Blog posts tagged with 'wellness'

by Danielle Myers

Every day our bodies put up a fight against illness, stress, fatigue and aging in order to sustain overall wellness. We knowingly take precautions in order to maintain the best health possible; however, environmental as well as internal and external causes sometimes still result in poor health.

As conscientious consumers, we search and search for effective solutions. We look for ways to have more energy, healthier skin and a better memory. We turn to products such as herbal supplements, caffeinated drinks, topical creams and the like. But what if one product could address a wide scope of concerns? What if, rather than walking up and down the aisles of the health store, we could focus on just one simple, yet all-inclusive herb?

Most consumers are familiar with and benefit from the positive health properties of ginseng. Often referred to as the “King of Herbs,” ginseng is known as the world’s most powerful adaptogenic herb — meaning it assists the body to manage stress and achieve homeostatic balance. Used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years, ginseng is utilized as a remedy in treating a host of health problems, such as managing stress, stimulating one’s immune system and helping resist fatigue.

What is Ginseng?

Ginseng is a deciduous, perennial plant that belongs to the Araliaceae family. There are 12 known species identified in the Panax genus. Panax ginseng, cultivated in China, Korea, Japan and Russia, is available as fresh, red, white and wild varieties:

  • Red ginseng — peeled, heated by way of steaming at boiling temperatures and then dried or sun-dried. Often it is marinated in an herbal brew, which makes the root brittle.
  • Fresh ginseng — a raw product and limited by availability.
  • White ginseng — fresh ginseng which is dried without being heated, then peeled and dried again to reduce water content to 12% or less.
  • Wild ginseng — harvested wherever it can be found; however, it is relatively rare.

The plants are usually harvested between four and six years of age. Special effort is made to keep the roots in tact, as this is where the valuable properties come from.

Traditionally, ginseng root was used as an ingredient in the preparation of tea and soups; however, recent breakthroughs in extraction and concentration methods have produced ginseng with higher potencies that are available in powder or liquid concentrates and capsules.

How Does Ginseng Work?

The ginseng plant root contains saponins, which are natural plant chemical components called ginsenosides. These unique active compounds found only in Panax ginseng are what make it authentic and unrivaled. The botanical genus name ‘Panax’ is derived from the Greek words ‘Pan’ meaning “all” and ‘axos’ meaning “cure.” Panax can literally be translated as cure-all, or panacea.

Orally administered, ginsenosides are difficult for the body to break down; however, they can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria and then these metabolites are absorbed from the intestines.

Is All Ginseng Created Equal?

The simple answer is no. There is a lot of information out there about ginseng and it can be a little confusing. Other herbs claim to be ginseng, but since they are from a different genus, or family, they do not contain the ginsenosides. These include Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus senticosus), Prince ginseng (seudostellaria paniculate), Indian ginseng/Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and Brazilian ginseng/Suma (Pfaffia paniculata).

Therefore, true ginseng plants belong solely to the Panax genus.

Benefits to Health and Wellness

Clinical studies have shown that ginseng extract stimulates the immune system, improves mental and physical performance, reduces fatigue, supports healthy glucose regulation and improves general quality of life. Here are a few details about how ginseng can help improve your overall health and wellness:

  • Energy and Stamina — helps to increase both energy and stamina while having a soothing effect on the nerves. Unlike caffeine, ginseng does not have jittery effects or high-low crashes associated with it. It also helps to support adrenal health.
  • Immune System — improves mental and physical performance, strengthens the immune system as well as regains stamina lost during illness. It can also help to balance blood sugar levels and improve cardiovascular health.
  • Detoxification — improves skin and rids it of free radicals that accumulate from daily sun exposure and environmental pollution. Internal use of ginseng can aid the body in repairing and building healthy cells.

Why Korean Ginseng is Better

When comparing Chinese, American or Korean ginseng, it’s important to know the ginsenoside content. Chinese and American ginsengs have 13 or 14 ginsenosides, but more than 30 ginsenosides have been identified in Korean ginseng.

Because there are many ginseng products on the market, it’s important to choose a quality brand with proven results in order to get the most benefit from what ginseng can offer.

Ginseng is a delicate plant that requires special handling and care. For the best results, ginseng plants should be harvested at the optimal time (4.5 ‒ 5.5 years), and the entirety of the root and rootlets should be maintained without peeling, boiling, steaming or using high heat. All of these factors affect the final product and determine the level of quality and effectiveness of absorption.

According to one study, less than 30% of males and less than 40% of females had full positive absorption of all ginsenosides. In other words, most consumers do not get the full benefit of ginseng because their body does not properly break it down. In response to this, some producers of Korean ginseng have developed a fermented ginseng extract that mimics the fermentation that occurs naturally in the intestine to transform ginsenosides to an end-stage compound. This has been proven in clinical trials to dramatically improve the rate, speed and consistency of absorption. Fermented ginseng extract containing this metabolite has been shown to have many adaptogenic qualities, such as strong anti-oxidants, anti-stress, anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, the fermentation process helps to increase the taste profile compared to other conventional ginseng extracts.

Is Ginseng Right for Me?

People across the globe are constantly searching for ways to attain more energy, balance and overall wellness in daily life. Most Americans start each day with a hot cup of coffee (or two), a caffeinated soda, or an energy drink. We need that extra shot-in-the-arm to start our day and to sustain energy.

Unlike caffeine, fermented ginseng can provide a calm, centered and sustained energy that lasts all day without a crash. Additionally, long-term use can help strengthen the immune system and provide optimal energy, vitality, mental clarity and focus.

While energy products and supplements ebb and flow with the tides of change, ginseng has been a constant feature for thousands of years. Recent advances in biotechnology have allowed companies to optimize the growing, harvesting, processing, extraction and concentration of ginseng, which have resulted in improved effectiveness. This humble plant continues to live up to its name and reign as the “King of Herbs” for its countless medicinal properties.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]

by Mark J. Kaylor

Why are we still talking about sugar? You would think that with all we know about the health costs associated with excess sugar consumption, we would all be eating less. This is not the case. While the American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons a day (a figure I believe is still too high), the average American still consumes about 20 teaspoons. This adds up to 130 pounds of sugar every year with a whopping 3,550 pounds consumed over a lifetime. Sugar remains the largest source of calories in the US.

How Big is the Threat?

So how big of a concern is sugar consumption? In a recent statement, the UN Secretary General said that conditions associated with sugar and carbohydrate consumption, such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and heart disease are a bigger threat to the entire world than infectious disease. Roughly 35 million people die each year from these diseases. And there are 30% more obese folks than there are undernourished ones. Today, about one in twenty of us suffer from diabetes. By 2030, in the US, that ratio could be as high as one in three.

While many of us think we don’t eat any sugar, it is often added to or hidden in processed foods under an assortment of names (see image on page 12). You will find sugar in breads, sauces, dressings and virtually every other processed food. We also need to beware the “healthier” sounding fructose (sounds a lot like fruit). While it does not spike your blood sugar like glucose does, due to the way it is metabolized, it creates a whole other series of health concerns.

Sugar's Evil Twin

A leading concern with the consumption of fructose is that it turns off leptin, the hormone that tells you when you are full. Excess fructose consumption is also associated with fatty liver, elevated triglycerides, increased risk for cardiovascular disease, clogged arteries and insulin resistance. By raising uric acid production, fructose may also increase one’s risk for gout, hypertension and kidney stones. In the US, about half of our sugar consumption is fructose. It is important to mention here that I’m talking the isolated concentrated fructose, as seen in high fructose corn syrup, not the naturally occurring fructose that is found in fruits.

Sugar, the Consequences

Let’s get right to it. First, there is no need to consume refined sugar. Second, there is no nutritional necessity or justification for eating it. Sugar is a pointless food; nothing but empty calories.

The number of health concerns associated with sugar consumption is too long to list here. Leading consequences include Alzheimer’s disease, negative behavior, dental issues, cardiovascular disease, aging before your time and, of course, obesity and diabetes. In fact, drinking one serving a week of a sugary beverage raises one’s risk for diabetes by 15%. Many of the health concerns associated with excess sugar consumption are related to its capacity to increase inflammation, oxidative stress (free radical damage), glycation (a process whereby sugar binds to various proteins in the body causing them to malfunction) and insulin resistance.

Sugar and Cancer

Sugar and corresponding insulin resistance are often overlooked as leading contributors to increasing one’s risk for cancer, as well as malignancy and recurrence. Studies suggest that malignant cancers are relatively rare in communities that don’t eat the high sugar, high carbohydrate Standard American Diet, a.k.a. SAD. A study published in the leading cancer journal concluded that eating refined carbohydrates and sugars dramatically increases one’s risk for breast cancer. It also found that recurrence is twice as likely if refined carbohydrates and sugar intake stays the same or increases after surgery. In general, diets that consist of a large amount of foods that are high on the glycemic index are associated with greater risk of developing cancer.

Sugar Liberation

Chromium — This mineral is essential for insulin activity. Unfortunately, it has been estimated to be deficient in up to 50% of the US population. Multiple studies confirm it improves blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity by improving the cells communications. Not surprisingly, when you consider sugar’s damaging effects on the body, chromium was able to improve lifespan in one animal study. My preferred chromium is chromium polynicotinate.

SX-Fraction — What makes this unique extraction of the Maitake mushroom so promising is that, in clinical studies, it has demonstrated effectiveness at lowering the twin culprits of high blood sugar and insulin levels. Studies have found that it can significantly lower the important measure of long term sugar levels, HbA1c. The clinical evidence suggests it works by improving insulin sensitivity. Evidence of this is seen in its cardiovascular activities, i.e. lowering cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides and blood pressure while improving HDL levels. In fact, it was found even more effective than a leading pharmaceutical in a comparison study.

Glucomannan or PGX — Four to five grams of this highly viscous fiber can reduce the after meal insulin spike by ~50%. A double blind study found that when one gram was taken before meals, the individuals lost 5.5 pounds over 8 weeks. PGX is an even more viscous fiber blend. A clinical trial showed it reduced after meal blood sugar spike by 23% and after meal insulin release by 40%, while improving insulin sensitivity by over 55%. There are a number of other promising blood sugar battling allies including Green Coffee Bean, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Carnosine, Banaba Leaf, Cinnamon (water soluble extract) and Bitter Melon.

The Time to Act is Now

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just diagnosed high blood sugar at issue. A growing body of evidence suggests that even high normal blood sugar levels may be problematic. A study of nearly 2,000 men covering 22 years found that fasting glucose levels over 85 yielded a 40% greater risk of death and cardiovascular disease. The bottom line is that excess sugar and insulin are major contributors to many diseases and even mortality. One study found that high blood sugar levels doubled one’s all-cause mortality over 10 years. The time to act is now. Give up the sweets, move more, embrace a whole foods diet and profoundly impact your health and healing.

Since over-consumption of sugar is to a large degree a diet issue, the answer is correspondingly a diet one as well. It’s actually really simple, but not very easy for most of us. Stop eating refined sugar and carbohydrates. Focusing on a plant-based, whole foods diet will take care of this and bring with it a wide array of health and healing benefits. That’s not to say there aren’t some natural remedies that can help us keep our blood sugar under control…there are.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]

By Nick Noloboff

Even though humans are at the very top of the food chain, there’s no escaping the risks of this interconnected hierarchy. In fact, there’s a kind of natural justice in being vulnerable to the life led by your food. All the elements that were consumed by the animal you’re now eating—nutrients, chemicals, minerals, etc.—have made their way to you. So it’s worth repeating just how important it is to take care of our food sources, and to make wise choices about what we eat.

One overlooked chapter in the story of our food is the role of fat. On one hand, dietary fats have played a pretty ominous part in our recent history: Heart disease. High cholesterol. Metabolic syndrome. Saturated fats proliferate in many of the foods we eat, even now that their adverse health effects are known. On the other hand, a different kind of fat, essential omega-3 fats, quietly disappeared from our diets without anyone really knowing they were there to begin with.

The short of it is that we’re eating way too much meat and foods filled with seed oils, and not enough (or not the right) fish. This imbalance has less to do with conscious food choices than it does with changes to the agriculture, livestock and seafood industries over the past 50 years. But first, let’s talk about the fish you’re not eating.

Go wild with fish

Until recently, nearly all the fish we ate was taken from the wild, where the smallest fish consume microalgae, nature’s original source of marine omega-3 fats. Larger fish eat those small fish, getting all the omega-3 fats of their prey. This process works its way up the food chain until it lands on your plate as a delicious fillet of sockeye salmon. But increasingly, you have to seek out “wild-caught” fish. The alternative is farmed fish that are raised on fishmeal which is devoid of omega-3s. Plus, wild-caught fish costs more. So people eat less wild fish, and get fewer essential omega-3 fats.

Before wild fish became pricey, meat became cheaper, as economies of scale turned pasture-raised cows into grain-fed cattle. Similar to farmed fish, these livestock get far fewer omega-3 fats than they would by eating their natural diet of grass, and much more of another essential fat, omega-6, which is found in the grain and corn diets of feedlot cattle. Add to this change in the fat composition of meats the proliferation of seed oils in just about everything else we eat—dressings, processed foods, cooking oils, you name it—and you wind up with an abundance of omega-6 and a dearth of omega-3. A big fat mess, so to speak.

It seems that the obvious answer is to eat more wild-caught fish, and greens, but that’s just half of the solution. It’s true that we all need to consume more omega-3s, but we also need to radically cut back on sources of omega-6 to balance our intake of essential fats. Here’s why: Omega-3 and omega-6 fats both reside in cell membranes where they perform a variety of functions that are vital to health. But space in cell membranes is limited, and with so much omega-6 in our bloodstreams, it has a much better chance than omega-3 of getting incorporated into cells simply because it’s more prevalent.

Supplement with Omega-3s

Until the 1970s, few people outside of Scandinavia recognized the health benefits of omega-3 fish oil. Today, over 8,000 clinical studies have documented omega-3s’ effects on health, yet Americans remain woefully undernourished in these fats. At least 90 percent of Americans are deficient, according to a 2015 report issued by the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines Committee.

Although we now know how important omega-3s are, we have a tougher and tougher time getting them into our diets. One sure way to get more is to supplement with a high-quality fish or algae oil. Both of these sources naturally contain the long-chain marine omega-3 fats that are essential for health. Supplementing also ensures a consistent daily intake, even when you eat a few healthy servings of wild-caught fish each week.

[article reposted with permission from developinghealthyhabits.com]

fish , omega-3 , fats , health , wellness