Thursday, January 24, 2013

What The Heck Is MSG, Anyway?

Monosodium Glutamate is an extraction of glutamic acid in a salt molecule. We all know its use is highly debated, but why exactly are people arguing so much all of a sudden? It's been used for decades, ever since it was discovered by a man in Tokyo after he extracted it from seaweed.

After World War II, MSG was brought over to the US and was produced by extraction. In 1956, Japan figured out how to get it through fermentation & start making a lot of it at once. And as the years progressed, we eventually all started fermenting it from genetically modified bacteria. This allowed mass production of the additive. Very few people pay attention to the way its production has evolved over time and stick to the old argument, "But we've been eating it for over a hundred years.. " forgetting it was just a slow, simple extraction from seaweed back then. Things have changed.

Another thing that has changed is the fact that this isn't the only additive put in foods as a flavor enhancer. And when you start combining chemicals, you get different reactions. Hence, we have people who are allergic to certain foods containing MSG, people who are not, and people who are and aren't, depending on which MSG foods they're eating and how much. It got complicated.

Fortunately, there's a way to enhance the flavor of your food without using it. All you have to do is add a little salt and vinegar to your meal, and the combination works just like MSG.. but on a much safer level. Also, I will point out that when buying products from the supermarket, keep in mind companies have about 20 different names for MSG. So you can buy a can of soup that contains so many different lab varieties of glutamic acid added on top of each other that someone who's sensitive to it can eat half a can and go into anaphylactic  shock. This isn't an exaggeration, as it really happened to someone I knew, and he ended up in the emergency room getting pumped full of prescription grade Benadryl.

I'm not here to debate the safety of MSG. I'm just here to tell you what it is, and you can make up your own mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Easy Stuff To Make

I was going to go into how genetic modification works and what exactly MSG is.. but I'm so tired my brain is about to collapse. So it's easy post time.

Veggie Wraps

This is what I do when I'm exhausted and hungry:
Throw a large flour tortilla on a plate.
Toss some spinach on it.
Slice up:
Half an avacado
A couple of olives
Now throw in: 
A little cheese if I'm feelin' it
Sprinkle of balsamic vinegar

Roll it up and eat it.

Others ..when I'm not that exhausted..

Vietnamese spring rolls

You can use anything you want for filling. I usually shred up carrots, cabbage, onion, daikon radish, mint, basil and a little cilantro.
Soak your rice paper in water for a few minutes till soft. Then roll up the filling inside. Here's a video that shows how to roll them:

Veggie Burritos

I cook black beans with salt, cumin, oregano and mild chili powder. This makes a pretty decent mexican spice mix. I cut up and throw in: a big onion, Serrano chilies (you can use a jalapeno if you want it less spicy) chopped zucchini and blanched & chopped tomatoes.
Then I just roll it all up in a tortilla and eat. I will add some fresh slices of avacado if I have one in the kitchen before I roll it.
You can add cheese as well if you'd like.

Basically, you can throw just about anything in a wrap and it's usually quite good. I've done stir fry rolled up in a wrap instead of served with rice, I've made burritos with mushrooms and potatoes in them before. I have also made curried vegetable wraps. And don't forget Mediterranean style wraps..  felafel with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach and yogurt sauce. (the internet is full of yogurt sauce recipes)

Okay. Time for a beer. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Medical Opinion

I'm currently in school for a medical career, yet again, but I don't agree with how it all works as a controlled system. I have a big problem with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and I loathe how American society has evolved in regards to dietary and lifestyle choices. I don't think Western Medicine works for everyone and I don't think Eastern Medicine does, either. I'm stuck in the middle, a weird mutation of a health nut who incorporates both philosophies into an undefined mess of experimentation to treat bodies and minds. And I primarily use myself as a subject.

I did a stint at a college in North Carolina for awhile in Environmental Biology, where I learned how to do things like genetically mutate a potato in the lab. I had heated arguments with my professors about modification, and I have already worked in health care long enough to know it's not helping that many people.

I've worked in a mental health ward, residences for mentally handicapped adults and children, a rest home, home health care, and with substance abuse patients. I have also been a CNA in a group home for mistreated adolescents and teenagers. I learned insurance companies cut people with serious psychological issues loose when their money runs out, and doctors get incentives from pharmaceutical companies to hand out experimental medications. People in America are overdosed, misguided, and are constantly having surgeries they don't really need just because someone with "M.D." on their name tag told them to do it. Sometimes I feel ashamed at the incompetence and greed of the medical industry. It's depressing.

I've worked under nurses who have told me horror stories in the late night hours of third shift in a hospital hallway drenched in sanitizer and bleach water. I've grown very tired of the bullshit and wish to educate anyone interested in taking responsibility for their own health and avoiding the doctor's office. I have been silent long enough.

I am not an R.N. or a doctor. I am a lowly med student who has worked as a CNA, a behavioral health tech, and a home health care aide. I have no outstanding credentials according to this society. But I have studied, listened, researched, and sustained a passion for healing for over 23 years now. And I will never quit learning and listening. I don't like seeing people sick, and I hate seeing people get turned away from "free clinics", which are a joke in the name. I hate seeing 14 year old girls sneaking to the emergency room to give birth after not being able to see a doctor at all for nine months. People are poisoning themselves with foods strategically labelled in ways that hide their toxicity. Most don't know what MSG really is and how it has about 20 different names companies use to hide the fact that it's in their products. I'll bet most people don't even know that before the genetic modification of tomatoes, they contained a complex of vitamin c that doesn't even exist anymore in the synthetic version of "enriched" foods. And that practices such as these has over time, depleted most Americans of everything their bodies needed to be able to absorb vitamins and minerals from eating. This has led to a growing epidemic of malnutrition that's responsible for most cancers and other diseases in the U.S. Sometimes it seems like this country is a big experimental lab and its citizens are little rats running around in a maze, looking for toxic cheese and totally unaware that they could be much healthier and happier if they really wanted to be.

How to Effectively Lose Weight

Weight gain is a negative symptom stemming from a multitude of things, and every individual is different. There's age, depression, illness or disease, medication, & dysfunction of the thyroid gland to name a few.. and sometimes, there's just plain old bad dietary habits.

I've come across quite a few people who don't really know how to get their vegetables. I know.. seems crazy.. but it's true. First off, potatoes are carbohydrates and full of starch, and should not be considered a vegetable. They match more in nutritional value to rices, pastas and grains. They break down to sugars. Glucose that your body doesn't need becomes fat. Potatoes are also loaded with calories. Bottom line: Potatoes will make you fat. They cause more weight gain than red meat.

The fastest weight loss I've ever seen without nutritional deficiency comes from the 40-day liquid diet of blended or juiced vegetables (primarily greens) and fruits that people started trying after that documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" got added to Netflix. Over the years, I've dated and/or lived with a couple of bodybuilders and a small number of guys heavily into weight training. These men were very serious about their vegetables and home made smoothies, and I learned a lot by watching them. I learned how people can lose weight and stay healthy, as opposed to trying fad diets, feeling weak, and eventually failing.

1. Green smoothies are fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals, and will help you remain healthy while reducing fat intake significantly. Try having smoothies for breakfast and lunch, and limiting a solid meal to once per day. (And make sure that solid meal is not something like heavy gravy over a pork roast with potatoes and bread.)
2. Reducing carbs significantly will decrease weight. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which turns into fat and stores up in the body.
3. Metabolism is a complicated thing. Not getting into the intricate details of how it works, you can simply raise it and burn off fat by doing 30 minutes of cardio every day. A walk down the road or a ride on a bike is sufficient. Make sure you're breathing a little heavily and breaking a sweat, or you're not getting enough cardio to make a difference.
4. Take a breather from beer. Have a glass of red wine instead, and don't overdo it.
5. Eat more vegetables than meat. We have a bad habit in America of making the bulk of our meals a big slab of meat, surrounded by a few overcooked veggies. Reverse that, and don't cook the vegetables until they're limp and dead.

We get a ton of fat from eating heavy gravies, sauces, breads, pastas and too much dairy, and limiting our vegetable intake. Salads don't count for crap.. unless you do away with the poor excuse for one. That would be the iceberg lettuce thing with a few tommy tomatoes and cheese, drowned in Ranch. If you do salad, do it with spinach and put a ton of veggies or fruits on top of it. By eating vegetables, I mean cut up a ton of vegetables, barely cook them, season them with something that's not fattening and eat them. Eat them raw. Eat them all the time. You can eat the heck out of vegetables all day long and not worry too much about weight gain. (careful of avacados.. they're actually high in calories but still great for the brain) Ethnic cuisine can incorporate a ton of veggies.. there are Ethiopian dishes, a ton of Korean and Thai dinners and Sri Lankan meals that are loaded with good stuff and use hardly any fat at all. Just cut back on the rice and put more veggies on your plate.

Finally, there's one more thing that causes weight gain that not many people consider. Sleep deprivation. It works both ways. It causes gain in some people and loss in others. A lack of sleep and stress screws around with the thyroid as well as adrenal glands and starts all sorts of weight trouble. So learn how to stress less, and get a decent amount of sleep when you can.

Slowing Down the Aging Process

It's not impossible.

First off, one of the most destructive symptoms of aging is the lowering of testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women. When our hormones start to go, our vitality goes with them. You start all the symptoms of aging we're familiar with; wrinkles, dry skin, lack of collagen production, circulatory stress and bald spots.
This (the hormone situation) is the area where fighting old age slightly differs between the sexes. I'll start with men.

Testosterone is not only responsible for sex drive. It's also responsible for things like:
  • Bone density
  • Fat distribution
  • Muscle strength and mass
  • Red blood cell production
  • Sperm production
  • Depression
This means you're more prone to weight gain when your levels get low, and you're at a greater risk of heart failure and prostate cancer. You're also going to start being more susceptible to sugar problems, as it helps maintain insulin levels.

There are a multitude of problems with low estrogen in women, and a few of the symptoms include:
  • Rage [Interesting side note: Synthetic estrogen in certain types of steroids is actually what's responsible for "roid rages"]
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Bone loss
  • Crying spells
Of course, there are way more symptoms to these changes than what I've listed. So the first thing we need to worry about when fighting age is learning to increase and stabilize hormone levels. There is always hormone replacement therapy, but I prefer to go the natural route. (Especially when dealing with estrogen replacements, as I will explain below.) Here are a few ways to start:


1. You've got to severely limit your fructose. You need to keep your sugar levels down, so limit grains and other carbohydrates as well. They break down to sugar. Cow's milk contains lactose. Sugar and lactose both cause insulin resistance and lead to every chronic disease men suffer from as well as weight gain.
2. Short, intense exercise has been proven to raise testosterone and keep it from decreasing. Strength training works really well in this regard, and also cardio. Get in at least 30 minutes of cardio every
3. Increase your Vitamin D intake. Natural sources include salmon, tuna, eggs, mackerel, yogurt, and cheese. Vegans: It's much harder to avoid vitamin D deficiency because most of it comes from animal product sources. Shitake mushrooms give you a pretty high dose, also soy milk and exposure to sunlight. Be careful with supplements, as an overdose in supplement form is toxic and can lead to kidney disease and calcium crystals in soft tissues of the body as well as in the urine.

Women: This is a little more complicated.
Unfortunately, there's a multitude of pesticides and household products we're all exposed to that seem to be full of something called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that get into the body and mimic estrogen, causing an overdose of the foreign substance and leading to breast cancer and the growth of fibroids in the uterus. Even getting plant estrogens such as is in flax seeds and red clover tea can be tricky. You don't want to overdose on fake estrogen (yes, even estrogen supplements are dangerous). What you want to do is increase production of your own natural estrogen.While eating flax isn't a bad thing, pay attention to the cosmetics and detergents you use and get rid of anything you can find containing xenoestrogens. Don't drink unfiltered tap water. Reading up on xenoestrogens will allow you to rid yourself of toxic chemicals and will free you up to enjoy plant estrogen sources without worrying about fibroids or tumor growth.

1. So number one is going to be to try and eliminate as many of these toxic chemicals as possible. You're already a body of estrogen. Even when your levels get low, you can get them going again by changing your diet and physical activity habits. What is advertised as "estrogen replacements" or "estrogen supplements" are to be avoided, as they can be dangerous in high doses. Things like shampoo and conditioner and most fabric softner sheets contain parabens. (Which are xenoestrogens) Also try to go more "natural" with your household cleaners and soaps.
2. Reduce your carbohydrates. Carbs tend to cause a decrease in estrogen levels. Limiting them can reverse this decrease.
3.  30 minutes of exercise daily will improve the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing estrogen. Estrogen in women is produced in the ovaries and also in the pituitary gland, which is part of your endocrine system.
4. Limit your meat products, especially red. Red meat is also responsible for more painful cramping during mentruation. Red meat has a much worse effect on a woman's health than on a man's. Our bodies are different.
5. Sushi will increase estrogen production.

Both men and women: Here's where we come together in our needs. And food is the key.

1. Raw vegetables and fruits should be a major part of the diet instead of everything being based around meat, especially as we get older. Now most people cannot properly digest raw foods due to an unhealthy digestive system derived from bad dieting habits. I wrote a post before this one on healing the digestive system, which will start you on your way to being able to digest raw vegetables with no problem. In the meantime, steamed or lightly cooked veggies are okay.
2. If you are not allergic to soy, it is a good thing to add to your diet after the age of 40. Since soy is one of the main genetically modified foods on the market, be sure to obtain organic soy so you can get the benefits you need from it. It prevents endometrial cancers in men and women, and stimulates hormone production. (It's also a great protein source.)
3. Bathe your pituitary and your hormones. Hormones are fat cells. They come from your pituitary gland, which decides how fast you age depending on its health. Your pituitary gland needs good fat to function properly, and to keep producing estrogen or testosterone. Good fat comes in the form of avacados, coconut, olives, nuts, peanut butter, sunflower oil, and olive oil.
4. These things are very damaging to skin, causing dryness, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and loss of collagen: excessive alcohol, smoking, excessive sugar, dehydration, and too much sun exposure.
5. A daily cocktail of vitamin a, c and e (preferably from food sources, but supplemental is ok)  is great in reversing age damage. These things are also antioxidants.

These are just a few things that will jump start age reversal and slow it down. Adequate rest and learning to manage or rid yourself of stress goes very far as well. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Heal Your Gut

So the first thing I decide to write about on a blog of random thoughts is bad intestinal tract health. That's odd. But it's a huge problem in America. Health insurance here is complicated to keep up with for most of us, so it's become almost mandatory for us to diagnose and heal ourselves. That's unfortunate. Add to that the constant dietary trends and misconceptions about food.  Consider the fact that people below the poverty line who rely on food banks are taking home things like canned chicken, outdated cupcakes full of food dye and sugar, and that white, gooey excuse for a loaf of bread. I know this first hand because I have been one of those people. It's a wonder we're not dropping like flies.. I guess the human body is pretty good at managing depletion for awhile. But at some point, it's going to give up and begin to break down.

When we finally started using refrigerators, we tossed the traditional method of fermenting vegetables right out the window. Some good health benefits went away with it. The primary reason irritated bowel syndrome is so common these days is because we've forgotten how to eat. The digestive system is very complicated and is often taken for granted. While everyone knows they need good bacterial activity in there, not many are taking the time to pay attention until they're doubling over in pain and spending an hour in the bathroom. Most people cannot handle digestion of raw vegetables anymore. Antibiotics in poultry is killing off our good intestinal bacteria. We need to heal the bugs in there in order to digest and absorb the vitamins and minerals from food, and to avoid food getting stuck in the colon and eventually rotting. (which happens with Crohn's disease and causes necrosis.)

This leads me to the main culprit of depletion and sickness: a lack of the vitamins and minerals needed to fight disease and infection. Most of these magical nutrients are in raw fruits and vegetables. And our bodies can't digest them anymore! Why? Because the intestines are sick and in need of repair. Once the intestines are healed, the ability to digest raw earth veggies starts to come back and you begin healing from the inside.. not to mention slowing down the aging process and looking better, too. And fixing the digestive system doesn't have to involve major surgery- unless it's gotten to the point where necrosis is present. And that is a serious situation which requires cutting into and removing the dying parts of the small intestine.

There's also something else happening in there that most people don't know about. There is another, secondary nervous system located in the gut. It's called the Enteric nervous system, and shoots more neurons and neurotransmitters than a nerd on crack. It's been dubbed the secondary brain. The enteric nervous system communicates with the primary nervous system and this may have a lot to do with why stress and anxiety is so heavily involved with proper digestion. So now that we have a hint about how complicated the gastrointestinal areas of our bodies are, what do we do to start the healing process? For the sake of time, I'll simply list some good places to start and those who are interested can research the details later.

1. Definitely get some fermented vegetables into your diet. This will aid in healing the bacterial maze inside those intestines as well as help digest other foods. 

2. Eat real yogurt, and not the stuff with candied fruit in the bottom hyped up with high fructose corn syrup. That's like physically abusing your yogurt and then forcing it to find a way to help once it gets in there.

3. If you don't have time to ferment vegetables, (which isn't really that hard) try things like kim chi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and kombucha. Also, eat pickled things.

Some of these things (like kombucha or kefir) might take a little getting used to if your palette is too familiar with the traditional American diet of steak, potatoes and pie. In that case, keep searching until you find some probiotic food you can handle. Otherwise, it's easy to give up and wait until it's too late to get better without surgical or medicinal intervention.

4. Please, by any means possible, learn to relax. I cannot point out how much hell stress and anxiety puts your body through. We can handle this while we're young, but eventually it's going to kick us into submission. 

5. It's much easier on your digestive system to eat small throughout the day than to gorge on a huge meal two or three times per day. And remember that chewing produces enzymes we need for digestion.. so remember more chewing creates more enzymes and easier digestion.

6. Your best sources of fiber will be coming from fruits, vegetables and beans. While whole grains do contain fiber, it's still better to get most of your nutrients from the prior. Ask any bodybuilder. Bread's okay, but too many carbs are still going to raise your sugar levels. Then you're dealing with different problems. You don't have to stop eating bread. Whole grains are good. But too much of them aren't. Overdose on vegetables, not on bread and pasta. 

So here's a start. Get the gut healthy, then it will start working for you. Some people have reversed allergies to certain foods by healing their intestines. After the intestines are back on track, the ability to digest raw fruits and vegetables comes back. A digestive system working at sub par levels can lead to things like diverticulitis, IBS, and even Crohn's disease.