Archive for Health & Nutrition

Sleep Much? (Part I)

There is no more restorative agent than sleep.  While one sleeps protein synthesis occurs.  This is crucial because protein synthesis is the activity that lays the foundation for the proper functioning of all the cells in the body.  During protein synthesis tissues are healed and physical and mental processes are restored.  There is also an emotional healing component and perceptual learning occurs while one is asleep.  Perceptual learning is the ability to discern the meaning of what we encounter through our senses of touch, taste, see, hear, or smell.  If any of these processes are short-circuited, then the whole person suffers as the body is not able to heal or restore itself.

An Interesting Sleep Study…

In 1987, Thomas Wehr, a psychiatrist from the National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a study using 15 men imitating the light exposure in the midst of the dead of winter in middle latitudes and its effect on sleep patterns.  Various indicators were monitored throughout each night such as temperature, hormones, brain waves, etc.  For comparison another set of measurements was taken later on when the men slept for only 7 to 8 hours as is more common today.

The results of the first study was amazing.  “As the study volunteers adjusted to their artificial circumstances, their sleep patterns relaxed into distinct phases. The men slept only about an hour more than normal, but the slumber was spread over about a 12-hour period. They slept for about four to five hours early on, and another four to five hours or so toward morning, the two sleep bouts separated by several hours of quiet, distinctly nonanxious wakefulness in the middle of the night. The early evening sleep was primarily deep, slow-wave sleep and the morning episode consisted largely of REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep characterized by vivid dreams. The wakeful period, brain wave measurements indicated, resembled a state of meditation.” [1]  The total hours equaling approximately nine hours per night.  Up until as little as one hundred years ago our ancestors slept nearly nine hours per night, just as the men in this study with all the external stimulation minimized.

Imagine the bliss of a full nine hours of sleep each night for even one week!

It’s Prolactin, More or Less

When people are sleeping with no artificial light at all they generally sleep twice every night.  Called biphasic or bi-modal sleep, they go to bed around 8 p.m. and wake up around midnight, then sleep again from about 2 a.m. until daybreak.  The hours in between first sleep and second sleep reveal a surge of prolactin that modern-day monophasic sleepers never experience.

In biphasic sleep between the first and second sleeps a higher level of prolactin is a secreted than when people sleep in one full “sleep” from evening until morning.  As we know it, prolactin is that hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and lactation in women.  It is also necessary in males and non-lactating females at low levels to produce a feeling of sexual satisfaction.  In birds, prolactin is the hormone that causes them to go broody and contentedly sit on their eggs for extended periods of time.  It is this same hormone that also that produces the feeling of peace and contentedness in the wake phase between first and second sleep in biphasic sleep.

In Dr. Wehr’s study it was found that the men’s prolactin release was linked to the onset of darkness.  During the long 14-hour nights, prolactin doubled shortly before sleep and remained high for the whole first sleep, wake, and then second sleep phases.  However, once men returned to a modern eight-hour nightly sleep, the prolactin released stayed the same, but here is the clincher, it was restricted to that shortened time frame.  Instead of 12 to 14 hours of increased prolactin each night, men are now getting at best eight hours, but likely much less.

This raises questions.  One of them being, how does a minimum of six hours less prolactin release per night affect male physiology overall?  Researchers know that men with prolactin deficiency often struggle with impotence and depression.  WebMD states, “The research, published in the August 2003 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that ED is common among older men and sexual function sharply decreases after age 50.”[2]  Perhaps this is a hidden contributing factor to erectile dysfunction (ED) that ought to be explored.

It is interesting to note that the people in these studies feel so awake during the daytime that they say they have never experienced true wakefulness before in their lives.

Back in the Day…

Sleep prior to the 1600s included biphasic sleeping, a practice that most would be unfamiliar with today.  This type of sleep described in literature as ‘first sleep’ and ‘second sleep was still a common occurrence with country folk or “laborers” as late as the 19th century.  As the range of night, especially in the winter season could be as much as 12 hours in duration, people would commonly sleep for three or four hours and then wake for two or three hours, and later return to sleep until daybreak. 

Those hours in the middle of the night were used for many reflective tasks such as prayer and meditation, reading, and studying, and sometimes other mundane tasks such as tending the fire, sewing, or chopping wood.  Yet typically, this time was primarily one of reflection or socialization.  If one was out and about and a neighbor had candlelight emanating from their dwelling that would signal someone was awake and ready for a bit of a social visit!

Illuminate the Night

In the preindustrial era until the industrial revolution, biphasic sleeping continued in rural areas while, towns and cities were having natural gas lanterns installed as street lights and even as a method of illuminating the interior of homes and industry.

This was readily accepted, especially by the wealthy, as lighting was useful to discourage theft as well as to provide opportunity for people to move about after dark.

In those early days of in-home lighting aristocrats continued to sleep in biphasic fashion, however, they began to go to sleep later, wake briefly, and then awake from second sleep much later, well into the morning.

A doctor from the 1500s explained the reason why the working class conceived more children than city dwellers was “that they typically had sex after their first sleep.” [3]   While there is something to be said for romance, it makes sense that many women, especially busy mothers, might enjoy three or four hours of recuperative sleep before intimacy.  The first phase of sleep is an extremely important restorative phase of sleep.  We will discuss this in more detail later.

Historian A. Roger Ekirch found that “references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th century. This is thought to have started in the upper classes in Northern Europe and filtered down to the rest of Western society over the next 200 years.  Interestingly, the appearance of sleep maintenance insomnia in the literature in the late 19th century coincides with the period where accounts of split sleep start to disappear.”[4]  As people began to deny their natural biological rhythms to stay up into the evening, they became more fatigued upon awaking. 

Although a number of early experimenters contributed to the invention of the incandescent light bulb, Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison developed a better design and Edison had the funds to commercialize the product.  It was not long before he introduced the incandescent light bulb in New York City in 1882.

In May 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”.  For the most part, this rural electrification was accomplished in the 1950s, yet even before that cities and towns were electrified.  Street lights and urban homes already had the luxury of illuminating the night, causing the body’s biorhythms which had been embraced since the dawn of mankind to be ignored.

Work More, Sleep Less

World War II (1939-1945) called many women to the workforce.  They were needed in these jobs to replace the men who had joined the military.  Where before the war began most women fulfilled a culturally-accepted role of homemaker and child-raiser, now a full-time job beyond their full day’s work was not only encouraged, it became expected.

A famous cultural icon of this era was “Rosie the Riveter.”  Rosie the Riveter stood for the many women who took factory jobs building aircraft, producing ammunition, and other supplies in support of the war effort.  Long work hours added to family life also served to increase their daily stress.

Once having entered the workforce, many women continued to work after the war efforts ceased.  The additional income helped the family to afford luxuries or “extras” that soon became necessities such as cars, store-bought food (because they no longer had the time nor the energy to garden.)  Unfortunately, for the working mother, with the hours demanded by both job and family and the changing societal beliefs about sleep, the only place that could ‘give’ was her precious time for sleep.

Play More, Sleep Even Less

The 1950s saw the dawning of the age of technology.  As the days continued to be filled with work and increased stress, people sought entertainment to help them relax.  By the 1960s about 45 million homes had televisions across the United States and TV viewing grew to more than five hours per day.  From there, video games, personal home computers, smart phones, and a host of electronic gadgets occupied free time and unfortunately time that might be better spent sleeping.

The following chart will help to visualize the stark reality of the changes occurring not only in the United States but in other countries as well.  Life was getting increasingly difficult and stress had become an everyday word.

The year 1910 was used as a baseline as the amount of sleep that people got then was likely what was common throughout antiquity.  1942 is another marker when it was found that the average amount of sleep was reduced by an hour per night.  By 1960, another hour was lost reducing the average amount of sleep each night by two hours from 1910!  This translates into a loss of more than half-a-day of sleep each week.  If this doesn’t blow your mind, at just seven hours of sleep per night, an entire month of sleep is lost each year! 

Only two hours of missed sleep from the nightly average of nine experienced 100 years ago is the equivalent of an entire month of 24/7 sleep lost each year! 

Sleep Debt

A condition called “sleep debt” is created when the amount of sleep a person needs increases because they have not gotten enough in previous days.  While people may think they can get away with having less sleep, this is not entirely true.  What generally happens is that they become used to performing their daily routine in a deficit mode.  The greater sleep debt that is incurred, the less the person is able to identify it.

Fortunately, the body is faithful to give warning signs when it does not receive enough sleep.  Feelings of excessive sleepiness, yawning, irritability, and daytime fatigue drive people to consume caffeinated beverages to get through their day.  These beverages are often counterproductive, making it even more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Microsleep, where one dozes off for a few seconds to a couple of minutes without noticing is another indication of being sleep-deprived.  The EEG test results of sleep-deprived rats, reflect that certain parts of the brain fall asleep while others stay awake.   Researchers to do not fully understand the mechanisms behind this.

Types of Sleep Deprivation

Full sleep debt is when a person is awake for a minimum of 24 hours.  This is not as rare as it might seem.  Think of any college campus when reports are due and exams are looming or a stressed working mother when her child is sick and she stays up all night and goes to work the next day, or computer programmers propping themselves up with coffee and energy drinks until an employer’s deadline is met.

Partial sleep deprivation is what most people experience at a more chronic level when sleep is not adequate for an extended period of time such as several days or weeks.  One study found that “the results of those who slept for six hours each night for a period of 10 days were similar to those who are completely sleep deprived for one day.”[5]  It can be caused by not enough hours of sleep, disrupted sleep, or physical conditions like sleep apnea.

Sleep disruption can occur because of sickness, pain, or the use of pharmaceuticals such as alpha-blockers, beta blockers, corticosteriods, diuretics, SSRI antidepressants, medications containing alcohol/caffeine/nicotine, sedating antihistamines ACE inhibitors, ARBs, Cholinesterase inhibitors, H1 antagonists, glucosamine/chondroitin, and statins, Theophylline (an asthma med), and higher doses of thyroid hormone, as well as over-the-counter painkillers.[6]

Alcohol has been shown to disturb the second half of sleep by increasing wakefulness after its initial effect of sedation, even when consumed up to six hours before bedtime.  “However, alcohol consumed within an hour of bedtime appears to disrupt the second half of the sleep period. The subject may sleep fitfully during the second half of sleep, awakening from dreams and returning to sleep with difficulty. With continued consumption just before bedtime, alcohol’s sleep-inducing effect may decrease, while its disruptive effects continue or increase.”[7]

While most adults require from seven to nine hours of sleep each night, about one third of the population gets less than six hours per night.

Can’t Sleep?

Insomnia, or disrupted sleep is something that was almost never recorded in the history books two hundred years ago but has become commonplace in our modern culture.   Insomnia includes having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep.  Acute insomnia is considered brief.  It comes on with stressors such as getting bad news, anticipating a stressful event (good or bad) such as a test at school, financial stress, work stress, relationship stress, etc.

Among adults, “15 to 20 percent have a short-term insomnia disorder which lasts less than three months, 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least three times per week for at least three months.”[8]

The Four Stages of Sleep

Stage 1 – Lasts only about 5 – 10 minutes.  Theta waves are produced by the brain as the body transitions from wakefulness to sleep.

Stage 2 – Lasts about 20 minutes.  Body temperature begins to decrease and the heart slows down.  Most sleep is spent in this stage.

Stage 3 – SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) – This is deep sleep where slow delta brain waves occur and the deepest sleep happens.  During this stage muscles relax and blood pressure and breathing rate drops.  This is also the stage where sleepwalking tends to occur.  This relaxation helps to ensure the blood is circulating properly and that there are proper levels of blood glucose.

Stage 4 – Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or paradoxical sleep.  “REM sleep is also referred to as paradoxical sleep because while the brain and other body systems become more active, muscles become more relaxed. Dreaming occurs due to increased brain activity, but voluntary muscles become immobilized.”[9]

When sleep deprivation occurs, it is primarily of REM sleep and generally results in cognitive issues.  REM sleep is believed to affect healthy moods, learning, and memory storage.  During REM signals are sent from different areas of the brain to the body.  Migraines may be triggered or increased due to increased expression of “the proteins p38, PKA, and P2X3, which are known to play an important role in initiating and sustaining chronic pain.”[10]

“Researchers performed a study in order to determine the effect REM sleep deprivation has on the way a person responds to a stressful event. They applied mild electric shocks to participants while they slept and studied how their brains reacted. According to the results, the people who spent more time in REM sleep showed a lower level of brain activity related to fear than those who spent less time in deep sleep. The researchers believe that if a person is getting enough REM sleep, they might be less susceptible to suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a fearful event.”[11]

“It is important to realize that sleep does not progress through these stages in sequence. Sleep begins in stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, and 3. After stage 3 sleep, stage 2 sleep is repeated before entering REM sleep. Once REM sleep is over, the body usually returns to stage 2 sleep. Sleep cycles through these stages approximately four or five times throughout the night.”[12]

You Decide

While monophasic sleep is what most of us have known and practice, it is a relatively recent happening within the past two hundred years or so.  Although there are many other factors that affect health we would be wise to consider the necessity of sleep in a culture that operates on the lack thereof. Sleep is the very thing the body needs to replenish and restore itself.  Might it be presumptuous to entertain the thought that we have somehow “evolved” and no longer need those nine hours of nightly sleep that many of our ancestors received? That is likely.

Is biphasic sleeping preferable to a seven to nine hour monophasic sleep model?  Perhaps.  Then again, perhaps not.  There is even a polyphasic sleep model for those whose interest is piqued, those who ‘wake up’ at the subject of sleep.

Each person is a unique individual who needs a certain amount of sleep to maintain good health. Chronic health conditions require even more sleep for the body to restore itself.  Although it sounds good on paper, dis-‘ease’ can be caused by sleep deprivation because a solid seven hours may not be enough. The industrialized society is programmed to work around productivity-based paradigms and do not base their work upon the biological rhythms of the individual. While it may not be feasible to adapt to a biphasic sleep modality, even if that were the answer, there is much the individual can do to maximize the sleep structure to which they adhere.

Some may heave a great sigh of relief with the new understanding that waking briefly in the quiet of the night can be a normal part of the sleep cycle and not always an indicator of dreaded insomnia. Forearmed with knowledge, these peaceful moments can be enjoyed by leaving the bed for a brief time of prayer, meditation, or reading using dim, non-stimulating light, then to return to bed again as they begin to tire once more.

Are there lessons to be learned in looking backward to a simpler time when folks were more connected to their surroundings? In the comments below, share your observations whether biphasic sleeping might be a valuable health-promoting tool, or maybe not so much…  We would love to hear your thoughts on the value of sleep.

Stay Tuned…

In Part II of ‘Sleep Much?’ we will take a deeper look at the devastating effects of sleep debt on the psyche and physiology, discover techniques to make falling asleep easier, and discuss natural remedies and healthy habits for getting a much-needed restorative, enjoyable sleep!

References:

1   Modern Life Suppresses An Ancient Body Rhythm

2   Erectile Dysfunction Common With Age

3   Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep Like You

4   Humans Used to Sleep in Two Shifts, And Maybe We Should Do It Again

5   Sleep Debt: Signs, Symptoms & Treatments

6   10 Types of Meds That Can Cause Insomnia

7   National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Alcohol Alert No. 41 July 1998

8   Insomnia Awareness Day facts and stats

9,12   The 4 Stages of Sleep (NREM and REM Sleep Cycles)

10 REM sleep deprivation plays a role in chronic migraine

11 REM Sleep: Why is it so important for food health by Dr. Amy Lee

It’s All About That Spin…

Proteins, next to water, make up the greatest part of the weight of the body. They are what provide the “framework” to every living cell. The proteins themselves are made up of chains of even smaller structures called amino acids which are connected by what are known as peptide bonds.

When peptide bonds are formed between two amino acid molecules, two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen is lost. This removes a molecule of water from the structure that is commonly written as H20. Therefore the process of peptide bond formation is accomplished by dehydration.

The process of the digestion of proteins begin in the mouth with chewing called ‘mastication’ and the release of saliva which contains the enzymes amylase and lipase which further break down the food. Once swallowed the food passes to the stomach through the esophagus. In the stomach the chemical process of digestion continues with hydrocloric acid which deactivates amylase but continues to allow lipase to work breaking down fats. In the stomach pepsinogen, a pro-enzyme, converts to pepsin which then can break down proteins into smaller units called polypeptides and amino acids. Depending upon the type of food and an individual’s metabolism, generally takes around four hours for the stomach to empty.

As the chyme moves into the small intestine, the pancreas releases amylase and lipase (the pancreatic form), trypsin and chymotrypsin to continue breaking down proteins. Additionally, there are four sugar enzymes (sucrase, lactase, maltase, and dextrinase) released which are secreted by cells that line the small intestine.

Therefore as a result of the activity of protease enzymes, large chains of amino acids found in protein molecules are broken down into even smaller chains of amino acids that can easily pass through the micro-villi of the small intestine (along with other nutrients) and into the bloodstream.

Once released into the bloodstream, amino acids are rebuilt or ‘biosynthesized’ into the specific types of proteins required for the building and repairing of tissue and to “develop into enzymes, hormones, bones, muscles, and blood.’ [3] Each redesigned amino acid is crafted to meet a unique “fit.” These newly-created proteins cannot be used for a different application. For example, a protein designed to replace tissue in the eye cannot also be used in the heart as heart tissue is not identical to eye tissue and would require a different protein.

DNA – Deoxyribonucleic Acid

“Proteins form the structural basis of chromosomes, through which genetic information is passed from parents to offspring. The genetic ‘code’ contained in each cell’s DNA is actually information for how to make that cell’s proteins.”1

“In the human body, protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, many vital body fluids, and are essential for the growth of bones. The enzymes and hormones that catalyze and regulate all bodily processes are proteins. Proteins help to regulate the body’s water balance and maintain the proper internal pH. They assist in the exchange of nutrients between the intercellular fluids and the tissues, blood, and lymph.”2

There are over 20 distinct amino acids with the human body having the ability to produce only half of them. The 10 amino acids the body does not produce are called “Essential Amino Acids.” This is because they must be obtained through the food we eat. The body does not store amino acids so they must be ingested daily. The essential amino acids are: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

This work of the body is absolutely amazing. I mean, who’da thunk it? Having a body that makes its own individualized building blocks from those large protein molecules in the hamburger or hummus that we have the pleasure of eating. Absolutely ingenious.

A Body That Cannot Repair Itself

Amino acid deficiencies are common. There are many ways that this delicate system can become impaired. If even one of the essential amino acid building blocks is not available, the entire protein synthesis in the body is hindered. This deficiency can lead to a disruption in integral proteins negatively affecting the whole body.

“The main reason for amino acid deficiencies is either low protein consumption, poor digestion, or the use of antacid medication, as protein requires adequate stomach acid to be broken down into the amino acids.” [3]

Signs of Deficiency…

Amino acids are the base organic matter used by the body to create serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and endorphins. These are all chemicals called neurotransmitters that create those good feelings of peace, contentment, and happiness in the brain. They are known for stabilizing mood.

“Low levels of amino acids lead to low levels of neurotansmitters. It’s that simple!” [3]

So what does it look like when one’s mood is “off” because of an amino acid deficiency?

Mental & Emotional Health

Sometimes an amino acid deficiency can present as pervasive negativity, agitation, mood swings, tension, irritability, insomnia, obsession and worry, low motivation/energy, types of depression such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or bipolar, or other major depressive disorders and mania. Schizophrenia and the anxiety-like symptoms of schizophrenia may be a result of amino acid deficiency as well.

For many people, anxiety reveals itself in everyday stress, or high stress situations, panic attacks, controlling behaviors, feeling frequently overwhelmed, perfectionism, or perhaps even being someone who seems to be driven to exhaustion. Crying too easily or frequently finding onesself feeling emotionally ‘hurt’, seeking to escape with drugs and/or alcohol, sugar and/or carbs, impulsive or aggressive behavior are more symptoms that tend to be magnified with amino acid deficiency.

The good news is that the person or some unknown entity may not be the root of the problem. Their body may simply be having some very real health challenges due to an amino acid deficiency. If it is a lack of neurotransmitter-building amino acids, the condition may be helped with proper nutrition which affords the body those necessary building blocks.

Musculoskeletal System

Amino acid deficiencies may be the root of some of the following symptoms which affect the musculoskeletal system. Arthritis, ataxia (lack of muscle control or coordination), impaired bone (fragile bones), insufficient cartilage repair, impaired collagen formation, muscle fatigue, slow post exercise recovery, and stunted physical growth.

Integumentary System

The skin, hair, and nails may express amino acid deficiencies through decreased tissue repair and growth, the graying of hair, skin rashes, alopecia (excessive hair loss), and poor wound healing (especially that of burns and infections.)

Cardiovascular System

The heart and circulatory system can reveal a deficiency of amino acids through atherosclerosis, cold hands and feet, elevated cholesterol, low blood pressure, and poor blood vessel functioning.

Nervous System

The nervous system (which includes the brain and teeth) is affected by amino acid deficiency in many ways. Insufficiency may present as: bloodshot eyes, cataract formation, corneal vascularization, dementia, dental caries, diabetic complications that affect the eye as well as nerve cell damage, headaches, migraines, lack of ability to focus, becoming hyper-stimulated, poor memory and memory loss, motion sickness, nerve deafness, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, restless leg syndrome (RLS), and stunted intellectual growth.

Gastrointestinal System

There are a number of ways the gastrointestinal system including the liver make known they are facing a lack of amino acids. Some of these are: appetite loss, nausea, and dizziness. Other symptoms are constipation, decreased immune function, a fatty liver unable to process fats, impaired fat burning, lack of gastric acid secretion which may cause indigestion, and obesity.

Immune System

  Amino acid deficiency affects the immune system by not being able to support the liver in its role in detoxification which can cause an accumulation of heavy metals. Other ways the immune system is affected by insufficient amino acid availability is by not being able to help prevent AIDS. Amino acid deficiency could also be causative for some allergies and other symptoms of an ineffective immune function such as anemia, chronic fatigue, fatigue (in general), lowered red and white blood cell production, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Endocrine System

  Some may be surprised at all the functions of the endocrine system and its chemical messenger hormones. Amino acid insufficiency here can look like delayed sexual maturity, diminished insulin production, high blood sugar, hypothyroidism, an inflamed pancreas, lack of sexual arousal, male sterility and low sperm count, menstrual cramping, mood swings, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Urinary System

Kidney stones may occur as a result of amino acid deficiency.

All of Life has its Own Spin

From a physics perspective, the intelligent design of the RNA and DNA of all living organisms (plant and animal) require amino acids which under polarized light reflect a spin to the left (also called left-handed spin).  These are known as L-amino acids.

Optics – The branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light

The Greek word ‘levoratatory’ is symbolized by the letter “L” which identifies the molecule as appearing to spin to the left when polarized light shines upon it. Conversely, “D” is the word ‘dextrorotatory’ meaning the molecule appears to spin or turn on a right rotation with the application of polarized light. Therefore, in scientific language the left hand would be written ‘L-hand’ and the right hand written ‘D-hand.’ We will look more in depth at the significance of the spin in a moment.

Not everything has a left-hand spin. Some molecules spin to the right. For instance, sugars have the opposite spin of amino acids. They spin to the right and are recognized as “D-sugars.”

Chiral is a term that is used to describe an object whose mirror image cannot be identically superimposed upon itself.  For instance, your left and right hands are mirror images of each other when placed palm sides together.  If you set one on top of the other facing the same direction, they will always appear in reverse order.  (Notice how the thumbs point in opposite directions when one hand lays on top of the other).  This is called “chiral.”  In both chemistry and physics, the term chiral indicates mirror images that are not superimposable.

Public Domain

Therefore, we have learned that, molecules which cannot be superimposed on their mirror images are called chiral. Either one of a pair of optical isomers is called an enantiomer. For example, if a hand were a molecule, each hand as it cannot be superimposed upon the other but is a mirror image, would be considered enantiomer.

Images that are superimposable are those that fit in the exact same space as the other. Therefore, you could lay the two molecules on top of each other and only see that one shape. Molecularly, these items look the same from the front or the back and are also spatially the same.  In other words, one would be an exact “fit” in place of the other.  These are called achiral.  Either molecule could be placed in the space of the other with the exact same superimposition.  There is no right or left “handedness” with achirial objects or molecules such as we see with chiral.

This becomes a bit more complex when considering achiral objects or molecules from the three dimensional (3-D) perspective.  Let us consider the following:

“Starter”
by Willdre
CC BY-SA 3.0

An automobile mechanic determines a certain part no longer works and needs to be replaced, the starter for instance.  When one starter goes bad, it is replaced with another that is the same size, fits exactly in the same place, and has the same function as the one that was removed.

If a mechanic tried to replace a starter with a spark plug the car would simply not be repaired. Everyone knows that it would be ridiculous to replace one part with another of a different size and/or function as the original.

What does this mean for me?

The same is true with the nutrients required by our bodies, especially amino acids, the topic we are discussing at present. Proteins that we consume in natural, unprocessed forms from plants and animals are always made from the L- form of amino acids. The fit our bodies perfectly. Isn’t it marvelous at how nature provides just what a body needs?

Nature Provides Just What the Body Needs!

Foods naturally high in amino acids are: eggs (which have the highest percentage of essential amino acids), game, chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, wild-caught salmon, tuna, cod, and surprise… quinoa!

In general, plant-sources have less of the essential amino acids than animal sources, however, a varied diet can offer additional nutritional component combinations along with the amino acids. Plant foods with higher amounts of beneficial amino acids are: buckwheat, seaweed, spirulina, pumpkin, peas and pea protein, lentils, whole grain rice, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, watercress, turnip greens, hummus (chick peas) mushrooms, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, kidney beans, figs, broccoli, olives, avocados, raisins, dates, apples, chia seeds, blueberries, and bananas

Racemism – the state of being optically inactive

We have learned that chiral amino acid molecules spin to the left a certain number of degrees. Additionally its mirror (not superimposable) molecules spin to the right an equal number of degrees. An equal mixture of left-handed and right-handed molecules (or D-50% and L-50%) is called a racemic mixture and has no rotation. In other words, an equal raceme is optically inactive. “In general, most biochemical reactions are stereoselective, meaning only one stereoisomer will produce the intended product while the other simply does not participate or can cause side-effects. ” [7]

“…or can cause side-effects” Huh? What?

Well over a hundred years ago it was known that the racemization of naturally-formed molecules was, in fact, a sign that they were dying.

“The phenomenon of autoracemization is of interest in connection with the question of permanency of optically active substances. Let us consider a pure organic substance such as dextrorotatory bromo-succinic ester. When it is kept for some time in a closed flask at ordinary temperatures, it undergoes spontaneous intramolecular rearrangement and a gradual decrease of the optical rotation results; in other words, it racemizes. Several examples may be cited to illustrate this remarkable fact…Might we not speak of ‘dying molecules’ much as we speak of ‘dead catalysts’?… The effect of these reactions is, as we may express it, a complete turning ‘inside out’ of the molecule.”[8]

1895, Dr. Paul Walden

It’s all About That Spin, ‘Bout That Spin, …No Trouble”

Getting our nutrition from food whenever possible is always best. With the exception of phenylalanine (utilized as a mixture, i.e. DL- ) all other amino acids are considered more suitable (the state is called “free-form” which is immediately bioabsorbable meaning it does not require digestion) in the human body. As Dr. Richard J. Thiel states, “Amino acids are also useless if not toxic when present in synthetic forms. Only left-handed (laevo-) amino acids can be assimilated. All synthetic aminos are racemic.”[9]

Of course, it is not only amino acids that are affected by spin. Synthetic “Vitamin D sold as “Viosterol” and “Vigantol” is well established. It causes blood in the urine very quickly in children, by its destructive action to the kidneys. Deaths have been reported from the ordinary dosages used to “protect” from rickets.” [10] Here is another worth considering:

“Pantothenic Acid is a vitamin now commercially available only in synthetic form. Probably this is the reason for its effect of causing loss of sex function, particularly in females. This castrating action has been found both in test animals and in patients receiving the “vitamin” according to unpublished reports…” [11] Does this sound like nutrition to you?

There is much more to be concerned about with the use of synthetic supplements. All synthetics are reduced to a single molecule, while real food vitamins are always available in complexes that include many other nutritional components that boost nutrition and bioavailability in the human body. Science has yet to study or publicly disclose this information should it be available.

The “spin” is important just as the complexes and other factors are in real food that the body was designed to eat. On no death certificate ever was the reason for death given as “pharmaceuticals or supplements ingested with the wrong spin.” Although that has indeed occurred. Keep this in mind while seeking answers for yourselves and your clients.

This is a complex topic with many implications. We look forward to your thoughts and comments.

NOTE: The biochemistry of amino acids and their work in the body is significantly more complex than we have had time to discuss here. However the intent of this short description was to provide the reader a basic outline highlighting the importance of amino acids in relationship to nature and the human body as a whole. Hereby laying a foundation which conveys the potential for negative consequences when the natural spin of polarized light is not taken into consideration during synthetic supplementation.

References & Resources:

Coffee Depletes Key Nutrient

Yes sirree! Did you know that drinking just one cup of strong coffee or black tea within one hour of consuming a healthy meal will impair up to 60% of iron absorption? The stronger the coffee or tea, the greater the absorption of iron is undermined in your body.

Is that a problem?

It could be. Mild to moderate iron-deficiency may be asymptomatic or it can present symptoms such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, dizziness, restless leg syndrome, frequent infections, difficulty concentrating, cardiac problems, and more.

“Drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages with a meal is associated with a 39 – 90% reduction in iron absorption.” [1]

However, caffeine in and of itself only demonstrates a mild negative affect on iron levels compared to the extreme affects caused by tannins.

Do I have to give up my coffee?

Well maybe, maybe not. A severe deficiency may require a complete break from coffee, at least while rebuilding your body’s iron stores. However, if you must imbibe you will want to limit your intake and make sure to leave a one to two-hour window between consuming coffee and then consuming foods or supplements that contain iron. You will also want to increase the amount of food iron that you eat overall.

The Framingham Heart Study [3] was a large study of 634 elderly people from 67-93 years of age and who were still living on their own. It “found that each weekly cup of coffee was associated with a 1% lower level of ferritin, a protein that indicates iron storage levels.” [1]

What is the best way to get my iron?

Well, to begin with, it is not recommended to consume the inorganic form of iron called ferrous (Fe) sulfate which happens to be the most common form that is found in both supplements and in fortified foods.

“Iron used to fortify breakfast cereals ‘is a finely powdered metallic iron and is generally poorly assimilated.” [2]

Inorganic iron is not only used to fortify cereals, it is used to fortify wheat, maize (corn), and rice. Dairy, condiments, and sauces are also fortified. Therefore, one must consider any derivatives of these products such as bread, pastries, pasta, ice cream, tortillas, etc. to contain metallic iron.

Which real foods contain the iron my body needs?

The best organic food forms of iron are found in green vegetables, legumes, and meat (especially red meat and organ meat.) Unlike ferrous sulfate, dietary iron from real food is non-constipating and bio-available, making it the very best choice for your body!

Recipe: Darlene’s Mocha Delight!

~ A Delicious, Health-Promoting Coffee Substitute ~

  • 1 Cup Dandelion Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
  • 1 Cup Chicory Root, Roasted (cut & sifted)
  • 1 Heaping TSP Cacao, powdered
  • 1/4 TSP Powdered Cinnamon

In a pint jar, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Label and store with a secure lid.

Add 1/2 – 1 scant teaspoon (more or less as desired) to a tea infuser for each 8 to 16 ounces of water. (I like to use large coffee mugs for my tea!)
Pour boiling hot water over the tea and allow to steep for 3 to 5 minutes for a delicious “coffee-substitute” beverage or steep longer, 10 to 15 minutes, to draw out more nutrients and increase the health benefits.

Be sure to add some almond milk, coconut milk, or a maybe a little of both and you are good to go. There is a natural sweetness to this recipe that does not require additional sweeteners. It is great cold as the “chocolaty” taste seems to increase as it cools. Yum.

Dandelion is a treasure-trove of nutrients. Unlike coffee, dandelion is high in iron as well as manganese and phosphorus. Chicory, like dandelion, is full of nutrients and an especially good source of potassium. Like dandelion, chicory is known to aid digestion making this a wonderful beverage to consume with a meal. Chicory and dandelion are a great combination.

‘Coffee people’ and ‘non-coffee’ people are pleasantly surprised when they try this hot beverage. It is satisfying, delicious, and provides a nutrient boost the body really craves.

Darlene’s Mocha Delight!

Share your favorite coffee-substitute creation in the comments below or change-up this one and make it better! To your health!

Sources:
[1] Do Coffee and Caffeine Inhibit Iron Absorption?
[2] The Truth About Vitamins & Minerals in supplements: Why real nutrients are best! by Robert Thiel, Ph.D.
[3] Dietary determinants of iron stores in a free-living elderly population: The Framingham Heart Study

Make Your Own Healthy Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a delicious condiment most people love to eat.  It can be dressed up and used in sauces, as a sandwich spread, as base for dips and salad dressings, and in a mix for meats and fish (a yummy addition to meatloaf and salmon loaf.)  You might be surprised at the innumerable and creative ways that mayo can be used in a non-edible fashion.

Using mayo as a face mask to soothe and soften one’s complexion has been around a long time. It is also used to relieve and moisten sunburn. It feels so good when applied cold.  It is an old-style hair conditioner. Just apply, massage into the hair and scalp, and leave it in for five or 10 minutes, then shampoo it out.  It can even help remove chewing gum from hair.  (Not that any of us would ever need that!) By saturating a finger with mayo a “stuck” ring can slide right off!

Old wooden furniture can get a welcome moisturizing and rejuvenating “face lift” by applying the gift of mayonnaise. Just be sure to spot test the area first. Simply apply and allow to set for a few minutes, then wipe off and buff.  By applying a little mayo to a squeaky hinge or to a bottle that needs stubborn residue removed.  It also as been touted as an effective application to tar or sap on one’s car.  Apply to the tar, let it sit for awhile, then wipe clean. (Again, spot test in a hidden area first.)

Mayo as a condiment is highly perishable. It has been a modern convenience for many of us that has taken some unfortunate wrong turns in the manufacturing process. Unnecessary sugar can often be found to be added to mayonnaise, cheaper and very unhealthy oils have been substituted for the nutritious oils once used, and the method for preserving mayo has drastically changed.

In light of these things, take heed before you go and purchase a jar of commercial mayonnaise because all commercial mayonnaise is now cold pasteurized.  Cold pasteurization is a method of sterilizing mayonnaise because raw eggs, a necessary ingredient in mayonnaise, cannot be allowed to set out on shelves at room temperature for months without going dangerously bad.  Sounds great, yes?  Well, no.  Unfortunately, cold pasteurization (also known as HPP or High-Pressure Processing, or irradiation) is a modern method of preserving food that uses extremely high amounts of pressure.

While there is great publicity about the “wonders” of this technique, there are also problems with the outcomes that are beyond the scope of this blog and what the industry is willing to admit.  Thoughtful consideration should be given to the nutritional devaluation of food caused by cold pasteurization, toxic radiolytic byproducts in addition to benzene resulting from the pressure, changes in the chemical composition of food, and contamination by toxic waste products from bacteria that remain unchanged throughout the irradiation process, along with the possibility of rapid re-contamination of food due to its sterilization.

The primary ingredient(s) in commercial mayonnaise are canola (rapeseed) and soybean oils both of which are mutagenic.[1]  Soy interferes with the bioavailability of nutrients and inhibits the function of enzymes.

Simply stated, enzymes have the important function of breaking down proteins into small enough bits that the body can assimilate them.  This kind of interference in digestion can cause many negative malnutrative effects such as cognitive impairment (250% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s), brain shrinkage and premature deterioration (think dementia), increased production of steroidal hormones and estrogen mimicking compounds (beyond what the body requires and not the same as the body makes), early puberty in girls and delayed puberty in boys (from said hormone disruption), menstrual difficulties in women and “permanent” PMS, and a myriad of other negative effects.[2]

On the positive side, when homemade using your own select ingredients, mayonnaise can be a source of healthy fat intake when used in moderation!  It is incorporated into many summer recipes such as dips, sauces, salad dressings, and is an absolutely delicious additions to one’s table.

Fast ‘N Snappy!

My favorite way to make mayo is by dirtying the least amount of dishes in the quickest amount of time.   That means I like to make my mayo in the same container that I store it in. Therefore, my container of choice is a wide-mouthed pint mason jar.

Here are the tools you will need to get started:

  • 1 pint-sized wide-mouthed canning jar and lid
  • A stick/immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender/Vita-mix/etc.  I have been told that you can hand whip mayo but that it takes much longer to set up.  That doesn’t jive with my “quickest amount of time” requirement so let us move right along…
  • A rubber spatula

The Mayo-Maker’s Secret

The key to making mayonnaise is to allow all the ingredients to sit out until they become room temperature.  If you add room temperature oil to cold eggs you would be the lucky one to get a proper emulsion.  Here are the basic ingredients you will need:  (Feel free to cut the recipe in half to suit your needs.)

Basic Recipe –

  • 2 Raw Eggs
  • 1 Tsp Water
  • ½ Tsp Sea Salt
  • 2-3 Tsps Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, or White Wine Vinegar
  • 2+/- Cups Oil

About the eggs. Farm fresh eggs are a great selection and carry little to no risk of contamination.  Simply wash the shell prior to using and allow to sit out on the counter-top until they are completely room temperature.  Also, for safety’s sake do not ever use an egg with a crack in it.

A Word About Oils

The oil you select will directly affect the flavor of your mayonnaise. Extra virgin olive oil has a very strong flavor and will work, however, many folks do not like in their mayo.  I find that I enjoy extra-virgin olive oil-based mayo better when I add more pungent spices like garlic, paprika, and horseradish.

“Safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and canola oils should never be used in your mayonnaise. They are highly polyunsaturated, omega-6s that go rancid quickly (many are rancid by the time you buy them, but [you] cannot smell the rancidity because they’ve been perfumed), and increase your inflammation index.”[3]

Peanut oil, sesame seed oil, and grapeseed oil can be used.  Macadamia nut oil is “da bomb” from what I hear and avocado oil is another option, but presents a flavor with its own unique taste that not all will find suitable.  A combination of oils can also be used. This is handy to know should you run out of your favorite go to oil. Additionally, coconut oil can be used, but it must be liquefied to become an emulsion and it might be wise to begin with a second oil before adding the coconut oil as it is high in saturated fats.

Spices I like to add to the basic recipe above –

  • ¼  Tsp Garlic
  • ¼  Tsp Paprika
  • ½-1 Tsp Dill

Mayonnaise is delicious served plain or one can flavor it any way they like. For a yummy twist add fresh or dried herbs.  Parsley, oregano, chives, thyme, ground mustard, Dijon mustard, etc.  Experiment to find the combination that you like best.

The Mayonnaise “Trick”

Add a teaspoon of water to the egg yolks before adding the oil because “A little water physically broadens the space between fat droplets, helping them stay separate,”…“If the oil droplets don’t stay distinct from one another and evenly dispersed in the oil, the mayonnaise will break.” says Tucker Bunch, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.[4]

Putting it all Together

Step #1 – **This is the most important step**

Everything must start out at room temperature.  To emulsify properly the oil and the eggs must be the same temperature.

Step #2

Crack the eggs and put the egg yolks (reserving the whites for the next step) and water into the canning jar. Blend them together until frothy.

Step #3

Add the egg whites, salt, lemon juice or vinegar, and your choice of spices.

Step #4

Next, pour a thin layer of oil into the jar.  About ¼ cup of oil ought to do it, that will be about 1/4 inch of oil floating on top. You don’t need a measuring cup, a guesstimate works fine.  Then re-insert the stick blender and pulse a number of times until the oil is incorporated into the egg mixture.

Step #5 – **Now take your time**

This is where you slow down and forget about your time constraints.  While processing, gradually add the oil in a thin, SLOW, steady stream until the mayo thickens (takes approximately 1 cup oil per egg.)

Helpful Hint: A grippy shelf liner works well to hold the canning jar. I run the stick blender with my left hand and pour the oil with my right hand. I am careful and take my time during this step. Of course, this would not be an issue with a traditional blender, but it is my preferred method. If you happen have someone wandering about the house with nothing to do, have them reach over and hold the jar steady.

Step #6

Clean off the rim of the jar if there is any food on it and then screw on the lid.  If you are using a blender or food processor you will need to use a spatula to spoon your mayo into a suitable container.  Then refrigerate.

As long as the mayonnaise remains refrigerated it is good for approximately 3-5 days. Enjoy!

What if it Flops?

Wait! Don’t throw it out! If it is runny, use it so make salad dressing by adding more vinegar and additional seasonings. Another option would be to stir in some sour cream and turn it into a veggie dip. You might even pour it into a delicious homemade soup or casserole. You still have time to refrigerate it and devise a plan. Then try again…

Have you made homemade mayonnaise? How did it turn out? Did you try this recipe? What is your favorite oil? Share your thoughts below …and make it better!

References

 [1] Mutagens from Heated Chinese and U.S. Cooking Oils
[2] Soy found to be ‘unfit for human consumption’ and what the industry never told you about it
[3] Ultimate Mayonnaise Recipes
[4] Mayonnaise: Oil, Egg and a Drop of Magic

Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

They’re here! Poison ivy that is, and her two toxic siblings poison oak and poison sumac. The bane of summer enjoyment for gardeners, landscapers, campers, hikers, and lovers of all things outdoors.

Each year, 50 million Americans endure the ramifications of a toxic encounter with poison ivy and her two pernicious allies. However, it was only recently that researchers identified the molecular pathway that had eluded them in the past. More about that in a bit.

Yet, for those who lead plant identification groups, “Is that poison ivy?” has to be one of the most commonly asked questions and for good reason. Poison ivy does not always present exactly the same, but once one masters its ambiguous nature, it seems to pop out of everywhere. So let us learn a bit more.

Know Your Enemy

Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and the Japanese lacquer tree are part of the cashew plant family. Originating as a North American native plant, poison ivy is found from coast to coast in Canada, the continental United States (except for California where poison oak abounds), and Mexico. It has a great ability to adapt to many different habitats which is why it can be found growing almost anywhere except in the desert or at high elevations.

In the eastern part of the United States one will typically see poison ivy as a climbing vine that looks like a hairy rope with flowers of green or yellow. While western poison ivy, although similar in appearance, typically does not climb, but instead grows into a low-lying shrub. To confuse the issue, western poison oak has a vining growth habit.

The edges of the leaves are called margins. They can either be smooth or toothed. Sometimes on different plants, and sometimes even on the same plant as in the one depicted below. Also, poison ivy can also present with many “teeth” on the toothed margins, not only the one notch depicted here.

The young plants or leaves usually have a “high-gloss” appearance and can range from green to greenish-red to deep red color. In the autumn, poison ivy leaves turn a deep orange to red color. It is simply beautiful to behold.

~ Leaflets of Three, Let It Be ~

While the edges of the leaves can be either toothed or smooth, the leaves themselves are pinnately-veined, making them a dicot. Dicots are a grouping of flowering plants that typically have four or five petals. Poison ivy flowers have five petals which flower in June.

~ Longer Middle Stem, Don’t Touch Them ~

The leaf presents at the end of a petiole in a grouping of three leaflets called “trifoliate” or “ternate.” A petiole is the “leafstalk,” which is a slender stalk that attaches the leaf or leaves to the stem of a plant. Also note in the photo above that the center leaflet has a longer stalk than the two opposite leaflets.

Poison Ivy (Center)
Poison Ivy in Bud

The fruit of poison ivy is called a drupe which is a fleshy fruit that surrounds a single stone-like seed and is colored greenish-yellow or amber. These fruits are a valuable source of food for birds during mid-winter when food is scarce.

Two simple mnemonics are just not enough to describe this “plant of many presentations.” Therefore, when describing the eastern poison ivy it is important to take note of that hairy vine. What child would not delight in repeating the phrase “Hairy rope? Don’t be a dope!” So let us stick with more refined terminology, “Hairy vine? No friend of mine!”

~ Hairy Vine? No Friend of Mine! ~

The next photo shows three poison ivy vines, two of which are quite thick. Touching any part of poison ivy plant can result in a form of contact dermatitis called “poison ivy rash”, which is a type of skin poisoning.

The photo below is a close up of those “vine” hairs for your consideration, but did you know that poison ivy is neither a vine nor a plant called a bine? A vine has tendrils which are used to climb, think of a grapevine, sweet pea, cucumber, or passionflower.

A bine uses its main stem to wrap around the thing that it is climbing like a fence post or a tree. Examples of plants that are bines would be hops, wisteria, honeysuckle, morning glories, or clematis.

Poison ivy is neither a vine or a bine. It is actually a parasitic plant. Those “hairs” used to attach itself to trees are, in fact, aerial roots which gain nourishment from its host.

~ To learn more about botany and the medicinal properties of plants consider the Master Herbalist program at Genesis School of Natural Health! ~

Toxicondendron radicans while native to North America can also be found alive and well in Europe and Asia, and disbursed from there all over the world. In the fall of 1784, “Philadelphia horticulturalist William Bartram wrote out a list of 220 “American Trees, Shrubs, & herbs” in his fine, flowing handwriting. He was packing up seeds and young plants to send across the Atlantic, as he had many times before. European collectors were eager to buy New World trees and plants, whether useful, ornamental, or simply unusual.”[1] Number 120 on his list was poison ivy.

From there poison ivy began to be cultivated in English and French royal gardens. It was not long before the plant’s irritant effects became well known and its popularity dwindled. I wonder is it just me, or can anyone else picture a wry smile on ol’ Bartram’s face as he was writing out his list?

Poison ivy is a rich source of tannins, saponins, alkaloids, etc. It is also high in antioxidants and in antimicrobial activity.[2] The oily mixture of sap contains Urushiol, a clear chemical that causes skin irritation and itch. Urushiol found in the Japanese urushi or “lacquer” tree is also found in poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and the skin and plant parts of mangoes.

It is the alkyl functional groups that make urushiol non-polar and hydrophobic. This means it does not dissolve in water. When oily urushiol touches the skin, it sticks and begins to be absorbed right away into the dermis over the next eight hours or so, unless measures are taken to stop it.

If not removed from the surface of the skin an itchy rash generally begins to appear in as few as 24 hours from the initial exposure. The molecular pathway for this irritating effect of urushiol had previously eluded scientists, until now.

Florian Winau, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School found that “when urushiol comes into contact with Langerhans cells in the skin, the Langerhans cells load urushiol on CD1a molecules that activate the immune system’s T cells. The T cells produce interleukin 17 and interleukin 22, which cause inflammation and itchiness. It was these two interleukins, known to be active in psoriasis as well, that prompted Winau to suggest that a similar mechanism — and a similar therapeutic target — may be involved in both the poison ivy response and in psoriasis’ auto-immune reaction.”[3]

Why had this evaded researchers for so long? Well, lab mice are often used in immunology study and while they are valuable resource in many respects, no one considered that they don’t produce CD1a, the molecular pathway found in humans allergic to urushiol.[3]

~ “Phytochemistry”, understanding how and why plant medicine works, is foundational in the Clinical Master Herbalist program here at Genesis School of Natural Health! ~

~ Ewww! Get it off-fa me! ~

While we need to be able to avoid direct exposure to the poison ivy plant, we also need to be cautious about possible secondary exposures as well. Toxic urushiol can remain active for up to five years on clothing, bedding, shoes, tools, gloves, and pet fur if not cleaned off. Dead, dried-up poison ivy still has the oil on it. So beware.

“Urushiol must penetrate the skin to cause a reaction, and can depend on the amount of sap, the length of exposure, and the parts of the body exposed (skin can be thicker or thinner depending on the part of the body). It will also depend on your individual sensitivity.”[4]

Urushiol Oil Induced Contact Dermatitis

To remove the urushiol, use lukewarm to cool water and scrub with a cloth. It is the friction that actually removes the oil, so don’t be afraid to give a good scrub. Do not use hot water as it opens the pores of the skin and increases the rate of absorption. Believe it or not cool water and friction are more effective at removing poison ivy oils, than even soaps and chemical products. The best practice is to soap up, scrub, and rinse two to three times making sure to get any place on your body that you may have touched with your hands.

Do not bathe in an attempt to remove urushiol. The still unabsorbed urushiol can float on the bath water and find its way to other parts of the body. There are products like Tech-nu and de-greasing soaps that are marketed, but by far the most effective way to remove urushiol is by pure friction.

Remember to clean well under the nails because urushiol can stay active for quite a while in that hiding spot.

~ Stop the Itch! ~

So ya got yerself some poison ivy goin’ on. Well, of course, it was before you read this article and knew all about it, but that does not change the fact that now there is an inflamed rash that itches like a bugger. What can help while the body is healing? First, do not scratch or break open the blisters. The blisters are self-protective fluids that help to cushion the wound, keep out infection, and heal the skin.

Here are a number of things to try, so don’t give up.

~ Cool as a Cucumber! ~

  • My personal favorite soothing, anti-heat, anti-itch remedy is to place lengths of thinly-sliced cucumber directly upon the rash and wrap it in a layer of paper toweling secured by cellophane wrap. I may look like a country bumkin in that getup, but there is nothing more soothing than cucumbers which are especially cooling. Such a relief from the heat of the inflammation and the incessant itch. Cucumbers are also astringent which helps contract the tissues and diminish the secretions.
  • Another way to use cucumber is to liberally rub the juice over the rash. Let it air dry after the application, then apply a second coat. This provides a protective layer over the rash that keeps it from being irritated by fabrics and things one brushes up against throughout the day. Two coats each time seems to do the trick, is easy to reapply, and lasts a few hours. Others swear by watermelon rind or the inside of a banana peel, but I don’t know if they have tried cucumber. Try whatever is available to see what helps your situation the most.
  • Aloe (Aloe vera) – Now might be a good time to slice open a leaf of that plant you keep around for burns and sunburn and smear it all over that rash. Aloe gel can help too.
  • Activated Charcoal can be helpful, especially where there is severe swelling. Take 8 tablets or mix 1 rounded teaspoon into a small glass of juice or water two times each day. Remember to increase water intake while using activated charcoal. Discontinue once the swelling has dissipated.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Saturate a cotton ball and apply topically with a saturated cotton ball.
  • Oatmeal Paste – Use plain or stir in some baking soda.
  • Calamine lotion is commonly applied to urushiol rashes.

~ Poison Ivy Herbals ~

According to Dr. John R. Christopher, naturopathic physician and herbalist, poison ivy is listed along with herbs that are known irritants. Irritants are “Herbs that produce a greater or lesser degree of vascular excitement when applied to the epidermis or skin surface.”[5] It is included along with the Herpetic herbs, those that are healing to skin eruptions which relate to the herpes virus and scaling diseases such as ringworm etc.[5] It is also rubefacient, stimulant, and narcotic.

Herbal Remedies by Dr. John. R Christopher [5]

  • Plantain (Plantago spp.) – Make a poultice of the fresh, bruised leaves and apply to the rash. Change before the poultice dries out.
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Use the infusion internally and with frequent external applications as a wash.
  • Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva) – Applied topically as a component of Dr. Christopher’s Asthma Remedy.
  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) – Apply as a poultice – 1 part lobelia to 2 parts slippery elm.
  • Virginia Snake Root (Aristolochia serpentaria) – Apply a wash of the fluid extract.

“Mrs. Maud Grieve was the Principal and Founder of ‘The Whins’ Medicinal and Commercial Herb School and Farm at Chalfont St. Peter in Buckinghamshire, England. The training school gave tuition and practical courses in all branches of herb growing, collecting, drying and marketing. Grieve had also been President of the British Guild of Herb Growers, and Fellow of the British Science Guild. Her work A Modern Herbal contains medicinal, culinary, cosmetic and economic properties, cultivation and folklore of herbs.”[6]

Herbal Remedies by Mrs. M Grieve, F.R.H.S. [7]

  • Alkaline lotions – Baking soda in baths and pastes, hyposulphite of soda – use to moisten skin frequently.
  • Vervain Root (Verbena spp.) – Boiled in milk and water with the inner bark of the White Oak (Quercus alba).

Dr. John Heinerman traveled the world to work with folk healers and top doctors and scientists. Here are some of his suggestions to ease the pain of poison ivy.

Herbal Remedies by Dr. John Heinerman [8]

  • Beech (Fagus grandifolia) – Steep bits of tree bark from the North side of the tree in 2 C slightly salted hot water until color is dark. Bathe affected rash as needed.
  • Cattail (Typha Latifolia) – Make a paste of the root powder, spread a thin layer on rash, change after several hours.
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) – 1 TSP powdered root to 1 pint hot water. Dab on rash. Taking internally is beneficial as well. NOTE: If possible, use the other remedies as Goldenseal is overharvested.
  • Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) – Rinse and crush well. Rub over affected areas. NOTE: Jewelweed is often found growing in the same location as poison ivy. Look for it as it should be used right away as an antidote for the urushiol.
  • Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) – Dig and clean fresh root, then hammer to a pulp. Apply a poultice of mashed root and leave for 24 hours or boil 1 C chopped root in 1-1/2 pints distilled water, covered, for 15 minutes, cool, strain, and wash skin with the tea.
  • Sumac (Rhus glabra) – Make sure you have identified the correct species! Add 1 TBSP each of the bark, leaves, and berries to 1 Qt boiling water. Simmer covered for 30 minutes, then steep for 30 minutes, strain, refrigerate. Once cool, use as a wash.

~ Homeopathic Rhus Toxicondendron ~

  • Itching Skin Diseases – Use the homeopathic both internally and externally for poison ivy/oak/sumac, rashes, ringworm, etc. Homeopathic Rhus Tox is also utilized to prevent/lesson an allergic reaction and to treat a rash.

~ Homeopathic Cell Salts[9] ~

  • Natrum Muriaticom & Kali Sulphuricum – For topical use only. Both must be used together. Use either the 3X or 6X potencies. Add to cool/lukewarm water, then apply directly to the rash using a clean cloth.

Due to its potent actions and the risk of toxicity, use of poison ivy as a medicinal has fallen by the wayside. Poison ivy was included as a remedy in the Merck Manual of 1899 as was Rhus Toxicondendron, the homeopathic. A fluid extract can be prepared from the fresh leaves, however, if taken orally a blistering rash may occur internally. With so many more suitable herbs, an herbalist would have no difficulty finding another to replace any potential benefit of Toxicodendron radicans.

Most skin rashes caused by urushiol are limited and cause only a minor although very irritating, sometimes painful, hot, itchy rash anywhere from five days to a few weeks.

It is important to not attempt to burn poison ivy as the oils are carried in the smoke and upon inhalation, can cause internal damage to the esophagus and the lining of the lungs. This condition is extremely painful and potentially deadly.

Should too great “a portion of the body be covered with blisters, respiration and excretion of poisonous wastes through the pores is impeded. This, in turn, may lead to a fatal toxemia.”[10] The remedies included here are only intended for use with non-life-threatening conditions.

Hopefully, becoming knowledgeable helps us to avoid this beautiful-but-o-so-irritating plant. In the event that poison ivy makes itself known, we are now also armed with remedies to prevent and deal with the rash. Do you use natural remedies for poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Enjoy the outdoors this year!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

References:

  1. No Ill Nature: The Surprising History and Science of Poison Ivy and Its Relatives
  2. Investigation into the Phytochemical Composition of Poison Ivy and its Antimicrobial Activity by Hinchong Hanse, Mondeep Gogoi, Pronot Langthasa, Elufer Akram, Priya Islam, Taku Oniya
  3. From Leaf to Itch by Alvin Powell, Harvard Staff Writer
  4. The Truths and Myths About Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac
  5. School of Natural Healing by Dr. John R. Christopher
  6. Collection of material relating to Mrs. Maud Grieve, F.R.H.S (fl.1937)
  7. A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Maud Grieve, F.R.H.S.
  8. Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs & Spices by Dr. John Heinerman
  9. The Healing Echo Discovering Homeopathic Cell Salts by Vinton McCabe
  10. What Causes the “Itch” in Poison Ivy? Journal of the Franklin Institute, vol. 255, no. 3, pp.266-267

Other Resources:

How to never have a serious poison ivy rash again
CDC Other: POISONOUS PLANTS
MALDI-MS Imaging of Urushiols in Poison Ivy Stem

Just… BREATHE! ~ A Remedy for Stress You Won’t Believe!

There is a ‘weightiness’ conveyed by the word stress.  A negative pressure that may be inflicted from within by ones own self or from without by others, circumstances, or even environment influences.  Sometimes the pressure  of the stressor is self-inflicted.  Then we might describe this as a person being ‘hard on themselves.’  Excessive worry, self-pity, grudge holding, bitterness, and unforgiveness to name a few are internal stressors that negatively affect the human body. External stressors are sometimes easier to identify, think toxins, lack of proper nutrients, job and family pressures, natural disasters, wars, etc. 

Initially, when stress became a word back in the 14th century it had less to do with a psychological state and “more to do with adversity, hardship, or some form of affliction.”  Nowadays, ‘stress’ is generally recognized as a combination of both physical and psychological pressures resulting in physical manifestations.

Consider, for instance, the old campfire song called “Hi. My name is Joe.”  Lyrics vary from camp to camp but the gist of the song is that Joe works in a button factory and he has a wife, a dog, and a family.  His boss always asks him if he is busy and Joe always says, “No.”  Joe never complains and always takes on more and more work, whether it be a wheel to spin in some versions of the song, or button to push in others.  Now Joe gets increasingly busy using both hands and both feet to push buttons. If that were not bad enough, Joe is asked to push yet another button with his bum, and then his nose, and then… Boom!

The boss asks one more time if Joe is busy and he yells, “YESSSS” and collapses exhausted upon the floor!

It is hysterical to watch children pushing these pretend buttons just like Joe the factory worker and then yelling YES! and falling down on the ground.  Everyone laughs because it is obvious just how ridiculous the song is.  Yet many of us and our clients continue to allow way too many things into our lives all the while attempting to juggle a tremendous workload on the job, at home, at school, with children’s activities, volunteer work, holidays, and on and on the list goes.  Let’s face it.  If someone does not draw effective boundaries, others will continue to ask more and more of them. That’s just human nature. That is, until one finds themselves at a breaking point, like Joe.

The increasing business of life exemplified by Button Factory Joe reveals stress as the physiological concept that was developed in 1930s.  The psychological component of the camp song is revealed when Joe yells “YES!” after being asked just a simple question, “Are you busy?”

All along we know that Joe could have simply said that the workload was becoming too much.  Yet how interesting it is that we can all relate to Joe’s exasperated YES!  Saying no and giving ourselves and others the gift of boundaries that promote health and well-being can be a gigantic hurdle to overcome.

Hans Selye, a Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist studied the responses of organisms to stressors.  He developed what is commonly known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).  Charlotte Gerson considered Dr. Selye to be the first to demonstrate the existence of biological stress.1

Dr. Selye’s “last inspiration for general adaptation syndrome (GAS, a theory of stress) came from an endocrinological experiment in which he injected mice with extracts of various organs. He at first believed he had discovered a new hormone, but was proved wrong when every irritating substance he injected produced the same symptoms (swelling of the adrenal cortex, atrophy of the thymus, gastric and duodenal ulcers). This, paired with his observation that people with different diseases exhibit similar symptoms, led to his description of the effects of “noxious agents” as he at first called it. Although it was actually Walter Cannon who coined the term “stress” in his study of the fight-or-flight response.2

People with different diseases exhibit similar symptoms


~ Observation by Hans Selye, MD

How does the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) occur?  Through stressful events such as financial problems including the loss of a job, health problems, family problems, divorce, death, abuse, trauma, grief, listening to the bad “news” each day, and the list goes on.  Other stressors on the body include toxins from the environment and pharmaceuticals, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, electromagnetic frequencies, etc.

It is important to note that even good things can become stressful.  Getting a much-deserved promotion at work also comes with increased responsibility and pressure of a different sort.  A new mother experiences “good stress” in an entirely different way.  For the student there is an appropriate proverb which states, “much study wearies the body.” We can also find wisdom behind the old idiom, “too much of a good thing” as a reminder to strive keep a healthy balance in life. When we do that short, less frequent periods of stress – good or bad, won’t send us spiraling downward.

While all these things are normal, humans (and animals as well) are not meant to live in a chronic alarm stage, constantly pushing buttons, taking on more and more, and never taking a break.  This is significant because ultimately we are the ones who are responsible to set an intentional boundary for our own well-being.  Thereby, allowing the body and emotions to find their balance and strength once again.


Image by Mojca JJ from Pixabay

Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to drive themselves with “busy”-ness until they become sick?  In modern culture it is uncommon to take time off from work in order to remain mentally and physically healthy. However, once one is sick, then there is an excuse to call off work and other responsibilities. In this way some folks allow themselves permission to finally “take a break,” all the while feeling lousy for a day or so.  At this point when someone makes a request, it can easily be said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t.  I’m sick.”  The words ‘I’m sick’ are like code words in our society and generally accepted without question.  “I’m sick,” untouchable for a time, ‘nuff said. Just as it should be.

Is there an alternative?  Unlike Button Factory Joe, one option would be to manage potential high-stress levels by simply saying “No” to some expectations or even “good things” and activity (stressors.) This can be very helpful in one’s life and family. Obviously we cannot control all stress in life, yet taking advantage of the ones we can choose to take control of becomes even more important while going through unusually stressful periods. Allowing the body the necessary resources and downtime it needs to restore itself is of tantamount importance.When the body perceives a threat it is considered the alarm stage of the GAS. This is when the ‘fight or flight’ system is engaged. When this happens we enter into a state of anxiety whether we are attuned to it or not. In anxiety, breathing speeds up and becomes shallow. More rapid shallow breathing which is a type of hyperventilation, ensues. As a result we no longer breathe deeply and fully as should happen when at rest.

Anxiety ~

Breathing speeds up & becomes shallow

Side effects of anxiety may include physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, elevated or high blood pressure, panic attacks, restlessness, fidgeting, trembling or shaking, rapid heartbeat, and changes in body temperature. Gastrointestinal symptoms can include nausea, upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, and even vomiting. Muscle tension often presents in the neck, shoulders, back, and jaw muscles. Still other symptoms like teeth grinding, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and insomnia are common.

The next state of the GAS is called the resistance stage. This is where the body either takes the opportunity to repair itself and get back to normal (if it is not faced with continued stressful activity) or is forced to adapt to chronic, unresolved stress.

What if we just live a stressful life?  So what, right? People say, “I’ve gotten used to it.” Meaning they think they have become acclimated to the level of stress in their lives. The truth is, stress always takes a toll on the body and the emotions even if we think we are coping.  There will always be signs.

In fact, the manifestations of unresolved, chronic stress “don’t subside in the absence of a threat; rather, they persist until specific relaxation or mindfulness skills are employed.”4

Chronic unresolved stress invariably leads to the exhaustion stage of the GAS model. Immunity is low as the body dangerously runs out of resources and the individuals risk of acquiring a stress-based illness or disease heightens dramatically.

“The longer you deal with stress, the more harmful it is to your health. You also don’t want to remain in the resistance stage for too long and risk entering the exhaustion stage. Once you’re in the exhaustion stage, prolonged stress raises the risk for chronic high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and depression. You also have a higher risk for infections and cancer due to a weaker immune system.”3 The oxygen content of the blood is also much lower creating an anaerobic, acidic environment where cancer and disease thrives.

Consider Diaphragmatic Breathing

How do we turn this ship around? Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing has been studied and found to be an effective method of triggering the body’s relaxation responses which benefits physical and mental wellness. This concept of deep breathing for enhanced relaxation and health is really nothing new. Controlled breathing exercises have been part of cultural religious experience for thousand of years.

“Breathing practice, also known as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ or ‘deep breathing’ is defined as an efficient integrative body-mind training for dealing with stress and psychosomatic conditions. Diaphragmatic breathing involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation, which consequently decreases the respiration frequency and maximizes the amount of blood gases.”5

Beautiful Baby Bellies Breathe Better!

Newborn babies get it right! Without instruction, they breathe correctly. Ever notice how their little bellies expand as they inhale through their little button noses into their lungs? When they exhale, the belly contracts and pushes the air out more completely making the lungs ready to receive the next breath of air.

Shallow Breathing ~ BAD!

At some point for many people, the natural pattern of breathing changes to a stress-inducing shallow breathing that triggers the sympathetic nervous system to engage the flight or fight response. This is the alarm stage mentioned previously. Habitual shallow breathing leaves the body in a state of unresolved stress.

Habitual shallow breathing leaves the body in a state of unresolved stress

Society glamorizes a flat stomach. The tightening of the stomach muscles, while holding the breath to ‘suck in one’s gut’ does not allow a body to utilize the diaphragm to breathe fully. Extremely tight-fitting clothes like certain types of pants and corsets can restrict the ability of the diaphragm to expand fully and may be found to be counterproductive. Increased and chronic stressors like these can play a part in or exacerbate a wide range of physical and mental health issues by encouraging shallow chest breathing and discouraging deep diaphragmatic breathing.

Shallow breathing can cause stress & stress can cause shallow breathing

“When we breathe with our chests, we use the muscles in our shoulders, necks, and chests to expand our lungs, which can result in neck pain, headaches, and an increased risk of injury. Our shoulders slump forward and our posture changes as well. “6

Shallow breathing lowers immunity due to lowered amounts of lymphocytes which help protect the body from invaders as well as the amounts of proteins available for immune cell signaling. Additionally, shallow breathing can play a role in panic attacks, dry mouth, fatigue, the aggravation of respiratory problems, and even as a precursor for cardiovascular issues such as hypertension among other things.

Diaphragmatic Breathing ~ GOOD!

Diaphragmatic breathing “can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, relax muscles, decrease stress, and increase energy levels.”6 It has even been found beneficial to help people who suffer from chronic pain.

In a review of the study entitled, “The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults” published June 6, 2017, it was stated that “psychological studies have revealed breathing practice to be an effective non-pharmacological intervention for emotion enhancement, including a reduction in anxiety, depression, and stress.”5

There also appears to be a direct connection with a proper breathing technique and cortisol, a hormone that increases in response to stress. Cortisol can “involuntarily control metabolism, immunity, and some mental processing, including memory and emotional appraisal, and can easily be affected by breathing.”5

“Currently, breathing practice is widely applied in clinical treatments for mental conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), motion disorders, phobias, and other stress-related emotional disorders.”5 It was also mentioned that some studies “have indicated that a brief training could enhance sustained attention as well as reduce fatigue and anxiety.”5 Additionally, “some researchers believe that the relaxation generated by peaceful breathing helped to manage inattention symptoms among children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)”5

There is evidence that as little as one round of diaphragmatic breathing can cause significant reductions in blood pressure, increase heart rate variability, oxygenation, enhance pulmonary function, and improve cardiorespiratory fitness and respiratory muscle strength.

Unless there is an organic reason for blood pressure to remain high it comes down when Diaphragmatic Breathing is utilized.  Why?  Because deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (known as the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system) which in turn sends signals to the body to relax. Therefore by practicing correct breathing techniques, you will assist your client in making the connections between the ravaging effects of stress on their body and psyche, and offer a valuable skill by teaching them how to relax.

In other words, deep breathing helps the body to “chillax” AND it is non-toxic, natural, and affordable!

Some people have been ‘wound too tight for too long’ and lack the ability to fully relax. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is a great place to start. It “is also applied as an adjunct treatment for patients with physical disorders including stroke and cancer.”5 Insomnia is positively affected. Clinical sleep-disordered breathing symptoms in all ages of patients were also relieved. Very impressive!

If it doesn’t help with something then, you’re probably not doing it.

Among “normal healthy participants, fatigue, work burnout, and task difficulty usually led to poor performance in sustained attention… Notably, attention improvement was gained after 15 min of diaphragmatic breathing.”5

In just 15 MINUTES!!! Wow! Now you’ve got my attention.

How about trying a little experiment next time you feel a bit ‘snoozy’ while trying to study or while you are at work. Deep breathing for 15 minutes it is. If you have been practicing, then no one will be the wiser.


Time to Refine Your Breathing Technique!

Learning to breathe correctly is a beneficial stress-management technique. If shallow breathing has played a role in keeping your client from achieving homeostasis, Diaphragmatic Breathing may be helpful to improve the imbalance. It is a powerful and effective tool to add to your natural health arsenal.

Go ahead. Turn down the lights, put on some soft, relaxing music, and do the following:

STEP #1 – To practice Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing, lie on your back with your head supported by a pillow. Bend your knees slightly (use another pillow under your knees for support.) Place one hand just below your rib cage and the other hand on your upper chest. Relax your muscles as much as possible throughout this process.

STEP #2 – Inhale slowly through your nose and allow the air to bypass your chest and fill your belly. Once you feel full of air, take one more small breath. While doing this the hand on your chest should remain still and the hand on your stomach should move upward against the lower hand.

STEP #3 – Slowly exhale through your mouth. “Whhhhoooooo” Allow the diaphragm muscle (where your lower hand is located) to push out the air. Once you have exhaled all your air, exhale just a bit more. Again the hand on your chest should remain still. As your diaphragm tightens you will feel the hand on your stomach move in an inward motion.

STEP #4 – Repeat steps 2 through 3.

Try this deep breathing exercise for 5 minutes three or four times each day. Then increase the length of time to 10 minutes, and then to 15 or even 20 minutes. Eventually, you will retrain your body to breath correctly on its own.

In the beginning it may take a bit of effort to use your diaphragm correctly. If this tires you out a bit do not despair. As you continue to practice and increase the number of repetitions and/or length of time, as with any exercise it will get easier.

The study referenced above “hypothesized that an 8 weeks breathing training course would significantly improve cognitive performance, and reduce negative affect (NA) and physiological stress.”5 Negative affect means stress related to negative emotions. So this is a general idea of the amount of time and commitment that it would take for the healthy people in this study to obtain a lasting effect. The more chronic and longer the stress has been, it stands to reason that a longer practice would be in order.

This is definitely a lifestyle change. However, once the technique has been mastered, Diaphragmatic Breathing can be incorporated into everyday life. Driving the car, sitting at your desk at work, reclining on the couch, lying in bed first thing in the morning and again before going to sleep are all opportunities to remember to breathe. After all, breathing correctly is the natural thing for our bodies to do.

There are quite of number of smartphone apps that are focused on helping to create relaxing breathing exercises so find one that you enjoy.  If you are the type of person who is not inclined to breathe along with an app, not to worry.  Humans have been breathing without smartphones for thousands of years!

___________________________

References:

  1. János Hugo Bruno “Hans” Selye
  2. A Brief History of the Term ‘Stress’
  3. What is General Adaptation Syndrome? 
  4. The Physical Symptoms of Anxiety 
  5. The Effect pf Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults
  6. How Shallow Breathing Affects Your Whole Body

A Monarch, A Malady, and A Misinterpretation

While reading a report entitled “What was the Disease of the Legs that Afflicted King Asa?” by Liubov (Louba) Ben-Noun, I was impressed with the researcher’s ability to isolate a particular disease, in this case Peripheral Vascular Disease and attribute it to Asa, an ancient king of Judah.

What Was the Disease of the Legs that Afflicted King Asa?

As you can read for yourself in the article above, Ben-Noun’s purpose is to investigate painful diseases of the legs with onset in old age.  To begin with we are given a description of what constitutes the legs (thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet.)  Next, possible leg diseases are listed and then excluded based upon area affected within the leg.  This sounds reasonable, and the author finally concludes that King Asa was most likely afflicted with Peripheral Vascular Disease.  Also noted was the fact that no commentaries had been used in the research, but that they “referred to the words of the Bible as written.”  The scripture referenced was “Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his legs.” I Kings 15:23

My interest was piqued.  I wanted to find out more about this king and why he got Peripheral Vascular Disease in his old age, so I pulled out my Bible and began reading in I Kings 15:23. The Bible said this:  “Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet.”  I also read the parallel passage in Second chronicles which said, “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians. ” 2 Chronicles 16:12

Two things jumped out in those Bible verses.  First, neither one said that King Asa had a disease in his legs, they both said he had a disease in his feet.  Then while verifying a list of 26 other translations none of them said ‘leg.’ Each one of them said the disease was in the king’s feet.  I then referred back to the article to find which version of the Bible the author quoted. Unfortunately, there was no reference listed.

Therefore to settle the question about whether King Asa had a leg disease or a foot disease, I initiated a search in the Strong’s concordance of the original Hebrew language and here is what it said:

Copyright by The Lockman Foundation. Used with permission. http://www.Lockman.org

The word “feet” as used in the King James Version in I Kings 15:23 and 2 Chronicles 16:12 is the Hebrew word regel, which is number 7272 in the Strong’s Concordance.  It should only be translated “leg” if it was going to be used to describe a segment of a journey!  The verse Ben-Noun used for his text mistranslated the word used for feet.

While the analysis appears to be done well, one might respectfully submit that the author missed a key point and because of this incorrectly postulated the disease occurred in King Asa.   No verification was possible as no source for the translation was given and as follows, King Asa did not have Peripheral Vascular Disease as Ben-Noun claimed, instead King Asa had a disease that affected both of his feet!

The other thing that impressed me had to do with the Biblical text itself because the Biblical writer of the account in Second Chronicles chose to record for posterity, that king Asa in his disease “sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians.”  What would be the importance of this in relation to his disease?  At this point no further information was given, but as it was mentioned in this manner it must have significance so we will discuss it shortly. Here is the story of the king in a nutshell.

King Asa started off his career with zeal!  One could imagine like any of us after graduation from our respective programs and then beginning to invest our time and energy into building and accomplishing our individual visions in the natural health field.  As a king he did all the right things. He even removed his own mother from office (a queen) because she was corrupt.  NOBODY does that, but King Asa did!  Seriously, he was so amazing that even though he stopped seeking God in his later years, it is recorded in scripture that “Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.” 1 Kings 15:14b If you would like to read this short account, just open the following link:

Second Chronicles Chapter 16

Then something happened.  Was Asa fearful or perhaps plagued by guilt? Did he become proud and self-reliant?  We are not told so we can only conjecture.  Yet we do know this one thing, that for some reason, King Asa stopped relying upon God and began to trust in the king of an enemy nation and entered into a treaty with him. Because of this the many years of peace that the nation of Judah had enjoyed under the leadership of King Asa, ended.

God sent a prophet to remind Asa of His goodness and to warn him of the dire consequences of not returning to his first devotion. These were the prophet’s words:

“Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.  Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.  For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:7b-9

Asa became so enraged when he was told the result of his foolish conduct would be wars that he threw the prophet in prison.  Sometime after, a very painful disease came upon Asa in his feet.  Many bible scholars believe that it was gout and this is entirely plausible.  We will take a deeper look at gout after we look at these remaining verses for there are some interesting things to ponder.

“And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.” -2 Chronicles 16:12

Instead of following the directions given by God, King Asa called upon “physicians” who were in high repute in foreign courts.  These physicians attempted to expel diseases by using charms, incantations, and mystic arts. (Dakes’ Annotated Reference Bible, 2001)  Although the word physicians in this context means to heal, to cure, or make whole, they obviously did not help the king.  God had hoped that Asa would come to Him.  Remember the promise?

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” -2 Chronicles 16:9a

In ancient times, it was common for the Hebrews to use herbal remedies and foods when someone was in need of healing.  For more serious issues they were instructed to visit their priests who were appointed by God.  Part of the job of the priests was to help people follow a very strict code pertaining to health issues.  This is the first recorded instance where a Hebrew king did not go to the appointed priests to seek God for his physical healing.

Sometimes all the medicines and healers in the world cannot help when the hindrance lies within a person’s heart.  King Asa knew God was for him, yet for a reason we are not told, he chose not to draw near.

“And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.  And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries’ art: and they made a very great burning for him.”  -2 Chronicles 16:13-14

Here we see the apothecaries’ “art” that is referred to is an aromatic compound or ointment used at the time of burial.  An apothecary being a place to go where an herbalist dispenses herbal formulas is a modern concept.  In ancient times, an apothecary was the title of a person who was considered an artisan (like a baker, or a carpenter) in the craft of herbal remedies, incense for use in the temple, balms, ointments, and such.  So when someone said, “I’m going to visit the apothecary” what they meant was, “I’m going to visit Fred the herbal artisan and get a remedy for this stuffed up nose.”

What else can we learn from this passage about King Asa?  Well, an important lesson would be about the value of humility when we seek healing.  As holistic professionals it is helpful to consider spiritual blocks to healing as well as to utilize all the knowledge we have attained of the structure and function of the body, nutritional interventions, phytochemistry, homeopathics, etc., so that our clients may be well – wholly.

Unfortunately, in king Asa’s case he sought everyone else’s help.  Had he simply sought God in the matter his story may have turned out differently.

Gout – “The Disease of Kings”

“Gout, unlike any other disease, kills more rich men than poor, more wise men than simple.” -Thomas Sydenham, English Physician 1624-1689

The majority of Bible scholars agree that king Asa had gout in both of his feet.  If this is so, then what does this disease look like?

Let’s take a look at what occurs in the more severe form of gout.  Chronic, Tophaceous gout is where flare-ups occur at frequent intervals and the inflammation does not resolve.  Tophus is the Latin word for stone, the plural being Tophi, which is a deposit of uric acid crystals in the joints of those with high levels of uric acid in the bloodstream.

Tophi frequently forms around the joints of the fingers and the first metatarsal joint of the big toe.  It can even form on the tips of the elbows, on the forearms, the ears, and can even aggregate on the vocal chords.

Tophi deposits under the skin feel like hard bumps and are not generally painful except during an attack of gout, where they may become inflamed, swollen, and painful.  “As tophi continue to grow, they can erode the surrounding skin and tissues of the joints.  This causes damage and eventual joint destruction.”1

Chronic (Tophaceous) Gout when left untreated, can lead to severe problems.  Attacks often come on at night.  The pain leads to a lack of sleep which causes fatigue, increased stress, and the sum total of which may lead to mood swings.  Additionally, permanent disability can occur because of the joint damage and the ensuing deformity from repeated gout attacks.  “Arthritis caused by gout may lead to bone erosion and cartilage loss leading to complete destruction of the joint.”2

Additionally, urate crystals from gout can also form painful kidney stones and interfere with kidney function.  Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is not unusual in those with gout.  It has been thought to be a kind of a chicken-and-egg scenario where some believe gout causes the kidney disease while others believe that kidney disease creates high uric acid levels that cause gout.

Gout is the most prevalent form of arthritis in men and occurs seven to nine times more often in men, especially older men, than women.  Although once women reach age 60 the ratio levels out. Uric acid levels are usually elevated for 20-30 years before they are noticed.

However, is gout really a disease of the feet that causes death or is it a symptom of something else? Science is beginning to get a clue.

“Serum uric acid is commonly elevated in subjects with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), but was historically viewed as an issue of limited interest. Recently, uric acid has been resurrected as a potential contributory risk factor in the development and progression of CKD. Most studies documented that an elevated serum uric acid level independently predicts the development of CKD. “

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23543594

Uric Acid & Chronic Kidney Disease Which is Chasing Which?

It used to be believed that gout was the cause of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and before therapies were available to lower uric acid levels, many people who suffered from gout developed end-stage renal disease. Upon autopsy it was found that many of these people “had urate crystals in their tubules and interstitium, especially in the outer renal medulla, the disease became known as gouty nephropathy.”3 Scientists initially had an incorrect assumption that urinary crystals collected in the kidneys the same way they do in gouty joints. However, more recently it was found that “when laboratory animals with CKD were made hyperuricemic, the renal disease progressed rapidly despite the absence of crystals in the kidney.”4

Now back to King Asa who became diseased in his feet after reigning 39 years and then died within a mere two years.  What could have happened that was so debilitating and could cause such a rapid deterioration?  I assert that King Asa died from end-stage renal disease due to hyperuricemia which caused the rapid deterioration to his kidneys and ultimately caused his death.

The Bible scholars ‘have it.’ The “disease” in King Asa’s feet (not his legs) was gout. It is very likely that King Asa suffered from chronic Tophaceous gout. It is interesting to me that the disease manifested in his feet as it could be said that the king was impaired in his walk. Figuratively speaking, his ‘walk’ with the Lord.

So what could the troubled king have done to eliminate his gout?  Well, the very thing he was encouraged to do was to seek the Lord for his healing.  It is comforting to know that God’s desire is for humanity to be healthy, at peace, and in relationship with Him.

Herbs for What Ails Ya

Throughout the centuries there have been effective and natural remedies for gout. Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) the English botanist, herbalist, physician & astrologer in his writings said:

Gout-wort or Herb Gerrard (Aegopodium podagraria)

“Neither is it to be supposed Gout-wort hath its name for nothing but upon experiment to heal the gout and sciatica; as also joint-aches, and other cold griefs.  The very bearing of it about one eases the pains of gout, and defends him that bears it from the disease.” -Culpeper’s Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper

As a medicinal, gout-wort is useful on gout when placed externally in hot wraps after first boiling the leaves and the roots together to reduce the uric acid buildup associated with gout.

Internally, dandelion leaf and/or root helps lower uric acid levels but as with cherries and celery seed extract, must be taken long term. Gravel Root (Eupatorium pupureum) acts as a diuretic that flushes the urinary passages. It is helpful for infections of the kidneys and gout.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) leaf assists with the excretion of uric acid making it useful for rheumatism and gout. It can be given every two hours during a gout attack and also used on a long-term basis to prevent uric acid buildup. Nettle seeds may even halt renal failure!

Burdock Root used as a food is helpful in cases of rheumatism and gout. While the capsaican in Cayenne is useful for pain relief. The silicon in Horsetail is necessary for rebuilding cartilage in older folks who can no longer make enough of their own.

It’s all about that meat, ’bout that meat, no shellfish!

All the herbs in the world won’t do enough without also making some much-needed dietary changes.

DO
> Drink lots of water – stay hydrated!  Especially helpful for supporting the kidneys.
> Avoid purine-rich foods: anchovies, brains, consomme’, gravy, heart, herring, kidney, liver, meat extracts, meat-containing mincemeat, mussels, sardines, and sweetbreads.
> Limit purine-containing foods to one serving daily (in severe gout cases): asparagus, dry beans, cauliflower, lentils, mushrooms, oatmeal, dry peas, shellfish, spinach, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain breads, and yeast.
> Avoid coffee, caffeine, coco, whole grains
> Avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup (sodas, cakes, cookies, etc.)
> Avoid drinking any alcohol.
> Eat lots of veggies, raw are best – Naturally high in potassium, cleans out the kidneys!
> Eat fresh raw fruit!
> Eat tart cherries – We don’t know why this works.  It just does!
> Eat Onions – they are anti-inflammatory and promote circulation.
> Eat less overly cooked foods (lightly steamed is best!)
> Drink lemon juice (citric acid) – To counter oxalates and flush out uric acid.
> Apple Cider vinegar (with the mother) is useful for alleviating pain and reducing inflammation. Mix 1 tsp in a glass of water 2-3x/day, increase as needed.
> Eat ginger root – It is anti-inflammatory
> Take Vitamin E – Helps repair connective tissues and is anti-inflammatory.
> Add EFAs – Essential Fatty Acids
> Try proteolytic enzymes like papain and bromelain. They can be very helpful with inflammation.
> Use potassium citrate – Reduces symptoms by alkalizing an acidic body.
> Verify with your physician that your medications do not raise uric acid levels.

OTHER NATURAL REMEDIES
> Local hot baths applied to the foot have been proven beneficial
>Add 1/2 Cup activated charcoal (AC) and just enough water to make a paste, then stir in more hot water to a foot bath for 30-60 minutes. The AC adsorbs uric acid.
> Sunlight stimulates Vitamin D production in the body.
> Maintain a healthy weight.  “Men who lose 10 pounds of excess weight and keep it off reduce their risk of gout by 39%.”5
> Exercise (walk, etc.) 
> Be aware. Those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery have an increased risk of gout.
> Avoid aspirin or acetaminophen

References:
1,2   Gout Complications
3,4   Uric Acid & Chronic Kidney Disease Which is Chasing Which?
5 Gout: Joint Pain and More
  What are the Types of Gout? Mercola.com
The Best Way to Fix Gout! by Dr. Eric Berg DC
Gout & Ketosis by Dr. Eric Berg

Whole Food or Synthetic Vitamins ~ Does it Really Matter?

There sure are a lot of good reasons to incorporate whole food vitamins into our diets.  Work and family make life too busy to prepare food like we should, we need a strong immune systems to stay healthy especially during the cold and flu season, and those with chronic illness desire restored health and vigor.

Any one of these (or a host of other reasons) are enough to cause one to choose to supplement their diet with vitamins.  If what we’re lacking is nutrients, then nutrients are what we need.  But what is a vitamin anyway?

“Vitamins are organic molecules that function in a wide variety of capacities within the body. The most prominent function of vitamins are to serve as cofactors (co-enzymes) for enzymatic reactions. The distinguishing feature of vitamins is that they generally cannot be synthesized by mammalian cells and, therefore, must be supplied in the diet. The vitamins are of two distinct types, water soluble and fat soluble.”1  “In nature vitamins are never isolated: they are always present in the form of food-vitamin complexes.”2

So where do vitamins come from?

Vitamins should come from foods. –Dr. Royal Lee

 

Well, in the beginning and up until about a hundred years ago humans received all of their nutrients directly from food!  However, in the past one hundred year time-frame, much has changed.  Modern conventional farming practices have stripped much of the original thirteen feet of topsoil off the land in the United States.  Sadly, we are left with only a few inches.  The mass-produced crops used up the vitamins and minerals long ago.  To keep the plants from dying and to keep up production limited nutrients have been added to the soil.

Much of what is added back into the soil of conventionally grown plant products are industrial waste products along with the natural and synthetic “nutrients” called NPK; nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  These are three essential nutrients necessary for vigorous plant growth and protein production, stimulating cell division, cellular structures, root growth, seed germination, and photosynthesis as well as fruit formation, disease resistance and water levels within the plants.3

Unfortunately, there are many more nutrients in our soil that are not being replaced.  Therefore, ultimately, if they are not getting into the plant, they are not getting into us.

“Federal statutes allow reclassified industrial wastes to be used in the manufacture of fertilizers, provided that such use constitutes “beneficial recycling,” and that the concentrations of hazardous constituents in the resulting fertilizers do not exceed the treatment standards specified for wastes (40 CFR 266.20)”4  This is troubling as certain plants used for phytoremediation are also used for food.

Perhaps it is time to reflect upon the thoughts of Dr. Royal Lee.  He was a pioneer in the field of nutrition long before it ever occurred to folks that vitamins and minerals affected health.  Nearly one hundred years ago Dr. Lee asserted that vitamins were complex groups of interdependent compounds, a biological mechanism made by living organisms.  He firmly believed that the best state of the vitamin was in the whole, unprocessed food.  (This was before industrial waste had become an acceptable plant growth medium.)

As a biological mechanism, Dr. Lee clearly stated what a vitamin was not.  It was not a chemical.

Every vitamin is a biological mechanism, not a chemical. –Dr. Royal Lee

 

“It must be remembered that the metabolism of the human body, being animal in function, is a breaking down process of complex compounds that are built up by the synthetic processes of plant metabolism. The animal or human body cannot build up organic compounds and is wholly dependent on the vegetable kingdom for organic foods. Vitamins are a class of organic compounds that are probably the most complex of food constituents.  …all of the ductless glands (the thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pineal body, pituitary, adrenals, gonads, pancreas, islands of Langerhans, spleen) must have one or more of the three classes of vitamins in order to secrete their vital fluids and if deprived of the vitamins will atrophy and cease to function.”5

This makes sense.  The body needs food to live and in this day and age our bodies also need a little “extra help.”  So now we find ourselves standing in front of a vitamin display at the local health food store, trying to interpret the differences in brands, technical language, and pricing.  It is enough to confuse even the brightest health-conscious individual.  So where does one begin while considering vitamin supplementation?

First we need to distinguish the major difference between vitamins.  Those that are derived from whole foods and those that are isolated chemicals.  Yet to add to the confusion of the general public, a majority of the information marketed by allopathic medical authorities and pharmaceutical companies promote synthetic vitamins.  Since supplements are now a $37 billion dollar industry,(6) this isn’t exactly chump change.

The battlefront for better nutrition today is clouded with publicity spread by promoters of theories through which they profit. – Dr. Royal Lee

 

“There is a growing school of nutritionists called orthomolecularists who argue that there is no difference between a ‘synthetic’ and a ‘natural’ vitamin molecule.”7  They purport that the molecule-match or ‘bioidentical’ molecular structure itself is what is important, because of the theory that “receptors on the surface of animal cells control the uptake of individual molecules regardless of how or why these molecules appear in the blood stream.” 7

This unproven theory has not been studied out as it would not be advantageous to financial interests in the synthetic vitamin industry.  We must tread carefully and with wisdom regarding the lack of cofactors in synthetic vitamins.  Doctor Lee stated:

Just as the chemist cannot create life, neither can he create a complex vitamin — the life element in foods and nutrition. This is a mystery the chemist has never solved and probably never will, and the synthetic vitamins he creates on the basis of chemical formulae bear as much resemblance to the real thing as a robot does to a living man, lacking an elusive quality that chemistry cannot supply. —Dr. Royal Lee

 

Humans have animalistic digestive systems that have developed to use naturally-occurring nutrients as they are presented primarily in fruits and vegetables.  Synthetic, isolated molecules, while appearing to be a molecular match are not associated with the health-enriching cofactors found within plants.  Human digestive enzymes use these cofactors to enzymatically convert plant nutrients into bioactive compounds, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants whether they are water or fat soluble.

Conversely, our bodies lack the capacity to use or optimize synthetic nutrients derived from petrochemicals, vinyl or coal tar derivatives (depending on the manufacturer), irradiated or solvent extracted animal fat/cattle brains, hydrogenated sugar, formaldehyde and acid processes among others.  Isolated molecular structures made in this way can be called natural or ‘USP’ pharmaceutical grade.  In addition, “most synthetic, petroleum-derived, supplements will call their products ‘vegetarian’, not because they are from plants, but because they are not from animals.”8

Chemical deficiencies do not cause dis-ease, however, whole food nutrient deficiencies are causative of many dis-eases.

 

Simply stated, synthetic vitamins trick the body to “believe that it doesn’t need to utilize more of the same nutrients from food.  Consequently, the enzymes that normally utilize complex plant nutrients into vitamin molecules are inhibited and the body is losing its ability to fully assimilate food’s nutrients, as well as the capacity to regulate and optimize healthy vitamin concentrations.  In reality, synthetic vitamins are received by the body as drugs and like all drugs, they can potentially disrupt normal metabolic functions often with devastating side effects.”7

What nourishes are whole food vitamins.  However, we’re going to have to continue to stand here at the vitamin counter a bit longer because the profiteers have snuck into these bottles as well.  Let’s take a look.

What we have here are three different multivitamins.  They are simply ones that come to mind, so I have no “agenda” sharing them with you other than to point out the differences between them.  Centrum® our first example, is the second-best selling vitamin in the United States.  Notice the vitamins are made completely of bioidentical isolates.

 

Isolated Bioidentical Molecules

(Only vitamins are noted)

 

Centrum® Adults

“Providing essential micronutrients, Centrum® is backed by 40 years of nutritional science to bring you the most complete multivitamin.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at those shelves of vitamins in the store, there’s a huge selection of isolate vitamins.  We have to search to find the small section containing only a few different brands of whole food vitamins.  What a relief!  At last, FOOD nutrients!  …but not so fast…

 

Whole Food Base w/Sprayed-on Isolates

 

 

Most “whole food” vitamins are made using a base of actual whole food that has been processed and dehydrated before having synthetic isolates sprayed on.  Does this make it a better vitamin?  By law a vitamin can be considered ‘whole food’ if the food base is at least 10 percent as it is in the case of MegaFood’s® Women’s One Daily vitamin and Dr. Mercola’s® Whole-Food Multivitamin Plus.  Note that they do have a better form of what is called ‘natural’ vitamin E than Centrum®, although it is still chemically processed.  The form in Centrum®, dl-alpha-tocopherol, is known to have some devastating side effects, especially at higher doses.

 

MegaFood Women’s One Daily

  “Fresh From Farm To Tablet”

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Mercola Whole-Food Multivitamin Plus

“…provides you with high-potency amounts of an exclusive antioxidant formula…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole Food Multivitamin

 

Here is an example of a “whole food” multi-vitamin completely made using food.

 Food Research Vitamin-Mineral

“100% Food Nutrients”

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is typical of how the list of whole food nutrients should appear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The preceding examples were given to demonstrate the variability in vitamins from pure isolates to whole food based and then whole food only vitamins.  Hopefully, clarity has been gained in this one important aspect of vitamin supplementation.

“Studies suggest that the bioavailability of natural food complex vitamins is better than that of most isolated USP vitamins, that they may have better effects on maintaining aspects of human health beyond traditional vitamin deficiency syndromes, and at least some seem to be preferentially retained by the human body.  It is not always clear if these advantages are due to the physiochemical form of the vitamin, with the other food constituents that are naturally found with them, or some combination.  Regardless, it seems logical to conclude that for purposes of maintaining normal health, natural vitamins are superior to synthetic ones.”9

– – –

References

1 Introduction to Vitamins and Minerals

2 Natural Vitamins May Be Superior to Synthetic Ones by Robert J. Thiel

3 Polymeric Microparticles for Modified Release of NPK in agricultural applications

Heavy Metals in Fertilizers

5 The Systemic Causes of Dental Caries

6 The $37 Billion Supplement Industry is Barely Regulated

7 Vitamin Poisoning: Are We Destroying Our Health with Hi-Potency Synthetic Vitamins

8  Naturopathy for the 21st Century by Robert Thiel, Ph.D.

9  Natural Vitamins May Be Superior to Synthetic Ones by R. J. Thiel