Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cheap Ways to Get Healthy in Tough Times

I generally hate commercials but I gotta say that I love the Allstate commercial where the guy extols the virtues of staying home and playing Jenga. I know, tough times are by definition tough, and yet I'm seeing some amazing things happen in people's lives as a result of these tough times. Yes, some people are experiencing some serious setbacks and financial woes, but other people are using the current situation to make some truly beneficial changes in their lives.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of people using this opportunity to get healthy!

How Do You Get Healthy in Tough Economic Times?
When people think of the word "healthy," many think of spending money. You might have to spend money on supplements, a gym membership, or diet foods. That's not going to work in an age where the jobless rate keeps creeping up. Instead, people are finding all kinds of ways to get healthy for cheap. Here are two fabulous examples to inspire you to think of ways you can get healthy without spending the big bucks!

Example #1: The Substitution Diet
One woman came to me for nutritional counseling and found herself in quite the bind. She was overweight and wanted to lose weight, but could not seem to do it by herself. She considered joining either a women's gym or a diet program (like Jenny Craig), but when she looked into both options she found the monthly fees too steep for her budget. So she asked me for help.

I'm a big believer in small changes that make a big difference. I asked her to make a food diary for a week, which meant she listed everything she ate for a week. Surprisingly, even though she was overweight she didn't eat as much as one would expect. However, the content of her diet was pretty poor and included a lot of processed foods and refined carbohydrates. She also ate a lot of pre-packaged food with low nutritional content. I asked her if she would be willing to do a little more cooking and give up 50% of her sugary snacks. She agreed.

We replaced 35% of her pre-packaged food with meals she cooked herself, and she bought 50% less cakes and cookies. With the money left over (about $50 per month), we started her on a low-cost but high-quality nutritional supplement. The supplement packets contained blue-green algae to give her energy and increase her metabolism, plus acidophilus, bifidus, and enzymes, which improved her digestion. The results are in and she has lost 11 pounds and feels better than she has in years. She doesn't like to cook but her weight loss keeps her going. I give her kudos for persistence, frugality, and healthy living!

Example #2: Yard Man Extraordinaire
One of my buddies works an office job in a big city and he used to pay people to do his yard work for him (and believe me, he has a beautifully-landscaped yard). While his job isn't in limbo, he's decided to cut back on expenditures to save extra money for future contingencies. One of the expenses he cut was the money he was paying to the yard man. The other was his twice-a-month visit to his anti-stress counselor (he finds working in the city very stressful).

You can probably see where this is going. It turns out that doing yard work is the perfect intersection of saving money and stress relief for my friend, not to mention being a great physical workout. Not only has he gotten a handle on all the basic yard maintenance, like weed-pulling and lawn-mowing, but he's even starting to build an amazing serpentine rock wall that literally has people stopping in his driveway to ask if he does rock-work for hire! Now that's got to fluff his aura and boost his pride. In any case, should he ever find himself out of work, he can now always fall back on a second career in rock work!

Inspired yet?

I hope so. I'm so inspired that I've started tackling a ramshackle falling-down building on our property. The physical exercise is great and I'm saving megabucks by not paying day laborers to do the work for me.

So what about you? How can you use the current situation not to increase your stress level but to be a better, healthier, happier version of yourself? Got any ideas? Drop me a line. I'd love to hear about it!

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spiderpop/ / CC BY 2.0

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reverse Heart Muscle Damage Naturally - A Case Study

Did you know that heart muscle damage can be reversed naturally? I am walking, talking, living proof, and this article is a case study profiling that proof.

Case History
Five years ago I underwent surgery to replace a congenitally-faulty aortic valve in my heart. The valve didn't shut properly and leaked with every heart beat, making my heart less efficient. I had lived with this valve for 67 years without realizing that it was faulty. I suffered from symptoms of this congenital defect but never realized the reason.

For instance, although I have always had great physical strength, I have never been able to perform exercise that required prolonged cardiovascular stamina. I always wondered how people could jog and talk at the same time, since I could hardly run half a mile without being totally winded.

After the surgery, I was able to do aerobic exercises that I had never been able to do before. I could easily run for 30 minutes without being winded. However, my physician informed me that my echocardiogram results indicated that my heart muscle was enlarged and somewhat damaged from a lifetime of overwork. She told me that this kind of enlargement could never be reversed, and that I would have to treat my heart with care for the rest of my life.

I appreciated her concern, but being a doctor of Chinese Medicine I did not believe that the situation could not be reversed. In Chinese Medicine it is believed that any condition can be healed.

Natural Supplement Therapy

After surgery my cardiologist prescribed coumadin to prevent any blood from clotting on the artificial aortic valve. I had serious side effects from taking coumadin so I switched to a natural blood regulator called nattokinase, which has been used by Asians for centuries to dissolve and prevent blood clots. In addition, I increased my intake of coenzyme Q10 from 30 mg to 180 mg. I had taken coenzyme Q10 for years as a natural form of support for my heart, and since I knew it had healing properties for the heart muscle, I increased my intake to therapeutic levels.

Echocardiogram Test Results
I get an echocardiogram once a year to ensure that my artificial heart valve is functioning properly and to check the general health of my heart. Three years ago, the results from my annual echocardiogram astonished my physician. She called me and asked me what I had been doing for my heart. I told her, and then asked her why. She replied that my heart muscle was no longer enlarged and that the heart wall was no longer thickened. This surprised her greatly since she had never seen a reversal of this kind in her practice.

I am pleased that my heart muscle has recovered from the stresses of a lifetime of overwork, and gratified that the Chinese Medicine point of view, where healing is always possible, has proven true in my case. I hope these results will inspire others with "chronic conditions" to realize that any condition can be healed, and that natural supplementation is always an option to consider.

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Photo credit: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prebiotics versus Probiotics -- What's the Difference?

The word "probiotics" are familiar to most people: the beneficial bacteria that populate the gut and are a first line of defense for the body against all number of illnesses. You've probably heard the word in recent yogurt commercials.

Strains of friendly bacteria that are most common include those in the Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families. You've probably heard of these ... they are even being mentioned in the yogurt commercials these days. What you might not know about these friendly bacteria are:

- they help your body produce vitamin K, which boosts your immune system
- they can be killed by stress, antibiotics, chlorine, and other unhealthy lifestyle habits
- yogurt usually doesn't contain enough of these probiotoics to really boost your health
- they (friendly bacteria) have to eat, too

You Have to Feed Your Friendly Bacteria
So most health-conscious people know that they have to add probiotics to their daily regimen to keep a strong population of friendly bacteria in the gut. Having a good supply of these probiotoics helps with digestion, symptoms of ulcers and leaky gut syndrome, symptoms of allergies, and all kinds of other good stuff.

What most people don't know is that you also have to "feed" your friendly bacteria. They, like you, have to be fed or they tend not to stick around. So what do you feed the probiotics living in your gut? Why, prebiotics of course!

What's a Prebiotic?
A prebiotic is any source of food for probiotics. For the most part, prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrate fibers called oligosaccharides. That is, you can't digest oligosaccharides but your friendly bacteria can. Since you can't digest these fibers, they remain in your gut and feed the friendly bacteria living there. It's a good arrangement, no?

Oligosaccharides are found mostly in fruits, legumes, and whole grains. For instance, soybeans, oats, whole wheat, and barley all have oligosaccharides. Another common source of these fibers is inulin, which can be derived from Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, and chicory root.

While the science on prebiotics is still expanding, scientists are now saying that some people need more prebiotics and some people need more probiotics. These days it is recommended that you get both in your diet, so that you keep the population of friendly bacteria in your gut healthy and happy ... so you stay healthy and happy.

Prebiotics are big news these days. For instance, the makers of one of the probiotic supplements that I take,  has just added inulin to its Bifidus formulation to make it more potent. When prebiotics are added to probiotics, it gives you more bang for your buck, since you swallow the beneficial bacteria complete with its own food source. Pretty cool, huh? I think so!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Filling the Gaps in a Modern Diet - Solving Nutrition Problems

This may sound a bit silly coming from a nutritional counselor and doctor of Chinese Medicine, but I no longer try to "eat right" all the time to get all my nutrition. Eating right no longer does the trick in our modern diet, so I have to resort to other means.

Having examined the content of the food we buy at the grocery store, I've realized that there are no longer enough vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals in the food the keep my body happy. Even the best "organic" produce doesn't have enough "goodies" to satisfy my nutritional needs. This leads to some serious nutrition problems.

Nutrition Problems: What's Wrong with Our Food?
The short answer to that question is that we, as a population, are producing more food with less soil, and the soil is getting poorer with each passing year. As you've probably already figured out, the food we grow gets most of its nutrition from the soil. Of course, you need sunlight and water, too, but the soil is the source of much of the vitamin, mineral, and trace mineral content in our food. Today, farmers don't allow fields to lie fallow much, and don't re-mineralize the soil, and as a result we have food that looks the same (or even better) than it did 50 years ago, but has some serious nutrition problems.

For instance, according to the Kushi Institute of Becket, Massachusetts, the vitamin and mineral content in our fresh vegetables have declined a lot. They studied USDA nutrient data that covers the years from 1975 to 1997. According to their study, average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables have declined 27 percent, iron levels have dropped 37 percent, vitamin A levels, 21 percent; and vitamin C levels, 30 percent. In other words, Popeye wouldn't get nearly the same bang for his buck out of a can of today's spinach as he would from a can of spinach of the 1975 vintage.

Now carry that same nutrition gap up the food chain. If you're not a vegetarian, then not only are you eating nutrient-poor vegetables, but the source of your meat is also becoming nutrient-poor. Cows, pigs, lambs, and other animals are being fed lower-quality grass, hay, and other vegetative matter (I won't get into the whole debate about livestock feed because it is way too complicated). Suffice to say that the nutritional content of all of our foods (unless we grow it ourselves) is getting lousier by the year, resulting in nutrition problems that many of us aren't even aware of.

What to Do About Nutrition Problems in the Modern Diet
I live on a micro-farm so I can grow some of my own food. We grow some fresh vegetables for ourselves, and we grow most of our own hay for our horses. We fertilize with natural substances (manure, emulsified fish "goo," and volcanic rock dust mixed with blue-green algae) as much as possible.

But this doesn't cover our food for the whole year. So like most other people, we have to shop for food in our local stores. Knowing what I know about the nutritional content of the food I'm buying, I don't worry so much about buying the right stuff there. Instead, I focus on creating a foundation with supplements that I know circumvent the nutrition problems created by food I buy at the grocery store.

On a daily basis I consume:

1. High-Quality Probiotics and Enzymes: acidophilus, bifidus, and enzymes fortified with mycopepsin and cayenne

2. Blue-Green Algae: never heated above 105 degrees and freeze dried at the source in Klamath Lake, both with and without the cell wall

3. Antioxidants: wheat sprouts, coenzyme Q10, stem cell support, and WGP beta-glucan for a boost in immunity

With these three categories of supplements, I know I've got all the nutritional bases covered. That doesn't mean I live on jelly doughnuts and Cheetos, but it does mean that I don't worry so much about whether I buy this brand of carrots or that brand. The same goes for our dogs and cats. We buy the best available natural food possible for them, and then fill in the nutritional gaps with some of the items I've listed above. The horses get the same treatment: my wife views hay as horse entertainment, not as total nutrition.

The really neat thing is that it doesn't take much to solve these nutrition problems. The list above may seem like a lot, but it's not. It's a few capsules in the morning and a few at night. The horses, dogs, and cat get even less because they don't live with as much stress as humans do, so they need even less help. The cost of these supplements isn't huge, and the fact that I get to skip worrying about what I'm eating is totally priceless!

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Photo credit: Free Digital Photos