Sun Exposure and Healthy Skin

Sunscreen-SPF-What-it-means-protectionWe absolutely depend on sunshine for health! When exposed to the sun, our skin produces a plentiful amount of a potent form of Vitamin D, which has hundreds of different roles in the body (including protecting against skin cancer). The dilemma: sun exposure can also damage the skin and eventually lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, when we live in God’s creation the way he intended us to, our skin is healthy enough to endure plentiful amounts of sunshine. Compared to unhealthy skin, healthy skin can absorb more sun rays without incurring damage, and skin is healthy when we eat a Creation-based diet and get enough sunshine! Nearly all fruits and vegetables provide some type of photoprotection for the skin. Regular consumption of healthy foods especially berries, tea, and dark chocolate infuse the body’s cells with polyphenols, flavanols, anthocyanins, and antioxidants that protect the skin against UV rays. Regular consumption is key!

It takes months of maintaining healthy eating habits to improve the skin’s health.The carotenoid family is especially effective at absorbing UV rays and providing anti-oxidant benefits. This includes pigments like beta-carotene, Lycopene, and astaxanthin. Of the carotenoids, Astaxanthin, which is found in salmon and krill (responsible for their red/pink color) is the most powerful. If you don’t eat much salmon or krill oil, astaxanthin can also be found in supplement form. Studies have found that those who regularly consume astaxanthin can stay in the sun longer without getting sun burned. Astaxanthin also has other benefits, such as increased athletic endurance and reduction of inflammation.

Having enough healthy fats in the diet, especially saturated fats and omega-3s, is also important for the skin. Fats are one of the primary building blocks of skin-cell membranes. Be sure to consume fatty fish like salmon or take krill/fish oil pills to meet your daily omega-3 requirement. Good sources of saturated fats include organic butter, organic whole milk, and coconut oil.

A note on topical before/after sun care:

Suncreen can be beneficial, but it has to be the right kind and has to be reapplied regularly. Sunscreen can provide a false sense of security, resulting in burns or excessive sun, so use wisely. Here are the things to know: There is no such thing as a water-proof sunscreen. All sunscreens wear off as as a result of water and toweling, and must be reapplied regularly. Also, many sunscreens use harmful chemicals to absorb the sun’s rays. If you use sunscreen, be sure to only use sunscreen that uses zinc oxide as the sole active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a natural mineral that blocks all types of UV rays. Finally, there is little benefit in using a sunscreen beyond an SPF rating of 30. Anything beyond 30 SPF is primarily a marketing scheme. The sun protection beyond SPF 20-30 drops of exponentially.

Perhaps more important than sunscreen is applying the antioxdiants and phytochemicals listed above, topically. Studies on animals have found that when applied topically after UV exposure, green tea and astaxanthin reduce skin damage. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E also have positive effects on the skin. It is easy to make your own before/after sun ointment at home – simply make a 50/50 mix of almond oil and water and add green tea powder (green tea leaves ground in a coffee grinder), astaxanthin (cut open several astaxanthin capsules and insert contents in your oil/water mix), vitamin E, and Vitamin C then shake well before use! Word of caution, the astaxanthin does have a slight pigment to it, so let the ointment absorb into your skin before wearing clothing or touching anything you dont’ want died pink (you can also not add the astaxanthin, but it’s so potent for the skin that I would recommend adding it).

The bottom line is, don’t get burned. You can get more sun without getting burned by improving the health of your skin through proper nutrition and skin care.

Pubmed Sources:

Chocolate study:
Carotenoid study:
Polyphenol study:
Green tea study:

Originally posted 2012-07-19 20:03:00.

When Red Meat Causes Cancer

red meat causes cancer, iron, protein, grass-fedRed meat isn’t as bad for our health as the popular media has made it out to be. In fact, when properly selected and prepared, red meat can be an extremely healthy food. To start, red meat is loaded with heme-iron, which is easily absorbed by the body and isn’t as likely to cause oxidation as non-heme iron from plant sources.  Since it’s easily absorbed, iron from red meat can be especially beneficial or women, considering about 19% of women in the United States get less than half of the amount of iron they need.  Not getting enough iron can lead to small red blood cells and a lack of energy (anemia). Since it’s used for energy transport, oxygen transport, and metabolism, adequate iron replenishment is also important for endurance athletes and weight lifters.

In addition to containing lots of heme-iron, grass-fed red meat boasts significant amounts of zinc, selenium, B12, choline, omega-3 fatty-acids, and an extremely high-quality protein; very few of such nutrients can be found in adequate supply in the plant world.  So, what makes red meat a questionable health food at best and a potential cause of cancer at worst?  First of all, lets clear the notion that it’s the saturated fat that’s unhealthy.  As part of a balanced diet, saturated fat from animals is an excellent source of energy (which is why animals store excess energy as saturated fat to begin with), and a close look at the available research indicates that there is very weak correlation between saturated fat intake and cholesterol levels (if any).  For more information on saturated fats, I recommend reading Dr. Stephen Guyenet’s excellent article on the subject.

The real problem with red meat, especially as it relates to its potential to cause cancer, is how it’s cooked (choosing grass-fed meat is important too, but that’s for another article).  When red meat is cooked at high temperatures carcinogenic compounds are formed, such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  These compounds can mutate cells, leading to cancer.  The types of cancer most commonly associated with consuming red-meat cooked at high temperatures are prostate, colon, and kidney cancer.

The good news is that you don’t have to give up red meat altogether.  You can easily avoid turning your red meat into a cancer bomb by cooking it at a lower temperature.  Oh, and you might also want to consider avoiding hamburgers (especially from fast-food restaurants).  Research indicates that hamburgers are much more prone to overheating and the development of carcinogenic compounds (like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) than steaks and other whole pieces of meet (like cubed stew meat).  If you really want to have a hamburger, be sure to use grass-fed meat and experiment with cooking at low-temperatures in the oven or simmering in hot water in a pan.

Severals studies found that meat cooked at the temperature of boiling water (212 °F) contained hardly any carcinogenic compounds.  Meat cooked at common frying-pan and grilling temperatures (around 400+ °F), however, contained significant amounts of cancer causing compounds!  Perhaps it’s coincidence that the Israelites cooked their meat in boiling water instead of the open fire, but I’d like to think that God was giving them a hint about how to preserve their health (see 1 Samuel 2:13).

It turns out that those who like their steaks rare have the right idea.  Red meat really only needs to be cooked to 158 °F — any heating beyond that  just results in the formation of extra carcinogens…yum!  The temperature of the meat is a far better indicator of its doneness than its internal or external color. 

The Take Away: Enjoy all the health benefits red meat has to offer by cooking it shorter and at lower temperatures.  Try to keep the cooking heat around 212 °F, and only cook red meat until it reaches 158 °F. Also, don’t forget to be extra careful not to overcook hamburgers, and, if at all possible, avoid fast-food hamburgers.  Otherwise, enjoy beef — it’s what’s for dinner!

References: Vitamin Deficiencies, UC Davis Medical Center; Urinary Mutagenesis and Fried Meat Intake, PubMed; Dietary Intake of Heterocyclic Amines, PubMed; Impact of Meat Consumption, Preparation, and Mutagens On Aggressive Prostate Cancer, PubMed

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Originally posted 2013-09-15 22:12:21.

Benefits of Beta Glucan (found in oats, mushrooms, and yeast)

Portabella MushroomBeta glucan is a powerful little fiber molecule that has several potential health benefits.  A fiber is anything that the body can’t fully digest and, therefore, passes through the digestive system.  There a many different types of fiber, and some fibers, like beta glucan, stand above the rest.

Beta-glucan is a type of sugar (called a polysaccharide) that is molecularly arranged in such a way that it’s indigestible.   There are basically two different classes of beta glucan: the insoluble kind that activate the digestive tract’s immune cells, and the soluble kind that absorb water and help remove excess cholesterol.

Beta Glucan In Oats and Barley (Grains)

Oats and barley are particularly high in soluble beta glucans, and studies have found that regular consumption of oatmeal or supplementation with grain-derived beta-glucan may help lower LDL cholesterol levels.  Beta-gluacan’s effectiveness, however, is not consistent and is affected by a number of variables.   The amount of oatmeal that was found to help lower cholesterol was 84 grams per day.  Supplemental doses of beta-glucan ranged from 3-9 grams per day.  Other studies indicate that beta-glucan may also help improve blood-sugar levels and perhaps enhance endurance capabilities.

Beta Glucan in Yeast and Mushrooms (Funguses) 

Both mushrooms and yeast are high in insoluble beta glucan.  Some of the best mushroom sources of beta glucan are common white mushrooms, crimini, and shitake.  The primary yeast source of beta glucan is baker’s yeast.  The beta glucan in mushrooms and yeast demonstrates strong immunomodulating effects.  In other words, it activates the body’s immune system, which makes sense given mushrooms’ reputation for boosting the immune system.  Studies have found the beta glucan from funguses activate powerful immune system responses like an increase in white blood cell and killer-t cell activity.  A growing number of studies (though still small) indicate that this activity may help the body fight against cancer cells and viral/bacterial infections. 

While the beta glucan in funguses stimulates specific immune responses, it simultaneously suppresses the body’ non-specific immune responses, like the release of superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide.  There’s evidence that beta-glucan’s suppression of non-specific inflammatory responses can help reduce the symptoms of common respiratory allergies.

The take away: While the best way to lower LDL cholesterol is to reduce stress, exercise, and eat plenty of greens, eating a little bit of oatmeal everyday might not be a bad idea.  Also, even good old common mushrooms have powerful immune-boosting properties, so eat them up!  They’re affordable and add great flavor to a number of dishes.

Recommended Products:

References: Oats and Anti-fatigue, Beta-Glucan’s Effect on Glycemic Index, Biomedical Issues of Dietary Fiber Beta-Glucan, The Application of Beta-Glucan for the Treatment of Colon Cancer, Glucans Inhibit Allergic Airway Inflammation

Originally posted 2013-05-24 00:02:42.

These bacteria can cause stomach acid imbalance. Are you feeding them?

fructose, hydrogen, h. pyloriIrritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, peptic ulcers, excess gas, bloating — there can be a number of reasons for these indigestion problems, but there’s one culprit that’s often connected to all of them: a bacteria named Helicobacter pylori.  More than 20% of adult Americans are thought to have an H. pylori infection. These spiral-shaped bacteria embed themselves in the mucous lining of the stomach and can wreak all kinds of havoc on the digestive system.  H. pylori damage the stomach’s protective lining and interfere with stomach acid production.  These two disruptions can cause peptic ulcers (H. pylori are now known to be the primary cause of ulcers), gas, bloating, heart burn, make digestion more difficult, and may eventually lead to gastric cancer.

H. pylori is contagious, and many people may be infected without even knowing it.  If you have any ongoing symptoms of the above mentioned digestions problems, you should probably consult with a doctor (although they’ll likely give you antibiotics that kill the good bacteria along with the bad), but there are also actions you can take that are good for your overall health and may prevent H. pylori from being able to colonize your stomach!

One of H. pylori’s primary foods is hydrogen gas.  Intestinal gases like hydrogen are produced by bacteria in the large intestine.  These bacteria feed on food that’s still not completely digested when it reaches the large intestine.  Since an ample amount of stomach acid is essential for complete digestion, and H. pylori disrupt stomach acid production, an H. pylori infection can result in a vicious cycle of indigested food, leading to more hydrogen production, leading to more H. pylori (since the have more hydrogen for food). The excess use of antacids can also interfere with the stomach acid balance and exacerbate digestive problems.

There are several naturals ways, however, to improve digestion in order stop feeding the bacteria that produce the hydrogen that feeds H. pylori.  One of the least known is reduced fructose consumption! Thanks to sodas, juices, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and white sugar, fructose consumption has skyrocket; yet, studies have found that humans can digest only about 25 grams of fructose in one sitting (one cup of apple juice contains about 24 grams of fructose).  Also, for fructose to be absorbed in the small intestines, an equal amount of glucose must be present.  The result is that a lot of fructose is sent undigested to the large intestine, where it feeds the bacteria that produce hydrogen.  Breath tests after high fructose meals almost always measure elevated hydrogen levels.  In addition to cutting back on refined sugars and fructose, another way to improve digestion is by taking the time to adequately chew every bite of food. Thoroughly chewed food is more easily broken down by stomach acid and subsequently absorbed in the small intestine (resulting in less hydrogen, CO2, and methane gas production).

H. pylori is a nasty little bug, but we don’t have to provide the conditions where it can thrive.   Compared to the contents of refined foods, fruits and vegetables and other whole foods are low in fructose and (with the right preparation) easily digested.  If you’re experiencing indigestion problem, don’t assume it’s genetics or something you just have to live with, your body may be sending you a signal that you need to change something in your diet.  Also, keep in mind, change doesn’t always happen over night, it will take consistently eating whole foods (and chewing them thoroughly) to see results.

References: H. pylori and Cancer, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Hydrogen as Energy Source for H. pylori, Short-Chain Carbohydrates and Short-Chain Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Whole Health Source, University of Iowa

Originally posted 2013-05-07 02:57:27.