.

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – Low vitamin D levels has long been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, so it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that kids with JIA are affected as well. A team of Italian researchers recently evaluated 152 patients with JIA and discovered that these children had “significantly reduced” 25-OHD levels compared to the control group. In addition, those patients with “active” juvenile idiopathic arthritis (and/or frequent relapses) were measured with the lowest levels compared to the children with no active JIA or infrequent flare-ups. This last point is critical because it suggests that regular vitamin D supplementation and sunbathing can, at the very least, make rheumatoid arthritis less debilitating for people.

Vitamin D Recommendations

It is well-known that vitamin D supplementation can help prevent osteoporosis, rickets, osteomalacia, cardiovascular disease and various myopathies. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) currently recommends that:

  • Adults 50 years or older should supplement with 400-800 IU of vitamin D.
  • Adults 50 years or younger should supplement with 800-1000 IU of vitamin D.

For patients taking chronic steroids, the American College of Rheumatology recommends 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis.

Increase Your Vitamin D Intake Naturally

It seems that the NOF’s recommendations are actually quite low. Studies have shown that the best ways to naturally optimize vitamin D levels are to get significantly more IU’s:

The most effective and natural way to do this is to simply get sun exposure everyday. This is best done:

  • Between 10 am and 2 pm,
  • for 20 – 30 minutes.
  • while enjoying the sun with 40% of your entire body exposed to the sun.

During those cold, dark winters, you can also boost your vitamin D by taking an oral supplement containing around 8,000 IU’s of D3 every day. Because they are fat-soluble, make sure that you take them with some healthy “fatty” foods containing coconut oil or some probiotic-rich drink like kefir.

Sources:

  • Schwartz GG, et al. Vitamin d in blood and risk of prostate cancer: lessons from the selenium and vitamin e cancer prevention trial and the prostate cancer prevention trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Aug;23(8):1447-9. doi
  • Stagi S, et al. Determinants of Vitamin D Levels in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2014 Aug 1.
  • Schenk JM, et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d concentrations and risk of prostate cancer: results from the prostate cancer prevention trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Aug;23(8):1484-93.
  • Kuru P, et al. Hypovitaminosis D in widespread pain: its effect on pain perception, quality of life and nerve conduction studies. Rheumatol Int. 2014 Aug 2. [Epub ahead of print].
  • Wong MS, et al. Vitamin D Promotes Vascular Regeneration. 2014 Jul 11. pii: CIRCULATIONAHA.114.010650. [Epub ahead of print].

Dr. Eric Z

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