Sugar. Oh how I (heart) thee!

Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies photo by Craig Cutler

This Valentine’s Day I must confess my secret love affair. Yes, you guessed correct…it’s with sugar.  I love sugar! All foods taste yummier with sugar.  Whether it’s sugar in my coffee, sugar in my pastries, sugar in my yogurt, sugar in my, well, candy…I crave sugar! Sugar is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits. It gives me that extra energy at the end of a long day. When I’m bored it entertains me with its sweet kiss on my lips. When I’m sad it consoles me better than any therapist. When I’m PMSing it saves me and others around me! (sigh) But my love affair with sugar is coming to an end.

I have finally decided that I must give up this addiction and only taste sugar’s sweet delight occasionally. Not every day. How in the world and I am going to do this? Better yet, why?!

Well, I have always known that sugar is bad for my health. But aren’t all addictions bad for you in some way? I know that in order to get fit and healthy, I must conquer my addiction to sugar. I know it can be done. I have friends that actually don’t eat it at all. I know! Sounds insane, but apparently it can be done and you do survive. So they’ve told me.

In the process of convincing others how sugar affects our health, perhaps I’ll see the benefit in going through my (painful) sugar withdrawals and know that better health awaits me.  First let’s begin with how ubiquitous sugar is in our diet. It’s not going to be easy to give it up, unless I eat mostly freshly prepared meals and snacks. I’ll have to be strong when I bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons and not have any. (groan)

Sugar is in ketchup, yogurt, cereals, breads, brownies (seriously?! I thought it was just chocolate), instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and most conventionally package good foods/snacks. I’m talking about sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS does not exist in my diet. But the sad thing is you can’t completely avoid all sugars because they are in fruit in the form of fructose. So I will have to get my sugar high from my fruits. (I wonder if anyone ever struggles with strawberry addiction.)

And then to top it all off, your body converts carbohydrates to sugar! What’s up with that?!  Whole wheat bread, potatoes, white rice…all gets converted to glucose and stored as FAT. Not fair! All the yummy things to eat in life are bad for you…unless you eat them in MODERATION. That’s the key.

You may wonder just how is sugar addicting. Well, when you eat sugar it triggers dopamine, (a neurotransmitter and neurohoromone in the brain) which is our “pleasure” hormone. What brain wouldn’t like that feeling? So of course you crave it more. I was horrified to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain! This is when I learned I was an addict. And one of the first steps in conquering any addiction is knowledge, then acceptance. So is depression the next step because all the pleasure sensors in my brain will wither up and die without sugar giving them that instant gratification on a regular basis?!

Where do I begin? Well, I’ve already started by not putting sugar in my morning coffee (latte). I use Organic Blue Agave Nectar. It has a much lower glycemic index. And that’s the key in keeping your blood sugar level and staving off diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you’re not familiar with the glycemic indices of foods, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com and learn more. Here’s a quote directly from their website.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Next, I’m going to have to give up ice-cream…oh the horror! I know there is not one redeeming health quality of ice-cream, but it’s just so, um, delicious. Better yet, I’m going to have to replace my craving with something that will satisfy me and help my body get through “detox”. Yes, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your body goes through detox. I’m told that I might experience feeling lightheaded, headaches, lack of energy (duh!), skin itching/rash/pimples, mood disorders (another duh!) and intense cravings. But apparently this should only last 3-4 weeks. That makes me feel better. (note sarcasm) I have to have incredible self-control for a month. Then it gets easier.

There are two major health reasons that I want to eliminate sugar from my diet. The first is that sugar feeds yeast in the gut.  When yeast takes over your gastrointestinal tract, it creates immune dysfunction and gastrointestinal distress. Yeast lives and feed off of sugar and foods that convert to sugar. Yeast is a huge biomedical factor in autism and ADHD and its related behaviors in children. The second health reason is cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells and helps them grow and proliferate in your body. Cancer cells thrive on cell inflammation and sugar/glucose promotes inflammation. This is the one step that I’ve failed miserably at when following the recommendations of “The Anti-Cancer Diet” book by David Servan-Schreiber. I know, I’m an addict and I need to acknowledge that fact. But still.

So I’m going to keep reminding myself that I am giving up sugar for my health and my children. Next step is to stock up on healthy snacking alternatives like veggies, fruit and nuts. I’m going to package them up in my BPA-free snack bags and take them with me wherever I go. When I’m feeling low-energy, they will give me that lift I usually seek from sugar. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome sugar addiction, I welcome them! Oh, and Happy (sugar-free) Valentine’s Day.

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Fungicide in OJ? Now what are we to drink at breakfast?!

OK, so now we can’t drink commercial OJ anymore. First it was arsenic and lead in apple juice, now a bad fungicide in orange juice. What the hell is America supposed to drink at breakfast anymore?

This fungicide is linked to cancer and infertility. But the FDA assures us it’s only “trace” amounts, so we should be just fine. Well those “trace” amounts of chemicals and toxins in our food, water supply, and environment, start to add up and don’t leave your body so readily…thus the cancer risk.

I purchase Trader Joe’s Organic Florida OJ which I found relief in knowing this fungicide is banned in the U.S.  Brazil imported oranges and juice is what contains it and the commercial OJ providers like COKE uses it and found it. Wouldn’t tell us if it was in their Simply Orange or Minute Maid brand…and Pepsi won’t admit if they have found it in their OJ brands Tropicana and Dole. You can bet that Pepsi is buying it from Brazil where the OJ is cheaper than Florida grown orange juice.

Time to plant that apple and orange grove in your backyard folks. Squeeze it fresh everyday. Seems to be the only way we can be assured our food supply isn’t tainted. *heavy sigh*

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204124204577154813627399478.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Essential Fatty Acids and Why We Need Them

Omega-3 and omega-6 are considered “essential fatty acids” (EFA) because our bodies need them for building healthy cells, and maintaining nerve and brain function. Our bodies can’t produce EFAs, so our only source is from food. This is one area where your diet will greatly affect the balance of omega-3 vs. omega-6 and your overall health. Essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that can protect us from diseases likes type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and age-related brain decline.

Omega-6 fatty acids primarily comes in the form of linoleic acid from plant oils. The main source that the western diet provides these are in the form of corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. But the healthier source of omega-6 should come from seeds and nuts. We really should only be getting 5%-10% of our food calories from omega-6 fatty acids in our diet.

Omega-3 fatty acids come from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna. Unfortunately, with our polluted oceans, tuna and mackerel contain unsafe levels of mercury, and other contaminates, while salmon is only best as wild caught Alaskan salmon. There are other sources such as flaxseed, walnuts and green leafy vegetables. Flaxseed oil, for example, contains about 55% omega-3 fats. Canola oil has about 10%.

All of these foods are healthy choices, but there’s still some debate about whether they have all the benefits of fish oil. The reason: the omega-3 in flax, canola, walnuts, and other vegetable sources are in the form of alpha linoleic acid, or ALA. Although the body can convert some ALA to EPA and DHA, the two forms of omega-3 fats with proven heart protection benefits, it’s not clear how much is converted. Diets high in omega-6 fats interfere with the conversion of ALA to DHA in omega-3s.  As you age that conversion becomes even more inefficient, at a time when your brain and nerves really need the protective benefits from EPA and DHA.

Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 in the body, so the ratio of these two forms of polyunsaturated fats is very important. We need more omega-3 in a ratio of 1:1 to 1:4 (omega-6:omega-3).  With all the fast food, prepared convenient foods and packaged foods in the America diet, this ratio is way off since it’s flooded with omega-6 fatty acids in the form of vegetable oils such as corn and safflower oil.

So if you don’t eat fish, or want to limit the amount you eat due to exposure to toxins, a supplement is recommended in the form of omega-3 that is high in DHA.

BENEFITS OF EFAs

Essential Fatty Acids, particularly Omega-3s (high in DHA) supports brain function with focus, concentration and mood. About two-thirds of the brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers communicating neurons, is composed of 30% protein and 70% fat. DHA reduces oxidative stress, enhances learning and memory, and is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in cell membranes within the brain. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and the primary building material for cell membranes, which let nutrients in and toxins out.

  • Our bodies cannot produce Omega fatty acids, so we must get them through our diet and supplementation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are utilized by our eyes, brain, heart, joints, digestive system and many other tissues and systems.
  • Omega-3 improves your ability to concentrate as well as your energy level.
  • Omega-3s in the form of DHA are beneficial to kids and adults with ADHD or autism.
  • Through it’s anti-inflammatory effects, cod liver oil is a promising treatment for arthritis sufferers.
  • The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils keep platelets in the blood from sticking together, which reduces blood clotting and lowers the risk for heart attacks. They may also provide protection by reducing inflammation in the blood vessels.
  • Omega-3s help with mood disorders, such as depression.
  • Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. Diseases like heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s thrive on cell inflammation. Diets rich in omega-3s reduce inflammation and disease risk.
  • Grass-fed cattle are higher in omega-3s vs. omega-6s.  Conventional beef is fed diets high in omega-6s with grains like corn and soybeans.  Organic beef doesn’t necessarily mean they are grass-fed, which is the type of beef we should be consuming. It just means the grains they are fed are organically grown.

Our family has reduced our intake of omega-6s and eat a diet richer in omega-3s, yet we still take a dietary supplement of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA.  Remember, our bodies may not be efficient at converting enough of the ALA (from EFAs) to DHA.

An informative source with a great list of FAQs on this subject is the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute.

http://www.dhaomega3.org/

 

Curcumin: Cancer Fighter, Autism Healer

There are many benefits attributed to the use of curcumin. The two most impressive for our family are its cancer fighting abilities and the healing benefits for autism.

Curcumin is the main active ingredient of turmeric, which is used as a seasoning and the key ingredient of curry.  Curcumin has been used in the Indian and Chinese cultures for medicinal purposes for thousand of years.  Studies have shown it to possess the following properties: anti-tumor, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet, cholesterol lowering, antibacterial and anti-fungal effects. It contains a mixture of powerful antioxidant phytonutrients called curcuminoids.

Due to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties it can also help to keep the neural pathways clear, helping with dementia, like Alzheimer’s and neurological disorders, like autism.

Cancer Fighter

Curcumin can significantly slow the growth of skin, lung, breast and prostate cancers. The anti-tumor effect stem from its ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells without cytotoxic effects on healthy cells. (Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are forms of cytotoxic therapy).  In other words, it induces the abnormal cells to kill themselves before they become cancerous, while leaving the healthy ones alone. Before apoptosis is induced, curcumin stops cancer cells from multiplying. In cancer research, this is known as “interrupting the cell cycle”.  Therefore, curcumin is useful for cancer prevention and therapy.

Curcumin can block chemicals from getting inside cells.  It can interfere with pesticides that mimic estrogen. These include DDT and dioxin, two extremely toxic chemicals that contaminate America’s food and water. Some studies have even suggested that curcumin can inhibit cancer metastasis.

On a personal note, when my sister decided to stop chemotherapy treatments for her cancer, we asked her oncologist what natural supplements she could use instead. He immediately suggested curcumin. This took me by surprise because at the time I had only known its’ benefit for treating my son with autism and his health issues.

Detoxification

Curcumin has a detoxifying effect on the body by improving liver function and helping the body eliminate at a greater and more efficient rate.

It also helps with detoxification by increasing cellular glutathione levels.  Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as free radicals. Glutathione is produced by the body and found in every cell. It’s the body’s most important antioxidant because it’s within the cell.  Because glutathione exists within the cells, it is in a prime position to neutralize free radicals. It also has potentially widespread health benefits because it can be found in all types of cells, including the cells of the immune system, whose job is to fight disease.

In autism and ADHD, glutathione reserves are commonly low.  This leads to many biochemical problems for children with autism, one being an inability to detoxify toxins such as mercury and lead.  These toxins adversely affect chemicals in the brain that support attention, focusing, and general awareness. By increasing glutathione levels, curcumin can provide numerous benefits for these kids.

My son with autism had low glutathione levels, heavy metal toxicity and gut dysbiosis (stemming from too much bad bacteria in the gut). We have significantly increased his detoxification abilities through transdermal glutathione, IV glutathione and glutathione precursors like methyl-B12 and TMG. Our latest endeavor is curcumin. We are using Lee Silsby’s brand, called Enhansa.

Lee Silby's Enhansa

The benefits we are seeking from Enhansa (curcumin) are increased cellular glutathione, anti-inflammatory effects for his gut and brain, improve his liver detoxification and to chelate lead and cadmium. It will also protect his body and brain from the damaging effects of mercury.

Curcumin is very phenolic and my son with autism reacts to phenols. So we are trying curcumin in conjunction with the digestive enzyme No-Phenol. This enzyme will help his body process the phenol load from the curcumin. We will also be providing him with Epsom salt baths seven days a week to support detox. As with all new supplements we give him, will be starting out with a very low dose and increase it slowly, so to minimize any die-off reactions. If needed, we’ll give him activated charcoal to help mop up the toxins.

I believe so strongly in the benefits of curcumin, that I have also started taking it. Cancer is in my family history and I believe curcumin will help me not become another cancer statistic.  Once again, I can thank autism for entering our lives and being the impetus to learn more about the importance of maintaining our overall health.

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