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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Can Turmeric Support Gut Health?

The innumerable health benefits of turmeric may seem like a recent discovery, but it has a long history in the Ayurvedic tradition, especially for digestive and gut health. In fact, this brilliant gold spice has been appreciated in India for over four thousand years. When used in conjunction with other bioactive herbs, turmeric encourages normal digestion and regulates digestive hormones, bile, and gastric acid.[1, 2]

Traditional Therapeutic Uses of Turmeric

Many of the recent headlines pertaining to turmeric focus on its effects on inflammation and cancer. However, in India and other South Asian countries, there is a well-established history of using turmeric for a wide range of traditional remedies. In Nepal, powdered turmeric root is applied to bruises, wounds, swollen joints, and sprains. Indian folk medicine prescribes turmeric for respiratory and liver health, and to stimulate appetite.[3]The benefits of turmeric are largely owed to a powerful class of antioxidants called curcuminoids, collectively referred to as curcumin, and turmeric is the only source.

Effects of Turmeric on the Gut and Digestive System

The idea of gut health might bring to mind images of probiotic supplements or fermented foods. Those are applicable but there are a lot of different ways to promote gut health, and it seems that consuming turmeric is one of them. The clinically established benefits of turmeric extend throughout the body, and it has specific actions that support gut and digestive health.

Turmeric and the Intestines

Curcumin supports digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and gently pushing digested food through the intestines. It also discourages gas and bloating.[3]

Turmeric and the Colon

A healthy, well-balanced colon is essential to gut health, digestive tract comfort, and the growth of beneficial bacteria. Curcumin facilitates balance between the microbiota and the immune response in the colon.[4]

Curcumin encourages the colonic crypts—glands on the inner surface of the colon—to regenerate and heal.[4] This can be especially beneficial when leaky gut or hostile organism overgrowth are present.

Curcumin suppresses EGR-1, a protein that may allow damaged DNA to get coded. In other words, curcumin acts as the quality control agent and ensures that cells replicate proteins properly.[5] Further, curcumin drives apoptosis—the body’s natural method of recycling old, worn out cells.[4]

Turmeric and the Stomach

Turmeric offers a multi-tiered approach to protecting the integrity of the stomach lining. First, turmeric inhibits enzymes that compromise stomach health.[6] It also boosts the secretion of stomach mucous—the primary defense against damage from gastric acid and other irritants.[4]

It’s also worth mentioning that, in animal models, curcumin disrupts the growth of harmful organisms and eradicates them from the body while helping to repair the stomach lining.[2]

Turmeric and the Liver

In the liver, turmeric helps increase cholesterol elimination by boosting bile production.[6]There are a number of ways to encourage normal cholesterol levels and consuming foods that help your body use its cholesterol stores is one of them. Combining regular turmeric consumption with fiber-rich meals even more effectively cleanses your system of cholesterol by trapping and ushering it to the colon for elimination.[7]

Curcumin also protects liver cells from damage caused by toxins such as peroxide, galactosamine, tobacco smoke, and household chemicals.[3]

Turmeric, Digestive Wellness, and Gut Health

Turmeric’s therapeutic value makes it a natural choice for supporting gut and digestive health. There’s no shortage of scientific evidence supporting the link between a healthy gut, a robust microbiome, and overall well-being.

This connection inspired us to combine our best gut health supplements into one comprehensive kit—the Gut Health Kit™. It’s your ticket to complete gut health in just 30 days. The Gut Health Kit will cleanse, balance, and support your gut, and strengthen your microbiota. Optionally, you can add Global Healing Center’s Liquid Turmeric Extract to the kit for an extra, digestive-health boost.

A Guide to Use a Essential Oils

 Essential oils are the oil-based aromatic extracts derived from the leaves, stems, fruit, bark, flowers, roots, or seeds of plants. They are a highly concentrated form of volatile oils—another name for essential oils—and have many beneficial properties.[1] Historians estimate that humans have been using essential oils for 5,000 to 6,000 years for medicinal, cosmetic, and hygienic purposes. The earliest methods and technology did not produce the essential oils we are familiar with today. Whereas many of today’s essential oil producers focus on purity, the ancient versions were likely adulterated with stray plant materials, debris, and other oils. As time passed, extraction methods and technology improved. Let’s look more at how essential oils are created and the many ways they can be used.

How Are Essential Oils Created?

There are a few ways to create essential oils and the ideal extraction process is determined by the oil’s source and how well its phytoconstituents respond to extraction. Distillation and using solvents are the most popular ways to extract essential oils. Plants or oils that are too delicate for distillation must be expressed, mechanically crushed, or extracted using solvents. Others, like whole citrus fruits, may be mechanically rolled over needles that puncture and release essential oils, a process known as the ecuelle or scarification method.[2]

Distillation

When using the distillation method, there are three distinct ways to obtain oils: water distillation, water and steam distillation, and steam distillation. Pure steam distillation is the most gentle of the distillation extraction methods. In water distillation, the plant material is boiled, and the essential oils are decanted off the water. Water-steam distillation involves both boiling and steaming the plant material.

Steam distillation takes place in a still. If the essential oils are processed fresh, this typically takes place in or near the same field from which the plant is harvested to preserve the delicate phytochemicals. The heat from the still forces the plant matter to release its oils at the lowest temperature possible to prevent burning or denaturing the more fragile phytochemicals. The steam carries the essential oils through the equipment to condense in another section of the still with the water. The essential oils are poured off the top of this water. This water, called hydrosol, contains the water-soluble, aromatic phytoconstituents of the plant. Hydrosols are often used in cosmetics for their more subtle aroma and gentle, beneficial effects on the skin.[3]

Enfleurage

Enfleurage is an old, tedious, and expensive method of collecting essential oils. Historically, essential oil producers used it for fragile plant sources, such as jasmine flowers, that couldn’t tolerate more aggressive extraction methods. The process involves gently placing flowers on top of a fatty medium, either a scent-free vegetable oil or lard, so that the volatile oils would transfer into the fat. These flowers were continually and regularly replaced on the surface of the medium until it was thoroughly imbued with the desired oils. Once completed, the producer would use alcohol to separate the essential oil from the fatty medium by allowing the alcohol to evaporate away.[3]

Solvent Extraction

A relatively new technology for extracting essential oils is called supercritical CO2 extraction. This method applies high barometric pressure under specific temperature conditions to release the oil from its source. Liquid CO2 is used as a solvent and poured over the plant matter to release the essential oils. Sometimes ethanol is added to this process. Afterward, the CO2 (or ethanol) evaporates and only the essential oil remains.

Alcohol tinctures are another method of extraction that uses ethanol to release essential oils. The plant matter is submerged in alcohol and the volatile oils of the plant are extracted by the ethanol. One potential downside of these tinctures is that they contain as much as 60-90% alcohol, and may not be an appropriate choice for everyone.[4]

How to Select Essential Oils

The best quality essential oils are 100% pure, organically grown, and minimally processed. Many phytochemicals are sensitive to heat, light, and harsh chemical solvents, so they must be handled gently to retain the full spectrum of their beneficial constituents. If an essential oil provider doesn’t openly explain how they extract their oils, consider a different brand.

Though the scientific community is skeptical, some aromatherapists ascribe to an idea called an energy signature. They believe that living beings resonate at a particular frequency and life experiences, or processes in the case of essential oils, change the speed at which their molecules vibrate. This energetic signature is what they believe provides the many health benefits of essential oils.[5]

The Top 33 Uses of Essential Oils

Essential oils do much more than just smell nice, they have a variety of health-promoting and helpful uses. Try essential oils the next time you want to soothe a headache, reinvigorate your mind, calm frayed nerves, or any of the other uses for essential oils listed below.[3]

1. Clean Surfaces, Air, and Clothes

Many natural and organic cleaning products already contain essential oils as they tend to have antimicrobial properties.[1] Beyond just cleaning surfaces, the volatility of these oils makes them ideal for reducing microbial contaminants in the air. For example, you can:

  • Use eucalyptus and tea tree oil to freshen humid rooms like the bathroom.
  • Add a few drops of lavender oil to a dry washcloth and throw it in the dryer with your wet clothes.
  • Use lemongrass or rosemary to freshen and disinfect the fridge or freezer by sprinkling a few drops on a damp washcloth and wiping down surfaces.
  • Freshen up your gym bag, locker, car, or shoes with a few drops on a cotton ball or piece of felt.

2. Get Rid of Shower Mildew

Shower mold is unsightly and unhealthy. To get rid of it, liberally sprinkle eucalyptus oil on any areas that have darkened, especially grout or the tracks of sliding shower doors. You can also apply to problem spots with a cotton swab.

3. Promote Skin Health

There are several skin care benefits that essential oils provide. Patchouli and clary sage slow skin aging and increase cell turnover to reveal fresh glowing skin. Orange oil revitalizes aging skin by promoting collagen production, just like the vitamin C in the whole orange.

Apply a drop of bergamot oil to soothe dry, cracked, or inflamed skin. Chamomile also helps moisturize dry skin to soothe itchiness. For dandruff, add a few drops of tea tree oil to your shampoo bottle and shake well to distribute evenly.

Patchouli also calms irritated skin and expedites wound repair. Slow or stop a small cut from bleeding with a small dab of cypress oil.

4. Moisturize Hands and Nails

For a DIY cuticle oil, dilute lemon or rosemary oil into sweet almond oil and rub into bare nails.

5. Clear Blemishes

Basil, bergamot, and cedarwood will help clear blemishes. A compress made with bergamot oil promotes the healing process by soothing swollen, painful skin eruptions. Cedarwood and orange oil help balance the production of skin oils.

6. Encourage Supple Lips

Topical bergamot oil minimizes pain from lip conditions, while lemongrass and peppermint promote clear, moisturized lips.

7. Calm Anxiety and Promote Relaxation

Essential oils are well known for their ability to improve mood. Lavender is thought to be so effective at reducing feelings of anxiety that it’s encapsulated and taken orally by some people. Diffuse oregano, basil, black pepper, and cedarwood in a humidifier to create a calming home or work environment.

8. Discourage Harmful Organisms

Several essential oils are good for addressing topical Candida overgrowth, so you’ll have no trouble finding one that suits your preference. These include lavender, peppermint, sage, tea tree oil, thyme, tulsi, and clary sage. Make sure to apply them correctly. If your preferred essential oil requires a carrier oil, mix into lotion or coconut oil to apply.

For athlete’s foot, rub a few drops of cedarwood into your skin, or mix a couple of drops of tea tree oil into a teaspoon of a carrier oil and massage into skin. For nail fungus, use a cotton swab to apply 100% tea tree oil to the affected area.

9. Create a Rejuvenating Bath Elixir

Add a few drops of lavender, lemon balm, jasmine, or chamomile to your next hour-long soak. Drop the oil on your bath salts, on your bath bomb, or add it directly to the water. Boost the efficacy of your foot bath by resting tired feet and killing fungi. If you’re prone to urinary tract discomfort, using bergamot oil in the bath helps keep your bladder and kidneys healthy.

10. Assist Recovery After a Workout

Add a few drops of lavender, rosemary, or rose oil to a damp hand towel and freeze it. Fold over your eyes during savasana at yoga or drape it around your neck after your workout to cool down and boost your mood.

11. Increase Alertness

Mix a few drops of eucalyptus and peppermint oil together in your humidifier to increase alertness. You can also try basil oil, bergamot, and black pepper for similar results.

12. Boost Memory and Concentration

Inhale the vapors of black pepper, cypress oil, or eucalyptus to boost your concentration. Clary sage, cloves, sage, and coriander increase your ability to concentrate with the bonus of increasing your recall.

13. Deepen Meditation

To deepen your meditation practice, inhale the vapors of benzoin and cypress oil. It can help increase your focus and turn your thoughts inward.

14. Repel Insects

Peppermint, lemongrass, basil, and eucalyptus are natural insect deterrents. Either diffuse the oils to deter mosquitos, or use a mixture of the essential oil in vegetable glycerin and water and spray lightly on clothing. Just make sure to shake well first.

6 Benefits of Lemongrass

 Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a perennial herb with a distinct, lemony aroma and flavor. It’s a staple of both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Though the plant is native to India, it’s grown all over the world today. Lemongrass is a rich source of nutrients that offer many therapeutic benefits.

Quick Facts About Lemongrass

Benefits of Lemongrass

1. Supports the Body’s Response to Harmful Organisms

Some of the phytochemicals found in lemongrass are resistant to harmful organisms. Two of which, geraniol and nerol, are effective against a broad spectrum of harmful organisms. Another, citral, targets candida, specifically.[2, 3]

Lemongrass may also be effective against entire colonies of organisms known as biofilms.[4] A biofilm is a thin, slimy, continuous collection of organisms that adheres to a surface with the help of proteins and sugar. Dental plaque on teeth is a common example of a biofilm.

2. Promotes Normal Immune System Response

Lemongrass encourages a normal, balanced immune system response—not one that’s over reactive and ends up doing more harm than good. In that way, lemongrass may protect healthy cells and help soothe irritated tissue.[5] Lemongrass contains twoantioxidants, geranial and nerol, that belong to a class of phytochemicals called monoterpenes. These phytochemicals influence the immune response. Citral also affects immune response by discouraging the body from producing cytokines—proteins that cause inflammation.[6] Geraniol and citral also work in tandem to discourage the proliferation of malfunctioning cells, and encourage the body to detoxify itself of them.[7, 8]

3. Stomach Protection

Your stomach features a protective lining called the mucosal layer that prevents acidic, gastric juices from damaging the interior of the stomach.[2] It’s not uncommon, however, for alcohol or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin to upset this protective layer. According to Brazilian folk medicine, lemongrass essential oil may help protect the mucosal layer of the stomach.

4. Encourages Normal Cardiovascular Health

Lemongrass offers a multi-tier approach for supporting cardiovascular health. First, as a source of antioxidants, lemongrass may disrupt the oxidation of fat in the arteries.[10]Second, the citral in lemongrass helps to relax overstressed blood vessels.[9] And, lastly, although more research is necessary to quantify the effects in humans, the results of some animal studies suggest that lemongrass promotes normal cholesterol levels.[11]

5. Deters Insects

Topical or environmental application of lemongrass essential oil has long been used as a mosquito deterrent. You’re probably familiar with the outdoor citronella candles designed to keep mosquitoes at bay. The citronella in those candles is usually sourced from theCymbopogon winterianus or Cymbopogon nardus varieties of lemongrass. In fact, the mosquito-deterring effects of lemongrass oil are comparable to many chemical repellants such as DEET.[12, 13]

6. Encourages Restful Sleep

Night owls rejoice! If you struggle falling or staying asleep, lemongrass can help. Studies have found that lemongrass may increase sleep duration,[14] encourage dream remembrance, and promote restful sleep.[15]

Tips for Growing Lemongrass

Lemongrass does best in regions 8-11, but you can still grow it indoors if you live in a colder region. Take a stalk of lemongrass and peel off the dry outer layers and discard. Place the skinned stalks upright in a tall glass or jar. Add about 1-2 inches of water to the jar to cover the base of the stalks. Place in a window or another sunny area to encourage root growth. Change the water frequently—about once a day—over the next month. Delicate roots should sprout from the end of the stalks. Once they reach 2 inches, they’re ready to plant.

To plant, dig a hole either in a container or the ground. Gently fill the space around the lemongrass stalk with soil, being careful not to break the roots. Make sure to keep the soil around the plant well hydrated, but not soaked. In 3-4 months, when the plant is well established, you can start harvesting. Cut fresh stalks as needed for tea or recipes. Keep your lemongrass well pruned to encourage consistent harvests. To store, peel off the tough, dry sheath around the harvested stalks, cut to size, and store in a plastic bag in the freezer until needed.

Using Lemongrass

Lemongrass is available fresh, dried, powdered, or as an essential oil. Your intentions will dictate the best form to select. Fresh lemongrass is best for cooking, extracts are commonly found in supplements, and the essential oil has many aromatherapy applications.

Are Microwaves Dangerous to Your Health?

 Microwave ovens have been the norm in US households for almost 50 years. If you’re under 40, you’re more likely to have grown up with a microwave than without a microwave. Ever since they were first introduced, microwaves have been a source of controversy. While manufacturers and retailers maintain that microwaves are completely safe, many people still want to know: are microwaves dangerous?

Many of the original concerns about microwave safety, such as radiation leaks and pacemaker problems, have been addressed by modern technology. However, there remain real, potentially serious, health issues that arise from microwave use. Leaks, burns, nutritional concerns, and promoting a culture of laziness and immediate gratification are all good reasons why you may want to consider a different cooking method.

I don’t use a microwave. I don’t have one in my house, and we don’t have one in the breakroom at Global Healing Center. First, I’m not a fan of what they produce—food that’s frozen on the inside, and lava-hot on the outside, not to mention bland and soggy. More importantly, I do not believe that microwaves are the safest, or most nutritious, method of cooking food.

Radiation and How Microwaves Work

Let’s talk about radiation. Since microwaves were first available, the biggest concern people have had is the danger of keeping a household appliance designed specifically to create radiation. Microwaves cook food using microwave radiation, generated by a device called a magnetron. Microwave radiation is non-ionizing. Non-ionizing radiation is relatively low energy and is not hazardous when confined to a microwave, especially compared to high-energy ionizing radiation. However, even with a relatively low output, microwave radiation can still cause burns. If you’ve ever cooked meat in a microwave, you’ve seen what unshielded non-ionizing radiation can do to flesh.

Microwaves are shielded specifically to prevent most leaks. However, the key word is “most.” Even at peak efficiency, domestic microwaves do leak some heat. The US Food and Drug Administration allows for some leakage as long as radiation levels fall below what they consider harmful to humans. [1] Microwaves are regulated to ensure only low levels of radiation escape—most of which dissipates within one or two feet.

That may sound good, but low radiation is different from no radiation. The effects of long-term, low-dose, non-ionizing radiation are difficult to observe, and we don’t yet know the full consequences for the human body.

A 2004 study found that small doses of ionizing radiation over the course of years may increase the risk of leukemia.[2] However, this doesn’t tell us much about microwaves. That study focused on the effects of ionizing radiation—specifically the type found in medical scanners. Because microwaves produce non-ionizing, electromagnetic radiation, the study isn’t applicable. As of this writing, no long-term studies on the effects of microwave radiation on humans have been completed.

Furthermore, the risk is only minimal if you use a well-maintained appliance according to manufacturer’s exact instructions. That risk grows considerably if the door, hinges, latch, enclosure, power supply, or seals are damaged. If the shielding is compromised, radiation can leak out. Units with damaged seals, which is especially common in older units, can present a hazard. If your microwave shows signs of damage, send it to the recycling center. Even with an undamaged microwave, dirty door seals can create gaps that allow radiation to escape. Check your seals after every use.[3]

An old concern about microwaves was that the waves they use to cook food could disrupt the function of pacemakers. That’s why microwaves used to have pacemaker warnings on them. Both pacemakers and microwaves these days are shielded well enough to avoid these complications. However, if you have a pacemaker, you should still exercise caution around microwaves. If you feel dizziness or discomfort, get away from the machine immediately and consult your healthcare provider.

Microwave Burns and Superheated Water

Even a brand new microwave carries a small risk of causing burns. Microwaves heat unevenly, and larger portions of foods may not cook all the way through. A food item that seems cool to the touch might scald your mouth when you bite into it.

A lesser-known danger of microwaves is the phenomena of superheated water. When water is heated in a perfectly smooth container, it can actually be heated past the boiling point without actually boiling. Once water is superheated, any slight disturbance, such as picking up the cup, can cause the water to boil all at once, resulting in a violent eruption of scalding water. [1] Impurities make it easier for water to boil, so pure, clean water, like distilled water, is far more likely to experience superheating.

To avoid superheating, never heat water in a microwave for excessive periods of time. Be especially careful with distilled water. A simple way to prevent superheating is to leave a nonmetallic object, like a wooden stir spoon, in the water while you heat it.

How Microwaves Affect Food Quality

While I remain concerned about the burn risks of microwaves, the real health concerns lay in how they affect nutrition.

Microwaves do alter the nutritional content of food; this fact is not in debate. (This is one reason why I advocate for a mostly raw, vegan diet.) The real question is if microwaving food alters its nutritional content differently than other forms of cooking. All cooking changes the chemical structure of food to some degree, but different types of heating alter the nutritional content in different ways. For example, broccoli loses about 74 to 97 percent of its antioxidants when boiled,[4] but retains its nutrients when steamed.

So what nutrients are specifically affected by microwaving? Alliinase, found in garlic, is one. Alliinase is an enzyme with significant benefits for the immune and cardiovascular systems.[5] Unfortunately, it’s sensitive to heat. Forty-five minutes in an oven will render alliinase inert. That’s bad, but there’s a lot you can cook in under 45 minutes. In a microwave, it takes just 60 seconds.[6]

Do you have a breastfeeding infant? Never warm breastmilk in a microwave. Microwaving destroys the essential disease-fighting, baby-protecting agents in breast milk. In one study, breast milk microwaved for just 30 seconds destroyed natural antibodies, paving the way for the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. [7]

There are more examples of compromised nutrition. An Australian study showed that microwaves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.[8] If you have a choice, you want your proteins properly folded. Protein nutrition depends on its structure—when it unfolds, it becomes just a strand of amino acids. You lose the nutritional functionality of the protein. Microwaves are also capable of extensively fragmenting and destroying bacterial DNA, doing so to a far greater degree than heating alone.[9]

Microwaving Food in Plastic and Other Unsafe Containers

Another danger of microwaves comes from the type of cookware you use. If you heat food in a plastic container, some of the chemicals that make up the plastic can leak into your food. Toxic chemicals, like acetyltributylcitrate and dioctyladipate, are common components of plastic food containers. Whenever you heat plastic containers, utensils, or wrap, they release a small portion of these chemicals into your food.[10]

The rate of chemical absorption depends on a number of factors. Temperature, duration of heat, plastic type, and food composition all affect chemical transfer.[10] Old, scratched, or damaged containers are more likely to release harmful particles.[11] Regular use, including cleaning, increases the rate at which the plastic degrades. Heating increases the rate of chemical transfer by 55x.[12] While all methods of heating increase the leach rate, microwaves seem to cause a higher transfer rate than other methods.[10]

Microwaving plastics that aren’t rated microwave-safe is an especially bad idea. Containers made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE, or plastic #1), such as most soda bottles, can leach carcinogenic, hormone-disrupting phthalates after repeated use. Commercial-grade cling wrap (commonly found in delis) is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or plastic #3). PVC can release cancer-causing dioxins. Polystyrene (PS, or plastic #6, Styrofoam) is another troublemaker. The base component, styrene, has been associated with skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, depression, fatigue, compromised kidney function, and central nervous system damage.[13]