Tag Archives: nutrition

Acid-Alkaline Balance

A guest post, by Dr. Christina Grant

In the field of holistic and natural health, we often hear that a body in an alkaline state is better than one that is too acidic. What we actually want, though, is a balance between the two.

A person’s level of acidity is determined by pH, or potential hydrogen. When we measure pH, we measure the degree to which negative and positive ions push against each other. Negative ions are alkaline-forming. Positive ions are acid-forming.

So what does this mean? And why does it matter?

Donna Gates, author of The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity, describes it well:

When cells live too long in an acidic condition, they adapt to it by mutating and becoming malignant. Long-term acidic conditions in our bodies provide perfect environments for cancer and auto-immune diseases like AIDS to flourish. Most people with these disorders also have candidiasis.

Similarly, Dr. Theodore Baroody, Jr., author of Alkalize or Die, tells us we should be strive to create a balanced internal pH precisely because disease thrives in an acidic environment.

You can have your body’s acidity tested or test your levels at home using special strips that often can be often in natural food markets. With these strips, you measure the pH of a sample of your saliva or urine first thing in the morning. (A balanced urine pH is approximately 6.4.) It’s important to note, though, that while the results can be interesting, they’re not always accurate. Blood tests are, but they’re not really necessary.

Your best approach is to address your lifestyle: Is it alkaline or acid producing? Again, what we want is a healthy balance. Since most food eaten by the typical American is considered acid-producing, altering food choices is a major step in creating this balance.

Most people eat the Standard American Diet (SAD – an appropriate acronym), which consists primarily of processed food. Items that come in boxes, packages or cans; fried food, fast food, alcohol, sugars, white flour and meat are all acid forming. Noise, air pollution, and toxins in our environment contribute further to acidity, as can general stress, worry, anxiety, anger and fear.

As you might imagine, a healthier lifestyle contributes alkalinity and can help maintain the acid-alkaline balance. For alkalizing, we simply add what we know we need more of in our lives: fresh vegetables, oxygenated clean water, fresh air, laughter, relaxation and positive connections with others. We reduce those foods and experiences that create too much acid.

Whether or not you know your exact pH level, it can be a good thing to take some simple steps to encourage a healthy acid-alkaline balance. Many of these suggestions come from Dr. Baroody’s book, and they are common knowledge among holistic practitioners who see a person’s health considerably improve when they make these lifestyle changes:

  • Spend adequate time outdoors in sunlight – 20 to 30 minutes each day – even if it’s cloudy.
  • Have a regular pattern of sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
  • Use an 80/20 ratio of alkaline-forming foods to acid-forming foods. In just doing a basic online search, I found over 300,000 pages referring to these foods.
  • Rest and reduce stress.
  • Walk by water or by the sea to be in the midst of negative ions.
  • Eat fresh foods found in nature, including an abundance of vegetables.
  • First thing in the morning, drink the juice of half a lemon mixed in a tall glass of warm water. Although citrus is acidic, your digestion uses the acidic parts and leaves an alkaline residue.
  • Use natural healing such as acupuncture, energy work, reflexology, color and music therapy, yoga, chiropractic and spiritual healing, all of which have alkaline forming reactions in the body.

Dr. Christina Grant is a holistic healer and intuitive counselor who works in person and by phone. She has helped hundreds of people attain physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being through personal transformation. Her writing is published nationwide. She is co-author of Eight Minute Muse and is completing a book with a fresh perspective on women’s health. To learn more, visit christinagrant.com

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No Nutritional Value, yet Power to Undermine Your Health

Via Orthomolecular Medicine News Service

Toxic Sugar

Editorial by Robert G. Smith, PhD

A recent article in the prestigious journal Nature explains that sugar, especially fructose, widely available in soft drinks and other processed foods, is responsible for many serious non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and liver failure [1,2]. One of the contributing reasons is that fructose and other high-calorie substances such as alcohol cannot be directly utilized by the body’s tissues so they must be metabolized by the liver, where they generate toxicity and set the body on a path to diabetes [3]. Further, fructose interferes with the body’s sense of satiety, so that an excess of calories tend to be ingested. This overwhelms the liver, which then must convert the overdose of sugar into fat, which harms the liver and can lead to diabetes. Thus sugar such as fructose, when added to processed foods, has been compared to alcohol in its toxic effect. Even non-obese people are susceptible to “metabolic syndrome,” in which fructose induces hypertension, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and damage to biological molecules such as proteins and lipids [1-3].

Soft drinks that contain mainly sugar, such as sodas and filtered fruit juices, don’t have enough nutrients to keep the body healthy and free from disease. They provide calories without essential nutrients that you would find in the whole fruit. These “empty” calories then replace other foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that are the main source of essential nutrients. But added sugar is not limited to soft drinks. Added fructose, as in high-fructose corn syrup or just plain sugar (sucrose, which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose), is found in a wide variety of processed foods such as breakfast cereal, juices, jellies and jams, candy, baked goods, sauces, desserts, and even ready-made dinners and processed meat. Fructose tastes sweet but does not satisfy hunger as well as more nutritious foods.

The high added fructose content of processed foods is addictive in a similar way to alcohol, especially for young children. This has caused an epidemic of obesity in both children and adults. Further, the metabolism of fructose in the liver is similar to alcohol because it tends to perturb glucose metabolism, generating fat and causing insulin resistance, which leads to inflammation and degeneration of the liver and many other problems [4]. Overall, this dietary pattern caused by overloading our bodies with fructose is a vicious cycle that leads to widespread deficiencies of nutrients such as vitamins and essential minerals, along with damage and inflammation throughout the body. This vicious cycle of sugar addiction, consistent with the “metabolic syndrome,” is in large part responsible for the high death rate from the modern diet.

If the modern diet could be adjusted to satisfy hunger without excess calories and to contain a larger proportion of essential nutrients, the epidemic of disease from added sugar might be averted. When ingested in the form of fruit, fructose is less harmful because it is absorbed slowly by the gut and importantly is accompanied by essential nutrients. Supplements of essential nutrients can help, but only if knowledge about the adequate doses and their benefits is made widely available. Examples are supplements of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, omega -3 and -6 essential fats, which in the proper forms and doses can help prevent dietary deficiencies that cause heart disease, cancer, and diabetes [5]. Other lifestyle choices can help, for example, reducing total calories, increasing ingested fiber, and more exercise [3]. But the benefits of these healthy choices have not been convincing to the modern consumer. Ubiquitous high pressure marketing of soft drinks contributes to the problem.

To correct the problem of sugar overconsumption, it has been suggested that sugar be regulated like alcohol and tobacco [1]. The goal would be to change habits to reduce consumption. Many schools have already banned the sale of sodas, but have replaced them with juices or artificial drinks that contain added sugar. According to this suggestion, the sale of sweetened drinks and processed foods containing added sugar could be limited in school vending machines or elsewhere during school hours. Age limits on the sale of sugary foods in stores might also help. A limit or ban on television commercials advertising products containing added sugar might also be helpful. A tax on sugar, especially high-fructose corn syrup, could be used to fund research into essential nutrients and advertise their benefits. The idea behind such regulation would be to persuade the public, especially children, to consume less sugar and more nutritious foods [1,2]. This could greatly benefit public health.

It has been argued that similar regulation of alcohol is widely accepted because it has kept alcohol consumption under control [1]. For example, in other areas of our lives, changes in what is perceived as acceptable behavior have been successful, like bans on smoking in public places, designated drivers who don’t drink alcohol, and the inclusion of air bags in cars. To some, a similar type of governmental regulation of sugar would seem justified because at the cost of some loss of personal freedom it could improve health and cut short the epidemic of non-infectious disease.

On the other hand, many people see regulation of sugar by taxing foods containing added sugar as abhorrent and draconian. After all, although it is addictive [4], sugar doesn’t cause the danger of being drunk on the highway, and it doesn’t present an imminent danger to health comparable to smoking. It’s more insidious than that. And sugar has long been part of dietary habits of many cultures. Thus, any governmental regulation of food will have many critics who explain that regulation would be ineffective, and further, we should be able to purchase and eat any food according to our preference.

The underlying issue in this debate is public access to knowledge about nutrition. If the harm that added fructose causes to our health could be widely publicized, along with information about inexpensive and readily available healthy alternatives, this could lead to better health for millions of people. It would cause shoppers to consider other choices, such as vegetable juice or a glass of water, along with unprocessed nutritious foods and vitamin supplements in adequate doses. What is needed is a campaign that provides practical information about diet: what nutrients we need, how to determine the proper doses, and the dangers of a processed-food diet. This could include televised advertisements and health programming, as well as curricula taught at levels from grade school to medical school. It might also include more informative labeling about the nutrient content of food, as well as more healthy and tasty food served at restaurants and dining rooms. Marketplace pressure might then convince food companies to sell more healthy food with a minimum of added sugar and an adequate content of essential nutrients. Orthomolecular medicine, the practice of treating illness by providing sufficient doses of essential nutrients to prevent deficiencies, can help to provide this information [5-8]. We can all become more healthy by forgoing added sugar and other processed foods that lack essential nutrients. And when this is impossible, we can supplement with these essential nutrients to prevent the epidemic of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Dr. Robert G. Smith is Research Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of many scientific papers, and an upcoming book, The Vitamin Cure for Eye Diseases.


  1. Lustig RH, Schmidt LA, Brindis CD (2012) The toxic truth about sugar. Nature 482:27-29.
  2. Jacobson MF (2005) Liquid candy: how soft drinks are harming Americans’ health. Center for Science in the Public Interest. http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/liquid_candy_final_w_new_supplement.pdf.
  3. Bremer AA, Mietus-Snyder M, Lustig RH. (2012) Toward a Unifying Hypothesis of Metabolic Syndrome. Pediatrics. 129:557-570>/a>
  4. Lustig RH. (2010) Fructose: metabolic, hedonic, and societal parallels with ethanol. J Am Diet Assoc. 110:1307-1321.
  5. Brighthope IE (2012) The Vitamin Cure for Diabetes: Prevent and Treat Diabetes Using Nutrition and Vitamin Supplementation. Basic Health Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1591202905.
  6. Roberts H, Hickey S (2011) The Vitamin Cure for Heart Disease: How to Prevent and Treat Heart Disease Using Nutrition and Vitamin Supplementation. Basic Health Publications. ISBN-13: 978-1591202646.
  7. Hoffer A, Saul AW (2008) Orthomolecular Medicine For Everyone: Megavitamin Therapeutics for Families and Physicians. Basic Health Publications. ISBN13: 9781591202264.
  8. Hoffer A, Saul AW, Foster HD (2012) Niacin: The Real Story: Learn about the Wonderful Healing Properties of Niacin. Basic Health Publications ISBN-13: 978-1591202752

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Hearing What the Body Is Saying

A couple Septembers ago, I wrote about how,

if we begin to listen to the body, we begin to get a deeper appreciation for its intricate workings and an understanding of how our actions affect it – what makes it feel better and work more effectively; what strains and stresses it. We are then in a position to be much more pro-active about our health. We gain more control of it…and our physical destiny.

Yet many people aren’t and don’t, often acting as though health and illness are always and only matters of chance, not choice. Maybe the familiar and sad statistic isn’t all that surprising, then: 70% of all deaths each year are due to chronic disease. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one, and 75% of all health care dollars spent each year goes to treating them. (And we wonder why “health care” costs are so high?!) Most all of them are totally preventable – not through drugs, surgery or other conventional treatment but the lifestyle choices we make.

Two of the most common blocks to good health – dental/oral and systemic – are poor diet and chronic stress. Both keep the body from getting and assimilating all the nutrients it needs to function well. Stress – mental and physical – keeps the body constantly on “high alert,” which interferes with normal metabolic activity and weakens the immune system, making us more vulnerable to disease. It can also aggravate poor food choices, even as poor nutrition can increase stress. (Talk about a vicious cycle!)

Dentally, under these conditions, we may see more gum disease and tooth decay. Where stress-induced clenching and grinding are issues, we see TMJ and other pain problems, as well as damaged teeth and recessed gums, accompanied by tooth sensitivity. (And despite what some ads say, toothpaste for sensitive teeth does not “cure” the problem, which is exposed root or dentin. It just lets you brush sensitive teeth more comfortably.)

Thus, providing comprehensive holistic dental care often means dealing with these related matters of nutrition and stress. We regularly provide testing and consultation to patients – both those undergoing intensive treatment to remove oral blocks to optimal health (e.g., mercury fillings, root canals, cavitations) and those simply wanting to do all they can to support their health and well-being. Previously, I told you about ART for nutritional testing. This week, I’d like to tell you about a couple of other tools that help us provide a higher level of care to the patients we see.

The first is a device called Nano SRT. This bioelectric assessment and therapeutic tool first identifies physical stressors – chemical, biological and environmental – that may be a drag on health. It provides a report showing the substances and substance groups identified, severity levels and the likelihood of negative health effects stemming from the stressors. It can then be used to help correct the body’s response to them by recalibrating the body’s response via frequencies developed as a result of the biofeedback test. Unique to each individual, they’re transmitted by LED light to various meridian points on the body. Nutritional support and supplementation are also used to help restore balance.

The process is safe, non-invasive, fast and painless. Typically, treatment takes from 6 to 8 visits – one for the initial evaluation and then several follow-up visits to monitor changes and make adjustments as needed.

You can learn more about the device here.

The other new scanning tool we use is ZYTO, which gives us a glimpse of the body’s internal communications. Focusing on this gives us another way work with you to develop a proper protocol of nutrition, supplementation and other lifestyle adjustments to improve physical function and overall health and wellness. As the manufacturer explains,

By interacting energetically with your body the ZYTO software will essentially ‘ask your body questions’ and record your body’s responses or ‘answers’. Information gathered in this way can help you be more proactive about your health and help you and your healthcare provider make better decisions regarding your healthcare.

The ZYTO scan is safe, easy and, most importantly, accurate. One pilot study (PDF) showed an 87% “congruity in the disease assessment” between scan results and those from conventional diagnostic workups. The study’s authors include Dr. William Tiller, esteemed researcher and author of Science and Human Transformation, an exploration of the effects of subtle energies on human consciousness.

You can learn more about ZYTO here.

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Mindful Eating, Healthier Eating


Of course, in general, mindfulness can play a big role in health and healing – the subject of this excellent talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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The Healing Potential of Diet

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No Time to Eat Well? 8 Time-Making Tips

Regular readers here know about Dr. Weston Price and his important research on the relationship between diet and dental conditions. (Not familiar? I give a quick overview at the start of this video.) It was Dr. Price, of course, who showed that when people shifted from their traditional diets to a Western one, high in white flour and sugar, dental problems followed – problems such as cavities, narrowed arches and crooked, crowded teeth.

Archaeological and anthropological research has also suggested that the rise of agriculture and the accompanying shift to grain-based diets had a negative impact on health. Now a new study shows that this may be due to broader effects of this change. Based on her analysis of more than 300 skulls from 11 different populations, anthropologist Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel concluded that

the changes in human skulls are more likely driven by the decreasing bite forces required to chew the processed foods eaten once humans switch to growing different types of cereals, milking and herding animals about 10,000 years ago.

“As you are growing up… the amount that you are chewing, and the pressure that your chewing muscles and bone [are] under, will affect the way that the lower jaw is growing,” explained Dr von Cramon-Taubadel.

She thinks that the shorter jaws of farmers meant that they have less space for their teeth relative to hunter-gatherers, whose jaws are longer.

The study abstract is available here.

The problem with crowded teeth, of course, is more than just aesthetic. They can be harder to clean well, raising the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They can throw off the bite and contribute to improper oral and facial function and/or habits that can lead to pain and other problems. They’re also more vulnerable to uneven tooth wear and breakage.

As ever, good dental health, like good physical health, depends on eating well. Yet for many, this isn’t always easy – especially with the economy still so bad and budgets tight. But “challenging” doesn’t mean “impossible,” as shown by projects such as 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget ($125 a week for a family of 4). More recently, a group of three bloggers – Sherrie Flick, Cory Van Horn and Hal B. Klein – did a variation on the Food Stamp Challenge, in which participants commit for a week of living on the average food stamp allotment of $4.50 per day. These bloggers challenged themselves to eat a healthy, varied meals on just $35 a week, supplemented by any food they grew themselves or bartered for.

One particularly striking aspect of their reflections was their observation that the food itself was just a small part of the challenge. As Flick writes,

The idea of bartering led to a discussion about the importance of community and friendship in food circles. It’s much easier to eat cheaply if you’re joining together with others.

We also talked about cooking skills—how knowing how to cook, how to garden and prepare food efficiently is one key to avoiding processed foods. We talked about time versus money. How, for me, having a non-traditional work schedule lends itself to, say, baking bread on a Monday morning.

For many of us, regardless of budget, the biggest obstacles are often time and energy. Affordable convenience wins out. Yet, as Edward Stanley wrote in The Conduct of Life, “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later find time for illness.”

So here are few tips for ensuring you eat well even if you have “no time” for it:

  1. Keep it simple
    Who says you have to cook fancy recipes for every meal? It only takes 15 to 20 minutes to put together a tasty dinner of pasta and green salad, or meat, steamed vegetables and salad. Baked or roasted foods can be put in the oven to cook while you take care of other chores.
  2. When you want something fancier, know where to look
    Lots of recipe websites have sections of nothing but “quick and easy” recipes and meal ideas, such as these at simplyrecipes.com and allrecipes.com.
  3. One word: crockpot
    It doesn’t get much easier than throwing ingredients into a crockpot and leaving it to cook. And don’t think it’s just about soups and stews either. Sites like Slow & Simple offer a wealth of ideas for delicious crockpot/slow cooker meals.
  4. Cook less by cooking more
    On the weekends or other off days, cook larger-than-usual meals and freeze the extra. Voila! Instant TV dinners! If you cook steaks or other meat, cook a little more than you need for your meal and use the rest for a quick and easy hash or stirfry on the next day.
  5. Plan and shop ahead
    Make a list, check it twice and keep a pantry well-stocked with basics. If you stock it with a lot of processed stuff “just in case” you don’t feel like cooking, you’re apt to not feel like cooking a lot more often. Clean, cut and store veggies as soon as you bring them home. It’s less work down the road (and handy for snacking, too!)
  6. Keep healthy snacks at hand
    When we’re on the go, it’s all too easy to default to vending machine and convenience store nosh – most of which is highly processed and loaded with sugars, salt and unhealthy fats. Keep things like fresh fruit, nuts and jerky at the ready.
  7. Eat out…of a brown paper bag
    Or any other device for carrying your homemade lunch with you. If you’re not a morning person, why not make lunch the night before – even while you’re cooking dinner? A sandwich takes just a few minutes to make. If you make a point of cooking more than you need, those extras/leftovers can make fine lunches, too.
  8. Commit
    Decide on your preferred mealtimes and stick to them, even setting an alarm if you need a reminder. Just as you make time for those activities that mean a lot to you, you can make time for eating well. Being the foundation for good health – dental and systemic – it’s certainly deserving of all the commitment you can give it.

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We Eat Food, Not the Package : Some Thoughts on Health Halos

Did you catch Dr. Connelly’s latest column over at HuffPo: “Diet Soda and Your Teeth: A Healthy Mix?”

Though I’ve already written a couple times now about the damage soft drinks can do to tooth enamel, I wanted to bring his column to your attention because it provides a good warning against the illusion that diet pop is somehow healthier. In fact, in some ways, it could even be worse for your teeth – and for one simple reason:

People tend to drink a lot of it. I will admit that the above “enamel-wearing” points are as pronounced with regular soda as it is with diet pop (again, I’m trying to use “soda” and “pop” both to be inclusive!) [sic] But the big issue with diet soda is the fact that people think it’s healthier, and thus, tend to drink more of it. It’s all about calories, and everything else is forgotten. I don’t know how many times I have heard “I’m addicted to diet coke” (et. al.) [sic] from a patient. I know I sound like a stern librarian, but I have to be honest – that stuff is the worst stuff you can drink. Even though it has sugar, I’d almost rather see people drink regular pop, because I’m convinced that one or two regular pops are less damaging than seven of the diet version (again, people who drink diet soda tend to drink a lot of it). But truthfully, I’d rather see people drink neither. [emphasis added]

The fact that people drink a lot of diet soda also means they are very likely drinking less of other (healthier) beverages. To give an example, according to one study , in 1966, the average American drank 20 gallons of soft drinks and 33 gallons of milk. But in 2003, those numbers were not just reversed, but the soft drinks took an additional big leap as well (46 gallons of soft drinks and 22 gallons of milk). Milk has its own detractors, but one must admit that milk also contains a lot of nutrients – protein, vitamins and calcium (we dentists like calcium). Diet soda? Not so much.

OK, I’m not looking to advocate milk here (not yet, anyway). But if you are looking for something to drink, what’s wrong with drinking just plain old water?

Indeed: The only ingredient in soft drinks that your body actually does need is water. It’s involved in every bodily function. Consequently, we can’t go much longer than a week without the stuff – water is life – and what we don’t get from food we need to drink. It’s also available right from the tap and at a fraction of the cost of soft drinks, though I do recommend filtering it. But even then, a filtering pitcher and a year’s worth of replacement filters is still cheaper than buying just one generic bottle of soda per week for a year. Think, too, of the money you’ll save on dental bills!

The issue Dr. Connelly points to is akin to what’s known as the “health halo,” which materializes when one positive quality of a food affects our perception of the whole. It’s what gets a person to believe, for instance, that a presweetened cereal made with whole grains is healthier than the kind made with refined flour, despite it’s being just as loaded with sugars, artificial colors and other additives. One recent study of front-of-box nutrition claims shows health halos at work.

The scientists said the front-of-box claims misled the participants in two ways.

Firstly, consumers inferred that the products presented were more nutritious than other cereals, even though these products were “below average in overall nutritional quality.”

Secondly, they inferred that claims had broader meanings than their literal interpretation.

The scientists said 44 per cent of participants thought nutrition-related claims meant the cereal contained higher nutrition levels compared to other brands of children’s cereal.

You can read more about the study here.

Other recent research similarly shows how we often “eat the package” rather than the product. For this study, subjects were asked to taste test “organic” and “conventional” versions of three different foods: cookies, yogurt and potato chips.

Confirming Lee’s health halo hypothesis, the subjects reported preferring almost all of the taste characteristics of the organically-labeled foods, even though they were actually identical to their conventionally-labeled counterparts. The foods labeled “organic” were also perceived to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher price tag. In addition, foods with the “organic” label were perceived as being lower in fat and higher in fiber. Overall, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their “non-organic” counterparts.

One product that’s recently developed a halo is sea salt, which – according to an American Heart Association survey – 61% of consumers think is a “low-sodium alternative” to table salt. It’s not. In reality, the only real difference between the two is that sea salt is less processed. This, according to John Franklin, Cargill’s marketing manager for salt (yes, there really is such a position!), may explain consumers’ mistake.

Sea salt naturally contained beneficial minerals that were stripped out of table salt such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, but its biggest USP [unique selling proposition] was its unprocessed image, said Franklin.

“Consumers perceive it as healthier, more natural, more premium and better tasting because it’s less refined. It’s just evaporated by the sun and wind. It’s seen as the wholegrain of salts.”

For a detailed discussion of sea vs. table salt, see this terrific guest post at Fooducate.

The moral of the story? Ignore the front of the package; read the ingredients and nutrition info instead. And if you decide to consume the product, do in moderation.

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