Friday, May 30, 2008

Mediterranean diet may also help stop diabetes

From Yahoo Health News: A Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables -- already known to protect against heart disease -- also appears to help ward off diabetes, Spanish researchers said on Friday.

The study published in the British Medical Journal showed that people who stuck closely to the diet were 83 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who did not.

Common Myths about Women's Health -- Part II

Think weight gain is an inevitable part of aging? Figure exercise is a waste of time if you can’t devote an entire hour to physical activity? Convinced statin drugs are the only way to reduce cholesterol levels? Based on an article by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP at Women to Women, here’s how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to several common myths about women’s health -- Part II!

The older you get, the less sleep you need.
Fact: After about the age of 50, women spend less time in deep REM sleep and spend more time in stage I and II (lighter sleep). This doesn't necessarily mean we need less sleep, but it does mean that we are definitely more prone to waking up due to light, noise, night sweats, and other sleep disruptors. To make sure you are getting maximum rest and not just sleeping less because outside factors are keeping you up, take special care to create a relaxing and quiet sleep environment, exercise earlier in the day, and refrain from eating just before bedtime. Here are some special tips if you suffer from insomnia.

Statin drugs are the best way to control high cholesterol levels.
Depending on your cholesterol levels and family and personal health history, you most likely can achieve an improved lipid profile through natural means. Start with your diet and eliminate processed and refined ingredients (including trans fats, fat “substitutes”, high fructose corn syrup and other chemicals), limiting carbohydrates, eating fresh whole foods from the source as much as possible, and getting adequate amounts of healthy fat. Add in exercise and you've got the recipe for reduced LDL cholesterol levels. Also, two supplements that are known to help with cholesterol levels are red yeast and fish oil. Here's more from Women to Women on the Truth About Cholesterol and Fat.

Myth: You need to exercise 30–60 minutes per day to have any impact on health.
Fact: Good news for the gym-phobic, this myth is not true
. For health benefits without a lot of time expenditure, try “bursting”. This exercise method has you bring your body to an extreme quickly and repeatedly — to the point where you’re breathing so heavily, you might not be able to talk. If you exercise in bursts, you may not require more than 20 minutes three to four times a week to improve your health. Work your way to bursting for one minute (run, bike, and some other intense exercise) and then try to "burst" 3 or 4 times during a 20 minute workout. Studies show that this form of exercise might actually be better at warding off osteoporosis. More on bursting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Common Women's Health Myths -- Fact or Fiction? Part I

Think weight gain is an inevitable part of aging? Figure exercise is a waste of time if you can’t devote an entire hour to physical activity? Convinced statin drugs are the only way to reduce cholesterol levels? Based on an article by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP at Women to Women, here’s how to separate fact from fiction when it comes to several common myths about women’s health.

Myth: Menopause results in permanent weight gain
Fact: You might gain weight, but it's probably only temporary.
As estrogen levels begin to drop during perimenopause and menopause, the body relies on fat cells to produce low levels of the hormone. This estrogen helps protect your body from the abrupt hormonal transitions of menopause (think of it as softening the landing of free falling estrogen levels). During this time your body might store more fat (and make it more difficult to lose fat). Once the body has adjusted to less estrogen, oftentimes weight goes down again.

Myth: Stress makes you gain weight -- especially during menopause.
Fact: True!
Adrenal glands factors into menopausal weight gain. As hormone production in the ovaries begins to wind down during perimenopause and menopause, the adrenals contribute small amounts of estrogen and other sex hormones to help ease the transition. If you are under chronic stress (and these days, who isn’t?), the adrenals use all their time and energy to produce more and more cortisol, leaving less reserve for manufacturing sex hormones. Over time, this “cortisol dominance” leads to deposition of fat in the abdominal area and a hormonal imbalance which will lead to more weight gain, fat storage, and increased menopausal symptoms.

The key to successful weight management during menopause is to reduce stress and follow a healthy diet. This will give your body the best opportunity to function normally and navigate its own way through menopausal changes.

Myth: If you eat a low-fat, low-calorie diet, you will lose weight.
Fact: You might lose in the short-term, but you'll probably end up gaining it all back -- and then some!
Low-fat, low-calorie diets will trigger your body to store fat because it thinks it is experiencing famine. Also, low-fat, low-calorie diets set the stage for hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, food cravings, and binges. Yuck! What’s the best diet to follow for weight loss? According to this article, think Mediterranean (lots of veggies, heart healthy oils, not a lot of processed carbs) and you can’t go wrong!

More myths coming up shortly in my next post!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A peek at recent health and fitness books, magazines and blogs

What I'm reading -- books, magazines, and blogs -- this month...

Diet Book

Maintaining your body at peak performance is the driving force behind The Detox Strategy -- Vibrant Health in Five Easy Steps (The Idea Network Inc., $26), by New York Times bestselling author Brenda Watson. She's an alternative health-care expert who has been teaching people about cleansing, detoxification and digestive care for 20 years. She writes about the signs and symptoms of toxicity and gives tips and information about how to renew your life and rejuvenate your body and mind. Watson will tell you about hidden toxins in everything from your mattress and toothpaste to your nonstick pans and bottled water.

Magazine Alert

Put up the June issue of Women's Health. It's loaded with interesting info such as ... People who walked 3 to 8.7 miles per week cut their chances of needing medication for diabetes by 23 percent, compared to those who logged less than 3 miles. One long weekly walk of 3.7 to 5 miles is key -- that walk dropped participants' need for cholesterol meds by 33 percent and blood pressure meds by 28 percent over those who stopped at 2.5 miles. This issue also has 100 time-saving Web sites, super-healthful salads and tips on faster weight loss. There is so much packed in this month. I read the issue while waiting for dinner to finish cooking and let almost everything burn in the process!

Blogs I'm Reading (May):

My Menopause Blog
-- Get well, Sue! Sue Richards, everyone's favorite meno-blogger is also battling Parkinson's Disease. She has a great mind-set and is staying the course with a holistic approach to healing. She hasn't posted in a few weeks, but she's still in my thoughts a lot. Her archives are a treasure trove of menopause info and perspective.

Magnolia Diaries -- Magnolia is a witty, warm, and fun-loving mom who writes about menopause, health issues, life, and whatever else crosses her mind! I especially like her reading recommendations (hint, she's an Anne LaMott fan, too!).

About's Menopause Blog: I knew About has a women's health blog, but I just discovered the menopause blog. Lots of great info, including a new blog about vitamin D (if you've ready any of my other blog entries, you know this is one of my favorite topics!)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Low Vitamin D Tied to Depression in Older Adults

Another vitamin-D related study released today linking low levels of vitamin D with an increased the risk of depression in older adults. One the causes of vitamin-D deficiency is again suspected to be not enough exposure to the sun. It also brings to light the relationship between vitamin-D deficiency, hormonal imbalance, and psychiatric illnesses.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vitamin D and Breast Cancer

From Yahoo Health News comes an article covering a new report on vitamin D and breast cancer...

Breast cancer patients with low levels of vitamin D were much more likely to die of the disease or have it spread than patients getting enough of the nutrient, a Canadian study found. Only 24 percent of women in the study had sufficient blood levels of D at the time they were first diagnosed with breast cancer. Those who were deficient were nearly twice as likely to have their cancer recur or spread over the next 10 years, and 73 percent more likely to die of the disease.

Here's my blog post from last month about vitamin D and overall health, Let the Sunshine In!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Specific Soy Isoflavone Found Effective for Menopause Relief

For more on soy's benefits during menopause:

Nutritional and health benefits of soy — what’s in a bean?

Giving Menopause a Workout

An article in the Denver Post today discusses the benefits of exercise for menopausal women:

It is frustrating to be confronted with the seeming inevitability of menopausal weight gain, but daily exercise can do more than burn calories: It helps protect women from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and other disorders. These conditions rise dramatically with the reduction of heart- and bone-protecting estrogen among postmenopausal women. Consistent physical activity and exercise become crucial. Good bone health is supported by resistance training (in the form of weightlifting, taking power yoga, or Pilates) two to three times per week, and by weight-bearing aerobic activity (walking, jogging, and dancing) most days of the week.

The heart responds to aerobic activity in general and according to Bryan L. Haddock, who has done research at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas, cardiorespiratory fitness can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women regardless of whether they used hormone replacement therapy.

Also listed were several workout options for women of varying ability levels.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Coq au Cox-3

I've spent the day obsessing over how to increase my family's intake of cox-3 inhibiting foods (see previous post) and came up with this dish for dinner. I've noted ingredients known to contain cox-3 inhibitors and/or are foods with a known anti-inflammatory effect.

Coq au Cox-3

1 pound chicken, cut into pieces
1 onion, diced (rich in quercitin, an antioxidant)
3 cloves garlic, minced (antioxidants)
1 large piece of ginger, grated (about 1/4 cup) (antioxidants)
1 zucchini, sliced (beta- carotene found in zucchini has anti-inflammatory properties)
1 yellow squash, sliced (vitamin C in summer squash is an anti-inflammatory)
5 Roma tomatoes, chopped (I've read that vitamin C and folate make them anti-inflammatory, yet my husband's naturopath told him to avoid tomatoes because they belong to the nightshade family -- which are inflammatory. Need to look into this a bit)
1 cup coconut milk (okay, so this was the one ingredient of questionable nutritional value, but it tasted good)
At least 2 tbsp curry powder (Cox-3 blocker)
At least 2 tbsp turmeric (Cox-3 blocker)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon (Blood glucose control)
2 tbsp olive oil (antioxidant)
salt and pepper

Directions: In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil and saute onion and garlic until tender. Add chicken, curry, turmeric, chili, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and continue to saute; flip chicken pieces to cook each side. After 7 minutes, add zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and pour into a casserole dish. Stir in coconut milk and add more spices, if desired. Place in 325 degree oven and let cook for 2-3 hours or until chicken is tender enough to fall off the bones. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serves 3-4 people.

This dinner was met with praise by all, including a picky 5-year old who claimed the chicken tasted like hot dogs. Sure enough, the Organic hot dogs we buy do list turmeric as ingredient for coloring.

Natural Sources for Cox-2 Inhibitors

Following up on my previous post about aspirin therapy reducing breast cancer risk, turns out there are several herbs and other foods that also contain a similar anti-inflammatory, cox-2 blocking benefit (see previous entry more on Cox-2). Edible source of cox-2 inhibitors include:

-- Red grapes: The Cox-2 inhibitor known as resveratrol is produced in the skin of red grapes, where it protects against oxidation and fungal infections. Resveratrol is found in grape juice and red wine; red Bordeaux and French Cabernets contain a particularly high concentration of the compound.

Resveratrol appears to help protect against cancer in at least three ways: It has anti-inflammatory effects, it's a powerful antioxidant, and it may prevent cancer cells from progressing to the next stage. Supplements provide about 600 mcg of resveratrol, the amount found in a glass of red wine.

-- Rosemary: This common spice also contains strong Cox-2 inhibitors. Rosemary can be used as a seasoning. It can also be consumed as a tea: Use 1 tsp. dried leaves per cup of hot water; steep for 15 minutes.

-- Turmeric and curcumin (spices found in curries and sometimes chili) contain cox-2 inhibitors.

-- Green Tea: Green tea has also been shown to inhibit the COX-2 enzyme, and it has strong antioxidant effects as well. Several population studies have indicated that green tea possesses powerful anticancer effects. Try drinking green tea daily.

-- Bee Propolis: the sticky resin collected by bees from pines and other trees, is "one of the most potent natural COX-2 inhibitors," according to Dr. Gaynor, director of medical oncology at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York. I like the brand Really Raw Honey because it has a layer of propolis -- "cappings" -- at the top of every jar. If you don't want to eat it, you can buy bee propolis (typically sold as 500 mg capsules) at almost any health food store.

Is it the medicine cabinet versus the spice rack when it comes to reducing cancer risk? It can be difficult to weigh the pros and cons between pharmaceutical treatment and a natural course for health. Bottom line, everyone benefits from a healthy diet including the foods listed above. For more on inflammation and women's health, here's an article from addressing this topic.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Aspirin Reduces Breast Cancer Risk?

Yes it does, according to a study published in the latest issue of the journal, Breast Cancer Research. In a long-term study of 127,000 women, those who took a daily asporin were 16% less likely to develop estrogen-receptive breast cancer. Here's a quote from the article:

Estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer accounts for some 75 percent of all breast cancers, experts say. Women who take an aspirin each day may reduce their risk of developing this most common type of breast cancer by 16 percent, according to the results of a large study. While aspirin reduced the risk of this form of breast malignancy, other painkillers did not, the U.S. team found.

The finding could have important implications for cancer prevention, Gretchen Gierach of the National Cancer Institute says, but a lot more work is needed to see if the effect is real. Moreover, she believes that it is still too early to recommend that women start taking aspirin to prevent breast malignancy.

"This is an exciting implication, if it's true," Gierach said. "But we need further clarity from other studies."


One expert noted that chronic aspirin use can have serious consequences and should not be used for cancer prevention.

"The American Cancer Society does not recommend using aspirin for cancer prevention because aspirin can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding," said Eric J. Jacobs, Strategic Director of Pharmacoepidemiology in the department of epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society.

How does aspirin therapy work? Aspirin is part of a drug class nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin block two enzymes, cox-1 and cox-2. Cox-2 promotes cell growth and the development of blood vessels in tumors, and it is involved in increased estrogen production in breast tissue. Cox-1 protects the lining of the stomach, initiates blood clotting, and regulates blood flow to the kidneys. So while blocking cox-2 is good news for stopping cancer cell growth and increased estrogen tissue, by blocking the enzyme that protects the stomach lining, it can wreak havoc with the GI tract.

This study is encouraging, but also leaves me wondering... Do any foods or herbs also contain this same cox-2 blocking effect (and without the drawback of cox-1 blocking)? Let me see what I can find...