Thursday 28 February 2019

Multiple sclerosis linked to food allergies!

Multiple sclerosis linked to food allergies image

There's a strong link between multiple sclerosis (MS) and food allergy.
It's not yet known whether an allergy can cause the MS in the first place, but researchers do know that sufferers experience a relapse soon after a reaction to food.
The common factor seems to be inflammation in the gut that is triggered by an allergic reaction, say researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.
They discovered the connection when they surveyed 1,349 MS sufferers. Although they were asked to reveal any allergic reaction to food, environmental factors or drugs, only those with a food allergy suffered severe and frequent relapses.
This suggests that MS isn't an immune reaction but is more closely associated with the gut and inflammatory responses to foods.
The discovery ties in with case note that have shown how sufferers seem to suffer relapses after an allergic reaction—but nobody had been sure it was a reaction only to food.
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The Foods You Should Be Eating To Get Your Daily Dose Of Vitamin E!

Vitamin E is the collective name for a group of eight fat-soluble compounds (called tocopherols and tocotrienols) that have antioxidant abilities. Alpha-tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol are often considered the two most important forms for humans, which is why they're the forms of vitamin E you'll typically find in high-quality supplements.
Here, learn all about vitamin E, its health benefits, signs of deficiency, common food sources, and when to consider taking it in supplement form.

What role does vitamin E play in the body?

"Vitamin E's main function is to work as an antioxidant, scavenging loose electrons—so-called 'free radicals'—that can damage cells," says Joel Kahn, M.D., cardiologist and mindbodygreen Collective member. Left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Its antioxidant capabilities also play an important role in protecting our cells from the damaging effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV rays from the sun, making it extremely important for the health of our skin.
"Vitamin E is known as the 'skin vitamin' because it is a powerful promoter of skin healing and protection, making it beneficial for inflammatory skin problems, burns, and wrinkles," explains Will Cole, D.C., mbg Collective member and best-selling author of the newly published Ketotarian. "It can be taken orally or applied directly on the skin."
Additionally, vitamin E plays a key role in neurological and immune function and promotes vascular health by preventing the clumping of platelets that can lead to clots and enhancing vasodilation, which keeps blood pressure in check.

What are the health benefits of vitamin E?

Vitamin E has a variety of benefits, thanks in large part to its antioxidant properties. However, it's important to understand that many of these benefits can be achieved by getting vitamin E through your diet, a multivitamin, or, in some cases, topical vitamin E oil—not necessarily high-dose vitamin E supplements, which can contain excessive amounts of this nutrient.
1. Protects skin from sun damage and pollution.
There's a good reason you're seeing vitamin E as an ingredient in face creams and serums more often. Its primary role in the skin is to prevent damage induced by free radicals and reactive oxygen species, as well as reduce inflammation.
It turns out, the photoprotective properties of vitamin E may be strongest when combined with another antioxidant, vitamin C. In one study, people who supplemented with both had less DNA damage after UV exposure. This goes for topical application, too: Several studies have shown that the topical application of vitamins E and C decreases sunburned cells, DNA damage, and skin pigmentation after UV exposure.
Environmental pollutants like ozone can also decrease vitamin E levels in the skin and lead to free radical damage, but researchers say topical application of vitamin E may be able to counter this as well. So, city dwellers and sunbathers, in addition to eating a diet rich in vitamins E and C, consider using a serum containing these two antioxidants before slathering on your sunscreen.
2. Reduces symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
Vitamin E holds promise as a natural remedy for irritating, itchy skin conditions a well, likely due to its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties. In one study, oral supplementation of 400 IU vitamin E per day was associated with a reduction in the severity and self-rated itchiness of eczema. While topical vitamin E oil wasn't studied in this case, another study found that it was effective at reducing symptoms of psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that causes thick, itchy, dry, red, scaly patches on the skin.
If your skin is in rough shape this winter, consider adding a few drops of vitamin E oil to your favorite non-irritating moisturizer and applying all over problem areas.
3. Improves immune functioning.
As we get older, or when we're dealing with any chronic health condition, our immune functioning can become compromised, which puts us at increased risk for infectious disease, tumours, and other ailments. But research suggests that a diet high in vitamin-E-rich foods may help improve cellular immunity as we age by increasing differentiation in immature T-cells. Sounds complicated, but essentially, more T-cell differentiation means a more developed immune memory and more protection against microbial pathogens. Unless you're elderly or immunocompromised, food sources of vitamin E should be more than adequate to support your immune system. Otherwise, ask your doctor about supplements.
4. Promotes overall cardiovascular health.
As an antioxidant, vitamin E plays an important role in cardiovascular health, as it's been shown to help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (a contributor to atherosclerosis), reduce the formation of blood clots, and improve vasodilation. Several observational studies have found that an increased vitamin E intake from food sources was associated with up to a 35 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease. But vitamin-E-rich foods may be all you need—clinical trials haven't found that regular vitamin E supplementation does anything to reduce heart disease risk or death.
5. Protects against cognitive decline.
Over time, the cumulative damage to our brain's neurons caused by free radicals can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. So, researchers have speculated that getting adequate levels of antioxidants like vitamin E in your diet may help counter the damage. And this seems to be true—to a point. In one study, vitamin E consumption from foods or supplements was associated with less cognitive decline over three years among elderly patients. However, most clinical trials do not show any benefit of using vitamin E supplements to maintain cognitive performance or slow its decline, so for now, skip the pills and focus on vitamin-E-rich foods instead.
6. Keeps your vision sharp.
Macular degeneration is one of the most common causes of vision loss as we age. And, while we don't know exactly what causes it, oxidative stress is likely one culprit—which means antioxidants may help prevent or slow its progression. Studies have shown that people with relatively high dietary intake of vitamin E (around 30 IU, or internal units, per day) are about 20 percent less likely to develop macular degeneration than people consuming less than 15 IU per day. It's not clear just how beneficial vitamin E supplements are for eye health, but one study found that people reduced their risk for advanced macular degeneration by 25 percent by taking a supplement containing a combo of vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, zinc, and copper.

How much vitamin E do we need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin E for adults is 15 mg (22.5 IU) per day, and some experts say that the average intake among healthy adults is sometimes higher than this. So, it's certainly possible to get enough vitamin E via diet alone (1 tablespoon of wheat germ oil alone would fulfill your daily quota!). However, if you're eating a low-fat diet, you may be falling short and integrative and functional medicine doctors often recommend extra vitamin E in supplement form for general health purposes and to help with some of the conditions mentioned above.

How to tell if you're vitamin E deficient.

Vitamin E deficiency is rare and often only occurs if you're malnourished. "Its absence can increase oxidative stress on the brain," says Kahn, which is why many deficiency symptoms are neurological. Some signs of deficiency include worsening of your vision, numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, muscle weakness, anemia, memory problems, and poor reflexes and coordination.
If your doctor suspects vitamin E deficiency, they can confirm this with a blood test. "Many things can cause these symptoms, though, so working with a qualified functional medicine practitioner can help you determine if this is an issue with a health history and any labs that may be relevant for you," says Cole.

Food offers a mix of different forms of vitamin E, like tocopherols and tocotrienols, that likely act synergistically to exert health benefits. Here are 10 of the best food sources of vitamin E:
  • Wheat germ oil (1 tbsp): 20 mg
  • Almond milk (1 cup): 16.5 mg
  • Sunflower seeds (1 ounce): 7.4 mg
  • Almonds (1 ounce): 6.8 mg
  • Sunflower oil (1 tbsp): 5.8 mg
  • Hazelnuts (1 ounce): 4.3 mg
  • Tomato sauce (1 cup): 2.9 mg
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp): 2.9 mg
  • Dried apricots (½ cup): 2.8 mg
  • Avocado (1 fruit): 2.7 mg
  • Spinach (½ cup cooked): 1.9 mg
  • Red bell pepper (1 medium pepper): 1.8 mg
  • Broccoli (½ cup cooked): 1.2 mg
  • Kiwi (1 fruit): 1.1 mg

Are vitamin E supplements necessary?

Vitamin E deficiencies are rare, however, if you’re not eating enough vitamin E-rich foods, it may be worth taking a supplement containing this nutrient. Multivitamins typically contain around 30 IU of vitamin E, around 100 percent of the RDA. Others contain higher doses for an added boost of this highly important nutrient.
Many vitamin-E-only supplements, on the other hand, contain 400 IU or more, which is substantially higher than the RDA, and unnecessary, unless your doctor says otherwise.
With vitamin E, more isn't necessarily better—so you should be careful not to go overboard. "Unlike water-soluble vitamins like B vitamins, which in higher doses are urinated out, fat-soluble vitamins like E, D, and A are stored in the body more readily, so not overdoing it on supplementation is important," cautions Cole.
People who are at risk for certain health conditions may also want to steer clear of vitamin-E-only supplements. "Oral use of vitamin E might increase the risk of prostate cancer," says Kahn. "It can pose other serious risks as well, particularly at high doses and if you have had a heart attack or stroke."
According to the National Institutes of Health, the most worrisome possibility of taking high-dose vitamin E supplements is impaired blood clotting, which can increase the likelihood of haemorrhage and stroke in some people. All that said, however, research hasn't found any negative effects from consuming vitamin E via food.

Related Class

What type of vitamin E supplement is best?

In supplements, vitamin E is often present in one of two forms: natural or synthetic alpha-tocopherol. Naturally sourced vitamin E is commonly labelled as d-alpha-tocopherol, while the synthetically produced form is commonly labelled as dl-alpha-tocopherol.
The natural form of vitamin E is likely superior, research suggests, as it's more readily distributed throughout the body by carrier proteins in the liver. In one study, women took either natural or synthetic vitamin E and were then tested to see how much made it into their blood. It only took 149 IU of natural vitamin E to produce the same levels as 448 IU of synthetic.
But the choices don't end at natural vs. synthetic. While some supplements contain alpha-tocopherol alone, others contain a blend of mixed tocopherols, which often consist of a combination of alpha-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol. Some research suggests that mixed tocopherol supplements are best because they more closely mimic what's found in nature. In fact, the presence of gamma tocopherol has been shown to dramatically increase the amount of alpha-tocopherol that actually makes it into your cells.
Bottom line: If you're going to supplement, consider a multivitamin with d-alpha-tocopherol, or a vitamin E supplement with d-alpha-tocopherol and mixed tocopherols.

What are some ways to use vitamin E topically?

Do you have dry, flaky, irritated skin? An itchy scalp? Or just want to protect yourself from wrinkle-inducing sun damage? While consuming enough vitamin E via your diet will go a long way toward smoothing and soothing, applying this nutrient directly onto your dermis may be a more direct way to reap its skin-protective properties.
"Because it is an antioxidant and an oil, vitamin E oil has been shown to improve skin moisture, lower inflammation, and improve overall skin quality when used topically," says Cole. "You can buy vitamin E oil as a liquid by the bottle and use it directly on the skin."
But you don't want to simply crack open a vitamin E capsule and slather it onto your face or scalp. That can cause irritation. Dermatologists and estheticians typically recommend pre-formulated products such as face creams or serums where vitamin E is one of many skin-soothing ingredients. As mentioned above, products with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C may offer additional protection against damaging UV rays.
You can also purchase a topical vitamin E oil that's diluted in some combination of carrier oils such as almond, apricot, avocado, sunflower, or wheat germ. Topical vitamin E oil can be applied directly to your hands, face, and body, or massaged into your scalp before your shower. If you're the DIY type, you can add a few drops of it to homemade lip balms and other skin care products.

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Wednesday 27 February 2019

The muscle-building benefits of calisthenics training!

Gaining muscle mass and strength involves using a variety of equipment

Minimalist training programmes focus on compound barbell lifts such as the bench press and deadlift. While these can help you nail the basics, calisthenics can boost your results even further.
Calisthenics is the name given to a system of bodyweight gymnastic exercises that involve many movement patterns and muscle groups.

JOE spoke to Harry Aitken, a master trainer at Auster. Aitken's advice can help you make the most out of calisthenics for a bigger and stronger frame.

JOE: Why are pull-ups and dips are so beneficial for your upper body growth?

Aitken: "They are staple upper body exercises - the cornerstone of upper body push and pull exercises using your whole bodyweight.
"Pull-ups work your forearms, biceps, and most of your back including traps, rhomboids and of course the lats; when done properly you will also have some serratus anterior and abdominal activation too.
"Dips work your triceps, front delts, chest and even your traps and rhomboids. So with these two exercises, you are working pretty much the whole upper body. You're also performing extremely natural movements which is often overlooked."

What is the crossover between calisthenics and other gym lifts?

"If you're proficient at pull-ups, you will be strong at the lat pulldown - but if you're strong at the lat pulldown it doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to do lots of pull-ups.
"When done properly and safely, pull-ups and dips not only build muscle, but extremely strong joints, tendons and ligaments in a full range of motion."

How should calisthenic exercises be programmed into a workout routine?

"Unless you're very strong relative to your bodyweight, then chances are you won't be able to perform huge numbers of reps on these exercises.
"So it's recommended you warm up and then start your workout with these exercises. For example, if you’re doing a back workout one of the first exercises you should be doing is pull-ups.
"They are such a good back exercise, but if you leave them too late in the workout you won’t be able to perform any because of fatigue."

How would dips feature in a training plan?

"Programming for dips is slightly different - they would usually be recommended for the end of a session rather than at the beginning as they simply blast your triceps and fatigue them very quickly.
"If you're doing a chest workout in the gym, perform your usual dumbbell/barbell presses and flyes first, then begin dips. The previous exercises will have warmed up your chest, delts and triceps so you'll be ready to go straight into them."
Weighted Calisthenics Dips

How would you progress from bodyweight exercises into weighted variations?

"You should build up until you can do the following:
  • At least 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps bodyweight pull-ups before adding weight
  • Then progress with a warm-up set of bodyweight pull-ups, then add 5kg and try and hit 8-10 reps again
  • Then add another 5kg and repeat.
"If you are really strong you should be able to build up to doing a set of 5 reps with half your bodyweight in additional weight.
"With dips, 8-10 reps is a good number to aim for in the warm-up. Follow a similar pattern of progress here too."

Does calisthenics need to be done in a gym?

"These absolutely do NOT need to be done in a gym. There are many outdoor parks with bars that you can do these on.
"It's pretty cold right now but in summer it's a perfect place to workout in the sun with some beautiful scenery around you.
"You can get creative with how and where you perform these exercises. You can even do dips at home between two chairs. Use the Auster Everyday Kit or a pair of Rings you can go anywhere you want, hang them up and do your pull-ups and dips."

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3 Top Reasons Why Cannabis Is A Powerful Superfood!

Photo by Lucie Hošová via Unsplash
Did you know that we’re supposed to get 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables every day? This equates to roughly two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables, but serving sizes vary based on the country an individual resides in. Although this is the recommended amount of fruit and veggies we should eat according to the USDA (United States Dietary Association), most of the American population don’t come close to meeting this recommendation.
Fortunately, though, another plant consumed for centuries due to its plethora of medicinal, therapeutic, and nutritional benefits is cannabis. Recently, numerous researchers and physicians have labelled cannabis a superfood, worthy of incorporation into your diet in some way or another. Read on to find out the reasons why.

Medicinal, Therapeutic, and Nutritional Value of Cannabis

Cannabis’s many medicinal and therapeutic benefits have been well established, but the nutritional benefits of cannabis are still gaining recognition and public coverage. According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), superfoods are unprocessed foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, which are often derived from fruits, vegetables, and other herbs. Under this definition, numerous doctors believe cannabis can be grouped into the ‘superfoods’ category.

Besides cannabis’s array of medicinal and therapeutic benefits, the plant is an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients. In general, there are various parts of cannabis that can be consumed such as its leaves, stems, and buds whether they’re heated up or not. To reap cannabis’s nutritional benefits though, consuming raw parts of the plant is the way to go.

Three Reasons Why Cannabis is a Powerful Superfood

Cannabis sativa (hemp) seeds:

Cannabis sativa (hemp) seeds contain a multitude of nutritional benefits that can help improve one’s diet to some degree. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species, often grown to produce industrial and commercial products including food, animal feed, and other useful materials like rope, textiles, and paper. Generally, hemp seeds are consumed for their high nutrient and protein content, especially by vegans and vegetarians.
Additionally, hemp seeds are often consumed for their fatty acids content in the form of Omega-3s and Omega-6s. Overall, humans need to consume a regular amount of fatty acids, especially because of the benefits they have on our heart and brain. Research has found that when one consumes Omega fatty acids, inflammation can be reduced, ADHD and arthritic pain can be managed better, and high cholesterol can be combatted. The presence of Omega fatty acids in hemp seeds is worth noting because they also help in the area of protein production.
Hemp seeds serve as a much healthier alternative for those who don’t consume fish but need to get their serving of fatty acids. They’re also an excellent source of Vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, iron, liver enzymes, antioxidants, protein, and tocopherols. Not only is hemp extremely versatile, some of its other nutritional benefits include the following: vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, high plant-based protein content, high Omega fatty acids content, and simple to digest.

Cannabis-Derived CBD:

Cannabis contains over 400 chemical entities, and more than sixty of them are cannabinoid compounds. One of the most medically and therapeutically beneficial cannabinoids is Cannabidiol (CBD), which has also been one of the most studied compounds so far. It turns out that CBD can help in more ways than one could imagine. For example, CBD can be derived from the whole cannabis plant and hemp, but this cannabinoid is especially unique because it’s non-psychoactive, non-addictive, non-toxic, and safe thus making it an ideal addition to food and drinks.

In addition, it was discovered that CBD has stronger antioxidant properties than Vitamin C and E combined. When we get sick, there are different foods, supplements, and medicines we can take to help us feel better. Whether you’re fighting off a cold or infection, CBD can deliver antioxidant, antibiotic, and anti-bacterial properties making it both a beneficial medicine and superfood.
Since cannabis continues to be examined and studied, CBD’s nutritional benefits are still being discovered. Even though cannabis isn’t a vegetable per se, it contains numerous vitamins, nutrients, and minerals like vegetables do, and CBD has a rich vitamin and neuroprotective antioxidant content.

Raw Cannabis’s Nutritional Benefits:

Lastly, although various cannabinoids deliver medicinal and therapeutic benefits when they’re heated up or decarboxylated, the true nutritional benefits come from the consumption of raw, non-psychoactive cannabinoids. Below are some of the raw cannabinoids’ benefits:
  • Improve the productivity and efficiency of the cells within our body
  • Activates the brain’s endocannabinoid system thus activating an antioxidant release
  • Raw cannabinoids’ antioxidants act as a ‘cleaner’ by removing damaged cells out of the body
  • When orally ingested, therapeutic benefits are achieved more effectively
  • Can be incorporated into your diet in numerous ways
For instance, you can grind up raw cannabis leaves, buds, or stems to use as seasonings or toppings for salads, soups, stews, oatmeal, porridge, etc. Also, juicing raw cannabis leaves is nutritionally beneficial, according to Dr. William Courtney. He recommends using 20-30 big shade leaves or two or three raw buds daily to reap numerous nutritional and therapeutic benefits. You can also grind up raw cannabis parts and add it into smoothies, shakes, and sauces.

The Unique Role of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

Moreover, all humans and mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is one of the most integral physiological systems involved in the establishment and maintenance of one’s health. This system plays a vital role in the functioning of the brain, endocrine, and immune tissues. The ECS also plays a significant part in the secretion of hormones associated with reproductive functions and stress responses.
In addition, the ECS regulates homeostasis and influences the function of the food consumption centres of the body’s central nervous system (CNS) and gastrointestinal tract activity. Throughout our bodies are endocannabinoids and their receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are within the brain, connective tissues, glands, immune cells, and various organs. Within each tissue, the ECS plays a role in maintaining homeostasis, which is the maintenance of a stable internal environment regardless of different instabilities in the external environment.

One study stated the following about this integral system:
“This system plays a significant role in a wide range of physiologic processes and behaviours including neurogenesis, neural development, immune function, metabolism and energy homeostasis, synaptic plasticity and learning, pain, emotional state, arousal and sleep, stress reactivity, and reward processing/addiction to other drugs of abuse.”
Overall, not only is cannabis medically and therapeutically beneficial, this plant and by-products of it can be nutritionally beneficial if raw forms of it are consumed. Whether you want a vitamin, nutrient, or mineral boost or an improvement in your well-being, try consuming raw cannabinoids and/or hemp seeds and see how much it improves your health and lifestyle.

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Tuesday 26 February 2019

How Eating Superfoods Can Take Your Diet to the Next Level

The hype around these ingredients is relentless. Here's what you should look for at the grocery store—and, more importantly, what to avoid.
At this point, our relationships with the food we eat have become no less complicated than our relationships with the people we talk to on a daily basis. And the abundance of choices has made us more obsessed than ever with seeking out not merely foods that are good for us, but foods that are best for us. This is where superfoods—the guiltless, sinless, natural, nourishing ingredients that feature heavily in Gwyneth Paltrow blog posts—come in to play. Since the term now gets applied to everything from orange peels to alligator meat, we took a closer look at some of the most common superfoods to see which ones are worth your time—and which ones you can leave on the shelf.

The superfood: Açai, a small, tart berry with a rich purple-red hue. Prices fall between $2 (for an individually-packaged drink or a healthier iteration of the Pop-Tart) to around $30 (for a bagful of blender-ready powder), but you’ll see them for sale most often in smoothie/breakfast bowls.
The claims: Manufacturers and health-food blogs say it will heal wounds faster, lower cholesterol, combat premature aging, improve sleep, and reduce pain.
What experts say: “Açai? Beautiful, a beautiful fruit,” said New York-based nutritionist and CUNY professor Lorraine Kearney. “But when you go to, say, a smoothie place, and they’re breaking it down and turning it into the smoothie form, what they’re actually doing is breaking down fiber as well.”
This is a common refrain from experts: A superfood in its purest, least-processed form might indeed be “super,” but additives and packaging can corrupt an otherwise-healthful product. In the case of açai, that means sugar. “A lot of times, if you read that ingredient list, they’re going to have added three or four types of sugar,” Kearney said.
The upshot: Incorporating açai into your diet won’t be as effortful as, say, kale; it’s fruity and delicious, and the unprocessed version provides a lot of the same benefits as other produce. If you decide to dive in, look for products that are low in sugar, or opt for supplemental tablets.

The superfood: Chia seeds, which are most frequently sold in bags, can be found floating in bottled drinks and dotting granola bars and cereals.
The claims: They’re full of fiber, so they’ll keep you regular. They fight cancer. They’ll lower your triglycerides and raise your good cholesterol.
What experts say: Chia seeds provide lignan, an important type of polyphenol—the micronutrients that show promising links to disease prevention—as well as Omega-3 fatty acids. They also carry a good amount of fiber—about 11 grams per serving, or half the amount you should get in a day.
As for fighting cancer? “I haven't heard this,” said Vasanti Malik, a research scientist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Some evidence suggests that there are certain active compounds found in chia—essential fatty acids, flavonols, and phenolic compounds—some of which may have a role in cancer prevention.” Another trend we noticed when asking about superfood claims: As in a game of telephone, the nuanced findings of scientific studies often get mangled by the health-food marketing grapevine.
Look for links or footnotes on any site that lauds a product as a nutritional magic bullet. “I don’t expect people to learn how to read a scientific paper and go straight to the source,” Malik said, “but that’s not feasible for most people. I think the next-best thing is trying to go to the academic websites that take the science and break it down.”
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Looking for some nutrient-rich antioxidant power packed vegan breakfast? You need to try this delicious matcha pancakes recipe.
Matcha is a great superfood, it is packed full of antioxidants, helps boost your metabolism, and even can help increase your focus. Matcha can come in the form of a potent green powder and is versatile enough to be included in many sweet and savoury dishes. You can most commonly taste matcha in the form of matcha tea, matcha smoothies, and matcha muffins, but what about matcha pancakes? Here is how you can make a delicious matcha pancakes breakfast using this nutrient-packed ingredient.
Yummy Matcha Pancakes
Credits: MShev/ Shutterstock
Yummy Matcha Pancakes

Yummy Matcha Pancakes

(Serves 4)


  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • Vegan butter
  • Vegan whipped cream
  • Shredded coconut
  • xtra matcha powder to sprinkle


  1. In a large bowl, sift all dry ingredients together in order to eliminate any clumps. If you do not have a sifter, whisk all of the dry ingredients together until all lumps have been broken apart.
  2. Add in the coconut milk and vanilla to the dry ingredients. Whisk well until you have a smooth batter. It should be thick like cake batter. If the mixture feels too gummy, add in more coconut milk, a couple of teaspoons at a time until the correct consistency has been achieved.
  3. In a small pan on low-medium heat, use a small amount of vegan butter to grease the pan.
  4. Using a ladle, scoop the contents to make pancakes the size of the small pan (so, one at a time) on the greased pan.
  5. Once the batter is in the pan, cover with a lid and flip with a spatula once the top of the pancakes begin to “bubble” or until the edges begin to brown.
  6. Recover with the lid and cook for two minutes on the opposite side. Remove from heat once finished.
  7. Repeat steps 3-5 until all of your batter is used up.
  8. (Optional) Top with a large helping of vegan whipped cream, shredded coconut, and sprinkle with more matcha powder.
  9. Serve immediately with your favourite maple syrup and a side of seasonal fruit.
What is your favourite matcha-inspired recipe? Let me know in the comments below.

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Help for abnormal heartbeat!

Help for abnormal heartbeat image

A friend of mine experiences palpitations from time to time and has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. She doesn't like taking pills of any sort—drugs or supplements. Are there any diet or lifestyle changes she can make that can help? (T.E., via email)
Atrial fibrillation (AF), when the heart beats irregularly or faster than normal, is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). As well as the palpitations your friend is familiar with, it can cause fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and chest pain. And while it's not immediately life-threatening, it can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
The best plan of action is for your friend to work with an experienced functional medicine practitioner who can try to work out if there's a correctable cause such as high blood pressure, an overactive thyroid, a food allergy, an infection or certain medications, and then recommend a personalized treatment plan.
But here are some simple lifestyle tweaks for your friend that the science says may help.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
A Mediterranean diet—one that's high in whole grains, olive oil, fatty fish, fruits and vegetables—is widely considered the best diet for the heart. And those who follow the diet have a lower risk of AF.1 Aim to eat an array of brightly colored fruit and veggies—such as blueberries, raspberries, kale, beets and red cabbage—as these tend to be rich in heart-healthy antioxidants.
Health fact
It's been estimated that atrial fibrillation will affect 6-12 million people in the US by 2050 and 17.9 million in Europe by 2060.
Cut the caffeine
Even though the evidence is far from clear cut,2 caffeine could be a cause of AF for some. Try eliminating it from your diet to see if there's a positive effect. Watch out for it in tea, chocolate, energy drinks, protein bars, ice cream and headache pills as well as your cup of coffee.
Limit alcohol
Heavy drinkers are about 50 percent more likely to develop AF than those who drink moderately or not at all.3 And if you smoke, quit—smoking doubles the risk.4
Try acupuncture
This traditional Chinese technique has been shown to be nearly 20 percent more effective at controlling AF than the antiarrhythmic drug amiodarone and is free of the nasty side-effects.5 In patients who've had electrical cardioversion—a conventional therapy that uses low-energy shocks to get the heart's rhythm back to normal—acupuncture can prevent the abnormal rhythms from coming back.6
Take up yoga
Practicing yoga twice a week for three months can reduce AF episodes as well as feelings of depression and anxiety.7 It may work by alleviating stress and boosting emotional wellbeing, both of which appear to be important factors in AF.
Don't worry, be happy
Research suggests that negative emotions—sadness, anger, stress, impatience and anxiety—can trigger AF, and symptoms are 85 percent less likely on 'happy days.'1 Try to foster a healthy mindset by taking time for the things that make you feel good.
Here are five proven ways to boost wellbeing from British think tank the New Economics Foundation.2
Get connected. Social relationships are vital for health and happiness. Invest time in connecting with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors. Join a group that interests you or get involved with your local community.
Stay active. Exercise is good for both body and mind. Find an activity that makes you feel good and suits your fitness level and mobility.
Be mindful. Paying more attention to your surroundings and the present moment, known as mindfulness, can improve wellbeing. Try one of the many mindfulness journals now available to get you into the habit of living in the now.
Keep learning. Learning new things can boost optimism, self-esteem and may even lift depression. Set yourself an enjoyable challenge such as learning to play an instrument, a sport or how to cook your favorite food.
Give. Those who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Volunteer, help a stranger or do something nice for a friend.
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Can blueberries actually help lower your blood pressure?

(Picture: Getty) We were told for years that blueberries are a ‘superfood’. More recently, the school of thought on this has shifted and most of us have arrived at the conclusion that ‘superfoods’ actually don’t exist. So, while blueberries may not actually have superpowers, new research suggests that regularly eating the brightly coloured fruit could have a positive impact on your heart health. A new study published in the Journal of Gerontology Series A has found that eating 200g of blueberries every day for a month can lower a healthy person’s blood pressure. 

 Researchers from King’s College London studied 40 healthy volunteers and monitored their blood and urine as well as their blood pressure and how well their arteries functioned. They found that the volunteers who had been given a drink containing the blueberries experienced effects on their blood vessel function just two hours after consuming the fruit. They also found that over the course of the month, their blood pressure was reduced by 5mmHg. A reduction that is similar to what is seen in studies using blood pressure lowering medication. The scientists think the results could be down to anthocyanins – which is the flavanoid in blueberries that give them their vivid blue colour. (Picture: Getty) ‘Although it is best to eat the whole blueberry to get the full benefit, our study finds that the majority of the effects can be explained by anthocyanins,’ explains lead researcher Dr. Ana Rodriguez-Mateos. ‘If the changes we saw in blood vessel function after eating blueberries every day could be sustained for a person’s whole life, it could reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 20%.’ So are blueberries the answer? Could they really hold the key to lowering your risk of heart disease? Or do we need to take a close look at the findings? We spoke to nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr to get a second opinion. ‘It is suggested that blueberries can help lower your blood pressure thanks to the flavonoid and antioxidant content,’ Clarissa tells ‘However, the study looked at “40 healthy volunteers” and not at those already suffering with higher blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. ‘Therefore to understand the impact of blueberries on blood pressure of those with already high blood pressure measures, we need to look at other studies or wait until further research is published. ‘The study helps us understand the preventative measure of eating blueberries, but not the impact on reducing already high blood pressure levels. ‘Additionally, participants were given drinks containing blueberries for the one month period. The impact of eating those blueberries in their full and natural state could give us further health benefits. ‘Blueberries are delicious and naturally sweet, but ideally, we should be getting a rich and diverse balance of antioxidants and flavonoids from a range of fruits rather than fixating on one particular source.’ Foods that can lower your blood pressure According to Clarissa, the following foods are also great for heart health and will have a positive effect on your blood pressure.
 Flaxseeds Consumption of flaxseeds has been linked to a reduction in blood pressure thanks to the mix of alpha linolenic acid, lignans, peptides and their fibre content. One study examined participants with pre-existing hypertension and reported that those consuming flaxseeds in a variety of forms, over a six-month period, actually saw a reduction in blood pressure compared to those taking a placebo. The study even showed that those on blood pressure lowering medication could benefit from further reductions by consuming flaxseeds. Cocoa is a rich source of polyphenols which are suggested to help reduce cardiovascular risk. Cocoa consumption has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure in healthy subjects and in patients with risk factors and hypertension. One meta-analysis suggested that dark chocolate and flavanol-rich cocoa were effective in reducing hypertension. However, this does depend on the quality of the cocoa beans and their manufacturing process, as the flavanols can be significantly reduced in the fermentation and roasting process. Additionally, commercial chocolate contains high levels of sugar and fat, which can impact the quality of the cocoa benefits, so we should be reaching for good quality cocoa and aiming for dark and 70% cocoa plus

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Alert: GMOs and Medical Cannabis!

You may have noticed a lot of hubbub in the news and social media about GMOs these days.  GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms have been around for decades, with mixed reviews from scientists, doctors, and other experts.
The subject is one of great controversy, with more questions than answers. Yet, many people actively worry about what these alterations to nature do to our bodies, especially through the food we ingest.
More recently, GMOs are getting attention as they relate to medical cannabis crops. This is in large part due to the increase1 in the number of U.S states with medical cannabis programs, as well as several other states and Canada2 approving adult recreational use. Increased access equals increased consumption.
As GMO versions of this medicinal plant become more and more widespread, there may be a good reason for patients to be concerned, or at least, aware and on alert. Let’s explore some reasons why. But first…

What Are GMOs?

The term GMO refers3 to changing the genes or DNA of any living thing to achieve a specific set of results. This includes everything from bacteria, insects, and animals to the numerous plants and herbs that people rely on for nutrition and medicine.
It’s important to understand that this process is not the same as cross-breeding and cloning plants by farmers. Instead, GMOs are altered in a laboratory.
When discussing GMOs, in most cases, experts aren’t discussing the plants. Instead, they’re going back further to the seeds.
Similar to genetically modified organisms, genetically modified seeds4 are altered to only produce desired characteristics such as salt tolerance, higher yields, larger vegetables, or resistance to certain insects.
Specifically, the idea was to increase crop yield while reducing the need for harmful pesticides. However, after years of use, these promises5 have not been kept.
A study done by the New York Times in 20165 found that crop yields have not increased in the U.S. and Canada where GMOs are found, and the use of pesticides has not decreased, either.
The only thing that has increased is the use of pesticides, which in return can have catastrophic results on people and the environment. More on that below.

Are You Aware How Much GMO Foods You Already Consume?

“…70-80 percent of the foods we eat in the United States, both at home and away from home, contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.”
Before we get further into the potential concerns around GMO produced cannabis products, let’s get an idea of how many of the foods you eat are alreadyengineered in a lab.
The USDA reports6:
• 91% of U.S. corn (About 40 percent7 of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for fuel — the remainder feeds livestock and is used for cooking oil)
• 94% of soybeans
• 94% of cotton8 (and cottonseed oil9 used as a healthy cooking oil alternative)
• 94% of sugarbeets10 (comprising 42% of the sugar Americans consume6)
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association11,12, which happens to be pro-GMOs and against labeling products with genetic modification, “70-80 percent of the foods we eat in the United States, both at home and away from home, contain ingredients that have been genetically modified.”
The biggest player in GMOs around the world, is Monsanto.

Who is Monsanto and Why Are They Important?

Monsanto’s history spans over 100 years. The company was founded in 1901 and its first product was saccharine13, which is an artificial sweetener (which has had its own controversy, if you are old enough to remember13).
That would change in the 1940s14 when the company changed its focus to agricultural chemicals. During this time, Monsanto was one of the companies producing “Agent Orange”, which would go on to be used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
“Agent Orange” is a herbicide15 that the military sprayed from 1962 to 1971 in order to quickly remove the trees and dense plants of Vietnam’s jungles, where enemy combatants would hide.
Not only did it destroy the vegetation in the Asian country, but it was later found to also be responsible for numerous16 cancers and other illnesses in anyone who came in contact with the powerful herbicide. The impact of this chemical warfare continues to this day, in many U.S. veterans17.
Next Monsanto15 moved to creating and widely distributing the product, Roundup, which contains the chemical glyphosate.

Roundup in Your Food and on Your Medicine

While there are many concerns about all GMOs, especially when it comes to long-term studies about the effects on humans, animals, and the environment, one of the biggest problems with GMOs is with the pesticide Roundup and the damage it’s already causing.
As stated above, the main ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate. The use of glyphosate began in the mid-1970s and is still in use today, despite increasing evidence18 of it being harmful19 to the food chain.
According to a February 2018 article in The Scientist Magazine14, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world.
In 1996, Monsanto stepped up its game by introducing plant seeds that are immune to glyphosate effects. This means that anyone using “Roundup Ready14” seeds can spray Roundup on their crops and kill weeds without harming the crop. If you’re wondering how this is safe, the technical answer is that scientists are “unsure.”
A 2015 report20 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated that “The herbicide glyphosate and the insecticides malathion and diazinon were classified as probably carcinogenic to humans.
This was a roundabout way of saying that the chemicals in Roundup have a high probability of causing cancer in humans.  
The biggest hit to Monsanto and the Roundup question came in August 201821after a jury found the company partially responsible for the terminal, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer diagnosis of Dewayne Johnson, 46, a California school groundskeeper.
They’ve been ordered to pay Johnson, $289 million. Mr. Johnson’s medical team testified that they don’t expect the former groundskeeper to live past 2020.
“…the chemicals in Roundup have a high probability of causing cancer in humans.”

The Big Boys Have Joined Forces

One big cause of concern in the cannabis-GMO connection is because in 2018, Monsanto merged22 with the global pharmaceutical giant,  Bayer.
This merger alarms many, citizens and experts alike, as the partnership will undoubtedly further expand genetically modified crops around the world23,24.
According to the non-profit advocacy group, Center for Food Safety, “Bayer has a large suite of weed-killing pesticides (aka herbicides), and is also a world leader in seed treatments – insecticides and fungicides that are applied to seeds, and are taken up into plant tissues of the growing seedling.
Certain seed treatments (neonicotinoids) are highly toxic to pollinators, and have been implicated in the decline of honeybees and wild bee populations.”

So Are They Safe?

One of the big problems for clear, black and white answers as to GMOs, pesticides, and consumer safety is the lack of long-term studies.
David Bellinger, a Harvard University of Public Health professor explained in the 2016 New York Times article5, “These chemicals are largely unknown . . . We do natural experiments on a population (in reference to chemical exposure in agriculture) and wait until it shows up as bad.”  

What is the Current Status of GMOs in Cannabis?

“…with the complete merger of the two companies, it’s the world’s largest supplier of seeds and pesticides.”
As of writing this article, there isn’t a lot of data available about genetically modified medical cannabis. However, experts do know25 that many companies are working on using them for a multitude of reasons. This would seem to include Bayer, if the merger is a clue.
While experts don’t have any direct information that Bayer is working on using genetically modified cannabis, they do know that Bayer26 entered into an agreement with GW Pharmaceuticals in 2003 to share research.
GW Pharmaceuticals is one27 of the largest developers of plant-derived cannabinoids (the compounds in the cannabis plant) in the world and the creator of Epidolex, the first cannabis-based product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) Later, in 2007, Bayer Agriculture signed an additional agreement with Monsanto to share technology.
Although Monsanto has denied in the past that they are developing genetically modified variations of the cannabis plant, the concerns are that one28 of their largest shareholders, George Soros26, is a major supporter of cannabis legalization.
Now with the complete merger of the two companies, it’s the world’s largest29supplier of seeds and pesticides. This gives the newly merged Monsanto and Bayer everything they need to jump into the cannabis industry and modify the seeds of this sacred plant before they even make it to the farm or growing facility.

Other Major Cannabis Players Jumping on the Bandwagon

Another red flag for consumers, much more directly connected to GMOs and medical cannabis, surrounds CannTrust Holdings, Inc.30 
They are one31 of the largest suppliers of medical cannabis in Canada and with recreational32 legalization, they’re expanding33 into the adult-use industry.
CannTrust Holdings, Inc. is also a U.S., Australia34, and Denmark medical cannabis supplier. Their reach is growing, and they just made it to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)30.
The former president and chief operating officer of CannTrust Holdings Inc., Brad Rogers, recently said in a September 201825 BNN Bloomberg interview, “We want to be the Monsanto of pot.”
Though it’s hard to speculate what he meant by that statement, it does raise questions. Do they want to be a multi-billion dollar pot monopoly? Control the GMO world of cannabis?
Some clues: Rogers further explains25 in the interview that CannTrust Holdings Inc is looking to increase their supplies while reducing the cost of cannabis to as little as 20 cents a gram.
The company plans to do this by expanding their growing business, now. Recognizing there’s only so much land for farming, they expect to outsource farming to reduce overhead costs as the overall demand increases.
Although we don’t yet know for sure that CannTrust will use GMOs, Roger’s comments suggest that the company wants to move towards supplying the seeds to the farmers, rather than continuing with their own growing facilities.

So, what does this mean for the future of medical cannabis?

“Patients, especially, need to know what’s in their food, and now their medicines.”

It may be too late to stop the production of genetically modified cannabis and other products, but, it’s never too late to send a message to the companies that are using them.
Be vigilant. Read the labels on all the products you use.
Find out where your medical cannabis is grown, what type of seeds the grower uses, and always check the lab report35 information that shows when, where, and who did the testing for pesticides and other contaminants in your medicine.
You can even go a step further and contact the lab to verify the information the dispensary provides is accurate.
While there’s no definitive answer about what the future holds for genetically modified medical cannabis, the direction is clear — At the bare minimum, companies25 are looking for ways to use GMOs to increase production to meet demand, lower production costs, and increase revenue.
As stated above, these companies are seeking to make these changes to save money, and we have seen before that they choose what can be harmful and in some cases deadly ways to reach those goals.
While more research is needed, it’s safe to say that consumers need to step up to the plate and start asking for answers to hard questions from the companies mentioned above, and other companies, about GMOs. Patients, especially, need to know what’s in their food, and now their medicines.
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