Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Fighting food cravings

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

I often hear people say that food cravings are an indication that your body needs nutrients that are in the food you are craving. For the vast majority of people, this is a complete fallacy. Through years of junk food abuse, our bodies have become addicted to foods that make us feel terrible. This is no different from cravings for cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs. We can become addicted to meat, sugar, wheat, dairy, salt, etc.

I’m a “food-motivated” individual, so I sympathize with people suffering from uncontrollable food cravings. I haven’t completely eliminated mine, but I’m getting pretty close, so I thought I’d share a few strategies that I have used to combat them. I’ll admit up front that I have no way of knowing whether these strategies were actually effective or if it was just a coincidence.

  • Probiotics: Our digestive tracts should be teaming with healthy bacteria that helps us digest food and produce nutrients. Due to overuse of antibiotics (in people and in food animals) many of us no longer have nearly enough healthy bacteria. Making things worse, a lack of healthy bacteria allows unhealthy bacteria to colonize. The theory goes that these unhealthy bacteria actually crave the sugar and processed carbohydrates so that they can continue to thrive. Get rid of the bad bacteria and replace it with good bacteria, and the cravings subside. I took these high quality probiotics every day for about 3 months. I can’t prove it was the probiotics, but unhealthy comfort foods stopped appealing to me during that time, and my diet became much cleaner with no real mental effort on my part.
  • Colonic irrigation: Ew gross, I know. Believe me, I don’t really want to talk about it. But these do wonders. I was having near constant pasta cravings for months and ever since I got a colonic in January, that craving has not returned. They are supposed to be great for a whole host of other health issues too, and several of the health gurus swear by them.
  • Endive: According to Victoria Boutenko’s book, Green for Life, a leafy green known as endive contains the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine, which help fight food cravings. I have no personal experience with this, but I thought I’d mention it.
  • Time: It may be a cliche, but the passage of time really helps. When I gave up meat, I craved bacon for at least 3 years. Eventually it did pass. A couple of times I ate non-vegan foods by accident and they actually tasted quite foul because my tastes adjusted naturally along with my diet.

The easing of the food cravings hasn’t been all good though. My biggest problem these days is that I still get strong urges to indulge in “forbidden foods” but none of the old comfort foods look good to me anymore and they never taste nearly as good as I remember them. My body seems to thrive on fresh whole foods. My mind has a lot of catching up to do. This can make for some very frustrating trips to the grocery store.

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Study: Anti-depressants don’t work

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Anti-depressants don't workThere is a horrifying trend in the U.S. to put everyone on pharmaceuticals for mood disorders, rather than trying to find and correct the underlying cause. The medical industry wants us to buy into this idea that we are helpless victims of circumstance, rather than in control of our physical and mental health. They dismiss diet, exercise, and environmental factors as possible minor contributors, but even that seems to be too “inconclusive” for them.

As far as I can tell, they will slap a “disorder” label on perfectly normal people, just so they can cure them with pills. I remember a commercial from a few years ago for an anti-depressant that directed people to ask their doctor about some pill if they have felt depressed for longer than 2 weeks. Anyone who has ever been dumped, worked at a job they hated, or suffered a loss in the family has surely felt depressed for at least that long. I have, and I didn’t take any pills, but somehow I turned out just fine.

Aside from the big question of whether we really need all of these pills, there may be a bigger question of whether these pills even work at all. Leave it to the U.K. to tell us what many have suspected all along: Antidepressants don’t work. For most people, that is. This is a very interesting article that offers an alternative view to our current pharmaceutical culture.

Sadly, in their list of treatments that do work (at the bottom of the page) they make no mention of diet. I can tell you first hand, as can many others, that what we eat and drink does affect mood. Because the effect is often not immediate, many people may not see the connection.

  • Alcohol: Without exception, when I drink alcohol, I will feel depressed 1-2 days later. Old, familiar, self-hating comments will repeat in my head.
  • Sugar and processed carbs: After the sugar high wears off, I will barely feel like making an effort to do anything. I may also start feeling like there was no reason to get up in the morning since I’m wasting my life away anyway.
  • Gluten and wheat: Similar effect to sugar and processed carbs only more severe and with the added physical symptoms of lethargy, headache, achy muscles, and sore throat to make me feel like doing anything is too much trouble.

On the flip side, many people who have adopted a raw food diet, or given up dairy or meat, have reported feeling happy and unburdened. Some have given up their medications just from changing the way they eat. I do not know why diet is so often overlooked or considered only a minor player in our mental health. As individuals, we need to take it upon ourselves to find a diet and lifestyle that works best for us. Doctors aren’t going to offer much useful guidance.

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Free robot massages from MIGUN

Friday, February 8th, 2008

MIGUN massage bedI love a good massage. Ever since I got into the high tech industry, I’ve had a couple of knots in my back that ache and throb after working all day. For a while I had health insurance that covered weekly massages and my company had an amazing massage therapist who visited the office regularly. She was so good that I would be dizzy after every session. My back wouldn’t ache at all for days.

The MIGUN massage bed is not as good as that massage therapist. But it is better than every other massage therapist I have ever gone to. And I’ve been to some good ones.

All across the country, MIGUN stores are popping up, offering use of their beds absolutely free. All you have to do is sit through a 30-minute orientation, one time, and you can come back every day, forever, for free. In this orientation, they will tell you all about how the bed uses far infrared light, heated jade stones, acupressure, and simulated accupuncture, to cure a multitude of ailments. Even the FDA has approved their statements that the bed can relieve a host of conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, sciatica, and back pain.

I’ve gone every day they are open (6 days a week in Asheville) for the past 3 weeks. I’ll be honest; the bed hasn’t fixed my back. In fact, my back aches right now as I’m typing this. I’m willing to give it a chance to work though. Afterall, it has taken me over 10 years of software development to build up these tense back muscles. And if nothing else, it really is one hell of a massage, especially for the price.

Robots are going to put us all out of work one day.

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Monday, February 4th, 2008

foodscout logoIf you’ve spent any time reading my blog, you probably noticed that I’m a bit of a health fanatic. I love learning about new ways of healthy living and healthy eating. It’s been something of a hobby for me for the past few years.

About a year ago, I was reading a health food book and started feeling overwhelmed by all the information I was taking in. It was all fascinating. I was learning so much that I wanted to apply to my diet. But how would I possibly remember it all for long enough to benefit from it?

And so, was born.

I started to create a database for all the foods I was reading about along with their nutritional value and the health benefits they provide. It was becoming so handy that friends would often ask me for advice and information from my food database.

It finally occurred to me to put this information out on the internet and share it with the world. I hope it helps you on your path to better health!

Check it out at

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Guard against repetitive strain injury

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

AntiRSI icon - repetitive strain injuryRepetitive strain injury, and other computer-related physical stress, is a growing problem in today’s high-tech world. Many of us spend long, uninterrupted hours sitting and staring at computers. For some, the strain continues after work as well, as more and more people become addicted to surfing the web and checking email. This can result in back and shoulder pain, wrist pain, headaches, eye strain, and a general waste of time and energy.

AntiRSI is a great little program that forces computer users to take regular breaks. It’s been around for well over 2 years, but for internet addicts like me, it’s ground-breaking news. Since I started using it a week ago, it has transformed the way I use my computer.

Every 50 minutes, the program begins an 8 minute break. A 13 second “micro pause” comes a few times per hour. This reminds me to get up, stretch, rest my eyes (which can dry out from extended computer use), and take a mental break. An unexpected consequence has been that I am now more aware of the passage of time while I am online. Knowing that a break is coming motivates me to efficiently finish up my current tasks, rather than check email or aimlessly surf the web.

Just like anything else, the program will only work if you are willing to work with it. You can continuously “postpone” your 8 minute break indefinitely, and nothing will stop you from shutting down AntiRSI entirely. For those of you who genuinely want to guard against computer-related stress, or who just want to be more aware of the time you spend online, AntiRSI is a great tool.

AntiRSI is designed to work with Macs only. For windows users, try WorkRave.

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Travel food for the vegan health nut

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Healthy vegan raw travel food

I’m leaving for New Hampshire tomorrow, as part of Operation Live Free or Die, to help win the first presidential primary for Ron Paul. Staying healthy while traveling for 9 days is a challenge under any circumstances. A vegan health nut staying healthy in the midst of republicans and libertarians is near impossible. I’ve only ever done this successfully for a couple of days, but I’m convinced it can be done longer term with a little preparation.

I will need to bring snacks and supplements that require no preparation, pack up small, and can make it through airport security. Here is what I have come up with for my trip.

Raw energy bars: I made these myself and dumped in whatever I had around that looked nourishing. They contain sprouted buckwheat, sprouted quinoa, apple, pear, ground flax seeds, barley grass powder, and a hint of vanilla. I also made a second batch with shredded coconut, cacao (raw chocolate) powder, and maca powder, for some extra energy in the morning. These taste absolutely horrible, by the way, but I can eat just about anything if I know it’s good for me.

Manna bread: This sprouted grain bread is very nutritious and very dense. I can break off a chunk for a satisfying snack.

Greens+ Chocolate Energy Bars: I am very addicted to these and have never been able to stop myself from eating them when I buy more than one. I bought 9 for my trip and will attempt to limit myself to 1 bar per day. It will be an interesting experiment. I know it’s really just another candy bar, but it’s very healthy as candy bars go: no sugar, no gluten, high fiber, high protein, and alkaline.

Also included in my travel stash are some supplements: Probiotics, MSM, B12 tablets, and noni pills, to keep my immune system working at full capacity. I’m also bringing along some digestive enzymes for those times when I have to eat some less than ideal food.

Some extra good news is that I will be staying with another vegan Ron Paul supporter, which is amazing luck, and there will be plenty of good produce and snacks in town. But I won’t be able to eat the same healthy meals I normally make at home, like my daily green smoothies, and I’m sure to be stuck without many food options at some point during my trip. I am hopeful that this nutrient-packed foods will keep me healthy and energized on the Ron Paul 2008 campaign trail.

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Healthy vegan protein sources

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

In the 13 years that I’ve followed a vegan diet, the question most commonly asked of me has been, “where do you get your protein?” Meat-eaters, vegans, and aspiring raw foodists alike, all seem to ask that question. There is a lot of disagreement and controversy surrounding what kinds of proteins are best and how much protein individuals require. For an interesting discussion on protein and the benefits of eating essential amino acids from plant sources versus whole proteins from animal sources, I highly recommend the book Green for Life, by Victoria Boutenko. This is a list of protein sources that have worked well for me. I usually include 2 or 3 of these foods in my diet every day.

  • Green smoothies: Not only are leafy greens very high in all the essential amino acids that form complete proteins, but they are also excellent sources of other nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, K, calcium, and fiber. They are also very cleansing to the body. It helps to have a high power blender like a Vita-Mix or K-Tec, but even a regular cheap blender will do the job if you chop the greens and fruit well before blending.
  • Cooked whole grains: Quinoa and amaranth are great protein sources and are alkaline-forming grains. Acidic diets promote disease, while alkaline diets promote health. Just 1 cup (after cooking) of quinoa has 8 grams of protein. Amaranth is even higher. I enjoy amaranth for breakfast, cooked with banana slices. Wild rice is also a good source of protein, but not quite as good as quinoa.
  • Sprouted grains: I haven’t quite gotten into a regular habit of sprouting grains, but I have tried some sprouted grain breads such as Manna Bread, which makes for a tasty, filling, nutrient-dense treat that is high in protein and fiber. Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain products, including breads and pastas, can be found in most natural food stores. I often make porridge out of soaked oat groats, which have 6 grams of protein per 1/4 cup (before soaking).
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds provide significant amounts of protein, but since they are also high in fat, they can weigh you down if you rely on them for protein. Pumpkin seeds are a better choice because they are also high in iron, copper, magnesium, and some other minerals. About 1/5 cup has more protein than a serving of wild rice. Almonds are a good protein source as well.

Before becoming more health conscious, most of my protein came from processed fake meats and soy products. Beans are another common vegan protein source, but most are difficult to digest and contain a lot of toxins. It’s not hard to find adequate vegan protein sources, but if you’re trying to improve your health, steer away from the processed foods and beans and give some of these ideas a try.

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4 Daily indicators of internal health

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

We don’t have to wait until we feel lousy or until an obvious health crisis hits to determine if we are on a path to better health. While traditional doctors can only offer us expensive tests that only tell us if we are about to enter into a health crisis, our bodies offer us free daily indicators of internal health and cleanliness. Keeping an eye on these external indicators each day can help us to become familiar with how our bodies respond to different foods and diets.

  • Skin – When we are clean and healthy on the inside, it shows on the outside. When we fill our bodies with toxins, through the foods we eat or the air we breathe, and if we don’t eat enough fiber to expel them through normal excretion, our bodies may try to push them out through our skin. Common food culprits of bad skin are cooked fats including meat, dairy products, sugar, excessive healthy fats, and processed foods. Other factors include dehydration, insufficient fiber, smoking, and commercial skin products.
  • Tongue coating – Is your tongue coated with white goo, particularly when you wake up in the morning? Not only does this cause bad breath, but it also indicates that your body is processing a lot of mucus and toxins, mostly during sleep when your body is fasting and detoxing. Brush your tongue thoroughly each morning and night so that you can have a clear indication of how much is being expelled, and to keep your breath fresh in the meantime. Avoid mucus-forming foods, such as gluten, dairy, cooked fats, sugar, and processed foods.
  • Body odor – Much like skin conditions, body odor is most often the result of a toxic body. It is the job of our sweat glands to help expel waste. If that waste is excessive or if our bodies are overridden with unhealthy bacteria rather than healthy bacteria, our sweat will lead to body odor. Meat, dairy, and cooked fats are common causes of body odor. A zinc deficiency can also cause body odor. Do not use antiperspirants to treat odors, as they prevent the body from expelling waste altogether, thereby making the underlying toxicity even worse. Antiperspirants are different from deodorants in that they intentionally clog the sweat glands.
  • Poop – Our poop isn’t just a waste product. It is a view into our internal health. Poop should be a uniform consistency, light brown in color, and a solid banana shape. If you can see pieces of undigested food, or if your poop turns colors with the food you eat, that can indicate insufficient hydrochloric acid in your stomach or an otherwise weakened digestive system. Fiber is vitally important for a healthy colon and digestive tract. Healthy bacteria, which can be taken directly as probiotics, keeps the colon clean and efficient, allowing nutrients to be absorbed and waste to be expelled. You should have a bowel movement at least once per day, and as many as 3 times per day. Many people can benefit from colon hydrotherapy after years of eating toxic, mucus-forming foods.

If you are trying a new, healthier diet, and you feel good on it, don’t be immediately discouraged if you see some signs of poor health. It may be that your body is going through a detox period. To help alleviate these symptoms, try increasing fiber intake, or slowing down the transition to your new diet. But do keep an eye on these outward signs on a daily basis, to ensure that you are on the right path. All bodies will respond differently to different diets, so it’s important to get to know your own body and to be able to adjust according to what it is telling you.

If you are worried about your internal health make sure to look into some internal medicine. There are all sorts of health factors to keep track of and it can be overwhelming to learn about different medical research. So the next time you feel swamped try using simple medical advice from a source you trust.

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Coconut oil: Is there anything it can’t do?

Thursday, November 15th, 2007
Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, also known as coconut butter, has been used for centuries, by various cultures, as a health and beauty product, both cosmetically as well as in food. These benefits are no doubt a result of its proven antibiotic and antiviral properties as well as its resistance to heat and light, which make it superior to other oils. Over the past several months, I’ve tested just a few of its proclaimed uses personally, all with remarkable success.

  • Moisturizer: I was having problems with dry, red patches on my face. Commercial moisturizers seemed only to offer temporary relief while the problem became worse and worse. A small amount of coconut oil rubbed into the skin, offered immediate relief and after using it exclusively for several days, the dry patches disappeared entirely. Coconut oil nourishes the skin from the outside in the same way nutritious food nourishes the skin from the inside, and doesn’t put any toxic substances into the skin like moisturizers do. It has even started to heal my dry, cracked feet after 2 weeks of daily use.
  • Deodorant: This is embarrassing, but the truth is, I’ve had a bit of a body odor problem. Deodorants never helped much, and some of them even made it much worse. I tried many brands, as well as crystal rock salt, tea tree oil, and rubbing alcohol, without lasting success. Coconut oil fights bacteria that causes body odor and doesn’t contribute to the toxins that can make odors worse. It smells great going on and it works all day long.
  • Cooking oil: Most oils are light and heat sensitive, meaning that they easily turn rancid if not kept in a cool, dark place. Many actually become carcinogenic when cooked at high temperatures. Coconut oil is highly stable and is much more resistant to heat than other oils, even olive oil. The coconut flavor doesn’t overwhelm the food as you might expect. Raw oil is always best, but if you are moving toward a healthier lifestyle and enjoy cooking, coconut oil is a great choice.
  • Virus buster: Coconut oil is a proven virus fighter. On two separate occasions, when I was starting to feel ill with a flu or cold, I had cravings to eat coconut oil. It tasted so good, I ate it by the spoonful, like it was ice cream. I felt better by the next day and tried to eat some more, only to find that it tasted gross to eat it straight, in large quantities. Only when I’m sick is coconut oil edible that way. My body must be telling me something.

If you’ve got a problem that commercial products can’t seem to fix, give coconut oil a try. Coconut oil is a great example of how less is more. Rather than loading up on complex formulas for health and beauty, see if nature doesn’t have a simple answer. Organic, cold-pressed coconut oil, or coconut butter, can be purchased in the refrigerated section of most health food stores for around $10 and it will last for months.

Visit the Coconut Oil page on for tons of great info on the healing and nutritional benefits of this amazing oil.

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Weight loss and maintenance through small mental shifts

Friday, November 9th, 2007

Most of us didn’t have to think much about our weight when we were young. No matter what we ate, we looked and felt great. At a certain point, the pounds suddenly started to accumulate – sometimes gradually enough that we didn’t at first notice, other times it was much more obvious. This change may have been a simple result of a slowing metabolism or a consequence of another lifestyle change, such as having a baby, taking birth control, or a career change that no longer leaves room for exercise. We tend to face these body shifts multiple times throughout our lives, and it may seem harder and harder to keep the weight off.

I have personally faced these metabolism slow-downs three times so far, at ages 26, 29, and 31. My favorite pair of jeans alerted me to the changes right away, and I’ve managed to bring my weight back down and maintain it each time. Limiting what I eat or making drastic diet changes never worked, and usually had the opposite effect because everything seemed like a forbidden temptation that I could not resist. A totally new eating paradigm is simply not realistic for most of us because our hectic lives don’t allow the necessary time to entirely relearn how to shop and eat.

What has been remarkably successful for me is making small mental shifts about eating. Sometimes new knowledge about a particular type of food is great inspiration to make a small but meaningful change in eating habits that can make a dramatic improvement in health and fitness. To offer some ideas, I will list out a few of these mental shifts that have worked well for me.

  • Avoiding partially hydrogenated oils – Once described by a health professor as “like eating cancer,” partially hydrogenated oils are found in the worst kinds of processed foods. A similar alternative might be to avoid ingredients that you don’t recognize as food.
  • Green smoothies – Adding a green smoothie to my morning routine, not only gave me abundant vitamins, minerals, and amino acids from fresh greens and fruits, but also left less room for less healthy breakfast choices, like frozen waffles and processed cereals.
  • Going gluten-free – You may be allergic and not even realize it. Regardless, avoiding gluten will still allow for plenty of healthy and tasty alternative treats while eliminating the cheap, wheat-based junk foods.
  • Kicking the sugar habit – Sugar, particularly refined sugar, is one of the most damaging, and addictive food substances around. A bad sugar habit will cause not only weight-gain, but also mood swings, tooth and gum disease, a weak immune system, and severe PMS symptoms, just to name a few. There are plenty of treats that use maple syrup, fruit juice, or other sweeteners.
  • No more processed foods – This basically boils down to avoiding anything in a can or a box. Your refrigerator will look like the produce aisle of a natural food store, and you will find you are producing almost no trash anymore.
  • Only raw desserts – For those of you still struggling to find a 100% raw food diet that suits you, you may consider at least committing to only eating raw desserts. With an ever increasing selection of gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free sweets out there, it’s getting easier to gain weight and feel unhealthy even on a relatively disciplined diet.

Realistically assess your current eating habits and what kinds of diet changes you can stick to. What works well for me may not work at all for you. Think in baby steps. Give up just one thing but give it up 100%, without exception. Do some research first. Doing a Google search about the health consequences of partially hydrogenated oils or refined sugar will further discourage you from eating those foods. Bookmark helpful sites and reread them when you feel tempted to cheat on your diet commitment. In the beginning, have some healthy treats on hand that you turn to so that you don’t fall back on your old habits. Do everything you can to stick to your plan for the first 30 days. It will get much easier after you’ve had that time to adjust.

If you fail in your first attempt, there is no shame in that. It just wasn’t the right plan for you. Find an even smaller change that you can succeed at. Life is too short to feel bad physically or emotionally, so make a positive change right now.

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