September 2012

Mushroom Magic

I have always liked mushrooms as a food choice. Not until the last several years have I appreciated them for their medicinal value. I find that I am using them more and more in my practice.

Mushrooms can grow just about anywhere there is moisture and are considered the great recyclers of the planet. They take in toxins from wood, soil, dead organisms and even cow dung and return important nutrients back to the earth. Knowing what their role is, it is no surprise that they have therapeutic benefit to us.

Medicinal mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in Asia. Now, they are finding a place here in America. I would like to give a few examples of those I use most often and you can decide if it is something that is of interest to you for your health. But first, let me explain a little about why they need to be prepared properly.

Mushrooms have cell walls that are made up of a substance called chitin, something that we as humans are unable to digest. Chitin contains the substances of medicinal value. So in order to utilize mushrooms it needs to be broken down and extracted. In medicine they are put into a form, which is a concentrated and bio-available. The most common form is a capsule. For food, they need to be cooked.

My favorite mushrooms are the following:

Reishi

These mushrooms are rich in B vitamins and amino acids. They have an immune boosting affect on cancer fighting cells and also have anti-inflammatory action as well. They help to decrease nausea after chemotherapy.

Cordyceps

This is a mushroom that develops inside insect larvae. It kills and mummifies them and then pops out of the ground as a fruiting body. It is known as a tonic and is good for increasing energy. It also is an immune booster with anti-cancer properties. It may lower cholesterol (although I have not seen this in my patients taking it), and may increase libido. I recommend it for the 3 pm fade that happens to many of us on a regular basis.

Lion’s Mane

This is a very cool mushroom. First it has an awesome appearance. As described it looks just like a lion’s mane. It contains 20% protein and when prepared properly it tastes like lobster. What it does is even cooler. It aid in the regeneration of nerves, can boost memory and helps post-menopausal women to feel good with reduced anxiety, depression and improved concentration. I prescribe it for people with back or nerve injuries and those with memory issues, and of course for postmenopausal women.

Turkey Tail
Used as chemotherapy in Japan, turkey tail mushrooms have been found to augment the treatment of breast cancer (chemotherapy and radiation therapy) by boosting cancer killer cells. Researchers believe that it also helps prevent cancers that are connected to viruses such as cervical cancer (caused by HPV) and liver cancer (caused by Hepatitis C).

Mushroom Safety

The most important thing to remember when using mushroom products is that mushrooms can accumulate heavy metals from air and soil pollution. These have been found in products coming from Asia. Therefore, it is important to find products that are certified organic. I recommend the Host Defense brand from Fungi Perfecti to my patients.

There are so many benefits to many of the mushrooms that I usually recommend a mushroom blend of 17 of them called MyCommunity. That is the one that I take most every day.

Why I recommend them

Mushrooms are amazing. The more I read and watch as I use them in my practice the more impressed I become. It is nice to know that there are foods available that work to augment the therapies that we have and that may be used as stand-alone treatments in the future.

Celiac Disease On The Rise

You may have been hearing or reading a lot about Celiac Disease recently. Several celebrities have it and have been talking about it, and it seems to be all over the news.The results of a recent Mayo Clinic study have found that celiac disease is four times more common today than it was in the 1950’s (see reference below).

Celiac disease is a hereditary condition that is caused by an intolerance of gluten.This is a wheat protein. If a celiac patient is exposed to gluten it causes inflammation and destruction of the lining of the small intestine. This leads to malnutrition.

Symptoms can include:

* abdominal bloating and pain
* chronic diarrhea
* vomiting
* constipation
* pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
* weight loss
* unexplained iron-deficiency anemia
* fatigue
* bone or joint pain
* arthritis
* bone loss or osteoporosis
* depression or anxiety
* tingling numbness in the hands and feet
* seizures
* missed menstrual periods
* infertility or recurrent miscarriage
* canker sores inside the mouth
* an itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiformis

Although these symptoms can be a part of other diseases of the gastrointestinal track, the diagnosis of celiac disease is relatively easy to make with a series of blood tests. The treatment sounds easy, but it can be tough to stick to. A celiac patient must avoid gluten. When they do, the small intestine can heal and the symptoms abate.The problem is that gluten is in a lot of foods. It can be found as filler in medications and is commonly used in lip balms.

If you have many of the above symptoms, it would be a good idea to get checked out. Treating celiac disease early can help to avoid a lot of problems and the fix is pretty simple (well, sort of!)

Reference:

“Increased Prevalence and Mortality in Undiagnosed Celiac Disease.”
Alberto Rubio-Tapia, Robert A. Kyle, Edward L. Kaplan, Dwight R. Johnson, William Page, Frederick Erdtmann, Tricia L. Brantner, W. Ray Kim, Tara K. Phelps, Brian D. Lahr, Alan R. Zinsmeister, L. Joseph Melton, Joseph A. Murray.

AND
http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ajg2012219a.html

Do Toilet Seat Covers Make Sense?

My husband runs every day with a regular jogging group. Often in the course of their runs they have a need for a port-a-potty. One day after they finished, the guys in the group were laughing about how one of the women used the outdoor facility and they could hear her putting down the paper toilet seat cover. They thought that was hilarious. That made me start to wonder, do paper toilet seat covers actually protect us from anything?

Looking at what type of research is out there, I found that there is nothing to protect against. The toilet seat is relatively safe. The places that have the most bacteria in a public bathroom include the floor, the faucet handles and the flusher handle. Interestingly the hot air hand dryers use bathroom air to blow your hands dry. The air contains bathroom bacteria.

If you are worried and wondering how to stay relatively germ free in a public restroom most importantly wash your hands well and use paper towels to dry them. Keep your purse off the floor and if you are worried wipe down the faucet handles. You can use your foot to flush the toilet.

Most people are worried about catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from the toilet seat. However, the organisms that cause these infections do not live long enough to cause a problem. The only way to get an STI on a toilet seat is to have sex with an infected person on it. So don’t do it!

Now back to my original question, do we really need those paper toilet seat covers? Regardless of the fact that they are unnecessary, those little covers offer peace of mind to those of us who now are in the habit of wanting and using them. Although we do not really need them some of still must have them.

Something About Chocolate

I have had an ongoing love affair with chocolate. It is actually more of a love hate relationship. Once I start eating it, I just can’t stop. Needless to say, I am always looking for health reasons to justify my consumption and at the same time keep me from overindulging.

I have noticed that almost monthly there are studies being reported that speak to the health benefits of this delectable treat. The latest results published this month are intriguing. A group of Italian researchers enlisted 90 elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment to be given a daily chocolate drink for two months that contained cocoa flavanols of different amounts (high, intermediate or low). Flavanols are the healthy antioxidants in chocolate. As one might expect the compliance was excellent, almost 100%.

Cognitive function was evaluated using a series of tests. At the end of the study those who had been drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks completed tests more quickly. Their verbal fluency improved as well, but the high flavanol group improved most.

Those given the high and intermediate flavanols showed a decrease in insulin resistance and blood pressure and their total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol started to shift in a healthy direction.

It is doubtful that Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, high cholesterol and high blood pressure will be cured by chocolate alone. However, a small amount of chocolate a day along with exercise and a healthy eating plan can certainly help.

All in all this is looking good for chocolate lovers. It is important to note, however that the healthy parts of chocolate (the flavanols) are found in highest concentration in dark chocolate. Make sure you find chocolate that has a cocoa content of 65% or higher. It is also high in calories so moderation is definitely the key when it comes to adding it to your diet. Eating no more than 3.5 ounces is considered the therapeutic amount.

Our ancestors were very wise indeed. Chocolate has been used for medicinal reasons for over 4000 years. Now we have the studies to show why it makes sense. I have no doubt there will be even more information and results in the months and years to come.

Chocolate lovers take heart by taking a dark chocolate bar and eating a very small part!

 

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