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How Medical Treatments Work

Many medical treatments work indirectly by unblocking and faciliating the body's own intrinsic ability to heal itself.


A Note on Cashews

This uniquely shaped nut is one of my favorites, and is also one of the lower-fat choices when it comes to mixed nuts. The fat that cashews do contain is rich in oleic acid - the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Cashews also are a good source of iron and contain copper, essential for the formation of red blood cells, and magnesium, which is vital for healthy bones. One way to get cashews into your diet and boost your energy is with a cashew nut butter sandwich. Start with a slice of fiber-packed wholegrain bread and then top it with cashew butter for a healthy, energy-promoting mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.


Licorice Root for Bad Burns

Don't try this at home, but researchers have found that a compound from licorice root (glycyrrhizin from Glycyrrhiza glabra) seems to help fight bad infections that arise from severe burns. So far tested only in mice, glyrrhizen boosted the ability of damaged skin to create the small proteins - antimicrobial peptides - needed to defend against infections. The investigators at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Shriners Hospital for Children compared the skin of burned mice that was treated with glycyrrhizin with the skin of untreated mice and that of mice that hadn't been burned. The untreated mice had an inability to produce the peptides needed to prevent infection - but the unburned mice and the ones treated with glycyrrhizin had normal amounts of the antimicrobial peptides. The researchers said that they hoped their work would lead to lower death rates from infections in burn patients. The study was published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.


Mozart and Premature Babies

Listening to the music of the master seems to help the babies grow. Exposing the infants to 30 minutes of Mozart's music daily appears to calm them, report researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel. This is good news, because the less agitated the preemies are, the less energy they'll expend and the faster they’ll gain weight - that boosts their immunity to infections and other illnesses and enables them to go home from the hospital. The researchers measured the physiological effects of the music on the babies and compared the "after Mozart" results with earlier measurements. Why Mozart? The Israeli researchers suggest that unlike the compositions of Beethoven or Bach, Mozart's music has a melody that is highly repetitive, perhaps similar to the rhythm of the heartbeat they would hear in the womb, which the investigators speculated may affect the organizational centers in the babies' brains. The Israeli study is part of an international effort to determine what environmental effects promote the health and survival of susceptible infants. Next, the Israeli team plans to expose premature infants to other types of music to see what evokes a similar response. One of them suggested "rap" as a type of music that is also highly repetitive. What would Mozart think of that?


Less Television = Fewer Calories

What would happen if you watched television only half as much as you do now? You might lose weight - not because you eat less but because if you got up off the couch, you  might burn more calories. That’s the conclusion of a study published in the December 14/28, 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers at the University of Vermont assessed the TV watching time of 36 adults over the course of three weeks - the participants' average TV watching time was almost five hours a day. Then the investigators gave 20 of their subjects a device that turned off the television after they had watched half as many hours as they had been accustomed to. Another 16 study participants served as a control group. All the participants wore an armband that measured physical activity for the duration of the three-week study. The group that had their TV-time cut in half burned 119 more calories per day than they did before the study; those in the control group burned 95 fewer calories per day even though their TV-time was unaffected. The investigators suggested that small changes in daily habits - such as watching less television - could make a dent in our national obesity epidemic. Cutting only 100 calories per day "could prevent the gradual weight gain observed in most of the population," the researchers wrote.

My take? I'm not opposed to spending an occasional hour in front of the television, but I am concerned about the unhealthy eating habits couch potatoes often adopt and the fact that the more leisure time you spend in front of the television, the less time you have for more active pursuits. As this small study shows, cutting TV time can make a difference in the amount of calories you burn, and over time could turn out to be a big benefit for your weight and your health.


Grocery Basket Makeover

Here are some simple steps to help you make your grocery cart a vehicle for healthy living. Use these suggestions the next time you shop for groceries:

  1. Produce Section: Choose fresh, whole organic produce whenever possible. Fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum should make up most of your grocery items.
  2. Canned/Packaged Foods: Choose no- or low-sodium canned and packaged foods.
  3. Grains, Breads, Cereals and Legumes: Choose products made of whole, intact grains, not white or whole wheat-flour products. Stock up on healthy, inexpensive staples like dried beans and lentils.
  4. Dairy/Refrigerator Case/Frozen Foods: Avoid anything with carrageenan (which may be irritating to the digestive tract), choose low- or non-fat dairy products without a lot of added sugar, and choose frozen foods that are organic. Avoid frozen meals that are high in sodium, and instead opt for healthier protein sources such as frozen edamame, omega-3 enriched eggs and fresh tofu.
  5. Meat/Seafood/Fish: Choose fresh or frozen to widen your selection, and focus on seafood. When buying salmon, always opt for wild-caught Alaskan varieties.
  6. Healthy Fats: Choose unsalted or low-salt varieties of nuts and seeds that are raw or dry roasted (store seeds in the freezer for freshness) and always choose a high quality extra virgin olive oil or organic, expeller-pressed canola oil for cooking and baking.

More information on the anti-inflammatory diet.


5 Natural Ways to Treat Depression

Yesterday I listed symptoms of depression; today I'll discuss some natural treatment methods. In addition to following your doctor's recommendations and talking with a therapist, I suggest:

  1. Getting regular exercise. For rapid benefits in alleviating depression, there is no better method than regular aerobic exercise. I recommend 30 minutes of continuous physical activity, at least five days a week for best results.
  2. Checking your meds. Make sure you are not taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications that may contribute to depression.
  3. Cutting out caffeine. Addiction to coffee and other forms of caffeine often interferes with normal moods and can aggravate depression.
  4. Trying acupuncture. This modality has proven itself to be very useful in treating several mood disorders, including depression.
  5. Meditating. This eastern tradition requires long-term commitment and does not produce immediate results, but can help get to the root of depression. 

In addition, follow a well-balanced diet, include an antioxidant multi-vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs for all the essential nutrients; consider B vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin B6, along with fish oil (try 1,000 - 2,000 mg per day), all of which can be helpful in supporting optimal mood.


7 Symptoms of Depression

Depression is now considered common, affecting about 340 million people worldwide. Although treatable, about half of all cases of depression go undiagnosed and unaddressed. Situational depression is a typical and normal reaction to events, such as a recent loss, and is simply part of the human experience. Rather than suppress situational depression, it is best to work through these periods with help from psychotherapists or counselors. A more serious medical diagnosis is clinical depression - it can also be triggered by a recent loss or other sad event, but then grows out of proportion to the situation and persists longer than appropriate, affecting emotional health. Clinical depression often requires other forms of treatment in addition to counseling and therapy.

If you are experiencing any of the following, which are common symptoms of depression, make an appointment to talk with a therapist:

  1. A sullen mood
  2. Feelings of hopelessness, guilt and anxiety
  3. Loss of interest in things that used to be pleasurable
  4. Change in appetite
  5. Change in sleeping patterns
  6. Inability to concentrate
  7. A lack of energy or feeling run-down

Learn more about the various types of depression by visiting the Mental Health Center.