January 25, 2016

354 Detox Foot Pads – do they work? [25 January 2016]

I sell detox foot pads in my store. They come in packages of 10; you put one on the bottom of each foot when you go to bed and peel them off in the morning. The bamboo and wood vinegars, herbs and other ingredients are supposed to pull toxins, including metals like lead, mercury and arsenic, out of your body while you sleep. These toxins show up as the dark goo you find on the pads when you peel them off in the morning. That’s the theory anyway.

I recently decided to see if there is any evidence for their effectiveness. What I learned was disappointing to say the least. First, the black goo is produced from moisture from your feet interacting with the herbs and other ingredients in the pad. I tested one myself by holding it over a kettle and the steam turned it a dark brownish-green in just a few minutes. Chemical analysis of the goo from foot pads have failed to find any toxin or metal; they are chemically identical to unused pads. The Mayo Clinic website states that no scientific studies have been published showing that detox foot pads do what they claim they’ll do. Even Dr. Mercola, who promotes many natural healing modalities, calls foot pads a scam.

Many people, however, report benefits
from using the pads. They sleep better; have more energy the next day; get relief from aching feet, arthritic knees, and other aches and pains; notice improved circulation to the feet; and just feel better and more relaxed. One woman wrote: “Having used the foot patches for 15 days I definitely feel less stressed, my shoulders are not as stiff, my feet no longer ache and my headaches are gone. I’m also sleeping better.” Others report no benefits and at least one man experienced joint pain.

So are the perceived benefits just from the placebo effect? Or are the pads doing something else, stimulating reflexology points perhaps? I really don’t know.

I will continue to sell the pads but will explain to interested customers what they may do (help their sleep, relieve pain, improve mood, etc.) and won’t do (detox their body). I’ll show them my kettle-steamed pad for comparison. And let them decide if they want to try it for themselves. Or not.

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

January 18, 2016

353 Elemental Origins [18 Jan 2016]

Last week I wrote about the ratio of elements in our bodies. This week I’m going to back up a little (like 14 billion years!) to explore the origins of these elements.

Cosmologists and particle physicists have developed theories to explain the formation of the universe, including all the elements that occur on Earth – and in us. The current theory is still known as the Big Bang, the name sarcastically given to it in 1949 by a then skeptical cosmologist, Fred Hoyle. According to this theory, the universe, with all of its mass and energy, expanded out of a single point called a singularity about 13.8 billion years ago.

As the universe expanded and cooled, the immense energy condensed into protons, neutrons and electrons (plus many other particles I won’t mention here) which then combined to form the simplest atoms – hydrogen (1), helium (2) and lithium (3). [The numbers in ( )’s following the element names are the number of protons in the nucleus, called the “atomic number”.] This formation of elements early in the universe is called Big Bang nucleosynthesis and resulted in a ratio of about 75% hydrogen, 25% helium, and just a trace of lithium.

Over millions of years these expanding gasses coalesced into galaxies and then into stars. Gravity acting on the stars caused the temperature in the center to rise and fusion to begin, combining the hydrogen into helium. As stars near the end of their life and start to run out of hydrogen they collapse inwards, raising the temperature enough for helium to fuse into carbon (6). Depending on the size of the star, this process continues, at an increasing rate, to form oxygen (8), then neon (10), silicon (14) and so on up to iron (26), cobalt (27) and nickel (28). As the stars die these elements are blown out into space in clouds of dust and gasses. Ironically it was Fred Hoyle who, in 1954, developed this theory of stellar nucleosynthesis.

The heavier elements (above nickel) can only be formed in supernovae explosions, like the one that formed the Crab Nebula in 1054. When massive stars, 10 or more times the mass of the Sun, collapse and spectacularly explode they blow immense clouds of particles containing all these elements out into space. These clouds of dust then cool and condense to form a new generation of stars and planets, like the one we live on.

So in a very real sense, we are made of star dust.

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

January 11, 2016

352 Elemental Body Composition [11 Jan 2016]

First, I promised to let you know the results of the radon test in my house basement. The safe level is considered 200 Bq/m3; my house was 586, nearly 3 times the safe limit. I will be installing an air pump or something like that and will let you know what that entails. I think every house in Rosetown with a basement should be tested. See my December 7 article for details.

Now for this week’s topic. I often write about essential nutrients that our body requires for health or indeed life. Most of these like vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids and enzymes are molecules, made of chains of atoms. A few, namely the minerals, are actual atoms or elements. I thought it would be interesting to look at the elemental composition of our bodies.

Recently I saw a chemical “formula” for the human body listing the relative abundance of atoms of different elements: H 375,000,000 O 132,000,000 C 85,700,000 N 6,430,000 Ca 1,500,000 P 1,020,000 S 206,000 Na 183,000 K 177,000 Cl 127,000 Mg 40,000 Si 38,600 Fe 2,680 Zn 2,110 Cu 76 I 14 Mn 13 F 13 Cr 7 Se 4 Mo 3 Co 1
These aren’t the total number of atoms, just the ratio. For every atom of cobalt there are 4 selenium, 2,110 zinc, 40,000 magnesium, 1.5 million calcium, and 132 million oxygen atoms. These ratios would be much different by weight (technically mass); hydrogen which is the lightest element makes up only 10% of the body weight, following oxygen (60-65%) and carbon (18%). Most of the hydrogen and oxygen in our bodies is in the form of water which makes up about 60% of our body weight.

Carbon forms the framework for all organic compounds including proteins and fats so is the next most common after the water forming elements hydrogen and oxygen. Nitrogen and sulfur are also found in protein, and calcium and phosphorus form much of our bones, so these are all also abundant. Sodium and potassium are fairly evenly balanced. Zinc, copper, iodine, manganese, fluorine, chromium, selenium, molybdenum and cobalt are all less than 1 millionth as abundant as hydrogen, which is why they are called trace minerals.

These 22 elements are essential for life (except fluorine which plays a role in hardening dental enamel but is not essential). A few more, like lithium, boron, nickel and vanadium may play some physiological role but in even tinier amounts. Many others are quite detrimental to health in any amount like aluminum, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. Our bodies do an amazing job of keeping these out and keeping the rest close to the right ratio. I for one find that fascinating.

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

January 4, 2016

351 Oxygen and Disease [4 Jan 2016]

Over the holidays I read a book (on my new Kindle e-reader!) by Nick Lane (2002) called “Oxygen: the molecule that made the world”. The first half of the book describes how oxygen affected the evolution of life on earth, and vice-versa. The second half explores the dual role that oxygen plays in health and disease.

Oxygen is essential for life; without a fresh supply we die in a matter of minutes. Fuel from the food we eat is combined with oxygen in the mitochondria of our cells to produce the energy that runs our bodies (see #302 January 2015). But in the process, oxidative free radicals like hydroxyl, super oxide dismutase and hydrogen peroxide are formed. Until neutralized by antioxidants, these free radicals damage whatever they come in contact with including cell membranes and DNA. Most free radicals attack the mitochondria in which they are created but some spill out where they can damage the rest of the cell including the nuclear DNA. As we age this damage accumulates at a faster and faster rate until we die. That’s the free radical theory of aging. For more on this see my column #303 from January 2015.

Lane defines oxidative stress as “an imbalance between free-radical production and antioxidant protection”. But oxidative stress isn’t all bad, in fact it is a necessary component of our immune reaction to infection. Infections create oxidative stress which triggers the immune system to produce both inflammation to attack the infection and stress resistance to protect our cells. The problem is that the rise in oxidative stress from aging also triggers inflammation. But unlike the infection, this doesn’t go away and so becomes chronic. And chronic inflammation is behind most if not all the diseases of aging. The same process that protects us from infection when we are young causes suffering and eventually death in old age.

So what can be done to prevent or reduce this suffering? Lane mentions the spice curcumin for its ability to suppress inflammation by stimulating activity of the anti-stress enzyme haem oxygenase. To me an even better approach would be to increase mitochondrial glutathione to prevent oxidative damage at its source (see #304, 318 & 319 Feb & May 2015).

Oxygen – the molecule that gives us life also causes disease and death. We can only try to postpone the inevitable.

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