Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mushrooms - The Antioxidant Superstars

Interview with Steve Farrar

By Dr. Mercola

Steve Farrar has a Masters Degree in Horticulture from the Washington State University and has worked and studied mushrooms professionally for the last 30 years.

The first 20 years he spent growing them and working primarily with gourmet chefs, but in the past decade, he's started applying his expertise of mushrooms to health purposes.

According to Farrar, Americans consume about 900 million pounds of mushrooms a year, but 95 percent of that just one species: the common button mushroom and its relatives, the Crimini and the Portabello mushrooms.

In more recent years, mushrooms have received a lot of attention, both in gourmet cooking and in the pharmaceutical industry.

Virtually all mushrooms provide excellent nutrition, such as protein, vitamins and enzymes, and many have potent medicinal value.

Mushrooms should not be confused with mold and fungi however, which do not form fleshy fruit bodies. To learn more about the details of how mushrooms grow and propagate, please listen to the interview or read through the transcript. The common button mushroom, while not as 'interesting' as its more exotic cousins, is an excellent low-calorie food, especially for diabetics. It contains a number of valuable nutrients, including:
  • Protein
  • Enzymes
  • Vitamin D2
However, Farrar's focus has been on growing various gourmet mushroom species, particularly the wood decaying mushroom species, which differ greatly from your average button mushroom in terms of biology, nutrition and medicinal value, as well as in the production and methodology of growing them.

"By virtue of them being primary decomposers, they have some unique nutritional and also health benefits to them," Farrar explains. "I tended to focus on species like Maitake, Shiitake, Enokitake, oyster mushrooms, brown beech mushrooms; mushrooms that people over the last 20 years were not really that familiar with."

The wood decaying mushrooms, which are preferred in Asia and parts of Europe, are quite different in terms of flavors and textures. They also tend to have valuable medicinal properties that differ from the button mushroom. And we've barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the value and importance of mushrooms as we've only classified about 10 percent of all available species.

"I'm continually humbled by my ignorance of what's going on in this incredible complex world of fungi," Farrar says. "It's just mind boggling. Even with the well-studied species, nearly every week they're finding a new bio-active component… Maybe it's a polysaccharide, maybe it's an enzyme, a protein, an antioxidant. They are continually finding new things that have profound effects when we consume them as a food or as a dietary supplement."

According to Farrar, the effect mushrooms can have on human health is multifaceted, but they're most well-known for their immune-boosting properties. Long chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha- and beta glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms' beneficial effect on your immune system.

"They're host mediated responses, meaning that they are not going in like a pharmaceutical medicine and like a sledgehammer forcing your body in a particular way. They interact through your immune system itself by stimulating it and making it ready and efficient,"he explains.

Mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants in general as they contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world. But they also contain antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms. One such antioxidant is ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognize as a 'master antioxidant.' Interestingly, it's an amino acid that contains sulfur, and if you listened to my interview with Dr. Seneff on the highly underestimated importance of sulfur, you may recognize why this particular antioxidant may be of particular importance for human health, as many are severely deficient in sulfur.

"It's one of the only antioxidants identified so far that our cells use as a transport system to actively take ergothioneine across the cell membrane into the cell, to the points of oxidative stress," Farrar explains. "It's a very significant antioxidant. It's probably eventually going to be called a vitamin they barely even found ways to quantify it effectively. Mushrooms are an excellent source of this antioxidant. We can only get it from our diet. It's only produced by fungi and certainly soil inhabiting bacteria."

A 2009 study in the journal Nature discusses the importance of ergothioneine, describing it as "an unusual sulfur-containing derivative of the amino acid, histidine," which appears to have a very specific role in protecting your DNA from oxidative damage. So, if Farrar's assertions that your body needs ergothioneine, which is fairly exclusive to mushrooms, to effectively transport ergothioneine into your cells, it's easy to see how mushrooms may be an important part of an optimal diet. If you don't like to eat them whole, you can also find them in supplement form, either as an extract or whole food supplement, which I'll discuss more in a moment. According to Farrar, many of the immune benefits obtained from mushrooms are due to the glyconutrients (complex sugars) contained in the fruit body and the mycelia.

"The vital information that can be contained in these sugars is astounding," he says."The way they communicate is through receptor sites on your cells. It's described as a lock and a key. There are receptor sites depending on the physical structure of the polysaccharides, the side branches, and the substitutions on it, and they will lock on to certain components of your immune system and activate it much like they would be activated by coming into contact with the bacteria.

It's very profound effects, and we don't fully understand them. But it's really these long chained polysaccharides (that are immense complex structures), a lot of times bound with proteins or amino acids or different side chains, that have the effect on your immune system."

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that you can effectively elicit a very broad-based immune response by consuming a variety of different mushrooms of different species. Most likely, this is exactly what our ancestors used to do, and by eating a diverse variety of foods within each food group, you're giving your body everything it needs, thereby optimizing your genetic expression.

To continue reading please click here

Also of interest: Health Benefits of Medicinal Mushrooms and Fungi


*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Andrographis - King of Bitters

By Regenerative Nutrition

Andrographis Paniculata, The King of Bitters, is indeed a master herb and as such is used in 26 different Ayurvedic formulations to treat liver disorders. The herb improves liver and gall bladder function, increases bile flow (thereby aiding digestion), and has been found to be as effective as silymarin (the active component of Milk Thistle) in aiding liver function when the liver is toxic or under stress. As a potent anti-bacterial and anti-viral herb it may be used to help overcome the effects of Hepatitis.

 Andrographis paniculata

It is also a potent anti-inflammatory, helps boost the immune system, protects against cancer, prevents blood clots and maintains efficient digestive functioning.

Activates fibrinolysis, a natural process in the body in which blood clots are dissolved. It also relaxes the smooth muscle in the walls of blood to help lower blood pressure.

Major affinities are for the heart, liver, gall bladder and to aid digestion and to help boost immune system and eliminate infections including malaria.

May also be used as part of a gallstone removal program. 

Andrographis paniculata

As an Ayurveda herb it is known as Kalmegh or Kalamegha, meaning "dark cloud". It is also known as Bhui-neem, meaning "neem of the ground", since the plant, though being a small annual herb, has a similar strong bitter taste as that of the large Neem tree (Azadirachta indica).

In Malaysia, it is known as Hempedu Bumi, which literally means 'bile of earth' since it is one of the most bitter plants that are used in traditional medicine.

Since ancient times, King of Bitters has been used in traditional Siddha and Ayurvedic systems of medicine as well as in tribal medicine in India and some other countries for multiple clinical applications. The therapeutic value of Kalmegh is due to its mechanism of action which is perhaps by enzyme induction.

Andrographis is an herbal medicine derived from the Andrographis Paniculata shrub grown the moist, shady areas of India, China and throughout Southeast Asia. It is commonly referred to as 'Indian Echinacea' and is a popular Ayervedic and Chinese household remedy for the common cold, digestive issues, upper respiratory tract infections, flu and other sicknesses typified by fever. Although its use dates back easily a thousand years in these ancient medical traditions, there is a more recent historical reference to its potency.

In the Indian flu epidemic of 1919, the herb Andrographis is credited with the reversal of its onslaught. More recently, it popularity has spread to Scandinavia, where its dosages have been standardized and it has been widely recommended by doctors for two decades as a common remedy in treating these same winter ailments. As research increases, so does our understanding of Andrographis' many activities and indications are that it may even play a role in cardiovascular and cancer treatments.

Please visit Regenerative Nutrition to read more article on health or to order their products.


*I am not affiliated with Regenerative Nutrition. I like and use their products and believe that this natural health company deserves publicity.

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Get Rid of Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are painful, swollen veins in the lower portion of the rectum or anus.

Hemorrhoids are very common, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth. They result from increased pressure in the veins of the anus. The pressure causes the veins to swell, making them painful, particularly when you are sitting.

The most common cause is straining during bowel movements.

Hemorrhoids may be caused by:
  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Constipation
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Anal infections
  • Certain diseases, such as liver cirrhosis

The discomfort and bleeding can be a real torture in many cases. But thankfully, hemorrhoids can be prevented and also cured.

One of the easiest ways to relieve this painful condition is to eat more fiber and drink more water as stools come out easier when they're full and moist. But in cases where the pain and discomfort is extreme a doctor should be consulted immediately.

Treatment of hemorrhoids is a two way process. Firstly, we have to relieve the symptoms of burning, itching, and pain. And secondly, the hemorrhoid itself has to be shrunk.

Hemorrhoids can be either external or internal.

External hemorrhoids

They occur outside the anal verge and act as varicosities of the veins draining the territory of the inferior rectal arteries which causes pain, swelling, irritation, itching and a lump around the anus. If the vein ruptures and a blood clot develops, it will get converted into thrombosis.

Internal hemorrhoids

They occur inside the rectum and act as varicosities of veins draining the territory of branches of superior rectal arteries which causes less pain but bleeding can be there. No treatment of this can result into prolapsed and strangulated hemorrhoids. Prolapsed ones are internal ones that are so much distended that they are pushed outside the anus. If the anal sphincter muscle goes into spasm and traps a prolapsed condition outside the anal opening and if the supply of blood is cut off, it will become a strangulated one.

Healing the symptoms

There are various creams and ointments available in the market, which help in relieving the pain, itching and burning. Some medicines also target particular areas like there are different ointments for pain, another for burning etc. While there are also the tropical creams, which work well overall. Another common Hemorrhoids remedy that helps to curb swelling of irritated hemorrhoidal tissues are Hemorrhoids creams. It also gives immediate and temporary relief from the painful burning, itching and discomfort of hemorrhoids.

Shrinking the hemorrhoids

There are specially designed tubs called Sitz Bath available at leading medical stores. This is a small tub and is specially designed to allow the soaking of hemorrhoids without taking a bath. In this process the rectal area is soaked in hot water for 15-20 minutes about 3-4 times a day. Not only does this helps relieve symptoms, but also aids shrinkage of the hemorrhoid.

Eating habits and physical activities 

Eating fruits like oranges, apples, bananas, prunes, grapefruits, mangoes, watermelon, grapes and cherries enhances the digestion process. Food products like white bread, pasta and other white flour products, sweets and sodas should be avoided as they may lead to constipation. In order to avoid constipation, nutritionists suggest that patients should drink 8-10 glasses of water daily.

Physical activities like running, walking, swimming should be added to your daily regime. Sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of the hemorrhoids.

 Surgical procedures for external Hemorrhoids
  • Laser coagulation - The hemorrhoid is clotted with an electric probe which makes it shrink.
  • Infrared photocoagulation - The hemorrhoid is clotted with infrared light to make it shrinks.
  • Hemorrhoidectomy - Complete surgical removal of the hemorrhoid. 

Surgical procedures for internal Hemorrhoids
  • Rubber Band Ligation - In this process a small rubber band is placed at the base of the internal hemorrhoid.
  • Injection Sclerotherapy - A chemical solution is injected into the mucous membrane near the hemorrhoid resulting in inflammation and closure of the veins, thereby shrinking the hemorrhoid.
  • Infrared Photocoagulation - An infrared is directed to clot the dilated veins of the hemorrhoid.
  • Laser Coagulation - An electric current is applied to the hemorrhoids triggering a chemical reaction that shuts down the blood supply in the hemorrhoid and causes the inflamed tissue to shrink.
  • Hemorrhoidectomy - Here the hemorrhoid groups are surgically removed with a scalpel, cattery device or laser.
The surgery is always rather painful and requires some period of healing and rest.

The best way to care for hemorrhoids is to prevent them from growing. As mentioned above, diet and exercise are the first steps to a better digestion.

Ointments and other topical remedies may ease the discomfort. Herbal supplements may help digestion and relieve constipation.

Article courtesy of Venapro website

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Resveratrol and Weight Loss

Resveratrol and Weight Loss - Does It Work?

The golden rule in weight loss is pretty simple: take in fewer calories than you expend in exercise. However, as any dieter will tell you, it’s far from easy.

Americans spend billions of dollars a year on weight loss supplements, exercise programs and other diet aids - and still we can’t seem to win the battle of the bulge - even when we get desperate enough to try risky surgery or fad diets.

Recently a new product has come to light that may help people trying to lose weight stay on the healthy end of the spectrum: Resveratrol Select, which is unlike many diet supplements in that it uses a combination of natural and herbal ingredients designed to help the body stay healthy while losing weight. How? By mimicking certain aspects of the Mediterranean diet.

Studies have shown that part of America’s war with weight lies in the uniquely modern American combination of stressful lifestyle and fast-food consumption, and that the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle seem to be more conducive to healthier weight levels and longevity.

In fact, much as been made on the news in recent months of the purported “French Paradox,” (how the French eat a high-fat diet, enjoy rich desserts, drink wine and still have better cardiovascular health than the rest of us).

One of the biggest differences between the American and French diet seems to be the wine consumption, and red wine (a staple on most Mediterranean tables) contains one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, resveratrol, which is a key ingredient in Resveratrol Select.

In addition to wine, resveratrol is also found in grape skins, blueberries, cranberries and other plants, and recent animal and in vitro studies indicate that it can have a positive effect on helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, supporting insulin health and optimizing metabolic and immune pathways that protect cells and improve mitochondrial function.

One capsule of Resveratrol Select includes as much resveratrol as 200 glasses of wine - without the added calories that alcohol can add to the waistline. But consuming resveratrol alone isn’t enough to help with weight loss - so the manufacturers of Resveratrol Select also added a different type of antioxidant, Green Tea Extract (EGCG), which could make a big difference. Over time, green tea consumption helps increase metabolism, burn fat and reduce fat storage due to its caffeine and L-theanin content, which can be pivotal in helping to maintain energy for exercise.

Resveratrol Select combines these two powerful antioxidants with yet another energy boosting ingredient, Chromium, a niacin-based mineral that plays an important role in how the body uses insulin to burn sugars, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins for energy.

Although relatively new on the market, Resveratrol Select seems to be making a big splash, and many people are taking advantage of the free trial offer to see how well the product works for them. The trial offer also includes two bonus tools to help with weight loss: an e-book with over 70 weight loss tips, and a weight loss visualization audio.

Of course, consuming fewer calories while burning more is the most efficient form of weight loss, and it’s always a good idea to inform your doctor before taking a weight loss supplement, but this new combination herbal supplement is worth a look for those concerned about maintaining good health while losing weight.

Article courtesy of Resveratrol Select website. Visit the website to find out about the free trial and bonus materials.

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.
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