If you suffer with severe menstrual cramps and/or PMS, these natural remedies might be worth testing out. Studies have found that:
FENNEL SEEDS works like ibuprofen to reduce painful periods.
An eighth of a teaspoon of GINGER POWDER three times a day reduces menstrual bleeding by half.
Don’t forget to use ORGANIC fennel seeds and ginger powder so you’re not dosing yourself with glyphosate while easing your periods. Glyphosate is the herbicide in Monsanto’s weed killer, RoundUp. If you’re consuming GMO foods or animals fed GMO feed, you’re also consuming a lot of this poison. See IARC’s Classification of Glyphosate – What Does it Mean for You? for more information on Glyphosate and GMO foods. (IARC, 2015)
GINGER ROOT & GROUND GINGER
A big thank you to Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg for sending this interesting video to me.
This short video, narrated by Michael Pollan for the Center for Food Safety, offers a way to reverse the climate crisis : Restore the soil’s microbiome.
“A powerful solution to the climate crisis can be found right beneath our feet—in the soil. By harnessing the immense power of photosynthesis, we can convert atmospheric carbon, a problem, into soil carbon, a solution. Emerging science proves that shifting to regenerative forms of agriculture such as agroecology, agroforestry, cover-cropping, holistic grazing and permaculture will allow us to store excess carbon safely in the ground.” (Center for Food Safety, 2016)
Did you know bacteria ‘talk’ with one another? Although bacteria are primitive single-celled organisms, their ability to use chemical signals to communicate with each allows them to synchronize their behavior and act together much like large, multi-cellular organisms. This communication process allows pathogenic bacteria to know when they have amassed enough troops to mount a successful attack to infect a plant or animal, including humans. (Cunningham, 2001-2010) & (iBiology, 2006-2016)
Scientists call this cell to cell signaling signaling process Quorum Sensing. Each bacterium measures the concentration of its fellows by sending out a chemical signal and ‘listening’ for the chemical signals from other like bacteria.
Pathogenic bacteria use cell signaling to monitor their density and will activate some genes only when they know that their population is large enough to make it safe to begin that activity – ie, when they know there are enough of them who can coordinate to effect changes in cellular behavior, to try to make us sick. (Cunningham, 2001-2010)
Bacteria of the same variety can also coordinate to divide into sub-populations that carry out different activities. “For example, in the late 1990s an investigation of a biofilm community, the marine bacterium Pseudoalteromonas, revealed two physiologically distinct subpopulations. In effect there was a cellular division of labor: one group stayed attached to the surface and made nutrient available to the second group, which reproduced and released daughter cells to the surrounding water.” (Cunningham, 2001-2010)
Not only do bacteria ‘talk’ with their kind, they also have the ability to communicate with other types of bacteria (inter-species communication) – and use different chemical languages for these purposes. Bacteria are apparently multilingual. (iBiology, 2006-2016)
Pretty impressive for single cell organisms!
Pathogenic Cell-Cell Communication
In the cartoon above, various species of bacteria are represented by different colors. Bacteria can produce chemical signals (“talk”) and other bacteria can respond to them (“listen”) in a process commonly known as cell-cell communication or cell-cell signaling. This communication can result in coordinated behavior of microbial populations. (Courtesy, MSU-CBE.)
BONNIE BASSLER: HOW BACTERIA TALK TO EACH OTHER
Molecular Biologist Bonnie Bassler decoded this Quorum Sensing process in pathogenic bacteria. She explains how they do it in this 2009 TED Talk.
Dr Bassler is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and the Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.
Here’s more of Bonnie Bassler – this time explaining the role of Quorum Sensing communication in the symbiotic relationship between luminescent bacteria (Vibrio fischeri ) and the tiny Hawaiian bobtail squid living off the coast of Hawaii.
The tiny squid’s luminescence comes from colonies of Vibrio fischeri bacteria housed in the squid’s internal light organs. These bacteria secrete a chemical that, when it reaches a sufficient concentration, stimulates the bacteria to glow. How and why they do it is fascinating.
If you’re now really hooked by this topic and want even more, here’s Dr Bassler’s longer video that the short squid-luminescent bacteria video is taken from: Part 1: Bacterial Communication via Quorum Sensing (53:47 minutes).
THE GOOD GUYS VS THE BAD GUYS: PROBIOTICS VS PATHOGENIC BACTERIA
Lest you think you’re doomed to be overrun with pathogenic bacteria plotting against you, the good news is that probiotics interfere with the quorum sensing signalling agents in pathogenic bacteria.
“From the recent research, it has been concluded that quorum sensing regulates the virulence expression in probiotics which may interfere with the signalling system avoiding the onset of virulence in pathogenic bacteria.
“… The probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Bifadobacterium and B. cereus strains degrade the auto-inducers of pathogenic bacteria by enzymatic secretion or production of auto-inducer antagonists which render the quorum sensing bacteria mute and deaf.” (Brown, 2016)
These ‘friends with benefits’ I’m referring to are the several pounds of friendly bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in and on us and make us who we are. We couldn’t function without them.
If you’re at all curious about what’s going on inside and on your body – especially all the recent talk about microbiomes, this exhibit in New York City and a museum in Amsterdam are for you.
THE SECRET WORLD INSIDE YOU – AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City currently has an interesting show called The Secret World Inside You (11/7/2015 – 8/14/2016). It’s well done and I recommend visiting the museum to see it if you possibly can. It’s suitable for everyone – young children to adults.
The show, much of it interactive, explores the rapidly evolving knowledge about how our human bodies interact with the approximately 100 trillion bacteria living in and on us—our various microbiomes. New scientific discoveries are offering perspectives on how our microbes interact with our bodies (and each other) to regulate a wide range of health matters – including acne, allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, brain evolution and development, cancer, cardiovascular health, diabetes, digestion, gut health, ‘leaky gut’, mood, obesity, oral health, ‘psychobiotics’ … and much more.
If you happen to be in Amsterdam and want to learn more about microbes, you’re in for a treat: the innovative Micropia Museum. If you can’t get there, you can still watch some of their interesting videos.
The Micropia is dedicated to the imperceptible world of microorganisms.
Meet Your Companions
“We are all constantly surrounded by – even covered in – microorganisms such as bacteria. But while many people harbour negative associations with the word ‘bacteria’, most of them are actually good for us, helping us, for example, to protect our body against outside influences. Microbes are the world’s smallest, yet most powerful organisms. At the innovative new Micropia museum, you can get acquainted with these invisible organisms. If you look at this world really closely, a new one opens up.” (Micropia, 2016)
The Micropia Museum is part of Natura Artis Magistra, a zoo in central Amsterdam, and is recommended for ages 8 and upwards.
Here in New York City this winter, many people are coming down with bad colds and a nasty version of the flu that often take weeks to get over. It’s possible to protect yourself from these viruses … and at the same time increase your odds of avoiding a wide range of other diseases and health problems too.
A nutritious diet high in whole foods and short on junk foods is of course very important for staying healthy. Functional Medicine doc Frank Lipman’s HEALTHY EATING CHECKLIST is a good resource for figuring out what to eat to maximize your health and stay well. He emphasizes “food quality, not calorie counting, so you’ll be including the healthiest foods and avoiding common irritants and harmful foods that drain the body of energy, including processed foods, sugar, gluten, dairy, caffeine and alcohol.” (Lipman, 2015)
Here are also a few suggestions for supplements to build up your immune system so you’re less likely to succumb to whatever viral thing is making the rounds – and improve your health in general.
The vast majority of Americans have woefully inadequate vitamin D blood levels. A 2000 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reported that 77% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. (Hardin, 11/30/2014)
The graphic below lists some of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency along with some of the diseases and conditions associated with it:
Causes of vitamin D deficiency include (CATIE, 2011), (Magee, 2014), (Shankar, 2014) & (Wortsman et al, 2000):
Insufficient Consumption of Vitamin D in the Daily Diet
Milk Allergy or Sensitivity
A Strict Vegan or Vegetarian Diet: Vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency because most of its natural sources are animal-based: fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheeses, fortified milk, and beef liver. (Magee, 2014)
Limited Sun Exposure or Use of Sun Screen
Weight: Very overweight and obese people (a BMI of 30 or greater) tend to be vitamin D deficient. Obesity-associated vitamin D insufficiency is likely due to a decrease in the bio-availability of vitamin D3 because it gets deposited in body fat compartments.
Dark skin: The skin pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Crohn’s Disease or Colitis: Chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the intestine and colon cause dysentery, leading to the excretion of large quantities of vital nutrients – including vitamin D.
Cystic Fibrosis: Cystic Fibrosis impairs the ability to absorb fats and fats are needed for the body to utilize vitamin D.
Old Age: The skin of elderly people takes longer to absorb vitamin D. The kidneys of older people may also lose their ability to convert vitamin D from sunshine into its active form.
Continual Exposure to Toxic Substances and Harmful Chemicals
Recipients of Transplanted Organs: Anti-rejection medications taken to suppress the immune system interfere with vitamin D production.
Side Effects of Pharmaceutical Medicines and Some Herbs, Including:
Antibiotics – rifampin (rifampicin) and isoniazid, commonly used to treat TB. Vitamin D levels can sometimes fall after as little as two weeks’ exposure to these drugs.
Anti-HIV Drugs – research suggests that the drugs efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin and in Atripla) and AZT (Retrovir, zidovudine and in Combivir and Trizivir) may reduce vitamin D levels in some people. In contrast, exposure to darunavir (Prezista) appears to raise vitamin D levels.
The herb St. John’s Wort or its extracts (hypericin, hyperforin)
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs – corticosteroids
Researchers continue to study the possible effects of various medications on vitamin D levels, so look for more news about this in the future.
It’s important to have your 25 hydroxy-D blood level checked fairly frequently to make sure your blood level of vitamin D isn’t TOO LOW or TOO HIGH … both are problematic.
In taking nutritional supplements, it’s best to look for ones made by companies that produce high quality products – ones that contain the supplement in bio-available form. These often cost somewhat more than the brands you’ll find at chain drugstores but will make a bigger difference to your health. Bio-availability is the amount of a drug or supplement that is physiologically absorbed from a given dose – as distinct from its chemical potency.
My personal favorite D3 supplement is made by Metagenics. They make three types: a bio-active micro-tablet containing 1,000 iu of D3, high potency softgels containing bio-available 5,000 iu of D3, and a liquid delivering 2,000 IU of vitamin D3/dose in its most bioactive form. All the Metagenics’ forms of D3 are gluten and GMO free.
Dr Mercola says it’s important to know, when taking oral vitamin D supplements, that you increase your need for vitamin K2. Vitamin D also requires sufficient amounts of magnesium and zinc to work properly, and is best taken with some healthy fat, as it’s a fat-soluble vitamin. (Mercola, 2015)
OMEGA-3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
In addition to supporting cardiovascular health, reducing inflammation in the body, and enhancing cognitive brain function, consuming omega-3 fatty acids is an excellent way to prevent colds and even cure flu – including “bird flu”. (Louis, 2013), (Morita et al, 2013) & (Rodale, 2013)
Our bodies can’t generate omega-3s so we must obtain them from outside sources. Plant sources include avocados, walnuts, and seeds (chia, flax, and hemp). Animal sources include fatty fish, egg yolks, and high-quality cuts of meat like grass-fed beef.
Dr Josh Axe (a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutrition, and chiropractic) recommends these as the 15 best food sources of omega-3s (Axe, 2016):
Omega-3s from Natural Sources + Supplements
Dr Axes advises: “When it comes to getting enough omega-3s into your diet, I recommend eating plenty of omega-3 foods and also supplementing in most cases. Through a combination of both, my advice is to make sure you’re getting at least 1,000 milligrams a day of EPA/DHA and about 4,000 milligrams of total omega-3s (ALA/EPA/DHA combined).” (Axe, 2016)
Dr Andrew Weil’s recommendations are to eat oily fleshed, wild caught, cold water fish 2-3 times a week. If taking a fish oil supplement, he recommends choosing one “derived from molecularly distilled fish oils – these are naturally high in both EPA and DHA and low in contaminants. Also choose a supplement brand that has been independently tested and guaranteed to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other environmental toxins including polychlorinated biphenyls, also known as PCBs.” (Weil, 2013)
Maybe you get run down or super stressed out and, in spite of having built up your immune system, you start coming down with a cold or flu …
Dr. Shen’s Yin Chiao Pills are good for keeping something viral from taking hold if taken at the first sign of a cold or flu. They’re made of herbs and contain no pharmaceuticals, dyes, animal products, preservatives or unlisted ingredients. This Yin Chiao formula has been around for a lot of years and is a favorite of many people. It was first published in a Chinese herbal text by Dr. Wu Ju Tong in the year 1798.
There are other brands of Yin Chiao on the market but I’ve found Dr Shen’s to be the most effective.
One dose usually dispatches my symptoms. If any return, I take two more Yin Chiao a few hours apart until my immune system has successfully fought off the virus.
The wild crafted herbs in Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao are:
Honeysuckle (Lonicera flos) Jin Yin Hua
Forsythia (Forsythia Suspensa Fructus) Lian Qiao
Balloon Flower (Platycodi Grandiflori Radix) Jie Geng
Peppermint (Menthe Herba) Bo He
Edible Burdock (Arctium Lappa) Niu Bang Zi
Crested Grass (Lophatheri Gracilis) Dan Zhu Ye
Schizonepeta (Schizonepeta Tenuifolia) Jing Jie
Fermented Soy Bean (Sojae Praeparatum Semen) Dan Dou Qi
Chinese Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza Uranelsis Radix) Gan Cao
Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao is available on Amazon, elsewhere online, and at some health food stores.
Here’s a short video about Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao Formula:
For more information on Dr Shen’s Yin Chiao and other ways to avoid getting something viral, see also Fighting Off A Virus. (Hardin, 10/12/2014)
Our gut microbiomes, the several pounds of micro-organisms living inside our intestines and often referred to as OurFriends with Benefits, affect pretty much every aspect of our health – keeping us well or making us sick.
I wrote about INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – CAUSES & CONSEQUENCES in a 10 May 2015 post. Here’s part of that article as background for appreciating the value of a supplement called IntestiNEW that strengthens the intestine’s mucosal lining, where our gut microbiomes reside:
DIGESTION – FROM MOUTH TO ANUS
The human digestive tract runs from the mouth at the top to the anus at the other end. Foreign matter (food) is taken in and partially broken down by chewing in the mouth. It then travels down through the esophagus to the stomach and from there into the small and large intestines, where it is selectively digested. During this trip, various phases of digestion take place and nutrients are extracted and absorbed. The liver, gall bladder and pancreas, organs that aid in the digestive process, are located along the length of the GI tract.
The total length of the GI tract varies from person to person. In an adult male the range is 20 to 40 feet. On average, the small intestine in adults is 22 feet long and the large intestine is 5 feet.
As you can intuit, a lot could go wrong during that long trip – and much of that depends on the quality of what you deliver to your mouth as ‘food’.
You can see the location of the mucosal layer (called ‘mucous coat’ in the diagram below) and the intestinal villi in this cross section of the human small intestine. The empty space in the center, just below the villi (the spikes you see in the image of a healthy mucosal membrane in the image to the left above), is called the lumen, the tube in which food travels through the intestines.
INCREASED GUT PERMEABILITY – AKA LEAKY GUT
Increased gut permeability – also known as hyper-permeable intestines or “leaky gut” – describes the intestinal lining’s having become more porous than it should be so the process of what is allowed out into the body no longer functions properly. Larger, undigested food molecules and other bad things (such as yeasts, toxins, and other forms of waste that normally would continue on and get excreted through the anus) flow freely through these too-large holes in the intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where they don’t belong and are treated as dangerous invaders.
The gut’s mucosal layer is thin, delicate – and very important. This is where our probiotic bacteria live, so degrading it also degrades the strength of our immune systems. The probiotics residing in the gut mucosal layer make up 70-90% of the human immune system.
Damage to the gut’s mucosal layer leads to a whole range of serious problems as the body tries to cope with the invaders being released into the bloodstream. Once this lining has become disturbed, allowing problematic things to flow through it into the blood stream, a cycle of chronic irritation begins, leading to chronic inflammation in the body and a whole series of autoimmune conditions.
It is well-known that the composition of the gut lining and its microbiota changes during animal development and can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, and habitat. (Barker, 2013), (Conlon, 2014) & (Renew Life, undated)
So you can see the importance of keeping your gut lining, where those critters live, in good shape.
REGENERATION OF THE GUT LINING
The thin lining of our intestines is semi-permeable: a healthy lining membrane allows nutrients to pass from the intestines into the bloodstream and prevents toxins, pathogens, and undigested food from exiting the digestive tract too early. When the lining becomes chronically damaged, allowing toxins, pathogens, and undigested food to enter the bloodstream, chronic inflammation occurs in the body and many negative, autoimmune health conditions may ensue. (Renew Life, undated)
A healthy intestinal lining serves many functions, most critical among them:
Continuing the digestive processing of food after it leaves the stomach
Absorbing nutrients from this partially digested food
Preventing harmful bacteria and undigested food particles from entering the bloodstream
Like our skin, the delicate mucosal lining of our small and large intestines sloughs off a layer of cells every 3-5 days and produces new cells to maintain its semi-permeable state. This process requires the amino acid L-Glutamine. (Renew Life, undated).
“Small populations of adult stem cells are responsible for the remarkable ability of the epithelial lining of the intestine to be efficiently renewed and repaired throughout life.” (Barker, 2013)
The human body’s GI tract is lined with mucosal tissues primarily comprised of epithelial cells attached to the underlying membrane. Tiny, finger-like projections called villi protrude from the intestinal walls and greatly increase their absorptive and surface areas.
“Digested nutrients (including sugars and amino acids) pass into the villi through diffusion. Circulating blood then carries these nutrients away. Unlike the mucosal tissue of the inner surface of the eyelids or the mouth, the epithelial cells which line the inside of the stomach are exposed to much harsher conditions, e.g., acid (i.e., hydrochloric acid), sometimes alcohol, enzymes (e.g., pepsin) for digesting food and waste generated therefrom. Mucous secretion essentially protects the cells on the inside of the stomach and duodenum from damage by acid or enzymes, for example by presenting bicarbonate to neutralize some of the effects of acid on the stomach’s inner lining, as well as inhibitors to block the enzymatic activity. Once the mucous secretions of the epithelial cells stop, the inner lining of the stomach or duodenum would eventually be eroded by the combined action of acid and enzymes, leading to ulcer.” (MEBO, 2009)
IntestiNew is a dietary supplement designed and produced by Renew Life to soothe the digestive system and benefit the health of the mucosal lining of the intestines. It is available as a powder or in capsules.
The capsule form contains L-glutamine, N-acetyl D-glucosamine, gamma oryzanol, cranesbill root, ginger root, marigold flower, marshmallow root, vegetable fiber, and water.
The powder form contains the same ingredients with the exception of the vegetable fiber and water.
The glucosamine, L-glutamine, and the herbs in IntestiNew soothe and support the integrity of the intestinal lining. The gamma oryzanol, a natural extract of rice oat bran, delivers essential antioxidant benefits to the digestive system. (Holt, 2016)
Both forms of the supplement are gluten free and contain no artificial ingredients.
Women who are pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive are advised to consult their physicians before taking IntestiNEW, as are people taking pharmaceutical medications or having a medical condition. The supplements contain an ingredient derived from crustacean shells (shrimp, lobster, and/or crab) so aren’t suitable for people with a shellfish allergy.
Although I couldn’t find any scientific papers on IntestiNEW, it has been well reviewed by customers on Amazon, iHerb, The Vitamin Shoppe, Vitacost, and National Nutrition. I second those reviews: Since I’ve been taking IntestiNEW, I’ve seen a big improvement in my digestive health. I started with a scoop (5.4 grams) stirred into an eight ounce glass of filtered water before breakfast and now take two capsules before each meal, with water)
Some of the many ways our gut bacteria affect our health:
My thanks to David Miller, MD, Supplements Specialist at Life Thyme Market in New York City, for recommending IntestiNew to me.
“There are many ways to come back to the here and the now, and to touch life deeply. But they all involve mindful breathing. If we’re anchored in our mindful breathing, we can practice anytime. Otherwise we risk missing our lives, our lives that are lived in the here and now.”
– Your True Home: the everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh
Hanh, T.N. (2011). Your True Home: the everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh.