You might not have known it, but last Monday, November 13, 2017, you may have awakened with high blood pressure (hypertension). Don’t feel alone. A massive increase in the number of people with hypertension occurred overnight when the definition of high blood pressure was officially changed from 140/90 (and higher) to 130/80 (and higher). I’m […]
Happy Valentine’s Day! People who know me will say today’s health tip on the dangers of sugar is just typical, badgering innocent people on a holiday dedicated to love, romance, and dessert. Before we get started, let me pull out my two favorite passive-aggressive chestnuts: “I’m just looking out for your best interests” and “I […]
PCOS is by far the most common cause of infertility in women, and the number of women with diagnosed and undiagnosed PCOS is best described as “vast.” Experts estimate that as many as 10% of women of childbearing age may have the disorder.
One of the most common reasons people give for coming to our practice is to see if there’s “something other than all these pills” they’ve been prescribed for a medical problem. I frequently hear sentences such as, “I read the side effects of this drug and think: but those are the symptoms I’m being treated for,” or “I take all these pills and I feel pretty much the same.”
Native to Europe and the Middle East, during the past fifty years asparagus has grown so popular as a vegetable that farmers now grow it around the world. Before this, asparagus had a long history as an herbal medicine.
Taurine, an amino acid derivative found in meat and other animal foods (except for milk and milk products), appears to shield the heart from harm. It’s best known for empowering bile acids to clear cholesterol from the body. It may also fight cellular troublemakers that can damage the heart. Studies in animals suggest that taurine lowers blood pressure as well–yet another heart-healthy property. Although research has produced conflicting results, taurine may also benefit vision disorders, epilepsy, and gallstones.
With the exception of calcium and phosphorus, no other mineral is as abundant in the human body as potassium. Most people don’t need to take supplements of this mineral because it’s so widely available in foods such as bananas, orange juice, and potatoes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fat that the body derives from food. (Cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others.) All polyunsaturated fats, including the omega-3s, are increasingly recognized as important to human health.
Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats has been associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are actually good for you. Omega-3s (found primarily in cold-water fish) fall into this category, along with omega-6s, another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs. (For more information, see our WholeHealth Chicago entry on Omega-6 Fatty Acids.)
Long before holiday revelers started a custom of kissing under the mistletoe, traditional folk healers used this evergreen shrub to treat various ailments. While they recognized early on that the sticky white berries of the mistletoe plant were poisonous, they brewed the leathery leaves into a therapeutic tea, a remedy that has long endured for ailments ranging from nervous tension to skin sores.
Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha), a rose family member popularly planted along hedges to deter trespassers with its prickly branches, has heart-healthy properties that ancient Greeks and Native Americans recognized centuries ago. Its modern reputation as a healing agent dates to Victorian times, when an Irish physician’s secret heart formula was ultimately revealed to contain a tincture made from the bright red berries.
Along with its well-earned reputation for discouraging friends and repelling potential lovers, this powerful herb has a storied culinary and medical history. Egyptian pyramid builders took it for strength and endurance. Medieval healers recommended it as protection against supernatural forces–vampires in particular. The French scientist Louis Pasteur investigated its antibacterial properties, and doctors in the two World Wars treated battle wounds with garlic juice when other drugs were unavailable. Most recently, garlic has been touted for heart health as well.
A source of fiber for linen fabric since ancient times, the slender flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) also boasts a long history as a healing herb. First cultivated in Europe, the plant’s brown seeds were regularly used to prepare balms for inflamed skin and healing slurries for constipation. Today, flaxseeds–also called linseeds–are best known for the therapeutic oil that is derived by pressing them. Rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs, flaxseed oil has earned a solid reputation for treating a range of ailments, from heart disease to lupus.
Heralded for its heart-healthy actions, fish oils offer high concentrations of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3-fatty acids. While all fish contain these fats, cold-water fish–salmon, sea bass, tuna, trout, mackerel–are particularly rich sources because of their diet: plankton packed with omega-3s. Interestingly, the colder the water, the more omega-3s in the plankton. Cold-water fish also boast the most potent forms of omega-3s: the essential fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Consumed as part of a fish-filled diet or in supplement form, omega-3s have myriad healing powers.
Dong quai has been used in Asia for thousands of years as a tonic for the female reproductive system. In fact, it ranks just below ginseng as the most popular herb in China and Japan, although its effectiveness has yet to be substantiated by conventional Western standards.
One of the world’s most popular supplements, the chemical coenzyme Q10 has generated great excitement as a heart disease remedy and a cure for countless other conditions. The body naturally produces this compound, which has been dubbed “vitamin Q” because of its essential role in keeping all systems running smoothly. In fact, the scientists who identified coenzyme Q10 in 1957 initially honored its ubiquitous presence–it’s found in every human cell and in all living organisms–by naming it “ubiquinone.” Small amounts are also present in most foods.
These two important minerals are often combined into one convenient product. Such combinations are a practical way to prevent or treat myriad ailments, from back pain and perimenopause to PMS and endometriosis. While there is little to distinguish one calcium/magnesium product from another, it’s smart to take a combination that includes different forms of the key minerals (such as calcium citrate, carbonate, and malate; and magnesium citrate, aspartate, and glycinate) as insurance that at least one will get absorbed into your system and do its work.
From its bristly stems to its blue star-shaped flowers, virtually all parts of the borage plant (Borago officinalis) have been used over the centuries for their healing properties and as a flavoring for foods. As early as the 1600s, Europeans mixed borage leaves and flowers into a wine that was renown for relieving boredom and dispelling melancholy.
The amino acid arginine is acquiring a reputation for keeping the body’s biggest muscle–the heart–in tip-top shape. In fact, this workhorse nutrient performs numerous vital functions, facilitating the healing of wounds and promoting the secretion of key hormones such as insulin and glucagon.
We’re constantly hearing about how heart disease is the nation’s “number 1 killer.” Yet if I took a survey of my patients, I’m sure most of them would say they’re more worried about cancer than having a heart attack. Especially my female patients. So when the subject comes up, I take the time to point out that heart disease kills about 500,000 women each year–more than 10 times the number who die of breast cancer–and half those deaths are from heart attacks. To which I quickly add there are more effective strategies for preventing a heart attack than there are for preventing any other chronic disease.
We’ve been talking about the causes of brain fog, forgetfulness, and lack of focus these past weeks. My final suggestion isn’t likely, but it’s worth including.
An undiagnosed medical problem, such as high blood pressure or kidney or liver disease, could compromise your ability to think clearly.