Natural Ways To Deal With This Galling Problem

Dandelion, a classic bitter herb stimulates bile production as well as bile action.
Dandelion, a classic bitter herb stimulates bile production as well as bile action.

Gallstones are a common condition and gallbladder removal is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in Australia, where about 18,000 are performed using keyhole surgery each year.

The gallbladder is a small pear shaped pouch-like organ in the upper abdomen just under the liver, that works alongside the liver to digest foods and eliminate toxins. It is responsible for breaking down fats, mostly cholesterol, so that they can be absorbed through the walls of the small intestine.

Bile is made in your liver from recycled red blood cells, cholesterol and bile salts (minerals). The bile then passes from your liver into the bile duct and gallbladder which acts as a storage house. Here the bile is concentrated ready to be released when it is required. After a fatty meal more bile is needed to digest the extra fat and can be released quickly from the gallbladder into the intestine to help with digestion.

When your gallbladder is not functioning well it can affect your energy level, your weight, exacerbate thyroid conditions, cause bloating, gas and stomach pain and other miscellaneous pains. But many people nowadays have poorly functioning digestive systems and often regard many of these symptoms as being normal.

Many people have gallstones and are not even aware of them as they have no obvious symptoms. But for some the presence of gallstones can cause excruciating pain and other symptoms.

Bile is usually liquid, but when the different components are out of balance the bile hardens and over time forms gallstones. They can be the result of insufficient amounts of bile or an excess of cholesterol (fat) in the bile. At first the fat clumps to form a sludge. With time this sludge thickens to become first ‘sand’, then ‘gravel’ until eventually the ‘gravel’ becomes one or more gallstones, which can be as big as a golf ball. They form in the liver and most of them are carried through into the common bile duct on their way to the small intestine.

English: Opened gall bladder containing numero...
Opened gall bladder containing numerous gallstones resembling pebbles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Problems arise as the gallstones pass from the liver through the common bileduct. When a stone begins to make its way down this tube the result can be what is known as biliary colic. Pain suddenly starts under the ribs on the right side, sometimes radiating up into the back, getting steadily worse for a few hours until the stone passes out of the bile duct and into the intestines. It can be accompanied by sweating, vomiting and great restlessness. The attack passes, but will recur again later.

The next stage of gallbladder disease, cholecystitis, is similar to biliary colic but involves inflammation and fever and vomiting. The pain is often stronger and lasts longer and  jaundice occurs if the stone becomes stuck along the way. If the stone gets impacted in the neck of the gallbladder it impedes the flow of bile and the gallbladder eventually becomes infected. This is when a major attack occurs, often requiring surgery.

After the gallbladder is removed the bile drips steadily into your intestines. Because there is no longer anywhere to store it, there are no reserves for the body to draw on if it has to digest a greater amount of fat so it becomes vital not to eat large amounts of fat that will overwhelm the system.

There are a number of factors that make you more susceptible to gallstones.

  • They are twice as common in women than men.
  • It seems that oestrogen plays a role and having more children puts you more at risk.
  • So does pregnancy, obesity, liver disease, diabetes, high fat diets, the contraceptive pill, a sedentary lifestyle, family history of gallstones and some forms of anaemia.
  • Their incidence also increases with age particularly for those over sixty years old.

Some Natural Ways To Prevent Gallstones

The gallbladder works with the liver to digest food and eliminate toxins. When either of them is clogged up from poor nutrition or a buildup of toxins the cholesterol in the bile crystallizes to form gallstones. Gallstones are far more difficult to break down than to prevent, so it is worth taking steps to keep your liver and gallbladder happy.

Gallstones won’t form if you are digesting fats properly. However, removing fats totally from your diet, while it might seem like an easy option, is not the answer. Your body needs fats in order to function efficiently and therefore it is a matter of choosing better forms of fat and digesting those fats well. In fact eating fats helps to prevent the bile in the gallbladder from stagnating as it promotes the flow of bile.

HEALTHY FATS

The best approach lies with choosing healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil and saturated fats from grass-fed animals for instance, actually help assimilate nutrients from foods that help to maintain a clean liver and gallbladder. Select foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish or chia seeds, to reduce the toxic burden. One way to help break down the fat in your meal is to have lemon juice before you eat. Add it to warm water as a tea and drink thirty minutes before eating. It will cut through the fat making it easier to digest.

Avoid unhealthy fats and oils such as canola oil, soybean oil or other vegetable-based hydrogenated processed oils as they cause inflammation and chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease. In addition chronic inflammation causes high cholesterol. Don’t include foods high in unhealthy fats like burgers, fried foods, ice-cream, or cheese.

Raw, unfiltered apple juice is a useful way to support the gallbladder.
Raw, unfiltered apple juice is a useful way to support the gallbladder.

FOODS

Liver and gallbladder health is strongly affected by what you eat. Foods are perhaps the simplest way to make changes to your health. Here are a few that will support your gallbladder or even dissolve gallstones.

1.  Apples are a great friend for the gallbladder and eating apples is a particularly useful way to support the gallbladder. They contain pectin to soften and disintegrate existing gallstones and prevent new ones forming. Raw, unfiltered apple juice is very rich in pectin. Juicing reduces inflammation and enzymatically helps to detoxify your liver and gallbladder. Good selections to add to apples are lemons, celery, tomato and beets. Another wonderful apple juice variation is to add Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with malic acid to it, which makes a great gallbladder flush. The richest source of malic acid is apples.

2.  There are a number of foods that are perfect for offering support to the liver, and therefore the gallbladder. Green vegetables including artichokes, rhubarb, beets and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli etc) stimulate bile  production.  Other helpful foods include green leafy vegetables, fresh ginger, and foods rich in pectin. Add them to your meals wherever you can.

3.  Diets high in refined carbohydrates are a problem because they reduce the solubility of the bile, making it more likely to ‘sludge’

4.  Eat lots of soluble fibre (apples, celery, dark green leafy vegetables) which goes a long way to help prevent gallstones forming and can even reverse them once they have formed.

5.  Having sufficient bile is also essential and some foods that promote bile production and flow are artichokes, beets, dandelion root, and turmeric.

6.  Turmeric is certainly a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. Adding it to your meals helps maintain a healthy gallbladder by improving the solubility of your bile, so that it is able to break down the minerals and cholesterol in it more efficiently. You can take also take curcumin (the active component of turmeric) as a supplement – 300mg of curcumin three times a day.

Support For Your Liver And Gallbladder

Because the liver and gallbladder work alongside each other, taking care of your liver also benefits your gallbladder. Reducing your toxic load greatly reduces the strain on your liver and how hard it has to work. You can do this by reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol and unnecessary medications. In addition try to reduce any toxins you are exposed to, but don’t actually ingest. Hair care products, skin and body care products, toxic fumes, even the pesticide residue on  non-organic foods are some factors that put stress and strain on your liver. Don’t forget that you body may regard and respond to many seemingly harmless foods as toxins. Foods such as gluten and dairy foods are perfect examples.

There are a number of botanicals that you can treat your liver to. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) protects liver cells. Dandelion root, a classic bitter herb can be taken as a tea or latte, and stimulates bile production as well as bile action. Rosemary is another herb that stimulates bile production. Both young milk thistle leaves and dandelion leaves (picked from your garden) can be steamed like spinach or added to salads.

There are many wonderful Homeopathic remedies such as Chelidonium, Dioscorea, Nux vomica and Lycopodium amongst many others, used to successfully relieve the symptoms of gallbladder attack as well as to redress a dysfunctioning liver and gallbladder and prevent more gallstones developing.

If you find you get mild pain after eating fatty foods you could take the digestive enzyme lipase to help digest the fat. But, if you provide extra enzymes as a supplement over a long period, and your body is no longer required to manufacture them at all, it may cease making them altogether. It is far better to improve the health of your body so that it is able to more easily make the enzymes it requires itself. In the long run it is the healthier outcome.

 Supplementing with lecithin is one easy way to dissolve gallstones. Make sure it comes from sunflower or non-GMO soy. The digestion of lecithin requires large amounts of bile, and in the process hardened gallstones are also dissolved. Taking even one gram of lecithin three times a day has been shown to increase the concentration of lecithin in the bile. Taking more (up to ten grams) produces even greater increases.

Lastly, increasing exercise and stretching can help prevent gallbladder disease.

Raw turmeric - a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
Raw turmeric – a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before trying any of the treatment suggested on this site. 

Source articles:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/535096-foods-that-increase-bile-flow/

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/how-to-prevent-gallstones-with-everyday-foods

http://www.naturalnews.com/038571_gallstones_prevention_foods.html#xzz2HHGadpLN

http://www.betternutrition.com/gallbladder-function-nutrition/columns/askthenaturopath/1016

http://www.detoxyourgallbladder.com/gallbladder-function/

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health+advice/what+does+a+gall+bladder+dor,18591

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A Winter’s Tale: Does Your Winter Mood Need A Lift?

Winter Girl Blowing Snow by Petr Kratochvil

Enough is enough! Yesterday was a day of bitingly cold winds, hail showers and snowfalls on the nearby ranges. Eleven weeks in and I am over the Winter Wonderland Magic.

I was chatting to a man in the supermarket register queue last night as he added some gorgeous coral coloured roses to his pile of groceries. He said he just needed some warm colours around his house to remind him that winter would not go on forever, that spring is nearly here. I felt so inspired, I bought some too!

Winter is eleven weeks in now and it seems we are all feeling over it. The joy of curling up with a warm drink, cosy slippers, a heat pack in front of a movie or with an engrossing book is past. I want to go outside without rugging up, to plant my spring vegetables, to enjoy a salad again, to get to the end of the day without cold feet and to enjoy some sunny evenings.

Even though we are at the tail end of winter this is the time that Winter Blues shows up for many people, as the accumulated stresses of winter start to affect them. These days winter blues are recognised as a disorder known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is caused by a lack or not sufficient sunlight.

To help get us over that last hump in the winter road and to keep us going until the warmer days of spring arrive I have gathered some ideas to help lift our spirits as winter heads on out.

First up, a couple of warm drinks with a difference. I love herbal teas and I have a whole cupboard devoted to their storage – the tea cupboard. But, even with my wide choice, as well as the basic green tea back-up, I am bored. Here are a few new yummy hot drink ideas I have come across to spice things up when tea is just not going to cut it any more

Hot chocolate!  Chocolate is recognized as a mild stimulant and if you choose your chocolate wisely you get all the benefits of antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Here are two DELICIOUS chocolaty drinks to warm your insides and your mood.

The first is from Tara Bliss at Such Different Skies

hot choc smoothie

This PIPING HOT CHOC WINTER SMOOTHIE is thick, creamy, decadent and not-naughty.

1 banana

1 heaped Tablespoon raw cacao (don’t use drinking chocolate or cocoa…it’s absolutely worth GETTING some Raw Cacao INSTEAD)

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon chia seeds

2 medjool dates or some honey

1 cup boiling water OR warm almond milk OR dandelion tea

(you can add peanut butter, oats, cinnamon, coconut or maca)

 Blend, Pour, Guzzle Buzz.

 haute hotchocoalte

SUPERFOOD HAUTE CHOCOLATE from Sarah Britton at My New Roots

2 Tablespoons raw cacao powder

2 teaspoons maca porder

1 Tablespoon coconut sugar

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cinnamon powder

Pinch cayenne pepper

Pinch ginger powder

Small piece vanilla bean, scraped (optional)

1½ cups milk of your choice or water

Boil water or warm milk on the stove and let cool slightly. If using raw nut milk do not heat above 42ْ C

Whisk in dry ingredients. Serve immediately with a cinnamon stick, if desired.

Not only is this hot choc yummy but all the spices are wonderfully warming circulation stimulants to warm you through to the fingertips and toes.

                DANDELION CHAISPICED DANDELION ROOT TEA

                1 teaspoon -1 dessertspooon organic roast dandelion root per cup.

1 cinnamon stick (or a pinch of cinnamon powder)

Ginger root, chopped up with the skin left on

Add any of these spices to taste: star anise, bay leaf, black peppercorns, green cardamom seeds slightly crushed, cloves, dried orange peel, dried raspberry leaf, fennel seeds, peppercorns, vanilla bean, licorice root.

Place all ingredients and water in a pot, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

You can keep any leftover in the fridge and add water and reuse.

Add some honey and your milk of choice if desired.

It tastes great black, but may be too strong for if you are not used to it.

 Aug 22 040

HOME MADE LEMON AND GINGER TEA is so easy to make and head and shoulders better than any from a tea bag.

2 cups boiling water

Juice of ½-1 lemon (about 60ml)

2.5cm piece ginger root, grated

A couple of spoons (or more) of honey to taste

Add the ginger to the boiling water. Simmer in an open pan for about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the honey to the ginger water. Strain into your cup.

Or you can add all the ingredients to the water and pour into a thermos and let the mix sit for 20 minutes before straining and drinking.

This is a good option if you are still trying to throw off a winter cough. The lemon is high in vitamin C to boost your immune system. Ginger and honey also help the immune system.

ROOIBOS, sometimes called red tea, is one with heaps of health benefits. It comes from South Africa and has a fairly robust flavour. We recently tried one with added honey at work and it was very popular.

Looking out the window at the pots of flowers on my deck today, it struck me that the  colours of late winter are lavender, the colour of the rosemary in full flower, and golden yellow – think daffodils. Bringing a bunch of winter daffs in for your desk or bench will brighten your mood, reminding you the season is about to change. Yellow is the colour of spring and it is considered cheerful and optimistic.

There have been a number of studies done which show that the colours you surround yourself with will have a great impact on your state of mind. In the Stadium at the University of Iowa, the visiting teams locker rooms are painted all-pink and have been for thirty years, because pink is a tranquil colour that is known to calm and pacify. If the Home Team then painted their own locker rooms red which stimulates a faster heart rate and breathing, they would no doubt benefit from an emotional energy boost.

Using colour is a great way to lift your mood and one very simple way to use colour is to swap a bright cheerful coloured silk scarf for your woolly, black  winter scarf (of course you have a black scarf if you live in Melbourne!). Avoid blue because it lowers the pulse rate and body temperature.

Vitamin D is a wonderful mood lifter and if you are feeling a bit low taking a quality vitamin D supplement is a great move. In many parts of the world it is almost impossible to get sufficient sun exposure to meet your needs during the winter. Vitamin D is involved in so many body functions, but at this time of the year it often becomes very obvious that you have a deficiency of this vitamin when your mood drops. It is really worth having your blood levels tested with a simple blood test, as then you will be able to calculate how much vitamin D supplement you need to take.  Optimum levels are >75 nmol/L. If your levels are significantly lower than this (and a large part of the populations are, even here in ‘sunny Australia’), then you will need to take quite a bit of supplement to bring the levels up again.

Another vitamin that plays a crucial role in keeping up good spirits are the B group of vitamins. Vitamin B deficiency is linked to a range of emotional disorders as well as many other body functions. Opt for 50mg daily of a Vitamin B-complex rather than selecting individual B vitamins as these vitamins work much better synergistically when all the ‘B’s’ are present.

Other supplements that are critical in dealing with depression and mood disorders are selenium, magnesium and iron. A multi vitamin and multi mineral can address any deficiency you may have.

Socialising is a great way to pick up your mood. Maybe this is the time to do something with your friends out of the ordinary. Hold a fondue party, or dust off the board games, particularly the ones you loved as a child, like Twister, Pictionary, Monopoly or Charades. Or combine a pot-luck night with a game night. Or maybe your friends would enjoy a ‘Funny-Home Video’ night or a Karaoke night.

Even though it is cold try and get outside for some exercise. It is tough to exercise in the winter, and arriving home in the evening just as the sun goes down and the cold closes in is not much incentive to head out to the gym or go out for a walk. But exercise goes a long way towards relieving the stress of the day. The endorphins released during exercise improve your mood and help you sleep, and the effects can last for a number of hours.

One problem of the colder weather for many people is that they crave starchy or sweet foods more than normal which increases their blood sugar levels, making them feel blue. Remember that the foods you eat are a strong contributor to your mood. A poor diet will cause an imbalance in your body and make you feel worse. Add more fruits and vegetables, including raw as much as possible. Use complex grains, organic meats when you can and eggs and ignore those cravings for white flour and sugars.

Natural light is one of the best ways to avoid the blues and to lift your spirits. You can now get full spectrum light globes in Australia and there are energy saving versions available. They provide the full range of natural light from infra-red to ultra-violet. The benefits are well established and they reduce many health problems such as headaches, nausea and fatigue. In your home open the curtains wide to let the sun stream in on any day that is a little warmer, particularly where you cannot install full spectrum light globes.

After being closed up for months on end houses get stale. Freshen up your surroundings and your mood at the same time with essential oils. There are some that have anti-depressant properties including bergamot, lavender, geranium, jasmine and clary sage.  Others that are good mood lifters are sweet orange, neroli, and ylang ylang. Using high quality essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser releases them into the air in the form of water vapour, which is the best way for them to spread through your home. You can also add them to a bath (or a foot bath) or add a few drops to a carrier oil and use as a massage oil.

Here’s to the arrival of spring…

 Copy of daffodils

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://www.naturopathic.org/content.asp?contentid=262

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-natural-ways-to-beat-the-winter-blues.html?page=2

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=341

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/sex+relationships/wellbeing/beat+the+winter+blues,9093

Avoid Toxic Chemicals In Your Skin Care Products – Here’s How

You are told all the time that it is essential to be careful what you put into your body. Most people know that they need to watch out for chemical additives and toxins in their food. But it is just as important to be careful about what you put onto your skin.

Your skin is capable of absorbing 1-2kg of what is put on it! Skin care, hair products, sunscreen, cosmetics, hand cleaners – the chemicals in all of these are absorbed through the skin and into your bloodstream where they can then be taken to anywhere in your body.

If you stop and think about what this means it gets quite scary. Why? Because all the regulations about labeling these products are very sketchy. As well, enforcement of accuracy and truthfulness about ingredients, or effectiveness of the product, in both the labeling and in the marketing, is pretty well non-existent. Many countries don’t even require that manufacturers list all the chemicals that have been added. Terminology is misleading. Claims of fantastic results don’t have to be proven until the manufacturer is taken to court, and that rarely happens  because who has the money to sue the giant skin care companies. Basically, there is no way of knowing the details or the truth about what the products do, if anything, and what is in them.

This means that a product that is labeled as “natural” or “organic” could easily have nasty and quite toxic ingredients in it without you even knowing it.

Here in Australia cosmetics don’t have to have the ingredients listed on the product or the packaging – they only need to be displayed at the point of sale, and that can just be on a slip of paper, or the shelf label. Seriously, how many people can read the label in the shop and remember what all the long, unpronounceable chemical names are, and which ones are harmful. This is pretty serious given that many women wear make-up every day.

Most people are receiving far more than safe quantities of these toxic or questionable chemicals on their skin and into their bloodstream every day. Using the fictional chemical’x’ here is the reason why. The levels of chemicals that are deemed to be ‘safe’ in a product are calculated with that product in  a stand-alone scenario. That is, this particular amount of chemical ‘x’ in this single product, is regarded as within the safe guidelines if it is absorbed into the body. However, chemical ‘x’ will then be used in product after product. Given that most women use an average of twelve personal and cosmetic products each day, and most men use an average of six, you can see that the amount of chemical ‘x’ they are putting into their body is way in excess of the amount deemed safe.

THE CHEMICAL MAZE by Bill Statham
THE CHEMICAL MAZE by Bill Statham

This little book turned this whole dilemma right on its head for me. It is small enough to sit in the bottom of my shopping bag and lists all the additives you are likely to find in foods, skin care and cosmetics. Beside each additive it tells you what products it is normally added to, why it is added to the product, whether it is benign, harmful or very harmful, and what effects it normally has on the body. Pretty comprehensive!

If you carry this little gem when you are out shopping you won’t have to remember the confusing names of dangerous chemicals. For anyone who is near my work I always carry a few for sale, but otherwise you should be able to order online.

It is a real eye opener to read that a chemical added to make a skin care product feel more moist as it is applied actually dries out the skin. It is amazing how many chemicals added to skin care and cosmetics cause dermatitis, flaky scalp or other skin problems!

You can read about some of the worst additives here, but chances are not great that you will remember their names when your’re at the cosmetic counter.

Let’s hope that as more and more of us start to demand accurate information these deceptions will start to stop, but in the meantime, let’s get informed and bring about change with our shopping dollar.

“I was blessed to come across The Chemical Maze as a teenager and have always bought the updated editions of the book. Bill’s knowledge is incredible and I respect him, his work and his commitment to making a difference to others.”                     Miranda Kerr xxx

The Sweet Story Of Natural Sugars

Sugar is seen as one of the worst foods we consume these days.
Sugar is seen as one of the worst foods we consume these days.

Sugar has become our best friend, the one we hold the dearest to our heart. We add it as a sweetener to our coffee, it is hidden in pretty well all processed foods and it has become something that it is virtually impossible to avoid unless we are preparing all our foods from basic, raw, fresh ingredients ourselves.

With the rapid rise in weight for a large part of the population, and widespread concern about chronic disease that is connected with obesity, many people are now searching for alternatives to sugar as part of a general clean-up of their diet as a whole. In the campaign to deal with the obesity epidemic there have even been calls to have sugar consumption regulated by placing a tax on it. These days refined sugar is regarded as one of the worst foods around.

When it first appeared in Europe courtesy of the Arab traders, sugar, like many of the new exotic foods was a luxury enjoyed only by the wealthy. But ironically it is the wealthy who are now more able to avoid sugar, because they are able to avoid the cheap, processed foods, which are made with large quantities of white sugar added.

Paradoxically, given the rise in obesity numbers in Australia, sugar consumption in Australia has fallen. In 2011 the average Australian still consumed 42kg of sugar per year, or 800gm (nearly a kilo!) each week. This figure can be compared favourably to the 57kg that was consumed back  in 1951, a significant drop over 60 years, but nonetheless, still a large amount of sugar. In both the USA and Australia, 22 teaspoons of sugar are consumed on average every day. But in the USA sugar consumption, as well as obesity rates, has risen. In the UK consumption is closer to 16 teaspoons of sugar a day, or 1.25lbs a week. Most people by now have seen the TED video by Jamie Oliver where he demonstrates just how much sugar from milk alone is consumed by a child in USA before they reach school. Remembering that it is even more than this in Australia and the USA, it is indeed cause for alarm.

One very simple way to make change in your diet is to address both the quantity and the types of sugars that it contains. Artificial sweeteners are not really the answer. While they are simple to use and have been used extensively throughout the processed food industry to create the ‘low-fat’ and ‘light’ ranges of foods they pose a number of problems when you use them. Aspartame for instance, marketed under a number of brand names, has been linked with cancer and connected to all sorts of other problems.

THE BAD: MORE ON ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

One of the problems with artificial sweeteners is the lack of studies into the long-term effects on the human body. This can often be a problem with research studies. So many new chemicals have been introduced into our lives during the last seventy years but it is only now that we are starting to see some of the long-term effects those chemicals have on our health. It is only now that repeated disease trends amongst the people who have used those chemicals over a long time are becoming apparent. In many ways the users of the chemicals in the community are unwittingly the chemical trial-ers

ASPARTAME is 180 times sweeter than sugar. It is made by bonding two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and a methyl esther bond. When these break down in your body wood alcohol, a poison, and formaldehyde (highly toxic) are formed. Although the amino acids are found in food, and are normally safe, in aspartame they occur in  huge quantities, far greater than they ever do in food. When they get in the body they act as a neurotoxin – they attack your cells, including the brain cells, overstimulating them, just like MSG does. They can lead to birth defects, cancer and weight gain (yes, that’s right, weight gain!)

SACCARIN is 300 times sweeter than sugar. But this artificial sweetener can cause allergic reactions if you have a problem with sulfa drugs.

CYCLAMATE is 30 times sweeter than sugar. It is allowed in Australian foods, although banned in USA because there are risks of chromosome damage and bladder cancer.

SUCRALOSE is a synthetic chemical. Because of the way it is made, your body is not able to break it down so it passes straight through. Or it should! But studies on animals showed that some sucralose was absorbed by the gut and resulted in anaemia, infertility, calcified kidneys, abortions, even death. There has only been one tiny study of the effects of sucralose on humans, and that study only lasted four days, not long enough to guage any long-term effects on the human body.

THE GOOD: OTHER ALTERNATIVES

More recently a new breed of sweeteners has hit the shelves which offer better options to the health conscious.

STEVIA is probably the most prominent. It comes from the herb Stevia rebaudiuna from Paraguay in South America. It is up to an amazing 300 times sweeter than sugar so you need to only use very little. There is actually some research that suggests that stevia may decrease blood glucose levels, without resulting in hypoglycemia. With zero calories and no glycaemic impact it can be used by diabetics. The natural herb seems to be a perfect substitute for sugar.

In Australia it is becoming more common to see stevia used as a sweetener in many foods. In the USA however, it has not been granted approval in its natural state as a sweetener. Ironically though Coca Cola and Pepsi were both granted approval for their own processed version of Stevia which they manufactured to add to their diet drinks. It seems absolutely crazy that a chemical version manufactured in a lab gains approval when the natural herbal cannot.

One of the disadvantages of Stevia is that it sometimes has a slight bitter aftertaste. The aftertaste is only a problem for some people and should not be enough to put you off using it. You may find the liquid form is better if this bothers you.

You can buy stevia in health food stores and grocery stores. Be careful when buying it and make sure to read the label. I found the ‘Natural Stevia’ on the supermarket shelf was mixed with aspartame making it an obviously undesirable product.  Sometimes you can also get the green leaf which is better for you.

Stevia (sugar substitute) cuttings doing well
Stevia (sugar substitute) cuttings (Photo credit: hardworkinghippy)

COCONUT PALM SUGAR is a sweetener that is, deservedly, gaining popularity right now. Coconut sugar is nutritious with a low glycaemic score, so unlike processed white sugar, it won’t give you a ‘high’ followed by a crash. It has a rich flavour, a bit like brown sugar, and can be substituted directly for sugar, spoon for spoon.

Although the trade in palm oil is having a detrimental effect on the orangutan population, it is worth knowing that palm sugar comes from a different species of palm to the one that is widely planted in the cleared forest areas inhabited by the orangutans, the one that is used for palm oil.

The sugar is extracted from the harvested flowers. The trees live for twenty years and provided that enough flowers are left on the tree for pollination to ensure future crops, it is regarded as a very sustainable crop, one that can be grown anywhere and one that provides small communities with a cash income. This species of palm tree is particularly useful in areas where the soil is degraded as they restore otherwise damaged, compromised soils and they require very little water or soil nutrients.

LUCUMA POWDER is an excellent source of nutrients. It originated in the highlands of South America. Lúcuma is a large sweet fruit which contains fibre as well as good levels of beta-carotene, iron and vitamin B. It has a low sugar content but is sweet, with a taste similar to maple syrup.

MANUKA HONEY or RAW HONEY has been used as a sweetener for generations. As well as being a delicious sweetener it has wonderful health benefits. Its properties as an antibiotic, antifungal and antimicrobial meant it was traditionally used to treat a wide range of ailments, particularly when there was infection present. Rich in phytonutrients, including antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and carbohydrates, raw honey is a Superfood.

BUT you must be careful with your honey…I am not talking about any old honey off the supermarket shelves which has been processed and contains few nutrients. This is MANUKA or RAW HONEY we are talking about here – search it out. And limit the quantity you use.

XYLITOL is one of the sugar alcohols, along with erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, which are derived from the sugar found in fruit. Sugar alcohols are absorbed by your body slowly and so can pass through the whole gut before they have been totally absorbed. Unlike stevia, xylitol does contain calories, but far less than what is found in sugar. Many love it because it can substituted directly for sugar, one spoon of xylitol for one spoon of sugar, it has no aftertaste, and only about a third of the kilojoules of sugar but tastes just as sweet as sugar.

I know many health practitioners who recommend xylitol. But because it is not well absorbed, it can cause dramatic abdominal cramping, bloating and diarrhea in certain people, and for the sensitive this may be severe and it may occur after just one single  teaspoon. Also, although it is made from plants – birch bark, corn or sugar cane fibre, in order to bring about the change from the fibrous plant state to the white grains it requires a deal of processing which involves using man-made chemicals including amongst others, sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid. It’s worth noting that xylitol is toxic to dogs, so make sure you don’t feed meal scraps that were made with xylitol to your pet.

Some other natural sweeteners include:

Maple Syrup is often used in place of honey. It contains reasonable amounts of the trace mineral manganese as well as some zinc. I love maple syrup, one of my favourite natural sweeteners. But make sure to buy the real deal – organic maple syrup. Some of the stuff around is just sweetened and coloured water.

Brown Rice Syrup contains some manganese, magnesium and zinc but is highly refined. One good thing though is that it is usually organic, and all natural. There were reports last year that brown rice syrup contains arsenic so you may want to avoid it.

Agave Syrup is made from the juice of the succulent agave plant which is heated, filtered and hydrolyzed to make the syrup. This syrup has an extremely high fructose content

But when it comes down to it even though these are natural sweeteners they are still basically sugars. If you really want to get healthy and reduce your risk for diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity or diabetes then it really boils down to reducing your craving for, and consumption of sugar.

Most foods that are highly sweetened are not those that are the most healthy anyway, usually they are high in carbohydrates and fat. If you really want to get healthy you need to tame that sweet tooth. Cutting out sweeteners breaks the sugar craving cycle that sets up in your brain every time you eat sugar (or other sweet food). Once you stop eating sweet food even though you may suffer intensified cravings initially, you will very soon find that you don’t miss it because you have broken the cycle and stopped the craving for sugar. The other positive is that your taste buds become more sensitive and you will start to really taste the natural sweetness in foods like fruit a lot better.

What is your favourite natural sweetener?

Manuka honey is a wonderful natural sweetener, just don't have too much
Manuka honey is a wonderful natural sweetener, just don’t have too much

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care
provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://www.sugaraustralia.com.au/Shared/Green%20Pool%20Report%20Media%20Release.pdf

http://scepticalnutritionist.com.au/?p=514

http://www.livestrong.com/article/500273-sugar-vs-sugar-alcohol/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/08/the-4-best-and-3-worst-sweeteners-to-have-in-your-kitchen.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_sugar

Xylitol: Should We Stop Calling It Natural?

The Good Oil

Olive oil from Imperia in Liguria, Italy.

It has long been held that fat is bad for you, all fat that is. But in fact not only are there many fats that are not bad for you, many are very good for you, and you will actually be less healthy if you are not getting enough of the right kind of fat. Good fats promote a healthy and well-functioning cardiovascular system, a healthy nervous system and are useful for maintaining weight. They help to both protect and maintain good clear skin and healthy hair, support your immune system, can help regulate blood sugars, your thyroid,  and even protect against cancer.

Most people know that olive oil is regarded as a healthy oil but there are whole new breed of oils available that may be better choices, particularly when it comes to using oil for cooking.

There is a temperature reached during cooking with oil called the smoke point, which is the point at which the oil is compromised, both in taste and nutritionally. Bluish smoke starts to rise as the oil is close to burning. It is the temperature where the oil starts to break down chemically, and it varies from one oil to the next, depending on whether it has been refined or not and the extent of refining, as well as the origin of the oil. When the oil breaks down it creates trans fats. Oil that has been damaged by overheating is bad for you because it is chock full of free radicals, which we already know are the basis of disease . Any oil with a low smoke point should not be used for cooking at all.

Before we go on to which oils are best for which purpose it’s worth knowing that there are three different types of oils – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Some oils contain more of one type than another and it is important to know which is which. For a long time the advice has been that saturated fats are bad for you and polyunsaturated are good for you. But it is not as straight forward as that.

Many oils today are refined. Refined versions of the oils have a higher smoke point but they are REFINED, which means that chemicals and high heat were used in the processing to extract the oil, which drastically damages the nutrients, rendering them harmful. Hydrogenated vegetable and seed oils are man made and you need to avoid them. You may know these better by their other name – trans fats.

Extra-virgin oils traditionally came from the first pressing of the fruit, seed or nut, but now the term is more likely to mean the oil is ‘pure’. These days cold-pressed oils are unlikely to actually have been pressed, and cold-extracted is a more accurate description. The oil is extracted using centrifugal force and very low heat, about 28-30C, low enough not to damage the oil. The speed at which the oil is extracted helps to preserve the antioxidants.

The stability of the oil is the important factor when it comes to heating the oil during cooking, particularly extra high heat used to fry. Saturated oils are the most stable, mono-unsaturated are pretty stable, and polyunsaturated are the least stable. Polyunsaturated oils are the worst to cook with – including safflower, sunflower and canola. These polyunsaturated oils contain lots of omega 6 fats which when damaged, form artery clogging trans fats. They also cause many other serious health problems.

Oils 2

So how do you know which oils are best for what?

It all depends what you are going to use the oil for. If it for dressing a salad then you would look for one with a nice taste, but if you want to cook with it you would need to carefully consider whether the oil will stand up to the heat. If you will be frying food, then the oil needs to have a high smoke point.

It is better to select oils that are unrefined as they are going to have more nutrients and less additives so will be healthier for you. It’s not worth buying cheap oils as in the long run they will cost you with your health. Generally, the pricier the oil the more likely there was care taken in the manufacture.

Here is the lowdown on some of the better edible oils you can use in your cooking.

COCONUT OIL

Coconut oil is almost all saturated fat, and so has been the most maligned and misunderstood oil for a long time, but it is actually one of the healthiest oils, a nutrient packed superfood. The love affair with coconut keeps growing every day and you can read lots more about this wonderful oil right here.

It has a high smoke point, 180ْC (350ْ F) and is very shelf stable and is the very best choice when you want an oil that is stable even when it is heated. In addition coconut oil also promotes heart health, helps maintain stable cholesterol and even helps you to lose weight.

Coconut is almost entirely saturated fat, but unlike the saturated fats you find in animal products coconut oil is not absorbed the same way by your body and so does not pose the same problem to your health. It is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These are easier for your body to break down and digest, they put less stress on your digestive system and body organs, they are immediately converted into energy in your liver rather than being stored as fat, and they stimulate your metabolism to help you lose weight. Long chain fatty acids, LCFAs, do not have these benefits and are more difficult to digest. Coconut oil is converted to energy like a carb but without the insulin spike effect in your bloodstream of carbs. It doesn’t get stored in the body – your body either uses it or gets rid of it. One special feauture of coconut fat is that 50% of the fat is lauric acid which has wonderful health promoting qualities and is able to destroy virus and bacteria.

AVOCADO OIL

Avocado oil has a high smoke point – 200 degrees C, so you can use it to cook at very high temperatures without compromising the properties of the oil. It has been proven to fight heart disease and effectively lowers bad cholesterol (LDL), helps with diabetes, cancer, skin and hair problems. It contains a healthy beneficial balance of omega-6, omega-3, and omega-9 fats as well as the antioxidant vitamin E. The vitamin E level will be higher in cold-pressed versions as they will have undergone less oxidation. Avocado oil is also used frequently in skin creams as a moisturizer.

MACADAMIA OIL

I recently saw macadamia oil referred to as the ‘new olive oil’. But I actually think it is better. It is about 80% monosaturated (good) fat and is one of the healthiest oils available for cardiovascular health, much higher than olive oil. It has a high smoke point at 220ْ C (430ْF) which makes it a healthier oil to use for cooking. It is 85% monounsaturated fats and has a two year shelf life.

Here is why this All-Aussie nut is so good for you. It enhances heart health, helps to reduce the build up of plaque and prevents atheroschlerosis, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps with blood sugar regulation for diabetics, and helps your nervous system function well.

Unrefined avocado, macadamia or coconut oil are all healthy choices
Unrefined avocado, macadamia or coconut oil are all healthy choices

WALNUT OIL

The smoke point of unrefined walnut oil is 180ْ C (350F), slightly lower than either coconut or macadamia oil, and easily damaged at high temperatures, so one to avoid for frying. It has a nutty flavour and is great in salads and smoothies. Unrefined walnut oil contains high levels of monounsaturated oils such as omega 9 which keeps your arteries supple and helps prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is also high in omega-3 and omega-6 to reduce inflammation, and to lower the risk of blood clots and erratic heart rhythyms. Research from Penn State University showed that wanuts and walnut oil could maintain healthy blood pressure even during stressful times. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and vitamin E. It can help prevent eczema and alleviate other skin problems. It is one of the best sources of antioxidants of the tree nuts.

OLIVE OIL

Olive oil is indeed a healthy oil but not when it comes to cooking. It is a monounsaturated fat which makes it more stable than polyunsaturated fats, but on a cellular level it is not so stable and has been associated with increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer when it is heated. But, it is a great oil to include in an unheated state. The smoke point varies depending on how olive oil is made. Extra Virgin olive oil is 160ْ C (320F). Virgin is higher at 220ْ C (420F) and extra light 240ْ C (470ْ F). The rise in smoke point corresponds to how refined the oil is – the less refined the lower the smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil is a very perishable oil and can go rancid quickly, every time it is exposed to the air it oxidizes.

My choice for high heat cooking is avocado, macadamia or coconut oil. But as usual be careful of the quality. Most commercial oils are refined and contain chemicals from the processing so watch out for cold pressed and extra virgin oils. It’s especially good if it is in a dark jar as this helps protect the oil from light damage.

Remembering that the smoke point for each variety of oil is variable, and that it is always better to avoid refined oils, here is a rough guide for a few oils.

Unrefined Oil Type

Smoke Point Centigrade

Smoke Point Farenheit

Unrefined Canola, sunflower, safflower,

160

225

Unrefined peanut oil

160

320

Extra virgin olive oil

160

320

Walnut oil, unrefined

160

320

Coconut oil, unrefined

180

350

Macadamia

200

390

Avocado

190-200

375-390

Refined Oil Type

Canola, sunflower, safflower, refined

220

430

Virgin olive oil (refined)

220

430

Extra light olive oil (refined)

240

460

Walnut oil, semirefined

200

390

Coconut oil, refined

230

450

Rice bran oil

250

480

Peanut oil

225

440

Before I finish, just a quick word about RICE BRAN OIL which has appeared in Australian shops over the last few years. Promoted as a ‘Natural Oil’, it is not quite as natural as you would think, and is a good example of how advertising may be misleading. It has a very high smoke point, no additives listed, and the makeup of rice bran oil sold here in Oz is 47% monounsaturated, 33% polyunsaturated and 20% saturated, so it would seem a reasonably healthy choice.

However, rice bran oil is a refined oil that comes from Thailand. It is subjected to very high temperatures and chemicals during processing. It is not a cold pressed oil, like olive and some of the nut oils. On the bottle the oil it is labeled as extra-cold filtered, which is a manufacturing process that results in the removal of the saturated fats, and is not the same as cold-pressed or cold-extracted.

So go ahead and enjoy your oil, just make sure you are selecting The Good Oil.

good oils 2

Disclaimer.

All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue. 

Source articles

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/10/22/coconut-oil-and-saturated-fats-can-make-you-healthy.aspx

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=56

http://www.naturalnews.com/031801_avocado_oil_healthy_fats.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/481198-is-walnut-oil-healthy/

http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/870/20100804/seven-great-benefits-of-walnut-oil.htm

http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/what-oil-is-best-to-cook-with-and-which-oils-should-never-be-heated

http://www.naturalnews.com/004653.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/010125.html

http://macadamias.org/pages/health-benefits

http://changinghabits.com.au/_blog/Changing_Habits/post/rice-bran-oil–the-healthy-alternative-or-so-you-think/