The Paleo Diet and Grains

grains

An increasing number of archeological sites show that prehistoric people didn’t eschew grains and other starchy foods, as proponents of the popular Paleo diet often claim.  The recent discovery of oat grains as well as a sandstone pestle at a cave in Italy indicate that early humans began eating grains much earlier than was previously thought.

Followers of the Paleo diet are quick to point out that this was never in dispute.  They do not claim that prehistoric humans never ate grains at all, only that grains were rarely the bulk of their diet.  Instead, starchy foods tended to be eaten only when their preferred food sources of animal protein and other fruits and vegetables were more scarce.

This latest news may not weaken the resolve of the  majority of Paleo dieters, but it can serve as a reminder to the rest of us to avoid becoming overly strict with your dietary choices.  The most important quality of any diet would be the inclusion of a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein sources, prepared with as little oil or fat as possible.  Whenever you take pains to avoid a complete food group, you are likely losing important vitamins and minerals which are essential to proper body functioning.  Even vegetarians have to make sure that they still receive adequate B12, as it can only be found in animal protein.

In the last twenty years, we seem to have erred towards eating more and more grain food products, often made of refined flour, which has caused just as many health problems, if not more, than the saturated fat they were meant to replace.  It is no wonder then, that completely eschewing starches and grain foods can seem to some as a necessary step towards regaining dietary balance.   However, we don’t need to completely avoid all starchy foods to remedy the situation.   For most of us, a good first step would be to limit the amount and number of grain products we snack on during the day and pack along some fresh fruit or vegetables instead.

http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/11/ancient-oat-discovery-may-poke-more-holes-in-paleo-diet/

Excerpt: “For many Paleolithic people, the bottom of the food pyramid wasn’t red meat but plant food, such as tubers or starchy plant stems, says paleobiologist Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The relatively complex recipe used to prepare oats at Grotta Paglicci shows they were an important food to the people there, archaeologist Anna Revedin of the Italian Institute of Prehistory and Early History, a co-author of the oat study, says via email. Humans also ate snails, worms, grubs—“all kinds of little things that we would never think about now … would have been consumed on a daily basis,” Barton says”.



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.

What Dogs and Mice Have Taught Us About Drugs

dog

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov was really onto something when he trained dogs to associate being fed with the sound of a bell.  His discovery of the “conditioned response” in animals has now lead to a potentially seismic change in the way drugs are administered to humans.

Imagine if you could drastically reduce the dosage of your medication and yet still produce the same physiological effects in your body.   For example, if you suffer from arthritis, you could take your pain medication only once a month instead of every day, and yet remain pain free the entire time.  And you would do this just by drinking a glass of oddly coloured milk each day.

There would be a trial period first, where you gradually condition your body into producing the effects of the drug by yourself by taking your medication with the oddly coloured milk each day.  Over time, your body would begin to associate the pain medication with the oddly coloured milk, and would eventually produce the same anti-inflammatory effects with the milk by itself.  No medication needed.

Most doctors and scientists are still very skeptical that this could work, and of course, drug companies absolutely hate the idea.  However, a number of scientific studies have already produced such a conditioned response in mice, and in a select few cases, it has been done with humans as well.   Much research has yet to be done, but the results are very intriguing.  Just imagine being able to produce the effects of drugs without the drugs themselves.

http://mosaicscience.com/story/medicine-without-the-medicine-how-to-train-your-immune-system-placebo

Excerpt:  “Ader’s result was revolutionary because it showed that learned associations don’t only affect responses – such as nausea, heart rate and salivation – that scientists knew were regulated by the brain. His rats proved that these associations influence immune responses too, to the point at which a taste or smell can make the difference between life and death. The body’s fight against disease, his experiment suggested, is guided by the brain”.



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 Cheapest and Safest Drug

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Our schedules have become packed, and our daily commute has lengthened. The time spent in artificially lighted rooms has increased, even while our gaze has been compressed.  It’s not surprising that our health has begun to suffer.  Our bodies were built to move.  Our senses crave freshness and invigoration.  That doesn’t tend to happen in dark offices, behind heavy doors, in chairs that roll and swivel.

We are increasingly being confronted with a world where the majority of people are obese, depressed, anxious, stressed, and distracted.  When this state of being becomes constant, our arteries begin to harden, our adrenals become exhausted, and our mood sours, leaving us tenser, angrier, and more irritable. Pharmaceutical companies have sought to remedy this problem by plying us with expensive drugs that have nasty side effects.  In the end, our list of health complaints only increases and instead of feeling happier, we just become numbed.

What if the answer to our health problems wasn’t a new drug, or a new food, or a new exercise?  What if all we really needed was to spend more time outdoors in the fresh air, among the trees?  New research is showing that when we spend time in nature, our heart rate declines, our respiration slows, we sweat less, and the level of stress hormones in our blood drops.   We function better on a cognitive level too, and our creativity is unlocked.   All of this happens without the influence of any drugs.  We just need to visit a park, walk slowly among the trees, and listen to the birds as they sing.

If you’ve always enjoyed visits to your local park, science has now confirmed that you need it.  Consider it a prescription from your doctor.   Go out and hug your favourite tree today.

Excerpt:  “In 2009 a team of Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases—including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines—in people who lived within about a half mile of green space. And in 2015 an international team overlaid health questionnaire responses from more than 31,000 Toronto residents onto a map of the city, block by block. Those living on blocks with more trees showed a boost in heart and metabolic health equivalent to what one would experience from a $20,000 gain in income. Lower mortality and fewer stress hormones circulating in the blood have also been connected to living close to green space”.

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/call-to-wild-text

 

 



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.

What Did Henry VIII Have in Common with NFL Players Today?

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The answer is:  a concussive head injury, which caused him to suffer from regular migraines, moodiness, memory problems, and impulse control in his later life.  The end result for England was  a succession of six queens, two of which were beheaded, as well as the creation of an entirely new religion, with himself at its head.

For centuries, historians have pondered the change in King Henry VIII from an even tempered and cautious thinker to a paranoid tyrant, suggesting the side effects of syphilis, diabetes or Cushing syndrome as possible causes.  However, researchers at Yale University now think they have found the true reason behind Henry VII’s notorious change of character and it has more to do with the many head injuries he sustained during his active younger years than his high sugar intake or his active sexual life.

Strong and robust, Henry VIII enjoyed jousting and hunting, reportedly falling off of his horse and hitting his head on more than one occasion, and even surviving a lance throw to his face that left him dazed.   One one particular occasion, his armoured horse actually fell on him and left him unconscious for two whole hours.   These repeated blows to his head may have damaged his brain in a similar way to how repeated tackles now threaten the mental health of NFL players today.

It’s an intriguing new version of historic events which also elicits concern for our modern-day NFL warriors, many of whom now also struggle with the long-term effects of numerous head injuries.  More than anything, it also cautions the rest of us to take proper care of our own heads while enjoying our favourite outdoor activities.   Bicycle helmet, anyone?

Excerpt:  “Personality changes, memory loss, angry outbursts and progressive dementia are hallmarks of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative brain disease resulting from repeated blows to the head. More than 100 football players have been diagnosed, postmortem, with CTE. In the past two weeks, two former Super Bowl champions were added to the list: Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler, who died recently at age 69, and 27-year-old Giants safety Tyler Sash, dead from an accidental overdose of painkillers in September”.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/02/04/what-many-nfl-players-have-in-common-with-henry-viii-brain-damage/

 

 

 



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.

Lower Your Insulin Level. It’s Making You Fat.

Diiabetes blood tester

We’ve been told that we have an obesity problem in North America.  We’ve also been told that our sugar consumption is too high, and that this can eventually cause health problems like insulin resistance and type II diabetes.   But you may not have heard this part before:  the easiest way to lower your insulin level and lose weight is to simply stop eating for 24 hours on a regular basis.

Dr. Jason Fung, a doctor in Scarborough, Canada, made this intuitive leap while trying to help his own patients drop their insulin level and lose weight.  Insulin, he says, causes your body to store energy in the form of glucose and fat .  As long as you keep eating and your insulin level remains high, the fat and sugar storage will continue.  It then follows that if you can stop eating for a long enough period of time, your insulin level will finally drop, forcing your body to use the  fat instead of storing it.

One of the problems with our modern diet is that it seems we never stop eating.   In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we now often eat a snack in between each meal as well.  And it’s not even just the meals and the snacks, it’s the size of the meals and the snacks.  We spend so little time without food in our stomachs that our insulin level is never able to drop completely so that our body can begin using our fat instead of  storing it.

Dr. Fung’s solution is simple:  just skip breakfast.  Eat nothing after dinner the night before, skip breakfast, and don’t eat until lunch.  For many people, that would mean 18 hours without food.  If you have the energy, you can skip lunch too, and just drink water, tea or soup broth throughout the day until your evening meal.  Dr. Fung says he does this himself, and has also recommended it to many of his patients, and he’s pleased to say that it has worked wonders for their health.  Once they begin fasting and their insulin level comes down for an extended period of time, their weight finally drops and many chronic health problems, like type II diabetes, are suddenly resolved.

In our modern, food-centric, and increasingly obese culture, this may be a magic bullet we can all use to help us lose weight and finally regain our health.

Excerpt:   “How do we bring our insulin down?

First, avoid foods that excessively stimulate insulin. Like, sugar and refined grains. That, we (as a society) have accepted.

But we also need to think about meal timing.We need periods of time when we aren’t eating, so insulin can go down, leaving our bodies in energy burning mode. If we leave more time between meals — and, therefore, burning energy — we will lose weight”.

http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2016/01/25/scarborough-doctors-book-says-insulin-makes-you-fat-fasting-makes-you-thin.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.

May the Force Be with You, Chinese Medicine Style

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The new Star Wars movie has brought back to the big screen some of our favourite fictional characters of the last several decades.  Along with them, comes the Force, that mysterious life energy that gives both Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader their super-hero powers.  When George Lucas created Star Wars back in the 1970’s, he admitted to being influenced by Eastern thought, as well as the core story elements of mythology.   In honour of the return of Star Wars to our current zeitgeist, I thought it would be interesting to examine the ways in which the Force mirrors key elements of traditional Chinese medicine.

In Star Wars, Obi-wan Kenobi describes the Force as “an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” Just like the Force, the ‘qi’ of Chinese medicine not only surrounds and penetrates us, but also lifts us, supports us, and moves us.  The Chinese character for qi is a combination of the words, “vapour, steam, or gas” and “rice” which is the foundation of the Chinese diet.  So, qi then has both an  immaterial form, like steam, and a more material form, like rice.  This is why qi can simultaneously be referred to as the complex combination of forces which results in our protective immune system, and also as the conversion of food into blood and tissue in our bodies.  It is the mysterious energy which propels our bodies into action, whether as protection, nourishment, or support.

Our emotions can either enhance or block the free movement of qi, which can have major consequences for our health.  In the movie The Phantom Menace, Yoda famously says,  “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering”.  In reality, all of these emotions can lead to suffering because all will block the free flow of qi throughout our bodies.   According to Chinese medicine, unresolved anger can block energy in your liver, excessive fear can block energy in your kidneys, over-thinking or worry can block energy in your spleen/pancreas, and grief or sadness can block the movement of qi in your lungs.  In all cases, when any of these feelings are felt routinely, or to excess, the respective organs will become stagnant or deficient and fail to perform optimally.   This is why many chronic health problems can only be completely resolved when we are able to sort through old emotions and finally let them go, allowing qi to flow freely again.

An essential part of Luke Skywalker’s training to become a Jedi involves stilling and quieting his mind so that he can feel the Force move within him.  Likewise, the qi of your body is strengthened when your mind is stilled and no longer rocked about by difficult emotions.  When we are still and quiet, we relax and can breathe more deeply.  According to Chinese medicine, whenever you draw a breath, you are inviting qi into your body.  It is the qi of the  universe, and the deeper and fuller your breathing, the more of this qi you allow into yourself, which gives your body strength and your mind clarity.  Deep breathing of this kind also facilitates letting go with your out-breath, so in addition to increasing the amount of positive qi that enters your body, you are also releasing the negative qi that blocks movement and creates poor health.  This is why stilling your body and quieting your mind can strengthen your qi.

One of the central themes of Star Wars is the concept of the Dark Side.  On the surface, this may seem like just another term for evil, but we know that Darth Vader was not completely dark.  As Luke Skywalker said in The Return of the Jedi,  “Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, ” and in the same way, there is no absolute good or absolute evil in Chinese medicine.  The two terms which are used are yin and yang, and although yang is defined as a substance with greater heat and light, and yin is more cool and dark, this does not mean that yang is good and yin is evil.  It is understood that for optimal health, both yang and yin need to be kept in balance.  Yang energy, such as a quick metabolism, and organ strength can easily begin to form too much heat in your body, leading to inflammation and hyper-activity.   Likewise, too many yin fluids can cause coldness, sluggishness, and hypo-activity.  To move towards greater health, yin and yang are both necessary, and each must be properly balanced against the other.

The opposing nature of yin and yang can mean endless variation in Star Wars movie plots, as either the Light Side or the Dark Side can gain strength and then inevitably cause the other to weaken.   Nature rarely stays balanced for long, so we will always need a Jedi protector to balance the dark ambitions of a Sith lord, just as we will always need healing yin fluids to balance an over-heated yang lifestyle.   This means that maintaining good health will always require vigilance, and for Star Wars fans, it also means endless fun in movie theatres.  You can continue to reflect on the Force and on Chinese medicine as you watch “The Force Awakens” this Christmas season.

 



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 Mixture of Three Chinese Herbs May Help Sufferers of Dementia

brain_illo_news

Most Western countries are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of aging seniors within their populations, with a comparably small number of youth.   As these seniors age, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are becoming much more common, yet there is still no known cure.

Enter Chinese medicine.  A compound made of three Chinese herbs has shown promise in treating people with memory problems, and it has now received approval to enter clinical trials in Australia and in China.  We will be watching these trials with great interest.

Exerpt:  “Over the last 10 years, Sailuotong has been systematically studied in the laboratory and clinical trials. These preliminary studies have shown Sailuotong improves the cognitive and memory impairment associated with vascular dementia”.

“Preliminary studies of Sailuotong showed it increased blood flow to the brain and those taking the herbal medicine improved their scores on standard cognitive tests.”

http://www.uws.edu.au/newscentre/news_centre/more_news_stories/chinese_herbs_may_be_key_to_unlocking_dementia



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.

It Happens More Often Than You Think: Avoid a Fatal Overdose of Acetaminophen

pills

The number of cases of liver failure due to accidental overdose of acetaminophen has risen alarmingly in recent years.  Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in the popular pain-killer Tylenol, is safe at recommended dosages (4 grams daily, for most people).  However, many people are unintentionally overdosing due to the presence of acetaminophen in so many over the counter drug formulations.  If you must take drugs to control either pain or cold and flu symptoms, please ensure that you are taking only one acetaminophen-containing drug at a time to avoid potentially fatal liver damage.

Excerpt:  “People are more likely to die from accidental acetaminophen overdoses than intentional ones. According to the Johnson & Johnson study, 26,372 patients were admitted to hospital between 2004 and 2013 for acetaminophen overdose and 431 died. Among the deaths, 3.6 per cent were caused by accidental overdoses versus 0.9 per cent caused by intentional overdose”.

http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/09/17/up-to-68-canadians-on-average-die-from-acetaminophen-annually.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.

Feed the Bacteria in your Gut. They’re Hungry!

bacteria

Reduced quantity and diversity of intestinal bacteria may be a big reason that we are seeing increased incidence of inflammatory conditions, such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and auto-immune disorders in the modern world.  Over-use of antibiotics is one reason that this is happening, reduced fibre in our diets is another.  The good new is that just by increasing the amount of fibre that you eat each day, you can restore depleted bacterial counts in your intestines, which may go a long way towards not only preventing, but also resolving  some of these chronic illnesses.

From the article:  “If you’re not eating dietary fiber, your immune system may be existing in kind of a simmering pro-inflammatory state,” says Sonnenburg—the very state that predisposes us to different Western diseases. “Our diet and deteriorated microbiota are really a major piece of the puzzle in trying to understand why Western diseases are rising like crazy.”

http://time.com/3936636/diet-gut-bacteria/



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.

Has the Quality of Wheat Really Changed?

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A professor at the University of Saskatchewan says that the wheat we eat today has changed very little over the last hundred years and cannot be the cause of the sudden surge in gluten intolerance.

Excerpt:  “The overall balance of protein and starch in a grain of wheat hasn’t changed since the days when crops were harvested by threshing crews. Even the starch component of wheat — a complex amalgam of many carbohydrates — is about the same level it has always been”.

http://www.thestar.com/life/health_wellness/2015/05/29/frankenwheat-doesnt-exist-says-saskatchewan-scientist.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.