Archive for Health & Nutrition

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