Doing My Homework

My health coach gave me a pretty easy assignment this week: think about chewing.

Yes, chewing. She gave me a crash course on the digestive system which brought back memories of elementary school, learning about saliva and the esophagus and food’s journey through the miles of intestines. She also gave me a handout with some suggestions- suggestions which have turned out to be easy to read and not so easy to implement.

Do YOU chew every bite 30-50 times before you swallow it? I found out that my average is about 10. I’m now making more of an effort, but I have some work to do.

Why does it matter, you ask? (I’ve been doing some reading, so I’m not sure now what I’ve read and what Rebecca told me. I’ll give all the credit to her unless otherwise noted!) Saliva is alkaline. Alkaline reduces inflammation in the body. Chewing efficiently alkalizes our food before it’s swallowed which prevents inflammation. I guess that explains why eating on the go or “swallowing your food whole,” as my mother used to say I did, usually results in heartburn, indigestion, and/or stomach ache, i.e. inflammation of the gut. Chewing matters more than I realized.

I’m the one who didn’t want to take time to stop for lunch at all, so this is hard! Eating nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day requires more stopping-to-eat than I’m used to, and now I’m adding more chewing to that effort! But I’m already feeling better, so it’s worth it!

Assignment number two was to learn about albumin. I had heard of albumin in connection with eggs, but this time I was seeing the word on some blood work results. My albumin level was low, and Rebecca suggested I find out what it was and why it mattered. Albumen is the white of the egg, but, albumin is “any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids,” per Merriam-Webster.

From various medical websites, I learned that albumin is produced by the liver, and it carries substances such as hormones and enzymes throughout the body. If the albumin level is low, it might indicate kidney failure or kidney disease or liver disease. Or it might indicate malnutrition. Well, none of those conditions appeal to me, but malnutrition seems to me to be the easiest one to correct!

My question is, will my nine cups of improved nutrition correct my albumin level? Maybe. Hopefully. According to Registered Dietician Sarah Pflugradt, “increasing the overall quality of the diet may help increase albumin levels in those who are malnourished.” Writing for livestrong.com, she also noted that some recent research indicates that “albumin was not a direct indicator of nutritional health, but rather a marker of the influence of illness on albumin. For instance, inflammation- present in many diseases- causes protein to break down in the body, leading to a decreased albumin.”

Homework results: I hereby promise to make every effort to efficiently chew every bite of nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, hoping to reduce inflammation and to increase albumin.

Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious and nutrient-rich meals I’ve eaten lately. Recipes don’t seem to be necessary since a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ll be glad to give you the details if you ask.

 

Fighting Inflammation

I was so thankful for Bromelain yesterday- still am, actually.  But then I learned that Bromelain and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be discontinued about two weeks before any surgical procedure to reduce the risk of post-operative bleeding.  And since I have surgery in my near future, I have discontinued my Bromelain.  I miss it already!

I quickly consulted my essential oil books and mixed up a blend of inflammation-fighters.  Here’s my recipe…

Anti-Inflammatory Essential Oil BlendOils for Inflammation.jpg

Combine the following oils in an amber glass bottle:

I took my blend to my physical terrorist therapist who used the oils during my session this morning.  (I can’t take the credit for that PT insult.  I overheard it at therapy today!)

While I can’t address inflammation with a supplement, I’m glad to be able to address it with essential oils.  How do YOU fight inflammation?

Of Pain and Torture, AKA Physical Therapy

bromelain and iceIf a picture paints a thousand words, what story does this picture tell?  I’ll give you a hint:  PT.  Physical Therapy, otherwise known as Pain and Torture.

⇦These are the things my physical therapist told me to do four times a day:  exercise, ice and anti-inflammatory.

My anti-inflammatory of choice is Bromelain, a mixture of enzymes found in pineapples.  These protein-digesting enzymes block the body’s production of compounds that cause swelling and pain.  The suggested dosage of Bromelain as a digestive aid is 500 mg per day, taken with a meal.  But for an injury or for arthritis, up to 2000 mg on an empty stomach is recommended.

I began taking 500 mg of Bromelain a day and didn’t notice much improvement.  But when I bumped up to 2,000 mg, my pain level was remarkably reduced, and my inflammation began to lessen at a much more noticeable rate.

Even though I started this post with a PT insult, to be fair and completely honest, I’m extremely pleased with the therapy I’ve received.  If you need a physical therapist in the Birmingham area, I can recommend an excellent one!  And if you’re looking for a natural anti-inflammatory, you just found it!

Important:  Because bromelain breaks down fibrin, a blood-clotting protein that can impede blood circulation, individuals on blood-thinning medication or with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease should contact their healthcare provider before taking bromelain.  Bromelain should not be taken with tetracycline or by individuals who are allergic to pineapple.  Bromelain and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) should be discontinued 1 to 2 weeks before any surgical procedure to reduce the risk of post-operative bleeding.

What in the world is carrageenan??

After my recent post that featured Aldi’s Almondmilk, a thoughtful friend and customer pointed out to me that Friendly Farms Almondmilk contains carrageenan.  (CORRECTION added at the end of the post!)

AlmondMilk nutrition facts

What in the world is carrageenan??

Following my friend’s link, I learned that carrageenan is a completely natural extract from a particular type of red seaweed common in the Atlantic Ocean, near North America, Great Britain and Continental Europe.  It has no nutritional value and it is used primarily as a thickener and emulsifier.

The research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago, indicates that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. She explained that all forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation and chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and cancer.

I had never heard of this extract or this research, so I’ll be doing some reading–and then I’ll have to decide what to do about my almond milk!

Have YOU heard of carrageenan?  Can you recommend another source of calcium that doesn’t include this extract?  Do you think it matters?  I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

February 24, 2015 CORRECTION:  Aldi’s Friendly Farms Almondmilk does NOT contain carrageenan!  My friend observed that it was in the same brand of coconut milk and assumed that it was in all.  Thankfully, it is NOT in the almond milk.  Whew!

Natural Anti-Inflammatory: Bromelain

Bromelain (blog)Did you spot this product in my Beeyoutiful pantry yesterday?  (I’m visualizing Where’s Waldo fans revisiting yesterday’s post to find it!)  Well, I’ll just tell you it was tucked in between the Tummy Tuneup and the CoQ10.  And it really doesn’t matter where it is in my pantry.  If you’re dealing with inflammation from a sports injury or trauma or even arthritis, you might just want to add some Bromelain to your pantry.

Bromelain is naturally found in pineapple, and it works by blocking metabolites that accelerate and worsen the inflammatory process.

Bromelain is a group of powerful protein-digesting enzymes which block the body’s production of compounds that cause swelling and pain.  Once inflammation is reduced, blood can move more easily to a traumatized or irritated area to ease pain and speed healing.

Click here to order Bromelain

Important:  Because bromelain breaks down fibrin, a blood-clotting protein that can impede blood circulation, individuals on blood-thinning medication or with bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, liver disease, or kidney disease should contact their healthcare provider before taking bromelain.  Bromelain should not be taken with tetracycline or by individuals who are allergic to pineapple.