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THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The majority of the immune system, 80% to be precise, is located within the digestive system. To be an optimally functioning human being, it is critical to achieve and maintain a happy, healthy, digestive tract.

When the cold and flu season is on our doorstep, following the gusts of frigid rain and snow, it is more important than ever to upgrade our immunity before we get sick. To do this, we must go to the source: to the foods we eat and to the organs that digest them.

The digestive system is responsible for disposing toxins, which enter our body regularly on a daily basis. If organs - such as the intestines or liver - get bogged down with an overload of highly processed, chemically filled foods, it becomes harder and slower for those toxins to leave our bodies, thereby taxing our immune system. When the immune system is suppressed in such a way, it is easier to contract a virus or bug.

In addition to consuming a whole and diverse diet largely comprised of vegetables and fruits, add some probiotics. Probiotics facilitate healthy gut bacteria, aiding in more efficient digestion and detoxification. You can either take them in capsules, or by eating fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha - all of which naturally contain a wide spectrum of different probiotics. Kefir and yogurt are also good sources of probiotics, but as dairy products increase mucus production and sinus congestion, it is best to limit dairy during cold and flu season.

To support the liver so it can cleanse the blood, eat cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale, lettuce and cabbage. These dark, green veggies are also extremely high in vitamin C. Broccoli alone contains nearly twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange! And while we are on the subject of liver, let’s not forget beets. Beets are not only an antioxidant goldmine, but are also known for their liver cleansing and protective properties.

As winter envelops all of us, make sure you’re getting plenty of garlic, oregano, and ginger: all powerful, natural antivirals. Start by eating a clove of garlic daily. Oregano oil is especially powerful in eliminating harmful bacteria and viruses. Ginger warms the body, increases circulation and makes a delicious tea. It is also great for digestion and reduces nausea. In Ayurveda, it is believed that ginger cleanses the lymph system.

Zinc is another key nutrient integral to optimal immunity. Involved in extensive bodily processes, from DNA production to cellular repair, zinc has been shown to promote illness prevention. Find it in protein dense foods like meat, eggs, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), and beans.

Lastly, give your digestion and yourself a break. Find a few moments of peace and quiet to unwind, ridding your body of stress. When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol, the stress hormone, which suppresses immune function. To combat these stresses invading our lives with ever exceeding regularity, get a massage, do yoga, or go on a brisk walk. Exercise is beneficial for attaining heightened immunity, as it increases circulation and detoxification. Even better, exercise outside, so that your body receives the sunlight it needs to produce vitamin D, another basic component toward healing and disease prevention. Studies show that vitamin D may even prevent autoimmune disorders and certain cancers.

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CHRONIC PAIN?

Today, over 100 million Americans are suffering from chronic pain, whether caused by an injury, autoimmune disorder, arthritis, stress, or something even more mysterious. When we are in pain, our initial impulse is to remove that pain, usually via the consumption of common over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Although these medications provide some relief, in the long run they do not address the core issues of pain itself. Over time, medications may even exacerbate the cause - leading to a greater dependence on pharmaceutical drug use.

Chronic pain is a symptom of inflammation within the body. Not all inflammation is bad. Inflammation is actually a method the body utilizes to heal itself from an injury or an illness. But a persisting, chronic inflammation is indeed a problem, which needs to be addressed and treated properly.

To reduce chronic pain and inflammation, try following an anti-inflammatory diet for one month. During this month, avoid all gluten, soy, dairy, alcohol, sugar, and artificial sweeteners. These foods all cause inflammation, and many people may be sensitive or allergic to them without being aware. Do a trial run, assess how you feel, and then, if you wish, slowly add them back into your diet to see how each one affects you. Additionally, it is highly recommended to remove all GMO’s from your culinary routine. Try to buy only organic, non-GMO labeled products, as genetically altered foods cannot be suitably digested or absorbed.

Embrace a menu high in antioxidants and Omega 3s. Blueberries and papaya are good sources of pain-combatting antioxidants. Pineapple, which is the only food source of bromelain (a nutrient used for alleviating pain), is another delicious and healthy choice. For Omega 3s, you can find them in fish, fish oils, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds.

Turmeric and ginger are both powerful anti-inflammatories. Turmeric, traditionally implemented in Indian cuisine, is especially effective in treating arthritis, sciatica, gout, and autoimmune disorders such as fibromyalgia. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, is believed to reduce inflammation. My father drinks a glass of water with turmeric every morning before breakfast to ease his arthritis, and so many of the glasses in my mother’s home are now tinged a beautiful shade of yellow! You could also make a yummy turmeric smoothie. Here is the recipe: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13907/inflammation-fighting-golden-turmeric-smoothie.html

Get your sleep. Many times chronic pain is a result of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia. When the body doesn’t get receive sufficient rest, it cannot heal. To relax before bedtime, try taking a bath with two cups of Epsom salts, one cup of baking soda, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. This concoction will not only help you unwind, but also encourage detoxification and soothe sore muscles and joints.

Instead of taking aspirin, substitute willowbark. Willowbark hosts the original compound that was extracted and manipulated to develop aspirin. While willowbark may not work as fast as modern painkillers, studies show that its effects last longer. Furthermore, it does not harbor any of the negative or addictive side effects that many prescription painkillers possess. To support relaxation and reduce anxiety or tension, try an infusion of skullcap and valerian. As with any herb, consult with your physician before use.

Get regular massages, see a physical therapist, or receive craniosacral treatments. Frequent bodywork stimulates circulation, thus fostering an environment conducive to healing. In particular, craniosacral therapy’s effects are twofold, aiding in both physical and emotional recovery. Chronic pain does not always result from physical wear and tear alone. Often, it occurs as a result of stress or repressed emotions. In his research, Dr. John E. Sarnon found that bottled-up, unexpressed emotions - particularly anger - are linked to chronic pain. To deal with this emotional component, practice better communication to express yourself freely and healthfully. Look inward and connect to a healthy lifestyle.

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LOSING WEIGHT AT 40

Losing weight is no easy feat for most of us. When we are younger we binge diet, hit the gym for hours, and even starve ourselves silly just to lose those extra pounds for an upcoming wedding or bar mitzvah. But as we age, and our bodies change, those extra few pounds become more and more determined to stay put no matter what we do. Exercising alone doesn’t produce the results it once did when we were 20 or 30. And diets? Well, they may work for a week or two, but how does one stick with a diet for life? Why would anyone even want to be on a diet that long? As our bodies age, the mitochondria in our cells, which convert our food into usable energy, begin to die. Metabolism slows. Changes in our hormone levels at this time also cause fat, which was once stored in our hips, to shift to the belly. These same hormonal fluctuations make us hungrier, and it is that much easier to put on extra pounds. The good news is you have the power to change that. And even if you have carried around extra weight your entire life, it is not too late to begin making changes now. While losing weight after 40 may be more difficult and take more time, in the long run, results last longer. This is because fad dieting and quick fixes (like lose 30lbs in 30 days) will not work when we are older! The only weight loss method that will work, and last, is a permanent life change. (The reason why many of these diets are not sustainable in the long run is that they exclude specific food groups vital to our survival. We need carbs to survive. We need protein to survive).

So, throw away your diet books and start losing weight today with these simple steps:

Keep A Food Journal

Recording what we eat throughout the day reveals our hidden, and not so hidden, pitfalls. Those chocolate chips at 4pm or that midnight cereal run—you may want to lie to yourself and say they don’t really count, but they do. Write them down. Ditch the sugar. If you haven’t heard by now, sugar is the new fat. Processed, refined sugars are immediately converted into fat, because too much sugar in our bloodstream is actually quite dangerous for the body. Most of these fat stores remain inside our organs like the liver, causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Sugar, even a little, wreaks utter havoc on our bodies, and is linked not only to obesity, but to several cancers and heart disease as well. Do yourself a favor and skip it. If you must indulge the sweet tooth, (as we all must from time to time), opt for organic, raw honey, or unrefined coconut crystals.

Choose Fibrous, Nutrient-Rich Foods

As Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains in his book, Eat to Live, the best way to achieve permanent weight loss is by adopting a diet that contains a substantial amount of fibrous, nutrient-dense foods, like collard greens, broccoli, spinach, beans, and chia seeds. Instead of counting calories, make the calories count! Foods that are naturally high in soluble fiber and nutrients will keep you full longer. Many people consuming a typical American diet are hungry even after meals, because they are nutrient starved! This is why eating a huge bag of chips will not satisfy your hunger, and yet still make you fat. To feel full and stop over eating for good, embrace diversity in order to get the vitamins you need.

Snack On Almonds

For a quick snack that is high in protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats, munch on a handful of almonds. Almonds contain the same percentage of protein as lean meat, but unlike meat, its fiber content prevents the extra calories from being absorbed and transformed into fat.

Eat Spicy Foods

To temporarily raise metabolic rates, add some “heat” to your food. Black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin have all been proven to increase metabolism by as much as eight per cent for several hours. I guess chili is on the menu.

Exercise Your Qi

Everyone already knows that exercise is key to achieving and maintaining a happy, healthy body. In addition to walking, biking, and jumping on the trampoline, there is another form of exercise—moving your Qi. Chinese medicine believes that regularly exercising the Qi, or life force, within the body will improve your health and aid weight loss. This can be done through yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and even deep breathing practices and acupuncture.

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DIY TIPS FOR VARICOSE VEINS

A variety of factors may contribute toward developing varicose veins, including poor diet, standing or sitting for long periods of time, hormonal changes, and even genetics. Many women often experience varicose veins during pregnancy, as this is a time of hormonal fluctuation, as well as a time of extra strain upon the vascular system with the additional blood produced to sustain the baby.

Veins, unlike arteries, must rely solely on the contractions of surrounding muscles to push the blood back through the body, returning it to the heart. To do this properly, the veins have valves, which cause the blood to move in one direction. When these valves do not work properly, causing the blood to gather and pool, the veins become weakened and stretched. It is not surprising then that most varicosities are found in the legs, where the veins are working even harder - against gravity - to push the blood back upward.

Studies show that a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds can help improve vein health and circulation. Additionally, foods high in vitamin C are particularly beneficial.

Now, before you go chugging the orange juice, realize sugary fruit juices aren’t so great for you either. A better choice would be broccoli or kale, which are both higher in vitamin C than citrus fruits, and contain more dietary fiber. Dark berries, which are packed with some potent bioflavonoids, are also indispensable to the healing of veins. Eat them plain, or add them to a smoothie.

Bromelain, an enzyme found exclusively in pineapples, reduces inflammation and could prevent blood clots. It is also extremely useful in the digestion of proteins. And buckwheat, which contains rutin, has been reported to improve overall vein health.

Since varicosities are an inflammation in the veins, it is best to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, and avoid foods that are overly taxing on the body.

A variety of herbs can also improve circulation, including bilberry and horse chestnut extracts. But if you are pregnant or nursing, you must consult a doctor before introducing any herbal remedies into your regimen.

Certain essential oils have been found to be extremely helpful in reducing the pain. The best is a combination of cypress and helichrysum oils. Cypress is said to strengthen the veins, while helichrysum dissolves coagulated blood and improves circulation. To apply, massage above the affected area every morning and night.

You can also alternate with other oils, such as lavender, rosemary, and juniper. But as with herbs, these oils are powerful and must be used with caution during pregnancy. Consult an aroma-therapist or a respected guidebook to essential oils.

Low impact exercises, such as yoga, swimming, biking, dancing, or even just taking a stroll once a day, can also work wonders for vascular strength.

Some great stretches include lying with your back against the floor and your legs up against a wall, so your body is in an L-shaped position. Elevating your legs in this way alleviates some of that stress against gravity. In this position, the bloods flows easily down to your heart, without pooling in your ankles and calves.

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STATINS AND THE WAR AGAINST CHOLESTEROL

For the past 60 years the medical community has waged war against cholesterol, flooding the pharmaceutical industry with its super-power, anti-cholesterol weapons: statins. Not only do these drugs block the body’s cholesterol production, but it is also claimed that they sweep up and absorb excess cholesterol already present in the body. With Crestor and Lipitor leading the way to a happier, healthier, egg-free tomorrow, statins appear to be a miracle pill. Or is it?

To truly understand the risks of statins, we must take a deeper look at cholesterol. Associated with heart attacks, strokes, and even some cancers, it is no wonder cholesterol has received a bad rap over the years. What most people don’t know, however, is that cholesterol is absolutely necessary for hormone production. Cholesterol is the fertile ground, which allows for the creation of vital hormones, such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone.

When we are exposed to sunlight, it is cholesterol that creates vitamin D.

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin at all, but a hormone produced by the body, used to regulate cardio-vascular health. It is fundamental to overall well-being, as deficiencies may lead to osteoporosis, depression, heart problems, weight issues, and cancer. Additionally, vitamin D aids in the management of healthy cholesterol levels.

When one takes a statin, the body is no longer able to manufacture vitamin D.

Another important chemical which falls prey to statins, is coenzyme Q10, otherwise referred to as CoQ10. Similar to a vitamin, CoQ10 functions as an antioxidant, protecting the body from harmful molecules and facilitating cellular growth and maintenance. The absence of CoQ10 has been linked to a host of problems, including angina, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and, who would have known, heart failure.

Wait a second! Isn’t that what statins are supposed to prevent by cutting off cholesterol production?

About 25 per cent of the body’s cholesterol lies in the brain, so it should come as no great shock that the FDA has recently issued a warning that all statins may pose a risk of severe memory loss and dementia.

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for optimal brain function, as it protects the neurons. If one is taking a statin, it is vital to supplement with CoQ10 and vitamin D. But it is even better to recognize that there is no man-made “miracle” pill.

If a normal, necessary bodily function that God created within the human body is virtually eliminated, it is logical that there will be negative consequences.

The body needs cholesterol to survive.

Studies have shown cognitive abilities severely declined after patients being put on a statin, but returned, when after ceasing the medication.

With all the negative, potentially life-threatening side effects, it is disturbing that the FDA has recently expanded the margins of who should be taking statins to healthy individuals with no signs of dangerous cholesterol levels, which according to the New York Times could include 13 million more people.

It is true that imbalanced and skyrocketing cholesterol levels are absolutely detrimental to physical well-being. But cholesterol, like many things in life, is not inherently bad. It is our own responsibility to care for our bodies, and to find the proper foods and exercises to create balance.

Studies have shown that a diet high in fiber but low in saturated fat is ideal. Since most saturated fats are found in animal products, this means restricting your dairy and meat consumption, and adding more fibrous vegetables and legumes. Eating plenty of raw garlic has been shown to lower overall cholesterol, even in those who have normal cholesterol levels.

Monocolins, contained in red yeast rice, are used by the body to create a chemical that inhibits cholesterol production. One of these monocolins, lovastatin, is extracted and employed in statin drugs, but since it is extracted from its original source and chemically altered in a laboratory, the effects are augmented to a harmful degree.

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BEYOND SKIN DEEP: HEALING ACNE FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Acne. It is the bane of our teenage years, and sometimes even our adult years as well. Journey into any drug store, and you will behold a myriad of skin panaceas, promising “clarifying” and “brightening” results. And if they don’t work, you can easily drift over to the dozens of tinted moisturizers, concealers, BB, and CC creams that will cover up whatever ailment currently plaguing your skin. Unfortunately, most of these “healing” skin care products and cosmetics are often filled with harmful chemicals, which can cause everything from dryness to inflammation. So let’s take a deeper look at acne to understand why it happens, and what can be done to prevent future outbreaks. The skin is the body’s largest organ. Not only does it provide a protective covering for our bodies, but also is vitally instrumental to the secretion of toxic waste. Studies show that when acne occurs, it is literally waving a red flag warning of imbalance from inside the system. It could be hormone changes, stress, poor diet or a wonderful combination of the three - wreaking this imbalance within us. If you are experiencing acne, heal yourself by going to the root of the problem. A good diet, rich in probiotics and dark leafy greens is ideal.

Probiotics, which are naturally found in foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, aid the digestive process, so that toxins exit your body through the way they are meant to go and not through your skin! Drinking lots of water with lemon will also expedite this internal cleansing. It is also beneficial to limit any possibly inflammatory foods, such as dairy, gluten, soy, alcohol, and the big one: SUGAR. Sugar is pretty sneaky, because it is added to most everything in one form or another. Stress is another factor, which taxes our bodies and our skin. When we are constantly stressed, the hormone, cortisol, is activated. Cortisol is crucial under normal circumstances of “fight or flight”, but in an unrelenting situation of long lasting stress, too much cortisol can cause a host of bodily problems - including acne and weight gain. As a result, many studies recommend taking time out of the day for regular sessions of yoga or meditation. We have the perfect opportunity to consciously connect and “meditate” on a daily basis: Prayer. Lastly, since the skin is so permeable in order to expel toxins, it is equally as absorbent, so that whatever is put onto the skin is effectively absorbed into the bloodstream. Since acne is caused by a buildup of toxic overload from within the body, stop slathering on products with harsh chemicals. What are harsh chemicals? It’s been said many times, but should be said again: If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. Instead, there are many wholesome and less expensive alternatives you can create quite simply with items from your fridge or pantry.

Both coconut and sesame oil make ideal moisturizers. Yes, oil. In this day in age, oils have sadly receded into the realm of taboo in skincare, hence the prevalence of “oil free” products and creams. But, when the skin is leached of its oil through aggressive regimes, the sebum glands go into hyper-drive, producing more oil to compensate for what was lost. Adding a little oil to your skin will actually slow down the skin’s oil production. And when mixed with baking soda, coconut oil becomes a rich and gentle scrub that won’t leave your skin parched like the Mojave Desert.

Another culinary to cosmetic treasure is raw honey. With its antibacterial properties, honey is a nourishing cleanser; just leave on for five minutes and rinse off. And if you’re looking to shrink some pores, diluting one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water (a little more if your skin is sensitive), has been shown to tone and improve overall skin health. You may just want to use it at night, so you don’t smell like a salad.

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