Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

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Trash Your Crash Diet!

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Like most twenty-something females, when I look good--I feel good. Therefore, dieting and eating healthy have become part of my daily life. However, when I say "dieting", what I really mean is not having that extra handful of white cheddar pop corn, or the last slice of brie in my fridge. I don't like to diet, I never have and probably never will. Why deprive myself now only to binge later? Nope, not for me.

But lately, it seems like crash dieting has become the new "it" thing to do. I see it on facebook, pinterest and even among my close friends. Why people? I want to scream, "don't you know what you're doing to your body?" Crash dieting--although it may produce the results you desire at first, can be very harmful to your body and mental well being.

What is a crash diet?
According to livestrong.com, a crash diet is "a dietary regiment designed to produce rapid weight loss results." Crash diets do work short-term. They produce results fast, which explains their growing popularity. However, the negative effects on your body far outweigh those extra five or ten pounds you're hanging on to.

What are the negative side effects associated with crash dieting?
-Yo Yo Effect: Drastic weight loss followed by weight gain. This could include all or more of the weight previously lost. (Gross!)
-Lack of sodium and/or potassium which have key roles in our body's nerve and muscle function.
-Iron and calcium deficiencies could also take place. Note: lack of calcium in your diet can lead to osteoporosis and bone loss.
-Serious damage to your internal organs. Think: heart, kidneys, liver, etc. Without enough energy from food intake (remember: calories=energy), our organs are forced to get energy elsewhere-usually from burning muscle tissue. Often times, from the muscle tissue that surrounds the organ itself which can lead to organ failure. Scary!
-Slower metabolism. Crash dieting throws your body into starvation mode. Although you may lose weight initially, when you go back to eating regularly with your normal caloric intake, your metabolism will still be slower. Yikes! This means it will take fewer calories to gain weight back because your metabolism won't burn calories as quickly as it needs to.
-Dizziness/Fainting. Think about it. If you drastically cut the amount of calories you're consuming each day--you're likely to feel faint or dizzy due to lack of nutrient/caloric intake.
-Mood swings. Depression and irritability often occur when our blood sugar is low. The fact is, when you aren't eating enough, you're more prone to feelings of irritability and frustration.
-Negative attitudes toward food. Crash diets often involve severe dietary restrictions causing the dieter to obsess over food, finding unhealthy and/or extreme ways of reducing hunger. Think: chewing gum or eating ice. Crash diets limit the intake of foods your body needs to function properly and the more foods you avoid, the more food becomes your enemy.

Just because you think you look good on the outside, doesn't mean it's all good on the inside too. The longer you crash diet, the more fat your body is likely to hold onto and store. Findings published by the USDA show that women who perpetually diet are over 300% more likely to develop obesity later in life than those who do not. Scary! I'd rather be healthy and happy than "skinny" and at risk for all these problems. Wouldn't you? My opinion is and always will be--weight loss is a simple math equation: calories in vs. calories out. Just eat right, exercise, splurge once in awhile and DON'T starve yourself. Moderation, as in all things, is the key.

grapeseedoil.jpgLike many women in their late twenties, I have found myself becoming more interested in being healthy and learning how to take good care of myself. With this in mind (and taking Reisa's advice!), I am cultivating the habit of reading ingredient labels and making sure I take note of exactly what I am putting into -- or onto my body. While this is so important with our food, it is equally as important with skin care products, since whatever you put onto your face or body gets absorbed directly into your skin. Knowing this, I want to do my body good and make sure I am putting in only the best ingredients!

During my research, I found that grape seed oil was a very common ingredient in many skin and body care products-- and when I checked the face wash and moisturizer that I was already using, it was there too! I decided to learn why. What exactly is grape seed oil and is it beneficial to use on my skin?

What is grape seed oil? The basics:

Grape seed oil is one of the lightest body care oils. It is a nutrient rich oil derived from-you guessed it- grape seeds. The oil itself is made by cold pressing the grapes after they have already been used to make wine.

What makes grape seed oil good for your skin?

This oil is very rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins and antioxidants. The antioxidants in grape seed oil are known as PCO's (procyanidolic oligomers) which are known for their health giving properties and are more powerful than BOTH Vitamin C and E.

We all know that antioxidants are great for our our bodies and our skin, and due to grape seed oil's high antioxidant count, it combats the free radicals in the environment that cause damage and premature aging of the skin. It also stops some of enzymes that destroy collagen, elastin and other connective tissues.

The antioxidant proanthocyanidin found in grape seed oil provides anti-inflammatory protection and helps maintain healthy collagen. Collagen is the structural protein found in tissues and is essential for maintaining healthy skin. As we age, we produce less collagen and our skin begins to sag. Hence why using products which contain grape seed oil would be beneficial to maintain a healthy and youthful appearance. Grape seed oil also contains polyphenols-which are what we need when it comes to looking younger. Polyphenols help slow the process of aging.

In addition to fighting free radicals, grape seed oil can also lessen allergic reactions on the skin. Unlike other oils, which may tend to sit on top of the skin and leave a greasy film, grape seed oil penetrates the easily and quickly; therefore, it doesn't readily clog pores. Due to these properties, grape seed oil can often be found in skin care products used to help acne.

For those of us who have a hard time with scents, grape seed oil has almost no odor and is non irritating. For these reasons, grape seed oil is commonly added to many hypoallergenic products. Since it doesn't have a scent, it doesn't need to have other scents added to cover. The flavanoids contained in grape seed oil inhibit allergic reactions in skin and may even be able to help with eczema or psoriasis.

A 2010 study by the International Journal of Medical Science found that the flavanoids resveratrol and anthocyannis in grape seeds are phytonutrients (nutrients from plants) which, when ingested provide anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-microbial properties.

Grape seed oil also contains a high amount of linoleic acid-a fatty acid essential for the health of skin and cell membranes. Linoleic acid has also been linked to being anti-inflammatory, acne reductive and moisture retentive.

Wow! See all the things you can learn by picking one ingredient in your beauty care products and doing a little research? Grape seed oil is a wonderful ingredient to be using on my skin. It can help me look younger, fight free radicals, and even protect my collagen and reduce acne. With all these benefits, why wouldn't you pick a product that contains grape seed oil?

Like me, as the seasons change, you may notice changes in your skin's tone and pigmentation. More often than not, when my golden tan from summer fades, I notice certain spots on my skin that stick around. What's up with that?

Well, the answer is simple: hyper-pigmentation. Those "sun spots" that just won't go away? That's also known as hyper-pigmentation.

So, what is hyper-pigmentation anyway?
It is a usually harmless condition where patches of skin can become darker in color than the other "normal" colored surrounding skin. This occurs when an excess amount of melanin is produced.

Huh? What's melanin?
Melanin is a class of pigment responsible for producing color in our bodies. Think: hair, skin and eyes.

Now, let's talk about the melanocytes. These are melanin producing cells located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. Melanocytes are the reason our skin changes color for good or bad, better or worse. When these melanocytes get damaged, they lose their ability to function normally, which results in the hyper-pigmentation of our skin.

Causes of hyper-pigmentation include: unprotected sun exposure, certain medications, hormonal changes, past acne problems, inflammation and other skin injuries.

Symptoms of hyper-pigmentation include : leathery skin texture, dry or rough skin, uneven skin tone and dark spots.

When the remains of inflamed acne scars or lesions are visible, this is something called PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyper-pigmentation). The more inflamed the breakout, the larger and darker the PIH can be. Picking at or popping your pimples (as tempting as that may be) can also lead to PIH. Acne scars are the indentations or protrusions left behind on our skin by acne, while acne marks are flat red or brown dots left behind by pimples. Either way-dont pick, pop or scrape at your skin. If you do, you are welcoming higher chances for post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.

The good news?
We can in fact lighten these spots on our body with the use of products such as hydroquinone, retinoids and antioxidants. I had never heard of these remedies before so I decided to do some research.

Hydroquinone-this is a skin lightener that has actually been banned in Europe and Asia because of all the cancerous risks associated with it. (No thanks!) However, it is still available in the US, but only by prescription. Here at Living Well, we don't like to use products that contain questionable ingredients. So, let's move on!

Retinoids-these can be topical or oral products. They are chemically related to Vitamin A and help with acne, anti-aging and hyper-pigmentation. Retinoids help get rid of dead skin cells at a "normal" rate so the dead skin cells do not bind together and clog your pores.

Antioxidants-these are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. For example Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants in skin care. It slows down the aging process and prevents free radical damage. Also, with long term use, it can regenerate collagen, improve the appearance of wrinkles, lighten skins pigmentation and even brighten all over skin tone. If applied topically it can also provide a small amount of UV protection. Vitamin C is one of Reisa's favorite ingredients - and she even has Vitamin C facial!

So, there you have it. Hyper-pigmentation is treatable, so you can work to restore an even skin tone and lessen those acne marks or scarring. For more information, please contact Reisa at Living Well. As a certified aestheticism she can diagnose and treat your hyper-pigmentation skin problems!
-Courtney

You may be getting sick of all my yummy cookie recipes by now, but these came out so good, I just couldn't help myself. If you like monkey ice cream or monkey chocolate bars, you are going to love these GUILT-FREE MONKEY COOKIES! Each cookie has only 47 calories and I kid you not, they taste just as good as all of their high calorie competition.

What you need: (you can go organic or gluten free for all ingredients depending on dietary needs.)
3 ripe bananas
2 cups oats
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 dash of cinnamon

What you need to do:
Almost nothing at all! Preheat your oven to 350. Mix all the ingredients together and spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, let them cool and enjoy!

One thing I love about functional and naturopathic medicine is the belief that everything in the body is connected. This week's fun facts provide some fun examples!

Specifically, I highlight three top read picks that include:

  1. The Sugar-Cancer Connection

  2. The Immune-Brain Connection

  3. The Environmental-Heart Connection

Read on to learn more.....


Low Sugar Diet Can Starve Cancer Cells (UCLA)

The following excerpt explains how low sugar diets protect against cancer growth:

Now, in a unique study, a UCLA research team led by Thomas Graeber, a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, has investigated the reverse aspect: how the metabolism of glucose affects the biochemical signals present in cancer cells.

In research published June 26 in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, Graeber and his colleagues demonstrate that glucose starvation -- that is, depriving cancer cells of glucose --activates a metabolic and signaling amplification loop that leads to cancer cell death as a result of the toxic accumulation of reactive oxygen species, the cell-damaging molecules and ions targeted by antioxidants like vitamin C.

Source: Marcus, J. Glucose deprivation activates feedback loop that kills cancer cells, UCLA study shows. 6/26/12. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/researchers-discover-that-glucose-235478.aspx


Immune System Health Linked to Alzheimer's Risk (Eurekalert)

Here's another neat research report on how the immune system may affect cognitive function! Read on:

Recent work in mice suggested that the immune system is involved in removing beta-amyloid, the main Alzheimer's-causing substance in the brain. Researchers have now shown for the first time that this may apply in humans.

Researchers at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter with colleagues in the National Institute on Aging in the USA and in Italy screened the expression levels of thousands of genes in blood samples from nearly 700 people. The telltale marker of immune system activity against beta-amyloid, a gene called CCR2, emerged as the top marker associated with memory in people.

Professor David Melzer, who led the work, commented: "This is a very exciting result. It may be that CCR2-associated immunity could be strengthened in humans to slow Alzheimer's disease, but much more work will be needed to ensure that this approach is safe and effective".

Gould, A. Immune system may protect against Alzheimer's changes. Eurekalert. une 15, 2012. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/tpco-ism061512.php


The Real Contributors to Heart Disease (Holistic Primary Care)

Finally, here's some excerpts from one of my online journals regarding some not so common considerations of heart disease.

Bisphenol A (BPA): This compound, used in the manufacture of plastic food containers and can liners, has insulinogenic effects on human islet cells at very low doses. It can modulate insulin secretion in microgram, and even nanogram concentrations. Several investigators have linked BPA to increased risk of CVD, diabetes and liver dysfunction (Lang IA, et.al. JAMA. 2008;300(11):1303-10. Rej R, Carpenter DO. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Oct;115(10):1442-7). This is in addition to BPA's documented estrogenic effects.

Lead: Lead exposure, even as low as 2 mcg/dl, is associated with a 55% increase in CVD, an 89% increase in myocardial infarction and a 151% increase in stroke. What's really disturbing is that an estimated 39% of the US population has serum lead levels in the range that increases risk (Menke A, et al. Circulation. 2006; 114(13): 1388-94)

Latent Celiac Disease & Leaky Gut: People with latent celiac disease, characterized by positive antibodies or inflammation without villous atrophy, have a 19-35% increased risk of developing CVD. Likewise, people with the so-called "leaky gut syndrome" are also at increased risk.

Endotoxemia & Altered Gut Flora: At first glance it might seem like a stretch that the microbial ecosystem within the GI tract could increase cardiometabolic risk, but a growing body of data is showing just that (Tsai F, Coyle WJ. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2009 Aug;11(4):307-13).

Artificial Sweeteners: The risk of obesity increases 200% with regular use of artificial sweeteners, and the risk of diabetes increase by 67%, said Dr. Hyman. People who use non-nutritive, non-sugar sweeteners may consume fewer "calories" but they tend to gain more weight because the perception of having consumed sugar still triggers insulin release and the full cascade of fat-storage signals. Heavy consumption of artificially-sweetened sodas has been linked to increased abdominal fat and to increased risk of stroke.

Goldman, E. Not-So-Obvious Cardiometabolic Risk Factors Worth Considering. Holistic Primary Care. June 28, 2012. http://www.holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-a-g/cardiovascular-health/1363-not-so-obvious-cardiometabolic-risk-factors-worth-considering

 

 



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Dinner parties, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. All these special occasions and more give us reason to celebrate and indulge in something most of us enjoy:drinking alcohol.

Personally, I indulge in adult beverages on a weekly basis, but that doesn't mean I want to sacrifice my health or calorie count. Just like every other twenty-something female, I am body conscious and try to stay in shape. Hence my dilemma, which led me to wonder: what is better to drink? Beer, wine or liquor? Furthermore, can you drink and still lose weight?

The fact is, research on alcohol and it's effects on our bodies is still pretty muddled. You can find pro's and cons for any type of alcoholic beverage. How confusing! The important thing is to find out what type of drink works best for you and your lifestyle. If you're concerned about calories, liquor based drinks would be your best bet, heart health-drink a glass of red wine. Or, if you're looking to bulk up-beer is your best option. The main thing to remember, no matter what you're drinking: MODERATION IS THE KEY.

But before we get into all that, let's start with the basics. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three basic categories: beer, wine and spirits. Beer and wine are made by fermentation of plant material that contains sugar or starch. Spirits (liquor such as vodka, gin, etc.) on the other hand, are made by fermentation followed by distillation. This means that after the fermentation process takes place, the mixture is then boiled and the condensation is used to create alcohol.

Beer is generally 4-6% alcohol by volume, wine is 9-16% and spirits are usually around 20% or higher. Keep in mind that 20%=40 proof. (To determine the proof of any alcoholic beverage, just simply double the percentage of alcohol by volume.)

Now that we've discussed what we're drinking, lets get into how it effects our bodies. Many people think that liquor (like vodka) is best for losing weight because it has no carbohydrates and very little sugar. BUT--and this is a BIG but, the exact same thing can be said for light, low-carb beers. For example, a light beer such as Michelob Ultra has 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs, but the average unflavored shot of 80 proof vodka has 97 calories. And although vodka has no carbs, add mixers like cranberry juice or club soda or choose a flavored vodka and you've begun packing on even more empty calories. For those of you (like me) counting calories, here is a general overview:

Beer: 100-200 calories per 12 oz.

Red Wine: 25 calories per oz. (125/5oz. glass)

White wine: 150 calories for an 8 oz glass, but the sugar content is very high and therefore not as healthy as drinking red wine.

Average vodka drink: 70-100 calories depending on what you order, mixers, etc.

A recent Gallup poll showed what percentages of American men and women were drinking what type of alcohol.

Beer: 54% of men and 27% of women.

Wine: 17% of men and 48% of women.

Liquor: 22% of men and 21% of women.

It seems typical that more men drink beer and more women drink wine. What's surprising is how close the percentages for liquor consumption are. Could it be that like me, many people think that drinking the occasional vodka soda doesn't count as indulging in something "bad" since it has minimal calories and no carbs?

Well folks, I'm sorry to say we were all mistaken. Here's the real truth about drinking. The problem with alcohol and weight gain has little to do with carbohydrate and sugar content to begin with. No matter what type of alcohol you drink, once you have it in your system, your body stops burning fat. That's right. Read it again if you have to. Your body does not burn fat when you consume alcohol.

When fruits and grains are fermented to make wines, beers and liquors the majority of all sugars are converted to alcohol. And, with the exception of dark beers, there are very little carbs left in the final product. For example, a 5 oz. glass of red wine has 1-3 grams of carbs. The same is true for light beers and liquors. So, if it's not the carbs, sugars or calories, why is drinking so bad for you?

To my surprise and major dismay, I found that along with fats, proteins and carbohydrates, our bodies can also use alcohol as a source of energy. From an energy standpoint, carbs and proteins have 4 calories per gram, fats have 9 and alcohol has 7. You'd think this was a good thing, have a few drinks and use up that energy burning fat. Not exactly.

Sadly enough, when I'm drinking my delicious low cal vodka club soda, my body uses that energy first and essentially stops the fat burning process all together. Why you ask? Well, lets break it down. The liver converts alcohol to a substance called "acetate." This is used preferentially for fuel before carbohydrates, proteins or fats. That means when there is alcohol in your body available for energy, your body will burn the alcohol rather than fat for fuel. How aggravating! Can't I catch a buzz with a healthy dinner, skip dessert and call it a day? Apparently not.

Now, I have even worse news, our bodies go into a fat storing state for up to several hours after consuming alcohol. How long this state lasts depends on how much or little you drink and eat and over what period of time. We all know about the drunk munchies and how easily a handful of chips can turn into a plate of nachos followed by a brownie sundae. When you drink, your appetite increases and your inhibitions and judgement levels are skewed, making it much easier to make poor food choices and rack up the calorie count. How many calories you consume while drinking can easily effect how long your body will be storing fat rather than burning it. You might be thinking of the term "beer-belly" right about now. Furthermore, alcohol throws off your bodies metabolism because you will always use the acetate from alcohol conversion for energy over other nutrients first. Guess what that means? Whatever energy you don't use GETS STORED AS FAT! UGH!

Now we're left with the burning question. Can you drink alcohol and REALLY still lose weight? The good news is the answer is yes, you can. However the not so good news is this: what it truly boils down to is exercise and nutrition. How active you are and what you eat to burn calories matters a whole lot more than what alcoholic beverage you choose to drink. Honestly, if you're trying to lose a significant amount of weight, you should cut out alcohol all together. But, if you're like me and you just love to have a drink at the end of a long day, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Eat dinner THEN have a drink- you will likely be full already and therefore less likely to snack or over indulge on empty calories from alcohol. This rules out my appetizer cocktail and day drinking in general. Bummer.

2. BUT--don't drink TOO MUCH after dinner- otherwise you'll be in a fat storing state while you're asleep which is the worst possible scenario for weight loss. Easy enough, don't get wasted and pass out. Check.

3. Be honest- don't lie to yourself about what you're putting into your body. Keep a food diary if you have to, but accept the fact that the calories you take in from drinking alcohol get added into your daily caloric intake. Simply put: eat healthy. I don't need a drink every night with dinner, I should save my indulgences for the weekend or a special occasion.

Well, there you have it. The real facts on alcohol and weight loss. It doesn't really matter what we drink so much as how much we are drinking and what else we're eating throughout the day. So, there is hope for me yet. I can still drink my vodka...as long as I still go for my daily run.

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First it was Atkins, then came Weight Watchers, and now there is juicing! With millions of Americans looking for a quick-fix, juicing has become another trendy way to lose weight fast. What I'd like to know is: Is juicing actually even good for you? Is it safe? Or is it just another hyped up way for us to feel better about skipping the gym and eating the right foods?

Lets be honest. Most of us don't eat nearly enough fruits and veggies these days (and certainly not enough to reap their bennefits). The National Cancer Institute recommends 5 servings of fruits and 3 servings of vegetables per day. Am I supposed to eat an apple or a handful of carrots along with every meal? Do I have time for this? Well, even though the answer might be yes, I'm not sure that I want to do that.This is where juicing comes in.

What is juicing?

The type of 'juicing' I'm referring to is a diet plan in order to lose weight, eating only the juice from fruits and vegetables and nothing else for a period of time, such as 3-5 days. Juicing is a way of extracting the juice from a whole fruit or vegetable while leaving the fiberous skin behind. This is where the great debate begins. Some experts say that leaving the skin behind is a bad idea because this is where all the nutrients are. This is the idea that nothing beats eating the whole food. On the other hand, proponents of juicing say that the average American eats only 1.5 servings of veggies and no fruit per day so jucing is an easy and healthy way to introduce them into your diet. Also, many nutrients are trapped in the fiber of fruits and vegetables so jucing removes the fiber, therefore letting our bodies absorb them.

Lets break it down. For example, if you eat a whole carrot, you would only absorb about 1% of the beta carotene. However, if you juice a carrot, your body is able to absorb nearly 100% of the beta carotene. Another reason juicing can be benneficial to your diet is water. Water is essential for good health and most of us don't drink enough water every day either. The Institute of Medicine states that an adequate intake of water is about 13 cups for men and about 9 cups for women. If you're like me, you don't necessarily meet those requirements on a daily basis. Fruits and vegetables are full of fresh clean water. By jucing them, you are making them that much easier for your body to absorb and digest that water.

By now, you might be thinking, "so what's the down side?" Exactly. Just like everything else in life, juicing isn't perfect. First of all, you are depleting your bodies calorie intake, at times taking in fewer than 1,000 calories a day. As a general rule, one pint (16 oz.) is the minimum amount of juice you need to ingest in order to provide any perceptible results. And on top of that, any juice squeezed should be consumed within 30 minutes. If you're like me and have the urge to clean up right away, you can forget about that! And don't plan on making juice ahead of time and saving it for later either. Drink your juice right away and dont save it for more than one day. Fresh squeezed juice is breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Yuck!

So, is juicing good for you? In my opinion, juicing is a great way to introduce fruits and veggies into your diet. Also, with juicing, you are more likely to try new fruits and veggies since you'll eventually get bored of using the same recipe over and over. So far, so good. Now come the side effects. Wah, wah.

If you do in fact decide to juice, here are some things you'll want to be aware of:

1. Decrease in Energy Level: You may notice a drop in energy levels the first day or so. This is because you're not consuming all the carbs and protein your body is used to.

2. Headaches: You may also experience headaches. If you are used to having caffeine and sugar on a regular basis, this type of headache is a result of your body simply craving the stuff it's used to.

3. Nausea and Vomiting: Another possible issue is nausea and vomiting. Ingesting higher doses of nutrients than you're normally used to without the accompanying fiber and protein, might cause you to feel queasy. A good tip for beginners is to dilute your juice with water to prevent this overdose.

4. Bad Breath: is also an another unpleasant side effect of changing your diet to include juicing. This is due to your body flushing out waste and toxins through your skin and exhalation. And last but not least, we have

5. Constipation and/or Diarrhea: which is attributed to the lack of fiber. You aren't eating many solid foods and your digestive track is being cleansed.

After reading all this, you may want to run for the hills--as I did. But, remember, all those side effects are just temporary. It's up to you to decide whether or not jucing is for you. I leave you with these parting thoughts. There is no sound scientific evidence that shows juice from juicing is any healthier for you than the juice you get from eating the whole food itself. Juicing removes the pulp and fiber from all fruits and vegetables which--if you have an appetite like me, will leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. You could always add the pulp back in, but then why not just stick to eating the whole darn apple?

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I wake up, turn over, and see the same three glowing numbers I've been seeing for weeks now. It's 4:30 a.m. and it's like my alarm clock is taunting me. All I can think is, "Here we go again..."

If you're like me, sleep has become more of a privilege than a right. And well, I'm just not that privileged. Funny thing is, I never used to have trouble sleeping at all -- either that or my body simply requires much more sleep then than it did. What's going on?

The facts:

Currently, I am 26 years old and lucky when I can get four peaceful hours of sleep. And even that's a stretch. Throughout the night, I wake constantly and then it's no wonder that I greet the morning with sleepy eyes and a groggy feeling of total unrest. Otherwise, I am healthy, lead an active lifestyle, work out at least five days a week, stick to just one cup of coffee every morning and generally try to go to bed around the same time every night. So, why can't I sleep? I decided it was time to do a little research and get some answers.

Experts say that there is no "magic number" of hours slept that will guarantee us to wake up well rested and feeling refreshed. Sleep needs are individual and what works for one person, may not work for another. However, experts can agree on one thing: mood and sleep are very closely related - which translates to: when we're getting the right amount of sleep, we feel the best.

Last year, the Center for Disease Control declared "insufficient sleep" a public epidemic. Apparently, poor or inadequate sleep can lead to increased irritability, stress, anxiety and even depression. The less you sleep, the less time your body and mind have to regenerate and recharge, leaving you feeling grouchy and often times tense.

This begins a really negative cycle since the less sleep you get, the more stressed you become and here's the really bad part: stress causes your body to release cortisol -- our body's "wake-up" hormone.

As it is, cortisol levels jump 50-60% within minutes of waking up each morning, which explains why you may feel energized after a fitful night of sleep upon waking, yet be lagging during the afternoon and evening hours.

So, here are a few helpful tips I've discovered that you (and I!) may want to try to keep cortisol levels down and get our sleep habits back on track:

The Options:

Niacinamide- this is a vitamin B supplement that works by replacing the vitamin B3 in your body. It is a water soluble tablet and has also been known as a sleep inducer. Many studies have shown that it induces a feeling of calmness. However, this product can have varying side effects for individuals depending on what other medications you're taking or health risks you may have. Be sure to see a doctor before trying this product.

Chamomile-plant best known for being made into an infusion (i.e.chamomile tea) commonly helping with sleep.

Keep a diary-keep track of what you did that day, what you ate and what medicines you are taking then make a note of how well you slept the next morning.

Get on a schedule-set a regular bed time and wake up around the same time everyday to help your body clock stay regulated.

Do something stimulating-be active! Get moving and tire yourself out, this could be as easy as taking a walk after dinner or taking an exercise class at your local gym. Just get moving!

Avoid alcohol-although many people may think a nightcap will help you to slumber, this is not the case. Recent studies have shown that drinking alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep and increase wakefulness.

Increase melatonin production naturally
-turn off your TV and computers! Light suppresses melatonin production and watching TV can easily stimulate your mind rather than relax it.

The Results:

How you feel and what you do throughout your day effects how well you sleep at night. Be conscious of what you're putting into your body. "Toughing it out" and powering through your day will only make you more exhausted later. Since I'm already quite active and on a pretty regular sleep schedule, it's time to try something new. Usually, I watch TV in bed until I fall asleep and apparently that has to stop! Let's see if this melatonin theory works: for the next two weeks, I'm committing to only watching TV in my living room at night. Once I go into the bedroom, it's because I'm going to sleep. My mind won't be stimulated and there will be no light to suppress melatonin production. I will post my results. Wish me luck! (Actually wish me sleep!)

Give yourself the gift of success!

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"I can't." "I won't." "I would, but..."

Hold on a moment. Hit pause.

When, how and how often do you use these three phrases? Now think about what you're really saying ...

In essence, each of these three phrases says "stop." They create a block that keeps us from moving forward, from making changes, or from allowing growth and mobility by anchoring ourselves to a particular outcome. When we use one of these sentences, we cut off possibility with others, and more importantly, ourselves!

Case in point: I have a girlfriend who is ill. Just yesterday -- even though she's better today than she was several weeks ago -- she said, "I'm never going to get better." Now, I understand how depressing it can be to feel sick and lose hope, but she *is* getting better and will continue to in all likelihood.

What saddens me is that worse than telling this to me and the world, she's telling this to herself! Instead of giving her immune system support for her healing, she's flooding herself with negativity. Can you imagine your beautiful, living, breathing, cells' confusion as they cry: "But we are getting better!" How can anything prosper in a negative environment?

If we look at any situation in our lives, whether its healing or any other issue, and we hear or we believe that there is no hope, it's much easier to give up the fight, rather than struggle to overcome our obstacles and challenges.

Why not set up the best possible scenario for your own betterment by encouraging yourself to heal? None of us know what tomorrow will bring. So, use the tools that bring health: Visualization, laughter, positive reinforcement. Find your strength in happiness. It's just common sense.

The other night I was out to dinner with my friend, Rob and he put it this way: "If you think you can, you possibly will, but it you think you can't, you definitely won't!"

I've been on a course of self love - learning to embrace myself - my strengths and weaknesses and while it's not always easy, I firmly believe that this enhances my life and my health. There is power in our words, power in our beliefs, our thoughts. So let's give ourselves the best possibility for healing and say, "I can!" and "I will!"

By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

Here's the continuation of my homepage blog on the power of Nurture over Nature!

Curcumin for Cancer Prevention & Cardiovascular Health
If America doesn't start spicing up soon, we are losing out on our health!

Including Curcumin in our diet will have a positive effect on how our genes affect our health. Specifically, this Indian spice works at the cellular level by regulating signals related to inflammation and cellular programming for death (AKA CANCER CELLS)!

Curcumin seems to down-regulate expression of Stat3 and phospho-Stat3 proteins, as well as genes that encode anti-apoptotic signals. In other words, it inhibits cellular signals that under ordinary circumstances prevent malignant cells from going into apoptosis. It also suppresses the binding of NF-KB, a strong inflammatory signal, in two of the three peripheral blood samples. Dr. Zhang said the current data rightfully raise hope that curcumin could play a role in treatment of CTCL, Sezary syndrome, and other hematologic malignancies.

Researchers at the Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, believe they have discovered mechanisms by which turmeric exerts its cholesterol-lowering effect. Norbert Nass, MD, and his team looked at the impact of curcumin at doses ranging from 2-50 micromoles on gene expression in human hepatic cells. They found that once the dose exceeds 10 micromoles, curcumin exposure induces an up to seven-fold increase in expression of LDL-receptor mRNA, which, from a functional viewpoint, means a marked increase in hepatic uptake of LDL. The greater the hepatic uptake, the lower the circulating levels of LDL will be, thus reducing potential for atherosclerotic buildup.

Source: Peschel D, Koerting R, Nass N. J Nutr Biochem. 2007; 18 (2): 113-119.
Excerpted from Holistic Primary Care: A Golden Wonder: Turmeric Compounds Trigger Apoptosis in Lymphoma, Lower LDL Cholesterol. By Erik L. Goldman | Editor-in-Chief - Vol. 8, No. 1. Spring, 2007

Ginger and Prostate Cancer (Br J of Nutriton)

Another spice with cancer-punch-out- power:

It is appreciated far and wide that increased and regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is linked with noteworthy anticancer benefits. Extensively consumed as a spice in foods and beverages worldwide, ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe) is an excellent source of several bioactive phenolics, including non-volatile pungent compounds such as gingerols, paradols, shogaols and gingerones. Ginger has been known to display anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities, indicating its promising role as a chemopreventive agent. Here, we show that whole ginger extract (GE) exerts significant growth-inhibitory and death-inductory effects in a spectrum of prostate cancer cells. Comprehensive studies have confirmed that GE perturbed cell-cycle progression, impaired reproductive capacity, modulated cell-cycle and apoptosis regulatory molecules and induced a caspase-driven, mitochondrially mediated apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells. Remarkably, daily oral feeding of 100 mg/kg body weight of GE inhibited growth and progression of PC-3 xenografts by approximately 56 % in nude mice, as shown by measurements of tumour volume. Tumour tissue from GE-treated mice showed reduced proliferation index and widespread apoptosis compared with controls, as determined by immunoblotting and immunohistochemical methods. Most importantly, GE did not exert any detectable toxicity in normal, rapidly dividing tissues such as gut and bone marrow. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report to demonstrate the in vitro and in vivo anticancer activity of whole GE for the management of prostate cancer.

Source: Karna P, Chagani S, Gundala SR, Rida PC, Asif G, Sharma V, Gupta MV, Aneja R. Benefits of whole ginger extract in prostate cancer (abstract). Br J Nutr. 2012 Feb;107(4):473-84. Epub 2011 Aug 18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849094

Death by Skin
Showing how our choices in beauty affect our risk for diseases: 

  • Recent research found higher concentrations of parabens in the upper quadrants of the breast and axillary area, where antiperspirants are usually applied, suggesting they may contribute to the development of breast cancer. One or more paraben esters were detected in 99 percent of the tissue samples collected from mastectomies. In 60 percent of the samples, all five paraben esters were present
  • Overall, topical application of personal care products containing parabens appear to be the greatest source of exposure to these estrogen-mimicking chemicals, far surpassing the risk of the aluminum in antiperspirants
  • Aluminum chloride--the active ingredient in antiperspirants--has been found to act similarly to the way oncogenes work to provide molecular transformations in cancer cells. Like parabens, aluminum salts also mimic estrogen, and bioaccumulate in breast tissue, which can raise your breast cancer risk
  • Despite the fact that parabens are used in such a wide variety of products, their safety is primarily based on a rat study from 1956, as modern toxicology studies are lacking, and not a single study on the chemicals' carcinogenity follow acceptable regulatory standard carcinogenity study protocols, according to a recent review
  • Estrogens, whether synthetic or natural are a primary risk factor for breast cancer. Approximately 20 different studies have established that parabens have estrogenic activity, which makes them relevant when it comes to estrogen-sensitive cancers. A common excuse used to defend the absence of toxicological studies is that parabens are weak in terms of potency. For example, propylparaben and butylparaben are approximately 30,000 and 10,000 less potent than estradiol, respectively.
"However, estradiol occurs in breast tissue in the pictogram per gram of tissue range... but the results reported by Barr et.al. [the featured study] show tissue concentrations of parabens, in the worst cases, in the microgram per gram of breast tissue range, which is one million-fold higher than that of estradiol. Clearly, the magnitude of exposure would seem to more than compensate for the reduction in potency," Harvey and Everett write.
But that's not all. A 2011 study reported that methylparaben promotes cell cycling and makes human breast cells more resistant to apoptosis, which, according to the authors can provide the molecular basis for malignant tumor proliferation. Harvey and Everett also cite another study from 2007, which found that propylparaben and butylparaben cause detectable DNA damage.

Source: Dr. Mercola. May 24, 2012. 99% of Breast Cancer Tissue Contained This Everyday Chemical (NOT Aluminum). http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/24/parabens-on-risk-of-breast-cancer.aspx?e_cid=20120524_DNL_art_1

Read more at: www.dr-lobisco.com


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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...


Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Whether the goal is to lessen pain, find an alternative to pharmaceuticals, or improve your quality of life, Dr. LoBisco's Naturopathic Medicine lets you get the best of both worlds conventional medicine, combined with safe and proven complementary therapies.

Dr. Sarah LoBisco has been involved in wellness for over 8 years. Her experience includes mentoring with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. Read more...