The dangers of sulphites

So what’s the big deal with sulphites? They are yet another assault on our toxic load that our bodies (more precisely our livers) must deal with. Our liver has so much work to do, it is forever working overtime! You may be having problems with them and not even know it.

Sulphites/sulfites are both naturally occuring and a food additive that Health Canada lists as one of the top ten priority food allergens. Sulphites do not provoke a true allergic reaction involving the immune system, but will cause similar reactions in sulphite-sensitive people – such as:
skin, digestive or respiratory problems, headaches, weakness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and more. Sulphite reactions are more likely to occur and can be more serious in those with asthma.
Sulphites are a used as a preservative and prevent discolouration in foods, prolong shelf life and maintain potency of some medications. You are likely to find them in products such as;

  • bottled lemon and lime juices
  • vinegars
  • wines and beers (even non-alchoholic)
  • condiments
  • processed potato products, including french fries
  • dried fruits (ie. bright orange apricots)
  • canned and frozen fruits and vegatables
  • fruit fillings and syrups
  • jams, jellies
  • cereals, crackers, granola bars, muesli
  • deli meats
  • dressings, gravies, sauces, soup mixes

Sulphites/sulfites or sulfur dioxide are used as a preservative in wine. They have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Red wines contain naturally occurring anti-oxidants acquired from skins and stems during fermentation, so there is no need to add sulphur dioxide to them, but conventional winemakers often add it anyway. White wines and rosés tend to have greater amounts of sulphur dioxide added because they are missing naturally occurring anti-oxidants – they are not left in contact with their skins after crushing. This means they are more prone to oxidation. Sweet wines contain the largest dose. Organic wines are not allowed to contain added sulphites, but may contain naturally occurring sulphites (a byproduct of fermentation) at less than 20 parts per million. Wine made from organic grapes may contain added sulphites, so it is important to note the distinction between organic wine and that made from organic grapes if you want to avoid sulphites.

Arnica To The Rescue!

I recently had the misfortune of tripping over the power cord to my laptop and was not able to break my subsequent fall in time. I landed flat on the bridge of my nose. It was a hard enough fall to cause pain and profuse bleeding.
I was able to locate a small vial of arnica montana (more on that below) and took 3 pellets within 30 minutes of falling and about every 30 minutes after. I went to the hospital to get checked for a broken nose and to see if I needed stitches. Ex-rays confirmed no broken bones (yeah!) and the doctor felt that a bandage for 5 days would do the same job as stitches, so I opted for the bandage.
The doctor advised me that I would probably have 2 black eyes within 48 hours and the expected swelling etc.
I am writing this post 2 1/2 days after the fall and am ecstatic to report I only have very slight redness under 1 eye. No visible bruising or swelling has occurred. I have incurred bruising many times in my life under much less trauma than this and I believe that my face would look very different had it not been for arnica.
So what is arnica montana? Very simply, it is a homeopathic remedy. I took the oral version, which are very small sugar pellets with a remedy coating on the outside. Avoid touching the pellets directly with your fingers, as the remedy can rub off on your fingers.  Arnica dilates your blood vessels, stimulates white blood cells to the injured site, decreases swelling and bruising. When ever you have physical trauma that produces pain, bruising, swelling or inflammation of any kind, reach for Arnica, (in addition to seeking qualified medical help if necessary). Homeopathy is an ancient type of alternative medicine that is based on “like cures like”.
The moral of my story is two-fold:

  • not being present in the moment can have disasterous effects , so take the time to slow down
  • arnica montana is a must in a first aid kit. This rememdy is available at any health store for under $10.

It doesn’t really matter if you have an active lifeltyle, have children engaged in sports activities, are recovering from surgery or are just running an errand, arnica is very useful to have on hand at all times. It comes in such a small vial, it can easily fit into a purse, glove box or back pocket. Get some today because you never know when you might need it!

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What kind of chicken do you consume?

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If you are like the average person who regularly consumes chicken, you probably purchase it at your local grocery store. According to Agriculture Canada (http://www.agr.gc.ca/poultry/consm_eng.htm) we consumed 31.22 kg or 69 lbs. of chicken per person in 2011. That is up from 16.88 kg in 1980. We eat a lot of chicken!

Why is this important? Most chickens are routinely fed antibiotics on a preventative basis and this can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics also increase weight and allow farmers to bring an animal to market sooner, thereby reducing their costs. Microbes and pathogens are incredibly resiliant to antibiotics and many survive despite our best efforts. Did you know the majority of antibiotics produced in North America are routinely fed to farm animals?

Superbugs, which are resistant to antibiotics, are breeding in our meats, in particular chicken, and are being transmitted to humans in the form of E. coli. The same E. coli that shows up in chicken meat is also being found in human infections! For a short video clip with more details you can watch – http://www.therealfoodchannel.com/videos/the-food-industry/antibiotics-in-chicken-causing-new-infections.html 
So, if you are someone who finds yourself on too many antibiotics for recurring infections, you might want to stop and think about where your food is coming from. Of course, there is a lot more to building up one’s immunity than looking at what kind of chicken you are eating, but this could be factor.
So what is a person to do – give up chicken? If that is too extreme for you, please consider purchasing antibiotic free chicken. Presidents Choice has a line of “Free From” meats, including chicken, but you might want to know that superbugs were found in a 2011 sample and the company refused interview requests by CBC’s Marketplace – http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/superbugsinthesupermarket/loblaws.html
What does that mean? I am not sure – you be the judge.
Okay, that leaves organic chicken, which by definition cannot be given antibiotics. You don’t have to be someone who is always sick to start thinking about your food choices though. I know it is more expensive. What if you were to cut back on your chicken consumption and consider eating vegetarian a few times a week? Maybe then you could afford to go to the natural food market and purchase organic chicken. That could go a long way to reducing your antibiotic exposure, be great for the environment and if you do it right, it could be excellent for your health! I call that a win, win.
Only those, who have lost their health, can truly understand the value of it. The rest of us typically take it for granted, until it is threatened one day. Why wait?

Not sure how to eat vegetarian or even vegan the right way? Get in touch with me and I can help!

Natural treatment for eye infection or dry eyes

I recently woke up one day and found one of my eyes tearing up quite a bit. By the next day, “tears” turned to an oozing yellowish discharge that if left alone would start to crust up on my eyelid. I found myself having to wet a sterile cloth bandage with previously boiled water to clean my eye every 30 minutes. On top of that my eyelid started to turn red. It was my first ever eye infection and it was not pretty. I was terrified it would turn into full blown pink eye/conjunctivitis.
It was suggested to me that I really should go to the doctor and get something for my eyes. Your eyes are not something you want to take too many chances with after all! I was determined to first try something natural before succumbing to the doctor (who has seen me twice in 5 years!) I immediately started taking some Deep Immune by St. Francis and Anti Viral by Natural Factors.
The next thing I did was go out and buy myself an eye wash cup for a few dollars at the pharmacy. I located a video, available here – http://www.ihealthtube.com/aspx/viewvideo.aspx?v=5dbdf020561702be that explained the process of how to make an eye wash with sea salt. I boiled reverse osmosis water and let it cool and then measured out 100 ml. To that I added just less than 1/4 tsp. of sea salt and stirred until fully dissolved. I filled the eye wash cup to the brim, bent down and held it to my open eye. I stood up and held it to my open eye for 1 minute, blinking and rolling my eye back and forth so that the solution was reaching my entire eye. This is a 1% solution, even less than the ocean which is 3.5% so it was not irritating. The biggest hurdle of keeping your eye open in the solution is over in seconds as you realize it is no big deal. I did this every few hours for a total of 6 times and by the next day, my eye had stopped tearing, oozing and all the redness was gone!
I was ecstatic to say the least.  My suspicion is that the eye wash was the significant factor in my quick recovery.
This eye wash is also supposed to bring relief to dry eyes. I would definitely give this a two thumbs up for a natural eye treatment.

Grow Your Own Sweetener – Stevia

steviaHave you ever used stevia? Do you know about this sweet herb? Stevia is a calorie free, all natural sweetener native to Paraguay. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar, but does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels making it diabetic safe. The leaves of this plant can be dried in a dehydrator, hung upside down to dry as you would other herbs or dried in a low temperature oven.

My first successful attempt at growing this herb was last summer when I grew it in a container. I dried it at the end of summer in a dehydrator and used it during the winter as a sweetener in my teas. I didn’t bother to crush the leaves, steeping them with my loose tea and then straining both out. I was so impressed with the ease of growing, drying and using them, that I grabbed 5 plants last week when I saw them at a local organic farm (Simpler Thyme), that I bought my other organic plants from.

Last summer I bought my stevia plant from a Fortinos garden centre, so check around your local nursery or garden centre for this easy herbal sweetener.

Stevia is available in health stores as a powder or liquid extract.  There are several flavours available in extract form and I love to use lemon stevia to make a delicious lemonade in the summer. The liquid form mixes/dissolves easily in water.

Lemonade

1/2 – 2/3 cup of either fresh lemon juice or organic, bottled, not from concentrate lemon juice
1-2 droppers of lemon stevia extract
4 cups of filtered water
1 tbsp. of maple syrup (to neutralize any after taste from the stevia)

I did not use any of my home grown stevia in baking as I just didn’t have enough of it, but I have used store purchased stevia to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe. Unless you are using a recipe that calls for stevia though, you will need to experiment to find the right balance of stevia to other sweeteners. What you don’t get with stevia is the bulk that other sweeteners give you. When using both stevia and other natural sweeteners together in a recipe, it eliminates any kind of after taste that some may experience with just stevia. I generally find much less of an aftertaste with the liquid flavoured extracts.

This is the perfect time to be on the look out for this herb. Give it a try in your garden or in a container if you have a sunny spot.

The Importance of Betaine HCl (Hydrochloride)

Our stomach expands when we consume food. This triggers the release of hydrochloric acid, pepsinogen and intrinsic factor. Pepsinogen is an inactive enzyme that is converted into the active form of pepsin in the presence of sufficient hydrochloric acid. Pepsin is necessary for the digestion of protein and absorption of amino acids. Continue reading

Antioxidant Levels

We need a constant (daily) supply of antioxidants from our foods to combat the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced in our bodies as a natural metabolic process, but we also introduce them into our bodies by eating poorly (i.e. bad fats from processed foods, charred meats or vegetables from the bar-b-q), excessive sun exposure, stress, environmental pollution (that can be anything from the polluted air we breathe to toxic cleaning products, hairspray etc.), trauma, smoking and more. 
Antioxidants supply the missing electron that created the free radical in the first place.

There is something called the ORAC value of foods. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity and is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances.  Apparently the USDA recommends we consume 3,000-5,000 daily units. (I would suggest that as a minimum!) Bear in mind that since this is a test tube analysis, we are assuming that the same thing happens in our bodies. While that is unlikely to be completely true, this certainly gives us a good guide as the foods that we should be consuming in abundance.
The table below is from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1999/990208.htm and shows the ORAC value in some common foods.

Top-Scoring Fruits & Vegetables
ORAC units per 100 grams (about 3 ½ ounces)
Fruits Vegetables
Prunes 5770 Kale 1770
Raisins 2830 Spinach 1260
Blueberries 2400 Brussels sprouts 980
Blackberries 2036 Alfalfa sprouts 930
Strawberries 1540 Broccoli flowers 890
Raspberries 1220 Beets 840
Plums 949 Red bell pepper 710
Oranges 750 Onion 450
Red grapes 739 Corn 400
Cherries 670 Eggplant 390
Kiwi fruit 602
Grapefruit, pink 483

The category of super foods is one in which we gives us a much larger dose of antioxidants than in some of the more common foods above.  ORAC values below are listed per 100 grams.

Cloves, ground – 314,446
Cinnamon – 267,536
Turmeric – 159,277
Cacao powder – 95,500
Acai berry powder – 102,700
Maqui berry powder – 75,000
Goji berries – 25,300

Free radical damage leads to health breakdown. It can take the form of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases etc. Our busy, hectic, fast paced lives make it more difficult than ever to avoid the free radical damage from stress, never mind all the other areas that contribute to our load. This is why it is so important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants. The foods (note I am not talking about supplements in capsules) that supply us with high levels of antioxidants typically supply us with many other nutrients that all combine synergistically to give us a wide variety of health benefits.

The bottom line is that we need to change our mind set from eating for recreational purposes to eating for health. So, go out there and get loaded up on antioxidants today, tomorrow and every day!