Archive for July, 2015

Probiotics: The Latest Health Promo

July 24, 2015

For 5,000 yrs., India’s Ayurvedic Medical System has claimed the digestive tract as the seat of all illness. Now, our Allopathic System has research that backs up that claim.

Neurologist, David Perlmutter’s most recent book, Brain Maker, cites his research and others who find that a combination of Probiotics and Diet are now relieving many health conditions, not just digestive complaints, and scientific research reveals that “90 percent of all known human illness can be traced back to an unhealthy gut.” The good news is that health and vitality also begins in the gut. That’s something we can do about.

While our problems did not begin with antibiotics, they have certainly been aggravated by routine antibiotic use that kills both helpful and harmful bacteria, hence the term ‘pro-biotics’ which are actually a diverse collection of friendly bacteria. After any round of antibiotic to treat specific infections, we need to reseed our digestive tract with friendly bacteria.

Here’s what probiotic bacteria do for us: they help us digest and absorb nutrients; create a physical barrier to harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites; neutralize toxins we take in with our food; prevent infections; support our immune system; produce enzymes, vitamins, and neurotransmitters; help us handle stress; and control the body’s inflammatory pathways, for starters. The list seems endless.

Not just any old probiotics will do. Lactobacillus strains are needed in the small intestine and Bifidobacterium strains in the colon. Perlmutter offers his protocol but your health practitioner can help you choose an appropriate preparation if you are interested in exploring the benefits. Probiotics don’t require prescription but they are pricey and some question the reliability of claims for what is in a capsule.

Dietary changes are less costly but require more thought and effort. Family lore includes stories about preparing fermented foods such as what Perlmutter recommends: plenty that provide us with natural probiotics: organic, plain yogurt, kimshi, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickled fish and vegetables, all of which can be prepared at home in large batches and stored.

Carbohydrates, not fats are the primary cause of weight gain. Since fat, not glucose, is the brain’s main food, he suggests our main food choices: butter, meat, cheese, eggs, abundant above ground vegetables and greens, and cooking with olive or coconut oil. Healthy, monounsaturated fats are in avocado, olives, nuts, wild fish, and some plants (flax seed oil). We also need good saturated fats like butter and coconut oil to recognize and destroy invading germs and to fight tumors.

The problem I have with considering coconut oil is that this new craze depends on the destruction of rain forest trees to supply coconuts. The problem with probiotic capsules is that they are financially out of reach for too many people.

The good news is that we all know what the food ‘hit list’ is: all that boxed, packaged, and bottled food, which is also pricey and can be replaced right now by overconsumption of peas, berries, asparagus, kohlrabi, zucchini, summer squash, greens, tomatoes, and more. We can take a leaf from the animals, load up on what is in season where we live, store some for later, drink plenty of water, and keep every muscle moving.

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Sleuthing Food Labels for Health

July 16, 2015

News that Whole Foods overcharged customers by mislabeling product weights brought groans from folks who thought they could shop with confidence at Whole Foods Markets. Over 20 years ago, I had a brief stint working the cash register at a Bread and Circus recently converted to a Whole Foods Market. Even then, I found that I was better off shopping the perimeter. Foods in the center aisles of the store: cereals, soups, salad dressings, canned goods, frozen foods, etc. all contained multiple forms of sugar, guaranteed to stimulate an appetite for more food, bigger servings, and insatiable appetites. Such foods reliably create health problems when consumed regularly.

When health food stores first opened, they offered mostly whole foods stored in bins. Produce came from local sources. Co-ops weekly sent a truck to the nearest bulk supplier. As demand rose for quality foods, suppliers began to deliver directly to health food stores and co-ops. At the same time, boxed, bottled and canned foods made their entrance with over 30 different forms of sugar added.

As a cashier, I noticed that many people came through with a cart full of junk food, sometimes not one whole food, just lots of boxes, cans and bottles. Invariably they would beam gratitude that they could shop at such a wonderful place for their family, even though they had to struggle financially to do it. Everything on the shelves at Whole Foods was the best food money could buy. I was in no position to advise them otherwise.

Today, wherever we shop, we must check labels. This week, I realized that the delicious peanut butter I have trustingly bought at natural food stores and snacked on by the spoonful for years, contains sugar. Sleuthing, I found only one brand that is just made of ground peanuts.

Food guru, Michael Pollan, cautions us to avoid packaged foods with more than 5 ingredients listed on their labels. Chances are, anything more will include extra sugars and chemicals we don’t need. This year, supermarkets rearranged their shelves to sandwich organic foods in with everything else. This means that people must slowly shop over the whole store and may, on impulse, buy foods they normally avoid. Stores try to market eye level products more heavily. Better choices are on top and bottom shelves.

The good news is that Farmers Markets and farm stands are in full swing. We now have many opportunities to enjoy the flavor of fresh berries, a mess o’ peas, and a choice array of vegetables and home grown produce free of additives. Best of all, the farmer will be there to field our questions.