Sunday, February 23, 2020

Arnica Montana - The Best Kept Secret for Injuries!

Sooner or later we all experience a traumatic physical injury from a fall, contact during sports,  from a dental procedure or surgery; or twisting or straining joints or muscles.     While over the counter pain relievers like Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen reduce pain they come with a list of potentially serious side effects.  

Fortunately, there is an excellent homeopathic remedy that can safely be used by anyone and brings with it zero drug interactions!    That remedy is made from the herb Arnica Montana or Arnica for short.    It is also known as Leopard’s Bane, Mountain Tobacco or Wolf’s Bane.    In addition to its pain-relieving properties,Arnica also reduces inflammation from traumatic injury.  

In fact, it is so successful in reducing inflammation, bruising and swelling from traumatic injury that it is routinely prescribed by plastic surgeons because excess post-surgery inflammation and swelling can negatively affect the results of these surgeries.

Arnica is a flowing perennial plant related to the Daisy and Sunflower – so those with allergies to either of these flowers should avoid using the actual herb.

Homeopathic Arnica is derived from the herb but like all homeopathic remedies is NOT the same as an herbal remedy.  To produce homeopathic Arnica the herb is harvested, chopped up and place in a container with alcohol and left for approximately one month.   Then the particulate matter is strained out so that the alcohol is left which acts as a solvent and is full of all the plant chemicals from Arnica.

This liquid is known as “Mother Tincture”.  Next, they take one drop of this liquid and mix it with either 9 drops or 99 drops of alcohol and the mixture is shaken through a particular process known as succession.     The dilution is now either 1 part per 10 or 1 part per 100.     This process is repeated again using the diluted mixture – one drop mixed with either 10 drops or 100 drops.     The liquid is then poured onto small pellets of lactose.  Depending on how many times this process is repeated determines a homeopathic remedy’s “potency” and there are several potency scales used in homeopathy:

Decimal potencies which come marked as 3X, 6X, 100X, etc.  Centesimal potencies which come marked as 3C, 9C, 12C, 30C, or 1M(1,000 dilutions) and 10M (10,000 dilutions)  

So How Do Homeopathic Remedies Produce Effects Since They are so Diluted?

The key to understanding how homeopathic remedies work is understanding the process of hormesis.  Hormesis refers to a biphasic dose response to a chemical whereby an extremely low dose can cause stimulation and beneficial effect on a biological system and a higher dose can cause an inhibitory or toxic effect.   Put another way hormesis refers to the fact that a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) can result from exposure to low doses of an agent that is other toxic at higher doses.    

There are many examples of hormesis including physical stress from lifting weights – provide enough load and stress and not too much and the body gets stronger – try to lift too much weight or do too much weight lifting too soon and injury results.

In the case of many beneficial plant chemicals – these phytochemicals are actually known toxins which at high doses produce negative or toxic effects but at low doses stimulate a positive adaptive response by the body.

So -  dose is VERY important!

How do you use Arnica for injuries?

Homeopathic Remedies are produced in strict compliance with pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Processes in FDA inspected facilities.    They usually come in small tubes full of pellets of lactose with a twist top that allows you to select 3 – 5 pellets.   You simply place them under your tongue and allow them to dissolve.        Dosage instructions are included on the tubes and a tube of homeopathic Arnica is very inexpensive - $6 - $9 for many doses worth!

To treat any traumatic injury, take 3 – 5 pellets and repeat as often as every 15 minutes until you feel improvement.     There is no possibility of overdose or poisoning the best potency for most injuries is 30C but any potency you find will work.    For really serious injuries look for 200C potency.      

Once you experience how effective this remedy can be you will want to have it with you all the time!

Topical Arnica

Arnica can also be used topically and comes in the form of gels, creams, liquids.  This form of Arnica is herbal meaning that it DOES contain significant quantities of plant chemicals from Arnica, and it is proven to be highly effective for traumatic injury.       It should NOT be used on any broken skin, and no form of herbal Arnica should every be taken internally!

You can use both topical Arnica and homeopathic Arnica in cases like sprains, strains and impact injuries without broken skin.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Using Heart Rate Variability to Measure Stress Response and Optimize Health

When embarking on an exercise program it is natural to focus most of your attention on workouts because without the stimulus of appropriate exercise done at the correct frequency, intensity and for the right amount of time you will not make progress.   However it is easy to lose sight of the fact that exercise is a stimulus and stressor and that progress actually occurs during recovery from exercise!

So while providing the correct amount of exercise stimulus is important -- optimizing recovery is as or more important.  This is particularly the case as we get older because our ability to recover from exercise stress tends to decrease as we age.    There are many factors which affect our ability to recover from and improve from exercise including adequate sleep, breathing patterns, hydration, nutrition, and mental ability to relax to name a few.

The art of exercise often comes down to knowing when you are training to much or too hard and NOT recovering adequately. This is particularly true as you get older and for serious athletes who must walk a knife edge between exercising enough and at a high enough intensity and allowing for adequate recovery.

The great news is that there is a highly accurate way to easily check your recovery status/stress response by monitoring heart rate variability or HRV for short.     HRV refers to the fact that the time between each heartbeat continuously varies!      The picture at the beginning of this article shows the variation in time between each beat of the heart measured with an electrocardiogram.     Even though the time between each heart beat is always varying your heart rate as expressed as the number of heart beats per minute can be steady at times.

So for example, an average heart rate of 60 beats per minute (bpm) does not mean that the interval between successive heartbeats is exactly 1.0 sec, instead they may fluctuate/vary from 0.5 sec up to 2.0 sec.   During exercise, HRV decreases as heart rate and exercise intensity increases. HRV also decreases during periods of mental stress.

As a general rule of thumb we want to see HIGHER Heart Rate Variability.    Higher HRV indicates that your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is in a highly responsive state and able to quickly adjust to changes and challenges to optimize homeostasis (homeostasis refers the fact that any living thing must maintain a consistent internal environment to maintain life so your body must constantly adjust to changes such as increased temperature, muscle activity, lightness, darkness, etc. to keep all the cells and organs functioning)

HRV is regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls the function of our internal organs such as heart, lungs, intestines, level of arterial tension, etc.    The ANS has two parts:  Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. 

The sympathetic nervous system is often considered the "fight or flight" system, while the parasympathetic nervous system is often considered the "rest and digest" system. In many cases, these systems have "opposite" actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it. 

Parasympathetic activity decreases heart rate and increases HRV, whereas sympathetic activity increases heart rate and decreases HRV.    Recovery and stress relief is all about increased parasympathetic activity.  

When there are inappropriately high levels of Sympathetic Activity and low levels of Parasympathetic Activity – particularly for prolonged periods of time – you cannot recover from stress and sooner or later you will begin to experience physiological symptoms and physical performance decrements.

HRV and Heart Disease

When your Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is inhibited your HRV is low and directly influences stress on your heart.   An under-active (PNS) and overactive Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is a direct cause of high blood pressure, inflammation, and heart disease.   In fact research shows that the PNS activity of patients with heart disease is one-third lower, on average, than that of a healthy individual.

Measurement of HRV

Measurement of HRV allows you to know how your body is responding and adapting to all the stressors in your life including exercise BEFORE you experience symptoms or a decrease in physical performance.    By measuring HRV each morning upon waking before you rise from bed or eat or drink anything you can very accurately track your recovery status/stress response.   To measure your HRV you need a chest strap type heart rate monitor that puts out a Bluetooth Signal so it can connect to your mobile phone.      Most chest strap monitors do put out a Bluetooth Signal.    Then download one of several HRV apps for your phone such as this excellent app: 

Follow the directions to set-up the app and connect your monitor to the app.   Then in morning put on your monitor and let the app run for 2 minutes or so.    Record the HRV numbers and look at them over a couple of days.   It will take a few days before the numbers will become meaningful. Take notes on your workouts to see the correlations between your numbers and how you feel. The numbers are related to you and are not useful unless you can compare it to your previous data (furthermore, different apps use different algorithms, so the numbers between apps will be different, as well). You can use recommendations from the app as rough rules of thumb, but rely mostly on your numbers relative to previous numbers to track recovering and stress response.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Salmon Roe – The Super-food You Never Heard Of!

Just about everyone has heard that s  farm-raised salmon contains very little Omega 3 fatty acids so choose Wild Alaskan Salmon whenever possible).

Salmon can be a very healthy addition to your diet due to high levels of beneficial Omega 3 Fatty Acids and a unique Anti-Oxidant called Astaxanthin which gives Salmon its color (NOTE:

Salmon roe may be one of the best kept secrets out there.    Salmon roe – often known as salmon caviar – is Salmon eggs from female salmon.     Like most eggs salmon roe is incredibly nutritious and delicious! 

Salmon Roe is high in protein, vitamins, and a particularly potent form of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.   The two most bio-active types of Omega 3 Fatty Acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).       EPA and DHA are present in fatty fish such as salmon, but Salmon Roe contains these essential fatty acids in phospholipid form.    Our cell membranes are composed of a phospholipid layer.   The phospholipid form of EPA and DHA is much easier to absorb into your cells which is where the benefits are derived.

Salmon Roe and prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s

The highly bioavailable form of DHA in salmon roe allows it to be transported efficiently across the blood/brain barrier.    People prone to dementia have an impaired ability to transport DHA across the blood/brain barrier so DHA is not able to get to the brain cells.   DHA is vital for the brain and its development.   Regular DHA from fish oil is often not able to get past the blood brain barrier in people prone to dementia, but salmon roe can deliver this critical nutrient to brain cells.

If able to get across the blood/brain barrier, DHA promotes brain glucose uptake (blood sugar uptake) by regulating the structure and function of special proteins called glucose transporters located in the blood-brain barrier.      Getting enough glucose into brain cells is critical for preventing the build up of Amyloid-Beta Plaque and Tau tangle formation which is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Other Nutrients in Salmon Roe

As mentioned above salmon roe contains highly bioavailable EPA/DHA – in fact salmon roe has 3.5 times the amount of these essential fatty acids than salmon itself!  One ounce of salmon roe contains 6 grams of protein and high amounts of vitamins B12, C, E, Folate, Thiamine and the critical mineral selenium.  Like salmon – salmon roe contains high amounts of the highly effective antioxidant Astaxanthin.  If you are not familiar with Astaxanthin check out this previous blog-post on its many benefits:

Saturday, February 1, 2020

How to Prepare Rice and Potatoes to Reduce Calories

Yes you heard that right – how you prepare complex carbohydrates like rice and potatoes can make a big difference in the amount of sugar, starch and calories you absorb when you eat them!    To understand how this occurs let’s look at the three types of carbohydrates:  sugars, starches and fibers.

All sugars are converted into glucose (your body’s preferred carbohydrate source) to be used for cellular energy.      Starches are simply multiple sugars hooked together and when eaten are broken down into sugar again.

Fiber also consists of multiple sugars hooked together but human beings lack the enzymes necessary to break fiber down into sugars again.   So long story short even though there are calories and sugar present within fiber we do not absorb any of them!    

Fiber has many benefits to our digestive system including helping with satiety (feeling satisfied); reducing cholesterol; and providing “food” for the good bacteria which inhabit our intestines.

How to Prepare Rice and Potatoes to Lower sugar/starch and reduce calories absorbed

Scientists have discovered that you can convert a significant amount of starch to a form of starch known as “Resistant Starch” simply by cooking it, refrigerating it and then re-heating it.   To put some numbers to it a cup of rice has about 240 calories.   Prepared properly calories can drop by 50 – 60% WITHOUT affecting the taste AND providing many collateral benefits!

Here is here is the preparation process:

Bring water to a boil

Then add one teaspoon of coconut oil – this was used in an experiment testing the process, but the main effects are caused by cooking, cooling for 12 or more hours then reheating!

Add rice and boil for 20 – 25 minutes.

Refrigerate the rice for 12 hours

Then reheat the rice and eat or eat cold if you prefer – adding a small amount of a healthy oil like Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil prevents clumping and improve texture and taste for many.

This process boosts resistant starch by 10 times.

Metabolic Benefits of Resistant Starch

Resistant Starch is not fully digested and absorbed and instead ferments in the large intestine and is turned in short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) by bacteria.    These SCFA’s feed the beneficial bacteria in the colon.

We only absorb 2 calories per gram of resistant starch compared to 4 calories per gram for regular sugar and starch, yet resistant starch is very effective at satisfying hunger and produces high levels of satiety.

Resistant starch can help lower blood cholesterol and fat and has been shown to reduce the production of new fat cells.   The SCFA’s produced from resistant starch also reduce the release of sugar by the liver thereby increasing the amount of fat burning!

There is also a significantly reduced insulin response to resistant starch which is VERY important.    Constant high levels of insulin in response to high levels of sugar and other non-fiber carbohydrate intake reduces the cells insulin sensitivity and overtime this can result in Type 2 Diabetes!    This has big ramifications for the treatment of this form of diabetes which is sky-rocketing.

The effect on glucose and insulin metabolism is very impressive. Some studies have found a 33-50% improvement in insulin sensitivity after 4 weeks of consuming 15-30 grams per day.

Resistant starch may help prevent and reduce existing irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, constipation, and ulcerative colitis.

Resistant starch can help balance immune response in the gut by balancing the production of immune cells and inflammatory chemicals.

Other Ways to Boost Resistant Starch Intake

Another great source of resistant starch is potato of all types.   Like rice simply cook then cool for 12 hours and eat cold or reheat.    Fine to add some healthy oil or reheat in water to change consistency and reheating in a microwave is fine.

Other food sources of resistant starch include green bananas, cashews, and raw oats.    You can also boost intake by using raw potato starch powder (Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch) which is easy to add to food and shakes and has very little taste.    Benefits will max out at 32 grams of resistant starch per day and start slowly to allow your digestive system to adjust.

It takes 2 – 4 weeks for the production of short chain fatty acids to increase and notice all the benefits!