Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Less Depression with Mediterranean Diet --- It's Not About the Pasta (Per Se)

In case you’ve missed previous studies extolling the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, researchers have just produced another one.

This particular study found a reduced risk of depression in people eating a Mediterranean diet: rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains and fish; low in meat; moderate in dairy and alcohol; and high in monounsaturated fats compared to saturated. Authors of the study, which appeared in the October 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that people who followed this diet most closely had a more than 30 percent reduction in their risk of depression.

Study authors aren’t certain what’s at work here, but note that components of the Mediterranean diet can fight inflammation, improve cardiovascular function, and repair free radical damage, all of which might help prevent depression. Previous studies suggest that the monounsaturated fats in olive oil might protect against depression, as well.

This all makes sense to me. Not only olive oil but other mainstays of the Mediterranean diet contain protective nutrients. Among them:

Red wine and grapes contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant thought to slow cell damage caused by free radicals.

Garlic and its active ingredient allicin have selective anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. Eating garlic tends to promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

Oregano has anti-inflammatory properties, helpful since inflammation is implicated in a range of chronic conditions from arthritis to heart disease to dementia.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, another powerful antioxidant and phytonutrient that may aid the health of the eyes, among other things.

Fish contains omega-three fatty acids, essential for brain function and previously found to have positive effects on depression.

When it’s fresh and made from whole grains, pasta might be part of the picture – whole grains are often a good source of B vitamins, also known to help mental health -- but just a part.

As the study authors write, “The role of the overall dietary pattern may be more important than the effect of single components.” They add, “The synergistic combination of a sufficient provision of omega-three fatty acids together with other natural unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants from olive oil and nuts, flavonoids and other phytochemicals from fruit and other plant foods and large amounts of natural folates and other B vitamins in the overall Mediterranean dietary pattern may exert a fair degree of protection against depression.”

You can find the original announcement of these study results here.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Journaling for Wellness

The oldest diary I have dates back to fifth grade, when most of my scrawled entries mention the forts I built with my friends or how much I wished I could stay home from school. Sometimes, though, I also turned to those diary pages to pour out my woes, and so I learned young about the healing effects of writing.

Experience tells us these healing benefits are real, and lately, scientific studies as well show that journaling can have actual physical effects. Certain writing techniques can lower blood pressure and improve the body's immune function, for instance, and there are other benefits, too. What's called "expressive writing" is now often used to help people heal from emotional trauma.

Expressive writing is among the things we'll talk about in the class I'm leading, "Journaling for Wellness," this Wednesday at the Jutila Center in Hancock. We'll cover how to practice this kind of writing to benefit your own health. We'll also delve into using affirmative writing to support wellness, and using journals to help reach various wellness goals.

I'm adding a couple of topics that are new since I presented this class last summer. Because people have asked for more information about Dietrich Klinghardt's Five Levels of Healing, I'll say a few things about that and about how journaling fits in with the five levels. I'll also talk about how dream journaling can support health and healing, and how journaling can be combined with meridian tapping techniques -- such as Mental Field Technique (MFT) or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) -- for increased effects.

You're invited to bring your pens and paper to join us this Wednesday, November 4, at 6:30 p.m. at Room 324 in the Jutila Center. That's located at 200 Michigan Street (the old hospital building) in Hancock. The class will run for about an hour; cost is $10 at the door. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Making Natural Wellness Choices

Lately, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the availability of services and products related to natural health. The Optimal Wellness classes now running at the Jutila Center in Hancock serve as one example: the group of us who are teaching have offered sessions on natural detox techniques, herbal remedies, essential oils, meditation, stress management, mindfulness, field control therapy, chakras, and more.

In fact, sometimes the sheer number of natural healing options can be overwhelming. Recently one woman asked me, “With all these possibilities, how do you know where to start?”

It’s a good question, and the answer will vary from person to person. A good practitioner can help you work this out, or you can learn holistic self-help practices on your own. However you choose to explore natural wellness, here are some guidelines to help you plan and prioritize.

1) Consider your budget. If you have limited funds, start with practices that don’t cost money. For instance, a simple meditation practice, sitting quietly and focusing on the breath, costs nothing and can bring wellness benefits in as little as a few minutes a day. Other low- or no-cost options include a daily walk, stretching or yoga, meridian tapping techniques such as MFT or EFT, and regular doses of laughter.

2) Consider the basics. Do you follow such foundational practices as healthy eating, drinking enough water, getting adequate exercise, and getting enough sleep? A stack of supplements will have limited effect if you consume too much sugar or compromise your sleep by working in front of a computer screen late at night. I admit it! I am sometimes guilty of both. We all can benefit from reviewing our basic health habits from time to time to keep wellness on track.

3) Consider the old medical edict, “First do no harm.” It’s a corollary of considering the basics, and can really help prioritize especially if you’re just starting to clean up your natural health act. Take the junk out of your diet, clean toxic products out of your house or workplace. You might be surprised at how much difference just this can make.

4) Consider your health priorities. If you have specific wellness goals, choose the methods that address those best. For instance, acupuncture and acupressure techniques have shown effectiveness in pain management; nutritional approaches can often aid allergies.

5) Consider your comfort level. Which practices appeal to you, and which do not? Do you prefer to go slowly and be gentle when caring for yourself, or would you rather make sweeping, transformational changes? Flower essences, for instance, often have gentle effects, while certain detox practices such as juice fasts can instigate more radical changes.

6) Consider learning a form of applied kinesiology, also called muscle testing. Using muscle testing can help you get a better read of what your body might need at any particular time. I’m trained in Autonomic Response Testing or ART, which works best when you use one or two people to test a third. There are several methods of muscle testing, some of which you can use on yourself.

7) Consider the holistic nature of healing. I’m a student of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt’s Five Levels of Healing, which looks at how different healing modalities affect us on the spiritual, intuitive, mental, and emotional/energetic levels as well as on the physical. Physical symptoms are most often what remind us that we need to tend to our health, but these other levels have a powerful effect on our well-being. Be sure to include them in whatever you do to nurture your own health and wellness.

8) Consider writing a wellness plan, or wellness checklists. With all the options available, it can be hard to keep track of the practices you want to pursue. When I first started seeing a naturopath, for instance, I’d sometimes get a dozen or more recommendations per appointment. I had trouble remembering them all through the day, so I wrote up checklists that I taped into my calendar to help me track the remedies I took and practices I wanted to follow. I still do this for myself, and find that it helps me establish new and better habits. It also helps me track my progress, and see which things are more or less effective at keeping me well.

Do you have further suggestions for guidelines to consider in making natural wellness choices? If so, please comment below -- I’d love to hear them!

As always, I offer the above information for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular disease. Please consult as needed with a health care provider before making changes in your health care practices.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Supplements to save your ears

Rock musicians, construction workers, and others exposed to ear-jarring noise might want to up their intake of magnesium, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E, recent studies suggest. A cocktail of these nutrients appears to protect against hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise.

The anti-oxidants in the mix – beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E – help prevent hearing loss by scavenging free radicals that damage inner ear cells in the case of loud noise exposures. The mineral magnesium aids blood flow to the ear and assists healing.

Studies done by University of Florida, University of Michigan, Washington University in St. Louis, and the company OtoMedicine found benefits from giving this supplement mix before loud noise exposure as well as up to three days after such exposures.

Definitely something to consider if you want to preserve your hearing! Researchers added that physical ear protection – e,g,, ear plugs or hard-shell ear protectors – remains the best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

You can read more about the studies in this University of Florida press release.

Thanks to the excellent website of the Acoustic Ecology Institute, where I first found this tidbit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Learning about Field Control Therapy

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Vicki Usitalo’s class, “Internal Cleansing for Vitality, Wellness and Weight Loss.” The class covered the basics of homeopathy and Field Control Therapy (FCT), which Vicki provides for clients through her business Preventive Health Maintenance.

Toxins and pollution are a major cause of illness, Vicki explained to our class. Chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive particles can get lodged in our DNA, where they can damage cells and affect health. To keep this from happening, it's important first to avoid toxins as you can. But in addition, Vicki said, “It’s very important to cleanse what’s already in the system to allow for optimal healing.”

This is what Dr. Savely Yurkovsky designed FCT to do. A cardiologist, Dr. Yurkovsky at one point had a family member sick from radiation and chemical exposures which Western medicine could do little to resolve. Dr. Yurkovsky then embarked on an extensive program of study to find anything that could help, and Field Control Therapy was the result.

Dr. Yurkovsky began training other health care providers in FCT as of 1999, and Vicki – already an RN – received her training a few years later. She also attends periodic update sessions to stay current with FCT techniques.

At her FCT sessions, Vicki has clients relax on a massage table as she uses bio-resonance testing – a form of muscle testing – to determine what needs to be cleansed from the cells, and what strengths of various homeopathic remedies are needed to do this. After about an hour of testing, the client usually leaves with a four- to six-day program for taking a series of homeopathic remedies to cleanse certain organ systems.

A line-up of homeopathic remedies for a recent FCT program devised by Vicki Usitalo.

These remedies are gentle, yet their effects can be powerful. Some people do not notice side effects, but when I do one of Vicki’s FCT programs, I usually develop deep fatigue for the first day or two. This is likely a sign that my body is ridding itself of toxins. By about the third day of the program, my energy levels usually rebound and I feel better than ever. I’m impressed with the results I’ve gotten, and I know of medical doctors, too, who are impressed with Yurkovsky’s system.

As of now there are not many FCT practitioners in the country. The Western U.P. is thus extremely lucky to have Vicki providing this service right here in Hancock. According to Vicki, FCT can be particularly useful for people with chronic conditions such as recurring sinus infections or urinary tract infections, or people suffering from pain of undetermined origin. It can also improve digestion, increase mental and visual clarity, decrease food cravings, and support health in a variety of other ways.

Vicki can be reached at Preventive Health Maintenance, 906-487-7468. Her website is www.preventive-maintenance.com, and her office is located in the Jutila Center in Hancock, Michigan. Later, I hope to add information on how you can find a Field Control Therapy practitioner if you live elsewhere in the country.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Optimal Wellness classes, Fall 2009

Our fall series of Optimal Wellness classes is off and running at the Jutila Center! Last week, I taught "Detox 101: Simple Ways to Avoid Toxins and Build Health," and this coming Wednesday, September 23rd, Vicki Usitalo will teach "Internal Cleansing for Vitality, Wellness and Weight Loss."

We have a good time at these classes and cover a wide range of natural wellness topics. Vicki's class promises to be very informative as she gives an overview of homeopathy and field control therapy, two holistic health tools that can cleanse the body on a cellular level. I've been a very satisfied client of Vicki's for field control therapy, and find it a very powerful yet gentle healing technique.

Below is the entire fall schedule of Optimal Wellness classes. Classes meet Wednesday evenings (except one on the Monday before Thanksgiving) and run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. with informal discussion to follow. They're held in the Jutila Center's Room 324, at 200 Michigan Street in Hancock, MI. Cost is $10 per person at the door. For more information call 487-7451 or email NorthCoastHolistics@gmail.com. Hope to see you there!

Here we are teaching meridian tapping techniques at one of our spring/summer wellness classes. Thanks to Gustavo Bourdieu for this photo.

Creating a Healthy Balance in Mind, Body and Spirit

Sept 16 - Detox 101: Simple Ways to Avoid Toxins and Build Health, taught by Kate Alvord
Sept 23 - Internal Cleansing for Vitality, Wellness & Weight Loss, taught by Vicki Usitalo
Sept 30 - Healthy Buildings, taught by Karen Rumisek
Oct 7 - Mindfulness and Stress, taught by Kim Menzel
Oct 14 - Herbs & Essential Oils for Winter Health & Holiday Stress, taught by Karen Rumisek
Oct 21 - Finding Silence in the Season, taught by Dorothy Riutta
Oct 28 - What Do Our Chakras Have to Do With Health? taught by Patty Peterson
Nov 4 - Journaling for Wellness, taught by Kate Alvord
Nov 11 - Unwinding Habits of the Mind, taught by Kim Menzel
Nov 18 - Adrenal Fatigue, taught by Vicki Usitalo
Nov 23 (MONDAY) – Food as a Metaphor, taught by Kim Menzel
Dec 2 - E-Z Fitness Methods: When You Can't or Don't Exercise, taught by Kate Alvord
Dec 9 - Love Your Self, Love Your Body, taught by Kim Menzel
Dec 16 - Tenderheartedness, taught by Dorothy Riutta

Patty Peterson RN of Keweenaw Natural Wellness is an energy healer who has taught several previous classes on wellness and intuition.
Kim Menzel LMSW of Indigo Creek Counseling is a clinical psychotherapist who works with area health care providers in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.
Katie Alvord of North Coast Holistics is an award-winning writer and educator with training in holistic health and nutrition.
Vicki Usitalo RN of Preventive Health Maintenance is a specialist in Field Control Therapy, a method of internal cleansing using homeopathy and herbs.
Dorothy Riutta of Peaceful Niche, a meditation practitioner who has studied in a variety of meditation traditions, teaches introductory and advanced meditation classes.
Karen Rumisek has a background including postsecondary education and training in nutrition, herbal remedies and feng shui.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pop Diets vs. The Unique You - Quick Intro

Pick any popular diet, and you will find some dieters who succeeded wildly at losing weight with it, but others who just could not. Diet books claim that their program should work for all, yet we find these differences.

I'm convinced that there is no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" diet. Not only are we all different, with different dietary needs, but those needs can change over time, often more significantly than we might realize.

I'm teaching "Pop Diets vs. The Unique You" to explore this idea that each of us is biochemically unique. That uniqueness can influence which diets might work – and which might not work -- for each of us.

Possibly the best way to determine an appropriate diet for "The Unique You" is by using a good system of applied kinesiology, or muscle testing. My class won't be covering that, but there are other instructors who do -- Patty Markham Peterson, for instance. I highly recommend learning more about this as it can be quite helpful.

In addition, there are some "typing" systems from the natural health world that can provide useful information about your general tendencies. These can supplement or support what you might get from muscle testing and lead to a better understanding of your own biochemistry.

"Pop Diets vs. The Unique You" will look at three such "typing" systems – Metabolic Typing, Ayurvedic Types and Blood Types. It will also survey the features of several popular weight loss diets and see how "types" can help in picking an appropriate diet.

The information provided by this short class will be very general, but I hope it will help each of us who take part to learn more about our unique physiques! The class will be taught tonight -- Wednesday evening August 19th at 6:30 p.m. at Room 324 in the Jutila Center (old hospital), 200 Michigan Street in Hancock, Michigan. Cost is $10 at the door and it will last about an hour. Hope to see you!

Many thanks to Kacey Berry for letting me use her beautiful meal photo above, taken in Italy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free Analysis of Your Diet

If you would like a free case study of your diet and nutritional status, please read this. I'm offering this service right now as part of a certificate course I'm taking. It's pretty simple and works like this:

You fill out a form that I provide you (electronically or in hard copy) by answering a few simple questions and listing what you eat over three days. Then I look over your answers and give you feedback about how your diet looks and where you might make improvements. I will be turning in a copy of your case study form with my certificate course materials, but because the form lists only a first name, it is essentially anonymous. The course, for those interested, is one offered by the Global College of Natural Medicine.

If you'd like to do this or if you have questions, please comment here. I'll do this for the first five people to contact me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Journaling for Wellness

I spent the morning writing up a handout for the next class I'm teaching, "Journaling for Perfect Weight and Wellness." So go ahead, call me a geek, but I love this process of surrounding myself with books, paging through them to find just the right reference, then distilling and organizing information on an 8 ½ x 11 page. Ah, the handout! Preparing one usually starts out as review and almost always ends up with discovery.

This time, the process has renewed my enthusiasm for writing as a healing tool. In my class, I plan to cover wellness journaling, affirmative journaling, and expressive writing, all of which I've done and all of which can support physical wellness in different ways. But I am most excited by what I've reviewed and discovered this morning about expressive writing -- a method of therapeutic writing which links description of a traumatic or emotionally upsetting event with uncensored expression of the deep emotions felt during and after its occurrence.

This kind of expressive writing, studies show, can enhance immune function, reduce blood pressure, decrease arthitic pain, reduce stress, and generally improve mood and happiness over the long term. It has even raised grades among college students (probably by improving working memory) and increased employment prospects among job seekers (probably by alleviating depression and hostility and making them more appealing to employers). And it cuts down doctor visits. With research results like that, I'm surprised health insurance companies don't require it as a condition of coverage.

It certainly has the potential to reduce personal health care costs as it boosts wellness for those of us willing to try it. In the class tomorrow night, I'll be passing out basic expressive writing instructions and leading exercises in this and other forms of journaling.

If you want to join us, class starts at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 8th, 2009, and runs for one hour. It's at the Jutila Center (aka the old hospital), 200 Michigan Street in Hancock, Michigan, in Room 324. Cost is $10 at the door. Hope to see you!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tapping Away Cravings

Does tapping really work? From the time of their inception in the 1980s, tapping systems have been controversial in scientific circles. Also known by the umbrella term "energy psychology," these techniques are based around systematic tapping of meridians or acupoints while focusing on a particular issue, malady, or problem. Fans report remarkable successes with tapping systems like Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Mental Field Therapy/Technique (MFT), and others. But critics say there have been few peer-reviewed studies supporting their effectiveness.

Recently, though, that has begun to change. For instance, the abstract for David Feinstein's paper "Energy Psychology: A review of the preliminary evidence" states that "energy psychology has reached the minimum threshold for being designated as an evidence-based treatment." In other words, there is now enough evidence that it works to take it seriously.

There is still the need for much more tapping research. In the meantime, individuals have many ways they can evaluate these techniques for themselves. The tapping system I use is Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt's Mental Field Technique, or MFT, and I am still learning about ways it can work for me.

The most recent way I used MFT was in dealing with some food cravings. Though I have used the technique for a few years now, my cravings on this night were so strong that I really didn't expect tapping to quell them. But I went through the process anyway – it only takes a couple of minutes – and darned if it didn't work. As I began tapping the first of nine spots in the MFT sequence, the craving was still strong and I fully expected to head to the cupboard for a snack after I was done. But by the time I finished with the ninth spot, my craving had simply evaporated. I felt indifferent to food, and didn't need anything more to eat that night.

It was a great reminder for me that this really is an effective and worthwhile technique. Tomorrow night, we'll be teaching a class about tapping and will go into more detail about how it works and how to do it. That's at 6:30 p.m. at the Jutila Center in Hancock, $10 at the door. If you live in the area, please join us.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Classes Starting – Tapping Class Coming Up

On Wednesday night Patty Markham Peterson will lead off the Perfect Weight and Wellness class series with a session on "The Physical Body and the Energy Body." Patty is a wonderful and charismatic teacher, very knowledgeable about her topic. I expect her class will be fun (her classes usually are!) and it should also be a great lead-in to our class the following week, "Tapping for Wellness," which my spouse Kraig and I will lead.

So what exactly do I mean here by tapping? No, this is not about dancing! Tapping as a healing technique is based on acupuncture and meridian theory, the ancient Chinese medical belief that a number of pathways – meridians – conduct energy – or chi -- through the body, and that the flow of energy affects and maintains our emotional and physical health. With various tapping techniques, points along the meridians are tapped repeatedly in a certain order. The tapping protocol is often used in conjunction with belief statements, eye movements, and other techniques to relieve difficult emotional states or overcome phobias, blocks, and cravings. Tapping can be used as a therapy by health-care practitioners, or as a simple self-care technique by anyone.

There are a few different tapping-for-health systems out there, including:

• Roger Callahan's Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which is described in Callahan's book Tapping the Healer Within and is the first such system developed;

• Gary Craig's Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), developed as a simplification of Callahan's TFT after Craig was a student of Callahan's;

• the Energy Tapping outlined by Fred Gallo and Harry Vincenzi, and described in their book by the same name;

• the Mental Field Therapy / Technique (MFT) taught by Dietrich Klinghardt, MD PhD, which draws both on Callahan's work and on Dr. Klinghardt's expertise in neural therapy. Kraig and I are students of Dr. Klinghardt's, and it is his system we will be introducing in our class.

As you might figure from the names of these systems, emotional health so far has been the primary application of tapping – though not the only one. I have used tapping to quickly dispel intense anger, but I have also gotten good results from using it to help resolve a toothache. Dr. Klinghardt suggests that his patients tap on a regular basis to shift the body into a more parasympathetic or healing state. Among the many uses for tapping are improving digestion, decreasing food cravings, and removing emotional blocks.

We'll be talking more about how all this works and how to use it at the tapping class on June 3rd. In the meantime, I hope Copper Country folks can join us as our class series gets started with Patty's class on May 27th! Below is the full list of spring/summer classes for Perfect Weight and Wellness.

Bringing Balance to Your Relationship With Food and Your Body

Selected Wednesday evenings starting May 27, 2009
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. with informal discussion to follow
Jutila Center Room 324, 200 Michigan Street, Hancock
Classes are $10 per person at the door

Spring / Summer Class Schedule:
May 27 - Introduction: The Physical Body and the Energy Body, taught by Patty Peterson
June 3 - Tapping for Wellness, hosted by Katie Alvord
June 10 - Mindfulness and Body Image, taught by Kim Menzel
June 17 - Internal Cleansing of Toxins for Vitality & Weight Loss, taught by Vicki Usitalo
June 24 - Eating Without FEAR, taught by Patty Peterson
July 8 - Journaling for Perfect Weight and Wellness, taught by Katie Alvord
July 22 - Overcoming Self-Sabotage, taught by Kim Menzel
Aug 5 - Conscious & Unconscious Beliefs and Body Weight, taught by Patty Peterson
Aug 19 - Pop Diets vs. the Unique You, taught by Katie Alvord
Sept 9 - Food as a Metaphor, taught by Kim Menzel

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Measuring pH: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 4

I measure my pH every morning. Taking the measurements is easy; interpreting them can be tricky.

In this post I'll tell you what I do, but I encourage you to check out other sources -- including the books I've mentioned in this series -- to get further information.

My routine is to measure both my saliva and urine pH first thing when I get up. I keep sample collection jars, pH tape, 3x5 cards, and a pen or pencil ready to use on my bathroom shelf.

The pH tape I use comes from Body Rescue, and is available from several Internet sources. I use a small glass jar for urine collection and a small shot glass for saliva; I prefer glass because it's inert, but of course glass can break so others might prefer using plastic for greater safety. I collect my samples (for saliva, you only need a little in the bottom of the glass – maybe a teaspoon), then tear off about a one-to-two inch piece of pH tape for each sample.

For urine, I dip the tape, remove it right away, and read it by comparing the color to the chart that comes with the pH tape. For saliva, Body Rescue's instructions suggest leaving the tape in the sample for three seconds, then removing it and comparing it to the color chart. In both cases, I've noticed that exposure to air can slightly change the color of the tape, so it's most accurate right after being dipped. I record the pH numbers I get on my 3x5 card next to the date, so I can see trends in my acid-alkaline balance over time.

Now the tricky part. How do you interpret these numbers? Sometimes the results seem more clear. For instance, I've noticed that I tend to get more acid pH results if I've had more grains and fewer fresh vegetables the day before. I've also noticed that a good dose of aerobic exercise really helps shift my pH toward alkaline. At other times, though, my results don't seem straightforward. For instance, sometimes I get very alkaline urine pH readings but more acid saliva readings. In this case, I might be experiencing an imbalance that is causing my body to pull minerals from my bones to balance too much acidity in my blood. Or my body might be having trouble excreting acidic metabolic wastes.

Different authors have slightly different takes on where your numbers should be. I like Michelle Schoffro Cook's advice. "Ideally," she writes in The Ultimate pH Solution, "your saliva pH should be between 7.0 and 7.4, while your urine pH should be around 6.8." It makes sense to me that urine should be more acidic, since this is a key pathway for the body to rid itself of metabolic acids.

I have discussed pH levels with naturopaths I've consulted, but have not done so with my general practitioner. It's my understanding that mainstream MDs don't get training in this. However, I've read that some recent research on acid-alkaline balance is being pursued at University of California, San Francisco's respected medical school, so maybe that's in the process of changing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Perfect Weight and Wellness

I'm very excited to be included with a group of wonderful teachers who are getting ready to offer a new class series: "Perfect Weight and Wellness: Bringing Balance to Your Relationship with Food and Your Body."

This series starts Wednesday, May 27th, and promises to be both great fun and a fantastic learning experience. The first class will be taught by Patty Peterson RN of Keweenaw Natural Wellness. If you know Patty, you know she's a delightful, popular and accomplished energy healer who has taught previous holistic wellness and intuition classes. I've taken some of these and have loved them.
Here's Patty Peterson (right), teaching one of her previous
natural wellness classes at the Jutila Center in Hancock, Michigan.

Kim Menzel LMSW of Indigo Creek Counseling is another superb teacher who'll be part of Perfect Weight and Wellness. Kim is my charming next-door neighbor at the Jutila Center who specializes in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and prevention of eating disorders.

Also teaching will be Vicki Usitalo RN of Preventive Health Maintenance. I've used Vicki's excellent services and think we are so lucky to have her practicing Field Control Therapy – a sophisticated form of internal cleansing that releases deep toxicities using homeopathy and herbs – here in the Keweenaw.

All three of these women are very talented healers, and believe me, I feel honored to find myself in their company!

The Perfect Weight and Wellness classes will be held on Wednesday evenings at the Jutila Center in Hancock, with presentations from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and informal discussion among participants after that. Each class is $10 at the door. You can attend the whole series or pick and choose. Here's the spring-summer schedule, showing who teaches each class:

May 27- Introduction: The Physical Body and the Energy Body (Patty)
June 3- Tapping for Wellness (me with my spouse Kraig)
June 10- Mindfulness and Body Image (Kim)
June 17- Internal Cleansing of Toxins for Vitality & Weight Loss (Vicki)
June 24- Eating Without FEAR (Patty)
July 8- Journaling for Perfect Weight and Wellness (me)
July 22- Overcoming Self-Sabotage (Kim)
August 5- Conscious & Unconscious Beliefs and Body Weight (Patty)
August 19– Pop Diets vs. the Unique You (me)
September 9– Food as a Metaphor (Kim)

If you want more information, drop me a message or call 906-487-7451. And I will post about these classes again!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beyond Diet: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 3

In previous posts, I've written about the importance of eating plenty of alkalizing foods, like fresh vegetables, and avoiding foods that acidify us, like sweets. But diet isn't the only thing that affects the body's acid-alkaline balance. Too much stress, for instance, can make your pH more acidic; getting plenty of exercise can help alkalize your body.

How does this work? In the case of stress, the acidity comes from the release of fight-or-flight hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Our bodies need these substances to function properly, but if we're always stressed and releasing too much cortisol and adrenaline, it can lead to chronic acidosis over time.

A good basic antidote to this is deep breathing. This aids relaxation, stems further fight or flight reactions, and helps to counter the acidifying effects of previous stress. Deep breathing delivers more oxygen to the blood, which helps to alkalize it.

Exercise, too, oxygenates the blood and thus helps alkalize our bodies, especially aerobic exercise as it generates deeper breathing. In addition, exercise helps pH by stimulating lymph movement and sweating, which increases the movement of acid wastes out of the body. However, some authors warn against exercising too much, since excess exercise can acidify the body by creating more lactic acid than our systems can remove at one time.

Massage, saunas, and baking soda baths can also help restore acid-alkaline balance. So can fostering a positive outlook. Michelle Schoffro Cook, for instance, recommends keeping a gratitude journal to help your outlook. Write down a few things you're grateful for each day, she suggests. As she says in her book, The Ultimate pH Solution: "By focusing your attention on the positive aspects of your life, you'll be helping to restore hormonal balance to your body, which in turn helps restore alkaline balance."

That sounds good to me. I've kept a gratitude journal on and off for years, and after reading Cook's statement, I'm inspired to write in mine more often.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Big Acidifiers: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 2

I cut way back on eating refined sugar in my mid-thirties. This one dietary change made me feel so much better that I've continued to eat little sugar to this day. I wasn't measuring my pH back then, but based on what the books tell me now, it's likely that reducing my sugar intake improved my acid-alkaline balance, and that, in turn, contributed to my improved health and well-being.

Here's a little more about how this works.

To keep the bloodstream healthy, the body strives to keep the pH of blood in a fairly steady range. Most books will tell you this is between 7.35 and 7.45 on the pH scale of 0 to 14, where pure water ranks a neutral 7; anything below 7 is acidic, while above 7 is alkaline.

The body works hard to keep the blood in its narrow and just slightly alkaline range. If we eat acidifying food such as refined sugar, the body will buffer and excrete the excess acid produced as the sugar is metabolized. The kidneys will filter out at least some of this excess acid and excrete it in urine. Excess acid also leaves the body through sweating and breathing.

If needed, the body can pull minerals such as calcium out of the bones to help buffer the acids – which is why chronic overacidity can contribute to conditions like osteoporosis. If our bodies become too acidified for our buffering and excreting systems to keep up, then acids will build up in our tissues. Over time, this will nudge our cells into chronic acidity and out of the range of optimum performance, setting us up for more illness.

Sugar is one big contributor to the chronic overacidity that often results from a typical western diet. As Michelle Schoffro Cook writes in The Ultimate pH Solution, "Sugar makes our bodies' pH very acidic, and with the average North American consuming 150 pounds of sugar annually, that's a great deal of acidity to overcome."

One reason we eat so much sugar is that it's a major ingredient in processed or "faux" food, as Cook terms it. In fact, as the Global College of Natural Medicine reports, "Three-quarters of the sugar Americans consume today comes from 'hidden' sugars found in processed foods."

These processed food products are acidifying for more reasons than just the sugar. The grains that often form the basis of processed foods – wheat, rice, corn – are themselves acid-producing in the body. Most saturated animal fats -- another common ingredient in processed food -- also contribute to acidity. And, as Michelle Schoffro Cook notes, the chemicals added to so many foods are also likely to add to acid levels in the body.

I'll mention one last thing you're better off avoiding if you want to maintain a healthy acid-alkaline balance, and that's soda pop. As Sr. Susan Brown and Larry Trivieri Jr. state in The Acid Alkaline Food Guide, "Carbonated soft drinks are among the most acidifying substances found in the supermarket."

Primary pop ingredients include phosphoric acid, carbonic acid, caffeine, sugar, and corn syrup, all of which are considered highly acid-forming. Drinking diet soda doesn't help, because artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame will also acidify us.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of such bad news to any pop lovers reading this! I did go through a Dr. Pepper period myself, but fortunately it was a long time ago, and it was short. Now I'm convinced that my body is better off as I stick with drinking water and herbal teas, unsweetened.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Bit About Detox

I just read an article by Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald about detox. Fitzgerald has written a book called The Detox Solution, and her article is a pretty sensible piece.

I agree with much of the article (haven't yet seen the book) and I'll throw in my two cents:

1) With all the toxins around us -- largely due to the thousands of synthetic chemicals of varying toxicity added over the last century to our food, water and air -- we all carry toxins in our tissues. It's true that our bodies detox naturally as we breathe, sweat, and excrete. But since that probably doesn't keep up with current toxin levels, it helps to increase your outflow of toxins as you take steps to reduce your exposure. The goal is to keep your outflow higher than your exposure on an ongoing basis, thus reducing the toxin quantity in your body.

2) To do this effectively, we need to reduce the level of toxins out in the world at large, and that means cutting way back on the use of synthetic chemicals. There are easy ways for individuals to do this in their own lives, which helps personal detox as well as the health of others. A few of my favorite approaches:

• As much as possible, eat fresh whole food instead of processed and packaged items. Processed foods contain chemicals that may be food grade but often have long-term deleterious effects on the body. Packaging manufacture creates toxic pollution as well as landfill waste, both of which can ultimately add to toxin loads in our bodies.

Use simple, cheap non-toxic cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and unscented plant-based laundry detergent instead of commercial cleaning products which contain petroleum derivatives and solvents. Don't use dryer sheets.

Go unscented. "Air fresheners" and perfumes contain synthetics and solvents which add to your body's toxin load as you smell them. If you really need scent, use a small quantity of essential oil in a diffuser -- but make sure the oil is pure and unadulterated.

Be careful with candles. Standard candles are made of paraffin, a petroleum product; they are often scented with synthetic chemicals; and candle wicks often contain a metal core which can release tiny quantities of metal as the wick burns, exposing you to heavy metal contamination. The good news is you can get beeswax or plant-based candles (often soy) with metal-free wicks. We like the beeswax candles you can get at our local Keweenaw Coop, made with solar power by Sunbeam Candles - a better choice all around!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Primer on pH: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 1

Every day, I track my body's acid-alkaline balance, or pH. A lot of people ask me why. What makes pH important?

I like the explanation given in a handy little book called The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr. The body likes to maintain certain balances – including an acid-alkaline balance, or pH, just slightly more alkaline than water. This, says the book, "allows for an easy flow of oxygen and nutrients into the cell walls and an equally easy disposal of cellular waste." In other words, peak performance and good clean health at the cellular level, which can translate into good health overall.

Diet has a big effect on the body's pH, with some foods tending to acidify our tissues and others acting to alkalize us. In general, most fresh vegetables, fruits and minerals tend to alkalize us, while the "Standard American Diet" or SAD – heavy on meat, grains, dairy, and sugar – tends to acidify us.

This average Western diet, say Brown and Trivieri, "produces a low-grade systemic acidosis in otherwise healthy people .... While not life-threatening, this low-level acid condition compromises our health." According to various sources, even low-grade acidosis can contribute to osteoporosis, kidney stones, gout, joint disease, age-related muscle loss, tooth decay, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, weight problems, and other disorders.

Many guides suggest a diet of 80% alkalizing foods to 20% acidifying. A good approach to this is eating plenty of fresh vegetables. You can get charts listing which foods acidify and which alkalize, and it's helpful to look at these, but a word of warning: sometimes different acid-alkaline food charts disagree.

I'll write more about acid-alkaline balance in future posts. In the meantime, here are two sources for more information.

The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide: A Quick Reference to Foods and Their Effect on pH Levels, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr. (Click on the title to get the publisher's page about this book)

The Ultimate pH Solution: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Prevent Disease and Lose Weight, by Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc. (click on the title to get the publisher's page about this book, and on the author's name to get her website which is also worth a look)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What is a good natural supplement for reducing cholesterol?

For a good natural supplement to help in reducing cholesterol, I really like garlic. Studies show not only that it can reduce cholesterol but also that it helps the whole cardiovascular system stay healthy. If you add garlic to food at the end of the cooking process its medicinal components should be more potent. Or you can take garlic in a supplemental capsule or tablet -- look for supplements that use organic freeze-dried garlic for the best purity and quality.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Take a Walk and Check Out My Door

I scan lots of magazines, newspapers and websites for health news, and often find fun and informative tidbits to clip. Some of them make it onto the bulletin board on my office door -- check it out if you're in the Jutila Center near Suite 307. Right now there are clippings posted about:

--> effects of eating speed on weight gain (eat fast-gain more)
--> health warnings on cell phones and Wi-Fi
--> simple breathing techniques to boost metabolism
.... and cartoons!

Something that hasn't quite yet made it to my door are highlights from an article in the Jan/Feb 2009 AARP Bulletin, about the tremendous health benefits of walking. By walking briskly (3.5 miles per hour) for just half an hour per day, you can:

• Lose 15.6 pounds per year
• Increase aerobic capacity by 19%
• Save from $2,500 to $3,300 per year on medical bills
• Shorten healing times for skin wounds
• Increase cancer survival rate by 33%
• Decrease risk of disability by 41%
• Reduce risk for heart disease by 32%
• Reduce risk for stroke by 33%
• Reduce risk for Type 2 diabetes by 71%
• Reduce risk for Alzheimer's by 40%
• Reduce risk for arthritis by 46%
• Reduce bone density loss from osteoporosis

So walk on over, if you're close enough, and check out my door! Periodically I'll be changing the cartoons and clippings as I find more things to post.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

North Coast Holistics: A New Direction?

My friends and colleagues know me as a writer. So a few of them seemed surprised when I rented office space to set up what's mainly a holistic health and nutrition business.

This is not as out-of-the-blue as it might seem. I have, after all, been the family "health nut" since high school. Nutrition was part of my curriculum as I earned a Biology degree at UC Davis. Then recently, I've taken several health-related courses and seminars as my spouse and I have searched for solutions to some challenging diagnoses. I'm now topping off that training with certificate courses in nutritional consulting and holistic stress management. Setting up the office is a way to share the knowledge I've gathered.

I'm not leaving my writing or environmental work behind. It seems like a natural to combine holistic health and sustainability, so the tag line for North Coast Holistics is "Healthy Solutions for People and Planet." And because I've studied the important role that writing can play in healing processes, I'm incorporating that, too.

Through North Coast Holistics, I am:

-> Teaching holistic self-care techniques, including integrative nutrition, non-toxic sustainable living, energy tapping, and writing for wellness;

-> Providing individual appointments for those who'd like to explore one or more of these areas in depth;

-> Offering additional information about holistic health and sustainability in a range of ways; and

-> Selling select books, green products & nutritional supplements.

Watch this blog for more details!