beets

Include Beets in Your Holiday Feasts!

In the spirit of better health during the holidays, consider adding the often forgotten beets to the menu for your holiday feasts.

Nutritionally speaking, beets pack quite a punch. Like most vegetables, they are low in calories but high in micronutrients and phytochemicals. Beets are high in folate, manganese, and potassium. You’ll get even more bang for your buck if you buy beets with the leafy green tops still attached, and cook the tops like you would any other bitter green, such as dandelion or kale. Like the root portion of the vegetable, beet greens provide a good amount of potassium and manganese, but they provide even more vitamin K1, beta carotene, calcium, iron and magnesium.

Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide inside the body (not to be confused with nitrous oxide, otherwise known as “laughing gas,” which was common in dental offices before the availability of topical anesthetics). Nitric oxide is a vasodilator—meaning, it helps relax blood vessels. This may help support healthy blood pressure, as well as facilitate slightly greater blood flow to working muscles to enhance athletic performance.1,2

When preparing beets you may have noticed the lingering pink color on your cutting board—or on your hands. The pigment comes from compounds called betalains, which are divided into two sub-categories: betacyanins and betaxanthins. Betacyanins are responsible for the deep magenta color of red beets, while betaxanthins create the yellow-orange pigment in golden beets. Like other deeply colored vegetable and fruit pigments (such as those in red wine and blueberries), betalains are a source of antioxidants and may help protect LDL particles from oxidation.3.4

Compared to many other vegetables, beets are on the sweet side. However, this doesn’t mean they’re off-limits for people looking to maintain healthy blood sugar levels or attain a healthy body weight. While they are higher in natural sugars than, say, broccoli or spinach, beets have a low glycemic load. (The glycemic load is the number that estimates how much a particular food will raise your blood sugar level after you’ve eaten it.) This means you would have to consume a very large amount of beets to see a significant elevation in blood sugar. (However, individual responses to foods vary, so if you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, be sure to monitor them should you experiment with adding beets to your diet.)

Unlike seasonal summer produce, beets are available year-round. They’re easy to incorporate into your diet, whether as a garnish, side dish or featured in an entrée. You can simply peel and grate them raw over salads, or marinate steamed or roasted beets in lemon juice, olive oil and fresh herbs for an excellent appetizer. Arugula, goat cheese and walnuts make classic salad pairings for beets, and beets can be the star of the show in borscht.

Here are some simple recipes to get you thinking about new ways to bring beets to your table:

One word of caution. After consuming beets, you might notice that your urine takes on a pink color. Don’t be alarmed. This is a common occurrence, and the color will subside once all the pigment has made its way out of your body. The pigment can also appear in stool, but this is less common.

Sources

  1. Cermak NM, Gibala MJ, van Loon LJ. Nitrate supplementation's improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012 Feb;22(1):64-71.
  2. Hobbs DA1, George TW, Lovegrove JA. The effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure and endothelial function: a review of human intervention studies. Nutr Res Rev. 2013 Dec;26(2):210-22.
  3. Georgiev VG, Weber J, Kneschke EM, Denev PN, Bley T, Pavlov AI. Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of betalain extracts from intact plants and hairy root cultures of the red beetroot Beta vulgaris cv. Detroit dark red. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Jun;65(2):105-11.
  4. Tesoriere L, Allegra M, Butera D, Livrea MA. Absorption, excretion, and distribution of dietary antioxidant betalains in LDLs: potential health effects of betalains in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):941-5.

Herbal Medicine

Lung Health, Your Immune System and the Wrath of Winter

How to stay healthy and vibrant through the holiday season

The cold, dry air of the winter months mingles with seasonal infections and molds to create a perfect storm that inflicts many with annoying lung conditions. From chronic, dry coughs to thick mucus-filled chest congestion, the winter weather has a way of attacking the lungs and keeping people gravitating towards cough suppressants, warm tea, and plenty of blankets. It is not pure coincidence that winter can be unfriendly to our lungs. Cold air is dry air and the lungs are the first organs to feel like a parched land during this dry season. Not only is the outside air hostile, but many homes also have gas-forced furnaces and wood-burning stoves circulating dry air throughout our living spaces. This indoor air quality can often be compromised as furnaces spread mold and dust, and wood-burning stoves spew dirt and soot. To make matters worse, bacterial and viral invaders seem to thrive in colder air, explaining the seasonal increase in colds and flus. No wonder the lungs feel imprisoned during the winter months, longing for their own oasis. One key to avoiding complications and illness is to keep your immune response strong and ready for the challenge!

Echinacea

Echinacea, a native of North America, is widely used to prevent, or provide early treatment for colds. Preclinical studies lend biological plausibility to the idea that echinacea works through immune mechanisms. Numerous clinical trials have been carried out on echinacea preparations: it appears that the extracts shorten the duration and severity of colds and other upper respiratory infections (URIs) when given as soon as symptoms become evident.”16

Astragalus

Astragalus is an herb that is well known for supporting the immune system during times when it is stressed. Astragalus has the unique ability to support a healthy inflammatory response within the lungs as well as provide antioxidant support. Therefore, astragalus can work to support respiratory tissues from the damaging effects of dry air and air contaminants. Astragalus products are derived from the roots of Astragalus membranaceus or related species, which are native to China. In traditional Chinese medicine, astragalus is commonly found in mixtures with other herbs, and is used in the treatment of numerous ailments, including heart, liver, and kidney diseases, as well as viral infections, and immune system disorders. Western herbalists began using astragalus in the 1800s as an ingredient in various immune tonics.

Elderberry

Elderberry, or European elder, grows up to 30 feet tall, is native to Europe, but has been naturalized to the Americas. The flowers and berries of this powerful plant, officially known as Sambucus nigra, are used most often medicinally and contain a variety of flavonoids which have been found to possess a variety of biochemical and pharmacological actions, including antioxidant and immunologic properties. According to ethnobotanical surveys, Sambucus nigra is one of the plants most commonly used for medicinal purposes in the world. Its pleasant taste also makes it  useful in liquid formulas for children’s immune support.

A strong immune system and proper hydration will go a long way in complimenting the actions of these herbs. Immune-supporting nutrients such as vitamins C, D and E as well as zinc are beneficial adjuncts. Drinking plenty of water and running a home humidifier can help keep the lungs moist and working optimally.  Warm beverages such as tea can serve a dual purpose in hydrating the body and providing a warm vapor which, when breathed in, will help moisten the nasal passage. It is also advantageous to keep air contaminants at a minimum by dusting more frequently and cleaning out furnace vents. Air purifiers may be helpful in older homes that are predisposed to mold contamination. During the remainder of this cold season, you may not have to suffer through annoying coughs and tight lungs. Keeping a few helpful herbs on hand, some supportive nutrients, a clean home, and hydrating your body will be the ticket to breathing easier as you wait for the arrival of warmer days.

Immunotone Plus

Immunotone Plus contains a combination of natural compounds, botanicals and mushroom extracts in order to support the immune system and help build the body’s natural defenses against various microorganisms and stressors. This highly effective blend of compounds is appropriate for children and adults, and can be utilized for short or long term immune support. Echinacea, green tea, astragalus, andrographis and goldenseal are standardized to ensure the best quality and reliable delivery of the active components in these botanicals.

References

Roxas, M. and Jurenka, J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev 2007;12(1):25-48.

Sinclair S. Chinese herbs: a clinical review of Astragalus, Ligusticum, and Schizandrae. Altern Med Rev. 1998 Oct; 3(5): 338-44.

Wang X.H., Jia H.L., Deng L. and Huang W.M. (2014). Astragalus polysaccharides mediated preventive effects on bronchopulmonary dysplasia in rats. Pediatric Research. 2014 Oct;76(4):347-54.

PDR for Herbal Medicines, 1st Ed.  Medical Economics/Thompson Healthcare, 1998.


Bowl of pears

Peering into the World of Pears

Apples probably come to mind first when you think of fall fruit. With orchards offering “pick your own” days, and hot apple cider and spiced cider donuts gracing restaurant menus and curbside food trucks in autumn, apples do seem to have the market cornered. But they’re not the only game in town when the days get shorter and a chill comes into the air. You know it’s fall when pyramids of pears appear at grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Fruit is getting a bad rap in some nutrition circles. Aside from honey, fruits are the sweetest-tasting whole, unprocessed foods available. And even though this is, of course, natural sugar, it’s still sugar, and high consumption of fruit may not be suitable for everyone, depending on individual metabolic state and health goals. After all, fruit is “nature’s candy.”

So, pears are sweet, and there’s certainly a lot of buzz these days about cutting back on sugar. Does that mean pears are officially off the menu? No, but a better answer is, it depends. A small pear (about 150g) provides less than 90 calories, almost all of which is carbohydrate. Of the 23g total carbohydrate, approximately 1g is sucrose, 4g are glucose, over 9g are fructose, and 5g are fiber. The glycemic load is miniscule, at a rating of just 5. This would make pears seem like an ideal choice for those struggling with blood glucose management, and, for many years, fruit was considered a great choice for diabetics. This is because fructose has very little impact on blood sugar levels. However, the reason for this is that fructose is metabolized predominantly in the liver. This may be a positive thing when it comes to blood sugar management, but for individuals with other health concerns, heavy consumption of fruit may not be optimal.

But, to be realistic, when you want a little something sweet, better you reach for a pear than a donut, or a can of soda! Compared to certain other fruits and most vegetables, pears aren’t bursting with nutrients, but they’re not completely devoid, either. Data on generic commodity pears in the U.S. show that pears provide small, but not insignificant amounts of vitamins C and K, potassium, copper and manganese. Asian pears, which look like yellow-brown apples and are firmer and slightly less sweet than regular pears, have a similar nutrient profile, but deliver those vitamins and minerals in a lower sugar package. An Asian pear (around 120g) provides 13g of carbohydrate, made up of 4g fiber and 9g of total sugar. (Data on fructose and glucose content are unavailable, but with 9g of total sugar, the fructose content would be less than the amount in regular pears.)

The amount of fructose in pears isn’t cause for alarm. It’s simply a matter of assessing whether pears fit into your diet, based on your goals. If you enjoy fruit, you shouldn’t feel restricted solely to blueberries and raspberries, which are celebrated for their antioxidant content. As long as you eat whole, unprocessed pears, rather than pears canned in syrup, small amounts can fit into a healthy diet.

There are several varieties of pears, but the ones North American consumers are most familiar with are the brown-skinned bosc, Anjou or d’Anjou (available in both green and red), and the yellow-green Bartlett. Farmers’ markets may offer lesser-known varieties, such as ForelleSeckel, and Comice, which are typically not found in supermarkets. The flesh of under-ripe pears is firmer, crisper, and more tart than ripe pears. To determine when a pear is ripe, experts recommend the “check the neck” method: “Apply gentle pressure to the neck of the pear with your thumb. If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe.” Since pears only ripen at room temperature, an unripe pear will not ripen in the refrigerator, so it’s not recommended to refrigerate fruit that hasn’t yet ripened. Once ripened, though, you can extend the “shelf life” of pears for a few more days by keeping them in the fridge.

Pears need not be limited to a lunchbox snack, or dessert as pear crumble or pears poached in wine. Pears are equally at home in savory dishes, such as celery root and pear pureesausage-stuffed baked pearsgingered pears and parsnips, and roasted butternut squash and pears. (Those last two are excellent for Thanksgiving!) Check here for a multitude of savory and sweet recipes to highlight this versatile fruit.


Woman exercising

Women and Bone Health, what Basics do You Need to Know?

Women often start to pay attention to the health of their bones around the onset of menopause, when there is a relative decline in estrogen production. But what does the hormone estrogen have to do with bones? Estrogen is actually necessary in order for calcium to be absorbed into bone. When the hormone is less available in the body, it impacts the rate at which calcium becomes incorporated into the bone structure. Bone is not inert. It is actually a living tissue made up of proteins, collagen and minerals. It is considered a “matrix,” whose elements are always in flux, responding to various nutritional and hormonal conditions within the body. Calcium, for example, is constantly either being absorbed into bones or released into the blood as needed. The objective, then, is to aim for a calcium balance, meaning that calcium should be replenished in the bones at the rate it is lost.

Studies show that the greater the density of bones before the onset of menopause, the stronger they remain thereafter. It is, therefore, never too early (or too late!) to adopt dietary and lifestyle habits that help support strength, mobility and vitality throughout all stages of life.

Some important guidelines to follow:

• Exercise – Physical activity is one of the single best ways to build and maintain strong bones. One hour of moderate exercise three times a week can not only prevent bone loss, but can help increase bone density, even after menopause.

• Avoid smoking–The toxins in cigarettes can upset the balance of hormones, such as estrogen. Nicotine and free radicals can also destroy valuable bone-making cells.

• Diet – When it comes to maintaining a calcium balance in the body, there are foods that should be avoided and foods that are particularly beneficial.

o What to avoid – There is no question that cola is detrimental to bones. Study after study has clearly shown that the high phosphate levels in cola “pull” calcium out of the bones, creating a negative calcium balance. In addition, coffee, alcohol, salt and refined sugar all can contribute to a poor calcium balance and should be consumed in moderation or, even better, avoided altogether.

o What to eat: Dairy products are good sources of calcium, but are not the only foods that contribute to healthy bones. Foods high in a variety of bone-benefitting vitamins and minerals – such as vitamins K and D, magnesium and potassium (see below) – include green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli and spinach. Almonds, salmon, green tea, and oats are also high in these nutrients. Generally, a diet that includes several daily servings of fruits and vegetables (especially the dark, green leafy variety) is wonderful for supporting bone health.

Vitamins and Minerals

o Calcium is critical to bone health. Approximately 99% of calcium is found in bone and is an essential component in forming its structure.
o Magnesium is involved in bone formation and also affects the concentrations of the active form of vitamin D – a major regulator of bone homeostasis.
o Zinc helps to increase bone formation and mineralization.
o Copper helps keep bones flexible and strong.
o Manganese is necessary for forming the bone matrix into which calcium and other bone minerals are deposited.
o Vitamin C is vital for maintaining the homeostasis (proper balance) necessary for healthy bone mass.
o Vitamin D helps facilitate calcium absorption in the intestine and is instrumental in bone turnover. Vitamin D deficiency is on the rise due to avoidance of sun exposure, certain medications which bind fat (anticonvulsants, steroid drugs, laxatives), and women with low hormone levels. Vitamin D status also declines with age because of a reduced dietary intake, diminished absorption from food, and because aging skin has a reduced capacity for making vitamin D.
o Vitamin K helps to increase bone deposition, reduce the amount of calcium lost and improve bone turnover profile.

Bone Revive™ provides essential nutrients required to maintain healthy bones. Formulated with highly absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium in an optimal 2:1 ratio and vitamin D to ensure prime absorption in the intestine, Bone Revive ™ focuses on superior bioavailability. Added vitamin K ensures calcium is adequately delivered to bones and teeth. This formula also includes bone supportive minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and boron. Bone Revive™ does not contain genetically modified ingredients.


Bacteria

Are You using an Inferior Probiotic in a Standard Capsule?

The scientific evidence is compelling and clear that probiotics are one of the most important daily supplements to add to your wellness program.

Some factors that increase the need for probiotics are:

  • Pasteurization of foods and decreased consumption of fermented foods
  • Increase in the use of antibiotics in livestock
  • Overuse of antibiotics in treating human infections which may not be caused by bacteria
  • Over consumption of sugar and carbohydrates which promote yeast overgrowth
  • Over consumption of alcohol which promotes yeast overgrowth
  • Infants being delivered by C-section or that are not breast fed long enough to establish a strong friendly flora as an important foundation for their immunological health

Research Indicates that probiotic supplementation helps:

  • Immune defense at the intestinal and systemic level
  • Minimize the side effects of antibiotics
  • Minimize allergic responses
  • Prevention/alleviation of traveler's diarrhea
  • Prevention/alleviation of diarrhea and constipation in infants, adults and elderly
  • Inhibit growth of pathogenic organisms: bacteria, yeast, parasites
  • Improve digestion of lactose
  • Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease/ulcerative colitis
  • Vitamin K synthesis
  • Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

If you don’t currently take a daily probiotic, or if you are currently using one in a standard two-piece capsule, please consider trying Probio-GI™ from Formulated Nutriceuticals today! This is the same formula that Dr. Brady utilizes with his patients in his practice!

Probio-GI™ from Formulated Nutriceuticals features a unique patented delivery technology which makes it look different, and more importantly perform different, than your average probiotic supplement. Virtually all probiotic supplements come in standard two-piece capsules, which do not keep out moisture, allowing the probiotic organisms inside to remain highly metabolically active, quickly burning themselves out and dying in the bottle.

Probio-GI™ has been developed with a focus on superior delivery and viability of live probiotic organisms using a patented, cutting-edge Probiosphere™technology, which appears as a small sphere-like soft-gel. This system is used for the delivery of medications that cannot have any exposure to moisture without becoming ineffective. We worked with this special technology manufacturer to apply the advantages of this system to probiotics because of the challenges these supplements historically present. The Probiosphere™ gels used to deliver Probio-GI™ are designed to resist the acidic environment of the stomach in order to deliver 5 billion viable units of probiotic organisms to the small and large intestine-exactly where you need them – with an assurance of maximum potency. This same technology enables Probio-GI™ organisms to withstand the insults of manufacturing processes and increases shelf stability, allowing this product to rank among the highest in its class for viability. Probio-GI™ effectively supports gastrointestinal and immune health. It supplies the intestinal tract with 8 health-promoting strains of probiotics and does not contain genetically modified ingredients.

This novel probiotic formula has a two year shelf life at room temperature but refrigeration is still recommended once the bottle is opened.

For ongoing GI health simply take 1 capsules per day with food, if possible, since this unique capsule technology works better with food in the stomach.  Take at least 3 hours away from any antibiotic medication.

Summary:

1) Advanced technology capsule forms a gel matrix to protect from stomach acid

2) Probio-GI™ is stored and shipped cold to prevent overheating, which can lower viability.

3) Multi-live-strain formula, including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium brevi, Bifidobacterium longum, and Streptococcus  thermophilus, all backed by significant human research


Lemon Balm

When Life Gives You Lemons, Take Lemon Balm

In the 21st century, the hallmarks of American childhood no longer revolve around apple pie, homemade meals, and songs like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Instead, children’s lives are characterized by the consumption of fast food, innovative technology and a plethora of after-school activities. They are more familiar with the family van than the family room. An inescapable reality exists in which America is morphing into a society branded by speed and productivity.  However, despite the accomplishments achieved through fast-paced lifestyles, we cannot ignore the inner turmoil that occurs as our bodies strive to maintain optimal health and wellness during periods of chronic stress.

Perhaps, one of the greatest pieces of evidence of this lifestyle change can be witnessed in the physician’s office. Panic attacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and associated conditions are on the rise. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, sleep aids and narcotics are common drugs seen in most American homes. It appears that the 21st century American could benefit from something akin to the fictitious “chill pill.” While many facetiously throw around references to such a pill in the famous cliché, others are aware that such a remedy may actually exist in the form of the ancient herb, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).

Lemon balm has a history of promoting relaxation and a calm demeanor.  Back in the 15th century, the famous Swiss physician Paracelsus dubbed lemon balm the “elixir of life,” because it promoted health and longevity.  English herbalist, John Gerard, even believed that lemon balm was a comforting herb, helping to drive away sadness.  The citrus flavor of lemon balm’s essential oil made it a popular choice for flavoring drinks, freshening rooms and polishing furniture. Its most ancient use as a bee attractant made it indispensable to beekeepers. When planted near beehives, lemon balm would ensure the busy bees stayed close to home.

Modern science attributes lemon balm’s calming, sedative-like properties to the herb’s ability to support the brain’s neurotransmitters – chemical hormones responsible for influencing our moods and circadian rhythms (the body’s 24 hour biological clock). When we are under chronic stress, certain neurotransmitters are awakened in the brain and act to stimulate us, keeping us alert and active. Sometimes, an abundance of these neurotransmitters can lead to anxiety, panic, and depression, and can interrupt our sleep patterns. When our stress-induced neurotransmitters increase, our bodies attempt to balance the scales by producing more calming neurotransmitters. These chemical hormones are responsible for relaxing our muscles, eliciting overall calmness, and improving our sleep habits. Lemon balm acts to support healthy production of the calming neurotransmitters and therefore, helps to balance the stimulatory neurotransmitters that govern our stressful lifestyles.

Lemon balm may also owe its success to the fact that it supports the body’s ability to manage pain appropriately. Many times chronic pain can be a trigger for anxiety, depression and other mental disturbances, and it can also provide a legitimate reason for insomnia. Chronic, stress-induced pain may start with something as simple as a sports injury or bad posture we assume when we bend over a computer desk for long periods of time. Regardless of how chronic pain originates, lemon balm may help promote a healthy pain response that is not overly aggressive.

Stress not only affects our mood and sleep, and creates tense, painful muscles, but it also triggers various digestive problems. Whether an individual is struggling with stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome or the intake of too much fast food, the digestive system is not alone in feeling the effects of our fast-paced lifestyles. Lemon balm comes to the rescue yet again, helping to support a healthy digestive response when we may not be treating our digestive system so kindly.

Although we may dream of being able to hit the pause button on life, reality pushes us forward, demanding more of our time, attention, and ultimately, our health.  However, lemon balm can act as a buffer against everyday stressors, aiding our body in its effort to keep our moods elevated, our sleep restored, our muscles relaxed, and our pain managed. Ultimately, this ancient and effective herb, aids us in our ability to simply take a deep breath and chill.


Healthy Vegetables

Eating Seasonally, a Simple Strategy for Year-Round Health

After a winter of consuming heavier meat dishes—hearty stews, pot roasts, and other nourishing meals that warm you from the inside out—do you feel like you need a detox or juice cleanse come spring? While there’s nothing wrong with giving your body a boost through a short-term nutritional “reset,” varying your diet with the seasons may give your body the nutritional support it needs in order to avoid the demand for a more drastic intervention.

It is only thanks to the wonders of modern growing and shipping methods that we can find mangoes and papayas in New England grocery stores in winter, or tomatoes and raspberries nationwide year-round. Foods certainly don’t taste as good out of season. Compare a mushy (not to mention tasteless) winter tomato to a ripe, sweet, juicy one at a farmers’ market in July. But better tasting food is only one benefit of eating seasonally. An even bigger one is that you’ll provide your body with the nutrients it needs all year long, without resorting to trendy diets based on gimmicky superfruits touted by Hollywood celebrities.

Year-round availability of starchy carbohydrates in temperate zones is a very new development—to say nothing of the processed and refined, sugar-laden grain products that are absolutely everywhere. Eating cyclically, with the seasons, allows your body to follow a natural rhythm of lower and higher carbohydrate consumption, and more or less fat, rather than presenting constant influxes of sugar, grain and vegetable oils that your physiology isn’t designed to handle.

Selecting seasonal foods also helps provide your body with an array of nutrients it might not get when you stick to eating the same things day in and day out, simply because they’re always available. For instance, think of having an omelet of farm-fresh eggs, tomatoes, basil and bell peppers in summer, or a side dish of roasted squash or sweet potatoes in November.

Summer, of course, is a time of increased fruit and vegetable availability, with nearly every color of the rainbow represented: blueberries, purple eggplant, yellow squash, vibrant red tomatoes, orange bell peppers. Consuming these diverse foods is a good way to get a supply of nutrients that are harder to come by in colder weather. Most of the prized summer vegetables are lower in carbohydrates, allowing you to maintain a healthy body weight while still enjoying a wide array of delicious non-starchy carbs.

On the heels of summer comes autumn, with seasonal foods that are denser in carbohydrates—such as such as acornbutternut squash, and sweet potatoes—as your body primes itself to store nutrients (and body fat) for winter, when food is less plentiful. (Naturally and theoretically less plentiful, that is. Remember, without modern technology, the produce available in winter would be greatly limited.) The good news is, these brightly colored foods also bring with them hefty doses of beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

During winter in temperate zones, the selection of fresh produce is even more limited, but there’s certainly still a variety of healthful options to choose from, especially the hardy greens and cruciferous vegetables that do well in colder times, like collard greens, kale and Brussels sprouts. Winter also typically means more meat dishes, while produce is less abundant.

The produce that appears in spring as the ground thaws almost seems intended as a kind of natural and gentle “detox” after months of higher consumption of animal fat and protein. The tender salad greens, asparagus, and green peas offer generous amounts of folate, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K1 and manganese.

Take advantage of each season’s unique bounty. Not only will your food taste better, but you’ll also give your body diverse nutrients at the times it needs them.


Healthy meal

The Adrenals, the Missing Link Part 2

As we discussed in a previous blog on the adrenal glands, stress can elicit the fight-flight response in our bodies, which is designed to propel us into action. However, if that response is not properly exercised, a “defeat response” can take place. This defeat response causes the function of our adrenal glands to be disrupted. Because the adrenal glands release many hormones, an imbalance can trigger other issues within our bodies, such as thyroid dysfunction, autoimmunity, inflammation and obesity. For example, a high level of cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, can have a negative effect on the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar. So while stress may seem unrelated to blood sugar levels, in actuality they are intrinsically connected.

The obvious first step to healing the adrenals is to lower stress, or to see stress as a positive, motivational force in your life. However, if you’re already suffering from a compromised adrenal function due to high amounts of stress over long periods of time, there are nutritional strategies that can help bring you back into balance.

Detoxification

To nourish the adrenals, it is important to eliminate toxins from your body because toxins can act as disruptors within the endocrine system. A medically supervised detoxification program where you follow a dietary protocol consisting exclusively of whole, nutrient-dense foods can revive adrenal health and will aid in balancing blood sugars and boosting metabolism.

Nutrition Support

In addition to food strategies, supplementing with specific nutrients can also enhance your endocrine health. Utilizing the long-held theory that “like heals like,” tissue-specific glandulars that are rich in vitamins and minerals can help strengthen damaged adrenal tissues. Supplements that target increasing insulin action, such as the mineral chromium, can also assist in balancing blood sugars. Nutrients such as N-acetyl tyrosine and vitamin C are effective at supporting the production of brain neurotransmitters, which can foster mental health.

There is also an array of B vitamins that help balance the production of stress hormones; these include thiamine HCL (B1), pyridoxal-5-phosphate (B6), and pantothenic acid (B5). Herbs that aid in regulating cortisol levels include American and Indian ginseng, and licorice root.

Stress is an unavoidable reality in today’s modern world. In addition to finding ways to alleviate unnecessary stress in your life, make stress work towards making positive changes in your life, be mindful of your diet, and provide your body with supplements that provide additional adrenal support.


Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera, Beyond Sunburns

The aloe vera plant is a striking specimen that resembles a cactus with its thorny, fleshy leaves.  It grows best in dry climates and is known to flourish in the arid regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, America, and some parts of India. The word “aloe” originally derives from the Arabic word “Alloeh,” meaning “shining bitter substance,” while the word “vera” is Latin in origin, meaning “true.” Thus, aloe vera is considered the true aloe, as it is the most widely known type of aloe plant (there are actually over 500 species of aloe) and is the standard pharmaceutical source.

Aloe vera has many nicknames, such as burn plant, lily of the desert, and elephant’s gall, and has been used for medical purposes in Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, Japan and China for over 1,000 years. Some of its earliest known uses date back 6,000 years to Egypt, where it was depicted in stone carvings and was known as the “plant of immortality.” Used by the Egyptians for skin care and embalming, it was also placed in the tombs of deceased pharaohs as a burial present.

Although aloe vera is most recognized for its soothing effects on sunburns, research shows a variety of other potential benefits, including antioxidant properties and its ability to help support a healthy inflammatory response. Aloe has been studied for its effect on blood glucose, skin tissue engineering, wound healing, acne and even dentistry. It appears that much of aloe’s beneficial effects have to do with its antioxidant properties, meaning its propensity to help combat oxidative stress.

Blood Sugar

One of the areas in which aloe vera shows promise is with helping to support healthy blood sugar levels. In a 2014 study with 99 non-insulin diabetics, participants were split into three groups, where one group received no aloe while the other two received 100 mg and 200 mg of aloe vera gel powder respectively. Those in the 200 mg group saw greater reductions in fasting blood glucose, glucose levels after eating, cholesterol and blood pressure as well.  Additional animal studies have supported these findings.

Skin Health

Topical aloe vera cream has been found to be helpful with open skin wounds, with improvements noticed by the end of the first week of use. An interesting area which may not immediately come to mind when we think of open wounds is acne, yet some of these lesions can easily open, which perhaps is the reason aloe has shown promise with mild to moderate instances of this condition. Compared to topical retinoids, which are typically the drug of choice for acne, aloe may prove to be a more pleasing choice, as it may offer more soothing effects and help ease the trauma to the skin.

Burns

Although not as common, burns can be more traumatic than other skin ailments. Aloe has been shown to ease some of the pain and skin pulling associated with changing a burn dressing in first and second-degree burns. In experiments with tape stripping, adding aloe to vitamin E proved more effective with burns than vitamin E alone.

It is interesting to note that aloe is quite popular within the glassblowing community. Many glassblowers keep aloe vera plants growing in their hot shops so that they are immediately available in the event these artists are accidentally burned. They simply remove a few “meaty” leaves from the plant, break them open at the widest part, and squeeze some gel out of the leaves directly onto the affected site.

These wonderful properties could be the reason aloe vera shows promise in other areas such as the GI tract and gingiva (gums). With so many of aloe’s beneficial properties being studied, we are sure to see more updates coming in these, and possibly other, areas.