All posts by AdamPressman

Graze Your Way to Weight Loss

  by David Grotto, RD, LDN

Somewhere between the rigidity of eating three meals a day with nothing in between and the self-indulgence of mindless snacking is a middle ground called grazing. Now research from the University of Texas at Austin says that grazing is a good thing — in fact, the more frequently people eat, the more likely they are to be healthy.

Using data from the American Time Use Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report found that those who spread the amount they eat over more time have a body mass index (BMI) that is 0.2 lower, on average, than those who spend less time eating… and they also have better self-reported health. While the difference in BMI is not huge, for a person of average height it results in a few pounds less weight.

Good Grazing… Bad Grazing

You might think that this study’s findings go against the grain… after all, isn’t too much eating the cause, in part, of weight gain and many health problems? But science supports grazing, says David Grotto, RD, LDN, a former spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. “When there are large gaps of time between meals, the body goes into a self-preservation mode, reserving calories and storing fat,” he explains. “If you eat more frequently, your body ratchets up metabolism and burns calories. Also, when you graze, you’re less apt to overeat at the next meal.” Note the really important part of what Grotto said — eating more frequently… not eating more.

I asked Grotto to share some suggestions on how to keep grazing healthful. First and foremost, he says, it is important to stay aware of what and how often you eat. “Don’t think you can simply graze to your heart’s content,” he says. “Research clearly shows that calories consumed shouldn’t be greater than energy spent if you are to avoid gaining weight.”

The best grazing foods, he says, contain protein, fiber, monounsaturated fats and/or slow-digesting, complex carbohydrates. These will make you feel fuller than other foods, and you’ll be inclined to consume fewer calories. Nuts are a good choice as they contain monounsaturated fats, which take a long time to digest. One study showed that women who ate one to two ounces of nuts a day lost more weight and kept it off longer than women who did not eat nuts. To avoid monotony, mix a variety of nuts (almonds, walnuts and pistachios, for example) with oat cereal, dried fruit and dark chocolate. Keep some handy in a resealable bag and eat a few at a time. Also healthy are snacks like apple slices, cheese and whole-grain crackers, and peanut or almond butter.

It’s important to note that Daily Health News contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, registered a dissenting opinion on the greatness of grazing: “It isn’t necessary to eat all day to keep the body supplied with a steady stream of healthful nutrients. If you don’t skip breakfast, lunch or dinner… consistently make smart dietary choices… and take the time to chew thoroughly during meals, you’ll digest your food more completely, have a steady stream of nutrients coming into your body from the gastrointestinal tract, and not feel the need to graze.” However, he added, if you can’t seem to fit in three healthful meals a day, a certain amount of grazing may be a good short-term solution.

Source(s):

David Grotto, RD, LDN, a nutrition counseling consultant and former spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of 101 Optimal Life Foods (Bantam). He is based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

The Real Reason You’re Tired — Your Adrenals Could Be Worn Out

by Mark A. Stengler, NMD 

You’re exhausted and you really need a good night’s rest… but what if you always feel that way and sleep doesn’t help? A common and often misunderstood cause of constant fatigue is a condition called adrenal fatigue, which regular Daily Health News contributor Mark Stengler, NMD, says he sees in approximately 40% of his patients and which affects as many as 20% of Americans, at least to some degree. However, since few medical doctors recognize and treat adrenal fatigue, millions of people live with feeling chronically exhausted and confused about why that’s so. What makes this particularly disturbing is that once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, it can be treated and resolved and people start to feel better in just a few months’ time.

Running on Empty

Under normal circumstances, the adrenals (small walnut-sized glands that sit on top of the kidneys) produce numerous hormones — adrenaline and others — that impact bodily functions including blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism, liver function and immunity. They also produce two crucial stress hormones — DHEA and cortisol — whose job it is to balance the body’s response to stressful influences, including blood sugar fluctuations. According to Dr. Stengler, living with stress — whether mental, physical or emotional — for a protracted period results in a situation where the need for a constant supply of these two hormones outstrips the adrenals’ production of them. This deficiency dulls cognitive function, energy levels and, of course, your ability to handle stress. It also slows the immune response and with it the ability to fight off infections and even possibly cancer. DHEA and cortisol interact in complex ways that affect many functions — deficiencies can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, fatigue, allergies, infections, mood disorders and poor libido, says Dr. Stengler.

To Know Whether You Have Adrenal Fatigue

Fatigue is just one adrenal fatigue symptom. If you are chronically tired and have any of the following, you may want to consider asking your doctor for a blood or saliva (Dr. Stengler’s preference) test to determine whether you have adrenal fatigue…

  • Morning fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Light-headedness after standing up
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Inability to focus
  • Memory problems
  • Body aches, including pain in the lower back
  • Craving for salt and/or sugar
  • Slower recovery from illness than is usual for you.

Given the mainstream resistance to recognizing adrenal fatigue, Dr. Stengler suggests that those who think they may have it should seek out  naturopathic physicians.

Fixing Your Fatigue

Once adrenal fatigue is diagnosed, treatment is multi-pronged, including a combination of nutrients and lifestyle changes:

  • Stress reduction. Not surprisingly, your first task is to review what’s causing all the stress in your life so that you can determine what changes need to be made to reduce it.
  • Get more sleep. You need plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep — Dr. Stengler says to aim for eight to 10 hours every night, and he also advises taking daily naps. For those who have trouble falling asleep or who find themselves awakening in the night, he often prescribes 0.5 mg to 3 mg of melatonin, the “sleep” hormone, or 100 mg of the amino acid 5-HTP an hour before bedtime to help the body prepare for sleep. Ask your doctor which you should take.
  • Adjust your diet. Dr. Stengler points out that people with adrenal fatigue often have blood sugar swings and cravings for sweets, so it’s very important to have breakfast every day and to eat small, healthy snacks between meals. He advises eating plenty of whole-grain foods and protein, including almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, and avoiding processed foods and simple sugars, including refined grains, fruit juices and, of course, sugary sodas. Also stay away from caffeinated beverages and alcohol. And if you have low blood pressure, which often results from adrenal fatigue and further contributes to fatigue, do be sure you are getting enough salt, which helps maintain blood volume and proper circulation. However, don’t go overboard — 2,400 mg per day of sodium from all sources is usually about right.
  • Exercise — in moderation. While exercise helps regulate stress hormones, too much will exhaust adrenal fatigue patients further, says Dr. Stengler. He advises his patients to start by walking 15 minutes a day, adding time as symptoms improve until reaching 45 minutes per day, but again, keeping it to a moderately intense level. Reduce the amount of exercise if afterward you find yourself feeling more tired rather than less — the goal is to increase overall energy.

Supplements

To help speed recovery, Dr. Stengler often prescribes the following nutritional supplements…

  • Vitamin B5 — (pantothenic acid) is especially important for stress-hormone production… he often prescribes 500 mg of B5, three times a day. A good multivitamin (or B-complex) will supply enough of the other B vitamins needed, says Dr. Stengler.
  • Vitamin C — typically 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg twice daily is prescribed, but reduce this dose if loose stools develop.
  • Adrenal glandular extract (AGE) — made from cow, pig or sheep adrenals, AGE contains growth factors that promote cell healing and also has nutrients to support gland function and repair. Take one to two tablets daily without food, and reduce the dosage if you become jittery or have trouble sleeping.
  • Ashwagandha — this herb, popular in Ayurvedic medicine, helps normalize adrenal functioning. A brand Dr. Stengler often dispenses is Jarrow Sensoril Ashwagandha… typically one to two capsules are taken daily on an empty stomach.
  • Rhodiola rosea — most often, he directs his patients to take 500 mg twice a day away from food… he uses a standardized formula of 3% to 5% rosavins, such as Paradise Herbs’ Dual Action Rhodiola. Note: Those with bipolar disorder should not use this product, since it can increase brain levels of serotonin, a chemical that affects mood.

Dr. Stengler said he sometimes uses hormone therapy consisting of DHEA, cortisol or other hormones and supplements to treat severe adrenal fatigue, but he noted that such measures require the supervision of a physician who is well practiced in the therapy.

Effective adrenal fatigue treatment ends up being an intensive self-care regimen in which you ratchet back the unreasonable demands you’ve been making on your mind and body. Fortunately, given time to recover, the adrenals are able to regain their strength… and with it, your natural energy will return.

Source(s):

Mark A. Stengler, NMD, a naturopathic medical doctor and leading authority on the practice of alternative and integrated medicine. He is editor of the Bottom Line Natural Healing newsletter, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies (Bottom Line Books), director of the La Jolla Whole Health Clinic in La Jolla, California, and adjunct clinical professor at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about his work, visit www.drstengler.com and www.lajollawholehealth.com.

5-Second Artery Stiffness Test

 by Kenta Yamamoto, PhD

As we age, arteries can lose flexibility, and that’s not good because arterial stiffness is often a precursor to cardiovascular disease. So I’m happy to be able to tell you about a simple, do-it-yourself way to gauge whether your arteries might be dangerously stiff.

 The simple test

 Muscle flexibility is a component of cardio-respiratory fitness and physical fitness and is also an aspect of arterial flexibility. In a study at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, 526 healthy participants were divided into three age groups and instructed to sit on the floor with their backs against the wall. While researchers held their legs straight in front of them, they were asked to use their arms to push forward a device that measured their maximum reach. Researchers then classified each as having “poor” or “high” flexibility. They also simultaneously measured blood pressure and pulse wave velocity, which gives a clinical measure of arterial stiffness.

 The results: In middle-aged and older people, poor body flexibility was associated with arterial stiffness. The findings were reported in American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

 “This study takes the first step in determining the relationship between flexibility and cardiovascular diseases,” says Kenta Yamamoto, PhD, a research fellow in the department of integrative physiology at University of North Texas Health Science Center and lead author of the study.

 There could be several reasons for the association. The researchers speculate that habitually working to increase flexibility by stretching your muscles may also relax the arteries and help decrease arterial stiffness. Another possibility involves collagen and elastin, the composition of which changes with age, reducing the flexibility of both muscles and arteries. A third possibility relates to blood pressure, since we already know elevated blood pressure stiffens arteries. In this study, researchers found that those with the highest blood pressure also had the poorest flexibility.

 How to Test Yourself

 It’s easy to test yourself at home, says Dr. Yamamoto: “If you cannot touch your toes when sitting with your legs held straight, your flexibility is poor.” He suggests integrating flexibility exercises — such as yoga, Pilates or basic stretching –into your routine, adding that doing this may help prevent arterial stiffness. He says to follow the recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association, which advise those who don’t work out regularly to stretch for 10 to 15 minutes every day… and says that those who do exercise regularly should incorporate several minutes of stretching before and after each workout. That’s a very easy prescription for something that could save your life.

 Source(s):

Kenta Yamamoto, PhD, research fellow in department of the integrative physiology at University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, www.hsc.unt.edu.

The Healthiest Chocolates of All

  by Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN 

It seemed too good to be true when studies began to tell us, seven or so years ago, that dark chocolate actually is healthy… but since then additional research has made the claims sweeter yet. Cacao beans, the base of chocolate, contain flavonoids (antioxidant-containing plant pigments) that make the antioxidants in dark chocolate nearly eight times as abundant as those in strawberries, which are themselves considered an excellent source. And then we learned that cacao beans help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol and that they can increase levels of serotonin, a natural antidepressant, as well.

 With all that going for chocolate, it’s not surprising that there’s now a wide array of “healthy” chocolates for sale pretty much everywhere, from bustling national supermarkets to tiny, Zen-like health-food stores. Soon you will even be able to buy camel-milk chocolate, said (of course) to have health benefits unique to its unusual source. But what makes the difference between a healthful piece of chocolate and just a fattening indulgence? I called über nutritionist and weight-loss expert Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, regular contributor to the “Today” show and author of several books, including her newest, Your Inner Skinny, to ask the question.

 Healthy Chocolate

 Bauer says the only way to be sure you are getting a reasonable amount of flavonoids in chocolate is to select those containing at least 70% cacao, noting that the health value escalates the higher that percentage climbs. She said that milk chocolate — including the camel-milk variety — can’t compete in the healthy sweepstakes, since the added milk reduces the body’s ability to absorb the antioxidants in cacao. Bauer gave a thumbs down to the heart-shaped boxes of Valentine’s chocolates that have those creamy or caramel centers — these are very heavy on sugar and should definitely be left in the box, she says. On the other hand, “mix-ins” made of nuts and berries are good. As for white chocolate — it isn’t a true chocolate and, not surprisingly, contains almost no flavonoids.

 If you are looking for a healthy dark chocolate, Bauer says you don’t have to pay up for a premium brand. While upscale brands use very high-quality cacao beans and are “incredibly delicious,” she says that the health benefit is about the same no matter the price, noting this is true of mass-produced brands, such as Hershey’s and Dove (which is owned by M&M/Mars), and mid-priced brands, such as Lindt or Ghirardelli. And it must be said… all chocolate contains lots of calories along with the flavonoids — averaging 150 calories per ounce, says Bauer — so it is important to enjoy it in moderation.

 Source(s):

Joy Bauer, MS, RD, CDN, Today show contributor, and author of several books, including her newest, Your Inner Skinny (William Morrow Cookbooks).

Health Insurance Battles: Six Tricks that Work

  by Trisha Torrey

Health insurers have lots of sneaky ways to deny insurance claims because, of course, the less they pay, the more money they get to keep. I got some good advice from professional patient advocate, speaker and radio-show host Trisha Torrey on what we consumers can do to help get coverage when the insurers are trying to wiggle out of their obligations…

 Six Secrets to Get Your Health Insurance Company to Pay

 1. Be persistent. Health insurance representatives generally will speak as if their decisions come from policies that allow for no variation. What the companies don’t want you to know is that sometimes when you get turned down by one representative, another may be more willing to give you the answer you want to hear.

 Try this: If a claim is denied, it’s worth checking to see whether you get consistent answers from two different sources — perhaps call again to see if another representative makes the same decision and/or speak to someone with more authority.

 2. Get everything in writing to even out the playing field. Insurance companies are scrupulous about keeping copies of all medical paperwork and correspondence involving your care — including letters and e-mail correspondence. They also may record telephone conversations and, if there is a dispute about who said what and when, you’ll do far better if you’ve also kept careful records.

 To play at the same level: Retain copies of all correspondence (paper and online) that you send and receive. Also keep a log of notes and details of all phone calls (date and time, the name of the person you spoke to, what you discussed, any verbal commitments, etc.). And never accept only a verbal commitment from an insurance company — always ask for confirmation in writing.

 3. If you had no choice, you had no choice. If you weren’t able to choose who your provider was, you should not have to pay higher, out-of-network costs.

 For example: When your in-network surgeon chooses to use an out-of-network anesthesiologist for your surgery… or sends you to an out-of-network lab for blood work… the choice of provider was out of your control.

 What to do: Insurers may do their best to deny the top level of reimbursement, but Torrey says to be persistent in stating your case and insisting on coverage. Similarly, when emergency care is needed and you are therefore not in control of health-care decisions, you may not be liable for higher out-of-network costs. Check your policy. Also, in some states, out-of-network emergency care coverage is mandated by law.

 4. Tell all… there’s no such thing as too much information. Requirements are tightening up for screening tests that look for signs of disease before symptoms develop, and some insurers limit the diagnostic tests they’ll cover, too. Check your policy to be sure.

 To get around this: Be sure you clearly and specifically report the symptoms you are concerned about, even if they’re embarrassing (for instance, for colonoscopy a change in bowel movements or traces of blood in your stool).

 5. Even an insurance company can be intimidated by credentials and titles. Irate consumers aren’t very scary to big insurance companies… but doctors and congressional representatives can make them nervous. If coverage is initially denied to you for a test or other service, an explanatory call from your physician might get a different outcome.

 A good strategy: On critical correspondence, copy your congressperson, state insurance commissioner or another state board that regulates health plans. You can find links to the regulatory entities in all 50 states at the Web site of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners & the Center for Insurance Policy and Research (www.naic.org — check “States & Jurisdiction Map”). That way, the insurer will have to answer to them for the decisions it makes.

 6. Patient advocates know what works… and insurers know it. Insurers are not fans of these persistent, well-informed third parties who can help slice through red tape and are good at negotiating favorable coverage and settlements.

 How to find one: Start with a service you don’t even have to pay for — the nonprofit Patient Advocate Foundation (www.patientadvocate.org or 800-532-5274), which provides free case-management services for people with serious diseases, such as cancer, and has lots of experience needling insurance companies. (Note: This organization is staffed by volunteers, so its phones often are busy. If you find that is the case, you can go directly to its “Request Patient Assistance with a Case Manager” form by clicking http://gallery.patientadvocate.org/requests/paf_cm_request.php.)

 There are also for-profit patient advocate firms that employ nurses and other health-care professionals to argue cases on patients’ behalf. They may charge as much as $150 to $200/hour — but for a big bill, it might be worth it. You can find patient advocates in your region at Torrey’s Web site, AdvoConnection.com, a directory of patient advocates.

 As Torrey notes, insurers are a wily lot — but you can get real results by using these secrets to turn the tables on them and get the health coverage you need and deserve.

 Source(s):

Trisha Torrey, patient advocate, syndicated newspaper columnist, radio talk-show host and national speaker based in upstate New York. She is author of You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (available February 2010). Visit her blog at EveryPatientsAdvocate.com/blog.

The Right Fiber Soothes IBS

   by Andrew L. Rubman, ND

If you’re one of the 20% of Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you’ve probably been told that consuming more fiber will alleviate your symptoms — but were you told what kind? A new study, published in British Medical Journal, finds that the soluble fiber found in psyllium supplements may be more effective than insoluble bran fiber for relieving the constipation, bloating and diarrhea that accompany IBS.

 Researchers at University Medical Center in Utrecht randomly assigned participants to one of three groups. Each participant took 10 grams of psyllium, insoluble bran or a placebo (rice flour in this case) twice daily for 12 weeks. Researchers evaluated patients at one, two and three months to see how they fared in terms of relief of symptoms, severity of abdominal pain and overall quality of life.

 Over the course of the trial, psyllium was significantly better than both bran and the placebo at reducing abdominal pain and other issues with IBS — and this was true whether a patient’s IBS was dominated by constipation or diarrhea or both. Even more surprising, though, was the fact that the bran did worst of all — in fact, the bran actually seemed to worsen patients’ symptoms.

 Why Bran Bombed

 This result was so unexpected that I checked in with our medical editor, Andrew L. Rubman, ND, to see whether he had any theories about why the bran group got such poor results. Dr. Rubman pointed out that the study was relatively small — 275 patients — and that by the end 40% of the participants had dropped out. He found it telling that, though participants initially did not know which group they belonged to (psyllium, bran or placebo), the research report noted that most of them were able to guess correctly which treatment they were getting.

 Dr. Rubman believes these results are likely due to the fact that bran must be metabolized, and people with IBS lack the “good gut bacteria” necessary to properly break it down, which made life unpleasant for that particular study group. Dr. Rubman noted that bran is insoluble and has a rough texture that sometimes acts as an irritant on the stomach lining in those with chronic gastritis.

 Psyllium, on the other hand, can soothe the stomach lining. Psyllium is soluble, meaning it disperses in water, and forms a gel which travels through the digestive system, coating and calming its lining, making for a very different journey.

 So, if you have IBS and currently take bran, you may want to ask your doctor whether it’s advisable to switch to psyllium. If you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that plain psyllium seed husks are best. There’s no need to buy expensive products touting exotic sources, special compounding benefits or exclusive additives that supposedly improve the material. Also avoid commercial psyllium brands sweetened with loads of sugar. Dr. Rubman suggests buying psyllium in bulk at health food stores, where the best stuff also happens to be the least expensive.

 Source(s):

Andrew L. Rubman, ND, medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut. www.naturopath.org.

Relief from Grief and Other Sadness

by Antonio Sausys

 Letting go of what you love is hard… whether it is the passing of a person or pet, a home where you’ve been happy, or even something far less tangible, such as your ability to play a good, hard game of tennis (sorrow that, of course, is also about the often-painful loss of youth).

 Unacknowledged and unaddressed grief doesn’t just evaporate, however — it often turns into anxiety, depression, even illness. Though some people process feelings by talking or writing about them, many don’t know what to do with the feelings of sadness, which are often overwhelming. I was intrigued when I heard about a program that uses yoga for this purpose — developed by yoga therapist Antonio Sausys and used in the “Degriefing Process,” a holistic grief-counseling program created by certified grief counselor Lyn Prashan.

 Yoga for Grief Relief

 After a loss, feelings of grief become imbedded not only within our psyche, but also in our physical bodies, Sausys explained. For instance, many grieving people take on a particular posture — curving the back and hanging the head down a bit, almost as though to protect the heart. “The heart chakra, in the center of the chest, is the energetic center that relates to emotional bonding,” he says — noting that this is where grief gets “processed.” Sausys’s program incorporates yoga as a tool to ths end. The goal is to bring some of the physical symptoms of grief to a conscious level of awareness — this helps people to accept the reality of their loss and to move through the pain in a way that enables them to continue with their lives. His program includes specific exercises for the muscles and functions that are related to this chakra — mainly the pectoral muscles, the mid-spine and the circulatory and breathing systems.

 Pranayama (Breath)

 “Notice that when you’re happy and content, your breath is slow and deep, and when you are agitated or unhappy, it becomes fast and shallow,” says Sausys. “Working with your breath is working with your life — one breath in and one breath out, what you do with your breath is what you do with your life.” Pranayama is the practice of deliberate and mindful breathing based on the belief that prana (vital life force) is held within the breath. Deepening awareness and control over your breathing helps unite your conscious and unconscious minds.

 What to do: Begin by spending a few minutes just being aware of your breath. You don’t have to control it, rather just feel it — be present to the flow, in and out, which will help you become present for what’s happening in your life.

 Try this: Sit in a comfortable position, keeping your spine as straight as possible. Bring the tip of your fingers to the tip of your shoulders, pulling your elbows together in front of your chest. As you inhale, bring your elbows up and then back… then, as you exhale bring them down and again back, following a fluid circular movement. This counteracts the natural tendency of the pectoral muscles to contract protectively and often quickly brings about an ability to feel more open.

 Asanas

 In yoga, asanas are physical poses, each of which has a particular purpose. You can use specific asanas to address the physical manifestations of grief, including pain and the tendency to hunch over to protect your heart. His program includes specific exercises for the pectoral muscles, the mid-spine, and the circulation and breathing systems, such as shoulder stretches and backbends. If you haven’t done yoga, try a class or DVD to find poses that feel good to you.

 Shatkarma

 A series of purifying techniques called Shatkarma can help in the release of thoughts and emotions, as well as of memories of painful experiences that may have become trapped within the body and mind, says Sausys. Grief is stressful, often triggering the fight-or-flight response. Since this response is integrated through the pituitary gland, you can do a group of Shatkarma exercises for the eyes, called Tratak, to help bring balance to the pituitary gland and reduce the intensity of your feelings. For instance, gazing at a flower, candle or other beautiful object not only helps to release eye tension but can also induce cleansing tears.

 How to do it: Light a candle. Sit in a comfortable position where you can see it at eye level and at arm’s length. First relaxing your facial muscles, stare steadily at the dark part in the center of the flame for two or three minutes. Then close your eyes and focus on the image of the flame that remains… when the image fades, open your eyes and repeat the exercise.

 Relaxation

 Grief is stressful, Sausys says, and therefore can take a major toll on your health and well-being. A basic way to reduce your stress is to simply lie on your back on the floor, repeating to yourself as you exhale: “Relax now.” Draw out your exhalations so that they are twice as long as inhalations. While any and all relaxation methods that work for you can be helpful, Sausys suggests that a good approach is to follow a guided relaxation CD or DVD, which can help you to maintain your focus.

 Sankalpa: Resolution

 In the yoga tradition, Sankalpa means to bring something to resolution. To this end, Sausys recommends choosing an affirmation, voicing an intention, or saying a prayer, and repeating it over and over. “This can help focus your mind on the positive,” he says, noting that over time it becomes a symbolic way you can move your thoughts away from negative repetitive thinking toward healing.

 An example: Formulate a statement that expresses a specific wish in a positive way and in the present tense — for instance, “tonight I sleep deeply.” (Sleep disruption is one of the most common symptoms of grief, says Sausys.)

 Taken together and used regularly, these tools can provide the necessary framework and support to help grief-stricken individuals come to terms with their loss. It won’t go away and you’ll never stop feeling the sadness — but over time it can stop feeling so painful. In the words of the Degriefing program creator, Lyn Prashant, “we never get over our grief — we only change our relationship to it. Grief is a normal human reaction not just to death, but to loss. What we must do is find a way to relate to it.”

 Source(s):

Antonio Sausys, BA (Psychology), MA (Body-Oriented Psychotherapy), is a somatic health practitioner and yoga instructor specializing in one-on-one yoga therapy. He teaches and lectures at University of California-Berkeley, the California Institute of Integral Studies, College of Marin, and has been a faculty member at the International Yoga College and the former Honorary Secretary of the International Yoga Federation for the U.S. His Web sites are www.yogaforgriefrelief.com and www.yogatherapyconference.com.

HIGH PROTEIN THE HEALTHY WAY

by David J.A. Jenkins, MD

Though not without its detractors, the Atkins diet has been found effective for weight loss and reducing insulin resistance, lowering triglycerides and raising HDL (good) cholesterol — but the key criticism from doctors and nutritionists has been that eating such large amounts of animal protein can cause harm to your health. In part, this is what prompted University of Toronto researchers, headed by David J. A. Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, the scientist who developed the glycemic index, to study the effects of a similar diet based on plant protein and oils rather than on animal protein and fats. The diet is called “Eco-Atkins” because it’s not only better for the people on it, but many believe also for the planet.A Better Way Than Atkins

 The four-week study involved 44 men and women, all overweight and with elevated LDL cholesterol levels, randomized into two groups. The control group ate a low-cal, high-carb, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (which means they were able to eat dairy and eggs). The difference for the Eco-Atkins group was a lower proportion of carbohydrates — they ate a low-carb, lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet high in protein from nonanimal sources, including gluten, soy, nuts, fruits, vegetables, cereals and vegetable oils, plus a small amount of psyllium. Both groups consumed 60% of their normal caloric requirements and lost eight to nine pounds, but the Eco-Atkins group showed greater improvement in LDL and total cholesterol… reductions in other blood lipid markers… and also small but significant reductions in blood pressure.

 PROTEIN FROM PLANTS

 Using protein (primarily from animal muscle meats) as an alternative source of glucose is the foundation of the Atkins diet. However, protein is also abundant in plants — for instance, one cup of brussels sprouts has 5.64 grams of protein and one cup of oatmeal has 5.9 grams. Animal protein contains greater amounts of some essential amino acids, and the levels of various types of protein differ among plants — but Dr. Jenkins adds that the old idea of balancing amino acids and proteins through combinations of cereals and legumes (rice and beans, pasta and fagioli, etc.) provides complete protein that rivals animal protein. (To learn more about how to combine foods to meet protein requirements, visit http://mayoclinic.com/health/medical/IM02769.) To find plant-based protein foods, go to www.highproteinfoods.net.

 Source(s):

David J.A. Jenkins, MD, PhD, DSc, professor, department of nutritional sciences, University of Toronto.

Soothe Anxiety with Probiotics

by A. Venketeshwer Rao, MSc

You already know that chocolate can do wonders for a dark mood — but… yogurt? If you buy the kind that contains active probiotics, it may indeed brighten your spirits. A new study from Canada demonstrated that probiotics can help modulate anxiety.

 The study involved 35 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who experienced a host of gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation. Participants were divided randomly into two groups, one taking a probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota (LaS), and the other taking a placebo that was identical in taste and appearance but had no probiotics. Results: After two months, the probiotic group had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms, while the placebo group did not. The probiotic group also showed a significant increase in Bifidobacteria, which are beneficial for gastrointestinal health, compared with the placebo group.

 Intestinal Flora and Your Brain

 A. Venketeshwer Rao, MSc, PhD, the study author and professor emeritus of nutritional science at University of Toronto, says that there has been skepticism in the medical world about the role intestinal flora plays in the system of gut-brain communication (the enteric nervous system, often called “the second brain”). He said that this study provides evidence that through their metabolism in the gut, probiotic bacteria can boost levels of the mood-elevating chemicals tryptophan (an amino acid) and serotonin (a neurotransmitter).  He added that the regions of the brain affected by CFS also house anxiety and depression. “These parts of the brain seem to respond to changes in the microflora, and most of our behavior patterns are controlled by these areas,” he says.

 Dr. Rao says there still is much to learn about the role of gut flora. But many, if not most people, could improve their health by taking probiotics. The study used a probiotic drink, but Dr. Rao says that probiotic supplements may be even more effective, depending on what types and how many of the live microbes they contain. He advises looking for a product that contains Lactobacillus Shirota and Bifidobacteria, with 100 to 120 billion live probiotic bacteria.

 Source(s):

A. Venketeshwer Rao, MSc, PhD, professor emeritus of nutritional science, University of Toronto.

Suddenly Celiac Disease Is Everywhere — Why?

  by Joseph Murray, MD

Until the last few years, celiac disease was an obscure, little-known condition and people who had it were extremely limited in terms of what they could eat or even where to turn for help managing their condition. That has changed dramatically with new studies on celiac disease, abundant online information and support, and a generous selection of gluten-free products, including bread, cookies, cereal and the like in specialty markets. In fact, gluten-free food is one of the fastest-growing categories in today’s supermarket.

 This is one time food marketers were ahead of the curve. Though it has been recognized that celiac disease (an autoimmune response triggered by gluten, the protein in wheat, rye and barley) is on the rise, the extent came as a surprise to researchers from the Mayo Clinic, who discovered that young people today are more than four times as likely to have celiac disease than was the case 60 years ago.

 The study looked for the antibody triggered by celiac in blood samples taken between 1948 and 1954 and compared findings with recent blood tests on two groups of residents of Olmstead County, Minnesota. One group was the same age as those tested in the original study… the other group consisted of people born in the same years as those tested in the original study.

 Joseph Murray, MD, professor of medicine and immunology at Mayo Clinic, was the lead author of the study. He told me that this increase undoubtedly is due to environmental causes. One possible factor relates to the fact that wheat has been genetically altered to heighten gluten content. Another might be the huge increase of gluten-containing food products. Gluten is used extensively today because it reduces manufacturing and processing costs of foods.

 Even Worse…

 But there was a second startling finding of the study — people with so-called “silent” celiac have four times greater mortality than people without celiac. To explain… the majority of people with celiac are not diagnosed or treated, so they continue to consume gluten — perhaps with symptoms, and perhaps without. Although the disease can cause severe digestive distress, it also can lead to other conditions that seem unrelated, such as infertility, headaches, osteoporosis (especially early onset) and anemia, or it might cause no apparent problems at all. But even without symptoms, Dr. Murray says that celiac is damaging the intestines and weakening the body, and also may be increasing vulnerability to other diseases, including cancer. 

 What to Do

 It is possible to develop celiac at any age. Dr. Murray says to consult your doctor about the possibility of celiac in the event of digestive problems, including diarrhea, excess gas and bloating, anemia or accelerated osteoporosis — especially if you have a family history of celiac or if you notice a problem when you eat foods containing wheat, rye or barley. Do not eliminate gluten from your diet before being tested, as this may decrease the accuracy of the tests.

 Even in the complete absence of symptoms, some experts advise avoiding wheat, rye and barley in all forms — including such things as soy sauce and many canned soups — entirely to see whether it makes a difference in how you feel. I have done this, in fact, and felt so much better that I’m rarely eating wheat at all these days… and I’m not missing it either.

 Source(s):

Joseph Murray, MD, professor of medicine and immunology, department of gastroenterology and hepatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.