Archive for November, 2007

All Probiotics are NOT Created Equal

There are many important components to maintaining good health. If there was just one thing you could do to alter your overall state of health for the better, stay out of the doctor’s office, and avoid catching each and every virus or bacteria that make you sick enough to call up your boss and say, “I’m not coming in today”, it would be to eat foods naturally rich in probiotics like raw dairy such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and kefir, or to find a good daily probiotic supplement to take. Why?

Of course, eating a healthy diet and getting adequate rest are also really important. But your immune system, located in the intestinal tract, is the epicenter of health. It controls how the body deals with illnesses, bacteria, viruses, and disease. The most integral component of the immune system is healthy bacteria, or probiotics.

This may be a new word to you, but it is so essential to health, learning its meaning and importance to your body’s ability to function properly is more important than most people realize. If you fail to receive appropriate amounts of healthy bacteria along with proper diet and rest, problems will occur. The ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in your intestinal tract is ideally about 85/15%. We have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system, so this balance is very challenging to maintain – especially with the average Western or American diet.

Probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics. These living bacterial microorganisms are essential in assisting the body’s naturally occuring flora to repopulate themselves. We have become so accustomed to doctors prescribing antibiotics for illness, we seldom stop to think what those medications are actually doing to the human body. While these drugs may have immediate short-term effects we consider convenient because they allow us to return to our normal everyday activities, antibiotics effectively kill all bacteria in the body. The result is a weakened immune system that is rendered defenseless to other invaders which may come in the future. This includes any viruses as well as unfriendly bacteria that may have mutated into some other strain.

Probiotics prevent and offer protection against a wide-range of health problems. Studies also show that these friendly organisms can actually be responsible for helping to ward off serious diseases such as cancer, Diabetes, and heart disease.

The best way to obtain probiotics from good, healthy sources is to eat or drink raw dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese, butter, and traditionally-fermented foods like home-made yogurt from organic raw milk, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir (not usually the store-bought variety – check labels as there are some brands that sell truly healthy, fermented products such as Zukay).

There are also a wonderful variety of lacto-fermented vegetables that are not only rich in nutrients but also provide a wealth of flavor to the diet as well. The process of making these foods produces a by-product called whey (the protein source in dairy) which is used to develop beneficial bacteria in foods that are already nutritious. For some information on preparing vegetables this way, read Getting the Most out of Your Vegetables. Read more about the lacto-fermenetation process on the Weston A. Price Foundation site.

Some practitioners or health consultants may say that probiotics are only necessary to those with gastrointestinal problems, patients who take antibiotics, people who are susceptible to chronic yeast infections, or those who are under a lot of stress. The truth is that most people in developed countries fall into at least one of these catagories and therefore, everyone can benefit from a good quality, daily dose of probiotics. Keep in mind that all probiotics are not the same, and care must be used when choosing the appropriate type for your body. The best way to go about selecting such an important supplement for your health is to visit a healthcare practitioner that uses muscle testing or other effective method, to determine which probiotic will effectively maintain immune system performance at its optimal function. In today’s market, probiotics can be found nearly everywhere from grocery stores to gas stations to health food stores. Choosing the correct type can be overwhelming and confusing.

Where to Find Effective Probiotics

If you choose not to seek guidance from a healthcare practitioner, here is a list of superior probiotic products that will improve your health even without testing:

Complete Probiotics from Mercola.com.

Doctors Formula ultra high potency probiotics – 100 million strains per capsule. Recommended as dietary support for autism and related medical conditions .

Bio-Kult – manufactured in Somerset, U.K., this powerful, effective product contains 14 strains and 2 billion per 2 capsules of friendly bacteria.

Prescript-Assist from SaferMedical. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.

Nature’s Life Green Apple Pro-96 Acidophilus Probiotic (also widely available in health food stores around the country). This product is great because its liquid state allows for greater absorp-ability. I have taken this product and experienced outstanding results.

Advanced Naturals – containing 50 billion cultures per capsule, recommended by colon hydrotherapists.

Biotics Research Corporation is an outstanding leader in health supplements. Biotics Research sells various superior quality probiotic supplements. To learn more about Biotics Research and determine which of these is right for you, have a look at their web site and consult a professional practitioner. I have personally taken them for over two years with fantastic results.

A Word About Yogurt

Many people popularly believe the misconception that eating grocery store yogurt is a good way to keep your digestive system working properly. Unfortunately, this practice does not do the job everyone thinks it does. The reality is, even the “organic” labeled products have flaws that prevent our digestive system from reaping the benefits of the important probiotics supposedly contained within the package. One major problem is that 99% of yogurts on the market contain some type of sugar (even so-called “benign” sugars such as maple syrup, evaporated cane juice, or fructose). Sugar is the number one, arch enemy to populating your digestive tract with friendly bacteria. So instead of adding to the good bacteria, the sugar content is simply causing your digestive system more duress by growing more bad bacteria. The second reason yogurt is inferior for promoting good bacteria is that the dairy product itself has been processed and most notably, pasteurized. The process of pasteurization kills most good bacteria, thus rendering the yogurt useless to your digestive tract.

When people ask why I don’t eat most store-bought yogurt anymore, I explain for the reasons above, I don’t want to consume something that is not useful to my health. Although homemade yogurt does take a bit of effort, the health results are worth it. Here is a recipe for making homemade yogurt that leaves good bacteria intact.It’s really much easier than many people would imagine, can turn out exceptionally delicious, and the health benefits it confers are fantastic!

If you are hesitant to embark upon making your own, here are some good brands which sell organic yogurt from grass-fed cows that do provide some nutritional benefit:

Trader’s Point Creamery

Brown Cow

Stonyfield Farm

Beware of products on the mainstream market such as Activia by Dannon and YoPlus by Yoplait. Contrary to product labeling and marketing, these products are not whole foods by any imagination-stretch and do not provide nutrition. They contain ingredients such as corn syrup, sugar, fructose, modified corn starch, and pasteurized dairy that is skim or non-fat (altered and not whole or raw). All of these ingredients spell trouble for the digestive system because they do not guarantee live delivery of necessary bacteria into the intestinal tract and add more toxins to your body. Even though these companies add fruit like strawberries to their product so you will better enjoy the flavor, fruit is an unnecessary additive and may actually inhibit the delivery of friendly bacteria into your gut.

Remember that while all these companies are in business to make money, those listed that produce probiotic supplements are reliable companies working to improve people’s health and have used studies and research to back up their claims, while the others are not presenting the whole truth to their consumers about the effectiveness of their products – nor the manner in which they are produced – and use marketing lingo to sell products. A simple comparison of the net nutritional value of those listed above should clearly reveal the quality of ingredients and efficacy of their use.

Resolution for Allergies

Along with a healthy lifestyle and eating habits, the use of probiotics can also greatly reduce the body’s reaction to allergies of many kinds. A great deal of practitioners and patients alike agree that this type of supplement, when taken properly, is highly effective to greatly reducing and eliminating allergies.

Many people hold the belief that that allergies are triggered by so-called “allergens”, but this is a common misconception. Although the allergen may indeed be the culprit of allergenic symptoms, the underlying cause of allergies is almost always a weakened immune system. A key factor to avoiding allergies in foods is variety and avoidance of foods that cause symptoms. Repeated exposure to the same elements can cause allergies to develop over time. To learn more about how allergies are affected by probiotic use, read this medical journal article from Cambridge University and the Nutrition Society.

What are Prebiotics?

A significant amount of prebiotic foods are also necessary to help maintain this delicate balance of healthy immunity within the body. Prebiotics are a indigestible dietary fiber which trigger the growth of favorable bacteria and subsequently have positive effect on the intestinal flora found in your gut. Together, prebiotics and probiotics help your body in a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotics can be found in foods with sugar. But since sugar itself is an enemy to the body, we must select the correct types of sugar for this need. Here are some foods with good prebiotic content:

  • raw dairy products
  • inulin, found in 36,000 plants, such as:

fruits – apples and bananas

sweet vegetables such as asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks

raw apple cider vinegar – mix with water, juice, or over salads with healthy oils such as olive and grapeseed oil

herbs – dandelion, burdock, and chicory root

For more information on probiotics and prebiotics, visit the following sites:

Body Ecology

Mercola.com

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The Workplace Blues and Sedentary Lifestyles

Are you feeling overworked and underpaid? Tired, run-down, and short on energy? Short on time for things that really matter to you? You are not alone. Millions of people who comprise the workforce in America are working hard, working a lot of overtime, and the overall health condition is suffering greatly for it. The culture of corporate life justifies its actions for increasing profits by impeding upon the health and well-being of their employees. The environment in the workplace is typically one of a nine-hour plus day with one hour for lunch and even shorter a.m. and p.m. breaks. Jobs are more and more demanding and people feel as though they can never get enough done for managers who are pressured by higher-ups to produce endless amounts of projects in shorter and shorter amounts of time. This is how human health is adversely affected by these working conditions:

  • People rush into the office each day, having received in many cases, scarcely enough sleep or food, and are expected to be there anywhere from 6 to 9 a.m. and perform uninterrupted until lunchtime, at which they receive just one hour to procure and eat a nourishing meal. After lunch they must return and work until 5 p.m. or later in order to complete only some of their daily tasks. When the work day is over, people are tired and don’t feel like exercising or cooking a healthy meal. What often results is eating out at fast-food establishments or preparing processed foods at home that provide not only little to no nutritional value but actually increase risks of developing serious diseases and conditions such as heart-disease, high blood pressure, Diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
  • During a typical workday, convenience is the name of the game. If something isn’t quick or convenient, it won’t even be considered. The result is consumption of fast-food, microwaved foods, vending machine foods, and portable junk-foods and snacks bought from grocery stores. These processed foods, as well as being devoid of nutritional value, are packaged and sold in plastic containers which harm the environment when disposed of (not to mention all the leaching of plastic into the food being eaten). People tend to bring snacks and drinks to the office that are sugar-laden and full of caffeine and chemicals in order to alleviate boredom as well as provide a “lift” just to get them through the day. Again, these substances provide no real fuel for the body and later on cause a drop in mood, energy, and overall feeling of well-being.
  • No time is provided for napping or relaxation during the nine-plus hour workday. Studies show that a 15 to 25 minute nap during the afternoon improves productivity as well as condition of health. Visit About.com for more information on these studies about the important role sleep plays in our health and productivity.
  • Employees are seldom provided time for physical exercise or stress relief. People who are confined to small spaces or redundant tasks for long periods of time and do not receive some type of unrestricted physical movement are more likely to develop health problems such as Diabetes – which can lead to other issues. People who are crammed into cubicles or other workspaces unfit for long periods of habitation become cramped, agitated, mentally taxed, generally fatigued, and can eventually contract some virus or bacteria due to the fact that their bodies’ immune systems are compromised due to these conditions. The World Health Organization reports that sedentary lifestyles are a major leading cause of underlying death in developed and developing countries.
  • Workplace tension and conflict have a sizable impact on health. It is true that spending long periods of time in the same location with others will inevitably develop personality clashes and differences. In many cases, people cannot escape or find resolve for such problems and have no choice but to remain in a hostile environment in order to put food on the table and pay bills. Some turn to substance abuse as a method of combating depression, anger, frustration, and difficulties sleeping. Those who imbibe regularly by alcohol or drug abuse as a way to unwind, relax, or escape the reality of a bleak existence that is the everyday workplace are putting their health in jeopardy.

It takes time, effort, and money to manage health wisely and efficiently to keep yourself in optimal condition. If a person is constantly overworked, under stress, consistently missing out on exercise, sleep, and nutritious meals, health will suffer.

Here are a few tips for resolving health and mental issues in relation to the workplace:

1. If possible, ride your bike or walk to work.

2. Seek out relaxation activities such as acupuncture, hypnosis, meditation, and massage, and strengthening activities such as yoga, pilates, or martial arts. Get regular moderate exercise that compliments your interests and lifestyle.

3. Avoid unhealthy foods and beverages (anything processed or containing unnatural ingredients) and eat organic, whole, raw foods as much as possible. Cut out sodas, juice, and drinks containing caffeine, candy, desserts, and other sweets. Include foods like raw cheeses, raw nuts, sprouted grain products, and fruits and vegetables for snacks. Bring your lunch to work and take a walk on your breaks. Get up from your desk frequently to move around. Be sure to stay well-hydrated with a good type of purified water.

4. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at night. Do not go to bed later than 10:30 p.m.

5. Don’t overload your personal life with activities and events that are stressful and prevent you from relaxation and/or adequate sleep.

For more information about how to deal with workplace issues related to health and the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, visit the following web sites:

Business Week

News Target

I’d Rather Be Writing

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Rethink Your Recycling

There are many, many theories about how to go about recycling and save the earth. One of the best ways you can do this is by eliminating plastic from your home and daily activities. Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous products to be found, and it has certainly made many of the things we do more convenient. The problem with plastic is although it is has made many things we do easier, it is also toxic to our health. The best solution involves reducing plastic as much as possible and changing to other substances such as wood, metal, ceramic, and glass. Here are some statistics on plastic. As you read these, consider just how big of an impact plastic has on our health and environment:

  • According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year.
  • According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually. (Estimated cost to retailers is $4 billion.)
  • Plastic bags don’t biodegrade, they photodegrade-breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering the food web when animals accidentally ingest.
  • Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags mistaken for food.
  • Plastic bags are among the 12 items of debris most often found in coastal cleanups, according to the nonprofit Center for Marine Conservation.
  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • Plastic bags are light and hard to contain. Because of their light weight, plastic bags fly easily in wind, float along readily in the currents of rivers and oceans, get tangled up in trees, fences, poles, and so forth, and block the drainage.
  • Plastic bags are made from a non-renewable natural resource: petroleum. Consequently, the manufacturing of plastic bags contributes to the diminishing availability of our natural resources and the damage to the environment from the extraction of petroleum.

Although people intend to recycle plastic containers, the reality is that more of these containers are not recycled and end up in land fills to leach into the soil, or harm our ecosystem in many other ways. The reverse is true for wood, metal, and glass. Paper bags, glass, and metal can all be reused and if not, they do not harm our environment the way that plastic does.

There is a new product on the market produced from corn that could be the potential for replacing plastic altogether. This substance can be used for many items including cups, bags, clothing, and food containers just to name a few. The product is called PLA or polylactides. Visit The Christian Science Monitor to learn more about this clean product that degrades in just 47 days.

For more information on how to clean up the environment intelligently, visit the following web sites:

Bring Your Own

Environmentally Speaking

Read about how one food store in Seattle, Washington has changed their bags from plastic to paper (and fabric):

PCC Natural Markets

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The Connection Between Raw Foods and a Healthy Immune System

Our immune systems and our bodies are becoming increasingly compromised and weakened. Why? There are many theories and causes. One reason why we hear about outbreaks in the news media is because the average American’s immune system is so weak that many foreign bacteria we come into contact with have the potential to cause a serious issue. As a result, the government has increased legislature and laws regarding the sale of raw foods – in particular, meats, fish, and dairy products.

The requirement came about as a result of the continuing weakening of the immune systems of people in our country’s population. Studies have shown that a healthy immune system is directly linked to the diversity of bacteria found in the digestive tract – in particular, the intestinal system. Raw foods provide these bacteria and help to develop an environment where the body stays healthy. American diets are extremely deficient in those foods, with mostly dead food that is devoid of good, living bacteria vital to health. Immune systems are then rendered unable to protect us, as they should, against foreign (or harmful, as doctors call it) bacteria. To keep your immune system in good working order and maintain good bacteria, consumption of living foods is paramount. This includes raw dairy, raw vegetables and fruits, sprouted grains, legumes and seeds, and even some raw meats.

Raw foods contain less trans and saturated fats than that found in most of the foods in typical Western diets. These foods are low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium folate, fiber, and health-promoting plant chemicals known as phytochemicals. These elements are associated with a reduced risk of illnesses such as Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consumption of a raw food diet lowered plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride.

Raw meats are actually healthy if they are prepared correctly and your immune system is healthy. For more information on raw meat preparation, read Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

Taking a good probiotic daily is also very important, which can be found at or ordered through most health food stores. The best kind to take are the liquid variety. The brand I take is Nature’s Life Green Apple Pro 96 Acidophilus. These supplements contain living bacteria (just like the kind found in yogurt), but they do not contain pasteurized dairy products because they are just the bacteria and some other ingredients that are also living-food based (plant, fruit, and vegetable). They will boost your immune system and provide you with necessary good bacteria so that you can eat raw and living foods that will nourish your body in the best way possible.

Organic Pastures is a good resource for food items like raw dairy. Visit their site for more information. Visit the Raw Foods site to read more about the benefits of raw foods, preparation, and lifestyle.

Types of foods found in raw food diets (preferably organic, unprocessed, whole foods):

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dried fruit
  • Seaweed
  • Unprocessed organic or natural foods
  • Freshly juiced fruit and vegetables
  • Purified water
  • Young coconut milk

If you have never before eaten raw foods consistently, you may experience a detoxification reaction – especially if your previous diet has been high in sugar, meats, and caffeine. Starting out slowly and gradually by incorporating some raw foods into your diet daily is a good way to introduce yourself to the idea and lifestyle of raw. Eating 75% or higher raw food content in your overall diet takes commitment, research, and time. Many foods are made from scratch and are grown and sprouted, or are difficult to locate in health foods stores. It may not be appropriate for everyone.

Here are some great resources for additional information on raw foods. Visit:

Shirley’s Wellness Cafe

Livrite – Natural Nutrition

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