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The Green Dirt™

Thursday
Jul112013

How yoga can improve your health

FoxNews.com

by Deirdre Imus - I spend a lot of time writing about what we put in or on our bodies and how it all affects our health. But mind-body activities like yoga are an undeniably powerful force in preventing illness, maintaining wellness and treating chronic conditions easily, naturally and affordably.

Nearly one in three adults in the U.S. suffer from high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, according to Medical News Today. While this condition, like countless others, can be controlled with medication, most of these drugs come with unwelcome side effects. 

For instance, the American Heart Association notes that beta-blockers, a common class of medication used to treat high blood pressure, can cause insomnia, depression, slow heartbeat or asthma symptoms.

However, according to one recent study, yoga can also help lower blood pressure. Participants in the study were divided into three different groups. The first group followed a supervised diet and walking program; the second group practiced yoga in a studio two to three days per week for 24 weeks; the third group followed a combination program consisting of yoga and dietary intervention. 

According to the study, the group doing only yoga yielded the most significant results, lowering their blood pressure by an average of three points. The study's authors attributed this notable decrease to the relaxation and mindfulness associated with yoga - qualities that are also helpful in reducing stress. 

Other research from 2010 demonstrated that yoga is effective at elevating mood and easing anxiety. And a study released last month showed that people experienced significantly superior brain function after practicing yoga, compared to aerobic exercise.

Of course, as with almost any form of exercise, yoga is not without its physical risks. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons cautions anyone who engages in yoga to discuss any known injury or illness with their yoga instructor ahead of time. 

It's also important to learn which of the many different types of yoga will suit your needs, as some practices are more strenuous than others. Most importantly, listen to your body and know your limits – if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, stop doing it!

Some hypertension patients will require medication regardless of lifestyle, and no one should ever stop taking these often life-saving drugs without consulting their physician. 

But supplementing a healthy, heart-friendly diet with an hour or so of yoga (or other similarly meditative exercises) could do wonders in terms of improving physical and mental health – or preventing your health from needing improvement in the first place.  Read more...

Tuesday
Jun252013

Is raw milk safe to drink?

FoxNews.com

by Deirdre Imus - June is National Dairy Month, and lately there has been some controversy brewing over milk – specifically raw milk, its sale and safety.  By definition, raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized, and proponents of the raw stuff insist it not only tastes better, but it’s more nutritious since it hasn’t been heated to kill off pathogens. So then why is it still so objectionable to public health officials?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms that pose serious health risks, mainly foodborne illnesses spawned mostly from bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. The FDA further claims that pasteurization, a heating process developed back in 1864, does not cause lactose intolerance or allergic reactions, nor does it reduce milk’s nutritional value.

But raw milk enthusiasts tell a different tale, insisting that their preferred beverage is actually safer than pasteurized milk because it is gleaned from healthy, grass-fed cows, which also may account for the difference in taste. Conventionally raised cows, advocates argue, need their milk to be pasteurized because they eat feed and live on bacteria-prone industrial farms. Grass-fed cows do not reside in such dangerous conditions, and therefore their milk might actually be less likely to cause illness.

And according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year, nearly half of foodborne illnesses in the United States from 1998 to 2008 were linked to fruits, nuts, leafy greens and other vegetables. Dairy was the second most frequent food source for infections, which is interesting considering the vast majority of milk, cheese, yogurts, and other products sold in the U.S. is, by law, pasteurized.

Meat and poultry were to blame for 22 percent of foodborne illnesses and may also be to blame for contaminating produce. Livestock waste harboring pathogens can seep into surface and groundwater on farms, affecting produce crops. For instance, the 2010 Salmonella outbreak in spinach was largely attributed to groundwater containing animal feces, and the harmful, irresponsible practices of industrial-scale factory farming.

Raw milk sale and distribution is legal in many U.S. states, and most proprietors are local farmers selling directly to consumers. Some states, like Massachusetts, are considering passing legislation making it easier for farmers to bring raw dairy products to the people who want it. Others, like Wisconsin, are prosecuting a farmer for supplying a private buying club with raw milk and other fresh produce.  

I want the dairy we all consume to be safe and cultivated in the most natural, organic, sanitary environment possible. The same goes for meat and for fruits, vegetables, grains and everything else we consume to nourish our bodies. The debate over raw versus pasteurized milk is as much about food safety as anything else, and whether you choose to consume raw dairy or not, make sure the source of that dairy is pure.

Unfortunately, people assume the government would never allow our food supply to be tainted with chemicals, antibiotics or worse. It’s not just that exposure to these toxins can make us sick, but eating food of diminished nutritional value does little to promote health either. A strawberry sprayed with pesticides is basically null and void as a source of nutrition.

Know where your food comes from so you can protect your family from disease and discourage farmers from the inhumane, unhealthy growing practices that have the potential to make us all sick in the long run.  Read more...



Monday
Jun102013

Swap out soda to take control of your teeth

FoxNews.com

by Deirdre Imus - Soda, we’ve long been told, is bad for us. Various studies have linked significant soda consumption with alarming health concerns, such as an increased risk of having a stroke, getting certain cancers, and being one of the main causes for this country’s obesity epidemic.

Yet countless people around the world consume soda on a near-daily basis, often multiple times a day. It seems as much an addiction as anything else, only perfectly legal, freely available, and comparatively cheap.

Its most recent bout of bad press indicated that regular diet soda consumption does as much damage to the teeth as years of smoking crystal meth or crack cocaine. Though it is free of sugar, diet soda is highly acidic, and acid wears away at teeth’s protective enamel layer, leaving your pearly whites more prone to cavities, cracks or discoloration.  

The case study comparing soda drinking to hard drug use only used three test subjects, and the results were not terribly conclusive.  However, it raises the question of how what we eat or drink affects our teeth; how the health of our teeth affects the rest of the body; and the most natural options for oral hygiene care.

As your dentist (and mom) probably always told you, sugary, starchy foods and beverages cause tooth decay. This covers a large part of the food spectrum that is unhealthy in other ways, too. Sugary, starchy foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.

Fill your mouth and your tummy with calcium-rich foods like organic dark leafy greens, yogurt, or soybeans.  Studies have shown that calcium re-mineralizes damaged teeth, as does phosphorous. You can find the latter in broccoli, garlic, nuts and beans. Coincidentally, all of these foods are great for the rest of your body, providing hefty amounts of vitamins, probiotics and antioxidants that fight and prevent disease.

Poor oral hygiene affects the rest of your body as well, as bacterial infections generated in the mouth can spread to other parts of your body, like your heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, research also suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to inflammation caused by oral bacteria. Additionally, people who have gum disease appear to have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes.

Those looking to take control of their teeth can try implementing a holistic approach to oral care. Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola recommends a wholesome diet of unprocessed, low-sugar, organic foods to start.

As for toothpaste, there has long been a debate over the safety and efficacy of fluoride, a chemical added to toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities.  It is often added to city and community water supplies for the same purpose. But even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes that excessive exposure to fluoride may increase the likelihood of bone fracture in adults or cause “pits” to develop in the tooth enamel of children.  If you’re concerned about fluoride’s possible health implications, opt for fluoride-free toothpaste or those with the cavity-fighter xylitol, which are easier than ever to locate.  Many types of toothpaste also contain chemical sweeteners like sorbitol and saccharin; look for those made instead with natural sugar substitutes like stevia or xylitol.

We spend so much time and energy thinking about the health of our hearts, lungs, brains, bones and other more obvious body parts. Spend a little more time thinking about your teeth, and chances are you’ll feel better everywhere else, too.  Read more...

 

Monday
May202013

Getting to the 'meat' of the matter: Is eating meat good for you? 

FoxNews.com

by Deirdre Imus - Last week, a 105-year-old Texas woman announced the secret to her longevity: eating bacon with every meal. While this story is worth mentioning for the sheer audacity of her claim, it conjures up the debate over meat’s role in the American diet and just how essential it is – or isn’t – for our bodies and our environment.

I have made no secret about being a devoted vegan for decades; my husband is too, and we have raised our teenage son accordingly. Over the years, emerging data has validated this very personal decision, including rising chemical levels in chicken and recent research regarding a compound found in red meat and how it affects the gut and the heart.

Red meat is chock full of saturated fat and has for years been linked to high cholesterol. But just last month, Dr. Stanley Hazen of The Cleveland Clinic published a study implicating red meat for yet another component: lecithin. Found in egg yolks, liver, beef, pork and wheat germ, lecithin turns into an artery-clogging compound called Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) when exposed to certain bacteria and microbes in the human gut.

Dr. Hazen and his team found that blood levels of TMAO predict heart attack, stroke, or death “independent of other risk factors.” This means that even if your cholesterol and blood pressure are under control, you have no family history of heart disease, and you exercise regularly, simply eating a slab of steak may up your risk for a dangerous cardiac event.

Only avoiding red meat won’t do you much good either. A recent study out of Johns Hopkins University found arsenic in chicken at levels exceeding naturally occurring amounts. According to researchers, this could lead to a small increase in the risk of cancer for consumers over the course of a lifetime, adding to other known health risks of eating chicken, like salmonella poisoning and antibiotic resistance.

Meat production also takes a toll on the environment.  A 2011 article in Scientific American noted that the production, processing and distribution of meat requires huge outlays of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed and water while releasing greenhouse gases, manure and a range of toxic chemicals into our air and water.

Choosing a meat-free diet – whether for your own benefit or that of the Earth – is a very personal decision and one that can seem overwhelming to many people. Finding a holistic nutritionist or doctor can do much to alleviate these concerns and help start you on the path to better eating.

“How in the world will I get enough protein in my diet?” is an oft-repeated concern.  Beans, grains, and even certain fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of protein and other health-promoting properties to boot – like calcium, iron, and antioxidants.  In his new book My Beef with Meat, Rip Esselstyn, son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, the plant-based diet pioneer, aims to convince carnivores to change their diets once and for all. He challenges people to give up meat for 28 days, replace it with whole grains, vegetables, and beans, and keep track of how they feel throughout this four-week period. My suspicion is those who do this won’t be disappointed.

Meat pervades the diet in most Western countries, but that doesn’t mean it has to. Alternatives to meat-centric meals exist and are as close as your local food store.  By closing the door on meat, even one day a week, you open yourself up to a world full of exciting new spices, flavors and textures. For many people, the side effects of this diet include better overall health, improved energy, and the lowering of your carbon footprint. Aside from another study highlighting the dangers of eating meat - what are you waiting for?  Read more...

Deirdre Imus, Founder of the site devoted to environmental health, dienviro.org, is President and Founder of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center™ at Hackensack  University Medical Center and Co-Founder/Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. She is a New York Times best-selling author and a frequent contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com, and Fox Business Channel. Check out her website at dienviro.org. 'Like' her Facebook page here

 

Wednesday
May152013

Top Three Sources of Toxic Exposures:Traffic, Personal Care and Plastic Products 

By Dr. Mercola - Air pollution and chemicals found in common household- and personal care goods are major sources of exposure that can lead to an accumulation of toxins in your body.  Recent news articles have highlighted a number of sources of such toxic exposures, as well as new research linking traffic pollution to higher risk of heart disease.  The best advice I could give you should you happen to live in a heavily polluted area is to move, but I realize that isn’t always a practical option.  For most people, it’s better to focus your attention on your immediate environment, which you have more, if not full, control over. After all, what you put on, in, and keep around your body on a daily basis is going to have the greatest impact on your health.  Read more...