Monthly Archives: April 2012
It is an extreme honor to share this post written by my friend, Annie Sever-Dimitri. My family was touched by suicide when my first husband committed suicide in 2001. Please don’t assume there’s no way suicide could touch your life. Annie shares wise advice which we should each take to heart.
Please be sure to visit Annie’s site to learn more about her and the services she offers. Her insight and expertise have blessed many. One of the things I love about Annie – in addition to the fact that she loves life and makes everything fun – is that she is very honest. If her services aren’t a good fit for you, she will not only tell you that up front, but will happily provide resources to providers who might be a better fit. Fun and integrity is a winning combination in my book!
I certainly didn’t intend to write on this topic today, or any day, for that matter. Being a happy person surrounded by other happy people, and being the hell out of the social work profession, has stopped the flow of suicidal folks in my life. Yet as I eagerly scrolled down my Facebook account to see what was up in my world, I was overwhelmed with acute sadness when I saw a high school classmate had posted the photo of our friend who committed suicide when we were in our early 30′s. It was so devastating. Rob was the LAST person you ever would have pegged to kill himself. A series of severe misfortunes proved too painful, and Rob chose to leave our world. I felt the need to share this information so that maybe you will know how to approach and assist a friend or family member who you suspect is suicidal. Doesn’t mean that if you do, they will choose help and decide to stay. All we can do as loved ones and mental health clinicians is try our best to help. The rest is up to them.
So how do you know that a loved one is considering suicide? Common signs are frequently talking about death, stating there is no hope for their situation, becoming withdrawn, giving away treasured items, and guilt. It gets even hairier if they already have a psychiatric diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia.
How to approach them? First, tell them you have noticed they seem very depressed, hopeless, or whatever it is that is worrying you. Ask if they are suicidal. Ask how they feel. Be open to listening. Suggest they get help. If they are getting help and are still suicidal, suggest they talk to their therapist about inpatient hospitalization. I know it is hard to broach this subject, but your intervention may be what saves their life.
For a very detailed and accurate article about suicide prevention, give this a twirl:
Please share this too. You never know whose life might be spared if more people become aware of this information.
Annie Sever-Dimitri is a life coach and Image Consultant who offers many other services to her clients. You can find her at the following links:
Here’s a description of Annie’s services in her own words:
My company, Your Coach for Life , is a business offering personal transformation services for mind, body, and spirit. I help clients achieve better life balance, happiness, and authenticity with life coaching, image consulting, reiki, and intuitive consultations. My mission is to empower you to fulfill your potential using practical, yet powerful, strategies with a focus on strengthening your intuition, spirituality, and sense of humor. I have an A.S. in Fashion Merchandising, B.A. in psychology, and M.A. in Social Work. My experiences in both retail and social work prepared me well to pursue my life’s passion–empowering people to improve their own lives so that they in turn can help others do the same. I am wholly committed to facilitating positive change not only in my clients, but also on behalf of humans, animals, and the environment globally. I know that when you truly follow your own bliss, you are then able to spark profound change in yourself and in the lives of everyone you meet. I have been blissfully married for 11 years and am the proud mother of one ornery Pomeranian and three felicitous felines.
One of the most maddening health myths being perpetuated today is that cholesterol is bad and we should avoid it at all costs. This is, quite frankly, a load of rubbish. (Please be proud of me for using the word “rubbish” instead of a few other more descriptive nouns.) For more information on this topic, I highly recommend the book, Sex, Lies & Cholesterol by Dr. Ryan Bentley. Click the link to view more about this book.
The bottom line is that your body could not maintain healthy cell membranes, digest your food, maintain the myelin sheath that protects nerves, or product hormones without cholesterol. Sound important? It is! The following six facts may surprise you:
FACT: Cholesterol is Essential for Good Health
FACT: There’s No Such Thing as Good and Bad Cholesterol
In spite of what we’re told, there is only one type of cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat which has attached itself to a protein. The terms LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) are used to differentiate between the types of proteins contained in the cholesterol. The reason LDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as “bad” is because some LDL particles are very tiny. These tiny particles have the ability to penetrate arterial walls, where they oxidize (or turn rancid) and can begin forming plaque. The likelihood of this happening is dependent on many factors, primary of which are lifestyle and family history. The bottom line, though, is that cholesterol is neither good nor bad, it simply is.
FACT: Dietary Fats Don’t Always Raise Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown the consumption of dietary fat has little effect on cholesterol levels in the blood. The consumption of carbohydrates and sugars raises cholesterol levels more than consuming fats does because the body converts excess glucose in the blood stream to cholesterol and triglycerides. You obviously want to eat healthy fats and avoid hydrogenated oils, but the consumption of healthy fats has been shown to help normalize cholesterol levels – not raise them. Studies found that decreasing fat consumption actually increases the body’s production of cholesterol. The body recognizes its need for cholesterol and considers it so important that it produces more if it does not receive it via the diet. Does this mean we can eat as many Twinkies as we want? No. (Sorry.) It means we can enjoy healthy fats in moderation and should avoid unhealthy fats.
FACT: Cholesterol is Made in the Liver, Not Absorbed through the Diet
One of the many functions performed by the liver is the production of cholesterol. Experts estimate that 75% of the cholesterol in the body is produced by the liver, and that only 25% is gained through dietary intake. Statin drugs work by blocking an important liver enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase, that is responsible for producing cholesterol. The fact that statins cause the liver to stop producing a vital enzyme is primary among the reasons statins often cause liver damage.
One very simple way to maintain balance in cholesterol levels is to increase one’s consumption of dietary fiber. As the body produces cholesterol, it uses dietary fiber as one means of absorbing and eliminating cholesterol that is not needed for maintenance of body structures. Increasing dietary fiber is a very simple way to help maintain balance in cholesterol levels.
FACT: Standard Blood Tests Miss the Mark
Standard blood tests for cholesterol claim to measure Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High Density Lipoproteins (HDL). Lipoproteins are “containers” that carry cholesterol throughout the body via the blood stream. The standard cholesterol blood test estimates the number of LDL particles using a complex equation and then estimates the amount of cholesterol contained in each. The problem with this method is that it is an estimate which can be very inaccurate. Studies have shown that measuring the actual number, size and density of LDL particles in the blood stream provides a much more accurate predictor of potential coronary issues. It is possible to have normal LDL levels via the standard tests but have elevated LDL particle levels. In my practice, I recommend using a blood test that measures both particle size and count. I work with a local lab that provides the test at a very low rate and which does not require a doctor’s order.
Statins May Do More Harm Than Good
As the commercials state, Statin drugs have multiple side effects, including body aches, itching, headaches, diarrhea, liver damage and more. One thing the pharmaceutical companies fail to share is that statins greatly reduce the amount of CoQ10 in the body. CoQ10 is an antioxidant which is essential for heart health. It is quite a paradox that a drug said to improve coronary health actually depletes the body of a nutrient essential for coronary health. Anyone taking a statin is strongly advised to take a CoQ10 supplement.
So what should you do if your doctor insists your cholesterol levels are high and that you need a statin? Do your research, for starters. I generally don’t get overly concerned about slightly elevated cholesterol levels, but do begin to recommend changes if triglyceride levels are elevated. (Triglycerides are “sticky” and play a larger role in blocking vessels.) For best results, explain your concerns to your doctor (feel free to share this article and the book I referenced above), and let him or her know that you do not believe cholesterol is the “demon” the pharmaceutical companies claim it is. During this discussion, please also ask your doctor to order an Insulin test during your next set of blood work. Elevated cholesterol levels are sometimes an indicator of beginning insulin resistance, so make sure you know where you stand. (Please see my post, Top 3 Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request for information on blood tests you should ask your doctor to run.) I find that asking for a six-month “window of opportunity” is often a very effective way of expressing that you are committed to creating change.
Ultimately, the decision to take a statin drug is yours. If you choose to not take one and your doctor fires you as a patient, perhaps it’s an indicator that it was time to move on. If you are on a statin, DO NOT stop taking it without thoroughly discussing your options with your doctor.
I find it somewhat common that post-menopausal women have slightly higher cholesterol levels, due to their body’s attempt to create additional hormones. I’m often amazed when women say their cholesterol went up after they hit 50 and their doctor immediately put them on a statin drug. The slight increase in cholesterol following menopause may actually be beneficial, as this provides more cholesterol the body can use to repair damage in vessel walls. I also find it very, very common that people who were long distance runners have elevated cholesterol levels for the rest of their life. I have several theories about why this is true, but cannot prove them scientifically. My assumption is that long distance running damages blood vessels in a way that causes the body to increase cholesterol production. Why the increase occurs longterm is a mystery, but there is a definite connection between long distance running and elevated cholesterol.
There are lifestyle and dietary changes that can positively impact cholesterol balance. Please use these proactive changes before choosing other options.
If you are concerned about cholesterol or other health challenges and would like to address them using natural methods, please contact me. I will work with you to identify the causes of your health challenges, and will then work with you to create a plan to reverse them.
As always, this information is shared for educational purposes only. None of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat cure or prevent any health condition. Please check with your physician before making lifestyle changes or starting to take a supplement, and never stop taking prescription medication unless directed to do so by the prescribing physician.
One question I get asked fairly frequently is, “What do you eat?” That is a great question, so I thought I’d start by sharing what I don’t eat. I also want to share that our eating habits should never become set in stone or overly rigid, but will need to evolve and be “tweaked” as our health changes and as deficiencies or weaknesses are eliminated. I eat a much different variety of foods now than I did three years ago. I encourage everyone to listen to your body and to make adjustments to lifestyle habits when you begin noticing issues that indicate a change is needed. As always, work with and rely on your health practitioner to help you identify problem areas and to provide medical intervention when needed.
Before I share my list, let me share that I try to eat “whole” foods, meaning I strictly avoid processed foods. A “whole food” eating style includes foods that are fairly close to how they appear in nature. Does it require a lot of cooking from scratch? Yes. Is it more time consuming? Not when done simply. I didn’t list processed foods on my list of foods I avoid, but know that few foods enter my kitchen in a box. Here are the top 10 foods you’ll never find in my kitchen:
- Margarine (all hydrogenated/trans fat oils): In my house, we use good ol’ butter … the real thing … and have no worries about high cholesterol. Hydrogenated oils, also known as “trans fats,” are known to contribute to heart disease, are known to be highly inflammatory, and are created in a chemical process that attaches a hydrogen molecule to natural oil molecules to make them solid at room temperature. They are patently unhealthy. The nice thing about eliminating trans fats and hydrogenated oils from my kitchen is that it automatically eliminates most baked goods, donuts, and other high-carbohydrate foods. An interesting note is that even though a food’s label states “0 Trans Fat,” the food can contain up to .5 grams of trans fat/hydrogenated oils and still be labeled “0.” Since many companies’ labels list the nutritional information for “serving sizes” which are incredibly small, this means that a “normal” serving size may deliver a high amount of trans fats but the label can still legally say, “Contains no trans fat.” It makes no sense. The bottom line is that absolutely no serving of trans fats is acceptable in terms of health, so the current FDA guidelines allowing 0.5 to be labeled “0” are in need of major overhaul. In our kitchen, we use extra virgin olive oil for cold products (salad dressings, etc.) and extra virgin coconut oil for any cooking that requires oil. The coconut oil does not deteriorate in heat and contains very healthy medium-chain fatty acids which are known to assist with balancing cholesterol levels. (The rumors that coconut oil is a saturated fat that is bad for coronary health are false and completely ignore coconut oil’s very special chemical structure.)
- Soy: I know including this on my list is controversial, but I avoid soy at all costs. Over 90% of soy in this country is genetically modified, it is one of the most rapidly rising allergens in the US, it is known to harm thyroid function, and it is highly estrogenic and may interfere with normal reproductive cycles in children, men and pre-menopausal women. The only form of soy I can advocate is organic and fermented, and then no more than once or twice a week. On a side note, I was a vegan for over two years and ate no soy. It is very possible to be a vegetarian or vegan, not eat soy, and still get more than enough protein.
- Artificial Sweeteners: I only use pure stevia, an herbal sweetener. I carry stevia with me at all times so I never need to use saccharin, sucralose, aspartame or any of the other potentially dangerous sweeteners. Please read Why You Should Never Eat Splenda (Sucralose) for more information. Let me also state that many products claiming to be stevia are actually highly processed chemical versions of stevia and are not much better than other artificial sweeteners. My favorite stevia is a pure extract that is well filtered. My brand of choice is Sweet Leaf. Click the link to view samples of their products.
- Non-organic meat and dairy: I refuse to purchase meat from animals which were given antibiotics and hormones during their life cycle. Ingesting meat containing those items is simply not healthy. My preference is to eat meat that was locally grown, pasture-raised/free range, and which was fed foods that it would choose to eat naturally. The reason for this is that the meat from organically, sustainably raised animals has a healthier fatty-acid content, lower acidity, and is healthier in general. I am willing to purchase meat that is raised this way but which is not organically certified. I ask a lot of questions of the farmer to ensure the very best methods for animal and environment were used while the animals were being raised.
- Genetically modified foods: This is one I really can’t do justice to in a single paragraph, but I aim for a 100% organic diet so that I can avoid having genetically modified foods in my home. I will share that I don’t always eat at home. I am very aware that the foods I eat in restaurants may contain many of the items included on this list. I make good choices when eating out and trust that my exposure is far too limited to cause grave damage. The most prevalent genetically modified foods include: soy & all soy products, canola oil, cottonseed oil, beet sugar (most white sugar is beet sugar unless specifically identified as cane sugar), corn, papaya, zucchini and summer squashes, cassava, golden rice and flood-resistant rice. Organic produce cannot be genetically modified, but there is rising concern that organic crops have been contaminated by cross-pollination from genetically modified crops. A group of almost 300,000 farmers in the US are currently suing the Monsanto company for cross-contaminating their crops. My hope is that these farmers win their suit.
- White sugar and flour: Processed sugars and flours obviously don’t fit the “whole food” lifestyle. They additionally have been stripped of almost all nutritional value. For this reason, they are banned from my kitchen, and I try very hard to ignore it when my son purchases white bread for his own consumption. (Teenagers … what’re you gonna’ do?)
- High fructose corn syrup: The commercials paid for by the Corn Refiners Association are lying to you. (It is interesting to note that the Center for Science in Public Interest has challenged these commercials and is lobbying to have them removed from the air.) High fructose corn syrup, now hidden and listed as “corn sugar” on food labels, is metabolized very differently from white sugar in the body. Multiple studies proved that rats fed high amounts of high fructose corn syrup developed pre-diabetic symptoms, metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, gained weight around the abdominal area, and gained as much as 45% of their body weight in a short time. (Rats fed sugar-water instead of the high fructose corn syrup did not experience the same effects.) This same pattern is being repeated in the US population. One estimate I saw said the average person in the US eats 41.5 POUNDS of high fructose corn syrup each year. In addition to being excessively high in sugar and high glycemic impact carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup has a metabolic effect that “turns off” the hormone in your body that tells you when you’re full. Ever notice you just can’t get enough to eat when you’re eating a food that contains high fructose corn syrup? There’s a true, hormonal metabolic reason. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Start looking for it on labels. It’s in most condiments, many soft drinks, juices, many cereals and baked goods, many fruit-flavored yogurts, many breads, and many products you would never suspect to contain it. Eliminating this single ingredient has had an amazing effect on blood sugar and weight loss for some people. I encourage you to consider eliminating it.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: The Clinical Journal of Epigenics recently released a peer-reviewed study that definitely connects rising rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders to high fructose corn syrup and other environmental toxins. I STRONGLY encourage all mothers of young children and all pregnant women to please completely eliminate this food ingredient from your diet.
- Microwave meals: I never use a microwave. Period. I’d rather eat food cold than heat it in a microwave. There is a lot of controversy associated with microwave ovens, but the following facts remain: a) Microwaves convert the active, bioavailable from of B12 contained in food to an inactive form that is not easily absorbed (the same effect is noticed in other B vitamins); microwaving breast milk eliminates the protective antiviral and immune-boosting properties of the milk; microwaving garlic completely eliminates garlic’s antiviral and antibacterial properties; blood levels of hemoglobin were found to dramatically fall after a microwaved food was eaten but this drop did not occur when the same food was eaten after being cooked on the stove or in an oven. It is also very true that microwaving meats (blood-containing foods) changes the chemical structure of the meat. Among other things, the amount of carcinogens in the meat is increased. (A highly-publicized court case in the 90s occurred when a nurse gently microwaved blood before transfusing it into a patient. The chemical structure of the blood was modified in such a way that the patient’s body rejected it and the patient died.) It’s also interesting to note that chemists discovered long ago that chemical processes which should have taken days or weeks to complete were dramatically sped up if they were microwaved a short time. This correlates to other studies which showed that cell death (apoptosis) was hastened by microwaves. Those reasons are enough for me. I prefer to not change the molecular structure of my food before eating it. Period.
- White processed salt: There is absolutely no truth to the myth that sodium is bad for heart health. What is bad for heart health is processed white salt, the same type that is most commonly used in processed foods and restaurants. (And let’s be honest … any food in a box is processed. Read the labels and familiarize yourself with what you’re eating.) Every cell in your body maintains a very delicate balance of sodium and potassium. Sodium is essential for human life, but not in the the form most commonly added to foods. True salt has some color to it and contains essential trace minerals. I actually find that many people’s high blood pressure falls when they start using a mineral-rich salt (in small amounts) such as Himalayan Sea Salt (which is pink) or Celtic Sea Salt (which is gray). The truth is that common, iodized white table salt has been so heavily processed that all other trace minerals have been removed. The end result is a non-organic chemical – sodium chloride – which your body does not recognize. The water retention and elevated blood pressure caused by common table salt occurs because your body exerts so much energy to eliminating the salt from your body. Your body will isolate the sodium and chloride and will pull water out of your cells and tissues to surround the sodium and chloride molecules with water in order to neutralize them. This causes water retention and elevated blood pressure. Many sea salts sold today as “natural” are also highly processed and bear little or no advantage over common table salt. Another issue with regular sea salt is that it contains pollutants common to sea water. My favorite salt is Himalayan Sea Salt. Its pink color is an obvious indicator that it contains higher amounts of minerals than white salt does. Himalayan sea salt was deposited in the Himalayas thousands of years ago, so contamination is not a concern. Using an unprocessed, natural salt is definitely healthier than using a salt that is the result of a chemical process. On a side note, my husband often comments that Himalayan Sea Salt just plain tastes better, so it’s a win-win.
- Bacon, salami, sausage, hot dogs and lunch meats with nitrates: In addition to being highly processed, loaded with unhealthy fat and high in white salt (see above), these meats – sometimes of questionable origin – also contain preservatives called sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite. These chemicals interfere with red blood cell’s ability to carry oxygen throughout the body and have been implicated in erectile dysfunction and blue baby syndrome. They break down into nitrosamines in the body, which are a chemical known to be highly carcinogenic. The good news is that it is possible to find nitrate-free bacon and lunchmeats in many grocery stores. Unprocessed bacon actually tastes better to me than the processed variety. I don’t eat bacon very often, but when I do it’s always nitrate-free.
There you have it. Can you think of any foods that need to be added to this list? Please share!
Photograph courtesy of Daniel Y. Go
This post is about pampering yourself and improving your health at the same time using a detoxification bath. One of my favorite ways to detoxify is by taking a long, very warm detoxification bath two to three times per week. Why is it important to detoxify? Because toxins are “pollution” in your body and polluted cells don’t work well. As the cells become more and more toxic, the toxicity leads to illness and disease. It’s that simple. I can’t count how many times I’ve helped people dramatically improve their health and eliminate disease simply by eliminating toxic lifestyle habits and doing a systemic detox. This post covers a very simple way to detox several times a week. You’ll not only eliminate harmful toxins but will also feel wonderfully pampered and will probably sleep better! It’s a win-win!
Using baths to detoxify the body is a practice that has been used since ancient times. Hippocrates often used “bath therapy,” also called “balneotherapy,” for healing because he believed detoxification was a primary means of healing the body. The technique involves immersing the body in a detoxification bath containing ingredients that pull toxins out through the skin. The skin is the body’s largest elimination organ. It is a huge bi-directional “sponge” that can be used to absorb nutrients and to expel toxins. (Acne is typically an indicator of toxicity. Read my post The Smart way to Deal with Zits for more info on that topic.)
Note: Detoxification baths are typically not recommended for anyone with circulatory issues, heart problems or high blood pressure. Mainstream medicine says they are also not advised for anyone with diabetes, but this is mainly due to the circulatory problems some people with diabetes have. I strongly disagree that everyone with diabetes should avoid detoxification baths. I’ve had diabetes for almost 50 years and highly value detoxification baths as part of my weekly health regimen. I have never experienced negative effects from them, but I do not have circulatory problems.
The doses in this post are recommended for adults. Although these ingredients are generally safe to add to baths for children in smaller amounts, please consult a trained professional before using detoxification ingredients with children.
Please check with your practitioner if you have any concerns about whether or not detox baths are a good option for you. PREGNANT WOMEN SHOULD NOT USE DETOX BATHS UNLESS DIRECTED BY A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL AND SHOULD NEVER BATHE IN EXTREMELY HOT WATER.
As always, this information is shared for educational purposes only, has not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition.
The act of bathing in warm water is a simple detox even if no additional ingredients are added to the bath water. The process typically induces the body to sweat, and sweat is one of the body’s best forms of detoxification. The simple act of rubbing the body with a wash cloth helps eliminate dead skin cells and open the elimination pathways in the skin. Please be very careful with temperature. Bathing in warm but not overly hot water is recommended. If you notice an increase in heart rate or begin to feel dizzy or light headed while bathing, exit the tub immediately. I recommend drinking purified water before, during and after a bath, as the body can become dehydrated due to the amount of sweat lost during a detoxification bath. Drinking water also helps the body eliminate toxins.
Most ingredients blend better if they are added to the tub while the water is running and the tub contains one to three inches of water. Adding ingredients to a bath can sometimes make the tub very slippery. Please use extreme caution when entering and exiting the tub during a detoxification bath. Please also note that I recommended soaking in a detox bath for no more than 20 minutes.
Here are my favorite detoxifying agents to add to a bath:
Epsom Salts: Epsom salts are a combination of minerals, primary of which is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is essential for multiple body functions (see Why You Need More Magnesium), yet 80% of people in the US are deficient. Bathing in a solution of Epsom salt allows the body to absorb magnesium through the skin. Magnesium sulfate aids detoxification by strengthening the body’s own detoxification methods and opening up primary detoxification pathways. It also helps eliminate heavy metals from the body, increases the body’s ability to eliminate toxins through the digestive tract, and increases the production of digestive enzymes produced in the pancreas. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath is wonderfully relaxing, as it helps relax muscles. The nice thing about Epsom salts is that they are very inexpensive and can be found in any drugstore. If you want to try something more exotic, Masada makes a very nice detox blend called Mineral Herb Bath Detox. Dose: I recommend adding one to two cups of Epsom salt per bath. Some people recommend using much higher amounts, but 1-2 cups is a good starting dose. Epsom salts can be blended with any of the detoxification ingredients listed in this post.
Baking Soda (aluminum free): Baking soda is a powerful detoxifier for radiation poisoning. It is occasionally used intravenously during chemotherapy and radiation treatments for that reason. The US Army recommends its use internally to help remove radioactive ions from the kidneys following exposure to radioactive materials. Baking soda is a very alkalizing product, so soaking in a bath containing it can help alkalize an overly acidic body system. It is also helpful for reversing the toxicity of radiation absorbed from cell phones, pad devices, computers, microwaves, televisions, x-rays and other medical scans, etc. On a very timely note, adding aluminum-free baking soda to a detox bath at least once a week may be helpful for protecting against potential damage from any radioactive exposure we’ve had from Fukoshima. (Opinions vary widely about the true amount of exposure we’ve received, but the fact remains we have been exposed. This is a simple addition to a bath with no negative side effects, so why not?) Baking soda also softens the skin. Using it with 1/2 cup of Jojoba oil makes a wonderfully moisturizing bath.
PLEASE make sure the baking soda you are using is aluminum-free. Many people do not realize the flow agents added to Baking Soda often contain high amounts of heavy metals. Soaking in a bath containing high amounts of a heavy metal could be damaging to your auto-immune and neurological systems. You can purchase four pounds of aluminum-free baking soda very reasonably on Amazon: Aluminum-Free Baking Soda. Dose: Start with 2 cups per bath, gradually working up to 1 pound per bath if you fear your exposure to radiation has been high. Bathing in higher doses of baking soda is especially helpful for anyone working in a medical setting who is exposed even indirectly to high amounts of radiation. Baking soda can be mixed with any of the other detoxification ingredients listed in this post, but be aware it will bubble furiously if combined with organic Apple Cider Vinegar. I recommend adding the baking soda at the beginning of running the bath, and adding the Apple Cider Vinegar once the tub is almost filled.
Ascorbic Acid Powder: Ascorbic acid powder is known to neutralize chlorine, so it is a simple solution to use if you do not have a whole-house filtration system installed. One teaspoon is typically enough to neutralize the chlorine in the water. Amazon carries a wide variety of ascorbic acid powders. You can view their selection here.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar: Organic Apple Cider Vinegar is high in vitamins and minerals which are absorbed through the skin while bathing. Apple Cider Vinegar baths are known to be highly anti-inflammatory and are known to help the body eliminate excess uric acid. For this reason, baths containing Apple Cider Vinegar are especially nice for anyone dealing with arthritic conditions or gout. Apple Cider Vinegar is also known to help the body eliminate excess mucous. My brother-in-law’s father swears that taking an Apple Cider Vinegar bath will help stop a cold dead in its tracks. The aroma will not linger on your skin, but some people rinse off in the shower after taking a bath containing it. I purchase it by the gallon and try to always have a gallon sitting on the edge of the tub. I actually have a large decorative basket sitting on the edge of my tub that I keep filled with detoxification ingredients, essential oils, moisturizing oils, etc. I use Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. (Click the link to view it and purchase.) Dose: Add one to two cups per bath. Apple Cider Vinegar can be mixed with any of the detoxification ingredients mentioned in this post, but be aware it will bubble vigorously if combined with baking soda.
Bentonite Clay: Bentonite Clay baths are a messy, although very effective, method of detoxification. Bentonite clay is a mineral-rich clay that is white in color and which is very effective at pulling a wide variety of toxins out of the body. It is known to be especially helpful for removing heavy metals and environmental toxins. It is also known to be very helpful for alleviating a wide variety of skin conditions. I use and recommend clays both internally and externally and am a huge believer in their effectiveness. I have seen and heard multiple “miracle stories” of clays being used to eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from the body. The downside of clay baths is that they are very, very messy. The clay left behind in the tub is sometimes very sticky due to having absorbed so many toxins, so cleaning it from the tub can take time. However, a clay bath once a month is a very luxurious way of detoxifying and pampering yourself. I highly recommend it! You can purchase pure Bentonite Clay at a relatively low cost. NOW has a very nice product packaged in one-pound packages: NOW Bentonite Clay. I also like Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay.
Amount to add to bath: Anywhere from one cup to one pound may be used. Obviously, using less will create less of a mess to clean up. There is some concern that using excessive amounts of clay may clog pipes, so I don’t recommend using extremely high amounts. Clay can be mixed with any of the products listed in this post.
These ingredients are the tip of the iceberg in terms of ingredients that can be added to baths to aid healing and help the body detoxify. I did not include herbs, essential oils and other detoxifying ingredients because there are too many to list in a single post. If you are interested in learning more about using baths for healing, I highly recommend the book Water Magic: Healing Bath Recipes. It has a multitude of recipes for healing a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
If you have health concerns and would like to address them using natural methods, please contact me. I will work with you to identify the causes of your health challenges, and will then work with you to create a plan to reverse them.
As I stated in my last post, Myths About Inflammation, we live in a world where systemic inflammation (internal and external inflammation affecting all body systems) has become “normal.” The past 20 years have also seen an incredible rise in auto-immune conditions causing systemic inflammation.
- Avoid inflammatory foods: The simplest way to reduce and avoid inflammation is to follow an eating plan that is high in whole, unprocessed foods, high in vegetables and low in processed grains and sugars. Foods causing the most inflammation in the body include: sugar; vegetable oils (other than extra virgin olive and extra virgin coconut) that are high in Omega 6 fatty acids; hydrogenated oils and margarines; alcohol; and refined grains. Some studies indicate that CAFO meats and dairy are also inflammatory. My favorite book on eating to reduce inflammation is The Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Recipe Book. I highly recommend it!
- Eat non-inflammatory foods: Foods containing anti-inflammatory nutrients include salmon and wild-caught fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids; vegetables (raw or lightly steamed); cherries; blueberries; papaya (high in the anti-inflammatory enzyme papain); pineapple (high in the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromelain); turmeric; green tea; extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin coconut oil. There is some evidence that night shade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, egg plant, etc.) increase inflammation and pain, although some people are far more sensitive than others. Many people find that avoiding the inflammatory foods listed above and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into their eating plan makes a huge difference in their inflammatory levels and in how they feel in general.
- Get enough sleep: Researchers at UCLA measured the inflammatory response and blood levels of inflammatory proteins during a 2006 research study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers found that cytokine (inflammatory protein) levels and monocyte (disease-fighting white blood cell) levels dramatically increased after a single night of deficient sleep. The researchers also found that decreased sleep triggered an increase in inflammatory enzymes that trigger the body’s protective inflammatory response. They concluded that a lack of sleep causes an auto-immune reaction caused by the stress created by the lack of sleep. The researchers suggested that increased sleep could be a beneficial therapy for systemic inflammation. I conclude that an extra hour of sleep could be especially helpful for anyone suffering from systemic inflammation caused by an auto-immune condition. A summary of this study can be read at: Sleepless Night Triggers Immune System’s Inflammatory Response;Findings Reveal New Avenue for Fighting Autoimmune Disorders.
- Maintain a normal body weight: Excess weight puts stress on joints, muscles and blood vessels, thereby causing a protective inflammatory response. Maintaining weight at a healthy level is known to helpful for decreasing coronary disease, diabetes rates, etc., but is also now knonw to decrease inflammation.
- Drink enough water: Dehydration causes an inflammatory response that may be partially responsible for the negative symptoms caused by dehydration. I strongly recommend drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily. So, if you weight 150 pounds, you should be drinking a minimum of 75 ounces of purified water daily. Staying hydrating improves cell function and helps the body eliminate toxins that could contribute to inflammation.
- Avoid allergenic foods: Although it may be tempting to occasionally indulge in a food you know you have a mild allergy to, doing so creates a cascade of systemic inflammation. Please don’t.
- Get moderate exercise: The key word here is MODERATE. People who exercise regularly are known to have lower levels of C-Reactive protein, a blood protein that increases in response to inflammation. People who do intense forms of exercise actually have higher levels of C-Reactive protein due to the damage caused to muscles and blood vessels. In my practice, I consistently see higher levels of cholesterol in long-distance runners, probably because the body produces extra cholesterol to repair the damage done to blood vessels during excessive training and racing.
- Maintain normal pH: Acidity in the body increases inflammation. When foods are digested, by products are left behind which are either acidic or alkaline. These byproducts are often referred to as “ash.” The most alkaline foods include fruits and vegetables, millet and buckwheat, almonds and brazil nuts. The most acidic foods include meats, grains (other than millet and buckwheat), and nuts (other than almonds and brazil nuts.) The ideal balance to aim for is to eat 80% alkaline foods and 20% acidic foods. This coincides with a healthy balance of high amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Making tiny changes on a daily basis can quickly add up to reduce inflammation and improve health. What will you do first? I wish you the very best!
Before reading this post, please read my prior two posts related to Candida: Candida Basics-Important Information, Candida Self Assessment, and Dietary Options for Candida. Those posts provide a great foundation of information that will help provide perspective for this post.
One of the most common issues I see when people try to battle systemic yeast overgrowth is that they only attack it from one direction. Unfortunately, Candida requires a multifaceted approach that requires changes to dietary intake, lifestyle habits, and usually requires a supplement regimen. Carefully selected supplements are used to kill the biofilm Candida uses to protect itself, restore the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract, and kill Candida cells. I also find that many people benefit from including a liver-cleansing supplement to assist the body in eliminating the dead yeast cells; and many people require immune-boosting assistance and/or a program to restore gut health and address leaky gut. The Biofilm Protocol program I use has a 12-week regimen that addresses each of these factors. The regimen starts very slowly and gradually increases the intensity of the approach so that my clients don’t have to endure horrific die off symptoms.
A summary of the changes required to combat Candida follow. Please note that each person’s needs will be very unique, so the program must be tailored to fit the specific physiology and systemic needs of the person.
Temporary Changes in Eating Habits
I cannot stress enough that Candida cannot be effectively addressed without changing how the person eats. In other words, you can’t win the battle if you’re still feeding the enemy. You could take mountains of pills on a daily basis, but the supplements will be useless if your diet still contains high amounts of foods that feed the yeast. Please read Dietary Options for Candida for an overview of a typical Candida eating style. In addition to temporarily making changes to how someone eats, most people also need to follow a program to restore general gut health and restore normal gut permeability.
The primary lifestyle changes that are necessary to stop Candida overgrowth may include:
- Avoid antibiotics if at all possible. Work with a trained practitioner who can provide advice on alternatives. If an antibiotic is necessary during the 12-week program, the dosage of certain supplements may need to be increased and some may need to be taken at different times of day. Related to this, I strongly encourage my clients to only eat organic meat if possible so that they are not exposed to low levels of antibiotics contained in commercially farmed animals. (There are times that an antibiotic is absolutely necessary. Please never refuse an antibiotic if your doctor deems it necessary and/or if natural approaches have not reversed the issue.)
- Elimination of alcohol (It’s temporary … you can do it!)
- Avoid vinegars at all costs. Vinegars feed yeasts like crazy. Anyone who has ever watched vinegar be added to a petri dish filled with yeast cells can vouch that vinegars – even raw apple cider vinegar – should be avoided.
- In a perfect world, birth control should be discontinued, as most birth control pills used in the US create an environment that feeds Candida. If switching to a barrier method is not possible or desired (which I completely understand), some supplements may need to be taken in a higher dosage.
- Elimination of heavy metals in body – This may require removal of amalgam fillings or going through an internal heavy metal cleanse. Heavy metals have a tendency to create an environment that is acidic and devoid of oxygen, situations which Candida thrive on.
- Depending on the person’s health, I sometimes recommend an immunity-boosting regimen before starting the Candida protocol. I also often work to restore normal permeability of the digestive tract.
- Depending on the person’s symptoms, there are sometimes other lifestyle changes that may be necessary. These changes may include temporary changes in clothing worn, sexual habits or toilet habits.
Please note that I never use a “prescriptive” approach to helping people address their health challenges. I always select specific supplements to address specific issues, but I make sure the supplement(s) used are appropriate for other challenges the person is addressing. Having said that, the following types of supplements are typically needed during a Candida regimen. This is merely a starting point, as many people require additional systemic support during a cleanse. Please consult a trained practitioner to determine which options are best for your specific needs.
- Probiotics: I generally recommend taking a probiotic of at least 30 billion active cultures once daily on an empty stomach, but also recommend taking a probiotic of lesser strength with every meal. The importance of regulating the balance of good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract cannot be underestimated. My favorite probiotics include any of the following:
Doses will vary based on the person, the severity of the issues, and which day of the Biofilm Protocol the person is on.
I also like the products shown below. (Click to view):
- Anti-Candida Enzymes: Enzymes are an essential part of the Candida battle plan because they consume the protective layer Candida surrounds itself with and ultimately consume the yeast cells and the dead yeast cells. These enzymes MUST be taken on an empty stomach (at least 30 minutes before or two hours after eating) to be effective. The enzymes not only help kill the yeast cells, but can also help diminish the inevitable die-off symptoms. I like either of the following:
- Antimicrobials/Antifungals: There are a wide variety of options available for killing live yeast cells. The problem is that yeast are very adaptive and soon grow resistant if the same antimicrobial agent is used for too long. Some of the most commonly used antimicrobials, such as Oregano Oil and Garlic, are no longer as effective as they used to be. I like the following, although a wide array of other options exists:
- Agrisept-L: A powerful citrus seed extract that is antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial … pretty much anti-everything. This is a powerful remedy to keep on hand for a wide variety of uses. One word of warning: It tastes horrible. (Must be honest.) I recommend starting with 5-10 drops in two ounces of water with 1-2 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil added to diminish the awful taste.
- Solaray Candida Cleanse: This is a simple-to-use antifungal combination supplement that combines a fantastic array of antifungal agents. Each bottle lasts two weeks. Starting with this cleanse and then graduating to 20-30 drops of Agrisept-L on a daily basis is usually a nice approach for many people.
As I stated previously, this is merely a starting point of options. Most people require other assistance during a Candida cleanse. Please note this information is shared for informational purposes only. None of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Please consult your physician or a trained practitioner before making major lifestyle changes or before taking new supplements.
My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting systemic imbalances. I have helped thousands of people eliminate the challenges caused by Candida overgrowth If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.
What are your thoughts? Have you battled Candida? What worked for you? Please share!
Vitamin B12 Tests
So how can you know for sure you are deficient and need a B12 supplement? Any of the following methods work well:
- B12 Blood Test: This is a simple, inexpensive blood test that checks serum levels of B12. It is accurate and insurance almost always pays for it. If you need to have blood work done anyway, ask your doctor to add this test and to repeat it on a yearly basis. If you have any digestive disorder, are taking prescription medications, drink alcohol more than three times per week, or have a thyroid disorder, I recommend having this test a minimum of every six months.The B12 blood test will be the most accurate if done while fasting at least 10-12 hours. Note that drinking alcohol or taking Vitamin C prior to the test can affect the results. Most labs list “Normal” levels as anything between 200-800 pg/ml. However, most people are symptomatic of a B12 deficiency when their levels fall below 400. I like to see levels of at least 500 and tend to recommend a supplement if levels are any lower.
- Anti-parietal Antibodies: The parietal cells in the digestive tract produce a chemical called Intrinsic Factor that is necessary for the absorption of Vitamin B12. If someone has an autoimmune condition that causes an inability to absorb B12 (Pernicious Anemia), then the person’s body will typically produce antibodies that attack and kill the parietal cells. The Antiparietal Antibody blood test is a very accurate indicator that a person may not be able to absorb B12 due to an autoimmune condition. If you have consistently low B12 levels, I recommend asking your doctor to order this test.
- Folic Acid test: Many people who have low B12 levels also have low Folic Acid levels. Folic Acid is another B vitamin that may produce symptoms similar to a B12 deficiency if levels are low. It is another blood test that is very inexpensive and which insurance typically pays for without question.
- Homocysteine and Methylmalonic Acid: Homocysteine and Methylmalonic Acid are chemicals that may become elevated in the presence of a B12 deficiency. Neither is a definitive indicator of a B12 deficiency, but it may be helpful to have these blood tests run on a yearly basis if you’ve had low B12 levels in the past.
- Complete Blood Count (CBC): A CBC can be helpful to identify anemia caused by a B12 deficiency and as a general check of blood health. A B12 deficiency can cause a deficiency in red blood cells and may create red blood cells that are overly large (megaloblastic anemia). A CBC is not an indicator of a B12 deficiency, but may be helpful in recognizing a B12 deficiency and may help identify other issues. If you’re having blood work done anyway, this is another test I recommend having run.
- Electro-Dermal Scanning: This is an assessment technique that uses a system consisting of testing stylus connected to a measuring unit that measures nerve flow through specific energy centers and acupuncture points on the body. It is a very accurate, highly reliable test method that provides valuable insight into nutritional deficiencies and systemic weaknesses. This test method is used by many mainstream MDs and is recognized as valid by the FDA.
- Kinesiology and Muscle Response Testing: This is another form of assessment that measures nerve flow through specific points to assess nutritional deficiencies and systemic weaknesses. The B12 point is very valuable and very accurate.
Most of these tests can be ordered through online services without a doctor’s prescription. Please use caution when ordering your own blood work. Interpreting abnormal results is best done by a professional, but knowing your blood level of certain vitamins can be helpful.
Vitamin B12 is available in the following forms. One thing to be aware of is that B12 can be difficult to absorb through the digestive tract unless it is in the natural form found in foods. If you have a B12 deficiency, I recommend taking B12 in a sublingual (under the tongue) form or asking your doctor to prescribe B12 injections. Note that B12 is typically listed in microgram doses (mcg), but that higher dosages may be listed in milligrams (mg). There are 1000 micrograms in a milligram, so a 5 mg dose is the same as a 5000 mcg dose. The most typical forms of supplemental B12 include:
- Methylcobalamin B12: This is the form I recommend taking. This form is known to be the most absorbable and has a variety of benefits over other forms. It is best taken sublingually in a tiny lozenge that is placed under the tongue and allowed to melt. This form of B12 is more easily absorbed because your body does not have to convert it and can much more easily metabolize it to absorb it. The Methylcobalamin form of B12 also provides methyl groups (one carbon combined with three hydrogen) which are essential for the detoxification of certain hormones and toxins in the body. A B12 deficiency typically causes a decrease in methylation in the body, which can cause a wide variety of other issues. Taking Vitamin B12 in the Methylcobalamin form helps replenish Vitamin B12 AND provides the methyl groups necessary for methylation … it’s a win-win!Sublingual B12 lozenges come in a wide variety of strengths ranging from 500 mcg – 10,000 mcg. Most people get the best results taking 1000-2000mcg/day, although people with Pernicious Anemia or neuropathy often take much higher doses. When shopping for a sublingual B12 supplement, try to find one that is fairly tiny and which does not contain a lot of fillers, artificial flavors and sugars. My favorite OTC options include: Natural Factors Methylcobalamin (1000 mcg), Solgar Methylcobalamin B12 (5000mcg), No-Shot Methylcobalamin B12 (10,000mcg). (Most people probably don’t need 10,000mcg on a daily basis, but those with neuropathy, a severe B12 deficiency or severe absorption issues may benefit from using a dosage this high.)Methycobalamin B12 is also available as an injection. If you take B12 by injection, be aware that it must be injected into a muscle (intramuscularly) and cannot be injected into fat tissue under the skin (subcutaneously). The advantage of taking B12 by injection is that higher doses can be taken and that the injections only need to be taken once per week in most cases. (Some people with severe deficiencies or with Pernicious Anemia may need to take the injections daily or multiple times per week, but most people only need the injections once per week.) You can either receive B12 injections in your doctor’s office or can ask for a prescription for B12 injections you can give yourself at home. Work with your doctor to monitor your B12 levels to determine which option is best for you. Another advantage of the B12 injections is that they don’t contain the fillers that many sublingual lozenges do. The injections may therefore be a better option for anyone with chemical sensitivities or extreme food allergies.On a personal note, my husband has used high doses of sublingual methylcobalamin Vitamin B12 for several years to control neuropathy in his feet. He found that switching to weekly B12 injections was far more effective than the sublingual lozenges.
- Cyanocobalamin B12: This is the cheapest, most commonly found form of B12 in supplements. It is a synthetic form and was the first one created in a laboratory Your body must convert the cyanocobalamin form of B12 into methylcobalamin before it can absorb it. The conversion process creates cyanide, which is a known poison. The amount of cyanide created is very tiny and is not dangerous, but why take the risk? I only use the methylcobalamin form and it is the only form I recommend to my patients and clients. The cyanocobalamin form is only acceptable, in my opinion, if and only if the methylcobalamin form is not available.
- Other Forms: There are a few other forms of Vitamin B12 available, such as Hydroxocobalamin, but the other forms are disappearing from use because there is more commercial demand for the cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin forms.
My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting systemic imbalances. I have helped thousands of people eliminate their health challenges using a holistic approach If you are ready to improve your health, please feel free to contact me to schedule a consultation.
As always, these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Please check with your practitioner before adding any supplement to your daily care regimen and never stop taking prescription medications without consulting with your physician.
This post provides an introduction to Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies I see in my practice. It’s important to discuss Vitamin B12 because it is a nutrient that is essential to many body functions and because many people are deficient and are suffering unnecessarily. (Magnesium is another nutrient that is vital for health but which many people are deficient in. Please read Why You Need More Magnesium – and how to get it for more info on that.) I plan to cover B12 in several blog posts, because I believe deficiencies in Vitamin B12 cause more severe health issues than other nutrient deficiencies, yet 80% of the general public is deficient and is completely unaware of the importance of B12. The symptoms caused by a B12 deficiency can be so severe that they limit one’s ability to function normally, yet replenishing this vitamin is very easily accomplished. Many people associate Vitamin B12 with boosting energy or assisting in weight loss, but it can help improve health in a multitude of different ways. Unfortunately, a severe deficiency may cause damage to brain and nerve cells that is very difficult to reverse.You can read more about Vitamin B12 in Tests for and Sources of Vitamin B12.
What is Vitamin B12 responsible for?
- Creation and repair of DNA
- Creation and maintenance of the myelin sheath that insulates nerves in the body and neurons in the brain
- Regulation of the production of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e), a mood-regulating chemical
- Support of methylation and detoxification
- Metabolism of fatty acids and proteins
- Maintenance of proper function of nerve cells and brain chemistry
- Energy production
- Production of red blood cells and hemoglobin
- Reduction of inflammatory homocysteine – excess homocysteine is associated with coronary disease, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis and more (See Three Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request for more info on homocysteine.)
Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Fatigue, sometimes severe
- Feeling of heaviness in arms, legs and head
- Muscle weakness
- Depression and despondency
- Easy bruising
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Hormonal imbalances
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Diarrhea, constipation or other digestive woes such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and/or bloating
- Red, swollen tongue
- Bleeding gums
- Pale skin
- “Brain fog,” problems concentrating, memory loss
- Shortness of breath on even mild exertion
- Numbness or tingling in extremities (neuropathy in severe cases)
- Headaches and migraines
- Ataxia (lack of balance, may affect gait)
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- White spots on the skin of the forearm (may be misdiagnosed as Vitiligo)
- Irritability and extreme mood swings
- Tachycardia, skipped heart beats, irregular heart rhythm
- Eye twitches and tics
- Irregular periods, heavy bleeding, infertility
- Decrease or disappearance of normal reflex responses
- Some people report pain in their ring finger and palm
Causes of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Alcohol consumption
- Vegan or vegetarian lifestyle
- Excessive junk food consumption
- Digestive diseases and conditions which block absorption (Celiac, Crohn’s, IBS, malabsorption, etc.)
- Removal or resectioning of the small bowel
- Use of antacids and prescription drugs used to treat ulcers or GERD (Prevacid, Prilosec, Protonix, Nexium, Zantac, Tagamet, Axid, Alternagel, Maalox, Mylanta, Riopan, Tums, etc.)
- Gastric bypass surgery
- The following prescription drugs are known to cause deficiencies in B12: Zoloft, Metformin, Glucophage, Glucovance, K-Lor, K-Lyte, Klotrix, K-Dur, Micro-K, Slow-K, Colchicine (and other prescriptions used to treat gout), and some prescription antibiotics and cholesterol medications.
- Parasitic infection
- Liver dysfunction
- Candida overgrowth
- Aging – everyone absorbs less B12 as they age. Some experts recommend that anyone over age 50 should take a B12 supplement
- Pernicious Anemia – an autoimmune condition which destroys the parietal cells in the digestive tract which are responsible for creating a chemical necessary for absorbing Vitamin B12