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Your September Issue of Natural Alternatives
September 01, 2009

Natural Alternatives for Your Total Health

September 2009

Hello, and welcome to this little late edition edition of my Natural Alternatives Newsletter!

I hope you will enjoy reading this issue.

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“The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” ~Hippocrates







Health Day News

Scans show that treatment regulates brain's pain centers, researchers say.

Traditional Chinese acupuncture, increasingly popular in the West for a variety of ills, eases pain by regulating key receptors in the brain, according to a new study.

The study showed that acupuncture increases the binding availability of mu-opioid receptors in regions of the brain that process and weaken pain signals -- specifically the cingulate, insula, caudate, thalamus and amygdala. By directly stimulating these chemicals, acupuncture can affect the brain's long-term ability to regulate pain, the study found.

A report on the findings is in the September issue of NeuroImage. Using positron emission tomography scans of the brain, the researchers examined 20 women with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition. The women took no new medications for their pain during the study period.

"The increased binding availability of these receptors was associated with reductions in pain," Richard Harris, a researcher at the University of Michigan's Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and a research assistant professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release from the university.

What's more, Harris said, the findings could prompt doctors to use morphine and other opioid drugs with greater pain-killing effectiveness after treatment with acupuncture because those drugs bind to the same receptors.

Acupuncture has been used in China for more than 2,000 years. Practitioners insert sharp, thin needles into the body at specific points. Today, people worldwide turn to acupuncture for relief from pain, allergies, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal disorders and gynecological problems.

Chinese healers claim that acupuncture and traditional remedies work by altering the flow of the body's energy. Practitioners of Western medicine, which follows a more scientific approach, have been investigating exactly how acupuncture works -- or may not work -- for a number of years.

By Ed Edelson HealthDayNews

Studies show impact of apathy, hopelessness on cardiovascular disease

A depressed emotional state -- feelings of hopelessness and apathy -- could have a direct effect on your physical health, new research indicates.

A study of stroke survivors found a slower rate of recovery among those experiencing apathy, caring little about themselves and the world around them. And a study of healthy middle-aged women found an association between hopelessness and unexpected thickening of the carotid artery, the main blood vessel to the brain.

Both findings are reported in the Aug. 27 issue of Stroke. The apathy study was triggered by a 2006 paper on Parkinson's disease in a different journal, said Nancy E. Mayo, a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, and lead author of the apathy study. "It said that if patients were apathetic the best thing was just to leave them alone," she said. "I was incensed that the author said we just shouldn't care."

So Mayo launched a study in which 408 family caregivers of stroke survivors filled out apathy questionnaires every four months, asking whether the survivor "waits for someone to do things that he or she can do for self," or "just sits and watches" and the like.

It's an admittedly imperfect method of measurement, Mayo said, "but we used what we had." Reports indicated that a third of the stroke survivors had minor apathy through the first year, with 3 percent having high levels of apathy. Apathy worsened for 7 percent of the survivors, and eased for 7 percent during the year.

Measurements of physical function showed that "even very minor apathy had just as strong an impact on recovery as major apathy," Mayo said. Answers about the quality of life of the stroke survivors, such as their engagement in social activities, found lesser improvement among those whose apathy worsened. It's not clear what can be done to help in such a situation, Mayo said, in large part because very little research has been done on apathy. "You can't fix what you can't measure," she said. "This is a first attempt to sort things out. Since no one is paying attention, it is not surprising there are no treatments for it."

Drug therapy is a vague possibility, along with behavioral therapy. "We don't have anything that has evidence-based data other than being kind and enthusiastic," Mayo said. "Were looking at clues from addiction research. There needs to be a lot of work."

The report on the physical effect of hopelessness was an offshoot of a nationwide study of cardiovascular disease in women, said study author Susan A. Everson-Rose, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota. She and her colleagues singled out 559 menopausal women with no history of cardiovascular disease to answer a two-item questionnaire about their expectations regarding future goals.

A previous study led by Everson-Rose, using the same questionnaire in Finnish men, found an association between hopelessness and cardiovascular disease outcome, she said, as did another study in women with documented cardiovascular disease.

This new study found a direct relationship between rising hopelessness and thickening of the lining of the carotid artery, a risk factor for stroke. Overall, women measuring higher on the hopelessness scale had .02 millimeters more thickening, equal to the amount caused by one year of aging. Women with the highest hopeless scores had an average .06 millimeters greater thickening than those with the lowest scores.

"This doesn't necessarily mean that hopelessness had a direct physical effect, since it could be operating through mechanisms we didn't measure," Everson-Rose said.

But there is a clinical message, she said: "Physicians should tell patients that emotional states can have a physical effect, and that they should seek appropriate treatment for them. Psychiatric treatment for severe depression and hopelessness is warranted."

By Sidney Johnston

There are two kinds of fiber. The first is “insoluble” fiber, alias ‘roughage’, which can’t be used by the human body. Instead it moves on through, carrying out waste products and toxins. The more insoluble fiber we have, the less likely we are to retain foods inside our bodies which keeps them from putrefying. Yes, that’s a gross thought but that doesn’t make it any less true.

“Soluble” fiber becomes gooey and helps to process fats, lowers cholesterol and slows the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. Many have reported a lower cholesterol score just from consuming more fiber.

Quite simply, fiber is what makes you feel full! Obviously, if we feel full we will eat less and be more satisfied, our appetite will be more easily controlled and we will either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

The most popular theory of dieting and weight loss for decades has revolved around calories. Experts have loudly proclaimed that there is an immutable formula for calories in, calories out but, in fact, all calories are not the same because some calories require much more digestion than others.

The harder your body has to work to digest those calories, the less of them will be absorbed. The difference between a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of beans is startling. In fact, if you’d like to reduce your calorie “price” by 10%, add an extra 14 grams of fiber. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories per day, and add 28 grams of fiber to your meals, those calories will only “count” as 1600. Cool!

It’s easy to get 30, 40, 50 or more grams of fiber a day. There are four foods that supply lots of healthy fiber …

* Beans * Vegetables * Fruits * Whole grains

… and in that order, with beans being the best source of fiber. Set a target of at least 40 grams per day. Beans have approximately 15 grams of fiber per cup.

Fibre, Beans, and Blood Sugar

Scientists rate how quickly foods release their natural sugars into the bloodstream using a number called the glycemic index or GI. Foods on the low end of the glycemic scale release their natural sugars slowly over a period of time. Probably most resident in the western world have experienced the famous ’sugar high’ and researchers are positive that sugar - literally - acts like a drug on the human system. In fact, some scientists have compared sugar to heroin!

Low glycemic foods, on the other hand, release their sugars more slowly and steadily, acting a constant source of energy. These foods don’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing only to crash soon after, causing your appetite to return and often making snacks irresistible.

And, if you’re overweight, your body tissues are most likely more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar.

What makes a food low or high on the glycemic scale? It’s about the carbohydrate molecules of the substance. With low-GI food, the molecules are stacked and dense and have been compared to a stack of logs waiting to be burned in the winter fireplace. When the agents of digestion in your body - your enzymes - go to work on these logs, it takes a long time to burn them and that’s why your blood sugar isn’t much affected.

High GI carbs are more like branches or twigs, with their molecules spread apart and surrounded by space. Your enzymes quickly break them apart, releasing all their sugar into the blood at more or less the same time.

Guess who’s the undisputed champion of the low GI food groups? That’s right: legumes - beans, peas, lentils - with green veggies being a close second, calorie for calorie.

A Beans Diet and Leptin

A few years ago, it was discovered that a hormone named “leptin” [its name comes from the Greek word 'leptos' which means 'thin'] controlled the human appetite. There was an incredible excitement over this discovery and the dieting world hailed The Answer for all overweight folks. Unfortunately, leptin from outside sources has thus far been a huge flop.

Leptin is made by our body’s fat cells. When the cells realize there is enough nourishment available, [meaning you're not starving yourself by dieting!] they release leptin into the bloodstream which has two important effects:

* Your appetite declines … * Your metabolism is boosted  and thus calories are consumed more quickly …

Plant based, low-fat foods help to keep leptin levels high - while fatty foods, like animal products, suppress your leptin supply. And guess what? Beans are only 2-3% fat which means they raise your leptin levels and reduce appetite, while causing your metabolism to work harder and faster.


Thank you for reading.

Livia P.
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

P.S. If you have a comment or suggestion, just reply to this e-mail. Your feedback is important to me.



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This newsletter is for educational purposes only. It is your right to educate yourself in health and medical knowledge, to seek helpful information and make use of it for your own benefit, and for that of your family. You are the one responsible for your health. You must educate yourself in order to make decisions in all health matters. My views and advices are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medicine, but simply a help you to make educated changes in order to help your body heal itself. If you have a medical condition or concern you should consult your physician.

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