by Dr. Randy
The sugars contained in fresh, natural foods are adequate to provide for everyone’s energy needs. Nonetheless, people like sweet tastes. If you must have additional sweets in your diet, here is a review of your options. Or you can skip to the bottom line at the end of this article.
No one should eat added sugars on a regular basis. Many books have been written about the dangers of sugar consumption and its ability to depress the immune system, impede cellular function, and stimulate the overgrowth of candida (yeast). Sugars and other carbohydrates stimulate excess insulin production that results in storage of sugars in fat cells, wildly fluctuating blood sugar reactions, and an increased incidence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Excess sugar consumption interferes with the body’s absorption of minerals (calcium and magnesium), raises cholesterol levels, and causes allergies, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and a host of other problems. This knowledge has led to the concept of low carbohydrate diets to control weight and prevent and cure disease.
Refined sucrose made from plants (beets or cane) is depleted of vitamins and minerals. The refining process also adds several potentially toxic chemicals (bleaches and stabilizers). Natural sugars in the form of raw sugar, rice syrup, malt syrup, and raw honey are purported to have more nutritional value and they have less added toxic ingredients, but do nothing to reduce the deleterious effects of eating sugar. Brown sugar is refined sugar with added molasses. Sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
High fructose corn syrup is 20 times sweeter than sucrose, cheaper to make, and convenient for food manufacturers because it retains moisture and blends well with other ingredients. The free fructose in corn syrup interferes with the heart’s use of minerals, depletes the ability of white blood cells to defend against infections, and raises cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fructose inhibits the hormones that make us feel full (insulin and leptin), and it triggers the hormone that makes us feel hungry (ghrelin). Children do much better on diets free of corn syrup. Many commercial, sweet, processed food products contain high fructose corn syrup. These products include candy, soda, energy bars, sweetened yogurt, energy drinks, and baked desserts.
Honey should be used only in its raw form because the heating process destroys enzymes and vitamins natural to the honey. Honey stimulates insulin production with the same mechanism as other forms of sugar. Do not give honey to infants under 12 months of age because of their inability to defend themselves against botulinum spores that may contaminate honey.
Stevia is an herb native to Paraguay. It has no calories and manufacturers claim that the plant actually has health benefits. It contains vitamins and minerals. It lowers high blood pressure, discourages bacterial growth, and improves digestion. Some people object to its mildly bitter taste, but others find it perfectly palatable. Some brands are more bitter than others. Try KAL brand Stevia extracts (liquid or powder).
Maple syrup made from the sap of maple trees is up to 60 percent sucrose. It is essential that consumers use certified organic maple syrup because of the danger of chemical residues from forests sprayed with pesticides. Additionally, many maple syrup producers use formaldehyde pellets in the sap holes to prevent the holes from closing and formaldehyde in holding tanks as a preservative. Chemical anti-foaming agents may also be added to non-organic maple syrup.
Agave syrup is about 50 fructose. The commercial forms of agave syrup (or nectar) are highly processed and devoid of any health benefits of the agave plant or its extract.
Malt syrup is made from barley and contains primarily maltose, which is less than half as sweet as sucrose. Rice syrup is made from barley and rice. Date sugar is simply ground, dehydrated dates. Coconut (Palm) sugar is a refined form of palm tree sap. It does have some minerals, but does not seem any safer than other refined sweeteners, although it usually has less additives than commercial, white refined sugar. Health food products often contain these natural sweeteners in packaged products.
Sugar alcohols (-ol)
Xylitol is a five-carbon rather than a six-carbon sugar (glucose, fructose). The body produces several grams of xylitol every day, and ingested xylitol is converted to glucose. Many bacteria cannot metabolize xylitol, and its presence is harmful to some bacteria. For that reason it is promoted in toothpastes and sugar-free chewing gum to prevent plaque build-up and cavities. It contains the same number of calories as sucrose, but is absorbed more slowly. Sugar alcohols do raise blood sugar levels, though not as much as sugar. Stomach cramping and diarrhea are potential side effects of xylitol and other sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols draw water into the intestines. For this reason they can also promote dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Eating a large amount of sugar alcohol-sweetened food and then exercising could create problems with muscle cramping and heat stroke.
Sorbitol and Mannitol contain six-carbons like fructose and glucose, but with an additional hydroxyl (alcohol) group that make them independent of insulin metabolism. Sorbitol is a natural ingredient contained in many fruits that have the potential to cause diarrhea (prunes, apples, pears, peaches).
Artificial sweeteners seek to provide the sweet taste of sugar without raising blood glucose levels. These alternatives to sugar tend to be hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose. Their safety has always been a matter of controversy. Studies have both identified saccharine (Sweet ‘N Low) as a carcinogen and also exonerated saccharine as safe. However US government reports of known carcinogens have continued to include saccharine in their lists since 1981. Aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal) has been roundly condemned by many sources as a dangerous toxin capable of inducing hundreds of symptoms. It has been affectionately nicknamed Nutradeath. Besides causing headaches, allergic reactions, and symptoms that mimic autoimmune diseases, aspartame causes the accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain and other tissues, which can cause damage to the nervous system and immune system.
Because of the negative publicity about these sugar-free sweeteners, other alternatives have been developed. The newest kid on the block is sucralose (Splenda).
Sucralose is made by chlorinating sugar (sucrose). Three chlorine atoms substitute for three hydroxyl groups. Although Johnson & Johnson, the makers of Splenda, claim that sucralose is not absorbed by the body, the FDA has determined that up to 27 percent of ingested sucralose is absorbed. Other chlorinated molecules, such as the chlorinated pesticide DDT, are accumulated in body fat. Similarly, up to 30 percent of absorbed sucralose is metabolized and concentrated in the liver and kidney. Research in animals has shown that sucralose can result in shrunken thymus glands (up to 40 percent shrinkage), enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, and decreased fetal body weight. No long term or independent studies on sucralose have been conducted on humans, and no organizations are monitoring health effects. Many individuals have reported adverse effects of sucralose, including anxiety, panic attacks, headaches, nerve, joint and chest pain, allergic type reactions, and diarrhea.
The bottom line
Get most of your sugar from whole foods (fruits, vegetables, grains). If you need to use a sweetener, the best forms are raw honey, stevia, and date sugar. Acceptable sweeteners are organic maple syrup, coconut sugar, xylitol, and sorbitol. Avoid corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, and use refined sugar very sparingly.
by Dr. Randy
The baby stage
A baby’s different developmental stages will require different styles of parenting from you. The completely dependent four-month-old needs more carrying and nursing than the roaming nine-month-old who feeds herself with a spoon. These stages obviously call for different kinds of parenting responses from you. You do not need a guidebook to tell you that. But parents are constantly falling behind their children. It is hard to keep up. Just when you become accustomed to one mode of behavior, priding yourself in your problem-solving skills, your child has already moved on to the next stage. Parents hear “don’t treat me like a baby” all too often because they can’t keep up with the dramatic changes that occur. Parents are constantly amazed at what their babies are able to do. Every day brings miraculous changes and new abilities. But all parents are conservatives and all children are revolutionaries. We want to conserve and preserve the moment, they are aching to take the next giant leap ahead. Maintaining your equilibrium can be a daunting task.
I would encourage you to read books about child development simply so that you can be prepared for the next step. When your baby is pulling herself up to stand, read about toddlers. When your ten-year-old wants to ride his bike to the mall, read about teenagers. At least you will know what’s in store. Be prepared with lists of job responsibilities appropriate for different ages and anticipate the appropriate freedoms to bestow upon your children depending on their maturity. Parents are guides not adversaries. Don’t get stuck in the role of bad cop. Use the tools of successful parenting. Have regular family meetings, discuss problems and solutions at times of low tension, not during emotional storms, and use discipline wisely. Never hit your child. Children require nurturing, love, support, and respect, even in the most trying of circumstances. Do not betray their trust with punishments. You will only be met with fear and resentment, not the respect you seek and cherish.
Your growing child embodies a panorama of emotions, an ever-changing intellectual diversity, and a profoundly unique personality. Encourage your child’s curiosity. Allow her to test her own limits. Stay one step ahead and out of her way. Try to avoid power struggles. Provide guidance, but make allowance for mistakes. Maintain your sense of humor, and enjoy your child now. Soon this amazing stage will pass and she too will be grown.
by Dr. Randy
There are two sides to our interest in maintaining a healthy body. One side includes the goal of achieving and maintaining good health for as long as we can. This is a path that can potentially prevent much suffering. The second side is our concern with the way we appear, especially as we compare ourselves to other people.
Let’s explore fat as one focus. Being overweight has many negative connotations and health effects. Fat cells stimulate inflammation and thus increase the risk for many chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Taking measures to prevent and reduce fat stores in the body will increase the likelihood of persistent good health. Exercise in itself will tend to decrease fat and prevent aging of cells. On the other hand, our culture values strength and good muscle tone, equating being lean with good looks. This can give rise to a hyper-focus on appearing lean and attractive, and negative feelings about anything resembling excess weight. As metabolism slows down with aging, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain this ideal, and much personal suffering ensues.
The concern with appearances is a slippery slope that can lead to obsession with our superficial material form and our fragile egos. Pride and vanity can become weights that pull us down into a continual quest for clearer complexions, more firm and muscular bodies, and a more youthful appearance. Of course this quest is ultimately doomed because we will all age, sicken, and die. Our culture places great value on the youthful qualities of smooth firm skin and hardened, toned bodies, and many industries exist to fulfill and encourage these longings. This pursuit can occupy inordinate amounts of time and distract us from some more worthwhile pursuits. Perhaps we should leave youthful appearance to the young who are busy attracting mates and achieving athletic success. Some would argue that developing a spiritual practice that fosters kindness, self-compassion, and generosity as we age might provide a better use of our time than chasing after good looks. We may want to prolong the appearance of youth, but a more balanced resignation about inevitable aging will lead to greater happiness.
What to do
A middle ground represents a more balanced view. Create good health through a healthy diet and lifelong exercise, but also recognize the natural tendency to age, and eventually to die. A frantic pursuit to stave off the inevitable may give us a little more time, but also waste precious resources on a deluded quest. Happiness will not come from having a lean body, but prolonged good health just might.
by Dr. Randy
We usually think of medical treatment and health advice as something we receive. Take a particular supplement or herbal formula or homeopathic medicine. This is a rather passive form of health care. Patients receive the expert advice of a practitioner and choose to either follow that advice or pursue other avenues of treatment. When someone is in distress, then seeking and taking medical advice is usually straightforward. If the goal is relief from immediate symptoms, then taking a nontoxic approach to solving them is great. We can even learn to administer some of these treatments to ourselves and be more self-sufficient.
However, achieving good health requires a much more active process. Symptoms can interfere with our clarity of mind and can disrupt our lives. Symptom relief is helpful because it can free us from suffering and allow us to pursue our life’s purpose with fewer limitations. One of our purposes can be the cultivation of optimal health. The rich soil for this cultivation takes the form of what we commonly understand as a lifestyle that is nourishing. If we establish a lifestyle that includes nourishment of the mind, body, and spirit, then we are more likely to experience happiness, fulfillment, and good health.
What are the ingredients of a nourishing lifestyle?
- Equanimity of mind fostered through meditation.
- A healthy diet comprised of natural, whole foods.
- Regular exposure to nature, plants, and the sun.
- Caring, loving relationships.
- Movement of the body through walking, exercise, or moving meditation (yoga or tai chi).
These factors will counteract the many stresses of our lives, the worry, problem solving, and material concerns that occupy us. Cultivating the conditions for health will help to provide an antidote to the effects of stress and help prevent illness.
Here is a meditation for self-healing.
Let me be happy.
Let me be free from danger.
Let me be healthy.
Let me be at ease.
by Dr. Randy
You may not have seen it yet, but it’s here. This year’s flu can be severe. This flu starts out with a severe sore throat (sometimes with bleeding) and fever with shaking chills. Other symptoms include cough, diarrhea, headache and severe body pain. There are milder versions that only include a few of these symptoms, sometimes just a cough and low grade fever. However, the adage holds true that if you think you’re going to die, it’s the flu. In general, young people with a strong and reactive immune system tend to have the more violent symptoms.
The treatment requires a change of homeopathic remedies depending on the stage of the illness. For example, it can start with a Mercurius-type cutting throat pain followed by a Bryonia-type flu with a bad headache, dry racking cough and body pains, and then turn into a Kali-bichromicum pattern of congested cough and sinus pressure.
Other measures for managing the flu include elderberry extract and a Gan Mao Ling Chinese herbal formula. Some typical formula models include Wellness Formula by Source Naturals and Cold Away by Health Concerns. These fit the first stage of the illness. At later stages, different herbal formulas for congestion and cough will be appropriate.
I usually communicate with patients on a daily basis to manage these different stages, and instead of a few weeks of protracted illness, the symptoms can resolve in 5-6 days. In any case, it’s no fun for people going through the illness.
Family members and anyone exposed to the flu can take preventives to stave off symptoms. These may include a medicinal mushroom formula to bolster immune function, colostrum or a cold-processed whey protein powder, and elderberry. If there is known exposure to the flu then the homeopathic remedy Influenzinum can be protective. And taking Wellness Formula or an equivalent anti-viral treatment can work to fight off the viral attack. Of course, everyone should be taking vitamin D in the winter to maintain a resilient and active immune system. The vitamin D dose for children is 1,000 IU per 10 pounds of body weight up to 5,000 IU. Adults can take 5,000-10,000 IU per day.
Drink fluids, stay warm, eat soups and stews in the winter. Get some exercise, meditate, do yoga. Take care of yourself this flu season and hopefully you will stay well.