Currently viewing the tag: "Acupuncture"

Christmas is one of the most testing periods of the year. It can be stressful but also challenging for our digestive system. We are excited but also anxious about organising the festivities and celebrations, whilst at the same time agonise about what presents to get for our friends and family. Being the end of the year we are also preparing to ‘wind down’ and regenerate for the New Year.

 

‘Tis the season for Flu and Colds’

Changes from autumn to winter means that the period prior to Christmas is full of flu and colds. This can carry on well into the spring. Frequent travel both local and distant exposes us to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system so you are more able to fight off any viruses. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help. More about flu supplements.

 

 ‘All I want for Christmas is Food’ 

Food and drink is a large part of Christmas. We must remember to stuff the turkey, but not ourselves. Food is always plenty at Christmas, turkey, nuts, chocolates, cheese, pudding, mince pies and cheese straws.  One Christmas dinner can add up to 3000 calories, between 500 -1200 calories more than the average adult requirement.  This does not include what we eat the rest of the day. Slowing down the speed of eating and savouring each bite will help to make the meal more satisfying. Remember that it takes our brain 20 min to register that the stomach is full.  A huge meal will give us indigestion and make us tired, thus contributing to weight gain. Be mindful about what you eat, and decide if it is something you really want before popping it into your mouth. Don’t eat it just because it is there.

 

‘Keep calm and say Ho, Ho, Ho……’                                                         

Don’t stress about making sure Christmas is Stress-Free. Most of us will be working through long lists of shopping, cooking and cleaning and visitors, so try to keep things manageable. Plan ahead and try to be organised. Shopping online can make things easier and if you are terrible at wrapping presents use gift bags.  It’s not a disaster if everything is not perfect and the mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, or that the top of the Christmas tree you bought is not perfect – it’s what makes Christmas memorable. You could think ahead and consider organising some therapeutic treatments in the New year. Complementary therapies work really well for stress relief.

 

Peace, love and Joy’ 

Catching up with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas spirit. Instead of the usual salutatory wishes in a festive card, consider instead a photo card or a few sentences updating them about you and the family.   We have little choice in who we are related to, so there will always be a critical mother-in-law or a disapproving relative.  Prepare yourself for what is to come, but remember it is only for one day and you still have the rest of the year without them.

 

‘Silent night’

Make sure you rest and renew with plenty of restful sleep. Despite the time off work, late night celebrations from Christmas to the New Year will disturb our normal sleep pattern. Sleep hugely influences our physical and mental wellbeing. It is when our body heals and recovers from our waking activities. Try to return to your normal sleep pattern as soon as possible. Further about the benefits of sleep here.

 

‘Don’t get Ho, Ho, Hammered!’ 

During Christmas, alcohol is free flowing, mulled wine, bucks fizz, brandy, wine and even alcoholic punch. Don’t just indulge, decide what your limits are and then keep tabs on how much you are drinking. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in between and it will make it much more enjoyable. Excess alcohol can affect others. Be aware that although it can lift your mood initially, it is also a depressant and in some people can bring out unsociable and aggressive behaviour.  There is a considerable rise in the number of assaults and drink driving over Christmas and New Year. Added to this is increased incidence of alcohol poisoning.

 

Happy New Year! 

Let’s be honest, most of us spend the entire year not thinking about our health. Review the past year and consider if your health needs some attention. If you have had more frequent flu and colds, developed an allergy or skin condition, tend to get tired more quickly, fatigued most of the time, bones and joints ache, have a brain fog or spend time feeling frustrated and depressed, then it is time to make a plan to do something about it. It is more important than ever to get out the vitamins and minerals, consider having some therapies or book a doctor’s appointment.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !

Acupuncture has a long history of use to treat many conditions, including pain, depression, fatigue and addictions.  It is known to effect local responses as well as distal changes through neurological and endocrine systems. When used together with heat treatment it can cause multiple biological responses, seen both in animals and humans.  However, the mechanism and biochemical changes responsible for these effects are still unclear.  Chinese concepts refer to the flow of Qi, five element theory and yin and yang. Anatomical studies show that most acupoints located along the meridian lines (also known as channels) are located closely to nerve fibre distribution and blood vessels. Interestingly, there is also an increase in hair follicles and sweat glands at these points.

Nitrous Oxide (NO) is known to play an important physiological role in skin local microcirculation, neurotransmission, immunity and wound healing. It produces relaxation of blood vessels via an increase in NO synthase acitivty, but also utilizes the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway in the human skin. Studies in rats have also shown that NO content and NO synthase protein levels are in the skin tissue at acupoints and meridian lines. Repeated thermal application also increases immunoreactivity and NO synthase in hamsters. NO also mediates noradrenergic function on skin sympathetic nerve activation, which contributes to low resistance characteristics of acupoints and meridians.

One crossover study conducted on 20 volunteers who underwent a real acupuncture and then non-invasive sham acupuncture in the hand or forearm with 1 week interval between treatments. The blood plasma concentration of NO in the acupunctured arm and hand was significantly increased, which was not observed in the sham acupuncture.

A more recent published study at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center examined the effect of manual acupuncture and electrical heat to the release of nitric oxide (NO) over the human skin. Participants included 25 volunteers (men and women) aged 18-60 yrs. Participants were randomly asked to undergo manual acupuncture over the pericardium meridian, or heat treatment over the lung meridian. NO was monitored using a Biocapture device with a collecting solution taped to the skin along the meridians. Results found that manual acupuncture and electrical heat cause release of NO from the local skin, which was almost doubled at acupuncture points.

Initial pilot studies also show that the extent of NO production can vary depending on the person’s age and gender due to the differences in sympathetic acitivity, body weight, hormones, sweat rates and skin thickness. There was no noticeable difference between different ethnic groups.

The importance of a rich blood circulation is an evident necessary part of tissue healing, and suggests the rationale for subsequent pain relief or sensitising substances. These studies determined that acupuncture elevates the local level of NO in the treated areas, thus increasing blood flow and warmth. There is vasodilation accompanied neurochemical changes which may further contribute to generation of NO. Thus suggesting that acupuncture treatment using a reinforced technique and the addition of electrical heat will improve local circulation.

Clinical experience has shown that the use of acupuncture for pain relief is an excellent alternative to the use of medicinal pain killers.  However we must not ignore the benefits of increase blood circulation for other conditions, therefore improving the overall body functions.  My own clinical practice regularly incorporates the use heat in the form of direct or indirect moxa or electrical heat. We have always found that the addition of heat enhances the needle effects, thus confirming the above research findings. It should be a treatment choice for those experiencing pain but in particular where there is chronic pain.

 

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Farmers know it:  If you hope for a good harvest, prepare the field well before planting. That’s as true for your family as it is for a crop of barley. This is true for both men and women, particularly if you are experiencing fertility problems or planning to undergo IVF treatment.

As science and medicine unlock the intricacies of our genes, we already know that they’re not an unalterable inheritance from our own parents.  Your body is constantly rewriting biological code. Add to this the contraceptive pill and HRT- major risk factors for heart and arterial disease and cancer (to name a few), nutrient deficiencies and stress, and you have a pretty potent chemical mix. Poofh ! and you have a new biological code giving the orders resulting in fertility problems.

When you give it optimal fuel and avoid environmental hazards, you help it repair transcription errors and disarm disease triggers.

If you are of reproductive age–even if you don’t intend to have children now, are not in a long-term relationship or aren’t sexually active–these suggestions are wise to consider.  Life can change in an instant.  Birth control can fail.  And even an unplanned-for child is entitled to be born as healthy as possible.  Just like a farming crop it takes 3 months for an egg or sperm to mature, so start to make changes as early as possible to get your health in good order.

Here are some helpful tips both for fertility problems or if you are planning to get pregnant.

  • Recognize that your physical and mental well-being are your greatest assets. If you’re in a relationship, encourage your partner to value good health too.
  • Good hormone status indicators are a regular menstrual cycle, free from pre-menstrual tension and mood swings. Hormones are highly dependent on micronutrients. Western diets high in processed foods, carbohydrates and sugar, along with antibiotics and use of hormones increases the risk of yeast infections e.g. vaginal thrush.
  • Take a good-quality daily multivitamin, essential fatty acids and vitamin C, D. This applies to both parents. No matter how good your diet is, the challenges of modern life put enormous stress on your body. Questionable modern farming methods also compromise the value of nutrients in food.   Good health is more than the absence of disease, and many of us are deficient in essential micro-nutrients.
  • If you are a smoker or drinker, your body is under even more stress, and you may be deficient in vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. Low levels of folic acid, for example, are a leading cause of some preventable birth defects, and B-vitamins are essential for good nerve function and energy metabolism. It’s important to remember that by the time most women realize they’re pregnant and begin receiving prenatal care, crucial developmental stages have already occurred in their babies’ brains and nervous systems. Get help in quitting. Unknowingly, you may be self-medicating for undiagnosed anxiety or depression.  Having a discussion with a non-judgmental health professional is the first step in freeing yourself from addictive behaviors.  Improving your diet may help you to resist cravings or to eliminate them entirely.
  • Reduce your toxic chemical load from e.g. processed foods, coffee, tea, alcohol, sugary drinks, additives, deodorants, shower gels and pesticides.
  • Stress is one of the biggest cause of fertility problems. Take time to relax. Stress affects the hypothalamus (part of the brain) which regulates the hormones needed for normal menstrual cycle and release of the egg. During stress the body behaves like it is in survival mode and starts to make more cortisol and adrenaline hormones. In chronic stress they have to be kept constantly high, and this is where the problem lies. For the adrenal glands to make cortisol they need progesterone – the pregnancy hormone. Thus, low progesterone levels create an imbalance with oestrogen and testosterone. Strengthening the adrenals and managing the stress will allow them to return to good function. The effectiveness of therapies such as acupuncture and massage in increasing fertility may be in their ability to counteract stress and support the adrenals thus normalizing hormone regulation.
  • A family health history will tell you if there is a history of early menopause or fertility problems then take this into consideration. Find a trusted health professional to discuss any concerns you may have now. In many cases, just because an illness may run in your family doesn’t mean you’ll inevitably get it too, or pass it down to future children. Improving your diet, exercising and reducing stress can all help armor you against a predisposition to serious disease.
  • If you have existing health problems then do all of the above plus get professional advice.

If you are planning to undergo IVF (fertility) treatment, then you may need additional support. Most clinics advise on having acupuncture treatments to alleviate stress, but also regulate your hormones. Acupuncture is well known to greatly boost your chances of IVF success.

Do you have questions or want further information on how we can help you have a healthy and successful pregnancy ?  Contact us.

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IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a modern miracle, responsible for 3% of babies born in the UK. However undergoing IVF treatment can be extremely stressful. For the women it is often a lonely road speckled with feelings of failure, guilt and desperation. This is made worse when seeing friends, family and colleagues enjoy the pleasures of having children.

The media are good at writing IVF success stories, but they fail to report those that have failed. Most people are unaware that two thirds of all IVF cycles fail. That even with seemingly perfect laboratory embryos something else can still unbalance the equation resulting in disappointment. Added to this is the financial burden, particularly when couples reach out to private clinics. Many will no doubt readily share their experience of huge roller coaster of emotional pain and anguish. Reasons for cycle failure are multiple, ranging from genetic, chromosomal, implantation problems, other gynaecological problems, general health, nutrition, age, stress and other nameless factors. For this reason it would make sense to maximise the success rate, but how would you do this?

Preparation is the key to success! It takes 3-4 mths for an egg to mature so the earlier you start the better. The more positive steps you take the greater benefit you will gain. Focus on preparing your body and mind for the journey ahead – “Creation of a baby”. Make improvements to your nutrition early. A good nutritious diet supported by vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids will ensure that good quality eggs are produced. A nutritionist will be able to recommend the best supplements for your need.

Many IVF clinics recommend using acupuncture as an adjunct to maximise treatment success. Fertility enhancements provided by acupuncture apply to both natural conception and IVF patients. A study by Homerton University Hospital London, involved 160 couples experiencing fertility problems. Half were assigned to have four sessions of acupuncture during their IVF cycle. Of those who received acupuncture 46.2% successfully achieved pregnancy. Amongst those who did not pregnancy rate was 27.7%.

Acupuncture is a well know regulator of hormones and works by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which is central to the fertility process. Scientific data shows pregnancy rates can benefit by;

  • Regulating hormonal secretions and balance thus improving menstrual and ovulation regularity and normalising ovulation pattern.
  • Normalizes basal body temperature patterns
  • Improving the quality of eggs and sperm
  • Increases embryo survival and implantation
  • Improves blood flow to the uterus.
  • Enhance sense of well-being and relaxation, which reduces production of harmful stress chemicals.
  • Moderate immune function, which can cause implantation failure.

From my experience many women have emotional blockages which need to be cleared. The treatment is focused on supporting the yin and increasing blood circulation to the uterus and ovaries, whilst at the same time supporting the kidney energy to improve hormonal regulation. Acupuncture has long been used to improve fertility and help couples conceive, both naturally and supporting IVF. The more you do to help your mind and body, the better the chances of success.

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Diabetes is  life-long health condition where the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is not able to use it properly. Left untreated, the high blood glucose levels affect many different organs and tissue consequently resulting in serious health complications. Blood glucose levels are regulated by a hormone known as insulin, which is produced by the pancreas in the body. Glucose comes from food that is digested and also produced by the liver. Insulin allows glucose to enter the body’s cells where it is used as fuel for the cell functions.  In diabetes the body is not able to utilize glucose properly and so it builds up in the blood. 

There are two main types of diabetes;

Type 1 diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes in childhood accounting for around 10% of all diabetes. It usually develops at any time before the age of 40yrs, but most often in childhood. In this type the pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Treatment is regular insulin therapy.

Type 2 diabetes, is usually found in people over the age of 40 yrs, but can develop earlier. It accounts for around 85-95% of diabetics. This type is characterised by insufficient insulin production, OR the body cells may react to it poorly. In the early stages the condition can be well managed by changes to life style and diet.

There is no cure for diabetes hence developing methods that help the body to regulate blood sugar levels efficiently is the most effective strategy. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise are crucial lifestyle factors that can help to achieve this, but introducing additional supportive dietary changes can further assist in blood sugar control.

Diabetes &  Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar (ACV)  is derived from cider or freshly pressed apple juice. ACV is produced after a slow process spanning several weeks or months in which sugars are broken down. There is some evidence suggesting that consuming apple cider vinegar may be useful in helping people with diabetes to control their blood sugar levels. One study  on rats with or without diabetes demonstrated that ACV had a lowering effect on blood sugar levels, but also a positive impact on cholesterol.

Researchers also looked at how carbohydrates affected blood sugar levels in 3 groups of participants who had type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or neither condition. Typically, high carbohydrate foods will cause a spike in blood sugar levels immediately after eating. They gave all 3 groups less than half an ounce of ACV after a carbohydrate rich meal and compared it to consumption of a placebo drink. Results showed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels after taking ACV.  Another study  compared ACV and water in patients with type 2 diabetes. They found that drinking 2 tablespoons of  ACV along with a cheese snack before bedtime was sufficient lower blood sugar levels significantly the following morning.

It is thought that acetic acid found in ACV may play a role in slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into sugar in the bloodstream. Thus providing more time for sugar to be removed from the bloodstream and allowing more constant blood sugar levels and limit spikes.

Diabetes & Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a well know spice made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees. For thousands of years it has been highly prized for its medicinal properties. Scientific research has confirmed  its many health benefits. It has shown a potential role in the treatment of blood sugar control, as well as some associated symptoms. Research on blood sugar control is mixed and in the early stages and most studies have been very small, therefore more research is needed.

A 2003 study compared the effects of a daily intake of 1, 3, and 6 grams (g) of cinnamon with a group that received a placebo for 40 days. All three levels reduced blood sugar levels and cholesterol, which were observed even after 20 days after stopping cinnamon intake.

In a  2016 study of 25 people gave particiapnts 1 g of cinnamon for 12 weeks. They found that there was a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels, which may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled diabetes. However an earlier study in 2013 had a different result. The study, which used a more reliable method, and 70 participants found that 1 g of cinnamon per day for 30 days and 60 days offered no improvements in blood sugar levels.

A 2016 analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 11 studies of cinnamon in the treatment of diabetes. All 11 produced some reductions in fasting blood sugar levels. Studies that measured HbA1C levels also achieved modest reductions, but only four studies achieved reductions in line with the American Diabetes Association’s treatment goals suggesting that cinnamon may be a useful treatment tool, but not a replacement for conventional diabetes treatments.

Summary

Despite the lack of, or mixed reports for people with type 2 diabetes it would be safe to consider consuming diluted ACV, 1-2 tablespoon in a large glass of water before bedtime to provide some benefit to blood sugar levels.

There is no research that suggests cinnamon negatively affects blood sugar, meaning that is safe to use for people who are looking for alternative diabetes treatment options. Cinnamon can be taken as a supplement to conventional diabetes medication should start small, with about 1 g per day (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon).

It is important for people to note that ACV or cinnamon should not be considered a quick fix or complete treatment for diabetes. Eating a diet low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, regular exercise, multivitamins, essential fatty acids  and complementary therapies to reduce stress and maximize body function will additionally help in diabetes control.

Electroacupuncture (EA) may be the answer to improving regulation of blood sugar levels in overweight and obese women. New research published in the FASEB Journal reported that scientists found that a single bout of (EA) activated the sympathetic and partly the parasympatheric nervous system which increased whole-body glucose uptake, an important consideration in the treatment of insulin resistance or prediabetes.

Researchers measured blood sugar levels in 21 women with and without polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) during and after 45min of EA compared to the same number in a control group. PCOS is a common hormonal disorder, but also associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The results showed improvement in both groups of women, suggesting a potential benefit for women with PCOS. In a second experiment they also investigated its effects in rats who received autonomic receptor blockers. They found EA caused muscle contractions which in turn activated the autonomic nervous system (responsible for blood sugar regulation), despite the receptor blockers. Previous studies have found that EA in rats1, 2  enhanced insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels.

EA is believed to be used as far back at the early 1800s, while others attribute it to Japanese scientists trying to improve bone fracture healing in 1940s or  pain control by the Chinese in the 1958.  As with traditional acupuncture in EA needles are inserted in the same way on specific points. Two needles are selected which are then attached to a pair of clips connected to a device that generates continuous electric pulses. The frequency and intensity of the pulses are adjusted according to the condition being treated. In this way several pairs of needles can be simultaneously stimulated for duration up to 30 min. People usually experience a light tingling sensation due to the electrical current.

Advantages of using EA are;

  • The current stimulates a larger area than the needle on its own, thus requiring less precision needling.
  • It can be used without needle insertion, commonly known as TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation).

EA is considered to be particularly useful in conditions where there is stagnation or accumulation of Qi. In Chinese medicine Qi is a life energy that flows throughout the body and essential for good health.  Persistent chronic pain is associated with Qi accumulation and the effectiveness of EA has been reported to be particularly useful. This is supported by research evidence that electrical stimulation of acupuncture points activates the release of endorphins, thus lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

Research on EA in stroke has shown positive effects in cognition and quality of life.  When compared to manual acupuncture, EA is more effective in relieving spasticity in stroke. Other conditions that may benefit include; neurological conditions, fibromyalgia, nausea caused by cancer drugs and post operative pain control.

Treatment with (EA) should be avoided in those with a pacemakers as it may disrupt the electrical impulses. For similar reasons, it should not be used over the heart. Careful assessment should be carried out before treating people with a history of seizures and epilepsy.

 

 

It’s not uncommon for the proponents of conventional and of holistic systems of medicine to feel that they inhabit competing camps in the war to alleviate human suffering. In fact, Western and Eastern medicine are essential branches on the great tree of scientific knowledge.  Many of us are working towards the ideal of a continuum of care that provides the very best treatment to all patients. Western medicine has achieved remarkable triumphs.  Vaccination against many infectious diseases has greatly reduced their incidence; science has eradicated smallpox and come close to doing the same for polio.  It has saved millions of children from the scourges that once prevented so many from reaching their fifth birthday.

The specialties of surgery and emergency medicine save countless lives every day.

After decades of clinical practice I still wonder; Where does Western medicine fall short?  In the promotion of lifelong wellness; in the diagnosis and treatment of complex disorders; in the unnecessary or excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs; in safe, effective, ongoing pain management.

We’re certainly making progress in bringing these two branches of medicine closer, for example;  acupuncture has been proven to offer effective pain relief and increasingly accepted in medical pain clinics, and it doesn’t carry the risks associated with drug-based analgesia. Integration of auricular acupuncture in addiction clinics is another measure of its success. There is worldwide recognition of acupuncture for anxiety and stress particularly in cancer treatment, post traumatic stress disorder amongst veterans, and its potential value as anesthesia during surgical procedures.

I have always found that it is necessary to treat the whole person, and not just deal with an immediate crisis or what presents as their most significant symptom. I wanted to share this story (to ensure anonymity names and certain details have been changed).

Ria’s Story-  “Please… I Just Want the Pain to Stop”.

In the hospital waiting room Ria’s stomach churns and twists once again sending shooting pains throughout her body, followed by a cold sweat.  Over the past six months, she’s seen six different doctors; has endured repeated blood tests and other procedures.  No one has been able to offer her a definitive diagnosis. After each visit, she’s sent home with different prescriptions but no effective treatment for the repeated, alternating bouts of diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes nausea too.  Pain medication doesn’t bring any relief.  Her husband Pete feels equally anxious and frustrated.

Visits to six different doctors, blood tests and investigations all have proven to be unhelpful – there is no definitive diagnosis. Each time she is sent home with new meds, pain medication doesn’t work, one tells her that she is stressed and emotionally disturbed and prescribes her antidepressants another says there is some inflammation in her spleen, but nothing else. Ria is desperate, her symptoms are worsening.

Ria is beginning to doubt herself; wondering if it really is “all in her mind.”  She’s afraid to eat because everything just makes her feel worse, and she’s now two sizes smaller.

After yet another round of tests, Ria’s new consultant is also perplexed by her symptoms.  His examination of her shows nothing significant.  He’s ruled out cancer or other serious disease; all her other results are relatively normal. But fortunately for her, this doctor takes the time to listed to her and has a positive view of complementary therapies; he understands that functional disorders often underlie a patient’s stress and anxiety.  He knows that food intolerance is increasingly common and is often very hard to properly pinpoint. He asks her if she would be willing to accept a referral to a holistic physician.  Ria has always had an interest in complementary therapies and gladly agrees. He also gives her advice on juicing and enrolls her on to a mindfulness course.

As a holistic practitioner, I see Ria’s physical and emotional distress to be strongly interrelated, but requiring individual attention, with this in mind I begin acupuncture treatments. Almost immediately, they help to ease her distressed state and bring some relief for her stomach pain.

Over a period of months I guide Ria to make changes to her diet.  Together we develop a plan to identify problem foods. She learns about carbohydrate intolerance and how the FODMAP diet can help.  Ria finds the mindfulness course very effective in relieving her anxiety.  She began to realize her physical and emotional distress began years before the manifestation of painful bowel dysfunction.

Six months after starting treatment, Ria has made great progress.  She knows it will take time to regain the good health she thought was out of her reach, but she is no longer frightened and discouraged.  She is starting to take pleasure in eating again.  She and her husband are now enjoying what they thought might never be possible again–everyday pleasures.

 

From the seemingly innocent to the definitely ominous, additives are everywhere.  Even if you cook or bake everything you consume from scratch, you’re still adding substances to food that aren’t naturally found in the raw ingredients.  And even if you buy products marked “organic” or “all natural,” they are likely to have added preservatives such as tocopherols (vitamin E) or citric acid–found in fruits such as lemons and oranges, and now produced industrially.

We add subtances to food that aren’t naturally found in the raw ingredients.  And even if you buy products marked “organic” or “all natural,” they are likely to have added preservatives such as tocopherols (vitamin E) or citric acid–found in fruits such as lemons and oranges, and now produced industrially.

Rainbow_of_food_natural_food_colors

Additives serve many purposes:

  • Colours  that enhance appearance
  • Preservatives that help protect against food deterioration caused by bacteria.
  • Antioxidants that slow down or stop the oxidative deterioration of foods–what we call rancidity
  • Artificial sweeteners which are lower in calories than sugar–and cheaper to use.
  • Flavour enhancers that improve the taste and aroma of food.
  • Presentation and texture enhancers e.g. thickeners, gelling agents, emulsifiers, emulsifiers.
  • Nutrient additions that increase the nutrient value of foods

The history of food additives is as old as civilization.  Salt, sugar and vinegar were the first preservatives commonly used by cultures around the world, as well as techniques such as smoking and drying.  Chemicals have been developed to accelerate or mimic these processes, or as cheaper alternatives to traditional methods.

Although the chemical additives commonly used in foods must be demonstrated to be safe for human consumption, there are still many concerns about their use:

Allergic Reactions

  • Sulphite and sulphur dioxide (E220-28) have been known to cause allergic reactions. Specifically, asthma sufferers should avoid sulphur dioxide gas due to increased sensitivity, but there are also recorded cases of worsening of asthma after drinking soft drinks containing it. They are mainly found in dried fruits, dessicated coconut, relishes and fruit-based pie fillings.
  • Food colours like tartrazine (E102)can cause mild allergic reactions and some studies show that sunset yellow (E1 10) can cause tumours.
  • Annatto, a natural food colouring found in margarine, cheese, smoked fish and cakes is implicated in allergic reactions and irritable bowel.

Cancer

  • Aspartame (E951) has been linked to various cancers(1,2,3), although studies by US National Cancer Institute and European Food Safety Authority concluded that it did not increase the risk of cancers.
  • Erythrosine is a red food colour. Research has highlighted concerns about its potentialtumour formation and inhibition of the normal functioning of the thyroid.
  • Allura red has been associated with cancer in mice but evidence is not consistent.
  • Nitrites and nitrates (E249-52) may convert in the stomach to potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Hyperactivity

  • Although a definitive link has not yet been established food colours like sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) and ponceau 4R (E124) have been associated with hyperactivity in some children. These are commonly found in a variety of processed foods, especially in children’s sweets, confectionary, squashes, soft drinks, jams and cakes. Prevalence of hyperactivity is estimated to be about 2.5%.
  • Aspartame has also been linked with changes in behaviour.

Headaches

  • MSG (monosodium glutamate- E621) is a flavour enhancer can cause headaches in some people. Although in a recent review there was no conclusive direct evidence.
  • Aspartame is also linked with causing headaches.

Other

  • Gums (E412, E414) are used to thicken food and improve texture. Theycan give rise to flatulence and abdominal pain.

The Bottom Line

Additives are overused in the processed foods industry, so try to avoid them as much as possible.

  • Always read food labels to be fully aware of what you are buying.
  • Keep processed foods to a minimum, including sweeteners, sweets, lollies, soft drinks and cakes.
  • Be careful of foods that are presented as low-fat, sugar-free as they are likely to be additive-rich and nutrient-poor.
  • Every individual reacts differently to food and additives. It’s possible to be allergic to anything–even the most “natural” subtance.  If you suspect a sensitivity to anything you eat, try a process of elimination to discover the source of the problem, or consult a practitioner trained in nutrition.
  • If your child shows signs of hyperactivity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) then eliminating some colours from their diet may prove beneficial.

If you have concerns about your own diet or that of a family member, and how it may be affecting health, consider scheduling a consultation with us.

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A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of healing therapy in a gastroenterology outpatient setting

R.T. Lee, T. Kingstone, L. Roberts, S. Edwards, A. Soundy, P.R. Shah, M.S. Haque, S. Singh

Link to Full Article

Abstract     

Introduction

To determine the benefits of healing therapy (spiritual healing) as an adjunct to conventional management in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Methods

200 outpatients with IBS or IBD were randomised to either conventional treatment (control) or conventional plus five sessions of healing therapy (intervention). After 12 weeks controls also had healing therapy. Outcomes used were, the Measure Yourself Medical Outcomes Profile (MYMOP). IBS-QOL, IBDQ, and symptom measures.

Results

There was a significant improvement in the MYMOP score at week 6 (p < 0.001) which was maintained to week 12 (p < 0.001) and 24 (p < 0.001). Improvements in MYMOP were significantly greater in the intervention group at both 6 (p < 0.001) and 12 weeks (p < 0.001) with effect sizes of 0.7 (95% CI: 0.4–1.1) and 0.8 (95% CI: 0.4–1.2). Condition-specific data for IBS showed that most QoL dimensions had a significant minimum 10-point score improvement at 6 and 12 weeks. The overall score improvement was 12.9 units at week 6 (p < 0.001), 12.4 units at week 12 (p < 0.001) and 13.8 units at week 24 (p < 0.001). In IBD there was also similar score improvement, but only up to week 12 were there associations of improved social and bowel functions (p < 0.001, respectively). Between group differences were identified for QoL scores in IBS at both week 6 (p < 0.001) and 12 (p < 0.001) but only for week 12 (p < 0.001) in the IBD group.

Conclusions

The addition of healing therapy to conventional treatment was associated with improvement in symptoms and QoL in IBS, and to a lesser extent in IBD.

 

Artificial sweeteners are non-nutritive, manufactured chemicals with few or no calories. In the UK permitted sweeteners include; aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium (known as acesulfame K), cyclamate and sucralose. We are addicted to the taste of sweetness and the widespread use of sweetener substitutes in food and drink has made our sweet tooth even worse.

Artificial sweetener

Unsurprisingly, sweeteners have been found to be responsible for weight gain rather than weight loss. This is applicable even if Aspartame is taken at levels recommended by the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Research carried out in young hamsters found that those on Aspartame tended to eat more and there was also evidence of damage to brain and liver cells. Other studies carried out in rats have also shown that compared to sugar, sweeteners saccharin and aspartame cause weight gain which is unrelated to caloric intake.

Researchers  have speculated the cause of weight gain to be either reduced energy expenditure or an increase in fluid retention. Breakdown of aspartame produces phenylalanine which is a known inhibitor of a gut enzyme IAP (intestinal alkaline phosphatase). IAP in mice has been shown to prevent metabolic syndrome, a group of symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  In another study aspartame was linked to reduced insulin sensitivity therefore affecting blood sugar regulation.

The act of eating requires a feeling of satiety and satisfaction. A pilot review suggests that sweeteners only offer partial activation of the food reward pathways in the brain. This may also be responsible for the consequent increase in appetite as an attempt to complete the satiety cycle. Such impaired activation has been observed in obese adolescent girls after drinking milkshake.

Intake of artificial sweeteners has a huge contributory effect of our weight gain and obesity problem.  Although not immediately apparent, over the longer term it significantly increases the risk of health problems. Convinced that they are doing the right thing many people choose a diet option. Their aim is to try to lose or maintain their weight but ironically it is causing just the opposite.

The dangers of sweeteners need to be acknowledged by the public health sector and the food industry. Introducing manufactured substances into our body in the form of artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives and in many other commercial products has a major influence on our body’s chemistry, creating a chemical disaster equivalent to a tsunami. The human body is not made to digest artificial foods that may look and taste similar and nutritionally they can never replace fresh natural foods.

 

 

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