Eating The Right Food – Part 4

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Vitamins and Supplements. 

Vitamins are nutrients that our bodies can’t manufacture, so we need them from external sources. There seems to be no difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. The difference seems to be in the fact that when you get them from food they are more effective. It is thought that maybe other chemicals (phytochemical) from the plants are acting with the vitamins to make them more effective; and further we get vitamins from food in the right proportions to these chemicals. To put it in another way; taking vitamins in pill form doesn’t allow our body to use them synergistically with other nutrients under optimal conditions.

The functions of vitamins include acting as a hormone messengers (vitamin D), regulators of tissue growth and cell differentiation (Vitamin A), and antioxidants (vitamin A, C, and E).

You may have heard that people who take supplements and vitamins are generally healthier than the rest of us. That maybe true but it’s not from taking supplements. Michael Pollen in his book “ In defense of food” suggests that these people are healthier not because of them taking the supplements but because they are typically more health conscious, better educated and more affluent. This means they eat healthy diet mentioned in my previous posts, they sleep at least seven hours, exercise and manage their stress more effectively. Studies certainly confirm that taking vitamins in a form of a pill does not confer the benefit. Taking Vitamins in high doses may actually do more harm.

Dietary Supplements are nutrients and chemicals that when added to a diet might lower the risk for some health problems and might improve overall bodily function.

Antioxidants are major category of supplements. They protect the damage to the cells by neutralizing free radicals and their intermediates. The sources of destructive free radicals include ultraviolet and other forms of radiation, toxins, and pollutants. Free radicals contribute to the development of many diseases. We have both internal and external naturally occurring antioxidants. Glutathione is one, along with vitamins C and E and numerous enzymes. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are dietary sources of antioxidants. Recent research suggests that mega-doses of antioxidants taken, as supplements cannot prevent heart disease or diabetes as it was hoped. Large doses may actually be harmful. Rather, it is better to pig out on carrots, sweat potatoes, chard, asparagus, papaya, prunes, oranges. …and the whole vast arrays of foods that are delicious and are good for you

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Calcium is used to prevent osteoporosis, it has also been suggested that it may have value for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Conclusive evidence in this regard is not yet available but we do know that too much calcium may actually be bad for your heart. This is unlikely to happen if we relay on food as a source of calcium, such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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Fiber is another commonly used supplement, which keeps bowels soft and may help to eliminate toxic wastes.  There is some evidence that it may offer some protection from heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.

Herbal supplements commonly used include ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and Echinacea; however there is very little science to back up their claims.

Polyphenols are organic chemicals that belong to a family of several thousand compounds referred to as flavonoids. They are found many fruits, berries, pomegranates, grapes, wine, walnuts, olive oil, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, and tea. Their antioxidant properties can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Garlic has allicin and turmeric has curcumin , both are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Recent studies suggest allicin improves lipoprotein balance and may reduce arteriosclerosis and fat deposition in blood vessels.

Finally, probiotics are active bacteria found in yogurt and are sold as supplements. Their active bacteria is good for you but you may not need it all the time.

There are situations when supplements can be helpful, but not everyone needs a supplement and they may not need them all the time. Probiotics are useful when you take antibiotics or have diarrhea. As we age our ability to absorb supplements, vitamins and minerals from food decline. It is suggested by some that its probably is a good idea and it certainly can’t do hurt to take multivitamin and mineral pill after age fifty.  It would not be a good idea to take more than twice the Recommended Daily Allowance.

This is a very general guideline about vitamins and supplements. The specifics can be different for everyone and one should discuss them with a dietician and your doctor.

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Resources

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

In Defence of Food – by Michael Pollan

Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well- Being at Any Age  – By Professor Anthony A. Goodman.

 

Eating the Right Foods – part 2.

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Why inflammation matters.

There are some foods that cause inflammation and some food stop the inflammation. Why should inflammation matter? It matters because medical science is starting to understand inflammation maybe the starting point for all diseases. Take heart attacks for example, we are beginning to understand that lowering high cholesterol is only part of the prevention. First the inflammation starts in the walls of coronary arteries, that triggers the cholesterol to be deposited on the walls of the arteries that are inflamed, these deposits build up until eventually the flow of  the blood completely stops and thus causing a heart attack. It is thought Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Heart Disease are all linked to the inflammation. There are many other diseases in which inflammation is present but it is not clear where in the process of disease formation the inflammation happens, at the beginning or end of the disease process. These diseases, to mention some, are Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, SLE,  dermatomyositis, sacroiliitis etc. It doesn’t matter where in the process the inflammation happens, if it is causing harm it makes sense to turn it off.

The causes of inflammation.

There are number factors that cause bad inflammation, these include some foods I have listed below, stress, polluted air, chemical irritants, second hand smoke, pesticides, chronic infections such as Helicobacter pylori, fat around the midline of your body, chronic sleep disturbance and sleep apnea. To turn the inflammation off, correct as many of the above as possible.

Inflammation causing foods.

Avoid or eliminate the following :-

Sugar in the form of corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, and sucrose.

Oils that is very high in omega-6, such as grape seed oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.

Trans fats, they are found deep fried foods, commercially prepared baked goods, fast foods and they usually appear on the label as partially hydrogenated oils.

Cow’s milk can also lead to inflammation.

Cured meats and red meats contain substance called neu5Gc which causes inflammation.

Excessive alcohol consumption.

Consumption of refined grains, such as white bread and white rice.

Artificial food additives such as monosodium glutamate and aspartame.

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Preventing inflammation with food and Herbs.

Use these foods as much as possible:-

Eat  whole foods and avoid anything processed.

Eat fish high in Omega-3

Eat Kelp ( seaweed)

Eat whole fruits and vegetable.

Use olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil; these all have better ratio of omega-3 : omega-6

Avoid drinking from plastic bottles.

Drink black and green tea

Eat broccoli, shitake mushrooms

Have Tulsi or Holy Basil

Use Tumeric, Ginger, Basil and rosemary in your cooking.

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Resources:

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

Maintenance of Physical Health and Living Disease Free.

We are still building a foundation before we get to the topic of  real happiness and health, so today I am going to focus on physical health. It is hard to separate physical health from the emotional health because one effects the other , but I will mainly talk about what we can do to keep ourselves free of disease.  I will emphasize the  general principles and give examples of specifics so you can adopt the principles to your own lifestyle. As the old saying goes “ounce of prevention is worth a pound”, this is true for staying free of disease too.

 

Annual Medical: We are often rushing around just to keep up with doing the essential tasks in our daily lives,  it is important that one of these essential tasks be to have a yearly medical. The annual medical may pick up chronic conditions that are just starting, conditions that may give you no symptoms or  symptoms you may have just got used to, such as mild tendency to be tired or to have mildly low mood ; these symptoms can be caused by low thyroid hormone , diabetes , anemia, Addison’s disease or low testosterone. Blood work done annually may pick up or give clue to these conditions being present. Bowel polyps, which can turn into a cancer should be screened with occult blood test at age 50, those with a family history or with ancestry  of african decent should start prostate cancer  screening around age 45 and the breast cancer screening should start around age 40. If there is a family history of cancer , heart diseases, diabetes  or other condition that runs in the family then the screening and prevention becomes even more crucial and may have to start earlier then the general population. The earlier the chronic conditions are detected the better the long term out come. If you haven’t had a medical for few years, then phone your doctors office and book one today.

Annual Physical Examination

Diet: In recent years there is increasing evidence that the processed or manufactured food maybe associated with a  low grade inflammation mediated by cytokine. This is very harmful. Let me explain. The cytokine mediate an important healing process in our bodies when some part of our body is invaded by foreign agent or is injured , but only if the process stays localized and get turned off after the threat has been dealt with appropriately. If it becomes generalized and chronic as in autoimmune disorders (for example rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma,SLE , ulcerative colitis , crohn’s disease,ankylosing spondylitis, wegener’s disease, polyarteritis nodosa, sarcoidosis and many more) then it starts to damage normal tissues in the body and causes great harm. The autoimmune diseases have have high levels of cytokine ( which means high level of inflammation in the body) and therefore are  associated with higher incident of heart disease, depression, diabetes etc. It is therefore important to keep the  generalized inflammation  in the body low as possible to prevent chronic diseases and maybe even cancer. Our diet can help us reduce the inflammation, this diet is becoming to be known as the ” anti-inflammatory diet”. Dr Andrew Weil is a big advocate for this diet and has some convincing arguments to back up his claim. He goes into details in he is books which I have listed below. Basically recommends avoiding processed food because fat and carbohydrates in them promote inflammation and in addition fail to provide protective nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonuritents ; which comes from fruits and vegetables. He also recommends foods with antioxidants such as olive oil, tea and chocolate ; novel compounds in ginger, turmeric and other spices and herbs; oily fish for special fats. These all goes towards protecting our body tissues  and organs from inappropriate inflammation. If you want more details check his website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other triggers for inflammation are tobacco smoke, chemicals in the house hold products,pollutants in the air , water, and food. These should be avoided as much as possible.

The other  factors that will reduce inflammation are appropriate use of dietary supplements, exercise, stress reduction,  adequate quantity and quality of sleep. You can assess if you are getting enough restful sleep at :- http://psychologytoday.test.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=1329.

Dietary supplement: Dietary supplements should be discussed with your doctor before taking them if you are on medication because there may be interaction with your medication and the supplements.It is generally held opinion by the purists  that if you eat balanced diet, with different coloured fruits and vegetable then one doesn’t need vitamins. However, since the stores are full of manufactured foods and good quality foods are harder to come by especially in winter months; as well  the fruits and vegetables are not properly ripened. So argument can be made for taking multivitamin with minerals tablet, Vitamin D 2000 IU , omega-3 fatty acids in form of fish oil and B- complex vitamins.

Other measure: Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, recreational drugs, and anti-anxiety drugs if possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These recommendation will at least point you in the right direction for staying free of disease. I will try to deal with these topic in greater details in the future post. Until then stay healthy and happy.

Resources: Spontaneous Happiness – by Andrew Weil, MD

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