October 27, 2014

291 Massage and Blood Pressure [27 Oct 2014]

Most people are aware of the benefits of massage therapy for soft tissue pain and stress management. Massage can also provide cardiovascular benefits, particularly for the management of mild hypertension. High blood pressure is a significant risk factor in cardiovascular disease and is known as the “Silent Killer”.

A study published in 2000 by J. Bodywork & Movement Therapies compared the effects of massage therapy and progressive muscle relaxation on blood pressure. Massage was more effective at lowering blood pressure, especially diastolic. Both groups reported less anxiety but only the massage group experienced reduced depression.

A 2013 randomized control trial compared whole body Swedish massage with resting, one hour weekly for 4 weeks, on Malaysian women with hypertension. Both massage and resting improved blood pressure and heart rate, but the massage reduced it more (but the difference was not statistically significant), and for a longer time – up to 4 weeks (which was significant).

Another 2013 clinical trial compared neck & shoulder massage (10-15 minutes 3 times a week for 10 sessions) and rest in 50 pre-hypertensive women in Iran. Massage reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly more than just rest, and the effects lasted at least 3 days after the treatment.

These studies (and others) suggest that massage therapy could be a useful tool in managing mild hypertension and pre-hypertension, however some cautions are in order [Massage Therapy – an Approach to Treatments, Fiona Rattray, 1994]. When working with clients with severe hypertension a massage therapist will use certain techniques and avoid others. The goal is to increase peripheral circulation (hands and feet) while avoiding movement of blood towards the trunk. The use of heat and painful techniques are contraindicated. Ideally the client’s blood pressure should be measured before and after the treatment to monitor its effects.

If your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure, ask her/him about massage therapy as a possible management tool. Here is Dr Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic speaking about the benefits of massage.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 20, 2014

290 Low-Calorie Balanced Diet [20 Oct 2014]

You still hear health professionals promoting a “low-calorie balanced diet” as the best method for weight loss. A healthy balanced diet, where you get the right amounts of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids) is perfect for maintaining your weight. But a low-calorie balanced diet – eating the same foods but less of them – is not only ineffective for weight loss but can be detrimental to your health – and to your objective of losing fat – for several reasons.

First, reducing all three macronutrients by about the same amount will make you protein deficient. As a result you will burn muscle mass as well as fat to make up for the reduction in calories. But proteins are not just found in muscle – bone, skin, organs, enzymes and hormones are all made of protein.

Reducing all foods by the same amount will still provide enough carbs to keep your insulin levels up. And as I have explained many times in these articles, high insulin levels lock in the fat stores, making them unavailable for burning, so any weight you lose will be mostly muscle.

Furthermore, the inability to burn fat for fuel creates a shortfall in calories available to the body to carry out its normal functions, making you feel tired, weak, and hungry. In response, your body will lower your metabolic rate (go into starvation mode) so it can live on the lower caloric supply. Unfortunately this lower metabolism continues after you go off the restricted diet. Now when you return to your normal diet you are getting more calories than your body can use, so guess what happens? The end result of being on a low-calorie balanced diet: muscle lost, a little fat lost, and you gain fat faster than ever. And the failure of the diet will be blamed on your lack of will-power. Sound familiar?

The safest and most effective diet for losing fat weight is a protein-sparing ketogenic diet which conserves muscle while it burns fat. This contains adequate protein (the same amount as in your maintenance balanced diet) and essential fats and oils, and the minimum requirement of carbs (which isn’t very much). Ideally your weight and lean mass should be monitored by a coach trained in the program.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 14, 2014

289 Bone Broth [14 Oct 2014]

Wait - don’t throw out your Thanksgiving turkey carcass! You can use it to make an easy, inexpensive and nutritious food called bone broth.

Bone broth is a very healthful addition to our diet for many reasons. Bone broth:
• is very easily digested
• is a good source of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium & phosphorus
• is a good source of amino acids, particularly arginine and glycine
• contains collagen, gelatin, glucosamine & chondroitin which reduce joint pain and inflammation
• promotes healthy bones, skin, hair and nails
• calms the stomach and is healing for the digestive tract
• helps heal leaky gut and reduce food allergies
• is a staple of the GAPS diet (see my columns #147, 172-175)
• boosts the immune system

Bone broth is made by simmering bones and vegetables to make a broth or soup stock. You can use bones from beef, poultry and even fish. Place about 2 lbs. of bones per gallon of water in a crock pot or stock pot. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (white vinegar will do) to pull the minerals out of the bones. Add vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, parsley, etc. (since you discard the vegetables after cooking, use the peels, ends and any scrap that isn’t moldy). Bring to a boil and skim off the foamy scum every 20 minutes for 2 hours. Simmer for 24 hours for poultry, 48 hours for beef and 8 hours for fish. For extra flavor add herbs & spices like parsley and garlic for the last half hour. Cool and strain and store broth in the fridge or freezer.

You can now use the broth to make soups, stews, gravy & sauces, and for cooking rice, millet or quinoa. Or simply heat and drink a cupful every day like tea. There is a good reason Grandma fed us chicken soup when we were sick.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

October 6, 2014

288 Our Gut Garden [6 Oct 2014]

This week I will continue featuring a lecture by gastroenterologist Dr. Robynne Chutkan about our microbiome – particularly the bacteria which live in our digestive tract, which she calls our “gut garden”.

The discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 ushered in the age of antibiotics. Infectious diseases that were often fatal before then could now be quickly and easily cured. Now, nearly 100 years later, we are threatened with losing much of that advantage through over-use of antibiotics. One estimate claimed 20 to 50% of antibiotic use was inappropriate for the condition being treated. The proliferation of antibiotic-resistant “super bugs” is a growing concern among medical researchers. A lesser-known danger is the damage to our microbiome, particularly the gut bacteria, causing an unhealthy change called dysbiosis.

Dysbiosis is being linked to many different health problems: inflammatory bowel disease like colitis and Crohn’s; diabetes and obesity; auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, MS and fibromyalgia; and even neurological conditions like schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. The microbiome also plays an important role in our immune system.

Babies born by C-section (27% in Canada) miss out on their first “inoculation” of beneficial bacteria from the birth canal. The benefits of vaginal birth last well beyond infancy in improved health and immunity – lower rates of asthma, allergy and other inflammation. Multiple rounds of antibiotics routinely given to children add to the problem.

Chutkan poses the question “What should we be feeding our gut garden in order to optimize our microbiome to keep us healthy?” And answers it with a quote by Michael Pollan: “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.” She also advocates judicious use of drugs – not just antibiotics but other drugs like steroids, hormones and NSAIDs which also contribute to dysbiosis. And she warns against our obsession with sanitation – we shouldn’t be afraid of a little dirt! In short “Live dirty, eat clean!”

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.