Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Samhain!




Have a safe and fun evening!

Nutritional Adequacy of Regional Diets

While continuing research on eating seasonally available foods grown in your own region, I turned up this report on an experiment conducted at Cornell University in New York. Basically, they were trying to answer the question: Can a person living in the northeast eat seasonal, local foods and receive adequate nutrition? They determined that it is quite possible to do so. Please note that nutrition was "adequate" though, and that the U. S. Recommended Dietary Allowances are the measure of the minimum levels of nutrients you should have to avoid disease; not the levels you need to be healthy - yes, there is a big difference!

Below are a few highlights on the research done at Cornell. Please click on the title to read the full article.



Using the Nutritionist IV computer program, the diets were analyzed for energy, the macronutrients and vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, iron, calcium, and zinc. Calorie distribution for the two diet types was consistent with established recommendations. With few exceptions, the values for all nutrients measured were above the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowances. Results indicate that it is possible to obtain a nutritionally outstanding diet from foods that could be grown and processed in the Northeast region.

***

Moreover, most farms in the state are now highly specialized, many producing only one or two commodities for the market (Lyson, in press). Early in the century, most farms had diversified operations, and there were many more farms producing any given crop. For example, in 1910, over 85% of all New York farms grew potatoes and 79% grew vegetables. In 1992, fewer than 2% of New York farms grew potatoes and only 9% sold vegetables. Not only are fewer farms producing any given crop, but overall production of crops that are grown has declined (Table 2). Similar delocalizing trends can be seen in the food processing arena.

***

Nearly half the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed domestically are produced in California (Messing, 1981). Often, food products are imported into states where they also are locally produced (Howard, 1995), a trend that sometimes produces astonishing market distortions. For example, New York State produces about 28 million bushels of apples per year, making it the second only to Washington in state apple production in the United States. Yet despite the fact that the state's orchardists produce nine times the average quantity of apples utilized by the New York City market, three-quarters of the city's fresh apples come from Washington State, California, and overseas (Howard, 1995). According to a recent report, less than 4 % of all the apples produced in New York State go to the New York City fresh and processed apple market, which is now primarily served by other states and countries. Thus, knowingly or not, consumers participate more and more in the global food system and allow the local food system to decline as it will.

***

A major barrier to consumer support of northeastern agriculture, however, is their lack of knowledge about how to eat seasonally. In the same study reported above (Wilkins et al.,, 1996), northeastern consumers were largely unfamiliar with several very common northeastern winter vegetables and showed poor understanding of what fruits and vegetables one should expect to find from local sources and when during the of year. [I believe this is true of most people today who live far from and are out of touch with the rural communities. ~M]

***

If consumers are to include considerations such as preservation of regional agriculture when making food choices, they must be familiar with what is or could be produced and processed locally, and they must be assured that diets based on local agriculture are agreeable and nutritionally adequate.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Comment

I've arrived at my winter digs in good condition, settling in, and most important the computer works! :-)

A note: comments are being added, but the number of comments below a post has not been updating the past few days, at least not on my computer. (The post below this one says "2 comments" but there are actually 4.) Blogger has been undergong a lot of maintenance lately, so perhaps that will sort itself out soon, or it's something peculiar to my last post and it won't be a problem in the future. (Anyway....) [Update: it appears to be updating now. :-) ]

Have been looking into some of the info you all left on that last post, located the Folk Medicine book but unfortunately couldn't track down the Diet of 9 Healthier Societies though I tried a few different variations on the title. I will keep trying, though.

I did find this book on the topic of diet/location, though it appears to be a $90 textbook about people native to New Guinea: Plants and Indigenous Medicine and Diet: Biobehavioral Approaches (Hardcover) by Nina L. Etkin "Investigations of medicinal and dietary plants play an important role in elucidating the dynamic interrelationships between the quality of human health and features of the physical and sociocultural environment."

Caroline, I checked out your article and research on the lack of nutrients in food....great info. It makes me wonder if the vast numbers of eating disorders we've seen in the past few decades are a result of lack of nutrients....a mad cycle of greater consumption to get more nutrients (because the body craves what it needs) but it's too much food to consume and so the body must deal somehow with the extra, emply calories. That's a scary thought.

I hope to have more on this topic later. Stay tuned! :-)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Season, geography, and diet

I have been pondering a dietary theory for a while now. I don't know if it's on target because I am unable to find research on it, but it makes sense to me. See what you think.

We sometimes hear of people in other countries around the world who eat foods that we have been told are "bad," but the people who eat those foods are reasonably healthy so we speculate there is something special about the particular combinations of foods they consume. We name diets after their geographic locations, and try to emulate their health and vitality by following the "Mediterranean Diet" and the "Japanese Diet," etc.

It occurs to me that those diets keep those people healthy not because the diet contains one food or another in any particular quantity or order, but because the basic diet is of foods local to the area, local to the people, local to their physiological growth and development. The foods and the people grow in the same area, and I honestly believe they may be connected in ways we haven't even begun to imagine, never mind understand. Maybe we should give some serious time and study not only to what we eat, but when we eat it, and how far the food had to travel before it arrived at our table. Do you suppose it is possible that foods not native to your specific area are somewhat unhealthy if included regularly, or in large quantities, in your diet? I wonder – I really do – if that could possibly be true. Unfortunately I have been unable to discover any studies on the topic. However, perhaps the best "study" we have are these geographic diets we keep creating because the people who do eat a diet consisting mostly of local foods, no matter what those foods are, seem to be the healthiest people!

The other thing that occurs to me, somewhat related, is that over its course of development, human physiology spent thousands of years eating and digesting seasonal foods seasonally – berries in the spring and summer, pumpkins and apples in the fall, cereals and meats in the winter. Are we, just possibly, throwing our bodies out of balance by striving for an unnatural state of dietary equilibrium when we should be striving for dietary cycles of seasonal varieties of fresh foods instead? (What actually got me wondering about this particular aspect of diet is the post below where I share what I've labeled "The Seasonal Diet" from a book by Maurice Messegue who was a famous French herbalist in the 1970's. He doesn't call it "The Seasonal Diet" though; I added that tag.) Our bodies go through seasonal cycles of varying levels of hormones, vitamins, minerals, etc. Could we possibly be causing chronic illness (or at least chronic "un-wellness") by eating foods that our bodies are not chemically prepared to deal with because it's the wrong season? When we take supplements, are we upsetting the way our physiology works by trying to maintain throughout the year a steady level of a particular mineral when that mineral is supposed to be low at a particular time of year?

I don't know. I really don't have any answers to these questions, it's just a topic I've pondered from time to time. It's certainly something to think about. I just may make a serious attempt to follow "The Seasonal Diet" this year. If I do, I'll let you know what happens. If you do, you let me know how it goes, too!


P. S. I am heading south this weekend if I have to crawl, though I'm much better now after last weekend's sudden bout with the flu. We're doing things a little differently, not trying to do the whole drive in one day, so I'll likely be offline Saturday and Sunday, and hopefully hooked back up for Monday morning.

The Seasonal Diet

"The Seasonal Diet" from Of Men and Plants: The autobiography of the world's most famous plant healer by Maurice Messegue (herbalist par excellence), The Macmillan Company, NY, 1973, p. 324-327

Our parents and grandparents, who were closer to nature than we are, used to eat according to the season of the year. In their day you couldn’t buy Cape strawberries or Dutch hothouse tomatoes in mid-winter. Clearly, a well-balanced diet should reflect the difference in the seasons, just as our calorie expenditure and need for vitamins varies throughout the year. Our body cries out for foods that correspond to its changing needs, and it is up to us to satisfy these needs.

In the spring you must help your body to rid itself of the impurities accumulated during the winter and to renew itself. Eat more raw vegetables and greens, and instead of meat cooked in rich sauces, stick to plain grilled meat, especially spring lamb, free-range chicken and river fish. You will benefit greatly from all the fruit available at this time of year.

To help purify your blood and your whole system, start the day by drinking a glass of vegetable juice or eating fresh fruit, lettuce, celery, apples. Lunch should be light but sustaining, whole-rye bread and yoghurt. I am never in favor of milky coffee, but even if you love it, drink tea instead, until autumn. It will be better for the state of your liver, which has been overworked by all the rich foods you ate in winter.

Start each meal with one of the raw vegetables in season – young artichoke, radishes, celery – rather than the winter vegetables: carrots, etc. Follow it with grilled meat or fish and steamed greens, which you should cook as briefly as possible. Overcooking causes vegetables to lose much of their goodness. Eat salads of dandelion and young lettuce, and whatever fruit is in season. Compensate for the lack of fruit available in early spring with milk products.

Your evening meal is the time for spring vegetable soups, fish, boiled eggs an the first fresh fruits, stewed, which should be rapidly and briefly cooked. Overstewed foods are the enemy of your figure as well as your health.

Parsley, fresh onions, cheeses, black olives and the odd handful of dried fruits will build up your defenses against colds, for don’t forget the old saying; “Ne’er cast a clout till May is out.” Eat “lightly” but don’t waste your reserves, you’ll still need them.

When summer comes you will naturally tend to choose cold meals, to drink a lot and eat too many raw vegetables. Be warned, do not eat too many tomatoes or lemons, which are known for their demineralizing effect. You must be particularly careful if you go in for a lot of sports and prolonged sun-bathing, for you run the risk of decalcification. This is the danger of summer. Compensate for it by eating celery and Camembert cheese. Don’t eat the heavy meals you do in winter, drink plenty of liquids, for you are being dehydrated more, but do not touch iced fizzy drinks, however pleasant they may be.

Summer is the season when fruits and vegetables are at their best, full of natural sunshine. Make the most of them, but do not completely substitute them for your usual foods. Two [too] much cellulose can cause serious stomach and intestinal troubles. Remember that any severe prolonged imbalance in your diet is always disastrous. Start your day with fresh fruit or vegetables juices: cucumber, celery, apricot, grapefruit. You need vitamins to withstand the scorching rays of the sun. Instead of rye bread eat wholemeal bread, and eat yoghurt. If you spend a lot of time on the beach, eat light meals, but above all, cont go out on a n empty stomach. Grilled fish with herbs or some cold meat will give you the strength you need to go swimming and running and leaping about on the beach “like a native.” Some cheese and ripe fruit will tide you over till evening, and remember that strawberries, if they agree with you, are good for almost everything, that cherries remineralize and cleanse the blood, that apricots are good for anemia, that pears are diuretic and peaches are laxative.

Once the really hot season is over, return to more hearty meals of grilled meat or fish with herbs, fresh tuna, chicken salad. When you eat cold meals, let it be at lunchtime, but be sure they are not icy cold, and eat a hot meal in the evening. Avoid rich stews and sauces, and if you are by the sea, make the most of the shell fish and even crustaceans, for they contain anything you might be lacking. Eat plenty of garlic and onion, and in the evening try to eat stewed fruit which, provided it has been only briefly cooked and slightly sweetened, will retain most of its active qualities, while not being tiring to your liver and intestines. Contrary to common practice, eat melon in the evening rather than at lunchtime, and do not eat it ice cold. During the holidays, one goes to bed late, walking or dancing after dinner, and melon is easily digested, especially one is happy.

Be careful about drinks, for they are your enemy in hot weather. You will tend to drink anything that comes to hand, providing it’s cold and there’s plenty of it. Drink as much as you fancy, especially between meals, but not too close to eating fruit and raw vegetables, when liquid will cause distention and flatulence. Be wary of alcohol; it is an enemy of your liver and your figure. Choose instead drinks based on fresh mint, which are not only delicious but soothing and diuretic and good for the stomach.

In the autumn far-sighted animals, such as hedgehogs, dormice and squirrels, start laying up supplies for the winter. Do as they do – start to increase your daily intake of calories, calcium and phosphorus. This is also the ideal time to take a grape cure, which will prepare your system for the shocks winter has in store.

Begin the day by drinking grape juice, and start putting butter on your wholemeal bread and eating more mountain honey. Lunch can be a richer meal. Salads can give way a little to rice, preferably unpolished. This is the best season for cereals, fresh nuts, cubes of Gruyere cheese mixed with chicory and apple. Rabbits and well-fed chickens are good to eat, either grilled or roasted, and if you’re tempted to eat some game, be sure it is not hung or prepared in rich sauce. Don’t forget about ratatouilles, rich with olive oil and fragrant with the herbs of Provence, and choose mountain cheeses, especially if they are made locally. Grapes are still the best possible dessert.

Your evening meal, especially towards the end of autumn, should begin with beef bouillon or a vegetable soup like minestrone. Follow it with eggs or fish, and make the most of mushrooms, which are now at their best. Eat chestnuts too, cooked in milk, for they are a complete food in themselves. End your dinner with a bunch of grapes.

Your winter diet should take into account the climate you live in. The colder it is, the more calories you will expend and the more extra vitamins you will require.

You should drink plenty of orange juice, for this is the time of year to reinforce your natural defenses against colds and flu by stepping up your intake of vitamin C. Your breakfast should be more substantial, including perhaps a little mild cheese, and egg, and buttered whole-rye bread, which has laxative properties that will help you eliminate the toxins of a richer diet. Continue to eat plenty of honey.

Start your lunch with raw winter vegetables: grated carrots, red or green cabbage, celeriac, beetroot. Eat as much shell fish as you like, for the high iodine content will safeguard you in wintry weather. From time to time substitute a pot-au-feu or a succulent stew or a boiled fowl for your grilled beef or lamb. Don’t forget cod, which is rich in calcium and reputedly anti-carcinogenic. Eat plenty of watercress and, providing it agrees with you, lightly cooked cabbage.

This is also the one time in the year when you can indulge in a little bacon, pork, confit (preserved goose) and foie gras.

For your evening meal you can enjoy country soups, clear meat soups, gratinees, casseroles. Winter is not the time to neglect vitamins, so eat a reasonable amount of starchy foods and salad, as well as home-made compotes and jams.

Make sure you are getting extra calcium by eating cheese of any kind, and phosphorus from brains and fish. Apples are full of goodness, but remember the old saying about oranges: “Oranges are gold in the morning, silver at noon and lead at night.” Don’t drink too much tea or coffee, and never touch hot toddy, but, rather, mulled wine. A glass of vintage wine with your meals will help you to endure the hardships of winter.

With your system well protected by the food you eat, you need only wait for spring to start on the pleasant cycle of the seasons once again.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Deciding to be well is important, too!"

I hope you enjoy the "Rose Is Rose" comic strip! I originally clipped and saved this from my local newspaper in March of 1999, have had it on my bulletin board at home, and it just fit so perfectly with the last couple of posts on tea and the power of the mind to heal that I had to share it with you!

Thanks go to Heather Penn at United Media for permission to post this comic strip on the blog. You made my day, Heather! I'm still smiling!

Providing all goes as planned, the next time I post, I will be in California....I'm scheduled to drive down on Monday. I won't have my computer for a few days, so may not post here, but I will still be able to visit all of you, check email, and approve comments, so please share your thoughts!

Have a great weekend, and always remember, "Deciding to be well is important, too!"

P.S. If you have any difficulty viewing the comic strip, click on it and it should open giant-sized in a new window.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Your mind: the natural cure for what ails you.

This is a reprint of my own article as it was published in the June/July issue of "Qi Dao," the newsletter of the World Institute for Self Healing. ~Michelle~


Why is it that most people have no difficulty believing the mind can cause illness through negative thoughts and emotions, but won’t believe the mind can cause wellness through positive thoughts and emotions? Have you ever heard the saying, “You can do anything you put your mind to”? The natural power of the mind, through the processes of conscious direction and sustained attention, can create anything, including perfect health!

Your mind is a very powerful creator that does not judge its creations as good or bad, it just creates. Illness and wellness are a matter of perception, a matter of how the creation that is the physical “you” is influenced and judged by your emotions. Your thoughts influence your emotions; your emotions influence your physical body. If you are not sure that is true, you can test it right now. Take a moment to think a neutral thought like “the sky is blue.” You have very little reaction to a statement of fact that is not part of your personal creation. Now, think of a sad or angry experience you had and notice how your body suddenly feels tense and uncomfortable. Now, think of a happy experience you had and notice how your body changes to feel relaxed and comfortable.

You have the natural ability to choose illness by thinking negative thoughts and having negative feelings, or choose wellness by thinking positive thoughts and having positive feelings. The natural state of your body is health and wellness; it wants to work harmoniously with you to return to that state of good health.

The last four lines of verse 51 of the Dao De Jing (Peter Merel interpolation) offer some suggestions on how we can use our mind to effect our own healing.

“Bearing without possessing,” Carry the illness, but don’t own it. Every time you think or say “my disease” you are confirming it is a part of you. If you have to refer to it at all, call it “the disease.” Do your best to not think of it at all. When you stop feeding the disease with the energy of your thoughts, you will deny it the energy it needs to exist.

“Nurturing without taming,” Take care of yourself without trying to change the nature of the illness. Don’t try to make the illness something you can “live with.” If, in your mind, you decide you can live with it, you won’t cure it. Always try to nurture yourself back to perfect health.

“Shaping without forcing,” Shaping in this sense means creating your healthy body without resistance. Self-doubt is resistance, disbelief is resistance. If you must work so hard to convince yourself of the healing power of your mind, all your energy goes toward the convincing and none toward the healing. Making statements like “I’m going to do this or else!” is resistance which can set up an internal power struggle or fear of failure that may do more harm than good. Create good health persistently but gently.

“This is harmony.” Give yourself permission to allow your body to follow its natural tendencies. Spend time influencing your body with intentional and sustained positive thoughts. Fill yourself with health and there will be no room for disease.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Beat stress, drink tea

Reprinted from Yahoo! Health News and Reuters

Beat stress, drink tea

October 4, 2006 10:59:44 AM PST

Regular cups of tea can help speed recovery from stress, researchers from University College London (UCL) said on Wednesday.

Men who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than a control group who drank a fake tea substitute, the researchers said in a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.

The tea drinkers also reported a greater feeling of relaxation after performing tasks designed to raise stress levels.

Andrew Steptoe, of UCL's department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and one of the report's authors, said the findings could have important health implications.

"Slow recovery following acute stress has been associated with a greater risk of chronic illness such as coronary heart disease.

"Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal."

In the study, 75 tea-drinking men were split into two groups, all giving up their normal tea, coffee and caffeinated drinks.

Half were given a fruit-flavored caffeinated tea mixture made up of the usual constituents of a cup of black tea.

The others were given a caffeinated substitute, identical in taste but without the active tea ingredients.

Neither the participants or the researchers knew who was drinking real or false tea.

At the end of six weeks the participants were given a series of tests designed to raise their stress levels, including being given five minutes to prepare and deliver a presentation.

The researchers found that stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate rose similar amounts in both groups.

But 50 minutes after the tasks cortisol levels had fallen an average of 47 percent among the tea drinkers, compared to 27 percent in the fake tea group.

Steptoe said it was not known which ingredients in tea were responsible for the effects found in the study.

Stressed and depressed, or dehydrated? Part 2 - Electrolytes

Just what is an electrolyte? The dictionary says:

1 - A chemical compound that ionizes when dissolved or molten to produce an electrically conductive medium.

2 – Physiology; Any of various ions, such as sodium, potassium, or chloride, required by cells to regulate the electric charge and flow of water molecules across the cell membrane.

You may already be aware that the water:salt ratio of your body fluids is quite similar to sea-water. They contain varying levels of salts (electrolytes) that, when dissolved, become ions which carry electrical charges to the rest of your body. These salts/electrolytes are what your brain, heart, nerve, and muscle cells use to maintain voltages and carry electrical impulses such as nerve impulses and muscular contractions to other cells. This is your body’s communication system, and it is imperative to keep it in excellent operating condition.

Want to raise your hand? You need electrolytes. Want to walk down to the mailbox? You need electrolytes. Want to talk to your sister in Toledo? You need electrolytes! If you don’t have the electrolytes to carry the messages for action from your brain to the rest of your body, your body may get a garbled message, or no message at all!

Your kidneys are responsible for maintaining the proper balance of these salts throughout your body. If your kidneys malfunction, or are deprived of fluids which make them unable to maintain the correct balance of salts your heart and muscles may suffer because they will not receive the proper electrical signals for correct function.

You lose a certain amount of these salts on a daily basis through normal body functions. You lose larger amounts through sweat when you exercise heavily. If you contract an illness that causes a high fever, vomiting or diarrhea, you lose even larger volumes of electrolytes. These salts must be replaced to maintain the health of your body fluids and organs.

Sodium and potassium are the major body electrolytes, but also included in this group are chloride, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulfate.

If your body is low in sodium, you may experience headache, muscle cramps, weakness, disorientation, apathy and lethargy…..all of which are also symptoms of stress.

Low potassium levels may affect the nervous system, and even increase the chances of irregular heartbeat.

An imbalance in chloride may precipitate an imbalance in other body fluids since part of its function is to keep other body fluids in balance.

Magnesium deficiencies have become a hot topic recently, and supplements are supposed to relieve everything from high cholesterol to menopause to muscular pain. This is possible….no one really understands all the interrelations of the body’s chemistry which is why it is so important to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

The big question, then, is: How can you maintain correct and balanced levels of electrolytes? Drink Water! Providing that it is clean and free from additives and pollutants, regular tap water is perfect, and has all the nutrients you need.

Unless you are a professional athlete, there is no need to consume fancy, expensive drinks that claim to provide you with the right balance of electrolytes. (One study proposed the sports drinks were beneficial for athletes because they have added carbohydrates. The average person does not require additional carbohydrates, just the nutrients found in water.) While the professional athletes may find these sports drinks beneficial, most of us should avoid the additives often found in these drinks.

Many people believe that when illness has caused dehydration, the sports drinks are just the thing to replace the water and minerals they have lost. This is not true. Water will do the job faster and better, and does not have the added sugars (and sometimes flavorings) which are especially contraindicated for anyone recovering from an illness.

Don't forget to check out this excellent book: Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life: You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty! Click here to read my review of it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The top five foods for beating depression

After assessing your water intake and making adjustments if needed to avoid dehydration, if you are still feeling depressed, here are some suggestions for food and non-food methods to feel better.

A "Thanks!" to Geraldine for sharing the link to this article reprinted from the NewsTarget.com website. [Please note: I have not verirfied the links included in this article.]


The top five foods for beating depression

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 by: Erin Bates

Drug advertisements and conventional doctors tell the public that depression is caused by an imbalance of a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin. This idea makes it seem that drugs that flood the brain with serotonin are the answer to depression, but there is no scientific evidence that drug therapy really works. In studies in which scientists lowered serotonin levels to induce depression, the experiment failed. Other studies found that dramatically increasing serotonin levels in the brain failed to relieve depression. So why do doctors persist in prescribing medications with side effects ranging from mood swings to suicidal or homicidal behaviors when those drugs may not even work?

There are treatment options that can relieve depression without swallowing pills. Many of the symptoms of depression can be directly linked to vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the standard American diet, which is largely comprised of empty carbs, caffeine and sugar. Depression, mood swings and fatigue often have a common cause: poor nutrition. Avoiding depression or recovering from a depressive episode is often as easy as changing your diet and boosting your consumption of key foods that deliver brain-boosting nutrients and help regulate brain chemistry.

The five foods for beating depression

Fish oils: Contain omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that depressed people often lack a fatty acid known as EPA. Participants in a 2002 study featured in the Archives of General Psychiatry took just a gram of fish oil each day and noticed a 50-percent decrease in symptoms such as anxiety, sleep disorders, unexplained feelings of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and decreased sex drive. Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health. Get omega-3s through walnuts, flaxseed and oily fish like salmon or tuna.

Another top food for delivering imega-3 fatty acids is chia, and we currently recommend two sources for chia seeds:

Good Cause Wellness
IntegratedHealth.com

Brown Rice: Contains vitamins B1 and B3, and folic acid. Brown rice is also a low-glycemic food, which means it releases glucose into the bloodstream gradually, preventing sugar lows and mood swings. Brown rice also provides many of the trace minerals we need to function properly, as well as being a high-fiber food that can keep the digestive system healthy and lower cholesterol. Instant varieties of rice do not offer these benefits. Any time you see "instant" on a food label, avoid it.

Brewer's Yeast: Contains vitamins B1, B2 and B3. Brewer's yeast should be avoided if you do not tolerate yeast well, but if you do, mix a thimbleful into any smoothie for your daily dose. This superfood packs a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals in a small package, including 16 amino acids and 14 minerals. Amino acids are vital for the nervous system, which makes brewer's yeast a no-brainer for treating depression.

Whole-grain oats: Contain folic acid, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6 and B1. Oats help lower cholesterol, are soothing to the digestive tract and help avoid the blood sugar crash-and-burn that can lead to crabbiness and mood swings. Other whole grains such as kamut, spelt and quinoa are also excellent choices for delivering brain-boosting nutrients and avoiding the pitfalls of refined grains such as white flour.

Cabbage: Contains vitamin C and folic acid. Cabbage protects against stress, infection and heart disease, as well as many types of cancers, according to the American Association for Cancer Research. There are numerous ways to get cabbage into your diet; toss it in a salad instead of lettuce, use cabbage in place of lettuce wraps, stir fry it in your favorite Asian dish, make some classic cabbage soup or juice it. To avoid gas after eating cabbage, add a few fennel, caraway or cumin seeds before cooking. Cabbage is also a good source of blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber, and the raw juice of cabbage is a known cure for stomach ulcers.

Also worth mentioning: Foods like raw cacao, dark molasses and brazil nuts (high in selenium) are also excellent for boosting brain function and eliminating depression. Get raw cacao and brazil nuts at Nature's First Law. Another source for cacao is Navitas Naturals.

Things to avoid

If you feel you are depressed or at risk for depression, you also need to avoid certain foods and substances. Some commonly prescribed drugs -- such as antibiotics, barbiturates, amphetamines, pain killers, ulcer drugs, anticonvulsants, beta-blockers, anti-Parkinson's drugs, birth control pills, high blood pressure drugs, heart medications and psychotropic drugs -- contribute to depression. If you are taking any of these, don't quit them without talking to your doctor; but be aware that they may be contributing to your condition by depleting your body of depression-fighting vitamins and minerals.

You should also avoid caffeine, smoking and foods high in fat and sugar. Keeping your blood sugar stable and getting B vitamins is important for stabilizing your mood. Cacao can be good for mood because it releases endorphins in the brain, but watch out for milk chocolate and candy varieties high in sugar.

Other non-food things to do

  • Get plenty of sunshine. Natural sunlight is a proven cure for depression.
  • Engage in regular exercise at least three times per week. Exercise lifts and mood and alters brain chemistry in a positive way.
  • Experience laughter. It's good medicine.
  • Take a quality superfood supplement to get even more natural medicine from the world of plants.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Today at the market....

I had an experience today that is just the epitome of why so many people are unhealthy:

I was shopping in a warehouse market where they hire people to dispense free samples of foods and other products. There was a very pleasant, friendly young fellow handing out samples of the latest in super-vitamin, just-add-water, powdered-juice products.

I tried a little cupful just to be friendly, and another woman came up beside me and tried a sample, too.

The flavor was okay, it was a little fizzy and tasted like orange. I happened to ask about color additives; the demonstrator guaranteed me there weren't any...orange was its natural color.

I glanced at the ingredients on the package. It was hard to tell what was in it unless you are a chemist. I'm not, so I put it back on the shelf.

The woman beside me, without looking at the package herself, asked the young man if the drink were safe for children. Now, keep in mind this young man was hired to demo the product and probably never saw it before this morning.... He very quickly assured her it was perfectly safe for children.

She bought it!!! Without looking at the label herself, without doing any sort of research or at least a little homework, she bought the product and intends to give it to her children. She handed the health and welfare of her children over to a young man (I don't think he was a chemist, either) being paid minimum wage to demo products in a warehouse market store.

And we wonder why people are unhealthy. Could it in part be because we hand over responsibility for our health to people who know even less about it than we do??

(I hope that woman at least gets online when she gets home and researches the product before she serves it to her family. Or, maybe her husband is a chemist! :-) )

Monday, October 02, 2006

Stressed and depressed, or dehydrated?

When you are depressed, some of the things you may feel are headache, stiff or sore muscles, and lethargy. You may experience a reduced alertness and ability to concentrate, and begin to feel anxiety, fear, and depression. If this goes on for any length of time, you could find yourself suffering various mental and physical problems such as digestive system problems, insomnia, impaired memory function, even chronic fatigue syndrome.

When you are dehydrated, some of the things you may feel are headache, stiff or sore muscles, and lethargy. You may experience a reduced alertness and ability to concentrate, and begin to feel anxiety, fear, and depression. If this goes on for any length of time, you could find yourself suffering various mental and physical problems such as digestive system problems, insomnia, impaired memory function, even chronic fatigue syndrome.

Repetitious? Yes! Many of the symptoms of chronic dehydration parallel the symptoms of stress and depression. While I tend to read exaggerated claims with a critical eye, (i.e. “drinking water will relieve depression”) I must admit that the dehydration/depression link has a lot of merit. I have sifted through a great deal of technical information over the past few days, and will be sharing more of that in the future.

“Depression or dehydration” is one of those topics that again drives home the point that your symptoms must be evaluated in the context of your life and lifestyle. Never should a health-care professional come to a conclusion about your symptoms or complaint, or worse prescribe medications, without examining you through a holistic lens.

This is exactly what has happened in the case of stress, depression, and dehydration. A person suffering from chronic dehydration is incompletely assessed: without asking about diet, exercise, or lifestyle, the doctor goes over a list of approximately twenty symptoms of depression, and if the patient nods “yes” to as few as six of those twenty symptoms, the medical professional happily prescribes anti-depressant medications.

Anti-depressants are known to exacerbate dehydration, and the individual is being led further down the road of illness because her true condition of dehydration is being made worse by the medications, she is receiving treatment for the wrong condition, and now she suffers side effects by taking a medication that is completely wrong for her complaint. After another trip to the medical professional, her true condition remains undetected, but she comes away with another prescription to alleviate the symptoms caused by the first prescription. Now, new side-effects come to the surface. And so it goes…..

Most of the time, it is assumed that someone suffering depression has low levels of the neurotransmitter (a brain chemical that relays electrical signals between cells) serotonin. Whether this is true or not is a topic for hot debate among medical professionals. (Click to read “Serotonin and Depression” in Adobe Acrobat format)

What you need to know is this: anti-depressants are known to cause dehydration, and they are known to interfere with normal digestive system function. This is important because serotonin is created by an amino acid called tryptophan which you ingest through your foods. Tryptophan is absorbed through your digestive system. If your digestive system is not working properly, your body won’t absorb the tryptophan properly, and the tryptophan won’t be carried to the brain to make serotonin. Of course, this is the simplified version, but it shows that any malfunction in the body or override of natural bodily function (which is exactly what many medications do) can affect many and varied other body systems. It should also be noted that tryptophan is also converted into niacin (Vitamin B3), and niacin deficiencies can also mimic clinical depression: headache, apathy, fatigue, impaired memory function, digestive and nervous system malfunctions.

To understand how dehydration mimics depression, and how to tell whether you are depressed or dehydrated, you need to know a little about water and the body.

The water in your body has many functions. It helps your body digest food, and it carries wastes out of your body through sweat, urine, and feces. Water also controls your body temperature, and provides nutrients and minerals. It helps to cushion your joints, and it moisturizes the soft tissues of eyes, ears, nose, and throat. I’m sure you can see how a deficiency in water could upset the balance of several of your body systems.

I know that all of you have some idea of the composition of the body and how much of your body is water. It is important that you be aware of the breakdown of the water content in various parts of the body, especially the brain and the blood.

The numbers vary from source to source, but on the average the percentage of water in the various body parts is:

Human body: young people – 75%, older folks – 50%
Blood: 87%
Brain: 75%
Muscle: 75%
Lungs: 90%
Fat: 30%
Bones: 22%

Blood is responsible for carrying nutrients all around your body and removing many waste materials such as carbon-dioxide. If the blood is unhealthy and cannot properly carry out its function, your body will be deprived of nutrients while being unable to disperse wastes and toxins.

The brain will suffer quite quickly from just a small reduction in water. If you suffer from dehydration, the level of energy generated in the brain is decreased which can cause an inability to concentrate, and feelings of fear, anxiety, insecurity; in short, depression. A chronic lack of water in the brain can actually cause the brain tissue to shrink just as skin that is too dry will shrivel.

Dehydrated muscles will quickly lose strength and tone which will cause aches and pains, and adversely affect circulation.

I have already written about the importance of breathing properly, so will only add that if lung function is impaired due to dehydration, almost every other body system will be affected.

Through various bodily functions, you lose about 2.5 quarts, or 2.4 liters of water daily. You must replace that water in order to be healthy. Drinking water is one way to replace the loss, and the best thing about water is that it has no calories! The more water you drink, the more toxins will be flushed through your body and removed from your system.

How much water should you drink? I have to admit, I don’t care for the one-size-fits-all, “drink two quarts of water no matter who you are” advice. One source recommends one-half ounce for each pound of your body weight. I like that because it is tailored to the individual: divide your weight by 16 and that will be the number of eight-ounce glasses of water you should drink daily.

Of course, there are other options to replenish the moisture you need. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; many are very high in water content. Drink milk and fruit juices. Avoid self-dehydration by staying away from caffeine, carbonated drinks and alcohol…they all rob you of vital moisture.

Here is another good idea: put a slice of lemon or a little lemon juice in your water. It adds a bit of flavor, is very refreshing, and lemon juice, even though it is an acid, has an alkalizing effect in the body which works to reduce excess acidity caused by dehydration, and by stress.

If you are taking prescription medications for any condition and think you may have been misdiagnosed, continue to take your medications, but do discuss options with your physician as soon as possible.

While researching this article, I did discover a book that has a great deal of worthy information: Water: For Health, for Healing, for Life: You're Not Sick, You're Thirsty! by F. Batmanghelidj, M.D. Some of the ideas may appear to be a little “over the top” at first, but on the whole, this author’s research seems to be sound and his conclusions valid.

Overall, I have found this to be a good book about the curative effects of water not only on depression, but on many diseases. Not every cure works for every person, but every person certainly needs water. If paying attention to the amount of water you drink can effect a cure, I say “Go for it!” See my review of this book at “manuscripts, movies, & music” my online store.