Archive for the ‘natural cures’ Category

Mood-boosting Bacteria Found in Dirt

Mood-boosting Bacteria Found in Dirt

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Senior Editor, Yahoo! Shine | Healthy Living – Tue, Jan 31, 2012 4:53 PM EST

A bacteria found in dirt may act like a natural antidepressant.A bacteria found in dirt may act like a natural antidepressant.Even if you don’t love gardening, digging in the dirt may be good for your health — and it has nothing to do with a love of nature or the wonder of watching things grow. The secret may be in the dirt itself: A bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae that acts like an antidepressant once it gets into your system.

That’s right. A living organism that acts like a mood-booster on the human brain, increasing serotonin and norepinephrine levels and making people feel happier. It was accidentally discovered about 10 years ago, when Dr. Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, tried an experimental treatment for lung cancer. She inoculated patients with killed M. vaccae, expecting the bacteria — which is related to ones that cause tuberculosis and leprosy — to boost their immune system. It did that, The Economist reported in 2007, but it also improved her patients’ “emotional health, vitality, and general cognitive function.” Later experiments with mice confirmed the bacteria’s effects; the study was published in a 2007 edition of the journal “Neuroscience.”

“These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” the mouse study’s lead author, neuroscientist Dr. Christopher Lowry, said. “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

“We believe that prolonged exposure to [M.vaccae] from childhood could have a beneficial effect,” he added.

It raises the intriguing idea of a future where doctors could treat clinical depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder with a simple vaccine (and possibly a future in which kids don’t need quite so may baths). In the meantime, people seeking a bit of a boost may be able to find it in their own backyards.

In an article in The Atlantic this week, author Pagan Kennedy tests out the ultimate in eco-friendly antidepressants herself. “As I huff the soil, I have no way of knowing exactly how much M. vaccae is floating into my lungs — or whether it’s enough to change my mind,” she writes. “But I sure can smell this compost.”

We wouldn’t recommend inhaling dirt, of course. But, come spring, we’re looking forward to spending more time getting dirty.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

22 Uses for Lemon Peels

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what to do with all those lemon peels? Don’t toss them, put them to work.  Lemons juice is about 5 to 6 percent citric acid and has a pH level of between 2 and 3. This low pH acidity makes lemon juice a great ally in breaking down rust and mineral stains, but gentle enough to not dull finishes. There is generally sufficient juice left in used lemon halves to tackle small tasks, and it all comes with its own applicator (the rind itself).Plus, the oil in the peel is perfect for clever culinary applications, and not bad in the beauty department either. Here’s what you can do:

1. Clean greasy messes
Greasy pans? Splattered stove tops? Messy counters? If your kitchen has been the victim of some sloppy sauteing, try using lemon halves before bringing out possibly toxic chemical cleaners. Sprinkle some salt (for abrasion) on a juiced lemon half and rub on the greasy areas, wipe up with a towel. (Be careful using lemon on marble counter tops, or any other surface sensitive to acid).

2. Clean your tea kettle or coffee pot
For mineral deposit build up in your tea kettle, fill the kettle with water, add a handful of thin slices of lemon peel and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour, drain, and rinse well. For coffee pots, add ice, salt and lemon rinds to the empty pot; swish and swirl for a minute or two, dump, and rinse. Hello, sparkly.

3. Clean your microwave
All it takes is one exploding bowl of food to render the interior of your microwave officially gunked, sometimes gunked with cement-like properties. Rather than using strong chemical cleaners, try this: Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense on the walls and tops of the oven. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a towel.

4. Deodorize the garbage disposal
Use lemon peels to deodorize the garbage disposal (and make your kitchen smell awesome at the same time). It is a great way to finally dispose of spent lemon peels after you have used them for any of these applications.

5. Polish chrome
Mineral deposits on chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome make haste in the presence of lemon–rub with a squeezed lemon half, rinse, and lightly buff with a soft cloth.

6. Polish copper
A halved lemon dipped in salt or baking powder can also be used to brighten copper cookware, as well as brass, copper, or stainless steel. Dip a juiced lemon half in salt (you also use baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and rub on the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then rinse in warm water and polish dry.

7. Clean a stainless sink
Use the same method described to polish chrome, applied to any stainless sink.

8. Keep insects out
Many pests abhor the acid in lemon. You can chop of the peels and place them along thresholds, windowsills, and near any cracks or holes where ants or pests may be entering. For other ways to combat pests naturally, see 7 Steps to Chemical-Free Pest Control.

9. Make a scented humidifier
If your home suffers from dry heat in the winter, you can put lemon peels in a pot of water and simmer on the lowest stove-top setting to humidify and scent the air.

10. Refresh cutting boards
Because of lemon’s low pH, it has antibacterial properties that make is a good choice for refreshing cutting boards. After proper disinfecting (see: How to Clean Your Cutting Board) give the surface a rub with a halved lemon, let sit for a few minutes, and rinse.

11. Keep brown sugar soft
If your brown sugar most often turns into brick sugar, try adding some lemon peel (with traces of pulp and pith removed) to help keep it moist and easy to use. (For all recipes using lemon peel, try to use organic lemons–and scrub the peel well to remove any residues and wax.)

12. Make zest
Zest is the best! Zest is simply grated peel, and is the epitome of lemon essence–it can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. If you don’t have an official zester, which looks like a very fine cheese grater, you can use the smallest size of a box grater. To dry zest, spread it on a towel and leave out until dried, then store in a jar. To freeze, use a freezer-safe container. Use zest in salads, marinades, baked goods, grain dishes, etc.

13. Make Vegan Lemon Biscotti
Once you’ve made some zest, make these Vegan Lemon Biscotti cookies. Delicious.

14. Make twists
Strips of peel, aka twists, are good in cocktails, sparkling water, and tap water. Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips, or use a knife and cut the peel into long strips, cutting away the white pith which is bitter. These can be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag.

15. Make lemon extract powder
Make zest or twists (above) and dry the strips skin-side down on a plate until they are shriveled and dried up, about 3 or 4 days.  Put in a blender (or spice grinder) and pulverize into a powder. Use the powdered peel in place of extract or zest in recipes.

16. Make Lemon Sugar
You can make lemon extract powder (see above) and add it to sugar, or you can use fresh twists, put them in a jar with sugar and let the peel’s oil infuse the sugar.

17. Make Lemon Pepper
Mix lemon extract powder (see above) with freshly cracked pepper.

18. Make candied lemon peel
Orange or grapefruit peel can be candied too.  Yum. Candied peels are pretty easy to make, and can be eaten plain, or dipped in melted chocolate, used in cake, cookie, candy, or bread recipes. These recipes for candied citrus and ginger use Sucanat, the most wholesome sugar you can buy.

19. Lighten age spots
Many folk remedies suggest using lemon peel to help lighten age spots–apply a small piece to the affected area and leave on for an hour. You can also try one of these 5 natural ways to lighten age spots.

20. Soften dry elbows
Use a half lemon sprinkled with baking soda on elbows, just place your elbow in the lemon and twist the lemon (like you are juicing it) for several minutes. Rinse and dry.

21. Use on your skin
Lemon peels can be very lightly rubbed on your face for a nice skin tonic, then rinse. (And be careful around your eyes.)

22. Make a sugar scrub
Mix 1/2 a cup of sugar with finely chopped lemon peel and enough olive oil to make a paste. Wet your body in the shower, turn off the water and massage sugar mix all over your skin, rinse, be soft! You can also try any of these 5 simple homemade sugar scrubs as well.

via 22 Uses for Lemon Peels Page 5 | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda

I don’t mean to sound seditious here, but I have a very rebellious plan to combat the ills that many corporations are perpetrating in the name of fighting grime and germs. We’ll call it Operation Baking Soda.

My main gripe is about the environmental pollutants from cleaning agents and personal care products that we are washing down our drains and in to our water systems, resulting in situations like the chemical triclosan (a pesticide added to many products as an antibacterial agent) being found in dolphins.

So the simple plan is to encourage everyone to use baking soda in any of these 51 applications. Besides showing kindness to aquatic life, we can also protect ourselves from the array of toxins in household cleaning products. Conventional cleansers can expose us to multiple chemicals linked to asthma, cancer, and other documented health problems.

Baking soda also makes a perfect stand-in for many personal care products, which are adding their own twist to the toxic tangle of pollutants and personal health (mainly in the form of synthetic fragrance (and it’s almost all synthetic), sodium laurel sulfate, and parabens).

So exactly how does baking soda fit into my scheme to make the world a better place? Baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate,  helps regulate pH—keeping a substance neither too acidic nor too alkaline. When baking soda comes in contact with either an acidic or an alkaline substance, it’s natural effect is to neutralize that pH. Beyond that, baking soda has the ability to resist further changes in the pH balance, known as buffering. This dual capability of neutralizing and buffering allows baking soda to do things like neutralize acidic odors (like in the refrigerator) as well as maintain neutral pH (like in your laundry water, which helps boost your detergent’s power). It’s a simple reaction, but one that has far-reaching effects for a number of cleaning and deodorizing tasks. And so without further ado, I’ll remove my scientist cap, put on my rebellious housekeeper’s cap, and get this folk-wisdom revolution rolling…

Personal Care
Make Toothpaste
A paste made from baking soda and a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution can be used as an alternative to commercial non-fluoride toothpastes. (Or here’s a formula for a minty version.) You can also just dip your toothbrush with toothpaste into baking soda for an extra boost.

Freshen Your Mouth
Put one teaspoon in half a glass of water, swish, spit and rinse. Odors are neutralized, not just covered up.

Soak Oral Appliance
Soak oral appliances, like retainers, mouthpieces, and dentures in a solution of 2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in a glass or small bowl of warm water. The baking soda loosens food particles and neutralizes odors to keep appliances fresh. You can also brush appliances clean using baking soda.

Use as a Facial Scrub and Body Exfoliant
Give yourself an invigorating facial and body scrub. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub in a gentle circular motion to exfoliate the skin. Rinse clean. This is gentle enough for daily use. (For a stronger exfoliant, try one of these great 5 Homemade Sugar Scrubs.)

Skip Harsh Deodorant
Pat baking soda onto your underarms to neutralize body odor.

Use as an Antacid
Baking soda is a safe and effective antacid to relieve heartburn, sour stomach and/or acid indigestion. Refer to baking soda package for instructions.

Treat Insect Bites & Itchy Skin
For insect bites, make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply as a salve onto affected skin. To ease the itch, shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it into damp skin after bath or shower. For specific tips on bee stings, see Bee Stings: Prevention and Treatment.

Make a Hand Cleanser and Softener
Skip harsh soaps and gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on hands with a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, or 3 parts baking soda to gentle liquid hand soap. Then rinse clean. You can try this honey and cornmeal scrub for hands too.

Help Your Hair
Vinegar is amazing for your hair, but baking soda has its place in the shower too. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda into your palm along with your favorite shampoo. Shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly–baking soda helps remove the residue that styling products leave behind so your hair is cleaner and more manageable.

Clean Brushes and Combs
For lustrous hair with more shine, keep brushes and combs clean. Remove natural oil build-up and hair product residue by soaking combs and brushes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a small basin of warm water. Rinse and allow to dry.

Make a Bath Soak
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your bath to neutralize acids on the skin and help wash away oil and perspiration, and make your skin feel very soft. Epsom salts are pretty miraculous, read about the health benefits of epsom salt baths.

Soothe Your Feet
Dissolve 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a tub of warm water and soak feet. Gently scrub. You can also make a spa soak for your feet.

Cleaning
Make a Surface Soft Scrub
For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile and sinks–even fiberglass and glossy tiles–sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra tough stains, make a paste with baking soda, course salt and liquid dish soap—let it sit then scour off.

Handwash Dishes and Pots & Pans
Add 2 heaping tablespoons baking soda (along with your regular dish detergent) to the dish water to help cut grease and foods left on dishes, pots and pans. For cooked-on foods, let them soak in the baking soda and detergent with water first, then use dry baking soda on a clean damp sponge or cloth as a scratchless scouring powder. Using a dishwasher? Use these energy saving tips.

Freshen Sponges
Soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of warm water). For more thorough disinfecting, use the microwave.

Clean the Microwave
Baking soda on a clean damp sponge cleans gently inside and outside the microwave and never leaves a harsh chemical smell. Rinse well with water.

Polish Silver Flatware
Use a baking soda paste made with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Rub onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry for shining sterling and silver-plate serving pieces.

Clean Coffee and Tea Pots
Remove coffee and tea stains and eliminate bitter off-tastes by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. For stubborn stains, try soaking overnight in the baking soda solution and detergent or scrubbing with baking soda on a clean damp sponge.

Clean the Oven
Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with enough water that the baking soda is damp. Let set overnight, making sure the baking soda is damp before you go to bed. In the morning, simply scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum. Rinse.

Clean Floors
Remove dirt and grime (without unwanted scratch marks) from no wax and tile floors using 1/2 cup baking soda in a bucket of warm water–mop and rinse clean for a sparkling floor. For scuff marks, use baking soda on a clean damp sponge, then rinse. Read Natural Floor Cleaning for more tips on avoiding toxic floor cleaners.

Clean Furniture
You can make a homemade lemon furniture polish, or you can clean and remove marks (even crayon) from walls and painted furniture by applying baking soda to a damp sponge and rubbing lightly. Wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.

Clean Shower Curtains
Clean and deodorize your vinyl shower curtain by sprinkling baking soda directly on a clean damp sponge or brush. Scrub the shower curtain and rinse clean. Hang it up to dry.

Boost Your Liquid Laundry Detergent
Give your laundry a boost by adding ½ cup of baking soda to your laundry to make liquid detergent work harder. A better balance of pH in the wash gets clothes cleaner, fresher, and brighter.

Gently Clean Baby Clothes
Baby skin requires the most gentle of cleansers, which are increasingly available, but odor and stain fighters are often harsh. For tough stains add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your liquid laundry detergent, or a 1/2 cup in the rinse cycle for deodorization.

Clean Cloth Diapers
Dissolve ½ cup of baking soda in 2 quarts of water and soak diapers thoroughly.

Clean and Freshen Sports Gear
Use a baking soda solution (4 tablespoons Baking soda in 1 quart warm water) to clean and deodorize smelly sports equipment. Sprinkle baking soda into golf bags and gym bags to deodorize, clean golf irons (without scratching them!) with a baking soda paste (3 parts Baking sodato 1 part water) and a brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Remove Oil and Grease Stains
Use Baking soda to clean up light-duty oil and grease spills on your garage floor or in your driveway. Sprinkle baking soda on the spot and scrub with a wet brush.

Clean Batteries
Baking soda can be used to neutralize battery acid corrosion on cars, mowers, etc. because its a mild alkali. Be sure to disconnect the battery terminals before cleaning. Make a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, apply with a damp cloth to scrub corrosion from the battery terminal. After cleaning and re-connecting the terminals, wipe them with petroleum jelly to prevent future corrosion. Please be careful when working around a battery–they contain a strong acid.

Clean Cars
Use baking soda to clean your car lights, chrome, windows, tires, vinyl seats and floor mats without worrying about unwanted scratch marks. Use a baking soda solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Apply with a sponge or soft cloth to remove road grime, tree sap, bugs, and tar. For stubborn stains use baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge or soft brush. Here’s how Sustainable Dave washes his car.

Deodorizing
Deodorize Your Refrigerator
Place an open box in the back of the fridge to neutralize odors.

Deodorize the Cutting Board
Sprinkle the cutting board with baking soda, scrub, rinse. For how to more thoroughly clean your cutting board, see How To Clean Your Cutting Boards.

Deodorize Trashcans
Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of your trashcan to keep stinky trash smells at bay.

Deodorize Recyclables
Sprinkle baking soda on top as you add to the container. Also, clean your recyclable container periodically by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge. Wipe clean and rinse. Learn about how to recycle everythin.

Deodorize Drains
To deodorize your sink and tub drains, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water–it will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain. (This a good way to dispose of baking soda that is being retired from your refrigerator.) Do you know what you’re not supposed to put down your drains?

Deodorize and Clean Dishwashers
Use Baking soda to deodorize before you run the dishwasher and then as a gentle cleanser in the wash cycle.

Deodorize Garbage Disposals
To deodorize your disposal, and keep lingering odors from resurfacing, pour baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water. Baking Soda will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain.

Deodorize Lunch Boxes
Between uses, place a spill-proof box of baking soda in everyone’s lunch box to absorb lingering odors. Read bout safe lunch boxes here.

Remove Odor From Carpets
Liberally sprinkle baking soda on the carpet. Let set overnight, or as long as possible (the longer it sets the better it works). Sweep up the larger amounts of baking soda, and vacuum up the rest. (Note that your vacuum cleaner bag will get full and heavy.)

Remove Odor From Vacuum Cleaners
By using the method above for carpets, you will also deodorize your vacuum cleaner.

Freshen Closets
Place a box on the shelf to keep the closet smelling fresh, then follow these tips to organize your closet in an eco-friendly way.

Deodorizing Cars
Odors settle into car upholstery and carpet, so each time you step in and sit down, they are released into the air all over again. Eliminate these odors by sprinkling baking soda directly on fabric car seats and carpets. Wait 15 minutes (or longer for strong odors) and vacuum up the baking soda.

Deodorize the Cat Box
Cover the bottom of the pan with baking soda, then fill as usual with litter. To freshen between changes, sprinkle baking soda on top of the litter after a thorough cleaning. You can also use green tea for this purpose!

Deodorize Pet Bedding
Eliminate odors from your pets bedding by sprinkling liberally with baking soda, wait 15 minutes (or longer for stronger odors), then vacuum up.

Deodorize Sneakers
Keep odors from spreading in smelly sneakers by shaking baking soda into them when not in use. Shake out before wearing. When they’re no longer wearable, make sure to  donate your old sneakers.

Freshen Linens
Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle for fresher sheets and towels. You can also make homemade lavender linen water with this formula.

Deodorize Your Wash
Gym clothes of other odoriferous clothing can be neutralized with a ½ cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle.

Freshen Stuffed Animals
Keep favorite cuddly toys fresh with a dry shower of baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on and let it sit for 15 minutes before brushing off.

Miscellaneous
Camping Cure-all
Baking soda is a must-have for your next camping trip. Its a dish washer, pot scrubber, hand cleanser, deodorant, toothpaste,f ire extinguisher and many other uses.

Extinguish Fires
Baking soda can help in the initial handling of minor grease or electrical kitchen fires, because when baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), turn off the gas or electricity if you can safely do so. Stand back and throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame to help put out the fire–and call the Fire Department just to be safe. (And, you should have a fire entinguisher on hand anyway, here’s why.

Septic Care
Regular use of baking soda in your drains can help keep your septic system flowing freely.  1 cup of baking soda per week will help maintain a favorable pH in your septic tank.

Fruit and Vegetable Scrub
Baking soda is the food safe way to clean dirt and residue off fresh fruit and vegetables. Just sprinkle a little on a clean damp sponge, scrub and rinse. Here’s another way to clean your vegetables as well.

OK, so there’s my 51suggestions (with a little help from the Arm & Hammond baking soda site, thank you). Do you have any tips or tricks that I missed, please share.

Related: 23 Ingenious Uses for Vinegar, 15 Brilliant Uses for Toothpaste, 14 Lovely Uses for Lemons

via 51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda Page 8 | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

Keep Kids Healthy, Naturally

No need to run to the pharmacy once sniffle season strikes. These doctor-approved home remedies work
By Jessica Downey

For kids, back to school means excitement and anticipation. For parents, it means colds, flus, rashes—and back to the doctor. Come September, along with their art projects and homework assignments, kids start coming home with an array of germs that leave them—and the rest of the family—sick, sapped, and cranky. However, there’s no need to resign yourself to a season spent at the pediatrician’s office and a medicine chest filled with prescription meds. Experts agree that using holistic, homeopathic, and alternative remedies can resolve common kid ailments. And when it comes to your kids’ health, not reaching for the big pharmaceutical guns right away makes good sense.

“People naturally want to give kids medicine if they aren’t feeling well because they want to help them get better,” says Roy Steinbock, MD, an integrative pediatrician in Boulder, Colorado. “But illness is part of life. Suppressing symptoms at all costs is not a good approach.” And while conventional medicine has plenty of merit, some treatments come with potential risks of their own and don’t even get to the root of the problem, says Lawrence Rosen, MD, a pediatrician at the Whole Child Center in Oradell, New Jersey. “Medicine used to be very ‘one-size-fits-all,’ which doesn’t treat kids most effectively,” says Rosen. “It shouldn’t be a decision between conventional or alternative treatments. The approach to helping kids feel better should really be integrative.”

Of course, many parents feel nervous going outside the generally accepted guidelines, especially when their child gets sick. So we asked pediatricians what they deem to be the safest and most effective natural solutions for the five most common ailments. Here’s what they had to say.

Ear Infections
Often signaled by fevers, tugging at the ears, and congestion, ear infections—one of the most common of all childhood complaints—can cause excruciating pain for your kids, making it difficult not to fill that prescription for antibiotics immediately.

“Most pediatricians are taught that ear infections are best treated with antibiotics,” Rosen says. But holistic practitioners and conventional pediatricians don’t agree. “We want fewer antibiotics prescribed to kids,” he says. What’s more, studies show that antibiotics don’t always work. First, many ear infections are not bacterial—and antibiotics only clear up bacterial infections. Secondly, antibiotics target bacteria indiscriminately, so they wipe out good bacteria along with the bad. And finally, growing immune systems can become dependent on the drugs, says Dana Ullman, MPH, DHM, and author of The Homeopathic Revolution (North Atlantic Books, 2007). “If you treat with antibiotics too soon in the inflammation process, your child’s body doesn’t learn to identify what has infected it. Her body then depends on the antibiotic to fight the infection for her.”

Furthermore, an ear infection—viral or bacterial—will often clear up without the aid of drugs. “More than 80 percent of the time children recover from earaches just on the strength of their own immune system,” says Kathi J. Kemper, MD, professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina. However, if you and your doctor decide antibiotics are the best course, Kemper recommends simultaneously giving your children probiotics, which contain beneficial bacteria, to replace some of the good bacteria that are lost.

If you decide to steer clear of medication, try one or more of the following options to fight off ear infections.

Willow, garlic, and mullein oil drops
.
These olive oil-based solutions contain a combination of herbs with pain-relieving, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. “The research behind these oils says they are more effective than antibiotics at treating ear infection symptoms like pain,” says Rosen. Dosages vary based on the age of your child and his symptoms, so read the label carefully or check with a holistic practitioner about how much to use.

Homeopathy.
“One of the principles of homeopathy is that your ear infection and my ear infection are not the same,” says Ullman. “Once a child has the conventional diagnosis, we then figure out the unique symptoms.” This means you can choose the homeopathic remedy that matches the symptoms your child has. Ullman recommends belladonna for children whose earaches begin with sudden, intense pain and are accompanied by a high fever, and pulsatilla for children who are being especially cuddly, complaining that their ear pain is worse at night, and have a yellow-to-green discharge from their nose. Chamomilla can help children who suffer from extreme ear pain, are irritable, and don’t want to be comforted.

Nasal Congestion
Many parents complain that their child’s nose is runny or congested more often than it’s clear. Congestion occurs when the membranes that line the nose swell from inflamed blood vessels, which result from colds, allergies, dry air, or dust.

Although some doctors endorse decongestants to remedy congestion, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends letting your kids heal on their own, unless they are younger than 3 months old. Steinbock agrees.

“If a kid has a runny nose, you really don’t have to treat it unless he can’t breathe.” Of course, if you get nervous, by all means call your doctor. But once you’re satisfied your little one has nothing more serious than a cold, these gentle, noninvasive choices may keep his sniffles at bay and his breathing freer.

Humidifiers.
Most doctors agree the first thing you can do is put a humidifier in your child’s room to increase the moisture in the air while she’s sleeping. The added moisture will loosen sinus congestion and soothe airways. German chamomile, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender essential oils will help kids breathe easier. Add one to two drops to the water in the humidifier before you turn it on.

Saline nasal rinses.
These solutions, such as Kids’ Xlear Saline Nasal Spray With Xylitol, gently clear your child’s nasal cavities of irritants, which is important because the mucus membranes are sensitive. For infants and toddlers, Steinbock recommends applying a simple saline solution followed by a gentle bulb suction.

Hydrotherapy.
If your congested child is older—or very cooperative—try a hydrotherapy treatment using a neti pot. This ceramic vessel designed especially for water to flow in and out of the nose allows you to pour a saltwater solution into your child’s nose and irrigate the sinuses. The water washes away allergens from nasal passages, and the salt draws fluid out of swollen mucus membranes, which helps drain the sinuses.

Skin Rashes
Rashes can signal any number of things—from something as serious as a spider bite to a mild allergic reaction to a new food—and because of this, they can be tough to treat. “The most common skin rash is called, ‘We don’t know what it is but it will probably disappear on its own,’” says Kemper. “The vast majority of rashes go away on their own because our immune systems are marvelous.” And the keys to a strong immune system are simple, she says: “a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and a loving family.” Of course everyone should wash their hands frequently to keep germs at a minimum.

For more serious rashes and eczema—a common condition in infants and children that causes itching, dryness, and red or scaly rashes—doctors may suggest hydrocortisone, a topical corticosteroid that works by decreasing (or preventing) the tissues’ response to inflammation. Since cortisone doesn’t cure the eczema and can nibble at the body’s ability to fight infection, try these other options first.

Eco-friendly products.
Environmental irritants include everyday products like laundry detergents, household cleaners, perfumes, face and body washes, and soaps. Switch to eco-friendly, scent-free brands of laundry detergent and bodycare products, and opt for chemical-free household cleansers.

Soothing baths.
If flare-ups occur often, give your child a bath. Soaking in a lukewarm bath of evening primrose oil for 15 to 20 minutes can help relieve itching and dryness. Try Kneipp Evening Primrose Moisture Bath and pat or air dry so the oil stays on the skin to protect and soothe.

Probiotics.
Research has shown that probiotics prevent eczema in adults and has explored their use as a treatment for the condition in infants and children.

Aloe and calendula ointment.
For other mild rashes, comfort the area without exposing your child’s skin to chemicals and toxins. Aloe and calendula ointments (try Hyland’s Skin Therapy) will soothe the itching and burning that often come with a rash, says Rosen, and that should keep little fingers from scratching and infecting the area.

Cough & Sore Throat
A sore throat usually indicates that a cold is coming on. During childhood your kids will likely have more colds or upper-respiratory infections than any other illness, according to the AAP. In fact, most kids have eight to 10 colds in the first two years of life. Until earlier this year, when the makers of several leading over-the-counter cold medications voluntarily withdrew products sold for infants, cough medicines were the generally accepted remedy to handle sore throats and coughs. “A lot of Western medicine isn’t always tested thoroughly, which you can see from the fact that they removed all cough medicines from the shelves,” Steinbock says. Steer clear of those OTCs and try these drug-free alternatives instead.

Slippery elm bark.
A number of doctors opt for an expectorant over a cough suppressant to get the mucus out of a child’s system. Steinbock touts the benefits of slippery elm bark, an herb that acts as an expectorant and a demulcent, which soothes the throat. The remedy comes from the bark of an American elm, but is not considered an official drug in the US. The bark is available in powder form and can simply be mixed with hot water. If your kids turn their noses up at boiling bark, try adding a little honey. “It’s a great home remedy,” says Kemper.

Menthol and eucalyptus.
For kids older than 6, Kemper recommends rubbing menthol and eucalyptus on their chests.

Fevers
Fevers—even when they aren’t high—can push any parent’s panic button. In fact, a study released by Johns Hopkins University in May found that parents tend to overtreat even the mildest fevers. To qualify as a fever, body temperature needs to spike above 100 degrees (normal is 98.6). But a mild fever—considered somewhere between 100 degrees and 102 degrees—should not be cause for alarm. “We must remind parents that fever is a sign of the body’s revved-up defenses fighting infection and that fever-reducing medications carry their own risks,” says Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, MD. While it can be tempting to give an uncomfortable, cranky child acetaminophen or ibuprofen every six to eight hours (kids tend to feel better when their fever is lower), Ullman cautions against the urge. “Fever up to a certain degree is beneficial,” he says. “Parents shouldn’t give kids acetaminophen for fevers below 103 degrees.” Use the following modalities to treat a fever holistically.

Homeopathy.
There are three main homeopathic fever reducers, says Ullman: belladonna, which is used when kids display a flushed face and give off heat in response to a high, rapid-onset fever; ferrum phos, which helps treat mild fevers; and aconite, which is a homeopathic form of vitamin C. Talk to a homeopath about how to use these remedies.

Hydrotherapy.
Cold-water baths can be effective in bringing down high fevers, but check with your doctor first. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, and call the pediatrician if her fever spikes. You can also give your little one a warm to hot footbath while placing a cold cloth on her head and wrapping her body in a blanket. This is especially good for fevers that are accompanied with headache.

Aromatherapy.
To help reduce fevers, dilute essential oils of bergamot, chamomile, or eucalyptus with a carrier oil before applying them as a warm compress on her forehead or chest, or having your child inhale their vapors.

Jessica Downey is a freelance writer in Pennsylvania.

via Keep Kids Healthy, Naturally – Natural Solutions Vibrant Health Balanced Living.

Coconut Oil is the Antiviral of Nature

In a time when strange viruses are making headlines around the world, perhaps it’s time you knew about the most powerful natural antiviral around: coconut oil. The antiviral activity in coconut oil is unparalleled, even among the most resistant viruses, and the best part is, if it’s virgin and organic, there isn’t a man-made chemical in the mix.

Think it’s too good to be true?

Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D. and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle shares, “Laboratory tests have shown that the MCFAs (medium chain fatty acids) found in coconut oil are effective in destroying viruses that cause influenza, measles, herpes, mononucleosis hepatitis C, and AIDS; bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, throat infections, pneumonia, sinusitis, urinary tract infections, meningitis, gonorrhea, and toxic shock syndrome; fungi and yeast that lead to ringworm, candida, and thrush; and parasites that can cause intestinal infections such as giardiasis.” Sounds like a powerhouse to me.

The antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of coconut oil are directly attributed to the medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in the oil, including capric acid and caprylic acid, and the powerful lauric acid. These fatty acids are concentrated in coconut oil; they make up over 60 percent of all that’s in the oil.

Medium chain fatty acids are unique and found in only a few places in nature. Interestingly, another place medium-chain fatty acids are found is in mother’s milk. In mother’s milk, these medium-chain fatty acids are what protects the infant as his/her immune system is developing. And the more the mom has in her body, the more protection the infant will receive.

As antiviral and antibacterial agents, medium chain fatty acids work like this:

Like humans, viruses and bacteria have a skin, or outer coating to keep foreign invaders out. Most viruses and bacteria have a malleable, fluid-like skin that is composed of a fatty substance. Inside this fatty skin resides the rest of the organism, including the organism’s DNA.

Because the fatty acids in coconut oil are similar to the pathogen’s own skin, the fatty acids are attracted to the organism and are easily absorbed right into it. For the pathogen, it’s like opening the door to an ax murderer, because they look like its best friend.

Once inside, the pathogen finds that the medium chain fatty acids are actually much smaller than the fatty acids that make up its own outer casing and this begins to break apart the pathogen’s casing.

According to Fife, the smaller medium chain fatty acids “weaken the already nearly fluid membrane to such a degree that it disintegrates. The membrane literally splits open, spilling its insides and killing the organism.”

It does this all without causing any harm to human cells or tissues.

More:

Coconut Oil Miracle, Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D.

Coconut Cures, Bruce Fife, N.D.

http://www.naturodoc.com/library/nutrition/coconut_oil_healthy.htm

http://www.coconut-connections.com/hivandaids.htm

via Coconut Oil is the Antiviral of Nature.

What color is Your Fat?

What Color is Your Fat?
By Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC, Natural Solutions

You probably had no idea until right now that your body houses two kinds of fat–yellow and brown. Yellow fat, which serves as an insulator and a warehouse for unused or excess calories, is the type most people want to shed. Brown fat actually burns those excess calories, acting as the furnace and burning yellow fat as fuel. If you have a good storehouse of brown fat, you can seemingly eat whatever you want and not gain a pound, while the “more yellow, less brown fat” folks find losing weight difficult even as they restrict calories. To add insult to injury, being overweight can actually shut down the mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses) in brown fat, essentially turning it into yellow fat.

Fortunately, many natural remedies can help kick-start fat burning (thermogenesis). First and foremost: exercise. Without enough exercise, it’s difficult to lose and keep weight off. In addition, you can take supplements to boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities.

Essential fatty acids. Many overweight people suffer from chronic deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs), the primary fuels that stoke the body’s thermogenic furnace. When they are in short supply, brown fat becomes inactive, which can make weight loss more difficult. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, is of particular concern. Normally, the body can manufacture GLA from dietary sources of another omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid–found in safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils. However, a diet high in saturated fats–much different than EFAs–combined with stress, alcohol, aging, or illness, can block this conversion, and you wind up with a GLA deficiency. Take 500 mg of GLA daily; evening primrose, black currant, hemp, and borage oils are all good sources.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs tend to accelerate metabolism while lowering blood levels of cholesterol, which can help you lose weight. Consider adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of grapeseed or organic virgin coconut oil on vegetables or in salad dressings each day. But if you have diabetes or a liver disorder, avoid MCTs entirely.

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens), ginger, and cinnamon. Used in Chinese medicine and ayurveda, these warming spices help break down fat. Cayenne helps digestion and increases feelings of fullness and satiety.

Ginseng. Studies show this ancient remedy works as a useful antiobesity agent. It decreases the release of free radicals generated by exercise and also reduces levels of appetite-stimulating compounds such as leptin. Extracts of both ginseng root and ginseng berry help stabilize blood sugar.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Green tea can increase the metabolic rate and stimulate fat burning. It’s rich in a variety of compounds, including theophylline, theobromine, caffeine, and polyphenols, all of which increase the body’s use of energy, inhibit the absorption of fat, and break down fat cells as they form. Consider drinking one or two cups of green tea per day.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Derived from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia), HCA helps clear fats from the liver, suppresses appetite, and slows the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. For best results, take 250 mg of HCA three times daily, along with 100 mcg of chromium polynicotinate or picolinate, 30 to 60 minutes before each meal.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis). Traditionally consumed as a tea in South America, yerba mate acts as a stimulant to boost thermogenesis. Its stimulating effect comes primarily from a compound called mateine, a close relative of caffeine, plus small quantities of theophylline and theobromine.

via What color is Your Fat? | Healthy and Green Living.

Top 15 Cleansing Foods

When it comes to cleansing your body of harmful toxins, food really is the best medicine. You’ll be amazed to learn that many of your favorite foods also cleanse the body’s detoxification organs like the liver, intestines, kidneys, and skin, preventing harmful toxic buildup. Help ward off the harmful effects of pollution, food additives, second-hand smoke, and other toxins with delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, and beans.

Apples. Because apples are high in pectin, a type of fiber that binds to cholesterol and heavy metals in the body, they help eliminate toxic build up and to cleanse the intestines.

Avocados. We rarely think of avocados as a cleansing food but these nutritional powerhouses lower cholesterol and dilate blood vessels while blocking artery-destroying toxicity. Avocados contain a nutrient called glutathione, which blocks at least thirty different carcinogens while helping the liver detoxify synthetic chemicals.

Beets. Time to whip up some delicious borscht soup since its main ingredient, beets, contain a unique mixture of natural plant compounds that make them superb blood purifiers and liver cleansers.

Blueberries. Truly one of the most powerful healing foods, blueberries contain natural aspirin that helps lessen the tissue-damaging effects of chronic inflammation, while lessening pain. Blueberries also act as antibiotics by blocking bacteria in the urinary tract, thereby helping to prevent infections. They also have antiviral properties and help to block toxins from crossing the blood-brain barrier to gain access to the delicate brain.

Cabbage. Cabbage contains numerous anticancer and antioxidant compounds and helps the liver break down excess hormones. Cabbage also cleanses the digestive tract and neutralizes some of the damaging compounds found in cigarette smoke (and second-hand smoke). It also strengthens the liver’s ability to detoxify.

Celery and Celery Seeds. Celery and celery seeds are excellent blood cleansers and contain many different anti-cancer compounds that help detoxify cancer cells from the body. Celery seeds contain over twenty anti-inflammatory substances. It is particularly good for detoxifying substances found in cigarette smoke.

Cranberries. Cleanse your body from harmful bacteria and viruses that may be lingering in your urinary tract with cranberries since they contain antibiotic and antiviral substances.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil. Loaded with essential fatty acids, particularly the Omega-3s, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil are essential for many cleansing functions throughout the body.

Garlic. Eat garlic to cleanse harmful bacteria, intestinal parasites and viruses from your body, especially from the blood and intestines. It also helps cleanse build-up from the arteries and has anti-cancer and antioxidant properties that help detoxify the body of harmful substances. Additionally, garlic assists with cleansing the respiratory tract by expelling mucous build-up in the lungs and sinuses. For the health benefits, choose only fresh garlic, not garlic powder, which has virtually none of the above properties.

Grapefruit. Add a ruby red grapefruit to your breakfast to benefit from pectin fiber that binds to cholesterol, thereby cleansing the blood. Pectin also binds to heavy metals and helps escort them out of the body. It also has antiviral compounds that cleanse harmful viruses out of the body. Grapefruit is an excellent intestinal and liver detoxifier.

Kale. Steam some kale to benefit from its powerful anti-cancer and antioxidant compounds that help cleanse the body of harmful substances. It is also high in fiber, which helps cleanse the intestinal tract. Like cabbage, kale helps neutralize compounds found in cigarette smoke and strengthens liver cleansing.

Legumes. Add a handful of cooked beans to your next meal since they loaded with fiber that helps lower cholesterol, cleanses the intestines, and regulates blood sugar levels. Legumes also help protect the body against cancer.

Lemons. Excellent liver detoxifiers, lemons contain high amounts of vitamin C, a vitamin needed by the body to make an important substance called glutathione. Glutathione helps the liver detoxify harmful chemicals. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (not the bottled variety) to pure water to support your cleansing efforts on a daily basis.

Seaweed. Seaweed could be the most underrated vegetable in the western world. Studies at McGill University in Montreal showed that seaweeds bind to radioactive waste in the body. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to help eliminate them from the body. In addition, they are powerhouses of minerals and trace minerals.

Watercress. If you haven’t tried watercress add this delicious green to your next sandwich since it increases detoxification enzymes and acts on cancer cells in the body. In a study at the Norwich Food Research Centre in the United Kingdom, smokers who were given 170 grams of watercress per day eliminated higher than average amounts of carcinogens in their urine, thereby eliminating them from their body.

Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables assists with detoxifying harmful substances from your body. Who knew cleansing could taste so good?

Adapted with permission from: The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan by Michelle Schoffro Cook (John Wiley & Sons, 2006). Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook.

via Top 15 Cleansing Foods | Healthy and Green Living.

Eat Mindfully to Prevent Food Intolerance

When you eat too quickly, food does not get chewed and broken down properly, so that when it reaches the stomach it is not in the ideal for optimal digestion. This mans the stomach acid and digestive enzymes are unable to digest this food, no matter what it is, and as a consequence intact proteins may be absorbed through the intestinal lining, setting up an immune reaction that can lead to food intolerance. Eat more slowly and chew food thoroughly before swallowing it!

Chewing food well also help stimulate protection within your intestinal lining, in the form of something called Epithelial Growth Factor (EGF). EGF helps support cell growth in the intestines. Chewing also lets your digestive system know that something is coming so that it can prepare itself, whereas scarfing your food can be a shock to your digestive system. Can you remember how many meals you have eaten in the past week when you chewed your food thoroughly?

When your mind is preoccupied while you are eating, your digestive system switches off. Your mind is giving your body the message that it is engaged in something, and this is not conductive to optimal digestion. Remember, if you cannot digest your food properly, it sets the scene for food intolerance. Typical examples are when you eat at your desk while working. [Oops, I’m busted.] Or eating while on the move. Or while watching TV. It is best to concentrate on the food you are eating to help your digestive system work at its best. The ritual of saying grace before a meal, for example, is an excellent means of setting the scene for your digestion. I’d encourage you all to ‘give thanks’ for the food you are about to eat, if only because it is one means by which you can improve your digestion.

via Eat Mindfully to Prevent Food Intolerance | Healthy and Green Living.

Can cinnamon oil fight bacteria?: Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Can cinnamon oil fight bacteria? Can something as warming and fragrant as lovely cinnamon essential oil really be an effective slayer of streptococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus? An article last week in The New York Times (”Cinnamon Oil Kills Bacteria”) tackled the question and came to the conclusion that, yes: cinnamon oil has potent antiseptic properties.

According to the story, a recent study by a group of surgeons found that a solution made with cinnamon oil killed a number of common and hospital-acquired infections, like streptococcus and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA–and in fact, did so as effectively as several antiseptics widely used in hospitals. Another study by French researchers in 2008 had similar results, showing that at concentrations of 10 percent or less, cinnamon oil was effective against Staphylococcus, E. coli and several antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

With the opening of a new flu season and H1N1 virus (formerly known as swine flu) squealing in the headlines, clean hands, very clean hands, are preoccupying many. Bottles of hand sanitizer seem to be bumping candy and breath mints off the all-star spots at the checkout counter, while liquid hand soaps boasting super duper anti-bacterial properties are popping up on many a bathroom sink. So where does cinnamon oil play into this?

Anti-bacterial soaps have their host of problems–namely the chlorophenol chemical compound triclosan (scary stuff–read about it in The Trouble with Triclosan in Your Soap). Meanwhile, alcohol-based instant hand sanitizers are being touted by everyone from hand-wringing moms to school principals to the CDC, but they may raise some red flags of their own. The ingredients panel for a national leading brand lists the active ingredient ethyl alcohol and a long list of inactive ingredients that land it in the “High Hazard” ranking in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. With 62 percent of said sanitizer being comprised of alcohol, that leaves a balance of 38 percent for ingredients that scream “safety concern,” such as methylparaben, synthetic fragrance and diazolidinyl urea.

So, what’s a flu-fearing, germ-wary person supposed to do? Use hand sanitizers with questionable synthetic ingredients, or get swine flu? Well you can follow the advice of the CDC and “Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze” or you can make your own natural hand sanitizer, which is where cinnamon oil comes in.

In The New York Times article referenced above, Dr. Lawrence D. Rosen, a New Jersey pediatrician who dispenses natural health advice on his blog, recommends his tried-and-true recipe for homemade hand sanitizer called thieves oil–his formula calls for cinnamon bark, lemon oil and eucalyptus. As legend has it, a group of 15th century European perfumers-turned-grave-robbers were able to defend themselves against the demons of bubonic plague (and other assorted bacterial maladies one might encounter while removing jewelery from corpses) by dousing themselves in a blend of essential oils, hence the name “thieves oil.”

Now there are any number of stories circulating about this legend, and just as many recipes, many of them with a vinegar base. But going on Dr. Rosen’s fail-safe recipe and the proven efficacy of cinnamon oil, I like the formula which includes equal amounts of: cinnamon bark, lemon, eucalyptus, clove, and rosemary therapeutic grade essential oils. Mix them with jojoba or olive oil as a carrier, and use on hands as a sanitizer. (Note: pure essential oils can be very potent, it’s important to test some on a small patch of skin to check for any adverse reactions.)

So what do you think? Are you willing to do like the thieves and give essential oils a try? Or does the H1N1 flu virus have you running scared, and getting theeself straight to the hand sanitizer aisle of the pharmacy?

As for me? I’m going to go whole hog and stick with good old fashioned hand-washing, followed with a nice splash of thieves oil. My kids may start to smell like Christmas, but at least we’ll be keeping the bubonic plague at bay.

via Theives Oil: Homemade Hand Sanitizer | Healthy and Green Living.

What’s Causing Your Inflammation?

*Because RSI is partially an inflammatory process, the cycle of pain can be affected by what we ingest.*

By Catherine Guthrie, Experience Life

Americans are on a bona fide sugar binge. During the past 25 years, the average person’s intake of sugar and other natural sweeteners ballooned from 123 to as many as 160 pounds a year. That breaks down to more than 20 teaspoons of the added white stuff per person per day. And our collective sweet tooth is growing. For the past decade, Americans’ sugar consumption has edged upward at the average rate of nearly 2 percent a year.

Why the sugar obsession? The vilification of fat may be partly to blame. During the low-fat frenzy of the past couple of decades, oils were squeezed out of processed foods – and sugar was pumped in to make reduced-fat foods tastier. It seems clear now that we effectively traded one dietary evil for another.

New research is revealing disturbing links not just between sugar and obesity, but also between sugar and inflammation. Inflammation, of course, has been implicated as a major factor in a number of vitality zapping diseases, from cancer and diabetes to atherosclerosis and digestive disorders.

Whether you’re concerned with managing your weight, your health, or both, it makes sense to evaluate the impact your sugar habit could be having on your body.

The Refined-Carb Connection
On the spectrum of dietary dangers, processed sugars are on a par with unhealthy fats. “High-fructose corn syrup is the primary cause of obesity in our culture,” says Elson Haas, MD, author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts, 2006, New Edition). “Our bodies simply aren’t built to process all that sugar.”

Still, to date, sugar doesn’t have nearly as bad a reputation as it probably deserves. One of the reasons it slips under the radar is that connecting the dots between sugar and disease requires widening the nutritional net to include all refined carbohydrates (like processed flours, cereals and sugars of all sorts). This may seem like a fine point, but it’s an important distinction.

Most dietary sugars are simple carbohydrates, meaning that they’re made up of one or two sugar molecules stuck together, making them easy to pull apart and digest. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in whole grains, legumes and many vegetables, are long chains of sugar molecules that must be broken apart during digestion, therefore offering a longer-lasting surge of energy. The presence of naturally occurring fiber, protein and fat in many whole foods further slows the sugar-release process.

The more processed and refined the carbohydrate, as a rule, the faster it breaks down in the digestive system, and the bigger the sugar rush it delivers. That’s why refined flours, sugars and sugar syrups pose such a problem for our systems.

The body is exquisitely designed to handle small amounts of sugar. But refined carbs deliver a larger rush than our bodies were designed to accommodate, or even cope with. In ancient times, hunter-gatherers coveted the occasional piece of fruit or slab of honeycomb as a rare treat and source of rapid-fire energy for, well – hunting and gathering.

“Refined sugar is a genetically unfamiliar ingredient,” says Jack Challem, a nutrition researcher and author of The Inflammation Syndrome (John Wiley & Sons, 2003). “A lot of health problems today are the result of ancient genes bumping up against modern foods.”

To wrap your head around sugar’s destructive powers, it helps to understand how the body reacts when it meets the sweet stuff. With each gulp of a sports drink or soda, for instance, simple carbohydrates are quickly dismantled into simple sugar molecules (glucose) that pass directly into the bloodstream. As a result, blood sugar rises markedly. To bring levels back to normal, the pancreas releases insulin, which lowers blood-sugar levels by escorting glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells.

If energy needs are high at the time sugar hits the bloodstream, that sugar is put to good use. But a too frequent or too heavy supply of sugar pushes the pancreas into overdrive, causing it to release too much insulin – a spew instead of a squirt. And an excessive release of insulin spells inflammatory trouble.

Sugar and Inflammation
A newly understood phenomenon, inflammation underlies modern health scourges, from heart disease to obesity to diabetes. “Sugar can play a role in inflammatory diseases,” says Dave Grotto, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “Poor regulation of glucose and insulin is a breeding ground for inflammation.”

Under normal conditions, inflammation helps the body rebound from injury. For instance, if you cut yourself shaving, white blood cells race to the scene to mop up the wound, destroy bacteria and mend tissue. But when the injury is deep inside the body, such as inside the blood vessels of the heart, hidden inflammation can trigger chronic disease, and experts are only beginning to understand how sugar fans the flames.

In the development of heart disease, the type of carbohydrate in your diet may be as important as the type of fat, says Walter Willett, MD, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy (Free Press, 2005). The more refined carbs you eat, the more likely you are to be supplying your body with more sugar than it can handle with healthy results.

That point hit home when Willett and a team of HSPH nutrition researchers looked at diet and health history data from more than 75,500 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study. At the start of the study in 1984, all the nurses were given a clean bill of health. Ten years later, 761 had either been diagnosed with or died from heart disease. When researchers distilled the numbers, they found a telling parallel between women eating a high-glycemic diet of refined carbohydrates and those with heart disease. An even more disturbing trend was within the group of women at risk for heart disease: Those who ate the most carbohydrates – including sugars – doubled their risk of heart attack compared to those with diets only moderately high in carbohydrates.

Nutrition experts stress that there’s no point avoiding the carbs that come from eating a balanced, healthy, whole-foods diet. But there is plenty of good reason to avoid the refined carbs that quickly turn to sugar in the body.

Such sugars deliver more excess (and mostly empty) calories, which the body then con verts to triglycerides, a key indicator of heart disease.

Sugar-rich diets stress the heart in other ways, too. When blood sugar is high, the body generates more free radicals. Rogue molecules that pinball through the body damaging cells, free radicals stimulate the immune response, which can inflame the lining of the blood vessels leading to the heart. And the damage doesn’t stop there.

From Sugar Comes Fat
Until recently, the connection between sugar and obesity was murky. Dietitians assumed that in the battle of the bulge, sugar was a lesser foe than dietary fat. But new studies reveal sugar may play a bigger role in weight gain than suspected. And carrying excess body fat further reduces your body’s ability to manage its sugars effectively.

When scientists want to measure the effects of sugar on health and weight, they turn to the biggest source of sugar in American diets:soft drinks. A pilot study published in the March 2006 issue of Pediatrics showed for the first time that simply cutting back on sugary drinks can reduce excess body fat. Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston enrolled 103 sugar-guzzling teenagers, divided them into two groups (an intervention and a control), and measured the effects of the drinks on their weight. For almost six months the intervention group got weekly home deliveries of their choice of noncaloric drinks, including bottled water, iced tea and diet sodas. The scientists called the teens monthly to check in and cheer them along. The control group went about their normal drinking habits. In the end, the teens in the intervention group cut their intake of sugary drinks by 82 percent and lost weight.

Although the average weight loss was “modest,” the teens who weighed the most at the beginning saw the biggest losses, roughly a pound a month. This study goes to show that reducing sugar intake, particularly sugar-sweetened beverages, is one of the best ways to improve one’s diet, Harvard’s Willett says. “Sugar is an important source of excess calories in the American diet – a serious problem given the obesity epidemic.”

Cutting Back
The best way to reduce unhealthy sugars in the diet is to consume fewer processed foods and drinks in general, and refined carbs and sugars in particular. Fuel your energy demands with a slower-burning balance of proteins, healthy fats and whole-food carbs.

For a healthier alternative to sugars that you add at the table or kitchen counter, dietitian Grotto suggests switching to sweeteners that are higher in naturally occurring fructose, such as agave syrup or malted barley, which have a less dramatic effect on blood sugar and insulin. Still, you should limit your intake to no more than 3 teaspoons a day. “These sweeteners won’t elicit the glycemic responseof table sugar,” he says, “but you shouldn’t eat them by the gallon.”

‘ For sweetening tea or cereal, you might also try stevia, a natural calorie-free herb made from a South American shrub. It’s sold at health-food stores as a dietary supplement and is widely available in both powder and liquid forms.

Take heart: Enjoying a limited amount of refined sugar isn’t going to devastate an otherwise consistent healthy-living regimen – but that doesn’t mean you should keep swallowing it indiscriminately. “The sugar highs and lows brought on by high-carbohydrate foods create a dangerous addiction,” researcher Challem notes. And the sooner we break our addiction to sugar, the better off our bodies will be.

via What’s Causing Your Inflammation? | Healthy and Green Living.