Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D or calciferol is classified as a fat-soluble vitamin but has properties of a hormone and vitamin.  Oil-soluble vitamins can become toxic if taken in megadoses.  Vitamin D is called the "sunshine" vitamin because it is manufactured in the human skin when in contact with ultraviolet light from the sun's rays.  Vitamin D is related structurally to the hormones estrogen and cortisone.     

Main Functions and Uses:
Regulates calcium metabolism and normal calcification of the bones.
Helps increase the absorption of calcium from the intestines.
Necessary for thyroid function.
Necessary for normal blood clotting.
Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Important in the prevention and treatment of breast and colon cancer.
Normal growth and development of bones and teeth in children.
Prevents and cures rickets.
Prevents tooth decay.
Important in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, bone fractures, and hypocalcemia.
When taken with Vitamin A, has been used in the treatment of diabetes, cataracts, visual problems, allergies, sciatia pain, and skin problems.

Signs of deficiency:
Chronic pain, chronic kidney disease, Crohn's disease, hyperthyroidism, osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia, and rickets.

Signs of toxicity:
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin so excessive amounts may cause toxicity.  Common symptoms include excessive thirst, diarrhea, weakness, headaches, and bone pain.  Other symptoms may include abnormal calcification of soft tissues.  Symptoms usually decrease and disappear when megadoses are stopped.

Natural and food sources:
The sun is the best source of Vitamin D so get out in the sun for 20 minutes 3 or 4 times per week.  When that is not possible, Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, butter, fortified cereals and milks, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and shiitake and canterelle mushrooms.  For vegetarians, when sun exposure is not possible, it is wise to take a supplement to get enough vitamin D. 

Best supplement sources:
Fish or cod liver oil (Carlson's), Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), and Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).  Vitamin D3 is an animal source and Vitamin D2 is a plant source.  Vitamin D2 must convert to Vitamin D3 in the body and has limited functions, therefore Vitamin D3 is the preferable form because it is easily converted to the fully active Vitamin D3. 

Recommended daily amount:
400 IU - children
800 IU - adults
1,000 IU - adults 50+ or any menopausal woman

Vitamin D is best utilized by the body with Vitamin A so take it WITH a whole food mult-vitamin or IN a whole food multi-vitamin. Remember to combine what is already in the multi-vitamin with the oil if you are taking both. If you need 800 IU and your multi-vitamin has 400 IU, then you need to add another 400 IU from another source if you are not getting any sun exposure. Some multi-vitamins already have 800 IU of Vitamin D since the FDA has increased the minimum daily requirement.

Fish oil capsules

Drugs that interferes with absorption of Vitamin D - cholesterol lowering drugs, antacids, steroid hormones such as cortisone, and diuretics.
If you have liver disease, intestinal disorders, and gallbladder malfunction interfere with the absorption of Vitamin D.

Image: tungphoto /

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and an antioxidant.  Oil-soluble vitamins can become toxic if taken in megadoses.  Antioxidants are natural compounds that protect the body from free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage to cells and impair the immune system therefore leading to infections and disease.  Free radical damage is thought by scientists to be the basis of aging. 

Main Functions and Uses:
Skin - Needed for the maintenance and repair of the base layer of skin cells.
Eyesight - needed for the formation of rhodopsin which allows us to see at night therefore potects against night blindness. 
Bones and teeth - important in the formation and growth of bones and teeth.
Enhances and supports immunity.
Protects against colds and the flu.
Protects against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
Helps with skin disorders such as acne, wrinkling, and fading age spots.

Signs of deficiency:
Night blindness is one of the first signs of Vitamin A deficiency.  Other signs include dry hair and skin, dry eyes, poor growth, acne, frequent colds, and respiratory infections.

Signs of toxicity:
Taking large amounts of synthetic Vitamin A over long periods of time can be toxic mainly to the liver.  Signs of toxicity include abdominal pain, amenorrhea, enlargement of the liver, hair loss, itching, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, and birth defects.  Note: taking large amounts of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene does not cause problems unless your liver cannot convert beta-carotene to vitamin A (rare).

Food sources:
Apricots, asparagus, beet greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, carrots, cherries, collards, dandelion greens, dulse, cod liver oil (Carlson's), kale, lettuce, mango, mustard greens, papayas, parsley, peaches, pumpkin, red cabbage, red peppers, spinach, spirulina, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, turnip greens, water cress, watermelon, and yellow squash. 

Animal livers -  not recommended.

Best supplement sources:
Natural form of beta-carotene contained in a whole foods multi-vitamin.

Recommended daily amount:
5,000 IU - 10,000 IU

Drugs that interferes with absorption of Vitamin A - antibiotics, laxatives, some cholesterol-lowering drugs, and alcohol. 
If you have liver disease or pregnant, do not take more than 10,000 IU per day without your doctor's approval.

Image: Grant Cochrane /

Friday, December 2, 2011

Violent Video Games and the Brain

The debate continues on violent video games and how it may affect your brain of people (especially young people) who enjoy this activity.  Researchers are now saying that there are negative affects of playing violent video games based on a study of young men.  An fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play has tracked changes in sections of the brain associated with cognitive function and emotional control.  These are the areas that deal with aggressive behavior.  A good enough reason to take all video games, but especially violent games, off your gift giving list this holiday season.  For more information see the article Report Violent Video Games Alter Brain Patterns at

Image: smokedsalmon /

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Fruit Contains the Most Antioxidants?

Antioxidants minimize damage caused by free-radicals in your body.  If free radicals, agents in the body that weaken and destroy healthy tissue.  If free radicals are not eliminated they can overtake the body tissue and form tumors which can become malignant (cancerous).  Antioxidants helps prevent most chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, eye problems, dementia, and slows down aging.

The fruit with the highest amount of antioxidants and should probably be eaten on a daily basis is blueberries.  Most fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants so make sure you have at least 5 and preferrably 7-10 every day in an assortment of colours.  I eat fresh blueberries all summer and frozen in the winter.  Fresh blueberries go great with plain yogurt (organic or hormone-free) and fresh or frozen work well in smoothies, cereal, and in or on blueberry pancakes.   Try my  wheat-free blueberry pancakes for a healthy breakfast.   Have with a glass of non-dairy milk and/or organic turkey or vegan bacon for protein.  :)

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

5 Natural Ways to Alleviate Depression

This time of year, many people get depressed for many reasons.  Some include the pressure surrounding the holidays, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), exercising less, eating more unhealthily with all the "treats" around.  Here are five natural and effective ways to lift your spirits:

  1. Exercise.  This is the number one best way to lift your spirits.  If you are a summer sports person and you don't have a winter sport, then this time of year can be depressing.  Take up a winter sport like cross country skiing or ice skating.  If that is not practical, then buy some yoga (click on "Shopping" at the top for recommendations) or aerobics DVDs.  Join a health club or buy a treadmill and some barbells.  The bottom line is you need to move, especially in the winter months when most people are likely to eat more and move less.
  2. Get a good night's sleep.  Not sleeping well can make you irritable and depressed.  If you are having difficulty sleeping, then take melatonin or 5-HTP (increases the body's production of serotonin) before bed.  Also, take your calcium with magnesium before bed.  Calcium helps relaxation.
  3. Don't watch news, reality shows, or violent shows on your television.  There's much more good in the world then bad but unfortunately the media tends to highlight the worse of humanity.  Watch comedy shows.  Laughter reduces stress and depression. 
  4. Do not drink alcohol of any kind.  Alcohol is a depressant.
  5. Take a multivitamin and mineral complex, omega-3 fatty acids (needed for normal brain function and to reduce inflammation),  5-HTP (increases serotonin levels, the body's natural mood lifter), Vitamin B-complex (at least 50 mg each of this anti-stress vitamin), Vitamin C (for anti-stress and immune function) and zinc (found to be deficient on people with depression).    
Warning:  Do not take 5-HTP with anti-depressant drugs. 

Image: graur codrin /

10 Best Plants for Use as Natural Air Filters

Spider plant
Spider Plant

If you are going to buy a house plant for yourself or for someone as a gift, you might as well buy one that filters the air in your house.  The best plants for taking the toxins out of the air are the following:

  1. Aloe Vera - effective for removing formaldehyde (found in synthetic rugs, particle board furniture, and vinyl).  Aloe Vera can also be used for skin disorders such as sun burns.
  2. Chinese Evergreen - general air purifier.  Can be placed anywhere in the home.
  3. Elephant-Ear Philodendron - these leafy green vines have been proven to help remove formaldehyde from the air. They make great climbing and hanging plants.
  4. Ficus Alli - general indoor air toxin remover.  Looks great in a home or office.
  5. Golden Pathos - effective in removing formaldehyde from the air. Keep in a bright window, but not in direct sunlight, and water whenever the soil feels dry. These plants are tropical vines so they do best in a hanging basket or wherever they have the space to climb. Smaller specimens look great on tabletops.
  6. Peace Lily - excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Its ability to remove air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.
  7. Spider Plant - best plants for removing formaldehyde from the air.  Thrive in bright but indirect light.
  8. English ivy - this plant has been shown to remove Benzene from the air. They like medium light and evenly moist soil.  They make lovely hanging plants and also love to climb.  This effervescent plant has been noted as a fix for allergies because it has been found to vanish 60% of airborne mold and 58% of airborne feces in a room just 6 hours after it was brought in. Those with asthma, allergies, or the desire to breath cleaner, fresher air should give the English ivy a try.
  9. Boston Fern - ability to expel mold and toxins from indoor air. Plus, it’s will make any home or office more forest-like.
  10. Areca Palm Tree -dubbed the most efficient air humidifier, the Areca will keep your home or office moist during dry times and continuously remove chemical toxins from the air. During winter time, it can literally replace the use of electric humidifiers.
Photo credit:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Toxic Christmas Gifts

Don't know what to get someone for Christmas?  Here's a list of what you should not get anyone for Christmas because the gifts are toxic and not safe.  

  1. Candles - unless stated that the candle has a lead-free wick, you can assume the wick has lead.  Instead of buying candles, buy incandescent light bulbs as they will be become extinct sometime in 2012 and you will be forced to buy compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs with mercury in them or LED bulbs that are safer but very expensive.  If you drop a CFL bulb, the mercury will come out and you would need to take care in cleaning up the bulb.  If it drops on a carpet, you will have to cut the carpet out where it dropped.  Maybe using the CFL bulbs for the exterior of your house is fine but until the price of LEDs come down, I'm stocking up on incandescent bulbs.    
  3. Cell phones for children.  Cell phones emit radiation.  Brain cancer has increased in the last 20 years.  Some studies have shown that long-term use of cell phones increases your chances of brain cancer.  The greatest amount of radiation emitted from a cell phone is within a couple of inches from your head.  If your child already has a cell phone, then make sure they use headphones (same with you Mom and Dad).  Texting is safer than talking since the phone is not against their head.  However, do not text and drive as that would not be safer.  Males should not attach a cell phone to their belt when it is in the ON position.  At least face the cell phone away from the body so as not to get the full force of the radiation.
  4. Colognes and perfumes have several cancer causing chemicals.  If you do receive cologne or perfume you like, then spray it on your hair away from your scalp instead of on your skin.  Don't inhale the sprayed chemicals.  For gift giving, buy cologne or perfumes made with essential oils. 
  5. Bath products with sodium lauryl sulfate, dyes, propylene glycol, fragrances, and numerous other cancer causing additives.  Put together your own basket or gift bag with products without these additives.  Some good brands include Avalon Organics, Burt's Bees, and 365 (Whole Foods).  There are other toxic-free brands.  Just make sure you read the label.  Just like food, if you don't know what the ingredient is then don't buy the product.   
    USDA Organic or Nitrate-Free Only
  7. Processed meats and cheeses - these are loaded with nitrates, dyes, and added hormones, all of which have been shown to cause cancer.  Instead, put together a basket yourself with organic cheeses, organic lunch meats, whole grain crackers, and fresh fruit.  It will cost less and be healthier.

Happy Toxic-Free Holidays!


Photo credits:

Image: graur codrin /
Image: David Castillo Dominici /
Image: Robert Cochrane /

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Signs of an Economic Collapse

Black Friday at many stores became Freaky Friday.  People are so desperate to get there deal at the Big Box stores that they are willing to pepper spray and punch others in line to get a competitive edge.  Is this what the Christmas/Holiday season is all about or is this a sign of worse to come?

I decided to google "Signs of an Economic Collapse" and I got 17,900,000 results.  More and more violence is being reported in the news and on blogs.  Will it get worse?  How much worse?  Are there signs?  Let's see what some of the results of my search uncovered for signs of an economic collapse.  This is just a very small percentage of the "signs" but seems to be pretty consistent on several websites.

  1. More Americans are looking for temporary jobs in Canada.  Temporary visa applications have doubled since 2008.  I'm studying French myself.  Never know when you made need a second or third language. 
  2. Real unemployment is somewhere around 23% when you include part-time workers who can't find full-time jobs and when you add in short-term and long-term discouraged workers.  Compare that to 25% during the Great Depression.
  3. Student loan defaults have risen sharply last year.  Well of course they have.  How many graduates have found meaningful work related to their education since 2008?
  4. The number of households doubling up has increased 10.7% since 2007. 
  5. Flash mobs are robbing stores.  A mob of people, usually young, are going into stores, grabbing whatever they can and leaving.
  6. Alcohol consumption is at a 25 year high.  People tend to check out when things get really bad. 
  7. 1 in 10 Americans is on anti-depressants.  Same reason as number 6.
  8. Government tyranny is increasing including raids on organic farms, natural supplement companies, raw milk companies, arrest of people not vaccinating their children, etc.
  9. Gangs have increase 40% since 2009.  Currently there are approximately 1.4 million gang members.
  10. More than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid (health insurance for the poor), the highest on record and 17% higher than in 2007.
  11. The middle class is disappearing.  People are getting either richer or poorer, unfortunately more are falling into the "poorer" class.
  12. Bankruptcy rates are increasing. 
  13. The real estate market is still sluggish and is expected to be until at least 2014.  In most areas of the U.S., house values decreased during 2011 so far and is expected to keep dropping well into 2012. 
Does the above mean there will be an economic collapse or that we are already in one?  Many aspects of the economy do not look good so how do we explain the record sales on Black Friday?  Are people just tired of not spending and are throwing caution to the wind by running up their credit cards?  It is amazing how many people will stand for hours to get a $200 32" TV.   Are there really that many people desperate for a TV or is it just the deal they are after?  If I had no TVs, I still wouldn't stand in a line for hours at Walmart to get one. Maybe it's good practice for when they will be standing in bread lines should we have an economic collapse. Any thoughts on this craziness?   

See Elizabeth Warren on YouTube for her commentaries on the disappearing middle class and bankruptcy rates.

Friday, November 25, 2011

10 Money Saving Tips for Christmas

40% of all Christmas gifts are returned, donated, or thrown out.  That is an incredible waste of time, money, and landfill.  Not to mention the amount of wrapping paper that ends up in landfill.  What can we do to reduce this waste and reduce our time shopping for gifts.  So you don't break your piggy bank, here are some my suggestions: 
  1. Budget what you plan on spending.  Budget in total first with a 10% cushion for people you didn't plan on and then budget for each person on your list.  Stick to your budget.  If you don't use the 10% cushion, then spend it on yourself as a reward. 
  2. Plan your shopping trips.  Who are you shopping for and what are you buying.  Walking around aimlessly will only cause overspending mostly on yourself.
  3. Agree with family members to buy material gifts for the children only.  Limit the electronic gifts you give children.  Give them more creative for using their body and mind such as arts, crafts, books, board games, bicycles, balls, and jump ropes.  Make some of the gifts to children non-material in nature by creating coupons.  Some examples include letting them stay up pass their curfew, taking them to do something they love such as sledding, skating, or a movie of their choice, and exemption from chores for a week.  And make sure you let them use them when stated on the coupon.  
  4. Instead of exchanging material gifts, adults should agree to get together in February or March for a potluck dinner or to dine at a local restaurant and then maybe go to a concert, movie, or the theater.  February or March are good months because by then most people are tired of the cold and staying inside. 
  5. Give gifts that can be used up and not to purchase something material.  Gift certificate to someones favorite restaurant; gift certificate to attend a concert, play, musical, or movie;  gift certificates from a local company to perform a service -housecleaning, gardening, lawn care, cooking, etc., gift certificate for a service for which you have skills - massage, tax preparation, cooking, painting, repair service, babysitting, etc.
  6. Wrap gifts in paper bags (decorated or painted by your children) or newspaper and decorate with items from nature such as pine cones, holly, and small sticks.  Tie with natural string such as twine.
  7. Make your own Christmas cards if you are creative or send electronic cards.
  8. Do not put lighted decorations outside your house.  These are more for your neighbors entertainment than yours.  Plus someone always ends up in the hospital or dead every Christmas from falling off their house.  The average family spends an extra $50 - $100 in the month of December on electricity due to decorations.  Decorate inside where you'll see the decorations and use lights for the Christmas tree only if you wish.   
  9. If you are really short on cash, bake your gifts or put together a specialty basket (Michael's sells the baskets and paper).  Think about what each person would like most.  Give whole grain pasta, sauce, fresh Parmesan cheese, and a bottle of wine (start picking up wine when on sale) to someone who likes Italian food.  Give Spanish rice, salsa, tortilla shells, cheddar cheese, refried or pinto beans, peppers, and Mexican beer to someone who likes Mexican food.  For breakfast lovers, give them nitrite-free turkey bacon or sausage, homemade muffins, their favorite preserves, oatmeal, whole grain pancake mix, fresh fruit, and organic tea or coffee.  Bake breads, muffins, and/or cookies.  And please don't give fudge to your sister who has sworn off sugar or is trying to lose weight.   
  10. Don't buy Christmas gifts on December 26th for the next year unless it is generic in nature and you are sure it will be used.  Buying electronics is especially a bad idea.  Electronics change too fast.  What's in this year will be out by next year.  In addition, if something is wrong with the gift you won't be able to return it a year later.
Image: Daniel St.Pierre /

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

3 Most Important Nutritional Supplements

If you have limited funds and cannot afford to spend hundreds on supplements every month, which one or ones should you buy to get the biggest bang for your buck?  It is much more important to spend your money on the healthiest food then to buy any supplements.  So assuming you are already doing that, then the least below is in descending order.  Another words, if you can only buy one supplement then start with number 1 and keep adding the supplements until you can afford all.  

1.  Digestive enzymes with probiotics - enzymes are catalysts to digestion.  They help break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins along the digestive tract to be absorbed into the bloodstream for use in various bodily functions.  If you don't make enough digestive enzymes, you will have many of the following symptoms: bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, and pain.  The main digestive enzymes are amylase (breaks down carbohydrates), protease (breaks down protein), and lipase (breaks down fats).  Unless you consume a large amount of raw foods, you are probably not getting enough enzymes.  Foods high in enzymes include fresh papayas, bananas, avocados, and pineapples.  Probiotics are beneficial bacteria in your intestines. Many times we become ill due to the overpopulation of bad bacteria in our intestines. Some of these bad guys include staphylococci, salmonella, and camphylobacteria. Populating your intestines with probiotics will promote healthy intestinal flora. Probiotics will kill these bad guys or at least out-number them. It is especially important to take a probiotic supplement if you are taking antibiotics since antibiotics will kill off ALL bacteria in your intestines, good and bad. This is a common reason women get yeast infections while taking antibiotics. Common probiotics include bifidobacterium bifidum and lactobacillus acidophilus.  Many of us don't eat the fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt (plain), and miso to get enough probiotics.  Also as we get older, digestive enzymes and probiotics decrease.  Digestive enzymes and probiotics can be purchased together or separately.  Without sufficient digestive enzymes, the nutrients from foods and other supplements will not be completely digested.  Without enough probiotics in your intestines, you resistance to illness and infections will be lower.  For more on probiotics see my posting Benefits of Probiotics.

2.  Multi-vitamin with minerals - this is to cover all the bases.  One that is make from whole foods like Alive is preferable.  Vitamins and minerals work in synergy meaning that many will not be absorbed without several of the others.  For instance taking calcium alone won't work as well as taking calcium with magnesium and Vitamin D. Make sure your vitamin has a balanced Vitamin B amounts (at least 25 mg each) and the d-alpha (not dl-alpha which is synthetic) form of Vitamin E.  Cheaper vitamins will not have sufficient B vitamins or the natural form of vitamin E.  You get what you pay for in multi-vitamins.  Note: Do not buy with iron unless you are a menstruating woman.  Men, menopausal women, and children do not need added iron.

3.  Vitamin C - there are such small amounts of Vitamin C in multi-vitamins, it is wise to add more of this incredible supplement.  Besides being an  anti-oxidant, it is required in over 300 hundred metabolic functions (that we know of) in the body including tissue growth and repair, healthy gums, and adrenal gland function.  It has been shown to reduce the length and severity of the common cold but not the number of colds someone gets in a year. Besides enhancing immunity, Vitamin C also prevents cancer, reduces symptoms of asthma, protects against harmful pollutants, and is anti-aging (builds collagen).  When purchasing Vitamin C, Ester C is preferable especially if you have a sensitive stomach.  Bioflavonoids are essential for the absorption of Vitamin C, so make sure it comes with them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Prozac for Dogs?

The FDA has approved Prozac, an anti-depressant for dogs.  Is your dog depressed?  How can you tell and should you give your dog Prozac to make him/her happier?  We give ourselves Prozac, our kids Ritalin, so why not give our pets anti-depressants?  We can't deal with life so why should our pets deal with life?  This is the most ridiculous piece of health news I've read all year.  The FDA and Eli Lilly who manufacturers Prozac should be ashamed of themselves.  This is just another way for Eli Lilly to add to their billions?  Who is going to pay for Prozac for their pets?  Will this be covered under pet insurance if you have it?

Let's get to the basics.  Why would your dog be depressed in the first place?  A dog would only be depressed if leave them alone for several hours every day without any interaction.  A dog would especially get depressed if you leave them chained up outside all day and night.  They would also get depressed if they are in a small crate all day.  Only puppies should be left in a crate until they are housebroken.  Leaving your dog in a crate or chaining them is cruel.  Dogs are social creatures.  They need lots of stimulation and interaction and their owners.  If you were chained to a pole all day, would you be happy?  Of course not.  If you feel you have no time for your pet, then maybe it is time to give your pet to someone who has the time your pet deserves instead of resorting to drugs.  Please keep in mind the risks of giving Prozac to your dog.  There are people who have become aggressive and have committed suicide while taking Prozac.  Maybe your dog can't commit suicide (although he may want to), he may become aggressive and maybe bite someone.  If he does bite someone, you may have to put him down.    

So what can you do if your dog has behavioral problems?  First of all, dogs are social creatures.  They need daily exercise, social interaction, love, and good nutrition just like you.  A dog that does not get all three can develop behavioral problems.  If you love your dog, do not ever chain them to anything or crate them for hours.  Exercise them every day, interact with them, and let them stay indoors especially during  hot or cold weather.   They are part of the family and should be treated that way.  Don't leave a solitary dog alone for more than 4 or 5 hours at a time.  4 or 5 hours to a dog feels like days.  Get another dog for company if you must leave for long periods of time  frequently.    Keep your dogs in one small room in your house (a large bathroom or large closet is fine if they are small dogs).  They tend to get into more mischief if they have too much space.   

Lastly, stop feeding your pets highly processed commercial pet food with by-products, additives, dyes, preservatives, and added sugar.  It's like feeding your kids fast food every day.  The additives, dyes, and preservatives can cause behavioral problems including hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and insomnia in dogs just as they can with your children.  Highly processed commercial pet foods will also increase your pet's risk of many diseases including cancer and diabetes.  They are cheaper but you will pay with higher veterinarian bills later.  The best food for your dog is organic chicken, brown rice, and vegetables with added supplements.  See my posting  Pet Health  for more information on dog nutrition.  If you cannot afford to do this, then at least buy organic canned pet food.  Make sure the USDA organic label is on the can.  Organix is a good brand.  Your dog will live longer and be healthier and happier.

If you dog still has behavioral problems after making the above changes, then you may want to try Rescue Remedy, homeopathic remedies, or other natural remedies (see link below).  I have only used Rescue Remedy with and the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica on my pets.  If you want to try a homeopathic remedy, you should probably consult with a holistic veterinarian to evaluate your pet for the remedy that would work best.  You may also want to hire a professional dog trainer.          

Resource for natural remedies:

Photo credit:
Image: akeeris /

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Why don't we just teach our children to abstain from sex or practice safe sex and eat well to keep their immune systems strong instead of subjecting them to this dangerous vaccine?  Even if you or your child get the virus, it is not a guarantee that you will get cancer.  The pharmaceuticals companies would like you to believe that you are doomed to get cancer if you contact the virus so the only answer is to be vaccinated.  What they don't tell you is that the vaccine does not cover all strains of the HPV virus.  Many people contact the virus and never get cancer or are able to fight off the virus if they live a very healthy lifestyle.  

Are the risks of the side affects of the HPV vaccine worth it?  Although rare, children have died from the HPV vaccine.   One young girl stopped talking and walking, and sleeps all day after getting her third injection in the series with the HPV vaccine Cervarix. 

You need to decide for yourself but my child will not be getting this vaccine.  In the meantime, check out the following articles and news on the HPV vaccine.

Image: sscreations /

Monday, November 14, 2011

Improving Indoor Air Quality

Winter is just around the corner.  In most areas of the country the temperatures will drop and people will keep their windows and doors shut tight.  This is great for conserving energy but not for your health.  If you keep your windows and doors shut for weeks and months, toxins start to build up indoors to a point where the air indoors becomes more toxic than the air outdoors.   If you use toxic chemicals to clean such as chlorine bleach, chemical window cleaner, and aerosal furniture polish then the toxic levels will rise even quicker.   If you also use air fresheners, spray chemical pesticide indoors, or installed synthetic carpet within the past year, then you are garanteed unsafe toxic levels in your house this winter.  If you have frequent headaches or allergy symptoms during the winter, household toxins may be the reason why.  Here are some suggestions to keep your indoor air fresher through the winter.

  • Substitute chemical cleaning products for natural products.  Go to Eco-cycle  for recipes.  Most cleaning products can be made from vinegar, water, baking soda, washing soda, dish soap, and/or borax.
  • Ventilate your house by opening a window or two in every room once a week for 15 minutes to an hour even in the winter.  This is especially important in the bedroom since we spend at least 8 hours per day.  
  • Avoid air fresheners.  They cost money and emit toxins.  The air in your house should smell fresh and not like roses unless you have roses in the house.  The best air freshener for a house is cooking.  Bake something or make some soup.  Your house will smell great.  Just remember to turn on the venting fans. 
  • Turn on the venting fans when you cook or take a shower.  It is especially important to turn on the venting fans if you cook with gas.
  • Don't use pesticide sprays anywhere inside your house.  Getting rid of insects yourself or using natural methods is much better than poisoning your children and pets.  For natural ways to get rid of pests, check out
  • Get a good "Welcome" mat for all entrances to your house.  Better yet, don't wear your shoes in the house.  Even if you don't use fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides, you will track them in from other places along with petroleum residue from vehicles.
  • If you dry clean your clothes, then switch to one that uses green or eco-friendly products to dry clean.  Better yet, don't buy clothes that need dry cleaning.  Dry-cleaned clothes release highly toxic chemicals.  If you can't find an eco-friendly dry cleaners and you must dry clean, then take the plastic off the clothes and air outside or near an open window for at least an hour before hanging in your bedroom closet.
  • When replacing carpets, substitute real hardwood floors with natural area carpets.  If that is not possible, then make sure you open your windows to air out and vacuum every day for at least a couple of months after installing.  As long as you can smell that new carpet, it is highly toxic, especially to kids and pets who usually spend their day much closer to the floor.
  • Use paints with no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or at least low odor VOC paints the next time you paint.  Paint only when windows can be opened while painting.  If painting a bedroom, especially a child's bedroom, have them sleep in another room for a couple of evenings.  This is crucial if you are using paints with any amount of VOCs.
  • Consider buying an air purifier with a HEPA filter especially if you have problems with allergies. HEPA filters to reduce levels of pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens in the air.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter for the same reasons as above. 

 Happy fresh air breathing this winter!



Image: Simon Howden /

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kids and Cholesterol Testing

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending that every child between the ages of 9 and 11 be screened for cholesterol and then screened again between the ages of 17 and 21.  Is this good news, is this testing necessary, and should your child be tested?  This is good news for parents that have children that are obese or had high cholesterol themselves at a young age.  Why? Because the testing will now be covered by most health insurance plans since the recommendations come from the AAP.  However, the bad news is how much unnecessary testing will be performed and what will be the increase in statin drugs prescribed to children?

Should your child be tested?  If your child is normal weight, eats a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and there is no history of high cholesterol in your family then the test is probably a waste of money.  In this case, we are adding to the ever increasing health care costs unnecessarily.  If your child is obese, does not exercise, and there is a history of high cholesterol in your family, then you should definitely have your child tested.  The gray area is every child in between these two scenarios.  If your child is overweight (but not obese) and there is no history of high cholesterol in your family, then maybe your child would probably due well with an improvement in diet and some exercise.   Parents will have to weigh the risks of testing versus not testing based on their children's individual risk factors.

What's the risks of testing?  Say you get your child tested and it turns out he/she has high cholesterol.  Now you have another decision to make.  Should your child go on statin drugs?  If your doctor recommends statin drugs for your child without recommending lifestyle changes, then you need to ask your child's pediatrician two things.  Is it absolutely necessary for your child to take the statin drug, ie. is his/her life at risk in the near future without the drugs?  Can he/she recommend lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) instead of drugs?  If your child's pediatrician does not recommend lifestyle changes for your child and insists on the drugs alone, then find another doctor because he/she is either ignorant of nutrition and preventative medicine, owns stock in the pharmaceutical company that is manufacturing the drug, or is plain lazy or stupid.  Go to an alternative health practitioner such as a naturopath or a doctor with alternative medicine training. 

There has been no long-term testing of statin drugs on children.  Like all prescription drugs, statin drugs have serious risks and side affects (including muscle and liver damage) on adults so it is safe to assume that the risks are higher for children.  Instead of teaching our children to eat healthy and exercise, we should give them another pill?  Along with Prozac and ADD medication, many children will now be taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol.  Prescription drugs are dangerous to adults (over 100,000 people die every year due to prescription drugs) so lets keep making our children lab rats for Big Pharma so they can further increase their profits.  We're currently experimenting on our children with vaccines (especially HPV and hepatitis B), ADD meds, and anti-depressants.  What's one more drug?  The answer is one more drug too many. 

So, what lifestyle changes should your child make to lower cholesterol?  If your child is not moving, get them moving at least 5 times per week for at least half an hour.  Start with walking outside or on a treadmill.  Make it fun for them.  Biking, playing tennis, and soccer are all good exercises.  Improve your child's (and your) diet by doing the following:

  1. Eliminate soft drinks or reduce to one per week as a treat.
  2. Eliminate trans fats or hydrogenated oils.  Read labels carefully.
  3. Eliminate red meats including beef, pork, and lamb.  Chicken breasts and eggs are fine. Although eggs have cholesterol, the lecithin in the eggs break down the cholesterol.  Make sure the eggs are organic as they have the highest amount of lecithin and no added hormones.
  4. Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet to at least 6 per day.  The easiest way to do this is by making soups.  Click on the Recipes page above to find some great healthy soup recipes. 
  5. Eliminate cheese except for fresh grated Parmesan cheese (organic or Trader Joe's or Tillamook brands if you can't afford organic as these have no added hormones) over pastas or soups.
  6. Replace white flour products with whole grain products for pasta and breads.
  7. Add a good multi-vitamin with mineral supplement made with whole foods such as the brand Alive.  Do not use the supplement as a replacement for eating healthy. 
Note:  Before starting any exercise or diet program, get the approval of your primary health practitioner.


Controversy Over Cholesterol Testing for Children

Friday, November 11, 2011

Maple Pecan Muffins

These muffins are tasty, nutritious, and low in calories if you want to make something in a hurry for breakfast.  For vegans, use oil instead of butter and an eggless substitute.

Preparation Time: 5 - 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 - 18 minutes
Number of servings: 12

1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup of unbleached white flour  (use wheat flour to increase fiber)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of chopped pecans

1/3 cup of maple syrup (real maple syrup)
1 tablespoon of soft butter or oil
1 egg (organic)
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of real vanilla (not vanillin)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.   Stir in nuts.  Beat syrup and butter or oil, and add the egg.  Add water, vanilla, and the dry ingredients.  Stir just enough to mix.  Spoon into muffin tin and bake 15 - 18 minutes.   

Nutritional information per serving (1 muffin):

Calories: 135
Fat -   1.5 grams
Fiber -  4 grams (if using all wheat flour - 5 grams)
Sugar -  6 grams 
Protein - 3.5  grams

Thursday, November 10, 2011

8 Myths Regarding Homeopathy

What is homeopathy?  Homeopathy is a system of medicine which involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, given mainly in tablet form, with the aim of triggering the body’s natural system of healing. Based on their specific symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to each patient. For any condition, there are many possible remedies, allowing the practitioner to find the one remedy that most accurately fits his/her clients symptoms.

The purpose is using homeopathic remedies is to stimulate the mind and body to heal itself on all levels rather than suppressing symptoms like conventional medicine.  Homeopathy is based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’, that is, a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms. For example, drinking too much coffee can cause sleeplessness and agitation, so according to this principle, when made into a homeopathic medicine, it could be used to treat people with these symptoms. This concept is sometimes used in conventional medicine.  For example, small doses of allergens such as pollen are sometimes used to de-sensitize clients allergic to pollen. However, the major difference with homeopathic medicines is that substances are used in ultra-high dilutions, which makes them completely safe and non-toxic.

There are many myths regarding homeopathy.  Listed below are some of the most common.

Myth 1.  There is no research that shows that homeopathic medicines work.
Most clinical research studies conducted with homeopathic medicines is usually performed using one homeopathic remedy and without any regard for individualized treatment which is typical of classical homeopathy.  For instance, the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica may help one person with a headache and the homeopathic remedy Belladonna may help another.  It all depends on the individuals symptoms.

Myth 2.  Research studies showing that homeopathic medicines work are poorly conducted.
Studies showing the efficacy of homeopathic medicines have been published in many well know journals including the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Cochrane Reports, Chest (the publication of the British Society of Rheumatology), Cancer (the journal of the American Cancer Society), Journal of Clinical Oncology (journal of the Society of Clinical Oncology), Human Toxicology, European Journal of Pediatrics, and many more.  All studies were randomized, double-blind, and placebo controlled.

Myth 3.  Homeopathic medicine has been diluted so much it is rendered useless.  Ironically, the more diluted a homeopathic remedy, the stronger it's affect on the symptoms.  Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, discovered that substances that were highly diluted and shaken between each dilution had a more powerful healing affect than those that were less diluted, and therefore, shaken less.  Hahnemann believed that by taking a particular diluted substance that was in harmony with the "vital force" (living presence in a person that controlled the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of a person's well-being or illness and related to their spirit) it would restore balance where the vital force had become out of balance. 

Myth 4.  If we do not understand how homeopathic medicines work, then they must not work.
How many more times in history do scientists and others need before they realize that we do not understand a lot of nature's mysteries, but our lack of understanding does not mean that the mysteries are not real.

Myth 5.  Homeopathic treatments are for humans only.
Homeopathic remedies can also be used on animals. Animals can be treated for many ailments including stress, anxiety, allergies, vomiting, and pain.

Myth 6.  Homeopathic medications should not be used with modern medications.
Homeopathic medications can work well with modern medications. For example, people going through chemotherapy have lessened the side effects with the help of homeopathic treatments.  However, some medications may interfere with homeopathic remedies and render them neutral.  The less medication used using homeopathic remedies, the better chance the remedy will work. 

Myth 7.  All homeopathic treatments for a certain disease work for all people.
Homeopathic medicine treats every person differently. Unlike traditional medicine, which provides a single medication for a condition, a single homeopathic remedy will not treat every person who has the same disease or medical condition. The right remedy depends on the specific physical and emotional symptoms of an individual. 

Myth 8.  You can treat yourself once you have gained knowledge about homeopathic medicine.
For acute conditions such as flu and colds, this can be true. Everyone should have the most common homeopathic remedies available for acute conditions in their First Aid kit.  But treatment of chronic and complicated diseases such as joint pain or diabetes requires the expertise of a well-trained homeopathic practitioner.


Wauters, Ambika, (2007), The homeopathy bible, New York: Sterling Publishing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Does Yeast Extract Contain MSG, an Excitotoxin?

Does yeast extract have MSG?  What exactly is yeast extract?  According to Wikipedia, yeast extract is the common name for various forms of processed yeast products made by extracting the cell contents (removing the cell walls).  They are used as food additives or flavourings, or as nutrients for bacterial culture media. They are often used to create savory flavors and savory taste sensations. Yeast extract, like MSG, often contains free glutamic acid.  Glutamic acid is an excitotoxin.  If you read my prior post on excitotoxins, you are well aware that excitotoxins kill brain neurons and are linked to many neurological diseases.  Diseases in which neurons are killed off include Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's.  If you have no interest in getting any of these diseases then read labels carefully. 

Many "natural" foods contain yeast extract.  Products such as Sun Chips and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies are just two of them.  I've also noticed yeast extract and autolyzed yeast extract (another excitotoxin) in some vegetarian meats such as the ground meats and Boca burgers.   Here is the list of ingredients of one of my favorite vegetarian burgers; the Boca Chik'n burger from the Boca website (see link in resources).  This version is made with non GMO soy as noted below.  They have a version with GMO soy???  Why would Boca even make such a product?  Also note that there are corn products.  Corn is likely to be with GMOs unless specified.  I underlined the ingredients likely to have MSG or glutamic acid but there are many other suspicious items such as "natural flavor", "dried yeast", "modified cellulose", and browned in-expeller pressed oleic safflower oil.  Good-bye Boca Burger!


Do not consume these products or any products with excitotoxins if you care about the health of your brain.  For more detailed information on excitotoxins and a list of major sources, see my post called  Excitotoxins - Dangers of Aspartame and MSG


Sunday, November 6, 2011

12 Holiday Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

Many people gain some weight during the holidays.  That's one reason why health club memberships are at their highest in the month of January.  It's not only New Year's resolutions that drive people into joining a health club.  It's those 5 - 10 pounds on their hips and bellys.  So before you waste money on a health club membership (a majority of people stop going by February), here are some tips to not gain weight in the first place.  Keep in mind that the goal (in November and December) is to stay at your current weight and not try to lose weight at this time of year.  You can resume losing weight in January when there is less temptation.     

  1. Increase your exercise routine for the next two months.  Add another 20 - 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine or add a couple of more days of exercise to your week if you are exercising 4 or less days per week.   If you currently don't exercise at all, then start exercising now and through the holidays.  Don't wait until January like everyone else after putting on weight.  Start now!  Even 1/2 hour of walking outside or on a treadmill 4 or 5 times a week will increase your metabolism and burn enough calories to keep help keep additional weight gain off.  
  2. Eat something healthy before going to a holiday party or before eating large holiday meals.  Eating a small healthy bowl of soup, a piece of fruit, steamed or raw vegetables before going to a party will curb your appetite for snacking and give you more will power to resist the irresistable.
  3. Don't drink your calories.  Stay away from most drinks especially mixed drinks and eggnog because they are extremely high in calories and sugar.   If you don't feel it's a party unless you have a drink of alcohol, limit your alcoholic beverages to either 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or club soda with a little cranberry juice.  Drinking too much will inevitably cause a bad night of sleeping, a hangover, and the inevitable chowing down of junkfood the next day.  
  4. Choose your food wisely.  Choice lower fat and lower sugar alternatives at holiday meals.  You can still enjoy yourself and not leave the table feeling like the stuffed turkey you ate.  Choose larger portions of "pure" vegetables such as mashed potatoes, green beans, and butternut squash.  Pure vegetables mean those with little additives.  They may be steamed with a little butter and salt.  Choose smaller portions of vegetables with added sugar such as cranberries sauce or yams with marshmallows and omit vegetables with many processed ingredients such as the infamous green bean casserole made with crispy french fried onion onions and cream of mushroom soup.  Choose turkey breast or vegetarian meat (if available) over dark meat or beef.  Stuffing is usually high in calories and most people eat it with gravy so omit the stuffing too or take a very small portion.  Lastly, stay away from the rolls and butter.  The stuffing and the rolls are what really tip most people into the "stuffed like a turkey" zone.         
  5. Choice one dessert at each party or dinner.  A small dish (1/2 cup) of sorbet or ice cream, or a small slice of pumpkin pie is healthier and lower in calories then pecan pie, cheese cake, cakes, or fruit pies.     
  6. Get enough sleep every night.  Being tired increases hunger for food, especially junkfood.
  7. Bring your potluck dish from the supermarket.  If you are asked to bring a dish to a potluck party, pick it up at the supermarket.  The temptation is to great if you are asked to make dishes at home, especially desserts, to make extra for yourself.
  8. Don't stand near the buffet table.  Bring humus for dipping and eat with fruits, vegetables, string cheese and a small amount of almonds instead.   It is much easier to add on the empty calories by eating chips, dip, pretzels, and breads. You will feel fuller quicker by eating high protein foods such as cheese, nuts, and humus and by eating low calorie, high fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables. Stay away from the creamy dips such as ranch or sour cream as they are the highest in calories and fat.  Salsa is another good alternative besides humus.  After putting a few snacks on your plate, walk far away from the buffet table to eat them.  What you don't see won't tempt you nearly as much as what's in front of your face. 
  9. Manage stress.  Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.  Look at the holidays realistically and plan accordingly.  Get your shopping done early or earlier than prior years and know that family get togethers can be stressful but will be over soon.
  10. Wear tight, but not uncomfortably tight, clothing.  By all means don't wear your baggiest pants or skirt to a party or dinner because you want to leave room to "expand" because your wish will come true.
  11. Buddy up with someone else.  Find a friend who you can talk to through the holidays when your will power is weakening.  Help keep each other on track.
  12. Weigh yourself frequently during the holidays.  Weighing yourself frequently during the holidays will help you avoid the shock of seeing 10 pounds suddenly added to your weight.  You'll be able to stop any serious weight gain by cutting back on food and/or increasing your exercise routine sooner rather than later.       

Note:  Please get approval from your doctor before starting any exercise or diet program.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Weight Loss Tip #9 - Exercise Before Breakfast

So when is the best time to exercise for maximum weight loss or for health? 
Research has shown that people who exercise first thing in the morning are more likely to stick to the routine.  Why?  Because they have no reason to come up with an excuse later in the day.  The most common excuses are being too tired and having to work late.  Exercising in the morning also increases your metabolism and increases your energy for the whole day.  First thing in the morning means right after you get out of bed and before breakfast.  You should have an 8 ounce glass of water.  You haven't had anything to drink for 6 - 10 hours so even if you are not thirsty, your body is dehydrated.  People also tend to be stiffer in the morning so be sure to stretch for at least 5 minutes before and after exercising.  Don't have time in the morning?  Then set your alarm for an hour earlier.  Exercise should consist of alternating days of aerobics and weight lifting.  Aerobics need only be 20 - 30 minutes and may consist of fast walking, jump roping, hula hoop, or by using your favorite aerobics DVD.  If you have more time, playing tennis, racquetball, or biking is great exercise and more fun.  Weight lifting need only be 30 - 40 minutes long.  You don't need a gym or health club membership.  Just buy some dumbbells.  I own 8, 10, 15, and 20 pound sets.  If you've never lifted weights, you might want to start with 5, 8, and 10 pound sets.  Another good tip is to log your exercise time in a book.  That way you can see how your improving week to week.  A good book on exercise with daily progress report sheets is Body for Life by Bill Phillips.

The downside to exercising in the morning is injury.  Since people are stiffer in the morning, injury is more likely.  Exercising in the afternoon before dinner is the next best time.  Unfortunately, at this time, many people have little energy so it may be more difficult to get motivated.  If you have no problem getting motivated and prefer afternoons over mornings then by all means exercise in the afternoon.  The bottom line is exercising at any time (except within two hours of sleeping) is better then not exercising at all.      

Note:  Before starting any exercise or diet program, get your primary physician's prior approval. 

Image: Ambro /

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healthy Vegetarian Soup

Preparation Time:  20 - 30 minutes
Cook Time:  ~ 60 minutes
Servings:  6-8 


32 ounces (4 cups) of vegetable broth (Trader Joe's has a good organic one) or one can with one cup of water of organic tomato sauce (Walmart).

5 - 7 cups of water depending on how thick you like your soup

1/3 cup of uncooked, rinsed whole grains (barley, quinoa, and/or brown rice) 
1 tablespoon of organic butter
3 large carrots cut into small pieces
3 large or 6 small russet or yellow potatoes cut into small pieces

1 large or 2 small onions diced
Spices and herbs: sea salt (about 1 teaspoon), black pepper, poultry seasoning, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, cumin, and turmeric.  Add cayenne pepper if you like it spicy. The amount of seasonings should be added to your liking.  Stay away from seasonings that contain MSG like the brand Accent.  

Optional vegetables - kale, sweet potatoes, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, and/or celery diced

1/3 cup of lentils or 1 cup of navy or kidney beans, (1/2 cup if using dry - soak for at least 8 - 12 hours). 1/2 package of vegetarian ground meat can be added for a heartier soup or substituted for the beans.


Saute the onions in the butter in a large pot until translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well.  Bring to a boil.   Stir ingredients again.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 60 minutes.  Taste and add more spices if desired.

This soup is great hearty, healthy soup (low sodium, low fat, and low calorie) for the winter months. For a more detoxing effect, add some of the optional vegetables. Every time I make the soup, which is at least once a week from November to March, it is a little different from the prior one depending on what vegetables, grains, beans, and spices I have available. Put the leftovers in quart mason jars in your refrigerator.  It tastes even better reheated. Please do not reheat in the microwave. You are destroying many of the nutrients.