Friday, July 23, 2010

Medical Cheddar?

Cheese. This is a powerful food, loved by many. Creamy, melty, rich, cheesy. There was a time that I actually dipped my cheese in cheese. If ever a feeling of loss descended on me during the journey toward a healthier lifestyle, it was when cheese came under fire.

Some theorize that we can satisfy what we need by eating what we crave, suggesting that cravings are an indication of what the body is requiring. I will refrain from elaborating on my opinion of this until another time. I mention it, though, because cheese is something that I always craved. For the protein? For the calcium, maybe? The more cheese I ate, the more I wanted.

Actually, it was a little component within cheese called casomorphins. Sounds a bit like morphine. In fact, this is not far off. Casomorphins are opiates that occur naturally in dairy, or more specifically, they are peptides that produce an opioid effect. In cow's milk, they are called bovine casomorphins, and since roughly ten pounds of milk are used to produce a pound of cheese, these addictive substances are highly concentrated in the end product.

So what?

For starters, casein, a milk protein that is found not only in the dairy section of the grocery store, but in seemingly every product on the shelf from crackers to breath mints, is broken down in the stomach to produce casomorphins. These casomorphins act as a histamine releaser. If you have a dairy sensitivity or allergy, it may be a reaction to casein, not lactose. Children with autism are often found to have high levels of casomorphins in their bodies. Many believe that these peptides are also linked to other conditions including diabetes, heart disease and schizophrenia.

Almost all of the cheese you will find on the shelves in this country is from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization aims to reduce the number of pathogens in the milk, thereby decreasing the likelihood of disease. This process is essentially one of heating the milk to about 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, pasteurization destroys virtually all of the possible nutritional components of milk.

According to Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation:

“Heat alters milk’s amino acids, lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50 percent; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80 percent. Pasteurization alters milk’s mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable.”

Pasteurized milk products, like other foods that are void of enzymes, put extra strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes to break it down and on the digestive system as a whole.

Beyond high cholesterol levels and increased mucus production, pasteurized milk has been linked to prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, anemia, MS, leukemia and ovarian cancer, many reports and studies in the past few years also suggest health issues including allergies, intestinal irritation and bleeding, and salmonella.

Not fair. The kitchen giveth and it taketh away, I know. If you are looking for an alternative to give that extra bit of creaminess and flavor to your sandwiches, try adding some avocado. The richness of texture and flavor adds a new dimension to food, and avocado, unlike milk, is full of healthy fats and soluble fiber, making it a hearth-healthy food. It also contains high levels of glutathione, a powerful phytochemical and antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and is crucial for, among many things, immune and detoxification functions.

Truly, the infamous cheetah had it right when he said "It ain't easy being cheesy."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's ok to be regular.

In most areas of life, I tend to prefer the unusual, the mysterious, the strange, the unique. But when it comes to that universal body function - shall we call it function number two? - normal, usual, regular is where it's at.

Healthy eliminitory function is a cornerstone of wellness, and yet surveys show that more than four million Americans deal with regular constipation. Ad campaigns make light of challenges in this area, and the sheer volume of people who manage constipation may lead you to believe that it is a normal and acceptable part of life, but irregular digestion and elimination is no laughing matter. Not only does it affect mood, comfort and energy levels, constipation allows toxins and old hormones to remain in the body to potentially be reabsorbed, and may contribute to many diseases.

So what is normal, anyway? If you are not visiting the bathroom daily, read on. And the product of your efforts should be large and well-formed. Dare we call it The Big Easy?

Even if you feel that things are A-okay in this area, you can still benefit from these tips; Even one day of constipation can present health challenges.

Eat a diet rich in fiber. Sweet Potato, Squash, Okra, and Avocado are some of the highly nutritious foods that support healthy digestion and help to reverse constipation.

Avoid eggs and doughy foods while constipated as these compound the problem. Minimize beef and chicken intake. Reach for fish instead!

Salads are actually troublesome if you are constipated. Try smoothies with at least 75% vegetable content instead.

Start each morning with several cups of warm tea while relaxing, and doing nothing but enjoying the moment. This will help stimulate peristalsis.

Ensure that you are maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria. A protocol of high grade probiotics for 30 to 90 days helps establish this balance, and will encourage healthy elimination function and support the immune system.

Get your rest! Bowel formation takes place at night while we are sleeping.

Unfortunately you many need to find new time in your day to dedicate to reading. However, as many great figures in days gone by have professed, progress rarely comes without some sacrifice.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Your Health and the Environment

While this article is one I have previously written, it carries important enough information to warrant a re-post. It is of particular relevance now as we will be locally hosting a presentation "Introduction to Nutrition and Food-Based Healing." Perhaps you may join us...

With over 72,000 chemicals existing in our environment, most of which have not been tested for long term effect on humans, the implications on our health can be staggering. Astounding levels of heavy metals and other toxins are dumped into the atmosphere, ultimately tainting our air, water and soil, and alarming amounts are found in our every day household products and even our food! But gracefully, there is hope.

The use of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) controlling drugs has increased over 500% since 1991. We have seen an increase of 644% of the rate of autism diagnosed in kids from 1992 to 2001. In fact, more kids were diagnosed with autism in 2008 than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined. Heavy metal toxicity has been linked as a contributing factor to Alzheimer's, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and more. What is causing these sharp increases in disease?

An estimated forty tons of mercury are released into the air by coal burning power plants, and industrial processes and the leaded gasoline we use to fuel our vehicles account for six hundred thousand tons of lead added into the atmosphere by the United States alone. Other highly dangerous substances such as aluminum, nickel, arsenic and cadmium surround us, as well, and in places we may not expect. We need look no further than our homes. Sources of lead include pesticide sprays, cooking utensils, solder in tin cans, cigarette smoke and paint in older homes. Mercury, in addition to power plant sources, is found in dental fillings, contaminated fish, and many cosmetics. It is also found in many of our vaccinations that are given to children. Aluminum is another big one. Aluminum is found in everything from antacids to cookware, deodorant, douches, containers, anti-diarrheal preparations, and many food additives including cake mixes, frozen dough, self-rising flour, and pickling salts.

And how about cheese? Do you like cheese? I love it, or at least I did. Processed cheeses in America include aluminum to help with creaminess and allow it to melt better! This process is totally banned in Europe, yet is legal here in the United States. McDonald's recently requested the FDA to increase the amount permissible by law to include in its cheese production.

What are the implications for such epidemic proportions? We are currently in a disease-care crisis in this country, and it is spreading throughout the world. Our ability to care for our elderly is already seeming impaired, and with chronic diseases influenced by heavy metal toxicity on the rise, this will only increase. Current estimates predict the rise in autism will surpass our ability to care for these children. I think that this alone is enough to bring the severity of the implications home. With a nation of sick children, who are indeed our future, we are left with dwindling hope for the generation that will lead society. Our financial resources will eventually run out. We currently spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on health care costs annually, though disease care may be a more apt term. This is more than has been spent on the current war efforts to date. Our national debt, and personal debt, can only rise for so long before we reach a breaking point.

But there is hope! Our bodies have been equipped with armies to help protect us from all diseases, including those induced by heavy metal toxicity. These are within the human immune system. We indeed have a fierce army that includes cells like the Killer T-cells that drop grenades on intruding cancer cells. The Macrophage has tentacles that can “lasso” the viruses and fungi, bringing them in to be vaporized. And the Helper T-Cells identify intruding cells like cancer cells, and notify the rest of your immune system to be on the look out. It is crucial, however, that we feed these armies.

Fresh, organic, raw fruits and vegetables are rich with phytochemicals, which are like the keys to unlocking our immune system. One example, cilantro, has been successfully used to remove mercury and lead from people suffering from heavy metal poisoning. These amazing substances are found in the seeds, stems, skins and rinds of most fruits and vegetables. When coupled with vital micro nutrients, these phytochemicals, like glutathione which is required for almost all liver detoxification functions including Phase I and II enzyme processes, provide an unmatched ammunition to empower our bodies.

Keeping a healthy and strong immune system is a major component. This is not possible, however, without a well functioning elimination system, for if we are not able to expel toxins properly they can become even more harmful and be released back into our blood stream. For example, if Phase I detoxification is efficient, but Phase II is slow or inactive due to deficiencies in magnesium, glutathione, or a lack of exercise, toxins modified by Phase I enzyme process cannot be expelled and are now more threatening to the body than before, as is the case with carcinogens found in cigarette smoke. Or if glutathione levels are depleted, the liver will not be able to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble toxins for excretion in the urine, and the majority will be retained in the body. Eating foods and herbs that support the digestive and elimination systems are a vital component for fighting disease.

Ultimately, a holistically healthy lifestyle to include a proactive and empowered approach, with good stress management, a positive outlook, plenty of rest, exercise, clean water and air, and good nutrition will enable us to fight off, or even reverse, just about any disease.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Revenge of the Nerd

Is it possible to be a food nerd? I think perhaps. I think, perhaps, I may be one.

Let's survey the scene. I spot a brilliant green, not fully forest green, yet deeper and richer than emerald. The landscape is smooth, but not without its tiny ridges, shallow dips; a gentle terrain. Hearty. Certain. Further exploration unlocks a cool oasis, refreshing, hydrating, and brilliantly light. The soft aroma of a summer day's respite wraps the senses, and I think, "Surely, it is here that my heart delights."

But what joy is this? Ah, the mighty cucumber.

Yes, seriously. You may feel that you can answer my opening question already, but read on, for no man is an island.

The cucumber is a mighty vegetable, indeed. For starters, the cucumber is a very alkalizing vegetable. Acid-alkaline balance, or pH, is a major point of interest when it comes to health. Did you know that the body maintains a pH of just about 7.35? It must, or you would not be reading this now. That means that, with 7.0 being neutral, we are slightly alkaline. Yet much of the modern day diet is acid forming, meaning that the foods are acidic once processed by your body, including foods like meat, dairy, refined sugar, grains, coffee, soft drinks, and so on.

Have you heard that soda leeches calcium from the bones? I grew up knowing that, though not why. Here's why. The body has a store of alkalizing power, and this is calcium, stored in the bones. When the internal homeostasis is threatened by a tip towards acidity, the body will rapidly adjust to stabilize the environment by utilizing this alkalizing mineral. Over time, this breakdown can lead to conditions like osteoporosis.

What's more, an acidic environment is a great breeding ground for many diseases, like cancer, and even overgrowth of microbes, like Candida albicans, a yeast present in the body that can become a fungus and invade the system if not kept in check. Candida overgrowth is another widespread condition that may be at the root of a multitude of symptoms and conditions.

Cucumber is a great help in keeping a good balance that prevents these complications to health. But there's more! Cucumber is also rich in silica, the mineral that is used to rebuild bones. That's fighting power against the loss of bone density times two! This also brings great benefits for the skin, hair and nails.

Those with challenges in the area of blood sugar levels such as Diabetes and hyperglycemia also benefit from the cucumber. The skin of this vegetable contains phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that help the body to better utilize its own insulin. The organic cucumber is the best choice in order to avoid the pesticides and wax that coat the commercially grown cucumbers.

I recognize that my excitement may not be reflective of everyone's, but seriously! You're not excited? Sure you are.

I can admit it, own it: I am a nerd. But I know I am not alone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Most Important Thing

As the years of study build, the information mounts, research advances, so the confusion tends to increase. Surveying the terrain of my nutritional path, I am reminded of the feeling of being overwhelmed with the level of change I wanted to implement, of how big the hills seemed. I'll let you in on a secret: like the little Russian dolls, or the spiral moving ever inward, the opportunities for improvement do not end, they simply fine tune.

Lest we get discouraged, step back! I am often asked, "What is the most important thing I can do right now?" If you were going to make just one change, one that you could be satisfied with, one that would constitute the proverbial good place to start, what should it be?

To add some perspective to things, I will come clean now and tell you that once upon a time I was a huge fan of the "fourth meal." Late night, drive-thru, cheesy and salty was my thing. Diet soda, chips: bring on the meal of champions! In fact, I am convinced that years passed in my youth when ne'er a sip of water passed my lips! Ah, the miracle of the human body.

I should add to this that I never really felt good about myself, and this intensified to near mortification as I learned what was going on inside, and, perhaps more importantly, what was not going on, as a result of the foods I was keen to. No wonder I felt unhealthy, no wonder my complexion was upset, no wonder...

But here it is, the number one thing I would share. It is the work you can begin before ever stepping foot into my office or cleaning out the cupboards and restocking your kitchen:

Accept yourself as you are, right here, right now.

This is the sentence I wish had been at the beginning of the very first natural health book I read rather than at the end. The most profound changes I have experienced on the outside have immediately followed a shift on the inside.

If you are able to let go of the negative loop running in your head that highlights all of your imperfections, including shame, frustration and disappointment, the odds for success increase, I would say, exponentially. A simple change in perspective. "Treat" rather than "Cheat", et cetera, et cetera.

To create a healthier internal and external environment out of a motivation of love for yourself rather than a desire to run from who you currently are is to work as a partner to your Self versus an adversary.

Practice this. Science shows us that when we interrupt our thought pattern and replace the thought with a new one, new neural networks are formed in the brain, and soon after the chemical processes within follow. You may be surprised at the healing power of positive thinking.

To accept yourself and be at peace in the vessel that will carry you through all of your years yields true happiness on your journey. May we all strive for this!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raen's Hello

As this is the first official entry, an introduction sounds like a good place to start.

I have spent the last few years designing. Deconstructing, defragmenting and defining a life, and it seems I have successfully been involved in creating one. Just like that? In actuality, it was a messy practice, marbled with moments of doubt, impatience, fear. And plenty of good stuff, too, like making tough decisions, facing fears and acting on faith.

Life a few years ago was peppered with the need for change. Though at the time it was not clear what my life's work was to look like, I knew that my increasing success in the corporate world was not it. The move to make a change was slow, but eventually the move was made. The more my life evolves, the more the picture comes into focus.

Many of us become aware of times of personal evolution, and our paths are likely both similar and unique. There is one aspect that I believe is transmutable, and it is one that opened doors and paved pathways. And that is that by enhancing awareness and alignment through better nutrition and nourishment, I was able to simply come down into my body. I finally appreciate the term holistic on a personal level. The more I learned and applied the things I learned about how different foods affected my body, the clearer my understanding became in almost every other area. The fog lifted, so to speak. I felt good. This is something I think I can share. This is something I want to share.

So that is my point, my motivation for educating others about healthy eating and natural lifestyles: to empower individuals to achieve their goals, whatever they are. To implement desired life changes in realistic increments, and, most importantly, help people understand the why behind the changes. By finding balance and vitality, we establish a foundation of health on which to build ourselves.

Monday, April 26, 2010


On May 22, 2010, for the third year in a row, an event called QI REVOLUTION will be descending upon the Orlando Convention Center with a participant list of at least two thousand people! What is this event, and why are so many Florida residents excited enough about attending that they clear four days off of their usually overloaded schedules?

QI REVOLUTION is a four-day event packing a powerful agenda that includes food-based healing teachings, meditations, natural healing and Qigong, an ancient Chinese practice in which more well-known exercises like Tai Chi find their roots. Last year the Wall Street Journal published an article stating that “the evidence is mounting that diet and lifestyle (including practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi, and Yoga) are the best cures for our worst afflictions.” The New York Times echoed this sentiment, writing that “Instead of relentlessly pursuing a sculptured physique, people are chasing longevity, stress reduction and improved health through mind-body practices like qigong.” More and more, alternative medicine is becoming mainstream, making QI REVOLUTION a timely and relevant event.

What’s more, QI REVOLUTION steadfastly holds to an affordable admission rate, with tickets for the entire four days priced at a mere $99! This is a welcome gift in today’s economy. Do not let the low price tag fool you; Using powerful techniques from ancient traditions like those of China, India and Tibet, the experiences to be had are profound. Not only do participants share testimonials of pain relief, advanced learning, increased energy and vaporized stress, the material is presented in a usable format, allowing attendees to take the knowledge home to make a difference in their lives. Not to mention that it’s fun!

As an added bonus for licensed professionals, QI REVOLUTION offers 32 CEU’s (continuing education credits) for Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, Registered Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, and Mental Health Counselors.

Interested in attending? Click here or call (800) 298-8970 to purchase tickets.