Sun Protection Updated

images-1

Summer is officially here. That means that most of us are in the sun much more frequently. Most vacations and general summer fun occurs outdoors – either hiking, biking, swimming or playing tennis. Even just the walk around the neighborhood or gardening can give us hours of sun exposure.

There is much evidence that sun exposure, particularly sunburns, can lead to skin cancer, which accounts for 40% of all cancers. Melanoma, the most dangerous form, is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths.

Avoiding burns, and sun exposure in general, which can also cause wrinkles and sun damaged skin, is another conundrum.

images

Unsafe Skin Protection
Oxybenzone, the leading active ingredient in most popular sunscreens, can be dangerous in and of itself. The non-profit Environmental Working Group offshoot site Cosmetics Database gives sunscreens with oxybenzone a very poor rating. The reason for this is that when exposed to sunlight, oxybenzone can break down into byproducts that are actually carcinogenic. There is evidence for possible reproductive danger as well. Researchers recommend that this be avoided in children. 3

Avobenzone, another popular active ingredient, breaks down in sunlight and causes allergic reactions as well as possible hormone disruption. Health researchers are calling for more research into the bioaccumulation affect of these products on humans as well as wildlife. 5
The Cosmetics Database guide to sunscreens (http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/8-sun-safety-strategies/) also points out that rates of melanoma have tripled in the past 35 years, and there is no evidence that sunscreen has done anything to reverse that trend. While the sunscreen industry is booming, the evidence that their products will prevent cancer has been lacking. The FDA, National Cancer Institute and International Agency for Research on Cancer agree that the data do not support the assertion that sunscreens alone prevent skin cancer. (The proven major risk factors for melanoma are fair skin, indoor tanning, number of moles on the skin, freckles, family history, UV exposure and severe sunburns.) 2

Impactful tidbits from the Cosmetics Database article I found interesting:
• Sunscreen increased rates of melanoma (Gorham 2007)
• Outdoor workers have lower rates of melanoma than indoor workers
• Increased Vitamin D (which we get from the sun) may reduce skin cancer risk

One fear that many health providers share is that people using sunscreen believe that they are protecting themselves from cancer, and therefore may spend more time in the sun, soaking up those UV rays. One study showed that while the sunscreens studied did prevent burns and photoaging, they actually increased growth of melanoma. 6
Retinal Palmitate, now found in many popular sunscreens, has it’s own problematic effects. In some FDA sponsored studies it has been shown to increase skin cancer.
PABA, another common ingredient in sunscreen, may also cause damage to the skin. Researchers found that application of normal amounts of PABA can damage melanocytes in the skin, the cells that are responsible for tanning and our natural defense against sun damage. 4

So why would we lather our bodies with products that could cause cancer when exposed to sunlight? Well, the truth is that most people are not aware of much of what they rub into their skin. Or they think that we don’t absorb them into our bodies. This is just appalling to me, considering that many drugs are delivered through the skin – such as hormone patches or nicotine patches. Along with the problematic sun protection ingredient, many contain other chemicals such as phthalates (which can be hormone disruptors) and petrochemicals as part of the vehicle for the lotion. Two free apps that I use when shopping for sunscreens and any other body care products are Think Dirty and the Cosmetics Database. You can scan the barcode of the product and get an instant rating while you shop – without having to have a degree in chemistry!

FDA logjam of new sunscreen chemicals
Recently an article in the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that our European and Canadian counterparts have many more choices in sunscreen products, yet the FDA has them in a log-jam here, with 8 new chemicals pending review for years or over a decade before a decision is made on their safety. One that has great promise for protecting both UVA and UVB rays, is ecamsule (also referred to as Mexoryl), thought by some health experts to be better than anything we have available so far in this country. 1

Myself along with many of my colleagues recommend physical blockers, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, rather than the chemical ones. The downside is that they are not as sweat- or waterproof, and therefore need to be reapplied more frequently. Protecting your skin with hats and clothing is also effective and should particularly be used with children, who are much more at risk for developing cancer if they are burned in the sun.

Is protection possible from internal ingestion of a fern extract?
Native peoples of Honduras and Guatemala have been using the extract of the fern plant Polypodium leucotomos for centuries. Scientists have found that this extract protects skin from oxidative damage, sunburn, photoaging and prevents tumors from beginning to grow in relation to UV exposure. On research study in healthy human volunteers showed that it prevented UV damage, UV related reddening of the skin, and offered photoprotection of the Langerhans cells. 7

Research has shown that this extract apparently bolsters our skin’s natural defenses against more rapid aging caused by UV rays. It prevents the rays of the sun from breaking down photoprotective molecules. 8

According to Michael Downey in a recent issue of Life Extension magazine, the extract “not only prevents, but also repairs, the sun’s damaging effects on the skin. It prevents sunaged skin by directly inhibiting MMP (matrix metalloproteinase) expression, preventing the breakdown of collagen in the first place. It repairs sun-aged skin by stimulating new production of collagen and elastin – healing and regenerating photoaged skin after exposure to ultraviolet radiation.” 11 (Life Extension is one of the manufacturers of the product. That said, the research in the article is well documented.)

This idea of protecting out skin from the inside out is appealing to me as a naturopathic doctor. Whenever people come in for help with skin issues, applying some treatment to the outside is nothing more than a Band-Aid to me. Collagen damage can’t just occur on the surface. I love the idea of protecting our cells from the inside. The mechanism of this effect on many cells in the body has been, and continues to be, well researched. 9 Not only for the prevention and treatment of sun-induced skin damage, but also promising scientific evidence for treatment of melasma and vitiligo. 10

Final thoughts
My ongoing conversation with my very pale dermatologist includes the fact that my perspective on my body is that I have it while here to use and enjoy. This includes my heart, lungs, eyes and yes, my skin. I don’t want to give any organ unnecessary burden, but if I have to stay inside and avoid having any fun in the sun, then it is just not worth it to me. Just like I will not cut down on increasing my heart rate or allowing my liver some toxins to eliminate, I will not give up my tennis matches or hikes with good friends. I will however be as wise as possible, by using safe and effective skin protection strategies.

References:

1. Colliver, V. May 27, 2014. Fresh sunscreen ingredients stuck in FDA backlog. San Francisco Chronicle.
2. Skin cancer on the rise. Environmental Working Group EWG 2014 Guide to Sunscreens. http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/8-sun-safety-strategies/
3. Gilaberte Y. Sun protection in children: realities and challenges. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2014 Apr;105(3):253-62. doi: 10.1016/j.adengl.2013.05.006. Epub 2014 Mar 21.
4. Xu C et al. Photosensitzation of the sunscreen octyl p-dimethylaminobenzoate by UVA in human melanozytes but not in keratinocytes. Photochem Photobiol. 2001 Jun;73(6):600-4.
5. Schlumf M et al. In vitro and in vivo estrogenicity of UV screens. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar;109(3):239-44.
6. Wolf P et al. Effect of sunscreens and UV radiation-induced enhancement of melanoma growth in mice. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1994 Jan 19;86(2):99-105.
7. Gonzalez S et al. Topical or oral administration with an extract of Polypodium leucotomos prevents acute sunburn and psoralen-induced phototoxic reactions as well as depletion of Langerhans cells in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 1997 Feb-Apr;13(1-2):50-60.
8. Gonzalez S et al. Fernblock, a nutriceutical with photoprotective properties and potential preventive agent for skin photoaging and photoinduced skin cancers. Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(12):8466-75. doi: 10.3390/ijms12128466. Epub 2011 Nov 29.
9. Rodriguez-Yanes E et al. Oral administration of polypodium leucotomos delays skin tumour development and increases epidermal p53 expression and the antioxidant status of UV-irradiated hairless mice. Exp Dermatol. 2014 May 24. doi: 10.1111/exd.12454. [Epub ahead of print]
10. Ahmed AM et al. A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of oral Polypodium leucotomos extract as an adjunct to sunscreen in the treatment of melasma. JAMA Dermatol. 2013 Aug;149(8):981-3. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4294.
11. Downey M. Protect Against Sun-Induced Skin Aging from the Inside Out. Life Extension. July 2014.

Are there Toxins in my tea?

Tea

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, second to water. The incredible health benefits of green tea are not news to most people. Green tea benefits your health as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticarcinogenic, antihypertensive, brain protector as well as lowers cholesterol.

Some of the downsides may be less well known. We will begin here with a review of some of the most well studied benefits of green tea.

 

EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) & Cancer

In the last decade, there has been a good deal of research showing the anti-cancer properties of green tea and it’s main constituent, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), showing positive results in epidemiological, cell culture, animal and human studies in various types of cancer.

 

Cell culture studies, including those on the polyphenols in green tea, show that tea polyphenols increase apoptosis (programmed cell death) and arrest cell proliferation in tumor cells but not in normal, healthy cells.1 Animal studies also show that treatment with green tea can decrease cancerous tumors in skin, colon, liver, mammary glands and stomach.

 

Breast Cancer therapies utilizing the catechins of green tea have been studied extensively in the past two decades. The research has varied significantly, in terms of in vivo or in vitro, carcinogens looked at, green tea catechin dose used, and whether or not it was green tea extract or a synthetic version that is higher in EGCG. The effect is not always statistically significant, but what is consistently found is the protective effect of green tea in all of the breast cancer trials. This suggests that further trials of green tea extracts should be done, particularly in high-risk women. 7

 

Estrogen receptor alpha cells responded better to tamoxifen in the presence of EGCG. And growth of non-malignant breast epithelial cells is not affected by EGCG. 5

 

Researchers studying the nanoparticles of green tea found that while they did not have the EGCG (or caffeine or theobromine) that has been studied so heavily, they did have a benefit in cancer therapy. They form a complex with doxorubicin and improve the uptake of the drug into cancer cells. This led to increased cytotoxicity of lung cancer and breast cancer cells. They also were found to have increased uptake and cytotoxicity in multi-drug resistant breast cancer cells. 6

 

EGCG has been shown to have very potent free-radical quenching capabilities, which is especially important in detoxification and preventing oxidative damage.

 

More studies are needed to determine which populations and which organ systems are likely to benefit the most from green tea consumption. But there is sufficient evidence to know at this point that it does help keep cancer at bay, and without much downside, can be assumed to be a reasonable tonic to include in your daily diet.

 

 

 

Theanine & Anxiety

Recent years have seen large increases in data available on the central nervous system effects of theanine. Theanine is an amino acid component of both green and black teas, although is somewhat higher in green tea. L-theanine is the form in supplements for human use. It was previously thought it should be taken as a supplement to achieve the greatest calming effect, rather than to just have a cup of green tea. Recent research shows that it crosses the blood brain barrier, increasing alpha brain waves, even with just a simple cup of green tea. Alpha waves are seen on EEG and mostly found in wakeful relaxation with eyes closed. This seems to help people focus on mental tasks. The unique quality of theanine is that it helps produce alert focus while also producing a sense of calm. Many calming herbs and pharmaceuticals also create sleepiness. Not so with theanine. Although if your anxiety is keeping you awake, theanine may help induce sleep just by reducing anxiety levels. The calming effect of theanine is related to it’s upregulation of inhibitory neurotransmitters, while also regulating dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. 2 Other areas where theanine shows some promise include stroke recovery and schizophrenia.

 

Polyphenon E and Cervical Cancer

Polyphenon E is a topical ointment with a standardized amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from green tea. It has been used in several studies showing elimination of HPV related warts. 3 It has also been shown in cell cultures to reduce cervical cancer by inducing apoptosis and inhibition of telomerase activity. 4

 

Green Tea and Anti-Aging

Tea has been used since ancient times for it’s proposed health benefits. Now we are coming up with scientific research to help prove this and also to understand the mechanisms of action. Several new research studies have recently been published that show the benefits of green tea on effects of aging.

 

Polyphenolic compounds from green tea contain compounds that show strong affinity to reactive oxygen species. They show the ability to neutralize free radical damage and initiate other positive biological effects. 10

 

Emulsions of green tea and lotus applied to the skin are shown to reduce wrinkles, scaliness and skin roughness. Green tea and lotus were also each studied alone in this trial and were found to have synergistic effects when applied together. 8 Another meta-review of studies of botanicals for skin wrinkles showed no benefit with green tea, but also pointed out at that the study designs were not adequate. 9 More research is needed in this area.

 

Another review article pointed out that green tea has a beneficial effect in limiting skin cancer growth, along with reducing ultraviolet light induced photoimmunosuppresion. 12

 

 

Diabetes and Heart

Green tea has been shown to help with metabolic disorders including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and decrease cholesterol. 11

 

 

What about the bad stuff?

If you’ve been reading so far waiting for the other shoe to drop, fear not. It isn’t so bad. At least nothing that you can’t avoid with a little education.

 

Look out for toxic elements!

Canadian researchers recently studied 30 different types of black, green and oolong teas found on local store shelves. They looked at both regular and organic teas. They looked at toxic elements in the tea leaves themselves, tea brewed for 3 minutes and then tea brewed for 15-17 minutes. Here is the heartbreaking news: all teas contained lead. In the teas brewed for just 3 minutes, 73% contained lead, and in the tea brewed for 15-17 minutes 83% contained lead at levels that are considered unsafe for pregnancy and lactation. There was no difference in lead levels between organic and regular teas. 13

 

Interestingly, while many of the tea leaves contained mercury, no mercury was found in the brewed teas. There is some binding that occurs in the tea leaves that keeps it from leeching out in to the tea.

 

And while choosing tea that is organic isn’t necessarily going to protect you from the elevated lead levels, purchasing tea from different countries certainly could. The study showed that all green tea from China, organic and regular, had elevated lead levels. While tea from Sri Lanka did not. Organic green tea from Japan showed moderate levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium.

 

Take it easy on cream and sugar!

Tea flavonoids protect cells from free radical damage. This is because tea contains high levels of antioxidants, the polyphenols we’ve talked about already. But many people are doctoring up their tea with things that completely eliminate the activity of these antioxidants. As it happens, more people do this to black tea than to green. Researchers showed that the addition of milk, sugar and honey decrease the antioxidant levels in tea in a dose-dependent manner. Addition of the natural sweetener stevia had no negative effect on the antioxidant levels, so it should be the sweetener of choice in any tea. 14

 

 

Where do we go from here?

It is clear that green tea has many beneficial qualities. Having several cups each day can provide myriad health benefits. My favorite way to have my green tea is to brew kombucha – that way I get the catechins and some probiotics all in one place. But we need to be smart to avoid any negative attributes. Educate yourself about where your tea comes from. Most of us tend to drink the same brand over and over again. Find out where it’s grown and if they do any testing to make sure it does not have toxic contaminants. If you are taking a concentrated green tea capsule for medicinal purposes, I would do the same research. Make sure that you aren’t also getting concentrated lead. Many of the best supplement companies do regular testing to make sure there are no toxins in their products. If they aren’t, I wouldn’t take it.

 

And for sure stay away from milk and sugar in your tea.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Chen, D et al, Green tea and tea polyphenols in cancer prevention. Front Biosci. 2004 Sep 1;9:2618-31. PMID:15358585
  2. Yokoyama, M. The tea polyphenol, (-)-epigallocatechin gallate effects on growth, apoptosis, and telomerase activity in cervical cell lines. Gynecol Oncol. 2004 Jan;92(1):197-204.
  3. Garcia, FA. Et al. Results of a phase II randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Polyphenon E in women with persistent high-risk HPV infection and low-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Gynecol Oncol. 2014 Feb;132(2):377-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2013.12.034. Epub 2014 Jan 2.
  4. Zeng L, et al. Effects of physiological levels of green tea extract epigallocatechin-3-gallate on breast cancer cells. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2014 May 7;5:61. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2014.00061. eCollection 2014.
  5. Yi S, et al. Tea nanoparticles for immunostimulation and chemo-drug delivery in cancer treatment. J Biomed Nanotechnol. 2014 Jun;10(6):1016-29.
  6. Yiannakopoulou ECh Effect of green tea catechins on breast carcinogenesis: a systematic review of in-vitro and in-vivo experimental studies.Eur J Cancer Prev. 2014 Mar;23(2):84-9. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e328364f23e.
  7. Mahmood, T. Combined topical application of lotus and green tea improves facial skin parameters. Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Apr;16(2):91-7. doi: 10.1089/rej.2012.1380.
  8. Hunt, KJ, Botanical extracts as anti-aging preparations for the skin: a systematic review. Drugs Aging. 2010 Dec 1;27(12):973-85. doi: 10.2165/11584420-000000000-00000.
  9. Hsu S. Green Tea and the skin. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jun;52(6):1049-59.
  10. PloS One. 2014 Jan 3;9(1):e84468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084468. eCollection 2014.
  11. Barbosa, NS. CAM use in dermatology. Is there a potential role for honey, green tea, and vitamin C? Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Feb;20(1):11-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2013.11.003. Epub 2013 Nov 20.
  12. Schwalfenberg G, et al. The benefits and risks of consuming brewed tea: Beware of toxic element contamination. J Toxicol 2013. 370480.
  13. Korir, MW. The fortification of tea with sweeteners and milk and its effect on in vitro antioxidant potential of tea product and glutathione levels in an animal model. Food Chem. 2014 Feb 15;145:145-53. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.08.016. Epub 2013 Aug 11.

2.     Lardner, AL. Neurobiological effects of the green tea constituent theanine and its potential role in the treatment of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2014 May 28;17(4):145-55. doi: 10.1179/1476830513Y.0000000079. Epub 2013 Nov 26.

Willowbend Weight Loss: An Introduction

I want a weight loss program that works and that is sustainable. I want the choices to be healthy…the weight loss to be healthy…the products we are told to take or eat to be healthy.

But alas, in order for that to happen I had to make it myself. I have tried without success to follow other templates. Or I have looked into diet plans and just not been able to follow them myself or recommend for patients because I didn’t really think they were healthy.

 

Being overweight is an enormous problem (no pun intended) for many people. Those of us who have weight issues are more likely to suffer from myriad illness. Not to mention self-esteem issues. And we don’t want to be heavy. One of my family members has been very critical of my weight – like I just one day decided to spend 8 years gaining 20 pounds/year by choice. (I do not mean that I don’t take ownership of my choices and issues, but many overweight people do not know how to make the changes necessary, or what to count on that will really work.)

There are hundreds of opinions on the best way. This is just mine. And from being a naturopathic doctor for over 10 years, and having lost weight on this program that I have kept off (and helped others to do so as well), I believe that this is an ideal weight loss program.

 

I hope you are willing to take the plunge and make some changes! Your health awaits!

 

 

The cornerstones of this program are:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Track daily food intake (there’s an app for that :’)
  • No grains
  • No sugar
  • High healthy proteins
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Fruit is allowed but limited
  • Supplements that increase health, metabolism and replace a meal
    • Intensely good Multivitamin
    • Fish Oil
    • RAW protein powder
    • Probiotic
    • Fiber
    • Daily exercise
    • Adequate sleep every night
    • Weekly check in meetings for support and accountability

     

We are putting finishing touches on the guidebook and pricing for the 12-week weight loss program. Stay tuned!

Sunscreen: Healthy or Toxic?

It’s not an easy question. Most of us know that there is a relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer. But how many know about the problems inherent in many of the lotions that are on the market – there to supposedly limit damage to our skin?

What if the products you were buying and lathering on your face and the skin of your family contained chemicals that when exposed to sunlight actually broke down into compounds that can cause cancer? What if they contained chemicals that could disrupt normal hormonal function? But the government is there to help keep us safe, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the FDA has not made a final ruling on standards for sunscreens for the past 32 years. Proposed standards would require manufacturers to provide proof of their safety, UVA and UVB protection, and waterproof stability if those claims were made.

Research found on the website of the Environmental Working Group shows that 60% of sunscreens in the US contain oxybenzone as the active ingredient, to prevent burning and sun damage to skin. What the purveyors of these products do not tell you is that oxybenzone, which may be easier to apply to the skin than mineral sunscreens – like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – is absorbed into the skin in large amounts, potentially causing allergic reactions and hormone disruption. Researchers now recommend that oxybenzone not be used on children.

Vitamin A is a wonderful antioxidant and has been shown to beneficially reduce free radical damage when taken internally or applied to the skin in night creams. But using Vitamin A in sunscreen has potentially carcinogenic effects. So rather than preventing skin cancer, it actually may be contributing to it. Look for “retinol palmitate” as it is sometimes called on labels.

Much safer products are on the market now. But you have to be willing to do some research and read some labels. The biggest issue with the labels is that most of them have many ingredients. And most of the ingredients are unknown and unpronounceable by the general public.

But here is a good point. We know that our skin is a great delivery vehicle for medications, right? Why else would there be patches for quitting smoking, birth control and other medications? We do absorb substances readily through our skin. And yet we assume that the skin care industry, which is largely unregulated, has our best health at heart. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s not true. We live in a great capitalistic society, and they want to make money. Many of the chemicals and fragrances that are added to make them appealing are very unhealthy.

I don’t expect you to go out and get a degree in chemistry to understand all of this. Here are a few hints to help:

  • More is not better. Aim for labels with fewer ingredients – not so many that you are weary to read all of them.
  • Familiar is good! If it sounds like a strange chemical that you can’t even pronounce, you might want to think twice about it.
  • “Baby” in the name does NOT mean it is safe for kids!
  • Don’t assumethat there is someone knowledgeable at your health food store who prevents the unhealthy ones from being put on the shelves.
  • Mineral sunscreens – zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – provide physical barriers to the sun yet are not absorbed into the skin.
  • Check www.ewg.org to see if your sunscreen is safe, or to find one that is (as well as read more in-depth research on sunscreen ingredients).
  • Use other protective barriers against the sun, such as clothing, hats, and umbrellas. And avoid being in the noonday sun when the UV rays are potentially most damaging.
pink wildflowers

Pink wildflowers

We all love this surge in warm weather and ability to spend some time outside. Spring and summer are a wonderful time for enjoying nature. Soak up your summer rays safely.

Sara Thyr, ND

Willowbend Natural Medicine

www.DrThyr.com

A Spring Cleanse – For the Body and Mind

My husband and I, along with a group of 15 people from my practice, are on day 2 of our annual spring cleanse. It is an event that I always look forward to and relish when it comes – feeling the warmth of spring, new sprouts of life everywhere, and taking some time for our health.

This morning we are taking the time to be creative with the abundance of greens and root vegetables from our local farm box (CSA = community supported agriculture). Making a big batch of roasted vegetables and some brown rice will help sustain us. A smoothie of carrots, collards, beet greens, frozen mango and the detoxification powder supplement that we are using this year comprise our breakfast. We will be on this plan for 10 days, with the food choices becoming more restrictive as we go along. From the beginning we bid a fond farewell to caffeine, sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, eggs, dairy products and flesh foods.

I lead liver detoxification workshops twice/year, in the spring and fall, the most optimal times to cleanse. But spring is always my favorite. I’m a summertime gal, so spring is when I can let myself start to get excited about longer days, growing tomatoes and all of the fun that summer brings. That feeling of excitement and motion is why many people are moved to do spring cleaning – it is a natural shift from the hibernation of winter. Acknowledgment of the changing of seasons helps us to be more connected to nature, to eating more seasonally (which I appreciate is a little easier in a climate where we can grow food year round), and to shift our bodies and activities in concert with this.

So too it is the right time to think about cleaning out our bodies.

The eating plan on the detox is more restrictive that what I normally do. For some people making the changes is not that difficult. For many of us, it is. I encourage cleansers to pay attention to the luscious healthiness of what they are consuming (rather than focusing on what they cannot eat). Food on the cleanse is focused nutrient density…and paying close attention to what you are putting in your body. It feels so good to me to do this. We just don’t take the time in our normal daily routines, at least not to the extent that we do now. I love the permission on the detox of taking it easy, spending more time with food, focusing on greens, and feeling all of the cells of my body soak up the intensity of the nutrition.

We are exposed to toxins all the time. When I began leading detox workshops, I spent lots of time talking about all of the things in our environment that are bad for us, and ended up seeing many deer-in-the-headlights faces. I find that the people who want to come to the program realize there are some inherent toxins in their environment, so I don’t belabor the point quite so much. But education is one of my passions, so I always have to throw in a few little details about safe sunscreens and toothpaste. Some people are more exposed on the job. But everyone, even those who live clean lives, has some toxic load. Pollution, plastic bottles, pesticides on produce, medications, personal care products (like deodorant, lotions, cortisone cream, cosmetics, sun screen, shampoo) have chemicals that have been shown to cause harm. Categories of damage include endocrine disruption, carcinogenesis, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and allergies or immunotoxicity.

While finding the balance between awareness and panic, and making positive changes or falling into bottomless depression about how we’ve polluted our world, I now lean more towards a detox that is also good for your spirit. Find a place where you can make some positive shifts without feeling completely overwhelmed. Doing a detox requires spending more time preparing your food, rather than buying something quick. Relish in that. Give up some of the other tasks of the day to make chopping the carrots meditative. Rest and take care of yourself, so that putting together a delicious vegan dinner doesn’t feel like such a heavy load. Appreciate the new leaves on the Japanese maple, or the tulips or whatever is blooming in your yard. That is the beauty of spring. That is all part of the health of our natural world.

Spring Cleanse is here at last

I can’t believe it is the middle of March! But here is sit with a table of vegetable sprouts, daylight that stretches well past winter’s 5 pm shut down, and 17 brave souls starting together the spring cleanse!

I am really excited about this cleanse. I always am. I love doing the twice/year detox classes. It’s fun to work with a group and commiserate together. And it is just time. I am ready for the straight and narrow path that doing a detox pushes me into.

I am happy for this blog to be a forum for anyone to comment if they want to share and stay connected during the process. Feel free to comment about how things are going, questions, concerns or general whining! And as much fecal discussion as you can handle.

I’m off to make my green smoothie to take for lunch, get a massage, and buy more paint. Maybe I’ll take a little more detox powder today! :’)

Food Allergies: Fact or Fiction

I recently read an article in the NY Times that said that many people who have been diagnosed with food allergies don’t actually have them. They felt that perhaps only 8% of children and less than 5% of adults actually have them.

I feel that quite the opposite is true. In my practice, I see many people who have undiagnosed food allergies. And they often don’t associate their symptoms with foods. But once they avoid the reactive foods, they find myriad of symptoms that they have struggled with, for either weeks or years, disappear. Symptoms affected by food allergies are wide ranging – from making seasonal allergies worse, to ear infections, fatigue, headaches, eczema, heartburn and other digestive disorders – even high blood pressure.

Their distinction of food allergies versus food intolerance did make sense. A food allergy is actually activating the immune system. This involves antibodies. Conventional allergists often test for food allergies using the skin prick test, where a small amount of a serum with the food is injected under the skin to see if a reaction forms around the area on the skin. The antibody that is active in this type of testing is called IgE (which stands for immune globulin E). Some practitioners do a blood test, which often looks at another immune globulin called IgG (as above, immune globulin G). IgG is better at finding the undetected food allergies are found, as it is more prevalent in delayed hypersensitivity reactions. IgE is the mediating immune globulin for more immediate sensitivities, like those that cause inhaled allergies – like when you get itchy eyes from petting a cat; or the more serious anaphylactic reaction from eating a peanut.

A food intolerance is more common. Many people are lactose intolerant – they cannot digest the sugar in milk, and find themselves with symptoms such as upset stomach and loose stools. Reacting to sulfites in red wine is also an intolerance, rather than a food allergy.

For many people, the distinction is immaterial. They feel better if they avoid the food. So avoid the food.

One reason I like to make the distinction is that most people with food allergies are likely to also have intestinal permeability (also known as “leaky gut”). With this in mind, there are a number of therapies that can help to heal the digestive tract. Along with food allergy avoidance, healing the digestive tract can improve health, including eliminating symptoms caused by the food allergies, as well as mitigating reactions when they have any of their allergenic foods.

Whether you think you have food allergies or just an intolerance, it is wise to see a naturopathic doctor – a specialist in finding a treating the cause, as well as treating illness with the most nutritive elements nature has to offer.