Friday, July 23, 2010

More Problems at Johnson & Johnson

When will people stop taking unnecessary prescription and non-prescription drugs? 

Yet one more FDA report of numerous violations at a Johnson & Johnson plant has been announced.  The inspectors found more than 12 types of violations.  Read my article, FDA Report Shows J&J Committed Multiple Violations where I discuss the issue.

This follows recent recalls for Tylenol and Motrin products for both adults and children.  It seems J&J doesn't really care much for quality and safety standards in their products.  So that translates into them not really giving a hoot for the safety of the people who use their products.  Money is their only concern.  I think it's time people boycotted J&J for the principle of the matter - not just until they clean up their act.  For that matter, I think people should resolve to avoid non-prescription drugs in the first place!  For the most part, they are unnecessary and dangerous.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tips to Avoid Mosquitoe Bites

How to Avoid Becoming a Bug Buffet This Summer
By Dr. Mercola
You may be one of those people for whom summer is far too brief!
But like it or not, most of you have only a few short months to enjoy the great outdoors in most of the continental U.S. Why waste it battling those pesky summertime insects?
If you've spent six or more months stuck inside buildings under cover from rain, snow and sleet, you may be looking forward to spending a few precious days outside, be it gardening, or summer sports like softball, camping and hiking—or maybe just evening strolls around the neighborhood.
Regardless of your preferred activity, bugs can be a real annoyance, as well as carriers of disease.
The good news is, there are some tricks to keeping those annoying arthropods at bay, and they don't involve applying dangerous TOXIC chemicals to your skin. And there are also natural remedies if you do fall victim to a bite or sting.

mosquito biteA Few Fascinating Mosquito Facts

Here are some fun facts about the little bloodsuckers[1]:
  • Mosquitoes do not feed on blood -- they actually feed on plant nectars. Females use blood to nourish their eggs prior to laying, imbibing about 5 millionths of a liter per "feeding."
  • Mosquitoes are attracted by carbon dioxide, lactic acid and other body chemicals, as well as your body heat, and can sense these from 25-35 meters.
  • Women, and people drinking beer, have been shown to be more attractive to mosquitoes. So if you're a woman drinking a beer, watch out.
  • Blonds seem to be more attractive to mosquitoes than brunettes.
  • In one study, a full moon increased mosquito activity 500 percent.
  • If you turn on a light at night you will have noticed that it is magnet for bugs. What most people are not aware of is that if you use a newer LED bulb it will NOT attract bugs. This is because most LED bulbs do not emit wavelengths in the UV spectrum like incandescents or fluorescents do

Simple Preventative Measures

The best way to avoid mosquito bites is to prevent coming into contact with them in the first place.
You can avoid most assaults by staying inside around dawn and dusk, which is when they are most active. If you must be out during those times, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, hats and socks. Mosquitoes are also thicker in shrubby areas and near standing water.
The American Mosquito Control Association has a list of things you can do to prevent mosquito breeding on your property.
Bat houses are becoming increasingly popular since bats are voracious consumers of insects, especially mosquitoes. For more on buying a bat house or constructing one yourself, visit the Organization for Bat Conservation.
As recently reported by the New York Times, a simple house fan may also be all you need to keep mosquitoes at bay in your backyard, because:
"A fan dilutes and disperses the carbon dioxide you exhale. Carbon dioxide is one of the major chemicals that attract mosquitoes.
The wind from a fan also cools you off. Sweat, lactic acid and body heat attract mosquitoes — factors that a fan can help minimize."
Similarly, avoiding physical exertion that makes you hot and sweaty can help you avoid getting bit. A New York Times article from 2008 states that:
"... cues like body temperature, carbon dioxide in the breath and certain skin chemicals like lactic acid all help mosquitoes orient and find their next meal. Exercise boosts the levels of all three signals, making people more vulnerable to mosquito bites during or after exercise.There is [also] some suggestion mosquitoes are more attracted to darker colors, so donning a white shirt may help reduce bites."
Barring any of those options, if you are going to be outside with your skin exposed during mosquito season, you may want to protect yourself with a repellent.

Steer Clear of Anything Containing DEET!

The most commonly used chemical in commercial insect repellents is DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide). DEET was patented by the U.S. Army in 1946 and is still widely used. Currently, DEET is used in more than 230 different products -- in concentrations of up to an astounding 100 percent.
If a chemical melts plastic or fishing line, it's not wise to apply it to your skin -- and that is exactly what DEET does.
Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell function in parts of your brain -- demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use.
The rats given small doses of DEET for 60 days had a difficult time performing even the easiest tasks, such as walking.
DEET was found to cause:
  • Problems controlling muscle movement, memory, concentration and learning
  • Eye and skin irritation
  • Headaches
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle pain, joint pain, and tremors
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
Making matters worse, DEET is also combined with other chemicals in many products, in combinations found to be more dangerous than DEET alone, according to Abou-Donia. Other things can also react with DEET -- like chemicals in your skin care products, and even your medications.
In addition, there are other potentially harmful chemicals in bug sprays, one of which is permethrin.
Permethrin is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins. The EPA has even deemed this chemical carcinogenic -- it causes lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities.
Permethrin is also damaging to the environment, and it is particularly toxic to bees and aquatic life.
It should also be noted that permethrin is highly toxic to cats[2] . Even a few drops can be lethal to your feline pet. It is used as an ingredient in some topical flea products, so when you see "for dogs only" on the label, it likely contains permethrin.

Natural Insect Repellant Alternatives

Fortunately, there are VERY effective repellents on the market, comprised of natural botanical oils and extracts that are every bit as effective as DEET but with none of the potentially harmful effects.
In one study, cinnamon oil performed better at killing mosquitoes than DEET.
Another option is to use the safe solution I have formulated. It's a natural insect repellant with a combination of citronella, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, and vanillin, which is a dynamite blend of natural plant extracts. In fact, an independent study showed BUG OFF to be more effective than a product containing 100 percent DEET! And it's safe for you, your children, and your pets.
There is also some evidence that consuming garlic can protect you from mosquitoes and ticks.

Treating Bites and Stings with Herbs and Other Natural Agents

There are many herbs and other natural agents that are soothing to the skin, and many have anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to experiment with some of these for your occasional mosquito bites:
  • Aloe Vera: One of the most nutritionally alive plants on earth, aloe contains over 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that are beneficial to your skin.
  • Calendula: This is an herb that I actually use in several of my skin care products for its soothing, moisturizing and rejuvenating properties.
  • Chamomile: The most soothing herb of all, whether used in a tea or applied to the skin. It is rich in the bioflavonoids apigenin, luteolin and quercetin.
  • Cinnamon: In addition to possibly repelling mosquitoes, cinnamon has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
  • Cucumbers are helpful for reducing swelling.
  • Honey: Raw organic honey has many powerful healing qualities and has been used for centuries. An especially powerful variety is Manuka honey from New Zealand, made from the bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka bush, also known as the "Tea Tree." The Manuka tree is a relative of the Melaleuka tree, from which tea tree oil is derived.
  • Lavender: One of the most popular essential oils for its calming scent, lavender is as antimicrobial as it is soothing.
  • Neem Oil: The oil of the Neem tree (L. Azadirachta indica) is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine[3]. Neem is effective against fungal conditions, boils, eczema, and ringworm, and it would undoubtedly help an insect bite as well.
  • Tea Tree Oil: From the Melaleuca alternifolia plant of Australia and widely used by the aboriginals, tea tree oil is helpful for healing cuts, burns, infections and a multitude of other skin afflictions. It is also a good antimicrobial, including fungal infections.

A Sting Operation: How Do the Remedies Stack Up?

William Brantley of[4] was curious enough about bee sting remedies that he actually conducted his own semi-scientific experiment. Working with a beekeeper friend, he allowed himself to be stung several times so that he could methodically test out a variety of pharmaceutical and natural remedies.
He kept a running log of symptoms -- pain, swelling and itching -- and logged them using a 10-point scale every 30 minutes, for each remedy type.
He concluded, "The best home remedies are better than the best pharmaceuticals."
The only pharmaceutical he said he would use again was Caladryl lotion, but even that did not perform as well as the better home remedies.
His favorites were:
  1. Toothpaste -- although it's unclear why it works. Of course, use the fluoride free version.
  2. Ice -- the cheapest and most effective anti-inflammatory you'll ever find
  3. A paste made of meat tenderizer, vinegar, and baking soda
Got to hand it to him -- anyone who allows himself to be stung by bees in the name of science should be given serious kudos!
You can also try rubbing raw honey on it. This is something my sister actually suggested to me for an intense, itchy rash I had for over a year after just about every other approach had failed. I was shocked at how effective it was.

Watching Out for the Wild Things

Sometimes you are bitten, but you don't know what bit you. If you have a severe reaction, it is helpful to know what critter did it.
WebMD has a helpful "Bad Bugs Slideshow" to help you identify different types of bugs and their bites.
  1. Wasps and Bees
    Bee and wasp stings account for more than half of the 50,000 known insect-related injuries to Americans each year[5] . Here is a handy bee id chart for identifying various types of bees. On the same site, there is also a wasp identification chart to help you identify several stinging insects by their appearance, as well as by their style of nest.
  2. Spiders
    Next to stings, spider bites are the next most common type of insect-related injury in the U.S. Of the more than 30,000 species of spiders, only a few can inflict serious harm to humans. The most common culprits are the widow spiders (Latrodectus species) and the recluse spider (Loxosceles species).
    If you are unfamiliar with the appearance and distinguishing characteristics of various arachnids, here is a helpful Spider Identification Chart. Arachnophobes beware ... the images are very realistic!
    Speaking of phobias, Emotional Freedom Techniques can be an effective way to tap away your fear of spiders.
  3. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
    Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are all part of the cashew family (Anacardiaceae) and contain an oil called urushiol that can cause itching and painful rashes upon contact with your skin in VERY small amounts. Only 1 nanogram -- one billionth of a gram -- is needed to cause a rash. In fact, according to the Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Information Center, 500 people could itch from the amount covering the head of a pin.
    The information center in the above paragraph can help you identify and steer clear of these poisonous plants. There are also some suggestions about natural sting remedies, including tea tree oil, goldenseal root, and even a recipe for a topical tea made from jewelweed, aloe and comphrey.
    About 15 percent of the population who are allergic to urushiol oil will have an extraordinarily severe reaction in which they begin to swell up in 4 to 12 hours (instead of the normal 1 to 2 days). Their eyes may also swell and their skin may even blister.
    Additionally, it is one of the few clinical conditions that I believe justify the use of oral steroids. It is the ONLY condition that I would routinely prescribe them for. Common approaches are a Medrol Dose Pack, but I prefer using less expensive generic prednisone. Since the condition is so severe and is very limited, the risk/reward ratio seems justified.
    Armed with a little knowledge about how to avoid some of these seasonal hazards, you can enjoy the outdoors without undue worry, while replenishing your winter-depleted vitamin D stores.
Please don't risk your health by applying DEET-based insect repellants -- use some of the safer alternatives instead.



  New York Times July 12, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Farm

I've been buying farm-fresh brown eggs from pastured chickens for about two months now.  There is a small private farm just outside of the town where we live, run by an older couple (in their late 50s or early 60s, I'd say).  They have chickens, turkeys, and a few beef cows.  I also found out they have honey bees, too.

Each time I've gone to pick up our eggs, a dozen every week (for $2.50), I've had the dog with me in the van so I wasn't able to get down to the barnyard to meet the animals.  But finally, we went yesterday to get our eggs and the dog was still in daycare so it was just my 2 year old daughter and me.  The lady farmer graciously offered to take us down so we could not only stand and look at the animals, but we actually were able to go inside and greet the chickens and turkeys.

We took my daughter, D, inside the chicken run first, as we figured the turkeys would be a little scary - those things look weird!  The chickens were lovely - beautiful and friendly.  They were a lustrous reddish brown colour and very soft.  We were able to stroke one that the lady held for us.  She said they have over 30 chickens, and gets about 3 dozen eggs each day.  She doesn't wash the eggs unless they are very dirty, so as to protect the cuticle. Did you know that if you wash or soak the egg in anything, the cuticle becomes permeable?  Not good.

The chickens milled about our feet, scratching and pecking at the ground for bugs and worms.  They made their cooing sounds and sounded very happy.

We weren't able to greet the cows as they were in a far pasture and under some shade trees.  Maybe next time.  We hope to get some of the meat when it's time - I hope that we will have the money to fill our freezer.  Pastured beef?  Amazing.

The turkeys, 10 in all, were next door to the chicken house.  They made funny barking noises and looked very dumb.  I don't have much more to say about them.  Turkeys are dumb animals - but they sure do taste good!  We will be getting at least one of the turkeys when they are killed, in October.  We're looking forward to that!

 All in all, it was a good visit.  It's nice to know where your food comes from, and to see how the animals live.  Even more important, it's good for our children to know where exactly food comes from and that food doesn't just come from the grocery store.  I wonder how many kids from cities actually know what real chickens look like?  Or that eggs come from chickens?  Sad.

I'm looking forward to getting our own place some day that will allow us to get a few chickens, goats, or even a miniature cow.  To have fresh milk from our own cow would be amazing!

Personal and Final Review of Homemade Deodorant

I went camping this past weekend and took only my homemade deodorant to use - no backup.  Before we left, I scooped out a glass jar (had daytime moisturizing sunblock in it that I NEVER use) and deposited a small amount of the deodorant - about 1.5 tbsp - into it.  The little glass jar with screw-on lid is a perfect size and not plastic, which is important to me.

 Both my husband and I used it.  The temperature and humidity were high.  The potential for stink was definitely there, but you know what?  We didn't smell.  Not one little bit.  Of course, one is never a good judge of her own stench-factor, but I really think neither of us smelled even the slightest bit of body odor. 

I reapplied about every 8 hours to ensure I had even coverage all day long.  I found that even at the 8-hour mark, I didn't smell of b.o. - I just didn't smell of anything.  As the deodorant itself is scented with peppermint essential oil, I figured that when I couldn't smell the peppermint anymore, that meant it was wearing off.  That's when I reapplied.

I have yet to discuss it with my husband, but I don't think he experienced any problems with using this deodorant.  So it looks like this will become our personal and permanent deodorant.  Yet one more way to save money!

I have read that some people, when switching from commercial deodorants and antiperspirants, have to allow their bodies and adjustment period - so don't expect this to work so fabulously for you as it did for me.  But at least continue to use it for at least one month, as I hear that is the magic time period required before you realize you love the stuff.  Just reapply it more often as you need to throughout the day, to ensure you have coverage.

If you use it, please let me know what you think!!

Stay healthy and fit!!

Friday, July 16, 2010


I had a great post on Vitamin D half-written on my laptop today, in Microsoft Word. And then I found out my laptop had been infected via a trojan horse.  Things degraded quickly from that point and my laptop became unusable shortly thereafter. 

My husband is attempting to repair and recover but I might end up having to wipe it, which is totally heartbreaking as I have several months worth of pictures of my daughter that were not backed up.  Including pictures from her second birthday party.  So fingers crossed that the virus repair program that he's running will work!!

In any case, I'll not be posting tomorrow after all.  I hadn't planned on posting Saturday or Sunday, either, unless I could find wireless internet floating around at the campgrounds where we'll be all weekend.  IF he gets the laptop fixed I might get a post in (if I have internet service out there) but don't count on it.  Definitely look forward to Part 1 of Vitamin D on Monday or Tuesday!

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Stay healthy and fit!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Importance of Proper Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio

This article is taken from PubMed.  Source listed below.

The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids.

The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC 20009, USA.


Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1. Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established. Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects. In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences. These studies indicate that the optimal ratio may vary with the disease under consideration. This is consistent with the fact that chronic diseases are multigenic and multifactorial. Therefore, it is quite possible that the therapeutic dose of omega-3 fatty acids will depend on the degree of severity of disease resulting from the genetic predisposition. A lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies, as well as in the developing countries, that are being exported to the rest of the world.
PMID: 12442909 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Source: PubMed

Three-Day Review of Homemade Coconut Oil Products

We're now on day 3 of using my homemade coconut oil products.  I made toothpaste, deodorant, and I have been adding coconut oil to our morning smoothies.  I also have been using the oil for oil pulling on a regular basis, 3 times a day.  I have one thing to say about coconut oil: I love it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spicy Black Bean and Chicken Rice Dish

How's THAT for a recipe title?  I know, it's a mouthful.  But I made it up and tried to give it a name that was descriptive enough for everyone.  I kind of threw all the ingredients together as I went along so bear with me.  You could likely adapt this for your own tastes and what you have in the fridge.  You may of course use dried (and reconstituted beans).  I had a bowl full of steamed broccoli and cauliflower so that is what I used for veggies.  Carrots, sweet peppers, zucchini - all of these things would be delicious.

1 cup brown rice
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole stewed tomatoes
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (I had some from when I made chicken stock - yes, I pick the bones over before discarding after I make stock - it's a good way to salvage some chicken meat)
2 cups (ish) chicken stock
2 cups vegetables, raw and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 an onion, chopped
chili powder
fresh cilantro, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onions in butter.  When transparent or browned (whichever flavour you prefer), throw in everything else but the cooked chicken and cilantro.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to med-low, cover, and cook until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.  Stir in the chicken and cilantro and season as desired.  You should get about 6 smallish servings from this.

This is an estimated nutritional value based on what I used.  The salt is not accounted for so sodium levels will be higher than indicated.

Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat4.9 g
     Saturated Fat1.9 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.9 g
     Monounsaturated Fat1.5 g
  Cholesterol25.0 mg
  Sodium379.2 mg
  Potassium382.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate22.8 g
     Dietary Fiber5.5 g
     Sugars3.5 g
  Protein13.2 g
  Vitamin A25.6 %
  Vitamin B-121.3 %
  Vitamin B-621.1 %
  Vitamin C35.8 %
  Vitamin D0.3 %
  Vitamin E2.3 %
  Calcium7.3 %
  Copper9.0 %
  Folate18.6 %
  Iron9.5 %
  Magnesium13.2 %
  Manganese27.3 %
  Niacin23.8 %
  Pantothenic Acid    5.3 %
  Phosphorus    16.4 %
  Riboflavin9.5 %
  Selenium16.9 %
  Thiamin11.9 %
  Zinc6.6 %

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Coconut Oil and Its Many Uses

Coconut oil is a long-villainized fat.  Formerly thought to be artery-clogging, coconut oil is anything but a bad oil!  Composed of medium-chain triclycerides, coconut oil: increases calories burned, assists with fat burning, rise in metabolism, and decreases food consumption.  It is also an excellent source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which is host to many disease and fat-fighting abilities.  In addition to all of the benefits you will receive when you use coconut oil as a food, you may also use it in other applications and experience even more of its wonderful properties.  This post will focus on some of the other uses for coconut oil.

Because of its antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral properties, coconut oil has many uses beyond food.  It has been used to treat diseases of all kinds, including HIV and Hepatitis - studies are ongoing.  Coconut oil does not need to be refrigerated.  Make sure that the coconut oil you use is virgin, unrefined organic coconut oil.  Nutiva is a good brand. (I am not affiliated with Nutiva in any way, I just love the quality.)  Here are some uses for coconut oil:

Coconut oil is a fabulous moisturizer.  Not only does it sink into your skin to make it soft and smooth, it also smells great.  Use this directly after a bath or shower to lock moisture into your skin.

Skin Treatment
In addition to being a great moisturizer for dry skin, it is also a well-known treatment for eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.  Use coconut oil on a sunburn to help with pain, assist in healing, and prevent peeling.

Facial Moisturizer
Coconut oil is a low-cost wrinkle treatment!  In addition, the topical use of coconut oil as a facial moisturizer has been proven to be an effective acne treatment.  Look years younger and have smooth, beautiful skin.

Mix toothpaste and baking soda in a 50-50 blend and keep in a glass jar in your bathroom.  Simply dip your dry toothbrush into the mixture and pick up a small amount and brush as you would normally.  The antibacterial nature will help kill any unpleasant germs in your mouth that cause dental decay and bad breath.

1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder or corn starch
5-6 tbsp coconut oil

Blend all ingredients together with a fork and place into a lidded container.  The consistency will be similar to playdough, and may be softer with warm temperatures in the summer.  Merely scoop out a bit onto your fingers and rub into your clean armpits.  Rub the rest into your hands as a moisturizer.  This recipe should last two people about three months with daily use.

I've heard it sometimes takes a few weeks for your body to get used to this formula and then it is fantastic at keeping the stink factor at bay!  I plan on trying this recipe out myself very shortly.   I imagine you could add a blend of essential oils of your choice.  A Thieves Blend (equal parts rosemary, clove, eucalyptus, lemon, and cinnamon) would add extra antibacterial properties.

Hair Deep Conditioning Treatment
Apply a small amount (less than a half teaspoon) to your hair - rub it into your hands then apply to the scalp and work your way out to the ends of the hair.  Some people leave it in overnight and then wash out in the morning.  Coconut oil is great for treating and preventing dandruff (a form of fungal infection) with its antifungal properties.

Oil Pulling
This ayurvedic treatment has been used for years to increase mouth health and to remove toxins and bacteria from the body.  The theory is that the oil catches and removes harmful bacteria from your mouth before it enters your bloodstream.  In addition, the healing properties of the coconut oil help stop and even reverse dental decay and bad breath.  Use coconut oil as a mouth rinse.  You may add a few drops of Oil of Oregano, clove oil, or tea tree oil to the spoon as an added antibacterial treatment for mouth and tooth infections.  Swish the oil in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, then spit out (into garbage, not sink to avoid clogging drains).  DO NOT SWALLOW!!  The oil is now filled with bacteria.  Within a few days you should notice a difference in your teeth: they will appear whiter, cleaner, and your breath will be much fresher.  Practice this on an empty stomach 1 to 3 times a day for best results.

These are just SOME of the uses for coconut oil.  Please feel free to add additional uses in the comments section!
**Edited to add: I've mixed up a batch of the toothpaste and deodorant.  I added some peppermint essential oil to both, at my husband's request.  I will update with a performance review in a couple days or a week.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More on Acrylamide

I realize that I did not provide much information on how to avoid acrylamide, other than "don't eat french fries or potato chips," so this post will provide a bit more information about acrylamide, why it's in our food, and what we can do to minimize exposure.

As indicated before, acrylamide is a naturally occurring substance that forms during cooking of high-carb, low-protein foods like potatoes, breads, coffee, and nuts.  Most acrylamide in food is formed when a natural amino acid called asparagine reacts with certain naturally occurring sugars such as glucose.

The Health Canada website has a whole section on acrylamide.  They even conducted a study to determine how it was formed and subsequently published those findings: "Acrylamide in Foods: Occurrence, Sources, and Modelling" A. Becalski, B. P.-Y. Lau, D. Lewis, S.W. Seaman; Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003; 51(3): 802-808.

Further, Health Canada makes some suggestions as to how to reduce the occurrence of acrylamide in foods you prepare at home:

  • Recent scientific findings suggest cooking french fries to a light golden color and using maximum temperatures of 175°C (350°F) when deep-frying and 230°C (450°F) when baking.
  • Do not store potatoes below 8°C (low temperature storage can increase the components that contribute to acrylamide formation).
  • Wash or soak fresh cut potatoes in water for several minutes before frying (this can reduce the components that contribute to acrylamide formation).
  • When toasting bread or baked goods:
    • Toast to the lightest colour acceptable.
    • The crust of toast or bread will have higher levels of acrylamide than the remainder, even though these levels are lower than those in french fries and potato chips. You may wish to remove the crust if it is dark or burned.
I am sure that occasional consumption of foods containing acrylamide isn't going to immediately cause cancer.  Certainly, diets that are full of deep-fried potatoes, bread, and coffee would put a person at higher risk for developing acrylamide-caused cancer.  This is just one more reason to eat these foods sparingly and in moderation.  Prepare and make your own french fries, if you must eat some.  Instead of buying roasted almonds, get a dehydrator and buy raw almonds and sprout and dry them - or roast them yourself at lower temperatures.  If you're a big coffee drinker, like me, maybe it's a good idea to avoid all other sources of acrylamide, to lessen your exposure.

Acrylamide and Why It's Bad

Acrylamide is a naturally occurring substance that is used in many processes, including the paper-making industry, the manufacture of permanent press fabrics, waste water treatment, and more.  Aside from people who work with the chemical, most people's contact with acrylamide occurs through food.

Acrylamide is a white, odorless, tasteless crystalline solid that forms on starchy foods during the process of baking, roasting, microwaving, or frying at high temperatures (above 120C).  In addition, the longer the food item is cooked, the more acrylamide is created.  Acrylamide is one of those chemicals that are believed to cause cancer: "Acrylamide causes cancer in rats when administered orally in high dose experiments, increasing tumors in the nervous system, oral cavity, peritoneum, thyroid gland, mammary gland, uterus, and clitoris." (Wikipedia)  

Health Canada announced in February 2009 that they were "assessing if acrylamide is a hazard to human health and whether any regulatory action needs to be taken." (Wikipedia)  Further to that, the European Chemical Agency added acrylamide to the list of "substance of very high concern" in March 2010.

Think you're safe from acrylamide?  Not so fast.  Acrylamide appears in many food items, but the worst offenders are:

~potato chips;
~french fries;                                                                             
~crackers, toast, bread, cookies;
~boxed breakfast cereal;
~corn chips and tortilla chips;
~bakery products;
~coffee; and

Please note that the longer something is cooked, the more acrylamide it contains: so bread has far less acrylamide than toasted bread.  The same is true for french fries: light-coloured french fries have less acrylamide than dark, crispy fries.

It is estimated that 20-40% of most adults' exposure comes from coffee.  The acrylamide in coffee is formed during the roasting process, so if you drink coffee, choose beans that are lightly roasted.

The FDA has analyzed a bunch of processed foods for their acrylamide content, the results can be found HERE.

This chemical is just another reason to avoid processed foods, including refined wheat and corn, and to eat raw foods when you can.  And if you needed a good reason to stop eating potato chips (even organic ones), well, this is it.

This post is a participant in Real Food Wednesday @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Food Rules? What Rules?

The topic of dietary rules is a tough one, and an issue I've struggled with over the last two years or so.  There are a LOT of people who have certain diets they follow, where they can eat some things, not others, or it depends on what day it is, or what other foods they're eating at the time.  For example, there is a book out that tells you only to eat fruits first thing in the morning, and never with anything else.  Ridiculous.

My theory is, if you eat Real Foods then you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  Real Foods, in this case, are fresh (organic when possible) vegetables and fruits, properly raised animal meat, butter from pastured cows, cheese, full-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, and brown rice.  Limit or remove refined carbs like sugar and flour from your diet, and don't eat processed foods with their subsequent chemicals and additives.  Once a food is highly processed, it's no longer food.  Period.  So why eat it???

One sure-fire way to tell if a product is processed is if it's in a box, bottle, can, or bag.  The only "processed" foods that are good for you are olive oil, coconut oil, and dairy products, all of which (obviously) come in containers.  But there is a limited amount of processing that is done to these foods, so they remain ok.  Basically, for things like sour cream and yogurt, a culture is added to the milk/cream and it is allowed to develop at a certain temperature, then packaged.  That's it.  Same for butter, all that happens to the cream is that it gets churned and then packaged once it becomes butter.  Still Real Food.

Another exception is dehydrated foods, but ONLY if there is nothing added to them, like sulphites.   Invest in a dehydrator yourself (I hear good things about the Excalibur brand, although I don't have one) and make your own banana chips, "fruit roll ups," trail mix, granola, sesame chips, jerky, and more.  The great thing about using a dehydrator is that it leaves the foods "raw," by which I mean, the temperature used to dry the food is low, and therefore all of the enzymes and good bacteria survive the process.  This is called "living food."

Another bonus about having a dehydrator is that you can sprout and dry things like nuts.  If you're really gung ho, you can sprout, dry, then grind your own flour to make sprouted flour breads and baked goods.  Doing this turns the grain into more like a vegetable, the way it is processed in your body, with significantly higher vitamin and mineral content, and lowered phytate amounts.  Sprouted grains are actually good for you, rather than bad.

The only "real" rule I follow for eating within the Real Foods food group is that I try to avoid GMO foods.  Genetically modified organisms are hazardous to your health in so many ways.  Besides the inherent problems with GMO themselves, there is another reason you should avoid GMOs, and that's the pesticide use.  GMO foods like corn, soy, cottonseed and rapeseed (canola) are all modified so that more and more pesticides can be used on the crops.  That translates into more and more pesticides going into your body.  In addition, the foods are mutated and not natural and cause cancer and birth defects and fertility issues....disgusting.

The quickest and easiest way to eat a diet full of GMO foods is to eat the Standard American (or Canadian) Diet.  It's chock-full of processed GMO foods.  I guarantee that anything that has corn or soy or cottonseed oil or canola oil in it is a genetically modified food.  Anyway, the best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic.  Certified organic produce cannot be genetically modified.  Or look for a "GMO-free" label.

One of the concerns of GMO is that the cows and pigs you eat were raised on GMO corn and soy products. The only way to avoid that is to know the farmer who raised them, or to buy organic meat products.

Well, that turned more into a rant than I expected, but that's generally the gist of how we eat around here.  Lots of fruits and veggies, eggs from pastured chickens, raw milk and subsequent products I make from that like yogurt and labneh (yogurt cheese made from straining whey from the yogurt), whey, ice cream, and sometimes butter).  I'd love to say we eat all pastured, grass-fed beef, but it's just not in our budget right now. When we can get our hands on pastured chickens and turkeys we eat those.  And the local grocery store has a "free-from" line of pork, beef and chicken, which basically states that no antibiotics or hormones/steroids are used while raising the meat.  Also, they are not fed animal products.  That's a good thing.  One day we will be able to purchase all locally-grown, pastured, grass-fed beef and pastured chickens and healthy pigs, but right now we'll do the best we can and try to avoid the factory farmed meat.

Go out to your pantry and have a look.  Is it full of boxes and cans?  Or are your cupboards empty except for baking supplies, like mine?  My problem is an over-stuffed fridge.  And that's how it should be.  The only thing in your cupboard should be dried meats, fruits, and nuts, and preserved items like canned produce, soups, and stews that you made yourself.  THAT'S how you know you eat real food.

This post participated in Fight Back Friday over on Food Renegade!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Perfect Greens - Superfood

My research has culminated in me deciding to try out the whole "superfoods" thing.  I picked up a jar of Perfect Greens Original powder last night, the 255g size.  It was pretty pricey at just under $40, but according to the ingredients, packs a big punch so hopefully it's worth the price.  I considered Greens Plus but the store where I was making the purchase didn't have the organic version of Greens Plus.  Perfect Greens has less of each ingredient in it, so I hope I made a good decision.

Here is the nutritional information for the Perfect Greens Original Powder:

You may or may not be familiar with these ingredients.  I was doing further research last night on the specific ingredients found in this product and came across a lot of great information.  Here are some links.  I will provide links to Natural News, because I think Mike Adams is a fantastic source..but all of these results are readily available elsewhere:

Chlorella Reduces Body Fat, Total Cholesterol, and Blood Glucose Levels (and more!)
Superfood Profile: Blue-Green Algae and Spirulina Offer Many Health Benefits
Bee Pollen Superfood Boosts Immune System Function
Improve Cognitive Function and Memory with Royal Jelly
Chlorophyll in Wheatgrass Proven to Fight Cancer (among other things)
Licorice Heals Ulcers, Inflammation, and Skin Conditions
J.E. Williams Talks About Three Anti-Oxidants You Should Not Do Without (discusses Vitamin C, Zinc, and Selenium-acerola berry is high in Vit C)

In any case, as you see, these ingredients all have the ability to heal or prevent pretty much any disease known to man.  So it certainly won't hurt to have a little green drink or smoothie every day.  Just a tip: start off small, with about half a teaspoon a day for a few days then gradually increase the dosage.  I can't find any specific information about it, but I assume any detox program could cause gastro-intestinal issues or otherwise if you start out too intensely.

First Impressions:
I mixed 2 mL (so just under half a teaspoon, or 1/3 dose) into about 100 mL of water.  It is a lovely dark green colour.  I expected it to be lumpy or otherwise not mix well, but it dissolved completely with a stir of the spoon.  It smells green, grassy.
Taste: not offensive, not disgusting.  The taste will take some getting used to, but it's certainly not terrible.  Even my 2 year old daughter drank the dregs of my glass (I added a bit more water) with no hesitation.  It's not bitter or sour - the stevia leaf extract takes care of that (a natural sweetener).  I assume the taste will be completely lost in a banana smoothie made with raw milk or yogurt.  Once my immersion blender is fixed I'll get back to you on that.

Speaking of my immersion blender, I plan on starting a "regrow your teeth" protocol for healing cavities in the next few days.  It involves consuming one crushed/powdered egg shell a day plus gargling with a comfrey root rinse each day for a month.  Read more about it HERE.  The egg shell is mixed into a smoothie, so this will all work out well - a smoothie with superfoods AND eggshell.  And if I can find some natural organic raw cacao powder (another superfood), I'll be making chocolate banana smoothies for myself and my husband (but not my daughter, who is allergic to chocolate).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Watermelon Facts

My family has been eating a lot of watermelon lately.  I also have a couple plants growing in the garden.

Watermelon Trivia:
Watermelon has been a food enjoyed by humans for thousands of years, and is thought to be native to tropical Africa.  Seeds of the watermelon plant were found in King Tut's tomb.  By the 10th century AD, China was cultivating watermelons, and is still the world's largest producer of watermelons.  The word "watermelon" first appeared in an English dictionary in 1615.  Pickled watermelon rind is a common food in the southern US.  Watermelon juice can be made into wine.

Although  most people avoid the inner white rind, it is actually full of vitamins and beneficial properties: don't cut it away with the outer rind, but eat it along with the red flesh to maximize the health benefits.  Watermelon is an excellent source of Vitamin C and Lycopene.

Nutritional Info:

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy127 kJ (30 kcal)
Carbohydrates7.55 g
Sugars6.2 g
Dietary fiber0.4 g
Fat0.15 g
Protein0.61 g
Water91.45 g
Vitamin A equiv.28 μg (3%)
Thiamine (Vit. B1)0.033 mg (3%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2)0.021 mg (1%)
Niacin (Vit. B3)0.178 mg (1%)
Pantothenic acid (B5)0.221 mg (4%)
Vitamin B60.045 mg (3%)
Folate (Vit. B9)3 μg (1%)
Vitamin C8.1 mg (14%)
Calcium7 mg (1%)
Iron0.24 mg (2%)
Magnesium10 mg (3%)
Phosphorus11 mg (2%)
Potassium112 mg (2%)
Zinc0.10 mg (1%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendationsfor adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

According to Mike Adams on his page, watermelon may treat and prevent many illnesses and disorders, including:
~urinary tract infections
~sore throat
~free radicals
~excessive thirst
~mental depression

Watermelon supports many body systems, including:
~urinary system

Besides being good for you, watermelon also tastes good, and it's relatively inexpensive.  Locally-grown fruit are ideal.

Watermelon may be stored on the counter until cut, then it should be kept in the fridge.  Cut it into small pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge; that way, you and your family members can spoon out single servings into a bowl and eat with a fork.  Alternatively, slice into single serving pieces still on the rind and store in a covered dish.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Importance of Vitamin D

I plan on providing a series of articles on Vitamin D and it's benefits (and what the lack of vitamin d will cause).  In the meantime, Mike Adams, the Health Ranger from Natural News, has just released a 23 minute video on Vitamin D.  Please watch it!

This text will be replaced by the player

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sugar (and other refined carbohydrates) and Your Health

There have been numerous studies regarding the effects of sugar and other refined carbohydrates on traditional societies.  In other words, societies who had, up until a certain point, not had any contact with refined carbs had very few health problems associated with modern diets.  Heart disease, diabetes, dental decay, obesity, and more can be attributed to the consumption of refined sugar, wheat, and corn.

There are many studies that have been done linking sugar to these diseases.  One interesting site I stumbled across is 146 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health.  She not only provides the list but also references for each reason.  Some of the things seem a little outlandish until you look further into what, exactly, sugar does in your body.  It's scary stuff, and it's an item most of us can't live without.  If we're not putting it in our coffee, we're putting it in our bread, and we're eating sweets.

Lots of diets praise the "low-carb" deal, but I think the main problem is not, in fact, carbohydrates themselves, but the refined carbs.  I've decided to do a "sugar cleanse" as I'm calling it, and I will cut myself off from all refined sugars for two weeks (or more) and see what happens.  I might continue it, depending on how it goes.  I hear that the cravings subside the longer you're away from sugar, and I hope that's true.  I'm really going to miss ice cream, though.  Maybe I can make it with honey.....

A few other blogs I've really been enjoying lately for their information is Matt Stone's 180 Degree Health and Stephan Guyenet's Whole Health Source.  Guyenet did a series on dental decay and things that cause it.  Check it out.

If there is anyone who would like to follow along with me as I remove refined sugars from my diet, let's go!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I'm off camping until tomorrow evening, but here's a couple links that should be of interest to people who care about their health and wellbeing:

US Plans to Double Up Flu Shots This Season, Against Recommendations

FDA Says Triclosan May Not Be Safe

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

10 Easy Tips to Help You Lose Weight

There are hundreds of "get thin quick" or "lose weight fast" diet scams out there.  Don't trust them.  There is no SAFE way to lose weight fast.  A steady and controlled loss over a long period of time is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.  Losing about one to two pounds a week is optimal for long-term success.  Follow these tips and you should start seeing results within two weeks.