Loving Your Heart What We Need to Do Now to Promote Heart Health

Heart disease is responsible for one out of every three deaths in America, making it the #1 killer in America. Fortunately, there are many steps that you can take to prevent heart disease. You may not be able to control all the risk factors involved in heart disease (like family history and how old you are) but the good news is that there are many things that we can do to ensure lasting heart health.

Heart Disease

Research now points pretty convincingly to inflammation as the major contributor to heart disease. So it follows that the best way to prevent heart disease is to prevent or reduce inflammation in the heart. What is the number one contributor to inflammation in the body? Refined sugar! Hormone deficiencies have also been shown to contribute to the risk of heart disease. Guess what impacts the production of hormones most directly in the body? Refined sugar. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Other known factors that put you at a risk of heart disease include smoking, other types of toxic exposures, high blood pressure, low thyroid functioning and elevated homocysteine levels caused by inefficient recycling into glutathione or back to methionine. This can be dietary or, more likely, influenced by genetic individuality. In fact, there are more than 400 independent risk factors for heart disease, most of them modifiable. Also, getting older is the number one risk fact, but, unfortunately, I have yet to find a cure for that.

The Truth about Cholesterol

Cholesterol is not the enemy that the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies have painted it to be. Cholesterol is necessary for cellular function and hormone balance. It promotes body mobility, brain function and is the precursor to Vitamin D3, which is vital in supporting the immune system and many other basic body functions. Cholesterol is also the foundation of production of the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) and adrenal hormones (cortisol and DHEA). Remember how hormone deficiencies are implicated in heart health? Cholesterol Sulfate is also involved in the metabolizing of fats, as well as providing immune responses to pathogens. Not only is cholesterol crucial for our bodies, but elevated cholesterol levels are not even the most important risk factor in heart disease.

Cholesterol-reducing medications known as statins may actually be contributing to an unhealthy heart. Statins block the enzyme (HMG Coenzyme A reductase) that is required for the body to make cholesterol. Through this interference, however, cell walls become more permeable and crucial proteins are attacked and cells are damaged. By blocking HMG CoA reductase, statins also inhibit the production of super anti-oxidant Coenzyme Q10. This is important, because Co Q10 is a powerful anti-oxidant, important for healthy heart muscle and mitochondrial energy. This is why many people who take a statin for cholesterol also complain of muscle pain and weakness, among other considerable side effects, such as less efficient memory.

Back to Inflammation

Many researchers believe that inflammation in the body triggers an immune response that changes the chemical structure of cholesterol. Good cholesterol is no longer transported to the cells to keep them strong, impermeable and safe. This immune response, intended to provide a temporary benefit to the cardiac system, backfires as cells build up soft or vulnerable plaque in the arteries as a way to try to compensate for the lack of cholesterol. Thus, the solution to a healthy heart is not to eliminate cholesterol (which our bodies desperately need) but to eliminate the immune response to cholesterol caused by inflammation in the heart.

Guess what else? Cholesterol is made in your liver. However, when your liver is busy processing sugar into fat, it is too taxed to make the good cholesterol that your body needs. So, another way of depriving your body of the cholesterol it needs is to eat a lot of refined sugar. Yes, refined sugar is the great enemy in all of this!

What to Do

First of all, it is important to note that, as a baseline, we get plenty of sleep, engage in regular physical activity, practice positive stress-management techniques and never, ever smoke. However, beyond those basic lifestyle choices, there are a number of things we should know about how to support a healthy heart.

Heart Healthy Diet

A heart healthy diet is rich in antioxidants. It is filled with lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, is low in sugar and full of healthy Omega-3 fats. It avoids processed foods and artificial ingredients. Raw organic dairy (including raw milk) and organic free-range eggs are wonderful. A word about eggs: the best part is in the yolk!

Things to Avoid

Refined sugars and trans fats which promote inflammation. High fructose foods, such as HFCS and agave are among the greatest threats to liver function and therefore heart disease. It is also a good idea to avoid factory-farmed meat, instead opting for organically raised, grass-fed meat whenever possible.

Supplements for a Healthy Heart Fish Oil (Omega 3) Vitamin C Vitamin D B vitamins–for reducing Homocysteine–must be in the metabolized, methylated form Vitamin B6 – P5P Vitamin B12– methylcobalamin Folic Acid– methylfolate Niacin Vitamin K2 CoQ10 (ubiquinol) Nattokinase Hawthorne berry and L-lysine Proteolytic enzymes Here’s to your Heart!
The Detoxification Benefits of Sauna

Saunas came to us from Finland, and we are so grateful!  There are so many health benefits to regularly using a sauna, including improved circulation, relaxation and stress reduction, improved immune response, pain reduction, improved skin conditions, and the elimination of toxins through perspiration.  In fact, sitting in a sauna for 10 or more minutes opens the skin excretion system and allows the release of water and fat-soluble toxins.  Remember, the tricky part about heavy metals is that they are lipophilic, or fat-soluble.  This makes sauna a wonderful support for your body in eliminating heavy metals and other toxins.

Types Of Sauna

There are many different types of saunas and not all are created equally. Dry saunas are preferable to wet saunas (or steam rooms), as they allow for maximum perspiration.  Some studies show that the best dry sauna for detoxification purposes is the Far Infra-Red (FIR) sauna.  The FIR sauna delivers heat by radiation (not air conduction) and doesn’t heat the air inside as much as other comparable types of saunas.  This allows the heat to penetrate more deeply and evenly and eliminates the risk of burning.

How To Use A Sauna

So, how to effectively use a sauna for detoxification?  Before entering a sauna, ensure that you are well hydrated (2–4 cups of water) and be sure to follow up with water after the treatment as well.  Start with spending about 10 minutes in the sauna, or until you are lightly sweating.  You should wipe the perspiration from your skin, or you may leave the sauna intermittently for a shower or cool bath plunge.  This will help eliminate the toxins from your skin as you excrete them.  You should also ensure that your sauna is well-ventilated.

It is actually safe to use a sauna every day, and you can increase your exposure by a minute or two at each of your subsequent visits.   Of course, be sure to pay attention to your body and leave immediately if you experience a feeling of light-headedness.    It also goes without saying that you should never use the sauna with alcohol or any medications that impair sweating.  Patients with heart conditions should also check with their doctor before using a sauna.


Eating for Detoxification

Heavy metals are especially tricky toxins because they are easily absorbed by the body, but not so easily eliminated.  Luckily, nature has provided us with delicious foods that contain vital nutrients, which support our body’s own efforts to reduce heavy metals.  Choose foods that are rich in Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin C to help your body displace both mercury and lead. Some of these foods are yummy vegetables and nuts like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, string beans, carrots, celery, beets, and almonds.  Green leafy vegetables are always a good choice, including kale, chard, parsley, spinach, and beet greens.  These leafy greens have an added advantage of containing high levels of chlorophyll that also bind to heavy metals and aid in detoxification. Delicious fruits full of vital nutrients that support detoxification include oranges, mangoes, cantaloupes, papaya, strawberries.  Eating large amounts of these fruits and vegetables also provides your body with soluble fiber, which helps the body draw out and eliminate lead.

Lipoic acid is also found in spinach, broccoli, potatoes, yams, carrots, and beets, as well as in red meat and in brewers yeast. Lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that is also a fatty acid and binds to heavy metals and helps to clear them from the body.  And don’t forget to eat your eggs, onions, mustard and raspberries, which contain the vital nutrient sulphur–key in building cartilage and connective tissues–which is depleted in the body when mercury and lead are present.

Buy Organic

Finally, remember it is important to buy ORGANIC meat and produce whenever possible.  And it is recommended to eat as many of your fruits and vegetables raw (or very lightly steamed) to preserve the vital nutrients that support your body in ridding itself of heavy metals.

Here is to eating our way clean!!!

Toxins, Toxins, Everywhere

What is a toxin?

Simply put, a toxin is something that can cause harm to the body.  More specifically, toxins are poisons, either foreign chemicals or even substances that are made by living cells or organisms that cause health problems when they are absorbed by the body.  Toxins damage the body by increasing oxidative stress, poisoning the body’s enzymes, directly damaging DNA or cellular membranes, and/or disrupting the endocrine system.   Certain forms of toxicity, especially environmental toxicity, have been linked to chronic degenerative diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, atherosclerosis, as well as too many forms of cancer.  Environmental toxicity has also been linked to many clinical symptoms and conditions like headaches, fertility problems, dermatitis, learning disorders, panic attacks, memory loss, mood swings, yeast infections, tinnitus, and muscle weakness, just to name a few!

But what does all this really mean?   Well, there is some good news and some bad news.  Toxins are all around us: in the air we breathe, in our food, and in the water we drink.  This is what we mean by “environmental toxicity.”  The good news is that our bodies are marvelous detoxifiers.  This is what they were made to do and they do it well, unless our detox mechanisms become overloaded.   When this happens, the whole process is slowed down and inefficient detoxification may lead to a whole variety of less desirable symptoms and conditions.

In order to keep our detoxification systems going at full speed there are several things we should know and do.  For example, what are the major environmental toxins? How do we avoid them?  And what do we do to support the body’s detoxification processes to rid ourselves of the toxins that we are going to encounter, no matter how much we try to avoid them?  Like I said, the good news is that there are many things we can do to minimize the risk of toxicity and to avoid the clinical symptoms and conditions associated with environmental toxicity.

Many toxins are found in industrial chemicals and pollutants. These include Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS), which are nearly impossible to avoid, and volatile organic toxicants (VOC). VOCs are emitted from paints and protective coatings, solvents, cleaning supplies, plastics, resins, among other things. These are worrisome because of their ability to become airborne and their tendency to become trapped inside our homes, offices and public spaces.  In fact, some scientists have identified sick building syndrome when a certain level of VOCs are found in elevated amounts. This often results from new furnishings, wall coverings and office equipment.

Another source of toxicity is the pesticides that farmers use and that work their way into our food supply.  Similarly, synthetic steroids and elevated levels of hormones are found in much of our meat and dairy products.  In fact, the greatest toxin exposure (by far) is through what we put into our mouths.   Pesticides and steroids, along with the myriad food additives and preservatives added by food processors are easily transmitted through the intestinal system where they are readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

There has been much ado about metal toxicity in the media as well in recent years.  There are well-founded concerns about the levels of heavy metals that are showing up in our bodies.  The most common heavy metal toxicity includes elevated amounts of lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, and these can have significant consequences for health as they are accumulated in the body.  For example, elevated levels of mercury alone have been linked to dementia, autism, ADHD, insomnia, depression and anxiety as well as muscle pain and fatigue.  Lead toxicity can lead to DNA damage, depressed immune systems, hypertension, kidney disease, and even tooth decay.

So, what do we do?  Well, there are many things we can do to avoid toxins in the first place.  For example, always choose to eat organic produce whenever available. Similarly, search out organic meat and poultry that has been grass-fed and is hormone free.  Fish is wonderful, but it should be wild caught and not farm fed. And, as a general rule, the larger the fish the more likely it is to have higher levels of toxins.  For this reason, the smaller fishes (sardines, herring, etc.) are better choices for lowering exposure to toxins.  And, I think it goes without saying, everyone should invest in a good water filter.

It also pays to be aware of your surroundings and your environment.  Avoid places with lots of fumes in the air.  This is a bit tricky for those of us who live in Utah, or other places, with a lot of air pollution, but try to get out of the inversion whenever possible.  Pay attention to the cleaning products that you use.  Choose products with organic materials. Similarly, many of the chemicals found in sunscreens and cosmetics can be quite toxic–and those products are often not required to list all of their ingredients on their labels.  A safer choice is to look for labels on products that guarantee all natural ingredients.

Obviously, we will never be able to avoid all the toxins in our environment, and luckily, our bodies were made so that we don’t have to. However, environmental toxicity is on the rise as toxins are becoming more prevalent in our environment each year.  So, let’s help our bodies stay as healthy as possible by doing the things we can to help our bodies avoid the bad stuff in the first place.

The Truth About Mercury Human Exposure To Mercury

Exposer to mercury has increased dramatically over the past 100 years or so.  Industrialization has played a major role in the rise of environmental mercury through the operation of coal-fired industrial plants and the use of mercury in the production of plastics and pesticides.  Mercury regularly used in dental fillings has also contributed to increased exposure as mercury vapors released by the fillings end up being absorbed in the body.  Further, as our oceans become more polluted, we ended up being exposed to organic mercury (methyl-mercury) by eating fish–a healthy diet choice, according to many nutritionists.

Ramifications Of Mercury Exposure

What are the?  Medical literature has linked mercury toxicity to many chronic diseases such as dementia, ADHD, autism, heart disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and some types of cancer.  As with any toxin, the health effects depend on the dose or amount of exposure. The tricky thing with mercury, however, is that it is lipophilic–which means it is absorbed by and accumulates in fatty tissues.  Many of our vital organs are made mostly out of fatty tissues.  Thus, mercury can affect nearly all of our organs, but is especially damaging to the brain, heart, kidneys and gut.  Not surprisingly, children (including fetuses) and aging populations are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity.

What To Do About Mercury Toxicity

Obviously the best way to avoid mercury toxicity is to avoid mercury!  If possible, stay away from living and work environments that have exposure to mercury.   Avoid coal heated homes and businesses. Having mercury dental amalgams removed by a biological dentist who has trained in the procedure is important.  Avoid eating fish with the highest and most dangerous concentrations of mercury: Tile fish, shark, swordfish, large tuna, Chilean bass, among others.  It is safe, however, to consume some of the smaller varieties of wild fish as they have much lower levels of mercury.

How To Detoxify

If you suspect you have elevated levels of toxicity, you should go to your doctor and request the medical test that assesses your total body’s load of mercury.  This test, typically called a provocation or a challenge, involves taking a prescription medicine (DMPS) and then collecting your urine for at least 6 hours afterwards. This is because mercury is partly excreted through urine, so the DMPS provokes the mercury to bind to it and then is eliminated when you empty your bladder.  This test can only be carried out under a doctor’s supervision, but not all doctors are familiar with the protocol, so be sure to check around.

There are many ways to detoxify your body, and many of them are useful in promoting mercury detoxification.  These include eating clean and taking probiotics and enzymes to promote gastric health, taking B vitamins and methylators to increase liver detoxification, and using sauna therapy.  However, since mercury binds to fatty tissues, it is also necessary to use specific binding agents to pull the mercury out of the body.  Again, this can only be done under the supervision of a doctor.  Of course, drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fiber will always help in any detoxification effort. And, of course, find a doctor who is familiar with and has experience with heavy metal detoxification.