March 2018 Edition
The human reproductive system produces the largest and the smallest cell of the human body. The ovum released by female ovaries being the largest human cell with a diameter of approximately 120 micrometers, and the sperm being the smallest cell in the body, 3 by 5 micrometers in size.
Natural Solutions for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affects approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide. It’s the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage – from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:
- irregular menstrual cycles
- pelvic pain with or without periods
- mood swings, depression or anxiety
- thinning hair on the head
- excessive body hair (hirsutism)
- fatigue and sleep problems
Because of the wide range of PCOS symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don’t inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.
Causes of PCOS
Obesity and insulin resistance are health issues that are linked to PCOS and both affect hormonal function in the body. Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin, a hormone that allows the body to properly use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as it needs to be, too much of it circulates in the blood and can cause a hormone imbalance.
Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman’s quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:
- Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman’s stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
- Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.
If you think you have PCOS, speak with a holistic practitioner about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs.
Food for Thought. . .
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
The Antioxidant Power of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
The wonderful thing about Green Tea is how the leaves retain their biologically active nutrients from the time of harvesting to the moment you brew and then sip this liquid elixir. Green Tea contains plant nutrients (polyphenols), such as catechins and flavonoids, which function as antioxidants, helping the body to clear out free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative damage to cells. This damage creates inflammation and can lead to disease.
One of the potent compounds in Green Tea is the antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). Studies conducted on the health-protective benefits of EGCG show that people who frequently drink Green Tea have lower rates of illness, including many types of cancer. While additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the medicinal properties of Green Tea, EGCG supplements have been used in clinical trials to help treat certain cancers, inflammatory diseases, and diabetes.
There are many ways to enjoy Green Tea. The best varieties of tea will be loose leaf, organically harvested from GMO-free crops. To maintain the potency of the antioxidants in your tea, do not add milk, which alters the tea’s health-boosting properties. Be sure to follow the steeping directions. Steeping longer than directed can make the tea bitter. As a general rule, if you prefer a stronger tea, add more tea for the same steeping time. To sweeten, add locally sourced honey or a splash of fresh squeezed lemon, orange, or even watermelon juice.
Green Tea, Lime & Avocado Smoothie
This is a refreshing and creamy twist on the green tea smoothie, which is often prepared with fruit. Lime juice and freshly squeezed lemon add tangy pizzaz to this beautiful and nutrient-rich smoothie. Green tea and kale provide antioxidants, while avocado contributes healthy fats, making this a satisfying afternoon treat or an excellent complement to breakfast. It’s also an ideal addition to a healthy detox routine.
- Flesh from 1 avocado
- 2 sweet apples, cored and roughly chopped
- 1/2 small zucchini, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
- 1 small knob peeled ginger
- Roughly 1/4 cup loosely packed parsley
- 1/2 juiced lime
- 2 leaves kale
- 1 cup brewed and cooled green tea
- 2/3 cup almond milk (or water)
- 2 tsp chia seeds (optional)
*You might like to stop and taste after blending in the lime and lemon, to see if the flavor suits your taste.
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered food processor and blend until smooth and combined.
- Pour into two jars and stir a teaspoon of chia seeds through each. Allow to sit at least half an hour (though overnight is best) before consuming. This will allow the chia seeds to absorb the liquid.
Chromium: an Important Mineral for Health
Essential to overall health, the mineral Chromium supports our daily energy level, manages metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates and helps our body maintain a stable blood sugar level. Chromium is commonly found in multivitamin/mineral formulas. However, some people can be deficient in chromium or have a health condition that can be improved by taking a chromium supplement.
Research indicates that proper chromium supplementation can be of benefit for managing Type-2 diabetes, improving cholesterol levels, weight management, and enhancing athletic performance. Because there is a relationship between blood sugar management and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), scientists are looking at the role of chromium in this condition. Chromium enhances the action of insulin, which helps the body regulate blood sugar level. Some studies show that supplementing with chromium can improve blood sugar management in those with Type-2 diabetes. In another study, women with PCOS who took a daily chromium supplement saw improvement in insulin sensitivity (which affects blood sugar level).
There are many forms of chromium supplements. Some are more easily absorbed and utilized by the body than others. Speak to your holistic health practitioner about which form and dose of chromium is best for your specific health conditions.
Support for Menstrual Difficulties with Chaste Tree Extract
Back in the Middle Ages, Chaste Tree Extract (Vitex agnus castus, aka Vitex or Chasteberry) was used by monks to decrease sexual desire (hence its name!). Today we know that this powerful herb – a medicinally potent brown berry about the size of a peppercorn – doesn’t impact sexual desire. But it does help manage reproductive disorders. Vitex is used for menstrual difficulties including PMS and PCOS, breast pain management, and infertility. It may also benefit women going through menopause.
Vitex does not supply hormones to the body; rather, it acts on the glands that control hormone production, namely the pituitary and hypothalamus. Ultimately, it helps balance the ratio of progesterone to estrogen, while slightly elevating progesterone level.
Chaste Tree is available as a liquid extract, in capsule and tablet form, and as an essential oil. It is considered safe for most people. However, women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, or who have a hormone-sensitive condition (such as breast cancer) should seek medical consultation before taking this herb. Also, it should not be used by persons taking antipsychotic drugs or medications for Parkinson’s disease. Your holistic health care provider is the best source for information on Chaste Tree and the appropriate use for your health concerns.
Create a Health Shift with Intermittent Fasting
You’re probably aware that going too many hours between meals can cause a drop in blood sugar that leads to headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. While that’s true, new research shows that planned periods of Intermittent Fasting (IF) or Intermittent Energy Restriction (IER) can be good for your health. This is not about starving yourself to lose weight. Instead, IER aims to give the digestive system a break from food, which allows the body to cleanse itself. To be truly restorative, IER is matched with a similar break from mental and physical activity.
Though clinical research is still in the early stages for both animal and human studies, several health benefits have been identified. Researchers are investigating different types of IER protocols for both healthy adults and those who are living with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic diseases.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Increased sensitivity to insulin and leptin, which can lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer
- Better regulation of hormones associated with appetite
- Enhanced metabolic use of stored fat
- Lower triglyceride levels, which decreases risk for heart disease
- Reduced inflammation
- Enhanced awareness of appetite and cues for eating
Intermittent Fasting Regimens
During an Intermittent Fast, drink plenty of water, keep exercise to low intensity, and avoid stress such as the kind created by work deadlines or caretaking for family. For best health practices, choose unprocessed, whole foods including grains, fresh fruits and veggies, and best quality fish, meat and dairy.
- The 16/8 Method involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours (e.g., Noon – 8 PM), then fasting for 16 hours (8 PM to 12 PM the next day).
- The Weekly/Bi-weekly 24-hour Fast involves a 24 hour period of fasting for one or two days per week or every other week: Last meal at 6 PM Monday, no food but plenty of water until 6 PM the next day.
- The 5:2 Method involves choosing any two non-consecutive days of the week and eating only about 600 calories on those days: Tuesday 600 calories; Thursday 600 calories, rest of the week eating regular, healthy meals.
Your holistic health practitioner can help you determine if this is a good approach for you and which is the best intermittent fasting regimen to meet your health goals.
February 2018 Edition
The human brain has the capacity to generate approximately 23 watts of power when awake.
Depression in Men: Facing the Facts
Of the various mood disorders, depression is the most common, afflicting more than 20 million Americans from all ethnic groups, ages, and backgrounds each year. While ups and downs in mood are part of our daily experience, depression is different: it reflects a disturbance in mood and emotion over a period of time, interfering with a person’s outlook and ability to carry on with their usual lifestyle.
Both men and women experience depression, though women are more likely to report it and men are more likely to ignore it.
Depression can include the following symptoms:
- Uncontrolled anger or violent behavior
- Increased use of alcohol / tobacco / reckless behavior
- Changes in usual eating and sleeping habits
- Increased complaints of headaches, physical pain or tension
- Problems at work or school
- Feeling unrelenting pressure, even when simple requests are made
- Changes in how they think and feel about themselves and life
- Changes in desire for social interaction, relationships, and sex
There isn’t a single cause of depression. Biological, psychological, and social factors all play a part, as do lifestyle choices, relationships, and coping skills. Depression can be triggered by situations that create feelings of helplessness, anger or stress, such as:
- Overwhelming responsibilities at work, school, or with family
- Not reaching important goals
- Unanticipated changes in job or military status
- Unrelenting financial problems
- Chronic illness, injury, disability that alters lifestyle and independence
- Death of a loved one
Simple Healthy-Living Approaches
Depending on the situation and the severity of the depression, it’s extremely important to seek help from a professional. The following suggestions, however, can help you manage the symptoms of depression while working on the cause with your holistic health care provider.
Get Cuddly. Hugs, a gentle hand on the back, and other non-sexual touch reduces stress, heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases the “affection hormone,” oxytocin, which plays a role in our desire for social and romantic bonding. Platonic touch is necessary for emotional wellbeing for men and women.
Socialize In Person. Stepping away from online social networks for an in-person meet-up can boost your emotional wellness. People who maintain social ties – over a cup of coffee, lunch, dinner, or a game of tennis – live longer, have lower risk for depression and other health problems, and report having happier lives despite the usual ups and downs.
Eat Well. The production and levels of brain chemical (neurotransmitters) are influenced by the quality of the food you eat. Whole foods provide richer sources of the vitamins and minerals that are important to brain chemistry and overall health. Nutrition supplements can support a healthy mood, including the B vitamins, certain herbs, and fish oil.
Walk a Dog. Walking is great exercise for mind and body. When you’re out with a dog, it’s an easy way to meet people and get a boost of Vitamin D. Plus, the company of dogs can help ease stress and depression. Don’t have your own dog? Volunteer to walk dogs for animal rescue groups. Don’t like dogs? OK, then just get out there and take a stroll!
Food for Thought. . .
“Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real.” – Deepak Chopra
Go Nuts for Pistachios!
Pistachios are robust in many nutrients that support healthy brain function. They are a great source of Vitamin B6, which can be quite low in people who have depression. B6 plays a role in energy production and helps the body make the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) serotonin and norepinephrine that influence mood, and melatonin, which helps regulate the body’s internal sleep-wake clock. Pistachios contain the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus. Minerals are are necessary for the production of hormones important to emotional well-being. Pistachios also contain carotene and Vitamins A and E, which help protect the body from infection and disease.
The pistachio is naturally yellow-green in color. If you see red pistachios, those have been dyed and should not be purchased. A tightly closed shell around the kernel indicates the nut is not yet ripe. Ripe pistachios have an open shell. The nuts will stay fresh for up to a year if stored in the shell, but are best if eaten within four months of purchase. Store pistachios in an airtight container in the fridge to preserve nutrient content.
There are many easy and tasty ways to enjoy the health benefits of pistachios. Eat them by the handful, raw or roasted, or sprinkle over a salad. Crushed pistachio kernels or flour is an excellent addition to your favorite breadcrumb or cookie mixture. Pistachio cooking oil will add a delicately sweet nutty flavor to your favorite recipes.
Pistachio Crusted Rack Of Lamb
Tired of the same old winter dinner? Break out of your rut – and make a tasty impression at your next dinner party – with this scrumptious, but simple to make, meal. All it takes is seasoning, searing, layering on the nut crust, heating in the oven, then – ta-da! Slice, serve and enjoy! Consider pairing with steamed veggies and roasted purple potatoes.
- 4 racks of lamb, trimmed
- 2 t. herbes de Provence
- 2 T. vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachio nuts
- 3 T. panko bread crumbs (gluten free can be used)
- 2 T. melted butter
- 2 t. olive oil
- 6 T. Dijon mustard
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Generously season each rack of lamb with herbes de Provence, salt, and black pepper.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Place lamb in skillet and cook, browning on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer lamb to foil-lined baking sheet; set aside.
- Stir pistachios, bread crumbs, butter, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and black pepper in a bowl. Spread mustard on the fat-side of each rack of lamb. Pat pistachio mixture on top of mustard. Bake in the preheated oven until the crust is golden and lamb is pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
SAM-e: Natural Support for Healthy Brain Chemistry
The body is miraculous in its ability to manufacture many different substances that are involved in maintaining good health. SAM-e (S-adenosyl-methionine), which the body makes from the amino acid methionine, is one example of a molecule that is important to the moods we experience. SAM-e helps form, activate, or breakdown hormones, fats, proteins, neurotransmitters, and medications. The brain and the liver usually make the necessary amount of SAM-e, but for people experiencing depression, this process may be impaired. Low levels of SAM-e results in decreased levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitter activity commonly seen in clinical depression. SAM-e can help boost neurotransmitter activity, bringing about improvement in mood and relief from depression.
Since the 1980s, European countries, including Italy, Spain, and Germany, have been testing and using SAM-e (pill form or injection) to treat depression anxiety, chronic pain, and other health conditions. SAM-e is available in the United States as a dietary supplement, but it can interact with other medications. In research and in clinical practice, SAM-e is well tolerated by most adults, but is not recommended for children, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Therefore, it is best to use SAM-e while in the care of a licensed holistic health practitioner.
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been used for centuries by European herbalists and, today, is prescribed by doctors in Europe and the U.S. to treat depression. Standardized extracts of St. John’s Wort (SJW) have been tested in treatment of thousands of patients, making it among It’s the most thoroughly researched botanical medicines for moderate to intense depression
St. John’s Wort can improve many psychological symptoms associated with depression, including sleep disturbance, anxiousness, insomnia, apathy, and feelings of worthlessness. Researchers believe the active ingredients hypericin and hyperforin may be responsible for these benefits. These compounds appear to increase the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline), which help improve and regulate mood.
In some studies SJW has been shown to be as effective, or more effective, than prescription antidepressants for patients with mild forms of depression. However, it may not be strong enough for people experiencing chronic or severe depression.
Saint John’s Wort is a flowering plant recognizable by its bright but dainty yellow petals. The plant name comes from the fact that it blossoms in June, the birth-month of St. John the Baptist. The flowering tops of SJW are used to prepare teas, tablets, capsules, and liquid extracts.
Many medications and herbs can interact with SJW so if you are taking this supplement be sure mention it to your doctor. Also, you can become more sensitive to the sun while taking SJW and you should use extra sun protection including wearing a hat. Consult with your holistic physician before using St. John’s Wort to establish if this is something for you and the appropriate dosage for your emotional health needs.
Homeopathy and Depression
Homeopathic medicines consist of very small doses of natural substances that can stimulate the body’s inherent self-healing response without side effects. Homeopathic remedies restore balance to a person’s vital life force so that the body can correct imbalances causing symptoms and begin to function as it should, free of the symptoms of illness.
A variety of homeopathic medicines can be used to treat someone suffering from the wide range of symptoms associated with depression. Because treatment is highly individualized to the needs of each person, the homeopathic medicines used may be different for each person. Depending on the severity of depression and the presence of other medical conditions, homeopathic remedies may be used alone or along with herbs or conventional prescription drugs.
Homeopathic remedies are best prescribed by a practitioner who has extensive training in homeopathy (including certification and/or licensure) and experience in treating depression. The practitioner will conduct an extensive interview with a patient, identify potential remedies, and closely monitor a patient’s progress until the person is well.
If you’re suffering with depression, talk with your health practitioner about homeopathic treatment.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
When it comes to fish, simple is best. This fish recipe only takes 10 minutes to cook, start to finish. I’ve used a combination of orange and lemon, capers, white wine and then finished it with a bit of butter.
4 fish fillets of your choice, patted very dry
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon capers (drained)
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1. Cut the orange in half. Juice one half of the orange and slice the other half into thin half-moon slices. Repeat with the lemon.
2. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the olive oil. When hot, add the fish fillets. Once the cooked edge has reach almost halfway up the fillet, flip the fish.
3. Add in the wine, orange juice, lemon juice, orange/lemon slices, capers and the butter. Season the sauce with a bit of salt and pepper. When the liquid begins bubbling, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the fish is cooked through, about 1-2 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillet. Serve immediately.
The Secrets to Bouncing Back from Adversity
When tough times bring you down, your ability to cope in a positive way is known as resilience. An essential skill for healthy development in childhood, resilience is critical to wellbeing throughout our lifetime. The overriding question is this: as adults can we increase our capacity for resilience in order to lead more fulfilling lives?
The answer is YES. Resilience is not a super power; it’s an ordinary skill that anyone can develop at any age. Think of it as an emotional muscle that can be strengthened. Research shows that resilience is linked to wellbeing by way of positive emotions and coping strategies (e.g.,optimism, cheerfulness, gratitude, mindfulness). Benefits include:
- a healthier immune system
- lower risk of chronic disease
- faster recovery from illness/ surgery
- improved stress management
- less depression & anxiety
Six Secrets to Pumping Up Your Resilience:
Catch It Early. One trait of highly resilient individuals is a keen awareness for when things aren’t going right. We’ve all heard doctors say “good thing we caught it early,” and that applies to stress: Identify stress early in the process and you can be proactive in managing how it (and your emotions) affect you and your health.
Stay in the Light. Optimism is the ability to look at a dire situation and assess its meaning for your life. If a significant relationship has ended, there will be grief, confusion, anger and so on. There’s also an opportunity to re-examine your needs and explore what truly makes you happy. Amid dark times, you can mentally stay in the light by using positive affirmation, hanging-out with supportive people, and monitoring what you watch and read on a regular basis.
Look at What’s Next. We all tend to blame ourselves for setbacks, worrying about what could have been done/not done differently. To bolster resilience, remind yourself that even if you made a mistake, many factors likely contributed to the problem. Focus on next steps and see how the vibe of that situation changes from desperation to opportunity.
Recall Your Victories. We’ve all had shining moments of glory – whether at work, in sports, or potty-training a child. When you remind yourself of the challenges you have overcome, you give yourself a shot of resilience.
Manage Daily Hassles. Whether sitting in traffic or waiting in an unexpected long line when you’re in a hurry, use those moments to practice coping skills (deep breathing, for example). Those mindful-skills will come more naturally to you when a crisis hits and you’ll have made a big deposit in your resilience bank.
Break Routine. Routines feel comfortable and are necessary – to a point – but rigidity breeds stress. A sense of adventure, even a simple but challenging activity, helps build resilience by enhancing skills that prepare you to handle stress. So, instead of the 1-mile fun run, enter the 5k; pass on the beach vacation and plan a guided backpacking trip; ditch date-night at the movies and go to the Escape Room or take a class (e.g. cooking or scuba).
Food for Thought. . .
“If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.” – Herodotus
Spaghetti Squash: Tasty & Good For You
Spaghetti squash, also known as vegetable spaghetti, is a type of winter squash that, when cooked, separates into long pasta-like strands. All winter squash share a few common characteristics. The outer rinds are hard and difficult to pierce, enabling them to have long storage periods, from one week and six months. The flesh is mildly sweet to nutty in flavor and finely grained in texture.
In general, this squash provides abundant phytonutrients that promote health. It contains beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits and support the immune system. Other key nutrients include vitamin B6, dietary fiber, folate, magnesium, copper, and potassium. The combination of these nutrients make this food an excellent part of a heart-healthy diet. These nutrients are also known for their role in cancer prevention and management of blood sugar levels.
Spaghetti squash is at peak season from October to November. Choose a squash that is firm, heavy for its size and has a dull, not glossy, rind. Soft rinds may indicate that the squash is watery and lacking in flavor. Some tasty yet simple ways to prepare spaghetti squash include:
- Top with pasta sauce and Mediterranean herbs
- Prepare with eggs, onions and spinach for a savory breakfast
- Combine with tomatoes, avocado, cumin and cilantro for a latin flavor
- Toss with sesame seed oil, water chestnuts, carrots and bok choy for an oriental flavor
Find more delicious ways to prepare spaghetti squash
Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a great choice for incorporating a tasty, meatless meal into your weekly menu. Although it has a mild nutty flavor on its own, when you combine spaghetti squash with sautéed onions, olives, feta, and juicy tomatoes, it absorbs those flavors, resulting in a Mediterranean dish everyone will enjoy. This recipe makes a hearty, lunch or dinner. If going meatless isn’t your preference, pair this dish with fish or chicken.
- 1 3-4 pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
- 3/4 cup crumbled organic feta cheese
- 1/2 cup sliced organic black olives
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
- Place spaghetti squash on the baking sheet, cut sides down. Bake until you can poke a sharp knife into the squash with little resistance, about 35-45 minutes. Remove squash from oven; set aside to cool.
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook briefly, about 1 minute. You only want to warm the tomatoes.
- Use a large fork to shred the “spaghetti” from the squash and place the strands in a large bowl. Toss with the sautéed vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
Restoring Rhythm with Panax Ginseng
Ginseng is a herbal medicine used widely throughout the world to moderate the effects of stress and support or enhance circulation, immunity, cognitive performance, and antioxidant activity. In fact, Ginseng is traditionally used in Asian countries to maintain homeostasis of the body and to enhance vital energy, or Chi. The herb has received significant research attention in Europe and the U.S, where the effects of stress play a role in quality of life and in many chronic diseases.
Recent research shows that Ginseng has anti-fatigue properties that support the health of cells by reducing oxidative stress (antioxidant activity) and help strengthen the immune system. Taken together, these properties can explain Ginseng’s use as remedy to help with recovery from fatigue and physical and mental stress.
There are several varieties of Ginseng but it is Panax Ginseng (Asian) and Panax quinquefolius (American variety) that has received the most attention. Panax is a Greek term meaning “all heal.” Another related root is Siberian Ginseng, which has different effects and benefits for the body. It’s always best to obtain a Ginseng supplement from your holistic practitioner. This will ensure that you are using the proper variety and dose for your particular health concerns.
Wild Oat to the Rescue!
Wild oat (Avena sativa) is far more than a common breakfast cereal or baking staple. Oats are members of special medicinal herb group called nervines. For more than 150 years, traditional medicine practitioners have used nervines, such as Wild Oat, to quell anxiety, reduce stress, support healthy sleep, enhance cognitive function, and settle digestive stress.
As a tonic, Wild Oat extract is considered trophorestorative, meaning it can help return form and function to a particular organ by helping the body “remember” balance and optimal function (e.g., invigorating function when an organ is sluggish or reducing activity when an organ is overworked). Wild Oat is a slow acting remedy that helps calm the nerves, bring relief to emotional instability, and restore a sense of tranquility. It has been a part of holistic treatment for Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome, PMS, panic and anxiety, hyper-reactivity, and for people who are persistently “on edge.”
Commonly used in tincture form, Wild Oat extract is a safe, gentle way to support nervous system health and restoration without the drowsiness associated with sedatives. It can also be prepared as an herbal infusion for tea. Preparation involves steeping in hot water until beverage has cooled to room temperature before drinking. A holistic practitioner can advise you on the specific amount of tincture or infusion that is ideal for your needs. If someone is gluten sensitive or has celiac disease, Wild Oat must be derived from a gluten-free source.
Reduce Stress with Mindfulness
Can mindfulness really enhance your health and wellbeing?
Nearly 4.3 million U.S. adults think so. That’s how many engage in ‘mindful practices.’
Popular media refers to mindfulness as any generic process of paying attention in life (mindfully doing the laundry.) True mindfulness is more precisely defined as “being fully aware of one’s own mind, body, and surroundings by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment nonjudgmentally and without attachment.”
Mindfulness as a practice to improve health originated with research by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He demystified the traditional Buddhist form of meditation and founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Today, MBSR is used in hospitals, wellness centers, senior centers, inner city schools, colleges, elite sports programs, and rehabilitation clinics around the world. It’s proven to be beneficial for various health concerns, often as good as, or better than, medication for:
- lowering blood pressure
- managing chronic pain and illness
- enhancing decision-making
- improving depression and anxiety
- recovering from surgery, trauma, and injury.
The MBSR Program helps people learn to be non-reactive to stress, pain or other triggers, and to decentralize it from the focus of their lives. This results in a cascade of hormonal effects that take the body out of high-alert mode. When the body and mind are relaxed, immune function is enhanced and healing can take place.
An 8-week MBSR program is led by a certified teacher experienced in related practices, such as mindful eating, breath awareness, gentle movement, and walking. Programs can also be designed for specific concerns such as post-traumatic stress, grief, addiction, cancer or back pain. In addition to a mini-retreat, small, weekly classes meet for 90 minutes. The course is designed to help participants establish an at-home practice that becomes habitual.
While in-person programs are ideal, there also are excellent online programs. Verify that the instructor is certified in MBSR.
Krista Moyer, ND
Dermatology can be annoyingly difficult to navigate, since each condition can have so many different presentations. My goal in this article is to introduce you to the possibility that histamine intolerance may be the root cause of many cases of atopic dermatitis.
Histamine is a well-known cause of seasonal allergies and pruritic rashes; however, there is a whole other world of bodily functions that can be caused by histamine dysregulation (Table 1).
Histamine is a neurotransmitter that is a part of the immune system, and is released by mast cells. There are 2 main enzymes that break down histamine. The enzyme in the central nervous system is histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT), and the enzyme within the digestive system is diamine oxidase (DAO). This article will focus on dysfunction of the DAO enzyme.
Many patients seek out naturopathic doctors because of gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction, estrogen dominance, anxiety, chronic urinary tract infections, and rashes. An imbalance in histamine can cause any of these to occur, either simultaneously or intermittently.
In a healthy person, a large production of histamine is normally produced within the GI system. However, impairments within the intestinal lining can cause the DAO enzyme to be produced in insufficient quantities by the enterocytes, resulting in excessive concentrations of histamine.
This elevated level of histamine will promote inflammation in the GI tract, and its most obvious outcome will be diarrhea. So, even if histamine is being secreted at an appropriate rate, once the DAO enzyme levels decrease, histamine remains elevated, causing further inflammatory damage to the lining. The same goes for the urinary tract, especially if there is a history of digestive complaints, as this will lower the DAO enzyme, further increasing the concentration of histamine in the urinary tract and resulting in inflammation and degradation of the tissue. Excessive histamine within the body can then advance to cause further systemic dysfunction.
Estrogen & Histamine
Estrogen is ubiquitous in today’s environment, and with the generally heavier load on the liver from our toxic world, it is important to decrease exposure whenever possible. Estrogen has an important and interesting relationship with histamine: High levels of estrogen will increase histamine, and high histamine levels will increase estrogen.1 Combine this with an inflammatory digestive disorder, where the DAO enzyme isn’t being produced in sufficient quantities, and both estrogen and histamine levels will rise further. During pregnancy, women generally notice a significant decrease in their symptoms from high histamine, as the placenta also produces the DAO enzyme.1 But once pregnancy is over, the symptoms return.
Medications & Histamine
Certain drugs can directly induce histamine release, while others can decrease the effectiveness of the DAO enzyme.1 Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), aspirin, and some diuretics have been associated with decreased effectiveness of the DAO enzyme.1
Histidine is an amino acid that transforms into histamine by the enzyme histidine decarboxylase. Certain bowel bacteria can produce this enzyme, which would increase the production of histamine in the GI tract. The histamine can then pass through the intestinal wall, transferring to other areas of the body.
Foods highest in histidine are mostly animal source: meats, dairy, eggs. Consequently, consuming a diet high in protein can temporarily exacerbate symptoms in a person with histamine intolerance. Furthermore, the histidine content of protein foods slowly transforms into histamine the longer it sits,2raising histamine exposure in overly sensitive patients. This goes for both cooked or uncooked foods, but is particularly prevalent in meats and fish.
Diagnosing Histamine Dysfunction
So, how do you decide if histamine, rather than some other dysfunctional pathway in the body, is causing your patient’s issues? This is where being a good detective and taking a thorough case history is important. It is crucial to establish what types of treatments the patient has tried in the past.
If they have already had customary treatments for their condition that failed, those failures can help guide you toward a diagnosis of histamine intolerance. A classic example would be that the patient did IgG food sensitivity testing and removed all of the reactive foods for 3 months, but only experienced slight improvements. IgG testing is not necessarily going to reveal a reaction to all of the high-histamine foods, or histamine-liberating foods, or a deficiency of the DAO enzyme. In such a case, the patient could have removed an inflammatory component, but still have the majority of their pathology present.
TESTING FOR HISTAMINE DYSREGULATION
Testing your patients for histamine intolerance is not a matter of a simple blood test. You can test for the levels of the DAO enzyme, but the results may not be all that helpful. If the enzyme is low, it could be because histamine levels are not elevated. And if it is high, it could be that there is a greater level of histamine in the body, and the DAO enzyme is appropriately elevated at that time to degrade the extra histamine. You could also do genetic testing; however, it will not reveal a histamine intolerance. The patient would still need to find a practitioner who is trained in genetic mutations and able to interpret the raw data, as there is currently no simple test to demonstrate a defect in the gene that codes for the DAO enzyme.
Foods to Avoid
- High-Histamine Foods
These foods naturally contain high concentrations of histamine.
- Anything fermented
- Meat, poultry, fish (unless freshly caught, gutted, and cooked within 1 hour, or immediately frozen after processing)
- Canned foods
- Raw eggs (a moderate amount of cooked eggs, especially the yolks, can be tolerated)
- Any fermented dairy products (the longer the fermentation process, the higher the histamine level)
- Cured meats
- Dried fruit
- Citrus fruits
- Fermented soy
- Yeast products
- Nuts (especially peanuts, cashews, walnuts)
- Histamine-Liberating Foods
These foods can induce histamine release from mast cells, etc, independent of DAO.
- High Biologic Amine Foods
Other biogenic amines than histamine preferentially compete with DAO for degradation. As a result, a higher concentration of biogenic amines can cause a temporary decrease in histamine breakdown. Some of these amines (including medications such as H1 anti-histamines) are also capable of directly causing histamine-like symptoms.
- Legumes (beans, lentils, soy)
- Wheat germ
- DAO Enzyme-Blocking Foods
These foods slow the breakdown of histamine by inhibiting the DAO enzyme.
- Tea (both green and black)
- Energy drinks
DIET & SUPPLEMENTS
Long-term treatment of histamine intolerance involves limiting high-histamine foods, as well as histamine-liberating foods. Healing the gut is essential. Supplements that are helpful will depend on the patient’s symptoms. Examples include: quercetin, vitamin C, DAO, and vitamin B6 (required to make the DAO enzyme). During the initial treatment of histamine intolerance, these supplements will be needed at higher dosages, and can be decreased or even eliminated once the patient has stabilized. Even using an anti-histamine, such as loratidine, only during the initial stages of treatment, will help to greatly decrease the load of histamine in the body and alleviate the aggravating symptoms more quickly. Long-term use of an OTC anti-histamine is not advisable, as it will disrupt gastric acid production, potentially leading to a full host of digestive disturbances and further complications.
Treating patients with histamine intolerance is life-changing. Patients generally have gone to many doctors, and have tried many different medications, dietary changes, and creams to alleviate their atopic dermatitis, among their other possible conditions. Once the anti-histamine diet is initiated, you should know within 4-6 weeks whether they have histamine intolerance, as most, if not all, of their symptoms will have subsided significantly. And they will finally have achieved relief from years of aggravating symptoms, with you to thank!
Table 1. Histamine-Related Symptoms
|-dysmenorrhea-symptoms subside during pregnancy
-nausea & vomiting
|-chronic fatigue-foggy thinking
-chronic swollen lymph glands
-low blood pressure
||-chronic joint or body pain-difficulty exercising
-numbness & tingling in extremities
Krista Moyer, ND, attended the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in New Westminster, British Columbia. Prior to this, she attended the University of Western Ontario, where she achieved an honors degree in kinesiology. When Dr Moyer is not in her clinic at Broadway Wellness in Vancouver, BC, she teaches advanced clinical nutrition, as well as supervises at the Boucher Institute. It is here where she continues to teach and immerse herself in the profession she loves. She continues to write and lecture in the community, to educate and promote the naturopathic profession.
- Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(5):1185-1196.
- Ganowiak Z, Gajewska R, Lipka E. [Histidine decarboxylase activity and free histidine and histamine levels in fish meat. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 1990;41(1-2):50-57. [Article in Polish]