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Preventing Heartburn

If you suffer from frequent heartburn - twice a week or more - you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This condition occurs in people whose lower esophageal sphincter doesn't close properly, allowing stomach acid to backflow into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest and neck areas. It can also cause nausea, coughing, belching, a bitter taste, and respiratory problems, including aggravating asthma. Diet, stress, smoking and pregnancy can all trigger or worsen symptoms.

If you think you have GERD, see a doctor to rule out other concerns, such as angina, which has similar symptoms. Discuss any medications you are taking: some can trigger reflux. If you want to treat GERD naturally, try the following:

  1. Keep a food and beverage journal. It can help you track and avoid triggers.
  2. Eat small, frequent meals.
  3. Wear loose clothing and maintain a healthy weight. Both can prevent stomach constriction and help reduce GERD.
  4. Avoiding lying down after eating.
  5. Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises.
  6. Sip chamomile tea. It can help soothe inflamed tissue in the esophagus.
  7. Try sleeping on your left side. This may help move acid away from the entrance of the esophagus.
  8. Experiment with DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), a supplement proven to be effective against GERD.

About Olives

One of the oldest foods known, olives were first cultivated in Crete some five to seven thousand years ago. While olives have a high fat content, almost three-fourths of their fat is the healthy monounsaturated type, which offers cholesterol-lowering properties. Olives are also a good source of vitamin E (which helps to neutralize free radicals), iron, copper and dietary fiber.

Try Tofu Provencal for a festive dish featuring olives.


Yoga Promotes Weight Loss

It's not the poses or the stretching that works - instead, the mindfulness associated with yoga seems to promote weight loss and prevent gains. Four years ago, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that regular yoga practice may help prevent middle-aged spread in normal weight people and spur losses in the overweight. Now the same team has found that mindfulness, not just physical activity, makes the difference. Mindful eating means knowing why you eat and stopping when you're full (as opposed to eating when you're not hungry, when you're stressed and in response to cues such as advertising). The new study included more than 300 individuals from local yoga studios and other venues who reported on their activities, in and out of yoga class. All the participants filled out a Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Those with the highest mindfulness scores had lower BMIs (body mass index) than those with lower scores. The study was published in the August, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.


A Note on Eggplant

Part of the nightshade family of vegetables, eggplant (called aubergine in France, which may be why we use that term to indicate a deep purple color) is a low calorie source of nutrients: it provides fiber, potassium, manganese and vitamins B1, B6 and folate. It's also a good source of phytonutrients and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties and help neutralize free radicals, which in turn lessens oxidative damage to cell membranes.

Try these delicious, healthy recipes featuring eggplant: Eggplant-Walnut Pâté or Ciambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew).


Muscle Makes for Better Bones

Conventional medical wisdom has held that being overweight has one advantage: the extra weight puts enough stress on bones to help stimulate the formation of more bone tissue.  Overweight bones are typically stronger than those seen in thinner people who are believed to have a higher risk of osteoporosis.

But researchers in Belgium have challenged that view with a study showing that the fatter men in their study had smaller, thinner bones and that the size of their bones was affected most dramatically by the amount of fat in the trunk area. Of the 768 men between the ages of 25 and 45 whose bone density was examined, those with the largest, densest bones were those with the highest lean muscle mass. The researchers said that bone mass fell as the percentage of body fat rose and that bone mass increased as lean muscle mass rose. They concluded that bone mass is determined by "dynamic" loading provided by muscle mass rather than the "passive" loading from the weight of fat. The study was published in the July 2009 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.


Acupuncture May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

New research from Sweden suggests that acupuncture can help normalize menstruation and lower levels of testosterone in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This common disorder affects 10 percent of all women of reproductive age. It causes a large number of small cysts to form on the ovaries, disturbing hormone production and leading to an increase in testosterone secretion. As a result, affected women don’t ovulate normally and are at risk of infertility, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although the cause is unknown, the Swedish researchers said that some women with the syndrome often have high activity in a part of the nervous system that we cannot consciously control -the sympathetic nervous system - and that this may be an important underlying factor. In the study, a group of women with PCOS was treated for four months with electro-acupuncture in which needles are stimulated with a weak, low-frequency electric current; another group of women was given heart rate monitors and told to exercise three times a week and a third, control group, was told about the importance of exercise and a healthy diet but received no other instruction. The investigators found that sympathetic nervous system activity decreased in women who received acupuncture or exercised and that menstruation became more normal among the women underwent acupuncture treatments. The study was published in the August, 2009, American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

Find more information on PCOS from


Tuna Sliders

Here's a recipe to try if you tire of Thanksgiving fare. It's a delicious True Food Kitchen restaurant exclusive! This is not your everyday tuna sandwich. Fresh vegetables, avocado wasabi mayonnaise, and a sweet and salty soy glaze ensure that this will be a meal to make again.

2 pounds tuna, cut into 2 ounce flat squares
2 ounces cucumber, julienned
2 ounces daikon, julienned
6 ounces avocado wasabi mayo (recipe below)
pinch sesame seeds
1 teaspoon soy glaze (recipe below)
10 pumpernickel slider buns

1 avocado
2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola mayonnaise
1 tsp wasabi powder
1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger
Combine all. Mix well.

Season the tuna with salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Pan sear for 30 seconds in hot pan.
Spread mayonnaise on bottom of bun and place tuna on top. Place diakon and cucumber on top of tuna and drizzle with soy glaze. Top with bun.

Food as Medicine: Tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have linked to lower blood pressure and other cardiovascular benefits.


Chinese Herb Improves Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Extracts of a Chinese herb with a tongue-twister of a name, Tripterygium wilfordii Hook F (TwHF, for short) may be a useful treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Also known as lei gong teng or thunder god vine, the herb was tested in 121 RA patients for 24 weeks against the drug sulfasalazine by researchers at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. The study was published in the August 18, 2009 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The investigators randomly assigned patients participating in the study to take TwHF root three times a day or one gram of the anti-inflammatory drug sulfasalazine twice a day. Not all the patients stayed with the study for the entire 24 weeks, but among those who completed the course of treatment the researchers reported that 67 percent taking TwHF improved, compared to only 36 percent of those who received sulfasalazine. Side effects were similar in both groups. Based on their findings the researchers concluded that the rapid improvement in joint symptoms seen in the TwHF group may make the extract an attractive and affordable alternative to the anti-inflammatory drugs currently used to treat RA.