Botanical Nutrition

by Rob Seeman official blogger of the health food movement


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Bullet Proof Fish Oil? Why Krill may be a misfire.

 

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You would have to been under a rock to have not heard of “Bullet Proof Coffee” and perhaps you won’t be surprised to know that the inventor has written a book called the “Bullet Proof Diet”.

However when it comes to supplements there may be some holes in the program.  One potentially misguided recommendation of the author, who recommends relying on ‘good fats’ such as MCTs in coconut oil and grass-fed butter, may be the recommendation of Krill Oil over Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements. Continue reading


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Medical experts : Don’t eat raw mushrooms!

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Well-respected medical expert Andrew Weil, MD tells his readers you should NEVER eat raw mushrooms.  Not only are the fruiting body (what most people know as a ‘mushroom’) walls made up of a tough to digest fiber called chitin, they also contains small amounts of toxins that are destroyed when mushrooms are cooked.

“Because of these concerns and because they offer little in the way of improving health, common button mushrooms are best avoided. But the types eaten in Asia—shiitake, maitake, oyster mushrooms, and enoki—provide a range of health benefits,” says Weill.

Weill also mentions in the above article that he takes a couple of blends from Paul Stamets’ Host Defense product line, which also include the above mentioned species of mycelia as well as others.  Many of these mushrooms are of immense physical benefits to humans, often when consumed in the mycelial form.

Just this week, the world’s foremost mycologist Paul Stamets also released a statement on easting raw mushroom fruiting bodies and, frankly, why you shouldn’t. Not surprisingly his sentiments echo many of Weill’s statements.

In answer to the question “Should you eat raw mushrooms?” Paul had this to say :

“No, absolutely not! Raw mushrooms are largely indigestible because of their tough cell walls, mainly composed
of chitin.”

Dr Stamets continues, “Raw mushrooms and raw mycelium may pose potential health hazards from harmful pathogens and heat sensitive toxins—causing gastrointestinal irritation and allergic reactions, such as skin rashes.”

Dr Stamets own medicinal product lines, Fungi Perfecti and Host Defense, are made with mushroom mycelia (and fruiting bodies) which are heat treated “to activate and unlock the nutritional compounds and ensure their bioavailability.”


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Philosophy is Alive and so is the Ocean (So Eat Seaweed)

Stephen Hawking has recently been quoted as saying “philosophy is dead” (or at least that little machine he speaks through did) and I couldn’t disagree with him more.  Philosophy is alive and well in natural medicine; in order to believe in vis Medicatrix naturae (Latin for “by the healing power of nature”) one must believe in the wisdom of nature.  We may need science to understand more about it; but when we can point to a long tradition of safe use that is a philosophical kind of data (more in the realm of say -ethnobotany) that we should not ignore.

Science seats itself on a lofty perch, the sometimes overly-haughty halls of academia.  While I love a good double-blind study as much as the human or herbalist – give me the good ole common sense parameters derived from hundreds, even thousands, of years of safe and effective use over a narrow study that can be spun and reinterpreted ad nauseum.

IrishMoss

One possible victim of that spinful extrapolation is a sea vegetable called Irish Moss, also called carageenan moss, which grows abundantly in the Atlantic ocean. Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) is a type of red algae, used in traditional cultures as a food and a medicine.  It is also best known commercially as a source for carageenan (a polysaccharide fraction naturally occuring in the plant) to be extracted from.

Carageenan is used in industry as a plant-based alternative to gelatin, and as a thickener and stabilizer in processed food products.  Somewhat alarmingly, in animal studies a high dose of carageenan injected in vivo has been shown to cause severe inflammation.  This kind of animal study data on the carageenan polysaccharides is distrurbing, if not altogether damning.

Irish Moss on the other hand, is now being condemened – apparently based almost solely conjecture from scientists – because it contains carageenan.  This seems to me to be a leap of faith that defies both philosophy and science; and a big extrapolation that is contradicted by thousands of years of cultural use of Irish Moss.  It is what is commonly knows as discarding the baby along with the bath water.

In Ireland (not surprisingly) Irish Moss is mixed with whiskey and spices to make a type of pudding.  In Jamaica it is used medicinally as an aphrodisiac.  In Venezuela it is boiled in milk and used a home remedy for sore throat and chest congestion.

These traditional uses support the huge difference between Irish moss and carageenan.  It would be presumptuous to assume that a food with hundreds if not thousands of years of culinary and medicinal use is in fact dangerous and worth avoiding.  We need to learn how to properly weigh the information in modern scientific analysis, rather than being reactive to it.  Always put food first.


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Alkalize 55 : the product formulation and importance of humic fulvate minerals

Sort of a long title for a blog entry isn’t it? Well, admittedly so, but I wanted to let you know specifically what this post is going to be about because it is so important.

ALKALIZE 55 60.1glamour shot

You see, Alkalize 55 is a dietary supplement I have been lucky enough to have a hand in developing.  To be totally transparent it is the NAME I have mainly to take credit for. As part of the Medicatrix naturae consortium which developed the product, my greatest contribution was helping to create a name and presentation that people would remember (and of course with a good deal of significance!)  The credit really must go to Dr Michio Kushi and his formulation of over 50 triple-fermented super food ingredients grown on the biodynamic Anew farm in Brazil.

Dr Kushi and his wife Aveline have been leaders in the macrobiotic world for many years.  I consider him to be one of the founding fathers of health food in the modern era, and there can be no doubt that his work has helped countless thousands.  With Alkalize 55 his work on fermented foods and acid-alkaline balance has been encapsulated in supplement form (and in foods) in a way that can help a really broad number of folks who desperately need it.

But what I wanted to focus on, as my wordy title implies, is the other part of Alkalize 55, the over 70 humic/fulvic trace minerals which are so absorbable and potentially beneficial to the human machine.geodesic mineral_wheelsphere_3The above chart shows some of the mineral synergies at work when we take a broad spectrum of trace minerals.  The mineral complex in Alkalize 55 is a proprietary blend called Whole Earth Minerals which is mined from a fresh water source in the United States which is tested for safe levels of heavy metals.

The main point here is that we really need a WHOLE SPECTRUM of trace minerals, rather than just say – large amounts of Zinc or Magnesium.  All of these elements work in concert, so if we upset the balance there can be dire consequences for the body. Having a broad spectrum of trace minerals promotes the type of inter-related mineral synergy you see depicted above.I think that in order to understand this kind of synergy, we have to have a good philosophical understanding of nature and the way things fit together. Just what is synergy? Why do things appear together in nature? Usually there is some purpose.  For example, if humic acid and specifically fulvic acid have a way of breaking oxygen to the cells of the body, and helping to transport waste products out of the cell there must be some reason?  The answer is that these organic acids helped with the transport and assimilation of trace minerals, as well as the removal of dangerous toxins and heavy metals.

In summary, some of the most important dietary supplements are well-known; fish or algae DHA & EPA Omega-3 (more on this soon!), probiotics, digestive enzymes, not to mention vitamins and macro-minerals. Yet a growing body of evidence suggests we should start to focus more on these trace minerals and the way they interact – in the natural world, and in our bodies.  The spectrum of whole foods and humic fulvate minerals in Alkalize 55 can have unique benefits for the human machine – even beyond what we understand about dietary requirements for nutrients and co-factors.

If you want to do more research on humic and fulvic acid you can visit http://www.livingorganicearth.com

 


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Vegan Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) : Myths and Misconceptions

Hey folks, I don’t know where you live, but here in the Midwestern US of A it is about to get a lot less sunny. And you know what that means? Yes, it is once again Vitamin D season.

lichen rock

Now, if you’ve read my blog posts over time you’ve seen me blog about Vegan D3 over the past couple of years.  Back then, an innovative company in the U.K. came out with a lichen-extracted (and therefore animal-free and vegan) form of Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol.  The Food Movement, Nordic Naturals, Country Life and others moved on this great opportunity and brought the product to market. Yet still many myths and misconceptions exist so we are going through them one by one today.

Next time you see a product made with D3 from sheep’s wool lanolin which claims to be 99% vegan (I’m not making this stuff up, folks) please write and tell the nice people how ill-informed they are.  Nothing personal; but misinformation is the enemy. Call them out, give them my e-mail and we will set the record straight.

MYTH #1 – ALL VITAMIN D3 (CHOLECALCIFEROL) COMES FROM ANIMALS

In terms of dietary supplements this was true up until a couple of years ago.  But research by legendary mycologist Paul Stamets indicates that organic mushrooms also contain active D3, not just D2.  So, there are true ‘food’ sources of D3 out there.  However, if you are facing Vitamin D deficiency (which many more people are than realize) you need a therapeutic dose of at least 1000 IU, perhaps 5000.  So you need a dietary supplement.  Many folks have seen dramatic results using the plant-based Vitashine (TM) form.

MYTH #2 – IT DOESN’T MATTER WHICH FORM, AS LONG AS YOU GET VITAMIN D

Evidence, meaning credible scientific research, suggests that not only does the body prefer D3 (cholecalciferol) to D2 (ergocalciferol), but supplementing with D2 may actually INHIBIT the body’s production of D3.  Think on that one for a moment, manufacturers of products!

While many vegan products contain D2 (ergocalciferol), which is not an animal product, they may not be a viable source of absorbable Vitamin D.

The research on Vitamin D3 is truly staggering. Check out some of the studies on deficiency alone!

MYTH #3 – EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT GUARANTEES YOUR BODY WILL MAKE ENOUGH VITAMIN D

You know one thing that blocks vitamin D production? Sunscreen.  Now, I’m not telling you whether or not to wear sunscreen  – but I can also tell you anecdotally that I have talked to many folks who live in sunny areas, get out a fair amount, and have gone to the doctor ( a key factor here) and found their vitamin D levels were low.

You can get a great deal on Vegan D3 capsules here and also in a convenient liquid dropper form.


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Moringa documentary drives home ‘The Miracle Tree’s contribution to hunger relief

When I think of ‘food medicine’ (and the arbitrary distinction between what is ‘food’ and ‘medicine’ in the West, as opposed to in the East) I often think of Moringa.  You may know of it because of its reputation as a high source of vitamins and minerals. In fact the freeze-dried biodynamic Medicatrix Moringa has as much Calcium gram for gram as many Calcium isolated supplements such as Calcium Carbonate! Yet it is in a whole plant form and arguably more beneficial, if only because of the broad range of phytonutrients a whole plant can offer.

The video below drives home an important aspect of the plant – its role in alleviating hunger and other afflictions in Africa and other parts of the world.  While the West suffers from diseases of excess, mother Africa still struggles with the fundamentals of survival.  Moringa may be part of the solution for both. Watch the video if you get the chance and support our friends at Trees of Life. Tell them the food movement sent you!


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Antioxidants don’t work? Polyphenol hormesis at the gates of dawn

Americans love simple answers.  This fact breeds such rampant intellectual dishonesty, and audacious marketing follies, all because our greatest loyalty seems to be to our short attention span.

To my mind – there is nothing wrong with, in the words of Malcolm X “talking to everyone in a language they can easily understand.” However, the practice of oversimplification can lead lead us to dumb things down so much as to miss the point entirely.  Especially if the truth is, and it usually is, a nuanced and multi-dimensional intangible object subject to vastly different interpretations and perceptions.

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I spend a lot of time hanging out in health food stores, and one of the most interesting things in the world to me is to hear the interpretations of natural health science put forth in popular media and echoed back from consumers.  In some ways, it is like that old game ‘Telephone”. Almost regardless of whether or not what was said originally was accurate or meaningful, the end result often won’t be.

Earlier this year Scientific American ran an article with a headline on the cover about The Antioxidant Myth.  The article by Melinda Wenner Moyer dramatically purports to tell us that “the antioxidant theory of aging is dead.”  The article talks about the research Dr David Gems and others have done that turns some of science’s ideas about antioxidants on its ear, so to speak. That is to say, some of the research suggests (but certainly is not conclusive) that oxidative reactions (the cause of oxidative damage, and long thought to be a central cause of aging) may not actually be a central cause of aging.

The editors summarize ”

  • For decades researchers assumed that highly reactive molecules called free radicals caused aging by damaging cells and thus undermining the functioning of tissues and organs.
  • Recent experiments, however, show that increases in certain free radicals in mice and worms correlate with longer life span. Indeed, in some circumstances, free radicals seem to signal cellular repair networks.”

This to me is really interesting, but it is a BIG jump to make the extrapolation that third leap which they do “If these results are confirmed, they may suggest that taking antioxidants in the form of vitamins or other supplements can do more harm than good in otherwise healthy individuals.”

I wonder if they would go so far as to make the equation seem really ridiculous and imply that, because of the genetically-modified earthworms we shouldn’t eat healthy antioxidant foods? I mean, there is still a TON of other research out there showing the cell protective benefits of antioxidant vitamins, both as supplements and in their natural food form.  I personally tend to have a bias towards the food form, but this really isn’t the point. At stake here is the very operational assumption that would explain the benefits of antioxidants of any kind – or is it?

Perhaps the problem is we’re asking the wrong questions.  If we look at it from a common sense naturalist perspective which presumes that one of our greatest skills is the ability to adapt and evolve; we may come to a different conclusion entirely. Small amounts of oxidative stress may actually correlate with longevity, but this doesn’t negate the fact that oxidative damage within cells and tissues is a reality.

To me, the more cutting edge theory here is not that “antioxidants don’t work” but rather “we are really just beginning to understand how they work”.

Dr. V. Calabrese et al published a paper a few years ago which explained The Hormetic Role of Dietary Antixoidants in Free Radical-Related Diseases “Regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables or spices is associated with a reduced incidence of cancer and reduction of markers for neurodegenerative damage. Furthermore, greater health benefit may be obtained from raw as opposed to cooked vegetables. Nutritional interventions, by increasing dietary intake of fruits and vegetables, can retard and even reverse age-related declines in brain function and cognitive performance. The mechanisms through which such dietary supplementation may diminish free radical-related diseases is related to their ability to reduce the formation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, along with the up-regulation of vitagenes, such as members of the heat shock protein (Hsp) family, heme oxygenase-1 and Hsp70.”

However the real clincher comes at the last “However, excessive nutritional supplementation (i.e., high doses) can have negative consequences through the generation of more reactive and harmful intermediates with pathological consequences.”

Sounds to me like a greater argument than ever for reopening the books on ‘whole herbs’ and ‘whole foods’ versus highly processed laboratory antioxidants. Do we want scientists to study whether highly purified isolates and extracts have beneficial effects, or how antioxidants behave in a complex food matrix? Not that these isolates may not have their place, but it may be something that in the future will be viewed as completely separate from nutrition. Perhaps we need to cultivate a ‘dietary theory on antioxidants’ which takes into account the inherent wisdom of nature and eating a true whole food diet.  Before we tell people to ‘put away their antioxidants’ we ought to take note of the immense benefit of food-like doses of these nutrients and the incredibly complex interactions to consider.  If you ask me, I’m not really opposed to aging anyways.  As long as I’m healthy while I’m aging, why not let nature take its course? Now how is that for turning a theory on its ear?