Forget the genes – take control!

The scientific view of what determines a life span or how a person ages has swung back and forth. A few decades ago it was all about what we eat and environmental issues. Then the view switched to genes, the idea that you either inherit the right combination of genes that will let you eat fatty steaks and smoke a pack a day and live to be 100 or you do not.

In more cases than not when a patient consults a health practitioner with some or other health issue he will mention an ancestor or two who suffered from this same complaint and so he pronounces: “I have inherited this disease”. And this is how it has been for a long time now. By keeping us focussed on the all-importance of genes themselves, the message conveyed to us is one of a basically predetermined helplessness, except through the possibilities afforded us by conventional medicines and modern medical technology. 

Well you’ll be glad to know that this is all poppycock! It is now believed there is no drug that can regulate genetic expression better or more powerfully than your diet can. Enter the field of Nutrigenomics – the study of how different foods and their constituents can interact with specific genes to increase or lessen the risk of common chronic diseases. It is believed we “actually control anywhere from 80 to 97% of our own genetic expression with respect to potential disease processes and even longevity.

Genes are turned on and off by regulatory genes and regulatory genes are controlled mainly by nutrients. So it is not the genes themselves that predispose us to disease or determine how long we will live but rather those things within our diet and environment that can act upon our genes. Although environmental chemical exposure certainly plays a role, foods fundamentally serve as our basic genetic instruction and guidance information.  The lesson we learn from this: Nutrients can in fact modify human physiology which means to a great extent we are in control of our destiny. The genes you inherited are no longer your life sentence.

This goes along with what I’ve been saying for years to those who blame their lousy inherited genes:  “With all due respect it is more likely to be the kinds of food and the methods of cooking that have been passed down from generation to generation”.

So forget the past, watch what you put into your body and indulge in moderate exercise, so that you don’t give your “lousy inherited genes” the opportunity to express themselves. Resolve to, from now on, see them simply as genetic “tendencies” not genetic certainties. Be the one telling your genes how long you will live – not the other way round. It is never too late to take control of your destiny.

BROCCOLI – A POWERHOUSE OF HEALTH

fresh broccoli
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Have you had your broccoli today? If not, then you have missed out on a healthy dose of a long list of nutrients such as vitamins C, K, A, B and D, folate, manganese, calcium, magnesium and fibre.  Although the health benefits of all the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are well documented, it is broccoli that is receiving the most attention in research circles these days. It is now undisputed that broccoli contains anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and pro-detoxification components making it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention.

Antioxidants and anticancer agents are continually being isolated from broccoli and its sprouts, making it the most researched vegetable in the past 20 years. The antioxidant benefits of broccoli can be attributed mainly to the high vitamin C content enhanced by significant amounts of flavonoids and carotenoids. The anti-inflammatory components are its omega-3 content in the form of alpha linolenic acid and a flavonol called kaempferol.

Fights cancer

The ability of broccoli to enhance detoxification in our bodies thus ridding us of harmful substances that threaten our cells is due to a family of potent phytochemicals called isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from the glucosinolates in broccoli. Two of these ITCs, namely sulforaphane and Indole-3-Carbinol, also called I3C, are at the centre of most of the research being done pointing towards broccoli or broccoli sprouts being protective against most cancers in humans. Researchers believe that ITCs in broccoli spark hundreds of genetic changes, activating some genes that fight cancer and switching off others that fuel tumours.

In men

man eating broccoli

A research group at the Institute of Food Research led by Professor Richard Mithen has provided an explanation of how eating broccoli might reduce prostate cancer risk. For the study1, men who were at risk of developing prostate cancer ate either 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week in addition to their normal diet over 12 months. Tissue samples were taken from their prostate gland before the start of the trial and after 6 and 12 months, and the expression of every gene measured using Affymetrix microarray technology. It was found that there were more changes in gene expression in men who were on the broccoli-rich diet than on the pea diet, and these changes may be associated with the reduction in the risk of developing cancer, that has been reported in epidemiological studies. 400g a week equates to a very manageable 10 spears of broccoli. More benefit and protection could be derived in men by eating two cups of broccoli a day.

And in women

There’s good news for women too: In research conducted at the University of Michigan, sulforaphane was demonstrated to target cancer stem cells in cell cultures and in mice. Cancer stem cells, which are not destroyed by chemotherapy, are believed to be the reason breast cancer can recur, grow and spread. Researchers injected varying concentrations of sulforaphane derived from broccoli extract into mice implanted with breast tumours. This resulted in a substantial reduction in cancer stem cells in these  tumours.  Additionally, cancer cells derived from animals that received sulforaphane that were reimplanted into other mice failed to form tumours. Tests in cultured human breast cancer cells showed a similar reduction in cancer stem cells. This shows the potential of sulforaphane to prevent or treat cancer by targeting the critical cancer stem cells.2

Research using broccoli extracts against cervical cancer has been extremely promising as well. In one double-blind placebo controlled trial using a daily dose of I3C, one-half of women with biopsy-proven early stage cervical cancer had complete regression of their cancer where none in the control group did3. In addition, a study done on mice suggests that adding the chemo protective agents to the maternal diet during pregnancy and nursing may just reduce the incidence of cancers in their offspring 4.

Helps ulcers

But warding off cancer is not all that broccoli is good for. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that eating just a few ounces of broccoli each day may significantly reduce a person’s risk of stomach ulcers. The risk of stomach ulcers as well as stomach cancer is significantly increased by the presence of the Helicobacter pylori bacterium which causes chronic inflammation of the stomach lining. A reliable marker of infection is a chemical called HpSA found in the stool. In this study5, 50 people in Japan were assigned to eat either 2.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts or 2.5 ounces of alfalfa sprouts each day for two months. Alfalfa is not a cruciferous vegetable and contains no sulforaphane. Consumption of alfalfa sprouts had no effect on HpSA levels; however among those who ate broccoli sprouts, HpSA levels decreased 40 percent by the end of the experiment. Participants were then told to stop eating broccoli sprouts. After another two months, HpSA levels had returned to pre-study levels. This implies we need to eat broccoli and keep on eating it! The researchers also found that inflammation levels of the stomach were reduced in those eating broccoli and hence broccoli raw and cooked can be included in the diet of ulcer and gastritis sufferers to prevent inflammation of the stomach lining progressing into serious illness.

Although much of the research has been done using extracts from broccoli sprouts, normal broccoli also contains these protective phytochemicals, just in lesser quantities, so you need to eat more of it.

The best ways to eat broccoli:

cooked broccoli

If you have only experienced overcooked, soggy, khaki-green broccoli then this is probably not your favourite vegetable. However your whole perception of this natural wonder may change with a better method of preparation. Start with fresh broccoli and wash it well to remove traces of pesticides. Steam the spears in unsalted water for just 3-4 minutes so that they’re bright green and still crisp. Shake the water out of each spear. Eat plain or sprinkle with a little olive oil and lemon juice.  Then there are also all delicious broccoli soups one could make. See recipe below.  Of course juiced and raw broccoli (shredded in a coleslaw is good) would ensure that none of the nutrients are lost but be sure to chew raw broccoli very well to derive all the benefits.

So have you had your broccoli today?

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup

Serves 4-6

broccoli  and blue cheese soup

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
2 heads Broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
4 cups Vegetable or Chicken stock
½ cup Cream
50g Blue Cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
25g Blue Cheese, extra

Method:
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until golden.
Add the broccoli and stock to the pan. Cover and bring the soup to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender.
Pour the soup into your blender and whizz until it is smooth. Stir in the cream and blue cheese. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.Ladle the soup into bowls, crumble over the extra blue cheese and sprinkle grated nutmeg. 

References:

  1. Traka M, Gasper AV, Melchini A, Bacon JR, Needs PW, et al. Broccoli Consumption Interacts with GSTM1 to Perturb Oncogenic Signalling Pathways in the Prostate. PLoS One, 3(7): e2568 DOI:
  2. Li Y, Zhang T, et al. Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 May 1;16(9):2580-90. Epub 2010 Apr 13.
  3. Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, et al  Placebo-Controlled Trial of Indole-3-Carbinol in the Treatment of CIN. Gynecologic Oncology Volume 78, Issue 2, August 2000, Pages 123–129
  4. Yu Z, Mahadevan B, et al. Indole-3-carbinol in the maternal diet provides chemoprotection for the fetus against transplacental carcinogenesis by the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon dibenzo[a,l]pyrene. Carcinogenesis. 2006 Oct;27(10):2116-23. Epub 2006 May 16.
  5. Yanaka A, Fahey JW, et al. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans. Cancer Prevention Research, 2009; 2 (4): 353

Kefir – complete health in a glass

If you grew up on a farm, you will be familiar with “amasi” or sour milk and its health benefits, especially its probiotic (beneficial bacteria) content. But hold onto your hat, because this new kid on the block is sour milk with a difference. Called kefir (pronounced kuh-feer) , its benefits far outweigh any other probiotic foods such as amasi or yoghurt.

Kefir grains after straining
Kefir grains

The word “kefir” is derived from the Turkish word “keif”, which literally translates to the “good feeling” one has after drinking it. (No it is not alcoholic). Kefir originated thousands of years ago amongst the tribes of the Caucasus Mountains of the former USSR and for centuries traditional cultures have attributed healing powers to this beverage but it is only recently that much scientific research has determined its true benefits.

What is Kefir?

Kefir is the fermented milk beverage that results from the fermentation activity of bacteria and yeast that make up the “grains” used to culture the milk (not actual grains, but a grain-like matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars that feed the microbes in the milk). If you have made amasi you will know how to make kefir.

Straining kefir

It can be made from the milk of any ruminant animal – cow, goat, or sheep. Simply add milk to the grains (raw is ideal however pasteurised also fine), strain after 1-3 days, and repeat the process. Kefir, the beverage, is slightly sour and becomes more so the longer you leave it.

Once you have kefir grains you have them for life and when they multiply you can share with friends.

What are the health benefits?

  • Besides containing highly beneficial bacteria and yeasts, kefir is a rich source of many different vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids that promote healing and repair, as well as general health maintenance.
  • By providing the gut with many types of beneficial microbiota, kefir helps in preventing diarrhea or reducing its duration. This includes conditions like infant’s diarrhea, colitis, IBS, Crohn’s disease and gastroenteritis. Kefir consumption can also alleviate chronic constipation and re-establish intestinal microflora after a course of antibiotics. It has also shown efficacy against Helicobacter pylori associated with peptic ulcers, gastritis, and gastric cancer.
  • Kefir is a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin K2, hence highly beneficial to bone health.
  • Kefir consumption has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of food allergies, because it has the ability to reduce intestinal permeation of food antigens, whilst suppressing IgE and IgG1 responses. Even those with lactose intolerance may find they can drink kefir as the lactic acid bacteria improve lactose digestion as well as increase immune function.
  • Research has also demonstrated that kefir may have an anti-tumour effect, inhibiting tumour growth, and suggesting that it may play a role in cancer prevention.
  • Studies have also concluded that kefir could play a role in the prevention of certain heart diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties. A lowering of the systolic and the diastolic blood pressures as well as of heart rate have been recorded in hypertensive patients. A significant lowering effect on levels of LDL cholesterol have also been recorded.
  • It is a good source of most B vitamins including biotin.
  • It also contains the amino acid tryptophan, making it is a great beverage to drink just before bedtime to induce a restful sleep.
  • When applied topically, kefir is an effective antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent for improved wound healing.
Use kefir in smoothies

Kefir can greatly contribute to your overall health and well-being and I highly recommend including this nutritious superfood in your diet.  

Because kefir has become so popular of late it should not be too difficult to find someone who is able to share a few starter grains with you. Then culture your own kefir and drink it by the glass, use it in the place of yoghurt in your smoothies or to make sourdough bread or as a substitute for buttermilk in baking.

Stick to your resolution to quit smoking

new years resolution to quit smoking

December and January have passed and as we know these are the months that many smokers make a determined effort to quit smoking. The holidays are a time of reduced stress and anxiety, making quitting smoking a popular New Year’s resolution. If you were one of these people then hopefully you were successful in putting an end to your nicotine addiction and can now call yourself a non-smoker.

desperate to quit smoking

If so, then you also have my utmost admiration, because quitting smoking is not easy and if you are not committed then it’s just not going to happen, or it may, but not for long.

How many times have you tried to give up? And each time it becomes more difficult doesn’t it? You need to know that you are not alone: 90% of smokers are experiencing the same pain. Nicotine is nasty and the tobacco companies are not on your side. They’re just after your hard-earned money while they knowingly put you at risk of terminal diseases.

It won’t happen to me…

Many smokers harbour the secret hope that they will be spared the disease and death that follows nicotine addiction. You tell yourself that you’ll quit in time and somehow dodge the bullet that smoking is. Don’t be fooled: With four million people dying every year due to tobacco use around the world, the odds are not in your favor. Statistics show that tobacco kills more people than AIDS, drugs, accidents and alcohol together.

Whether it’s cigarettes, pipe, tobacco or e-cigarettes, smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. It’s the cause of 87 percent of lung cancer deaths and is responsible for heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, cataracts, impotence and more. According to a recent report, heavy smoking in midlife more than doubles the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia two decades later.

An epidemiological study that compared the average lifespan of 34 000 smoking doctors with a similar group of non-smokers, showed the smoker’s lifespan was reduced by 11 minutes for every cigarette smoked! A very recent study concluded that women who smoke from a young age are at greater risk of developing breast cancer.

And did you know that every time you light up you are inhaling a lethal cocktail of more than 600 additives as well as nicotine? Tobacco companies had been allowed to put additives in cigarettes for over 30 years without any public scrutiny.

Second-hand smoke

Every smoker knows that evidence abounds that second-hand smoke kills and passive smokers are subjected to as much danger as smokers. Now there is even talk of the danger to health of third-hand smoke found in the curtains and upholstery in smoking areas.

Moms-to-be need to know that women who smoke have a greater chance of certain pregnancy problems or having a baby die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And exposure to smokers is still a major cause of asthma attacks in kids.

second hand smoke and children

Having smoking and non-smoking areas is like having peeing and non-peeing areas in a swimming pool” – National Council Against Smoking

Quit smoking aids

There are numerous quit-smoking aids on the market, from hypnosis to drugs to nicotine patches and gums. Electronic cigarettes are popular but, just like the nicotine patches and gum, qualify as a smoking alternative, not a quit smoking aid. E-cigarettes do not cure the addiction or the habit. It is counter-productive to substitute a nicotine delivery device that looks, for all intents and purposes, just like the cigarettes we are working so hard to break free of. They are largely untested and the amount of nicotine in them can vary, as well as other possibly harmful chemical ingredients.

If you’re still trying, you have not failed.

So what would be a safe and effective aid?

Vice Breaker

Vice Breaker is a 100% natural herbal anti-smoking aid whose safety and efficacy has been confirmed. It is formulated to help reduce nicotine cravings and reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, such as stress and irritability. Vice Breaker, manufactured in Canada and imported to South Africa by The Orchards Nutrition Centre, has the added benefit of cleansing the lungs at the same time as helping you to quit smoking, and has no known side-effects.

Weight gain

Many smokers are concerned about weight gain after quitting and use this as an excuse not to quit. Realise this: You’d have to gain a very large amount of weight to offset the many substantial health benefits that a smoker gains by quitting. Watching what you eat and going for a 30 minute brisk walk daily will ensure you quit smoking without gaining much weight.

Learn to counter thoughts such as “I’d rather be thin, even if it means smoking.” Remember that a slight weight gain is not likely to endanger your health as much as smoking would. Weight comes and goes but you only have one pair of lungs.

Berry Healthy

Who would have thought that the common old mulberry tree found in many a backyard and considered to be a nuisance because of the stains left by its fruit, is actually supplying us with a food that is a powerhouse of nutrients with amazing health benefits. Fact is, the more a fruit or vegetable stains your fingers, the higher its content of anthocyanins, the polyphenols responsible for giving it its strong colouring, and the major contributors to the antioxidant activity of all berries.

mulberries on tree

Nutrient Powerhouses

Antioxidants attract and neutralize highly reactive free radicals that could otherwise damage body cells in ways that initiate cancer development, heart disease and age-related eye damage. Apart from having an abundance of these phytochemicals, mulberries and all other berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant. Just one cup of most berry varieties gives almost half the daily requirement of vitamin C for an adult. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen, helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries and promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system.

And then there’s resveratrol, an antioxidant found in abundance in mulberries, that has been heavily publicised for its positive health benefits. These benefits include lowering cholesterol, preventing cancer, blood clots, diabetes and aiding in weight loss.

Like all berries, mulberries are also an excellent source of vitamin B, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and iron and just a handful of most berry types can help you meet your daily fibre requirement. Sadly, in the past, very little research has ever been done on mulberries. However that is all changing with extensive research now being done not only on the fruit but also on mulberry leaf extract as a treatment option for diabetes. (Unfortunately the mulberry tree has been categorized as an invasive alien in South Africa and even though it may only be a problem in some areas such as KZN, you probably won’t be able to buy a mulberry tree at any nursery anywhere in the country. So do look after what you have!)

Blueberries

hands holding berries

Blueberries, on the other hand, have been the subject of many a study and their health benefits, although probably very similar to mulberries, are well documented. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, blueberries take first prize in the berry category when it comes to antioxidant activity per serving (ORAC values). Blueberries clock in at 2400 with mulberries and blackberries close seconds. This is why blueberries are touted as a super-food when it comes to anti-aging, cancer prevention, heart and vision health.

Other promising health benefits that have emerged in laboratory studies done on blueberries include:

  • improvement in motor skills and reversal of short term memory
  • the potential of blueberries to inhibit the growth of Triple Negative Breast Cancer, a particularly aggressive and hard to treat form of breast tumor,
  • may inhibit both the initiation and promotion stages of cancer
  • may confer protection to the brain against damage from ischemic stroke
  • may reduce plasma cholesterol levels especially LDL cholesterol
  • could help regulate blood pressure and combat atherosclerosis
  • may improve night vision and prevent tired eyes.
girl with bowl of berries

Strawberries

Let’s not forget strawberries, which, when in season, are usually more readily available than other berries. Ideally look for organic, firm, bright, juicy, fragrant berries with fresh green caps. If you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, activating an enzyme that destroys vitamin C. If the berries are not organic, wash them thoroughly as strawberries are one of the most pesticide-sprayed fruit crops. Do not hull them before washing as this may reduce the nutritional value of the strawberry.

And here’s a little trick that will keep organic strawberries from deteriorating too soon: Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the bowl of water you wash them in – caps on of course. Spread them out on a dish cloth and when completely dry store in the fridge. This prevents mould from growing and extends their life although they still won’t last as long as some commercially grown strawberries that last forever in the fridge. We do not want to know why!!

Brain Food

An article published online in the Annals of Neurology reports a protective effect for diets containing high amounts of blueberries and strawberries against cognitive decline in older women. In this study cognitive function was tested every two years in 16,010 participants who were over the age of 70, for a period of 6 years. Consuming a relatively high amount of blueberries or strawberries was associated with a slower decline in cognitive function test scores compared to women whose intake was lower, resulting in a delay in cognitive aging of up to 2.5 years. Although the study was done on women it surely applies to men too.

The healing health benefits of raw fruits and vegetables should never be underestimated and incorporating a wide variety of raw berries into your diet will ensure optimal health.

Recipes:

Here are two recipes which kids will also find irresistible and since they contain protein, carbs and fat, they’ll be sustaining too:

Berrie Lollies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen mixed berries
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup organic cream (optional)
  • Honey, Xylitol or stevia to sweeten

Method:

  1. Blend all the ingredients till smooth
  2. Pour into lolly moulds and freeze for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. Place the frozen moulds under warm water for a few seconds before attempting to remove.

Blueberry smoothie

Ingredients:

blueberry smoothie
  • 1 cup blueberries or mixed berries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 bananas, preferably frozen
  • 1½ C plain yoghurt
  • Xylitol, stevia or raw honey to sweeten

Blend till smooth, adding iced water if necessary. Drink immediately.

Dealing with low blood pressure

dizziness

Since most people with blood pressure issues seem to suffer from a blood pressure that is often higher than what is considered normal, hypertension enjoys a lot more attention than hypotension, or low blood pressure. Perhaps this is also because there is an abundance of drugs that can be prescribed for high blood pressure.

For low blood pressure there are medications but their mechanism of action may be questionable.  Some work by promoting sodium retention by the kidney, thereby causing fluid retention and some swelling, which is apparently necessary to raise blood pressure. However this sodium retention also causes a loss of potassium. Others work by restricting the ability of your blood vessels to expand, which then raises blood pressure. Due to their mechanism of action one may have to remain on these drugs for life. Seems they only force blood pressure to rise while you’re taking them. 

So what is regarded as low blood pressure?

low blood pressure

If your normal systolic pressure is 90 or lower and your diastolic pressure is 60 or lower you would be diagnosed as having low blood pressure and be labelled “hypotensive”. Compared to hypertension, or high blood pressure, the risks are almost negligible and you can consider yourself one of the lucky ones.

If you can put up with the occasional light-headedness there is nothing to stop you from living a long and healthy life. However some people may feel constantly dizzy, sometimes to such an extent that they feel off-balance and in danger of falling. That can’t be fun for anyone: so action needs to be taken.


What causes low blood pressure?

The most common cause of low blood pressure is stress. Most hypotensives don’t even realise they are stressed because they suffer from “hidden” stress. However other possible causes are genes, chronic medications such as beta blockers, diuretics and some antidepressants, anemia, heart conditions and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s.

Can diet and nutrition make a difference?

You’ve heard that hypertensives should not drink coffee but you’re mistaken if you think that implies that if you are hypotensive, you can drink as much coffee as you like. Although caffeine may initially boost blood pressure levels, it has a diuretic effect, which will exacerbate the problem of low blood pressure. For the same reason alcohol on a daily basis should be avoided as it is dehydrating too.

Water increases blood volume and helps prevent dehydration, both of which are important in treating hypotension, so make sure you drink enough water during the day.

Also eat heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables so that you get an adequate supply of essential electrolytes, minerals and trace elements.

You could try using more salt and if you’re unfortunate enough to be one of those who really suffers with constant dizziness you could even drink salted water throughout the day. However rather stick to Himalayan salt for this purpose. Sodium can raise blood pressure which is a good thing for you, however it could be harmful if not balanced with other minerals and trace elements.

Supplements that may help

The B vitamins have a reputation for being “anti-stress vitamins” — able to balance mood and calm the nervous system. They don’t actually relax one, in fact they give most people more energy, so rather don’t take them after mid afternoon, or your sleep might be affected. But certainly, supplementing with B vitamins especially B5 (pantothenic acid/d-calcium pantothenate) can assist the body to cope with stress.

The Willow brand offers a comprehensive supplement aptly called Low Blood Pressure, which, among other ingredients, includes the B vitamins as well as liquorice root extract, highly recommended for low blood pressure.

Then there is Aim Composure, a combination of soothing herbs and herbal extracts that relax and calm nerves, reduce restlessness and feelings of anxiety, and promote restful sleep. By reducing stress this capsule can very effectively raise blood pressure in those who need it.

Note: Due to the efficacy of liquorice root in raising low blood pressure one needs to use this under guidance. And those with high blood pressure should avoid it altogether.

Keep your prostate happy

Prostate health

 

Many men don’t even know where their prostate is, let alone how to spell it! How often have we heard him refer to it as a “prostrate”….haha.

Call it what you like but all men have this small gland, about the size of a walnut, that sits under the bladder by the urethra. If it gets swollen it can act like a clamp, making it harder to urinate. This is fairly common in men over the age of 60. It’s either caused by inflammation of the prostate or, more commonly,  benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH  – meaning the prostate is simply enlarged. It’s comforting to know that there is no clear link between BPH and prostatic cancer, other than difficulty urinating.

Keep your prostate healthy

When it comes to prostatic cancer, just as with breast cancer, prevention is key. So how can you keep your prostate healthy? Like the rest of your body, the health of this gland depends mostly on what you eat. Numerous studies have shown that the strongest dietary risk factor for prostatic cancer is dairy consumption and this has been attributed to a hormone in milk called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF).  So a good place for men to start would be to limit milk intake. Unless of course you’re milking healthy, free-ranging, hormone and antibiotic-free Daisy in your own back yard.

Secondly, eat more fruit and vegetables because according to enough studies, the higher your consumption the lower your risk. Particularly beneficial are tomatoes (preferably cooked in a healthy oil), rich in lycopene known to hinder the growth of prostate cancer cells. Kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onions and garlic are also profoundly cancer protective.

Supplements for preventionA man's zinc

Zinc is probably the most important here. The prostate gland contains and uses more zinc than any other tissue – 4 to 80 times more, depending on tissue comparisons. Zinc inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme which turns testosterone into DHT, the form of testosterone that promotes prostate cancer. Zinc also inhibits the secretion of some estrogens (also linked to prostate issues). Without adequate zinc, sperm production decreases, and the general health of the prostate falters. Clinical evidence indicates that cancerous prostate cells contain less zinc than healthy prostate cells. I highly recommend Vibrant Health’s A Man’s Zinc.

See Yourself Well Omega-3 Softgels EPA 400mg

 

Omega-3 fish oil comes second on my list. As we already know, fish oil is high in the omega-3 fatty acids that help combat inflammation and inflammation is a factor in many cancers. Fish oil has also been shown to retard the growth of prostate cancer. The lower the rate of proliferation, the less the chances that the cancer will spread outside the prostate, where it is much harder to treat. Supplementing with Omega-3 from purified fish oils (EPA and DHA) would be a good idea  if you’re suffering from BPH or prostatitis or even just as a cancer preventative measure. Be sure to only take the purest fish oils you can find, limiting yourself to those been awarded the International Fish Oil Standards 5 Star rating such as our See Yourself Well brand.  You can’t get purer than that!

Then I also recommend turmeric to keep inflammation and hence cancer at bay. So either the Vibrant Health Turmeric 46X or the Maximised Turmeric which is double the strength of the former.

sunbather

 

Sunshine

According to a study, men with higher levels of vitamin D (typically obtained through sunshine exposure) in their blood were half as likely to develop aggressive forms of prostate cancer than those with lower amounts. And best news of all – 15 minutes a day in the sun costs you nothing!

 

Screening for prostate cancer

The most commonly used screening test for prostate health is a blood test measuring PSA (prostate-specific antigen). High levels of PSA may be an early indicator of prostate cancer.  However, it also gives many false positives and more importantly men need to know that their PSA levels can be raised in a male with BPH or if the gentleman has any inflammation anywhere in his body at the time of testing, An above normal reading doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. (Never test when there is acute infection or inflammation anywhere in the body – always fix that first before having the PSA blood test!).

Men also need to know that there is an increasingly prevalent belief that this test has been wildly oversold and due to aggressive over treatment can cause more harm than benefit in some cases. Because prostate cancers are slow growing, many older men might never experience any symptoms of the disease before dying of other causes.

Probably the best advice is not to be rushed into any procedure: get opinions from 3 different specialists and only if they all agree should you seriously consider their advice. You know, if one is looking for something and looks long enough, one will eventually find it. Stop constantly being afraid of some disease or other and certainly stop looking for  things that are wrong, or not in most cases. This just adds stress to your life which is not good for anyone.

Disclaimer
The information in this blog post is for educational purposes only and not to be construed as medical advice. It is not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or in any way replace qualified medical supervision. For any medical conditions, consult with your healthcare provider before using any products. Abundant health to you all.

Fabulous Avocados

avocados
Although I don’t believe any food is the be-all–and-end-all, this one comes pretty close. When in season as they are now, they are at their best, and it becomes difficult not to pig out on this amazing fruit and, surprisingly, to  never get tired of it. Currently, avocado benefits have been getting a lot of positive press, and we’re not just talking Banting. Although the fats in avocados fall in the category of healthy fats that won’t cause weight gain, there are many other reasons why an avo a day would not go amiss.

Eye food
One reason would be to support deteriorating vision.  There is much evidence supporting the notion that the intake of one whole avocado a day can lead to improvement in most vision-related avocados and eyeschallenges, including age-related macular degeneration and gradual diminishment of visual acuity.

The explanation for avocados being good for vision lies in its abundance in three nutrients that support the unique tissues that make up our eyes, these nutrients being lutein, a known protector of eye health, and  vitamin E and C.  The carotenoid antioxidant lutein in avocado is especially helpful to vision because it comes packaged with plenty of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that help ensure optimal absorption of lutein into the bloodstream. (This is a critical point with all fat-soluble nutrients; they are best absorbed when they are ingested along with foods that are rich in healthy fats.). Our Creator has ensured the whole caboodle comes packaged in one delicious fruit.

Brain food

A new study out of Tufts University has not only linked avocados with better vision but also with better brain function in older adults. Not surprising, as there is a significant amount of scientific research that indicates how eye health is directly connected to brain health. The research assessed 40 healthy adults over the age of 50 who ate one fresh avocado per day for six months. Apart from experiencing a 25% increase in their levels of lutein in their eyes, it was found that they also experienced a significant improvement in their problem-solving skills and working memory. Credit again goes to lutein, known for its ability to accumulate not only in the eyes, but also in the blood and brain, as well as for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Heart food
    Step aside bananas! One avocado contains as much potassium as two small bananas. Potassium is a nutrient that promotes healthy heart contraction and reduces high blood

    pressure. So for lowering blood pressure there is no better food than avocado. Furthermore, many studies have shown that avocados can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides
    and raise HDL cholesterol. Avocados themselves contain no cholesterol, only heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
waistline
You may be wondering why a fruit so dense in calories is also so waistline-friendly. The answer lies is in the healthy fats and the high fibre content that promote a feeling of satiety that decreases the tendency to snack even hours after eating one.
So why waste anymore time underestimating the healing power of avocados – just get on and enjoy them – one a day, everyday! (BTW I have no conflict of interest to declare – I only wish I did own an avocado plantation).

The LCHF Diet – are there risks?

 

Although I am in favour of the LCHF Diet, that also goes by the names Banting, Paleo and Ketogenic Diets, and see it as a fundamentally healthy way of eating that mirrors the diet we evolved to eat and is in accordance with our innate physiology, I do harbour some reservations. This diet (which I prefer to refer to as an eating plan) in the hands of followers who have scant knowledge of nutritional needs of the body or harm that can be done by toxic chemicals, can become risky. Balancing proteins and fats with fresh fruit and vegetables and sourcing organic and grass-fed produce are fundamental to the success of this LCHF plan. I see people losing unwanted kilograms but at what cost?

Acid-alkaline balance goes

Eating only protein and fat and totally avoiding vegetables – any man’s dream!  I hear of people eating just eggs, bacon and more bacon for breakfast. Some may even have a 400g steak for breakfast – nothing else! So what’s the problem with this? A huge one: No acid-alkaline balance. Vegetables and fruits are alkaline-forming and meat, dairy and fats are acid-forming. You need a balance or else disease will prevail. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment. High protein diets can lead to acidosis setting the stage for osteoporosis, hormonal imbalances and gut dysbiosis and can potentially lead to kidney stones, arthritis and gout.

Nutrient deficiencies

If you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables you’re missing out on many essential nutrients and anti-oxidants. Without them you are putting yourself at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as oxidised or rancid cholesterol which can result in arterial plaque and inflammation. By not following the LCHF diet correctly you are losing out on potential good health and vitality.

Exposure to more toxins

Processed meats such as bacon are known to be potentially carcinogenic (cancer-forming) due to the nitrosamines formed during frying. Even non-processed meats, if from commercial sources and not from grass-fed animals, are full of toxins such as xenoestogens, antibiotics and growth hormones.  Remember too that toxins are stored mainly in fat cells so the more fat you are eating from feedlot animals, and not those reared on grass, the more toxins you are taking in.

Not all cheeses are good

Then there’s the matter of “eat all the cheese you want” claim that is bandied about by some followers who have lost the plot. There are good cheeses and bad and the bad ones from feedlot animals are just as high in the toxins mentioned for meat. Processed cheese is also high in sodium and eating too much of it can result in magnesium and potassium imbalances, never mind that cheese is also highly mucous-forming and constipating!

Vitamin B deficiency

Finally, this diet is also devoid of all grains so if you’re not eating organ meats, nuts and seeds then watch out for vitamin B deficiencies including biotin. If hair-loss occurs or your stress levels rise, a vitamin B supplement would be advisable. Also have your homocysteine levels checked. High levels can cause hardening of the arteries and to reduce these levels you need most of the B vitamins which are abundant in whole grains, which you are no longer eating!

LCHF not working so well for you?

Perhaps you are one of the unlucky ones for whom this eating plan does not result in weight-loss but rather makes you feel unwell. There is a very probable reason for this: As mentioned before, toxins are stored in fat cells, hence overweight people tend to carry more toxins because there is more “space” so to say. Fat is much more difficult to move in a toxic body so it is essential to start your weight-loss program with a detoxification program  that includes a digestive tract and lymphatic system cleanse and liver support. Continue with this throughout your weight-loss program so that the toxins move out and don’t get stuck.

LCHF no longer working so well for you?healthy

Perhaps you found that you were but are no longer losing weight on this diet? Could it be that you are eating too much protein?  Most people don’t realise that a significant percentage of excess protein will ultimately be converted to sugar and stored as fat.  You simply have to stick to the rules: protein portions should be no bigger than the area and thickness of the palm of you hand, minus fingers. And you simply have to include 5-7 cups of fresh vegetables and fruits daily to benefit from this type of eating plan. Without the fibre provided by these foods a clogged digestive system will be the order of the day. These foods are also your anti-oxidants, neutralising free radicals, keeping you healthy and slowing down ageing.

On the positive side

My intention is not to throw cold water on an eating plan that is working for you, all I ask is that you do not compromise your health for the sake of weight-loss. If followed correctly the LCHF diet can be very beneficial for most people as an every day eating plan.

The best news is that two positives have come out of everyone “banting” these days: the harmful refined carbs like sugar and flour are out and secondly, the no-fat and low-fat myths have been busted! Cheers to that!

For supplement advice you are welcome to email lynne@orchardsnutrition.co.za

 

SMOKING AND YOUR BABY

Mothers’ smoking during pregnancy is well-recognized as carrying a range of serious health risks for the unborn baby including fetal mortality, low birth weight, premature birth and a range of serious birth defects such as cleft palate, club foot and heart problems.

Heart defects

Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects, contributing to approximately 30 percent of infant deaths from birth defects annually. Tobacco exposure in the womb may be a huge contributing factor. According to study results published in the journal Pediatrics, women who smoke during the first trimester of pregnancy increase their unborn child’s risk of being born with congenital heart defects by 20 to 70 percent. The study, conducted  by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found a link between tobacco and defects that inhibit blood flow from the right side of the heart into the lungs and openings between the upper chambers of the heart.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)smoking when pregnant

SIDS, also known as cot death, is marked by the sudden death of an infant that is unexpected by medical history and remains unexplained after a thorough forensic autopsy and a detailed death scene investigation. However, studies show that infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy are three times more likely to die of SIDS than those whose mothers were smoke-free. Furthermore, exposure to secondhand smoke doubles a baby’s risk of SIDS. According to the US Surgeon General’s Report, infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine and conicotine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) in their body fluids than those who die from other causes. Yet another good reason to ditch the cigs. Quitting smoking is no easy task but it just has to be easier than grieving for a lost child!

Second hand smoke

A pregnant mother who does not smoke and breathes in secondhand smoke has a 23% higher chance of delivering a stillborn baby or a 13% higher chance of giving birth to a child with congenital birth defects.  This is what researchers from the University of Nottingham, England, revealed in the journal Pediatrics. As we still do not know when the effects of secondhand smoke may begin, it is important to protect women from environmental tobacco smoke not only during pregnancy, but also beforehand. Expectant fathers need to be aware of the harmful effects their smoking might have, and ultimately, in the interests of their partner and their unborn child, the best option would be to give up completely
(Men also need to know that smoking does have an impact on sperm development and hence the prospects of the resulting foetus. Please quit before you even try for a baby).

Enter third hand smoke.

Unheard of before but now thought to be the reason why babies who sleep in their parents’ bedrooms exhibit nicotine levels three times higher than those that sleep in another room – even though the parents don’t smoke in their bedroom. These figures show that they suffer from what is known as “third-hand smoke”, in other words the harmful smoke particles that impregnate their parents’ skin, clothes and hair. This third hand smoke – the invisible remains of cigarette smoke that deposits on carpeting, clothing, furniture and other surfaces – also poses a serious health hazard to babies crawling on carpets.

So what to do?
In view of all the above, the guidelines to parents are clear:

  • Do not smoke during pregnancy (mothers and fathers)
  • Never smoke or let anyone smoke near your baby
  • Never smoke or let anyone smoke in a room where your baby will sleep
  • If you smoke, do not sleep in the same room as your baby
  • Don’t hesitate to ask visitors not to smoke near your baby
  • Avoid visiting smokey places with your baby

 

Any of the above will make your baby smoke passively and increase his/her risk of health problems significantly. Baby will also be more prone to colds and airway infections and have an increased chance to develop asthma and other diseases. Quitting is the single most important thing a couple can do to give their baby a chance at better health. So how about quitting today!

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