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Your Liver: An Amazing Blob

liver

The liver is a dark and mysterious organ. It’s also powerful and knowing. Other organs, like the heart and lungs, are showier. The heart, so red and vigorous, often takes centre stage. The lungs, with their delicate tissue, is like the gossamer princess of the body. By contrast, the liver is just a big, purplish, seemingly inert blob. It’s the mousy introvert in the room, mostly ignored and overlooked, yet quietly magisterial in its proficiency and its value.

The liver is the largest organ in your abdomen, and resembles a beached sea lion, yet it “breathes” in its own fashion, swelling and shrinking by up to 40% every 24 hours. During this rhythmic period of swelling, It is thought that new proteins are being synthesized so that any cells damaged during its never-ending filtration duties are fully restored. When the liver shrinks, old or damaged proteins are destroyed to help prevent incapacity or cancerous growths from forming.

Its daily to-do list numbers in the hundreds, each task providing us with vital protection from any toxic foods we may eat, or from potentially hazardous chemicals in our environment. Constantly filled with blood, your liver always holds at least 13% of your body’s total supply at any given time, which is why a puncture wound to the liver can be fatal.

Liver cells are “stippled with holes”, so that blood can dribble directly onto them, and are also covered with microvilli, like the wall of your small intestine. These microvilli substantially enlarge the surface of each of your liver cells so that blood is filtered as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Unlike other cells in our body which have only two sets of chromosomes, liver cells can have up to 8 sets, and it is likely this wealth of chromosomes that accounts for its famously regenerative abilities. If only 25% of liver mass remains, due to surgical removal or chemical injury, it can still regenerate back to its full size, given adequate time.

Most intriguing, new data suggests that the liver may secrete hormones that influence our choice of food. After drinking a sugary drink, the liver makes an attempt to divert further sugar binges by secreting a hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21, or FGF21. People with a mutant, weaker version of this hormone may have a life-long struggle with sweets.

Scientists suspect the liver may secrete similar hormones to influence cravings for protein or fat. By using these methods to influence our choice of foods, the liver may act much like a second brain. With its more intimate and familiar contact with our blood and the molecules it contains, its food preferences would likely be wiser than the ones our brain habitually makes.

All the more reason to be kind to your liver, and lavish it with some attention from time to time. Yearly liver and gallbladder cleansing can help to keep this vital organ in tip top shape and prevent health problems down the road. If you are interested in more information on how to have a successful flush, please contact us by phone at 416-248-2930, or by email at rebecca@sensiblehealth.com.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/health/liver-bodily-function.html



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Coconut Oil Still an Unhealthy Fat Choice

coconuts

This news will not be appreciated by coconut oil lovers.

After reviewing all recent studies, experts at the American Heart Association still find that coconut oil should be avoided by those with heart problems, as it may raise saturated fat levels. Since fully 82% of coconut oil is saturated fat, compared with only 63% in butter, or 39% in pork lard, they warn that it should not be mistaken as a healthy fat choice.

Proponents of coconut oil claim that 83% of this saturated fat comes from medium chain fatty acids, or medium chain triglycerides, which are quickly turned into energy, rather than stored as fat. It is due to these medium chain triglycerides that coconut oil has recently been promoted for its use as a weight loss supplement, and as a cholesterol-lowering food which improves cardiovascular health. However, the AHA says there is no good quality evidence for either of these claims.

As before, the American Heart Association recommends that people try to limit the amount of saturated fat in their diet, and rather than use butter or coconut oil, it is best to choose unsaturated oils, such as olive or sunflower. Just by switching from a saturated to an unsaturated oil, studies show that cholesterol levels can be lowered just as much as when taking a cholesterol-lowering drug.

As for the recent headlines reporting that “butter is back”, those are also misleading. In 2014, a much-reported study from Cambridge University found that there was “no clearly supportive evidence for the guidelines that encourage cutting saturated fat from the diet”. However, one of the researchers at Cambridge University would like to clarify that remark, saying “that is an oversimplification, we never said that butter is a healthy fat choice.”

Further examination of different saturated fats indicate that some may be more beneficial than others, and further studies will be needed to uncover which are best avoided completely. In the meantime, it is best to follow the age-old advice to practice moderation in all we do, and particularly when it comes to diet.

While the occasional use of butter and coconut oil can be part of a healthy diet, it is not wise to consider either as a health food. The most important distinction is to consider which foods you replace your saturated fat with. If you replace butter with coconut oil, you shouldn’t assume that your level of saturated fat will go down. The safest choice of oil is still olive oil. And if you reduce the amount of fat in your diet but replace it with increased amounts of refined carbohydrates, your heart will not thank you.

In essence, what researchers have learned about diet in the last few years is, like so much else in life, that nothing is as simple as it seems.



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

How Strong is Your Sense of Smell? Why It Matters.

smell

We’ve all learned to expect a certain amount of vision and hearing loss as we get older. Reading glasses and hearing aids are common accessories among our aging relatives.

What’s interesting is that people rarely consider a diminishing sense of smell to be a worrisome harbinger of age. And yet, it’s becoming increasingly evident that a poor sense of smell is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine: it’s a solid sign of poor health.

Evidence is strong that poor odor identification is a better early indication of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s than memory problems or signs of tremor. While about half the population of adults between the ages of 65 and 80 have some demonstrable loss of smell, it is often markedly worse in those with early Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Researchers have found that an olfactory test can clinch a diagnosis for either of these conditions if other signs of the disease are there.

Many neurologists thought olfactory tests seemed flaky in the past, but due to consistent results from researchers in the US and in Europe, it’s now being taken seriously. And as the cost of an olfactory test is much less than an MRI or PET scan, and it’s less invasive than a spinal tap, it can reduce health care costs as well.

According to Chinese medicine, your sense of smell is linked to the health of your lungs. This means that if your lungs are strong, you should have a sharp sense of smell as well. Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was one day found that herbs known to strengthen the lungs helped to prevent the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? In any case, it can’t hurt to try to keep your lungs strong as you age.

For those who suffer from health problems related to weakened lungs, such as allergies, and asthma, we recommend the use of our Chrysanthemum tincture. This tincture contains herbs known to strengthen the lungs over time, such as chrysanthemum flower, and astragalus root. It can also be used regularly to help prevent your lungs from weakening as you age.



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Another Reason to Walk

walking

In recent years, we’ve been told repeatedly that sitting for long periods of time is very, very bad. It’s been associated with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and an abnormal cholesterol level, as well as an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In fact, if you routinely sit for more than three hours a day, it can shave two years off your life.

To this list, you can now add a decrease in creativity.

While walking and talking one day, Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz took notice of the fact that their doctoral advisor tended to brainstorm while strolling outdoors. It’s not uncommon. Apparently, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg also held meetings while walking as a way to stimulate new ideas.

Oppezzo and Schwartz decided to study whether creativity was boosted by walking. They questioned 176 different people while they were walking, and while they were sitting, and found that the number and quality of creative answers increased by 60% when a subject was walking. For example, when asked to list alternative uses for a common object, such as a shoe, participants were able to list a greater number of uses, and more original ones, while walking.

Views of nature didn’t affect the outcome. Creativity spiked whether walking indoors, or outdoors. The walk didn’t even need to be very interesting: the researchers noted a positive effect on creativity even when the subject was walking on a treadmill, facing a wall.

We know that aerobic activity improves thinking and memory, and it’s the only proven way to decrease your likelihood of developing dementia. It could be that the same increase in blood flow to the brain that helps memory also boosts creativity. More studies will be needed to find exactly why walking is so beneficial.

Stanford study finds walking improves creativity



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Heart Problems? Avoid “The Plank”

plank

“The Plank” has become a very popular – even trendy – exercise recently. It’s a yoga pose touted for its ability to strengthen deep abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, and the transverse abdominis, which supports your back. Fitness trainers will often recommend that the pose be held for as long as possible each day, as it can be a powerful tool used to strengthen your core.

However, Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo says this recommendation is a bad one. Holding the plank for too long can cause back pain, and because it increases pressure in your abdomen, it can also cause blood pressure to rise. For people who already suffer from high blood pressure, or other heart and circulatory problems, sustained holding of plank can be bad for your health.

Rather than holding the plank steadily for 1-5 minutes, Professor McGill recommends holding it for just ten seconds three times in a row. After that, you can take a short break before holding the pose for another ten seconds twice in a row.

While being able to hold plank for more than one minute is a sign that your core is strong, it also means that the plank is no longer giving you much of a challenge. In that case, you can try alternately lifting up one arm or one foot, or doing a side plank instead.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4575458/Why-plank-bad-blood-pressure.html



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

A Novel Way to Remove Kidney Stones

rollercoaster

If your idea of summer fun includes a few rides on that big, record-breaking roller coaster at your local amusement park, you may be getting more out of it than you thought.

Dr. David Wartinger, urological surgeon and professor emeritus at  Michigan State University, was frequently regaled with intriguing anecdotes from his patients who claimed to have passed kidney stones after a vigorous ride on a roller coaster.  The ride most often mentioned was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida.  When one of his patients claimed to have released not one, but three separate stones during successive rides on this coaster, his interest was piqued.
He decided to conduct an experiment, requiring a clear, silicone kidney made from a 3-D printer, a container of real urine, a trip to Disney World in Florida, and no less than 200 rides on Big Thunder Mountain.  The results of his experiment will be of great interest to anyone currently suffering from the pain of kidney stones.  Dr. Wartinger found that by riding the roller coaster with his special silicone kidney, kidney stones could indeed be passed naturally after a ride on Big Thunder Mountain.  In fact, Big Thunder Mountain was not the only roller coaster ride which provided these benefits; any moderate-intensity roller coaster accomplished the same trick.
For maximum results, the back seat works better than the front seat.  Kidney stones were passed 63.89% of the time when the silicone kidney was placed in the rear seat of the roller coaster, compared with only 16.67% when it was placed at the front.  It’s also important for the kidney stones to be small.  Stones too large to fit through the ureter, the duct which connects your kidneys to your bladder, won’t be able to move out with this method.  Still, it’s intriguing news for people who suffer from kidney stones and would prefer to avoid the excruciating pain, and the potential danger of an emergency room visit.
Now that Dr. Wartinger has compiled these preliminary results, the next step is for real humans with real kidney stones to get involved.  Patients included in the study will need to have before and after ultrasounds taken to confirm their results.  But if the new study is successful, there will be a new reason to include an annual roller coaster ride on your list of summer activities.  Not only is it fun and invigorating, but it may improve the health of your kidneys too!


About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Using Black Pepper to Protect Against Cancer

blackpepper

Meet the spice that will now allow you to enjoy barbecued food guilt-free: black pepper.

If you’ve been avoiding barbecued food for years, you know it’s because of its carcinogenic properties, which have long caused health advocates to label it as a big dietary no-no. These carcinogenic properties are due to the presence of heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, that form on the surface of meat or vegetables whenever you cook them over high heat on the barbecue.

A long-time lover of barbecued food, Dr. J Scott Smith of Kansas State University has found a solution to this problem. Through his research, we now know that the application of ground black peppercorns to your food can halt HCA production almost completely. That’s right! The carcinogenic properties of barbecued food are almost completely eliminated just by sprinkling enough freshly ground pepper on it.

For anyone who knows a thing or two about black pepper, this is not terribly surprising. Known for centuries as the “King of Spices”, black pepper was so coveted by the people of Europe that it was also called “black gold” and was even used as currency. In the fifth century, Attila the Hun agreed to stop attacking Rome if more than a ton of black pepper was delivered as ransom. Europeans were in such a frenzy for the spice that they accidentally discovered North America while searching for a faster way to get it.

This love of black pepper quickly extended into traditional healing systems as well, with black pepper fast becoming a favoured and well-used component of ancient medicine. In Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, black pepper has been valued for its potent warming, and circulatory stimulating effects, so much so that the Sanskrit name for black pepper is “Maricha”, which means “the sun”.

Black pepper is known to dry up wet, dripping mucus conditions, expel phlegm, and stimulate digestion. In fact, the application of black pepper to your food will increase the bio-availability and absorption of nutrients by an astounding 154%.

It also has well known detoxification properties, with the ability to fight bacteria, and protect against staph and E. coli infections. If a small amount of black pepper is taken at the first sign of a cold or flu, it can halt its progression.

Black pepper can even be used to prevent the depletion of glutathione in the liver, thereby protecting against liver damage.

If that isn’t enough, black pepper is also packed with antioxidants, and due to its circulatory effects, it can be used to increase your libido. Quite simply, black pepper is a wonder spice that has been taken for granted in the modern age, even while it retains a perpetual place in our spice cupboards.

To raise the effect of black pepper against HCA production to nearly 100%, blend it with other antioxidant-rich spices like oregano and garlic. We’ve forgotten that many of the spices we regularly apply to our foods, like basil, dill, or turmeric, have health benefits of their own that can be used to your advantage, in addition to enhancing the flavour of your food.

So, this summer, fear the barbecue no longer! Generously sprinkle a combination of freshly ground black pepper and other of your favourite spices onto burgers and steaks, and enjoy that magnificent barbecue flavour guilt-free.

http://www.cbc.ca/…/barbecuing-still-linked-to-cancer-but-a…



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

Time to Put Down That Glass of Red Wine

redwine

Warm, summer weather has finally arrived! What better way to enjoy it than eating a sumptuous meal outdoors with a group of your friends, an alcoholic beverage in hand? After all, red wine is good for you, right?

Unfortunately, it appears not. Previous studies have declared a daily glass of red wine to be beneficial for your health, but a closer examination of those results reveals that the group of people most likely to be drinking that glass of red wine were of high socioeconomic status. That means they also ate more vegetables, were more likely to exercise daily, and be of a healthy weight. These are the most likely causes of their longevity as a group, not the red wine.

Any health benefits commonly attributed to red wine, such as a high amount of anti-oxidants, can also be found in grapes themselves, or in grape juice. The alcohol is not a critical element and may actually counteract some of the positive aspects of the grapes within it.

Worse, in other new studies, a daily glass of red wine was found to increase the risk of breast cancer by 9%, and raise the incidence of rosacea by nearly 50%, while also increasing the risk of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, which can lead to heart failure.

All this being said, what this new meta-analysis also shows is that if you eat plenty of vegetables, exercise regularly, and keep your weight down, it can mitigate most of the negative effects of the alcohol in red wine. So, as long as you are taking good care of your health in other ways, a glass of red wine may not be so bad. Just don’t consider red wine a tonic for your health. At best, it’s a toxin that should be enjoyed sparingly.



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

New Thoughts On Depression

depression

Freud was wrong. People who suffer from depression don’t do so as a result of past trauma, but because they have a bleak view of the future.

Difficult life experiences make most people stronger. But those who suffer from depression continue to struggle with past events because they over-predict failure and rejection in the future.

The key to resolving feelings of depression then, is to train sufferers to imagine positive outcomes more often than they dwell on what might go wrong.

In Chinese medicine, depression is said to be caused by “blocked liver energy”. When the liver becomes stagnant and its ducts are congested with old and hardened bile, there is a natural lack of movement. This lack of movement causes all sorts of blocked and negative feelings, like anger, frustration, resentment, and depression.

In a way, one might think of a healthy liver as a facilitator for a better future. When it is functioning well, and bile can flow smoothly, it is easier to be optimistic. When the liver is blocked and stuck, past events loom larger. We can’t seem to move beyond them and the future looks bleak. Its blocked ducts don’t just block our digestion, but also our ability to anticipate and hope.

In this way, cleansing of the liver and gallbladder can be seen as an act of faith. For those who suffer from depression, doing a yearly liver and gallbladder flush can clear away pessimism and doubt, and restore confidence in a brighter future. No wonder the liver is so named.  A healthy liver does nothing less than restore buoyancy to life, both physically and psychologically.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/opinion/sunday/why-the-future-is-always-on-your-mind.html?_r=0



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.

The Idea of “Fat but Fit” is Wrong

overweight

In a new study of 3.5 million people, those whose BMI classified them as obese were 50% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and 7% more likely to suffer from cerebrovascular disease than people of normal weight, even if there was no evidence of these diseases at the start of the study.

This suggests that the idea of being “fat but fit” is wrong.

Dr Rishi Caleyachetty, who led the study, states: “The priority of health professionals should be to promote and facilitate weight loss among obese persons, regardless of the presence or absence of metabolic abnormalities”.

While physical fitness is a great goal, as a society, we need to find other ways to encourage weight loss among overweight individuals. Perhaps it’s time to place greater regulations on food manufacturers who add extra sugars and fats to our foods to make them more addictive. The increasing rate of obesity in most first world nations shows that many people simply can’t summon the willpower to avoid them, and as a result, our collective health is suffering.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/17/obesity-health-no-such-thing-as-fat-but-fit-major-study



About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000.  She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.