Tips for Safer Cosmetics

My own personal research into the effects of chemicals on our health–this is decades of research into effective methods to remove chemicals and address residual affects–has only strengthened my resolve to find pure, effective skincare products that are a good value for money. I’m tired of seeing $50 price tags on 2oz of “night serum” or “daily moisturizer” made from cheap and harmful chemicals just put in a pretty wrapper.

Contrary to popular belief, the U.S. government doesn’t regulate cosmetics for safety, long-term health impacts or environmental damage. Many common cosmetics ingredients are harmful to people and the environment. 

Just like in our food supply, there are the pretenders: labels say “all natural”, “infused with herbs” or even “made with organic” or worse yet simply stating “organic” on the label when this is a figment of the manufacturer’s imagination but is an allowable marketing ploy because cosmetics labels are not regulated.

A little more ethical are those companies that do include small amounts of organic ingredients, just enough to legitimately say that on the label, but also use chemicals–most of which are harmful.

Then there are those excellent companies who look beyond the profit margin to earn bonafide certifications for being organic or free of animal cruelty or otherwise careful with their ingredients and manufacturing procedures.

There are two key ways to avoid toxic ingredients and other unethical practices: 1. read the ingredients labels; and 2. buy only those with the “badges” you find important, minimally the USDA Organic certification if you truly want to avoid chemicals. Only when a 3rd party governing body certifies the entire product, can you be sure of a genuine claim:

USDA Organic seal

If it carries the USDA Organic badge then it meets those standards. Ingredients are grown in unadulterated soils, free of pesticides or chemical fertilizers, harvested cleanly, minimally processed without risk of contamination and stored correctly to maintain their nutrient value.

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics' (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program

Some of the more reputable companies also refuse to test on animals. The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics’ (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Program administers an internationally recognized cruelty-free standard providing the best assurance of no animal testing used in any phase of product development.

recycled packaging

The Recycled label ensures packaging is made with at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, and everything is recyclable. On a day-to-day basis, I hope everyone makes a conscious effort to recycle, re-use, and re-think the use of resources used in consumer products.

Gluten freeThe gluten free label is important to those who have Celiac’s disease or other gluten sensitivities or allergies. Gluten-containing, grain-based products may react when used on your skin.

 

Vegan means no animal products or testing

The “vegan” logo identifies products that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals.

As for the labels, everything that applies to your food applies here:

  1. The ingredients are listed by content: The first 3 to 4 ingredients listed on the ingredients label make up between 90% and 95% of the entire product. The last 3 to 5 ingredients on the label amount to approximately 1% to 3% of the entire product. Takes a little thinking though: if a (usually very concentrated) herbal infusion is the 2nd on the list, which is usual, after water, the product is probably 95% water.
  2. Can you even read the label? If you can’t, if it is a bunch of biochemistry mumbo jumbo–and especially those key first 3-4 ingredients, then skip it and buy something else. The organic primrose oil promoted on the pretty packaging is overshadowed by the PEG, parabens, pthalates and other harsh chemicals that make up the bulk of the ingredients.

With this in mind, you can choose a really great brand that works for you.

I don’t usually promote specific brands on this blog, but the one I use just went on sale–and who doesn’t love a sale? Thought you might like to know. Nourish Organic long ago met my standards including its high quality/low price; but now it’s 40% off. Plus, with any order over $50 and shipping is free.

Nourish Organic 40% Off

Nourishment for life

Hello readers! Back from my unannounced break—apologies for the “unannounced” hiatus. When my husband said he wanted a divorce… well I just had to really take a good look at a whole lot of self discovery. Decisions. Every door that closes opens a room full of rainbows.

I love people, I still love my husband, and I also agree that if a relationship is not nourishing it needs to change. Care for it, guard it, help it, like it, be interested in it… this is relationship nourishment. When you are not valued, good things you do are not acknowledged, the relationship will suck energy and not feed you. After a person does harmful things they cannot care for it; it moves into combat, ignore… if personal self-discipline does not make it go right, then it has to go.

My path of self-discovery opened an amazing door. Beyond nutrition, although that is important—let’s look at nourishment!

When I say that do you think “Food pyramid” ? or “nutrition labels” ?

We are fed not by food but by the energy in our lives. Modern nutrition – carbs, proteins, fruits, and veggies – our body burns these for fuel but they are only one source of nourishment.

In fact, truly, our primary food comes in four key areas: relationships, physical activity, career, and spirituality. Underneath these sits the food we choose to fuel these activities—they are linked of course, but proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals are secondary food. This is important.

Remember as a child, playing outside with your friends. Your mom calls “dinnertime!” “Time to come in and eat.” but you say “No mommy, I’m not hungry yet.”

Your mom, who believed her role is to enforce the rules of good nutrition; made sure you ate at least a minimally acceptable amount of food. She stood and shook her head as you rush out again to play. At the end of the day you’d return, exhausted, and go to sleep without thinking about food at all.

As children, we all lived on primary food. The same is true when you are deeply in love, or working passionately on a project. the fun, excitement, and love of daily life have the power to feed us so that food becomes secondary.

We hunger for play, fun, touch, romance, intimacy, love, achievement, success, art, music, self-expression, leadership, excitement, adventure, and spirituality. All these elements are essential forms of nourishment, and the extent to which we are able to incorporate them determines how enjoyable and worthwhile our lives feel.

On my new path, I’ll continue my nutritional counseling, of course, but we are all different and our life goals are all different.

I’m envisioning a life improvement center where all these areas: relationships, physical activity, career, and spirituality can be cared for; where we can come and get the tools to use to create the future we want: a future of our own creation and that nourishes ourselves, our families, our friends and every living thing on planet earth. And this is an exciting moment!

Stop back often – I’m hoping to contribute to your nourishing journey, or inspire you to start one.

“safe” GMOs increase cancer rates and death!

Although many of us take steps to avoid genetically modified foods if we can (labeling would be nice); there are three major uses of GMO products that slip under the radar:

  1. Pet food
  2. “Vitamin” supplements
  3. non-organic grain fed meats and eggs

Major supplement companies use GMO sources: Did you know that most “Vitamin C” (called that, isn’t the whole complex though–usually just ascorbic acid part which doesn’t work alone), did you know most Ascorbic Acid (labelled “vitamin C”) is made from corn? And did you know that in the US 88% of all corn is GMO?

Buying whole food organic supplements is just as important (if not more) than buying clean whole food. With food and whole-food supplements, your body takes what it needs; with chemically-derived supplements, your body is forced to react just like any other drug–except we don’t call these drugs in our thinking and synthetic vitamin manufacturers (mostly drug companies) know this and capitalize on it. In fact, they can call just about anything “natural” as long as the starting ingredients were.

I digress. Check out this research. In groundbreaking research, lab rats fed diets of GMO corn died faster, developed various tumors and these were far more aggressive, affected females more, produced liver toxicity… Abstract is here if you like this sort of thing

Do something:

  1. Call your supplement brand and ask if they ever source from GMO crops. Ask them point blank, and post the result in my comments section, in your own blog, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere. Blast it out, get it out there. Force companies to change or lose sales. Force them to begin sourcing 100% non-GMO or face massive customer loyalty changes.
  2. Buy fresh food locally and cook it yourself (premade foods have ingredients slipped in that are GMO – like corn starch for example – like the ideas I’ve posted and will continue to post: sign up to receive notification) or at least buy organic of the top GMO foods: salmon, pet food, cottonseed and rapeseed (canola) oil, soy (all products), “golden” rice, zucchini & yellow squash, tomatoes, corn, white potatoes, sugar beets according to various sources.
  3. and… ranchers and dairy farmers normally feed cattle a GM diet, which is in turn passed on to you when you drink milk or eat beef. US Wellness Meats sells quality grassland meat products – Visit us Online!

Why You Should Go Grain-free?

nutritious school lunch, wheat free, grain free, sugar free, easy, make ahead

I know, I know. I can hear you now:
“But they’re good for you!” “They reduce heart disease!” “They have fiber!” “They’re cheap” “They fill me up” …

This site exists to give you healthful grain and sugar-free options—and understanding. Knowledge is power—read on! Click on a picture to get that recipe or just explore this site.

Here’s a little food for thought: there is no vitamin or mineral you can get from grain that you can’t get in better quantities elsewhere. So let’s take a look:

1: The Food Pyramid (now My Plate) says I should get three servings per day. An appeal to authority (unless that “authority” is actually a preponderance of scientific evidence) does not an effective argument make. So what is the evidence?

  • We’re told that whole grains help control (or lose) weight. Karl & Saltzman (2012) state recent clinical trials have failed to support a role for whole grains in promoting weight loss or maintenance.”
  • We’re told that whole grains help cardiac health by reducing chronic inflammation. According to Lefevre & Jonnalagadda (2012) studies do not demonstrate a clear effect of increased whole-grain consumption on C-reactive protein or other markers of inflammation.”
  • We’re told that eating more whole grains generally prevents disease. Williams (2012) reviewed the entire body of scientific literature between 2000 and 2010 (135 papers) and found no association between whole grain consumption and improved cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain, or overall mortality. There may be an increased rate of cancer.

Raw Honey Nut Meusli

2: Don’t grains have essential vitamins and minerals that I can’t get from other sources?

  • Whole grains contain no vitamin C, vitamin A or the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene (except yellow corn)
  • Calorie for calorie, whole grains are not good sources of vitamin B’s (normally found in a complex); grains contain no B12—a vitamin critical for nerve and brain health and protects against pernicious anemia. Your best bets are green leafy vegetables, avocados, red meat and seafood.
  • Whole grains contain very little calcium yet also contain factors that prevent proper absorption and use of any calcium you may be getting from other sources.
  • Whole grains are poor protein sources and have none of the amino acids taurine and carnitine—taurine promotes normal heart rhythm and cardiovascular health; carnitine helps proper energy.

3. In fact, poorly prepared grains prevent vitamin and mineral absorption. Grains contain substances like phytic acid which binds up minerals and prevents proper absorption. In other words, even if you get a lot of iron, calcium and other vital nutrients from other foods, if you eat them with grains they bind to things in the grains and pass through and out of your intestine. However, please note that souring, sprouting and soaking grains neutralizes phytates and renders the nutrients in grain more absorbable.

4. Grains upset your body’s calcium balance. Every food you eat, when digested, yields a net acid or alkaline load. This has very little to do with being alkaline or not before digestion—it is the chemistry of the digestion process that makes it net acid or alkaline. Whole grains are more acid than refined grains, hard cheeses are the most acid, the only alkaline foods are fruits and vegetables. Your kidneys have to balance acid-base and they do this mostly by causing calcium to leach out of bones and act as a pH buffer. And speaking of bone health, it appears that grains somehow prevent the kidneys from activating vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible to carry calcium out of the gut and into the bloodstream and then to your bones and teeth for calcification.

5. Grains are bad for your teeth. Weston A. Price, DDS extensively documented the change from healthy teeth and jaw structure to one of cavities and poor alignment in culture after culture that switched to a diet high in grains and grain products. Anthropological records of our pre-agricultural ancestors indicate very little to no tooth decay; however, that changed after the dawn of agriculture. More recent research links those changes to two main problems:

  • low mineral absorption rates and improper dental structure and enamel formation due to high levels of mineral-blocking phytic acid and inactive vitamin D; and
  • plenty of starches for bacteria to feed on.

6. Grains upset your gut; intestinal health is critical to your overall health. If you’re gut isn’t healthy you can’t absorb nutrients from the foods you eat, become malnourished and more prone to disease.

Here’s the sequence to leaky gut syndrome:

  1. Not very easily digested grains harm the intestinal lining in at least two ways: 1. the fiber mechanically shears the tiny little microvilli, think tiny cuts; 2. digesting the very high starch content of grains creates a net acid environment in your intestine (see #4)
  2. Along with other problems, the acid environment fosters the growth of unwanted bacteria, yeast, amoebas, and even parasites.
  3. Toxins from these unhealthy bacteria inflame your intestinal lining and make it leaky. You may or may not feel symptoms when these unfriendly bacteria grow but they tend to produce abdominal discomforts, gas, and because they cause a release of serotonin in the gut they may contribute to cravings for more starchy foods (eating which blocks transport of tryptophan to the brain reducing the ability of the brain to make serotonin and potentially affecting mood).
  4. Tiny particles of grains can now slip through the intestinal walls into the blood.
  5. Because these incompletely digested particles don’t belong in the blood, your body’s immune system responds. You develop antibodies to grain proteins (lectins) like gluten, gliaden, etc.—proteins that are very similar to proteins made for use by your body.
  6. The more you continue to eat grains, the more this occurs. You may not feel symptoms for a very long time. Gluten binds to the gut lining—gluten antibodies attack the gut lining producing celiac’s disease and Chrone’s (automimmune).
  7. The overworked digestive, pancreatic enzyme and liver detoxification systems cannot keep up with continued grain consumption. These organs are overworked ut the digestive system is no longer absorbing nutrients needed to support these (and other) organs. The body can feel tired, exhausted, and can experience weight gain or swings, eye puffiness and dark bags, digestive upset, excess mucous formation, chronic pain, headaches, and emotional swings.

If you’re white, there’s a good chance that you’re gluten-intolerant to some degree. Current research estimates that 40-60 percent of us from European descent are gluten intolerant to some degree and 1% of the population suffers from celiac disease

7. Grains inflame your joints. Studies show that grains—even whole grains—are linked to joint pain and arthritis. It looks like this may be part autoimmune because the amino acid composition mirrors that of the soft tissue in your joints. Being chemically similar, your body has difficulty differentiating between the two tissues. Once you have antibodies against grain lectins, your body will attack similar proteins of its own as if it were a foreign invader—this leads to pain, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and, of course, more inflammation.

8. Grains cause inflammation in part due to a high starch content. Check www.NutritionData.self.com for nutrition data including inflammation factor, glycemic index, and more. The more refined the grain, the more inflammatory it is. Chronic inflammation is linked to a myriad of degenerative, modern diseases including arthritis, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease, bone loss, emotional imbalance and even cancer. Some inflammation factors (zero is neutral, negative promotes inflammation, positive is anti-inflammatory):

Buckwheat TabouliUnbleached white flour          -421
Whole wheat flour earns        -247
Whole cooked millet               -150
Cooked brown rice earns        -143
Cooked buckwheat groats       -79

9. Grains aren’t good for your skin either. Their very high carbohydrate content, even if they are complex, are broken down into sugars. These sugars instruct your body to produce more insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IFG-1). Elevated insulin levels lead to a cascading hormonal response that activates the sebum-producing glands in your skin so it produces more oil. Unfortunately, there is also an increased production of waxy keratin that tends to clog the pores.

10. Eating grain makes you crave grain. Several reasons: Foods rich in carbohydrates give you quick energy because they break down into sugar, but that energy wears off just as quickly as it came. BUT there is far more to this complicated story. It is downright baffling but people who are truly allergic and have antibodies to grains often have the strongest cravings. There are at least two explanations for this:

  1. Grains contain certain opioid-like compounds and also stimulate the body to produce certain endorphins. These narcotic-like substances produce a temporary “high” and a plate of spaghetti becomes one’s “comfort food.” Just like any narcotic, it takes more and more to achieve the same effect and there are truly withdrawal symptoms for stopping. We don’t have negative connotations for these foods so most people don’t ever consider giving them up.
  2. Because grains break down into sugar, they elevate blood sugar and stimulate the production of insulin. One effect of insulin is to allow the transport of the amino acid tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan is then converted to serotonin—a neurotransmitter associated with good moods. The problem is that grains do not themselves contain any (or very little) tryptophan. Other food sources would be far more effective and without creating the imbalances of grains.

baseball beef sticks

Most of us have consumed large quantities of grains all of our lives. As a result, we have endocrine and inflammation issues including weight gain, joint pain, sugar imbalances and digestive distress. We also have signs of malnutrition including fatigue and emotional problems,    soft and/or misaligned teeth and low-density bones.

Avoiding gluten is a good start, but gluten is truly just the tip of the iceberg and you will not restore health by using rice, quinoa, or other grains that do not contain gluten but have all the other problems. Your body has been deprived of the genuine building blocks it needs for a long time—and it has been under a lot of stress

Nutrition Response Testing can determine the fastest, permanent repair program and get you back the health and quality of life you deserve. Not in Anchorage? Find a practitioner near you by searching your zip code.

References:

Lefevre M & Jonnalagadda S. Effect of whole grains on markers of subclinical inflammation. Nutr Rev. 2012 Jul;70(7):387-96.

Wu X & Schauss AG. Mitigation of Inflammation with Foods. J Agric Food Chem. 2012 Apr 15. [Epub ahead of print]

Karl JP & Saltzman E. The role of whole grains in body weight regulation. Adv Nutr. 2012 Sep 1;3(5):697-707.

Spreadbury I. Comparison with ancestral diets suggests dense acellular carbohydrates promote an inflammatory microbiota, and may be the primary dietary cause of leptin resistance and obesity. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2012;5:175-89. Epub 2012 Jul 6.

Williams PG. Evaluation of the evidence between consumption of refined grains and health outcomes. Nutr Rev. 2012 Feb;70(2):80-99.

Copyright © 2013 GL Sternquist DC Inc. All Rights Reserve

HCG Diet – Weight Loss Miracle? Diet Scam?

Thanks to everyone who came to my packed, full house, talk on 7 Steps to Permanently Lose Weight. One question that comes up over and over and seems to return to our society every few decades (after just enough time, I guess, for people to forget the research) is the HCG diet. “My friend did this and lost …” or “I’m taking the safer homeopathic HCG …” or “I went to a doctor who prescribed the *real* HCG because it’s safer…”  Please read on.

First of all, let’s get some correct definitions:

Diet: n. the foods you routinely eat. Unfortunately, to some, “diet” means a special food restriction you do for a short period of time to lose weight. This is important; your food routine is 80% of your ability to maintain your ideal weight. If you became overweight, was your routine healthy?

Food: n. that which is eaten to sustain life, provide energy, and promote the growth and repair of tissues; nourishment. How much true food do you eat?

What is HCG?

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is hormone that supports the normal development of an egg in a woman’s ovary, and stimulates the release of the egg during ovulation. It is available by prescription only to treat fertility issues in women and sometimes increase sperm count in men. More rarely, HCG is prescribed to pre-pubescent boys to assist in the normal dropping of the testicles into the scrotum, or to cause the testes to release testosterone.

Is HCG good for weight loss?

The brutal answer is NO: There are some very high quality studies that clearly show HCG is NOT an effective weight loss aid (see below). Also, HCG is NOT available as an over-the counter (OTC) nutraceutical (a.k.a. nutritional dietary supplement) contrary to what HCG-promoting websites, multi-level marketing and advertisements suggest. HCG is ONLY available by prescription and is only approved for the uses described, above.

Still, people I know on the HCG diet are losing weight faster than I am!

Right. I hear this all the time: one of my patients knows someone who’s on the HCG Diet and has lost x-amount of pounds. Our own public library even sponsored HCG diet talks and it has certainly become all the rage, again. Whether these acquaintances have bought a fraudulent over-the-counter HCG product or actually found a clinic willing to prescribe HCG as a weight loss aid, they really went for the hype and did not look into the truth.

So, how is weight loss still possible?

This is the cold, hard, fact of the HCG diet: Consuming far fewer calories than what the body requires for fuel does result in weight loss, period. Consuming more calories than what the body requires for fuel will result in weight gain, period. If necessary, continue to read that sentence over again.

Doing the HCG Diet combines HCG with an excessively low 500 calories/day diet (see below). Here are some problems:

  • 500 calories is about ¼ the calories required to obtain the proper nutrients for a healthy diet;
  • Because 500 calories is not enough to maintain the energy, after time, the body’s metabolism will drop to “conserve” calories against further starvation. Slowed metabolism subsequently results in rapid weight gain after the low-calorie diet ends and the individual resumes normal caloric intake, with or without HCG.

HCG Diet Products are IllegalMy doctor, the advertisement, the health food store clerk, friend, neighbor… someone told me HCG was “scientifically proven.”

Whoever is making this claim is badly uninformed and probably listening to marketing hype.

The Research

There is a lack of scientific data to support the notion that adding HCG to a low calorie diet furthers weight loss or increases satiety (the sensation of being fed or satisfied) [i],[ii],[iii]. An evaluation of all 24 previously conducted studies asked whether HCG+ calorie restriction was more effective than calorie restriction alone (completed by Lijesen et al. in 1995 using a method—called a meta-study—of carefully analyzing all the available data, positive and negative, to come up with an unbiased answer). Lijesen wrote:

… there is no scientific evidence that HCG causes weight-loss, a redistribution of fat, staves off hunger or induces a feeling of well-being. Therefore, the use of HCG should be regarded as an inappropriate therapy for weight reduction…

Not only that, people on the HCG diet reported just as much fatigue, cravings and a few studies report side effects directly caused by the HCG and that required hospitalization including ruptured ovarian cysts.[iv]

Importantly, since the 1970’s doctors and researchers have known that HCG does not help any aspect of weight loss whatsoever[v]. Yes, history repeats or so it seems. The next quote is by Greenway and Bray from 1977 after testing two groups both put on the same diet; one was given HCG and the other placebo (by double blind is meant that no one, neither the dieters nor the researchers, knew who got HCG and who didn’t)[vi]:

Injections of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) have been claimed to aid in weight reduction by reducing hunger, and affecting mood as well as aiding in localized (spot) reduction. We have tested these claims in a double-blind randomized trial using injections of HCG or placebo. Weight loss was identical between the two groups, and there was no evidence for differential effects on hunger, mood or localized body measurements. Placebo injections, therefore, appear to be as effective as HCG in the treatment of obesity.

Not only that, HCG may not be very safe: research also shows that adverse reactions to HCG include arterial thromboembolism (blood clots that break loose in the blood stream and can plug up smaller arteries—read: stroke, cardiac, lung problems), CNS symptoms (eg, headache, irritability, restlessness, depression, fatigue, aggressive behavior), and genitourinary and hypersensitivity effects, as well as local effects from the injection (eg, pain, edema).[vii]

In both animal and human studies, HCG use with elevated insulin (injected or pancreatic response) increases the rate of bilateral (both sides) ovarian cysts.[viii]

How come HCG can be sold in my health food store or online?

It is illegal to sell HCG over-the-counter. As for homeopathic HCG, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States lists active ingredients that may be legally included in homeopathic drug products. HCG is not on this list and therefore cannot be legally sold as a homeopathic medication for any purpose.

In December 2011 and again in August 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warnings to manufacturers that the products they sell are illegal and make unproven claims.[ix]

Outline of the HCG dietThe Diet

Pretty bare-bones although some offices provide menu ideas or even a cookbook.[x] For one single and useful change you can make, read my earlier blog here.

The Bottom Line

I understand that weight loss can be frustrating. Please understand that weight gain is a SYMPTOM of some other health problem. Please understand that this health problem came about by not giving your body enough of the correct tools (food) and too many stressors (antifoods, drugs and other chemicals, stressful situations and people…)

I understand how many of you have unsuccessfully tried many things. You may have been told (or tell yourself) that achieving your weight goals is impossible, have no “will power” (which is a really wrong idea that comes only from having tried useless fad diets that don’t work. It is NOT lack of willpower that failed, it was the poor and misguided information given.), or is genetic (this is disproven), or…

You do not need to spend hours in the gym or nibble only bird seed.

Weight gain is a symptom of other underlying health issues that can be corrected.

Work with us. Restoring health is the first step in accomplishing your weight goals and weight will not stably come off until health is restored. KEEP HEALING! Use natural, whole food tools. Once your body is in “safe mode” the weight will come off.

Get the facts—food quality, not quantity counts.


References

[i] Lijesen GK, Theeuwen I, Assendelft WJ, Van Der Wal G.The effect of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity by means of the Simeons therapy: a criteria-based meta-analysis. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1995 Sep;40(3):237-43.

[ii] Bosch B, Venter I, Stewart RI, Bertram SR. Human chorionic gonadotrophin and weight loss. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. S Afr Med J. 1990 Feb 17;77(4):185-9.

Abstract

Low-dose human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) combined with a severe diet remains a popular treatment for obesity, despite equivocal evidence of its effectiveness. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the effects of HCG on weight loss were compared with placebo injections. Forty obese women (body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2) were placed on the same diet supplying 5,000 kJ per day and received daily intramuscular injections of saline or HCG, 6 days a week for 6 weeks. A psychological profile, hunger level, body circumferences, a fasting blood sample and food records were obtained at the start and end of the study, while body weight was measured weekly. Subjects receiving HCG injections showed no advantages over those on placebo in respect of any of the variables recorded. Furthermore, weight loss on our diet was similar to that on severely restricted intake. We conclude that there is no rationale for the use of HCG injections in the treatment of obesity.

[iii] Robb-Nicholson C. By the way, doctor. I’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time and nothing seems to work. What do you know about the HCG diet? Harv Womens Health Watch. 2010 May;17(9):8.

[iv] Rabe T, Richter S, Kiesel L, Zaloumis M, Runnebaum B. [Influence of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in combination with a 500 calorie diet on clinical and laboratory parameters in premenopausal women with and without hormonal contraception]. Aktuel Endokrinol Stoffwechsel. 1987 Jul;8(3):142-9.

Abstract

82 premenopausal, healthy, nonpregnant volunteers were treated with a 500 kcal reduction diet for 28 days. They were randomized into 2 groups–OC and non-OC users. In addition, 1 of the subgroups in each main group was treated with hCG injections (250 IU/day im for 21 days. The non-OC users (both with and without hCG injections) consisted of 24 subjects each. In the groups of OC users, 13 patients were treated with hCG, 16 were not treated; 5 volunteers discontinued their diet. All groups experienced strong sensations of hunger during the 1st week of the diet (9-16%) which decreased slowly thereafter. No differences between the individual groups could be found. Diet adjustment improved more greatly in those groups who had not received hCG (15-20%) than in the groups with hCG (2-12%). No change was found during the dieting among the subgroups. Serum electrolytes, urea, uric acid, creatinine, and liver enzymes did not change during the dieting. Slight changes were observed in serum cholesterol and triglycerides. Side effects were seen in 2 volunteers from the hCG group, 1 of whom suffered from severe headache and the other who suffered from ovarian cysts which were punctured by laparoscopy. The success of the diet was based on motivation and good information, rather than on the hCG administration. (author translation)

[v] Stein MR, Julis RE, Peck CC, Hinshaw W, Sawicki JE, Deller JJ Jr. Ineffectiveness of human chorionic gonadotropin in weight reduction: a double-blind study. Am J Clin Nutr. 1976 Sep;29(9):940-8. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/29/9/940.long

Abstract

Our investigation was designed to retest the hypothesis of the efficacy of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) on weight reduction in obese women in a clinic setting. We sought to duplicate the Asher-Harper study (1973) which had found that the combination of 500 cal diet and HCG had a statistically significant benefit over the diet and placebo combination as evidenced by greater weight loss and decrease in hunger. Fifty-one women between the ages of 18 and 60 participated in our 32-day prospective, randomized, double-blind comparison of HCG versus placebo. Each patient was given the same diet (the one prescribed in the Asher-Harper study), was weighed daily Monday through Saturday and was counselled by one of the investigators who administered the injections. Laboratory studies were performed at the time of initial physical examinations and at the end of the study. Twenty of 25 in the HCG and 21 of 26 patients in the placebo groups completed 28 injections. There was no statistically significant difference in the means of the two groups in number of injections received, weight loss, percent of weight loss, hip and waist circumference, weight loss per injections, or in hunger ratings. HCG does not appear to enhance the effectiveness of a rigidly imposed regimen for weight reduction.

[vi] Greenway FL, Bray GA. Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the treatment of obesity: a critical assessment of the Simeons method. West J Med. 1977 Dec;127(6):461-3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1237915/

[vii] Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin. Drug Facts & Comparisons . Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; 2005.

[viii] Poretsky L, Clemons J, Bogovich K; Hyperinsulinemia and human chorionic gonadotropin synergistically promote the growth of ovarian follicular cysts in rats. Metabolism. 1992 Aug;41(8):903-10.

[x] “The Original hCG Diet by Dr. A.T.W. Simeons”. HCG Diet Info. 2007-2011. Accessed on August 6, 2010 from: http://hcgdietinfo.com/HCG-Diet-Protocol.htm. Image created by Sean Casey.

Get Off the Grain Train

It’s Independence Day. Our holidays give us the opportunities to spend with family and friends and what could be more American than a BBQ or picnic? I love our great American tradition of everyone-bring-a-dish-to-share. It opens the door for creating dishes that are a real treat and I also get to bring something my family and I like to eat. Scroll down for recipes that are not just cost conscious they are incredibly delicious.

Plus I get time to catch up on my research. Additional to my regular job of helping people get the health and quality of life they deserve, I’ve been contracted to a clinical trial for a drug free substance abuse treatment program (yes, I’m most definitely still in the clinical research arena). It’s been a tight schedule lately, so I also get to catch up on answering a pile of health questions.

One of the most common health questions I get involves grains—corporate interests have been blanketing us with their version of information, and pressuring our government, long before Harvey Wiley MD created the publicly popular 1906 Pure Food and Drugs Act and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that no bleached milled white flour could enter interstate commerce (the 1906 law prohibits interstate commerce in misbranded and adulterated foods, drinks and drugs—this law still stands, although is never enforced). As a chemist and researcher, Dr. Wiley spent 50 years studying the health effects of processed foods, preservatives and artificial colors including saccharine, borax, salicylic acid, sulfuric acid, sodium benzoate and formaldehyde and in 1883 was appointed the Chief Chemist of the US Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Chemistry (and what is now the FDA) where he made huge strides advocating for consumer health protection.

Unfortunately Dr. Wiley’s successor, Dr. Elmer Nelson, sided more with corporate interests and forced very literal and narrow interpretations of the Pure Food and Drugs Act. He was quoted as saying:

“It is wholly unscientific to state that a well-fed body is more able to resist disease than a poorly fed body. My overall opinion is that there hasn’t been enough experimentation to prove that dietary deficiencies make one susceptible to disease.”

A review of the existing scientific literature at that time shows a clear relation between nutrition and health.

In 1914, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in order for bleached flour with nitrite residues to be banned from foods, the government must show a relationship between the chemical additive and the harm it allegedly caused in humans. Largely based on Dr. Nelson’s testimony, the court ruled that the mere presence of a harmful ingredient was not sufficient to render the food illegal.

In other words, corporations can now add things to food and/or alter them from their original form unless or until the government proves that additive or alteration causes harm in humans. This interpretation is largely why white flour is considered the same as the original wheat grain, or genetically modified plants remain unlabelled and treated as if they are non-GMO. On a research note, demonstrating “harm” in human experiments is extremely tricky. It is usually considered unethical to give suspected toxics to people so scientists start with animals (which may or may not tell you what happens in people—or at least at what level of chemical). Meanwhile, the additive is used while we track health effects and look for patterns in historical data. Not only is this a bit too late, legally it rarely “proves” anything. Fewer than 5 percent of the chemicals in use today have been tested for safety; of the 80,000 or so chemicals in use, only 3 have been banned. (A good review is here)

That said, are any grains—whole or not, organic or not—actually good for usBuckwheat Tabouli? I bring you:

  1. Information on why grains are unhealthy, and;
  2. Ideas—what can we eat?

The second answer is easiest. Just learn to make a few substitutions and no mayo potato saladyou can take a non-nutritious item that was designed from cheap imposter anti-foods and turn it into the (usually more authentic) dish it was always suppose to be. And that is exactly what I did here:

Untraditional Buckwheat Tabbouleh Salad

No Mayo Potato Saladbaseball beef sticks

Baseball Beef on a Stick

Back to grains—I am asked nearly every day about this, the base of the USDA Food Pyramid (now “MyPlate”) recommends many servings of grains, breads, pasta, cereal, all day every day. How many of us grew up with this nutrition advice and have now passed this on to our children?

Because of the devastating health effects of grains, grain products, and grain sugars, the first dietary change to make if you want better health is to remove these from your pantry and food habits. None of the recipes on this site include any grains or grain sugars (corn syrup, cane sugar). Whether you already follow a wheat-free, gluten-free or grain-free diet or are looking at the issue for the first time, I hope these explanations help.

Pro-grain argument #1: Our ancestors lived on grains and we should be well adapted to them by now.

Mostly false: We have actually not been eating grains for very long time historically speaking. Not only that, eating grains occasionally is also a lot different than the currently-recommended three servings or more per day—that dietary change happened very, very recently.

Archeologists generally agree that for about 1.5 million years, humans and predecessors ate a combination of land mammals (including organs, fat and marrow), cooked tubers, seafood (fish, mammals, shellfish, seaweed), eggs, nuts, fruit, honey, “vegetables” (stems, leaves, etc.—the term “vegetable” has a culinary meaning only, no botanical meaning), mushrooms, assorted land animals, birds and insects.

About 10,000 years ago, some of these Paleolithic societies made the shift from hunting and gathering to growing crops and raising livestock. There is evidence that emmer, an early ancestor of wheat, was grown in the fertile crescent of the Middle East about 11,500 years ago. Rice appears in what is now China about 10,000 years ago and an ancestor of corn appears in Central America about 9,000 years ago.

But here’s the tricky part: Although these grains may have been included in the diet, they did not become a major part of it until much more recently. For Americans, this may have been 100-200 years ago and many Africans have never included grains in their diet. Europeans were probably the earliest regular wheat and barley consumers at about 7000 years ago. Corn did not become widely used until perhaps 1200 years ago and, until recently, the Chinese did not commonly consume rice as a food rather it was fermented into an alcoholic beverage.

The question remains: how much time does it take to adapt a body so it can digest and handle a new food? Mathematically, 7,000 years is enough generations to show genetic adaptation. But in the high proportions recommended by the USDA, our bodies would have had to develop substantial means for counteracting natural grain toxins, counteracting hormone shifts caused by grains, and improved ability to digest and extract nutrients from grains.

When our genetic code changes through adaptation, it is because those who inherit the code that promotes greater survival tend to produce more surviving children than those who do not inherit that genetic pattern. Their children and their children’s children produce more children (increasing the prevalence of that genetic code in the population) while the less healthy tend to phase out. Eventually, after enough time and generations, the more survival genetic pattern becomes more common.

In other words, the genetic code will change in order to solve the problems the grains were causing. Where the code is changed tells a lot about the health problems. When it comes to grains these are (so far):

  1. Digestion: the starch-digesting enzyme amylase is sometimes found in multiple copies (resulting in higher enzyme levels) among individuals who descend from peoples who eat wheat or rice (Europeans and Chinese both have multiple copies).
  2. Cholesterol: apolipoprotein B genes are modified in a portion of individuals who descend from wheat eating peoples.
  3. Blood Pressure: angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) is modified more frequently among individuals who descend from wheat-eating peoples.
  4. Because rice was more commonly fermented, Chinese people often have a gene variant that causes the rapid conversion of alcohol into something that is not intoxicating but instead causes a red flush.

Until very recently humankind consumed wild grains in small amounts. The seeds were also carefully prepared, they were soaked first so they would begin to sprout, a process that neutralizes some of the toxins. In the last century (4-5 generations) sprouting grains was largely abandoned while grain consumption soared. One result? Even among Europeans, a people with the longest history of consuming grains, nearly 1% have full-blown Celiac’s disease and have not been protected by genetic adaptation.

If you do not descend from these races (or if you consume large quantities of grains unfamiliar to your race—which may include most commercial strains today) grains will have even more influence on unwanted weight gain, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other health effects because your genetic line has not developed even these few protective adaptations.

Archeological measures show that those cultures who transitioned to grains as the primary source of calories also became shorter in  stature and developed osteopenia, osteoporosis, dental decay and dental crowding worldwide. That’s what the archaeology says, and there is no controversy about it.

Pro-grain argument #2: Grains are cheap and contain lots of amino acids and minerals.

Answer: Yup, they are cheap—that is why they are loved by commercial interests. As to the second thought, this might be true if your body could digest and absorb these nutrients; therein lies the problem.

Practically every plant food contains some kind of toxin, but grains produce a number of nasty ones. Phytic acid, for example, strongly inhibits the absorption of a number of important minerals. Heat-resistant lectins (gluten, and gliadin stimulate the immune system in an unhealthy way, for example) Wild tubers, which were our main carbohydrate source for about 1.5 million years before agriculture, contain less phytic acid and no heat-resistant lectins. Coincidentally, average human height decreased when humans adopted grain-based agriculture.

To address these problems, seeds, including grains, were historically treated differently than today’s machine-ground or quick-processed products. Our predecessors soaked, sprouted and used long fermentation that neutralized the grain toxins, making them more nutritious and digestible. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting grains activates enzymes that break down most of the toxins. Always soak rice, barley and other grains overnight and then drain and leave them on the counter the day before cooking them.

Because corporations do not take the time to prepare grains this way, we consume higher levels of their toxins in grain-based food products. Unfermented, unsprouted “whole wheat” bread may actually be the worst of all. (“the term “whole wheat” can be used on any product that is made up of substantially all of the whole grain parts—it does not have to be the intact grain, just the sum or most of its parts added back together after processing.)

Pro-grain argument #3: Because grains are so readily grown in large volumes, they are the means to feed the world’s expanding population, especially third world countries.

Today’s commercial food crops and animals are not similar to the wild strains of our pre-agricultural ancestry or even more recent heritage strains. Today’s vegetables and fruits have been selectively bred (or engineered) to have many traits that make them different from their wild cousins. The same is true of our domesticated animals. In addition to this selective breeding, the farm-raised food we eat today gets its nutrition (from fertilizers to grain) quite differently than any of their wild counterparts. This dramatically shifts the nutrient content of these foods.

Most commercial grains today are deficient in nutrients, are a “study in pesticide application,” beginning with the seeds being treated with mercury-containing fungicide, and many have been engineered to grow in the presence of the weed-killer RoundUp. Not only do these food crops contain traces of RoundUp—a neurotoxin that accumulates in the fatty tissues of your body—the active RoundUp chemical, glyphosphate, prevents mineral and other nutrient absorption from the soils and commonly results in these plants having fungal infections so they are sprayed with more hormones and pesticides. Even the bins in which the harvested wheat is stored have been coated with insecticides. If bugs appear on the wheat in storage, they fumigate the grain. Another popular engineering feat is to add a gene so that crops can produce their own pesticides; another fat-stored neurotoxin. We have only a small idea of the health problems this is causing; of course thanks to the 1914 Supreme Court ruling, the burden of proof rests with the government and/or you the consumer.

It may be humanitarian to send food to impoverished countries and to pay our farmers to do so. The quality of the food should be nutritious and safe.

And one more thing:

We need to have certain bacteria (thousand’s of bacterial species) in our gut to digest the complex starches in grains. Not only does this support the idea that grains were incorporated into our diet very recently, it also points out another complex problem of eating unfermented grains.

Corn, wheat, barley, oats, these all change the acid levels in our gut and that kills the very bacteria we need to have living within us. A single course of antibiotics also kills the helpful bacteria we need changing our digestive tract permanently or until we do something to restore its health. Meanwhile, we continue to eat improperly prepared grains and grain products in our breads, pastas, crackers, cookies, and cakes… we consume vast quantities of added corn and cane sugars in these same products. This is a lethal digestive combination where the “good” bacteria are killed off and our USDA dietary advice promotes products that feed the unhealthful bacteria (and yeast and parasites) that live off sugar/starches in an acidified environment. These infectious organisms release toxins instead of nutrients into our blood stream. This is also true for cows and other animals fed grains, even “grain finished.”

Very recently, a study looked at changes in gut bacteria among children with celiac’s disease. The study evaluated the same children when they had symptoms and when the disease was put in remission by using a gluten free diet. The bacterial profiles were profoundly different and converted from very unhealthy to high in probiotics when celiac symptoms went in remission.

Today, get your independence from weight gain, aches & pains and fatigue. It’s time to get off the grain train and replenish yourself.

The important points to take away are, beware of any processed food because chemicals and cheap “filler” grains (plus soy) are always used. And we simply don’t know what the long-term effects will be of ingesting chemicals, on top of chemicals, on top of more chemicals.

Strive to use whole unprocessed foods that are as fresh and close to their natural state as possible.

If you’re going to eat grains make sure they are at least whole, organic, and sprouted; eat them in small amounts and infrequently.

Probably the “safest” grains are properly prepared wild and heritage rices (e.g. Forbidden rice and Wehani rice). In my hands using Nutrition Response Testing, these tend to work better for most people. But make sure the amount you eat aligns with your personal health goals.