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Monday
Sep012014

Surprising Solution to Sleeplessness

It’s not a new pill or any type of high-tech sleeping aid. Instead, researchers at Louisiana State University have shown that insomnia-plagued seniors can sleep nearly an hour and a half longer nightly by drinking two eight-ounce glasses of tart Montmorency cherry juice daily. The cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle, and the juice also contains proanthocyanidins (a type of antioxidant) that the research team credits with helping to promote sleep. In addition, the constituents in the juice help increase the availability of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. The investigators made the point that cherry juice may be a better sedative for seniors than prescription medications, which can increase the risk of falls and related hip fractures. The cherry juice findings were presented Monday, April 28, at the "Dietary Bioactive Components: Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Effects of Dietary Bioactive Components" section of the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology 2014 meeting in San Diego. The findings have been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

My take? We know that cherry juice can help reduce the pain of arthritis, gout and exercise related muscle pain. The Louisiana State study was pretty small – only seven seniors (average age 68) participated, but its findings are encouraging and it might be worth considering cherry juice to help address sleeplessness, especially for older individuals. I’ve recommended melatonin as an occasional sleep aid for some time. I suggest trying sublingual tablets (to be placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve); take 2.5 mg at bedtime, making sure that your bedroom is completely dark. A much lower dose, 0.25 to 0.3 mg, is more effective for regular use. I also recommend valerian as an alternative to benzodiazepines and other prescription sleep aids. You can find standardized extracts in health food stores and pharmacies. Take one to two capsules a half hour before bedtime.

Friday
Aug292014

When Was The Last Time You Took An Antibiotic? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed antibiotics and whether they are helping or hurting by creating "superbug" infections: Unnecessary Antibiotics? Check out the article and let us know when the last time was you took an antibiotic for a bacterial infection.

Thursday
Aug282014

10 Foods for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Part 2

We continue our look at foods that can help keep your blood sugar levels optimized with five more to add to your diet. Find out what to put on your next grocery list!

Tuesday's post covered five foods for healthy blood sugar levels, from green leafy veggies to onions. Today we look at five more - add these foods to your diet, as they may help lower blood sugar levels.

  1. Maitake mushrooms. One of Dr. Weil’s favorites, maitake not only contain compounds that enhance immune function, but in one study people with type 2 diabetes were given maitake along with diabetes medication, and the result was lower blood sugar readings. Cook some up and serve them as a side dish!
  2. Underground vegetables. Also known as “tubers,” veggies such as leeks, potatoes and yams have been shown in studies to lower or return to normal high blood sugar levels.
  3. Brewer’s yeast. Rich in essential amino acids and B vitamins, brewer’s yeast may also lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and may improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol as well. Shake some on your next batch of popped corn!
  4. Prickly pear. The green pads of this plant are called nopal, and is more than a staple in Mexican cuisine – it is very low on the glycemic index and may have blood-sugar-lowering effects. Look for it at specialty or ethnic grocers.
  5. Bitter melon. When cooked and added to other dishes, bitter melon will impart a unique flavor that may help glucose tolerance of people with type 2 diabetes, and help keep blood sugar levels in the normal range.
Tuesday
Aug262014

10 Foods for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Part 1

Want to help keep your blood sugar levels steady? Look to your diet – certain foods may lower blood sugar or stabilize it at healthy levels. These may be especially helpful for people with diabetes. What works best?

To keep blood sugar levels stable, regular exercise is helpful – but a healthy diet is a must. Add these foods to your diet, as they may help lower blood sugar levels.

  1. Green, leafy vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, and kale are good sources of fiber – which helps regulate blood sugar levels - and are high in vitamins A, C, and K as well. Plus, some studies have shown that eating vegetables can help prevent diabetes, so aim for four to five servings per day.
  2. Beans and legumes. Beans of almost any variety as well as lentils are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber – and are low-glycemic-load foods. Make sure you get one to two servings per day.
  3. Cabbage. A very low-glycemic index food (near zero!), cabbage is high in fiber, low in calories, inexpensive and versatile. It’s especially useful for stabilizing blood-sugar levels because it converts to sugar very slowly in the body. Try eating more slaw, sauerkraut or kimchi.
  4. Okra. This southern staple is high in soluble fiber - which slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and can help stabilize blood sugar – and is also a low glycemic-index food. Try adding it to your next pot of soup.
  5. Onions. This kitchen staple is more than a tasty addition to many dishes – onions offer blood-sugar lowering effects.

Don’t miss Thursday’s tip when we cover five more foods that are beneficial to healthy blood sugar levels!

Monday
Aug252014

Why You Should Eat Lemons

When life gives you lemons… use them! Lemons are not only a tasty warm weather fruit, but offer health benefits as well. A citrus fruit, lemons are a good source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that helps to keep the immune system strong.

Lemons come in both sour (Eureka and Lisbon) and relatively sweet (Meyer) varieties. Look for a lemon that is heavy for its size, which indicates less skin and more flesh. The peel should have a finely grained texture and be fully yellow. You can use both the flesh and the peel (as a zest if the lemon is organic) in all types of dishes, so enjoy – we like them in the Lemon Olive Oil Cake recipe.

And don’t limit the lemons to cooking - lemons make an effective, natural cleaning product for your home. To clean and polish wood furniture, add two tablespoons of lemon juice to 10 drops of (real) lemon oil and a few drops of jojoba oil.

Saturday
Aug232014

Are Your Vitamins “Good”?

Confused about which nutritional supplements to choose? Dr. Weil has spent a lifetime researching nutrition and health, including which forms of nutrients are the most bioactive – or have the greatest potential to provide benefits. Here are some of his chief insights among the major supplement classes:

  • Vitamin A: Some forms of supplemental vitamin A, when taken in even moderate daily doses, can be toxic. I recommend the use of mixed carotenoids - these are substances that the body converts to vitamin A, avoiding toxicity potential and maximizing effectiveness.
  • Vitamin D: Inexpensive vitamins tend to contain vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), the kind synthesized by plants. But when humans eat plant-derived D2, it needs to be converted by the body to D3 (choleciferol), the form most readily used by the human body and which skin makes when exposed to ultraviolet light. Although vitamin D2 will contribute to adequate daily intakes, I recommend D3 as this form has been shown to have greater biological activity in human tissue.
  • Vitamin E: In nature, this vitamin is found as a combination of eight different active compounds - four tocopherols, and four tocotrienols. Many manufacturers use inexpensive, synthetic versions of one or only a few of those eight forms. I recommend a complete, naturally derived mixed tocopherol/tocotrienol complex that more closely mirrors the natural vitamin E found in foods.
  • Calcium: Manufacturers make calcium supplements in many forms, including calcium carbonate (the main constituent of chalk, and the most common supplement type), calcium lactate and calcium aspartate. I suggest calcium citrate because it is more easily absorbed, especially by older people who may have less stomach acid. Although more expensive, calcium citrate is more than twice as bioavailable as calcium carbonate.
  • Fish Oils: Oils derived from the fat of cold-water fish are an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Unless carefully sourced, however, these otherwise natural compounds can be contaminated with toxic heavy metals. Look for products derived from fresh catches and waterways with minimal pollution, and those that have received the highest rating for purity - five out of five stars - from the International Fish Oil Standards program.

In every case above, the form Dr. Weil recommends is the one that is available in the Weil Vitamin Advisor. Dr. Weil donates all of his after-tax profits from royalties from sales of Weil Vitamin Advisor products and Weil Nutritional Supplements directly to the Weil Foundation, an organization dedicated to sustaining the vision of integrative medicine.

Friday
Aug222014

What Kind of Cutting Board Do You Use? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed cutting boards and which are the safest to use when cooking in the kitchen: Best Cutting Board? Check out the article and let us know which type of cutting board you use in your kitchen.

Thursday
Aug212014

Danger at the Nail Salon?

Although it's unlikely, it remains possible that women could develop skin cancer from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light while their nail polish or gel manicures dry, and there have been a few rare case studies where women did develop non-melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer on areas of their hands that were repeatedly exposed to UVA light used in nail salons. To get a better sense of the possible danger, researchers from Georgia Regents University did a random sampling of lamps in 17 nail salons to see how much UV radiation is emitted when nails are drying. They found a wide variation ranging from “barely” to “significant,” said study lead author Lyndsay R. Shipp, but reported nothing to warrant anything more than caution. Previous studies have noted that the exposures to salon lamps are likely not significant contributors to increased risks of skin cancer, and Shipp notes she uses the UV machines at the nail salon every few months and will continue to do so. “You can get that amount of exposure when driving down the road in your car,” she told The New York Times.

Sources:
Deborah F. MacFarlane, and Carol A. Alonso, “Occurrence of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers on the Hands After UV Nail Light Exposure,” Archives of Dermatology, 2009;145(4):447-449. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2008.622.

Lyndsay R. Schipp et al, “Further Investigation Into the Risk of Skin Cancer Associated With the Use of UV Nail Lamps,” JAMA Dermatology, doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.8740