Articles

Everyday Magic for Building Strong Bones

What’s required to build strong bones? Calcium? Boron? Exercise? Let’s look at some of the myths – and the magic – for building strong bones. 

Dairy foods?  Dairy foods build strong bones, right? Wrong!  The United States is a country that consumes dairy foods in excess of most other countries in the world – and also exceeds most countries in the incidence of osteoporosis. In more than 30 worldwide studies, scientists find that a diet high in dairy foods contributes to higher rates of bone loss and fractures at all ages. There are multiple reasons for a causal association. Dairy foods do not build strong bones.

Calcium?  Has a physician, nutrition consultant or well-meaning friend told you to take calcium to build strong bones? Well, shame on them, unless they also told you to take 1-2 times as much magnesium as you do calcium – and/or eat the foods that provide both minerals in a natural balance! Excessive calcium intake, in the absence of sufficient magnesium, can contribute to arthritis, atherosclerosis, gallstones, and other calcification problems – and not yield strong bones.

Balanced minerals!  What foods provide a good balance of magnesium, calcium, and the other minerals required for bone-building? Try nuts and seeds (sprouted, of course); green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale, collards, and turnip greens; herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, oregano, and peppermint; vegetables such as summer squash, green beans, dried beans, mushrooms; and fish and seafood. Real food! Yes, real foods, without excessive processing, contain the natural balance of magnesium and calcium and a complex of trace minerals, supporting the construction of strong bones. You just need to eat enough of these bone-building foods to balance the acidifying and bone-degrading effects of excessive grains, sugars, and inflammatory proteins (from grain-fed – rather than naturally fed – fish, cattle and poultry).

Vibration and electricity!  Two extremely important factors for bone-building and bone strength are vibration and electricity. It won’t work to plug yourself into the nearest wall outlet! You induce vibration in your bones by walking, dancing, tapping your heels on the floor or ground, standing on a vertical vibration device – almost any non-static weight bearing activity. And that vibration induces electrical flow in muscles and bones, strengthening both by stimulating repair and regeneration. It doesn’t matter whether you’re seated and tapping your heels to music, or dancing exuberantly. Vibration is induced, which then induces electrical flow in the body, which then induces bone and muscle regeneration. How easy is that?

Sunshine!  We can’t talk about bone health without mentioning sunshine, which promotes the production of Vitamin D, essential to proper metabolism for bone regeneration. If solar exposure is not your preferred or available option and you take Vitamin D as a supplement, remember that as little as 10-15 minutes of sun weekly will potentiate your Vitamin D supplementation for even better impact.

Positive thinking!  Depression and stress are both detrimental to bone density, by affecting the bone building process. A simple daily gratitude practice helps  build better bones.

The Real Magic    Find what works for you. Of course, walking briskly for 20 minutes will induce stronger vibration and electrical flow than tapping your heels for 10 minutes. Adding light weights around your waist (belt) or shoulders (vest) during any  weight-bearing exercise increases the bone benefit. Walking in sunshine is more beneficial than an indoor treadmill session,  but the treadmill may offer more safety. The choice is yours. Select what you enjoy, and what you will do often. The real magic is finding – and doing – what works for you. 

– Dr M

Articles

How Much Omega-3s Do You Really Need?

The balance of omega-3s and omega-6s is what is “critical” in nutrition, The absolute amounts are generally secondary to the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. The more omega-6s you consume, the more omega-3s you need in balance, in principle.  Seems simple!  But it’s only one part of the answer to “How much omega-3s do I really need?”  Like many nutritional questions, the answer depends …  It depends on several factors, and on a bigger picture.
 
What kind of omega-6s are you consuming? 
Natural sources of omega-6s include nuts and seeds, vegetables and leafy greens. These natural omega-6s have different effects in the body than processed omega-6 oils do. Processed oils extracted from seeds, corn, soy, etc. are found in processed foods  purchased from stores and restaurants, and are more pro-inflammatory than natural food sources. So where you get your omega-6s makes a difference as to how it balances with your omega-3s. If you’re eating lots of leafy green vegetables with your omega-3s, you’ll obtain metabolic balance easily. If you’re ingesting lots of processed oils, you’ll need higher amounts of omega-3’s to balance. 

What kind of omega-3s are you consuming? 
There are animal sources and plant sources of omega-3s. In a healthy body environment, plant-based omega-3s are easily converted to the anti-inflammatory forms of EPA and DHA. But if the body is excessively loaded with omega-6s, (particularly processed omega-6s), or is highly inflamed, the enzyme required for that conversion from plant omega-3s to EPA and DHA is depleted. Conversion doesn’t occur, or occurs inefficiently. Inflammation is harder to quell, and continued inflammation derails the enzyme production. Under those circumstances, without the enzyme, animal sources are required to provide adequate anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA.

How do you cook your fish?  If you eat fish to improve your health, to obtain more omega-3s in your diet, check how you cook your fish!  Most of us don’t cook at home with corn, soy, or canola oils, but restaurants and food-product vendors do.  If fish is cooked in high omega-6 oils (such as corn, soy, sunflower, safflower, sesame, canola oils), the high-omega-6 cooking oil may block the oil absorption of the omega-3s into your metabolism. At home be sure to use oils that are higher in omega-3s or high in medium chain fatty acids (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil) to cook your fish. Use olive oil for cooking only at low temperatures; coconut and avocado oils are stable at higher temperatures. (Yes, avocado oil has more omega-6 than omega-3, but other factors prevail!)

What’s the bottom line? No simple formula or ratio is the answer. Eat the best quality food you can with awareness of the nutritional benefits, and minimize your use of processed foods. And above all, enjoy your food – joy is an anti-inflammatory factor!
 

Articles

Cholesterol: Friend, Foe or SuperHero?

I am still amazed – and concerned – when a patient walks in with blood test results and says “(another) physician  says my cholesterol is too high and I need to be on statins.” Typically the “high” cholesterol is between 200-250 mg/dl.

Multiple studies report that the following effects are associated with higher, rather then lower Total Cholesterol levels :

  • better mental health
  • increased hospitalization survival
  • faster sports injury recovery
  • better coronary heart disease survival

 In the case of coronary heart disease, for which high cholesterol is considered a “high risk” factor, better survival is associated with Total Cholesterol greater than 240. This research, from multiple studies and meta-analyses (studies of multiple studies) started gaining momentum in the late 1990’s – and continues to be replicated in the current scientific press. We have “forgotten” that healthy Total Cholesterol was up to 300 mg/dl before statins were designed and marketed.

Total Cholesterol is not even a meaningful parameter, except as an indicator to examine the subunits of the cholesterol panel. Let’s look at the typical “cholesterol panel/lipid profile” blood test. The value of Total Cholesterol is obtained by a formula of adding 2 different kinds of lipoproteins (fat-proteins) and a lipid (fat) to obtain an estimate of a different kind of substance, neither lipoprotein nor lipid, but cholesterol. That’s somewhat comparable to adding up the orange sections, strawberries, and blue berries in a fruit salad to estimate the number of melon balls. 

Are cholesterol test results useful?  Yes!  Those test results can point to underlying mechanisms or suggest the need for further subunit testing.  How to get useful information for  your health from your lipid profile is another topic.

So who or what is cholesterol and why do relatively “high” levels (by current lab standards) contribute to better health, recovery, and mental and physical survival? Here are some of the reasons why some physicians, myself included, consider cholesterol one of the most important molecules in the body:

  • Cholesterol is produced in the brain, by the brain, for the brain, in the amount of 20-25% of the total amount of cholesterol produced in the body.
  • Cholesterol is the most produced molecule in your body, produced primarily in the liver for distribution throughout the body.
  • Cholesterol is a substance found in every living cell in your body:
    • 1) in the membrane or “skin” that surrounds every cell and defines its function; and
    • 2) internally, in the working of the cells.
  • Cholesterol is the required base to construct every steroid hormone your body produces. Steroid hormones include the reproductive hormones that help define us as male or female, the hormones that regulate the immune response and metabolic activity, that stabilize our blood sugar and mineral concentrations, and that regulate our blood pressure. 
  • Cholesterol is embedded in the protective myelin sheath that surrounds every nerve in your body, and the axons of your brain’s neurons.

I’m not in support of casually depleting such an essential component for brain, hormonal, and immune function and cellular integrity without examining the underlying mechanisms.

The body requires healthy levels of cholesterol. We don’t know precisely what the healthy level of cholesterol is for any particular person, except in the context of the rest of their physiology, function and history.  Decreased cholesterol levels are associated with practically every degenerative human condition including cancers, Alzheimer’s, HIV, death from pneumonia and flu, as well as infertility and erectile dysfunction, and violent crime and suicide. The well-known side effects of statins, including  memory loss, dementia, and muscle pain suggest that lowering cholesterol is not addressing the underlying problems. Proper cholesterol balance, and proper understanding of the roles of its associated lipids and lipoproteins, is central to your physiology and health.

Be mindful that extremely high levels of cholesterol, or any natural body substance, indicates a problem. (Not that it necessarily is the problem, but it indicates a problem.) 

I hope the next time you get test results, you’ll have more questions to ask your physicians.  

There’s lots more to learn. But have you reconsidered your casting of cholesterol as friend, foe or superhero?

Dr M

Articles

Do you have leaky gut?

The bazooka in your doughnut hole…

Some authors suggest that 70-80% of the US population has leaky gut.  What is leaky gut? Do you have one? Let’s use a doughnut to explore whether you might have a leaky gut.

Think of yourself as a doughnut, as a body with a hole in the center! It’s actually a lo-o-ong hole, much like a tunnel. Unlike most doughnuts – and tunnels – there are gates at either end and throughout the tunnel that help us forget we are doughnuts.

Traveling the doughnut
Our digestive system, starting at the mouth, is the beginning of the tunnel with “rooms” that have specialized jobs and doors between the rooms. The stomach room is responsible for gnashing and gnarling and tossing acid on proteins. (We hope the doors are closed at either end – that acid burns!) Why such a vicious activity room? Because stomach acid – with gnashing and gnarling – breaks down protein foods into protein fragments, an essential step for our absorption of nutrients. 

Are proteins a threat?  Might be. Bacteria and parasites are protein structures as well as the more favored guests of roast beef or sprouted nuts! Remember, roast beef and sprouted nuts are not useful to the body in whole protein form, even after some mouth processing. Stomach acid is needed for both immune protection (disintegrates most bacteria and parasites) and nutrition (breaks proteins into more usable protein fragments called peptides).

Leaving the stomach we enter the small intestine of 3 rooms with specialized functions, but with more of an open flow from room to room. As gnashed, gnarled and acidified fragments enter the small intestine, specialized chemicals are secreted into these rooms of the small intestine to further break down protein peptides and starches.  The remaining nutritional nuggets can be absorbed through the wall of the doughnut hole into the doughnut itself – into the bloodstream – to provide building blocks and energy to the body.

Here’s the leaky gut part: the rooms of the small intestine where nutritional nuggets are absorbed into the bloodstream  – are “gated” walls. Those walls are thin but tightly guarded for specific nutrient structures. If the nutrient nuggets aren’t the expected shape (from sufficient digestion) then the nuggets can’t pass through the absorption gates of the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. They just keep moving through the doughnut hole. Furthermore, if unidentified protein fragments aren’t sufficiently digested, the immune system is activated and sets the proteins on fire!  (Metaphorically speaking. It’s a chemical fire.)  Uh-oh, fire in the gut!  If it’s a minor skirmish, no problem. If there are lots of undigested protein fragments, or repeatedly these protein fragments appear, we have a significant flaming.

Try shooting fire onto an unidentified creature crawling around in your kitchen. (Do not attempt this at home.) Oops, there’s another one, and another!  Just imagine your immune system as a fire-shooting bazooka gun, and it’s shooting up your kitchen as it  tries to kill those weird, unknown but possibly dangerous protein creatures. They may be just ordinary protein fragments, but shoot now and ask questions later (bacteria? tofu?), because it could be dangerous if the wrong guys got into circulation and  into your bloodstream!

Leaky gut accomplished
Now you did it. You may have stilled those creatures (maybe it was just undigested tofu..) but you’ve also got fire damage to your kitchen walls and floor.  Remember the gated walls that control absorption into the bloodstream? Your immune system’s bazooka burned holes in those walls. You just lost control of that gating mechanism, until the bazooka damage is repaired. Any protein structure, any organism, any chemical can now leak through those walls. Congratulations, you have leaky gut.

The body is a miraculous worker, you can have those repairs done in about 4 days with a healthy diet and good metabolism.  Leaky gut repaired! – – Unless there’s another fire bazooka incident after dinner, or before the damage is fully repaired, or repeated fire damage weakens the overall gut wall integrity.

Leaky gut is a known contributor to Alzheimer’s, asthma, brain cancers, Chrohn’s disease, diabetes, IBD, MS, pancreatic cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia – and many more inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. It’s a concern, when leaky gut persists or recurs. You don’t want it, you don’t want to keep it.

Whoah!  Why would the body have such a destructive built-in mechanism?  In a world not filled with toxic chemicals, everyday stress and fake food, this mechanism would allow a small leak in the gut wall while fighting a few stray bacterial proteins that survived the stomach’s acidification. That leak would alert the body that bacteria escaped the initial defense efforts by the stomach and small intestine and would signal the entire immune system to mount an appropriate defense. The leaked bacterial protein becomes “targeted” for any future travel in the body.  Which is GREAT if it’s really bacteria; and not so great if it was tofu or a bite of roast beef. The latter is one way to birth a food sensitivity, to be falsely targeted as an enemy protein.

What incites a bazooka spree by the immune system?

  • undigested proteins, because you ate in a hurry, were stressed while eating, or you’re taking antacids or protein pump inhibitors
  • undigested unfriendly bacteria/parasites – the bad guys, for sure, who escaped because your stomach was under-acidified 
  • excessive sugars – which damage proteins to unrecognizable protein fragments
  • excessive starches which turn into excessive sugar
  • deamidated proteins (distorted protein structures) found in many processed foods
  • glyphosate (aka Roundup), a pesticide found in the water supply, sprayed on Genetically Modified crops as a pesticide, and on non-GMO crops to speed harvesting
  • radiation exposures from cell phones, towers, household electronics, transformer stations
  • chemical exposures from dry cleaning, auto exhaust, printing chemicals, solvents, art materials (remember Silly Putty?), polluted water and air
  • increased sensitivity to food proteins (allergy, food sensitivity) which may be genetically pre-disposed, or stress-induced

What can you do?
Prevention, at least.  Eat clean food, limit processed food, chew your food to stimulate stomach acid, focus on eating,  support healthy digestion, don’t dilute digestive chemicals with excessive liquids at meals, quiet activity for 30 minutes after eating (yes, doing the dishes helps digestion). The challenge is that there are many factors arousing and sensitizing the immune system. Choose to change what you can to minimize the load.

Healing a leaky gut from bazooka damage is a different challenge that may involve herbs, essential oils, and/or nutrients. Energetic support for healing and more appreciation for your doughnut nature will also serve your healing. 

dr m

Articles

The Strengths of Winter

Each season has its strengths. How do we prepare ourselves, what strengths will help sustain us during the winter months? 

In the natural world, summer is the season of fruiting and production; winter is about latency, dormancy, and survival based on preparation and stamina. In industrialized life, winter is a season of continued productivity, with artificial light allowing almost perpetual activity. Yet the natural cycles of internal recovery and preparation are required in both.

Shortened daylight hours, the changed angle of sunlight falling on the earth, cooler temperatures, the different foods and herbs that naturally flourish in these seasons are all information processed by the mind-body. The angle of winter sunlight yields different dominant light wavelengths, and affects our mood to be more self-scrutinizing and reflective. We “naturally” put on weight to protect our organs from cold exposure – although we live and work mostly indoors. The natural foods of the season, complex-carbs and protein, provide for stamina rather than long-day high levels of physical activity. If we stored lots of summer sunlight, our bones and muscles are reserves of minerals to deal with the toxic accumulation of less sunlight, less movement, less Vitamin C in our foods.

Our bodies respond to these wavelengths, temperatures and foods as they have for eons. It’s a gift that winter, with human engineering, is a productive time. We also need to respect the strengths of introspection, stamina, and recovery that are seasonal cycles of human health.  When we insist on being so engaged and productive, using our resources at “summer rates,” we deplete our immune systems. The stress of continuous productivity alongside an internal yearning for restoration, needing more sleep to balance less sunlight, and combining dietary excess with less detox activity, contributes to extra tension and toxicity. Nutrients for balancing musculature, calming the mind, and eliminating toxins need replenishment.

Winter offers prime real estate for viruses. Viruses are a necessary part of healthy human function; we have specialized resident viruses that work beautifully for us. However, winter activities create invitations for other viruses to arrive as unwelcome guests. Fortunately, most viruses can be characterized as “lazy” and “wimpy” to our advantage. They don’t succeed with healthy hosts; in their laziness they seek depleted, weakened hosts. They’re easily defeated at the “front door” of our immune systems, the oral cavity, if we greet them from strength and don’t let them sneak in! Extra dosing of zinc and Vitamin C are often sufficient to bolt the door against viruses, when exhaustion and insufficient sleep left the door ajar.

So for the winter season we can add nutritional support:

  • extra antioxidants from spices like clove and cinnamon, Vitamin C and other flavonoids, vitamin A and betacarotenes (think sweet potatoes, carrots!);
  • minerals like zinc and magnesium, mushrooms, herbs like milk thistle;
  • important anti-inflammatories like omega3s and Vitamin D;
  • dark leafy greens, dense with Vitamin A (lung, gut support), minerals, fiber;
  • sprouted nuts with proteins, important fatty acids and minerals;
  • fiber and resistant-starch rich root vegetables, beans and whole grains.

We can enjoy different kinds of activity support:

  • Activities of gratitude and appreciation support introspection, resilience and connectivity – e.g., a daily gratitude list, holiday cards, gift exchanges, celebrative gatherings
  • Slower-moving sports keep us active but focus on stamina rather than exertion – e.g., camping, group dancing, snowball battles, skating, sledding
  • Practices and events help restore physical, energetic and mental balance – e.g., meditation/affirmation/prayer, spa retreats, spiritual retreats, intensive learning
  • Detox practices – massage, intermittent fasting, increased sleeping hours
  • Energy balancing practices – deep breathing, singing, chanting, reiki, tai chi, acupuncture

These extras support us with the strength and energy to meet the doubled agenda of summer-like productivity and winter restoration. Enjoy building winter strengths!