low-back-painNearly  80% of Americans will have back pain in their lifetime. Americans spend at least $50 billion a year on back pain. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Various back disorders include sprains, strains, herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and degeneration of disc.

The spine consists of 30 vertebrae and is the body’s main support structure. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord running through the central opening of the vertebrae called the vertebral canal and the nerve roots which extend from the sides of the vertebrae to various areas of the body. Muscles and ligaments that move and stabilize the vertebrae attach to the spinous process located at the backside of each vertebrae and to the transverse process located on the side of each vertebrae. Discs are flexible cushions located between each vertebra and hold the vertebrae together. They allow the vertebrae to bend and twist and minimize stress on the spinal column.

The risk of lower back pain increases if a person:

➣ Is overweight

➣ Does not exercise

➣ Feels stressed or depressed

➣ Is pregnant

➣ Smokes

➣ Works at a job requiring lifting, bending, twisting, or involves vibration such as a truck driver

➣ Has a job requiring sitting all day

Acute pain generally gets better on its own without treatment. Aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen may be taken to relive pain. Chronic pain is often treated with muscle relaxants to reduce swelling and pain killers to relieve pain. An epidural injection may be given if other methods of alleviating pain are not effective. These treatments can relief back pain, but they don’t address the root cause of the problem. Surgery is not always successful, but may be considered if there is damage to the vertebrae, nerve damage, or if pain does not improve with other treatments. Starting by taking the least aggressive form of treatment is the safest way to treat back ailments.

Alternative treatments that are less invasive include chiropractic, massage therapy, hot and cold packs, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga.

Prevention is the best medicine. Practice these safeguards to avoid back injury or back pain:

➣ Wear comfortable low heeled shoes.

➣ Bend your knees and use your legs when lifting weight, keeping the back straight.

➣ Maintain an optimal weight. Excess weight pulls the pelvis forward, causing strain to back muscles.

➣ Quit smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the back, reducing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the back and increases the rate of disc degeneration.

➣ Drink plenty of water to keep discs well hydrated. Spinal discs are composed of 80% water.

➣ Sit in chairs with good lumbar support. Switch positions periodically if sitting for a long time.

➣ Stretch before exercise or other strenuous activity. Exercising regularly reduces pain and stiffness and strengthens and strengthens muscles and bones.

➣ Reduce stress. Stress causes the muscles to be tight and can cause back pain.

➣ Maintain good posture. It will put less strain on muscles and ligaments.

There are may reasons people experience back pain. Including alternative methods of treating the condition will offer relief and and can prevent the need for surgery in the future.







I encourage you to look at the checklist below and make note if you have any of the follow conditions:


1.  High Triglycerides – 150 mg/dL or more.

2.  Low HDL Cholesterol – below 40 mg/dL for men and below 50 mg/dL for women.

3.  Abdominal Obesity – a waist circumference of 40” or more for men and
35” or more for women.

4.  High Blood Pressure – 130/85 or higher (or if you are taking high blood pressure

5.  Elevated Fasting Blood Sugar – 100 mg/dL or more.

If you checked off three or more of these conditions, you have what is called “metabolic syndrome.” Those with metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases including plaque buildup in the arteries, stroke, and heart attack.

The association of metabolic syndrome and increased risked of cardiovascular disease is confirmed with research from the Pritikin Center for Longevity reporting that one out of four adults, or 64 million Americans, have metabolic syndrome, and the Centers for Disease Control stating one out of four deaths in the United States is caused by coronary disease.

Most often, metabolic syndrome is a result of being overweight, physically inactive, eating a large proportion of calories from simple carbohydrates, and is a result of our lifestyle choices.

This is the good news – we can reduce our risk of cardiovascular diseases by making some better lifestyle choices. It may be difficult to make all the lifestyle changes as once, so tackle one at a time if that works better for you.

Lower triglycerides by limiting alcohol consumption, avoid white flour products, limit sugar to 4 teaspoons a day or less, limit fruits to 2-3 servings a day, and begin walking – even beginning at 10 minutes a day helps.

Raise HDL cholesterol by exercising, lose extra weight, and stop smoking.

Replace high caloric foods with fruits and vegetables to reduce waist circumference. Include strength training in your exercise regime.

Reduce blood pressure by eliminating salt. Remember salt comes not only from the salt shaker, but from processed foods also. Increase potassium in your diet which can be found in Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, celery, crimini mushrooms, and celery.

Reduce blood sugar levels by replacing simple carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar) with complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grain pasta, oats, millet, beans). Fiber found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans will prevent unwanted spikes in blood sugars. Eliminate processed foods and beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

By following these recommendations, you will feel better and the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, as well as the risk of having cardiovascular diseases, will be greatly reduced.
erages that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners.

By following these recommendations, you will feel better and the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome, as well as the risk of having cardiovascular diseases, will be greatly reduced.

sprouted-nuts-seedsBooster foods are foods containing a high amount of phytonutrients which are needed to protect us from environmental toxins (car fumes, cigarette smoke, water, household cleaners), heavy metal contamination (mercury, lead, aluminum, iron. cadmium) and free radicals which damage our body’s cells.

Below are some of the less known booster foods. Below are some of the lesser known booster foods. Our defenses can be optimized by including the following booster foods in our diet:

Seaweed Vegetables: Algae, kombu/kelp, dulse, arame, wakame contain magnesium, B vitamins, protein, potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, and trace minerals including iron, manganese, and iodine. Seaweed vegetables are a chelator (binder) and help the body remove heavy toxic metals. Iodine supports the thyroid. Add while cooking whole grains and soups. Spices – Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, curry, mustard powder, nutmeg. Spices have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, antioxidant, anti-fungal properties. Replace salt with spices to reduce sodium in diet and add a new dimension of flavor to foods.

Nutritional Yeast – A good source of B-complex vitamins, selenium, folic acid, zinc, and chromium. Nutritional yeast is important for red cell production, maintaining the meylin sheath that protects nerve cells, regulates blood sugar, reduces cardiovascular disease, and supports the immune system (Mateljan, 2007).1 Add to soups, casseroles, dips, popcorn, vegetables, and rice to add the cheesy flavor of nutritional yeast.

Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds are a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin A, potassium, zinc, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. Walnuts, almonds, ground flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds. Omega-3’s support the prostrate, help with brain function, and reduce inflammation. Vitamin E helps keep our arteries healthy. Lignans can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol. Calcium and magnesium improve bone health. Add them to salads, vegetables, hot breakfast cereal, or have a snack.

The recommended serving size for booster foods is 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. Eating 2-4 servings a day of these power-packed foods will help optimize your health.

1 Mateljan, G. (2007). The World’s Healthiest Foods. Canada: George Mateljan Foundation

2 Bauman, E. (2013). Foundations of Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College

tomato-on-plate-2Dieting by consuming fewer calories often does not work. If pounds do come off, they quickly go back on when we the diet stops. Sometimes we end up with more pounds that when we began dieting. What happened? In the long run, eating too few calories will damage our metabolism.. The body goes into starvation mode, metabolism slows down significantly, and the body will store fat rather than burn fat. Weight loss will become impossible. Hormones will be out of balance. Another reason severe calorie restriction can sabotage your metabolism is your BMR. BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) is the number of calories the body needs to keep functioning at rest. With restrictive calorie intake, the BMR can decrease by up to 50%, taking it to survival mode. (You can calculate your BMR at  www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator). The ratio of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) we consume while trying to lose weight will regulate hormones that help determine if our body will burn or store calories. Eating 20-40% of your caloric intake from carbohydrates, 15-35% of calories from protein, and 45-60% of calories from fat and will help reset our hormones and metabolism. Protein (tempeh, tofu, miso, plant sources) will restore tissue and build body mass, fats (avocado, seeds, nuts) will help improve insulin sensitivity and hormone levels. Eating refined carbohydrates (white bread, white flour, white rice, pasta, sugar) rather than whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt to name a few) can result in elevated insulin levels, producing the stress-induced hormone cortisol which will produce fat. Repairing/reseting damaged metabolism can take time. Because the body is holding on to the few calories it is getting, increasing calorie intake as part of the process to repair metabolism can result in temporary weight gain. But don’t be discouraged!!! It is part of the process of getting everything in proper working order again. Eliminate unhealthy refined foods from your diet, follow a sensible exercise program, and get proper rest to allow the body to burn stored fat as energy.

Overcome Overweight

Overweight 1According to Business Week Magazine, dieting in America is a $40 billion a year industry. For a majority of Americans, these diets don’t work and are a waste of money. People are looking for a quick fix, and when it comes to permanent weight loss, a quick fix won’t fix the problem of overweight.

In fact, the quick fix diet can do more harm than good. When too few calories are eaten, muscle mass is reduced and much of the weight loss is water. Once off the diet, the body can go into a starvation response, leading to a weight gain of only fat. The American Psychological Association reviewed 31 diet studies and after two years, found up to a third of the dieters weighed more than when they began the diet.1 Repeated failure at weight loss gives us a sense of failure and little hope of successful weight loss.

Successful Weight Loss

Weight loss is more complex than calories in – calories out. Here are some strategies that work:

1. Remove the Chemicals – Environmental toxins including pesticides, toxic metals, and solvents disrupt hormones that regulate our sex hormones, insulin, thyroid, stress, and appetite. Chemicals also create stress on the body, shifting metabolism to store fat rather than burn fat. Toxins are stored in fat cells. An assessment of toxins in the body can be done through urine testing, hair analysis, or whole blood samples. Eat organic foods whenever possible. Because toxins are stored in fat cells, losing weight will reduce toxins stored in our body. Alkalinizing foods including fruits vegetables, miso, cooked grains, and healthy oils will help the body detoxify. Avoid fried foods and process foods, and eat less acid-forming foods like meat and dairy.

2. Rebuild and Rebalance – Metabolism can be damaged by rapid weight loss, stress, too many refined carbohydrates, stimulants, or not enough sleep – slowing down metabolism. Hormones become imbalanced and causes stress to our body. Eating the proper ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats will “reset” damaged metabolism. Also including plenty of water to eliminate toxins and booster foods to increase energy and antioxidants and aid with detoxification should be included in the diet. Without proper nutrition, dieters will “plateau” and not be able to lose additional weight.

3. Exercise – It is difficult to lose weight without including exercise. Exercise increases metabolism, burns fat and builds muscle where most of our energy is burned. Interval training – switching from high intensity to low intensity then back to high intensity – burns fat. Resistance training increases lean body mass and increases insulin sensitivity. Find an activity you enjoy whether it be brisk walking, biking, tennis, basketball, jogging, or going to the gym, and do it for 45 minutes to one hour three to five times a week. If you have not exercised for a while, get approval first from your doctor. Start slow and build your way up.

4. Manage Stress – When under stress, the hormone cortisol is released. This can lead to muscle loss and insulin resistance. Weight become difficult to lose and often times weight gains occurs around the mid-section of our body. Absorption of nutrients is compromised, as is the making of enzymes. Remove yourself from stressful situations when possible. Get adequate sleep. Exercise releases stress. Eat foods that include B vitamins (crimini mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries), vitamin C (cantaloupe, parsley, lemon juice, kale, Brussels sprouts, papaya), magnesium (Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, spinach, summer squash), and potassium (Romaine lettuce, celery, Swiss chard, tomatoes, broccoli).


Nutrients Supporting Weight Loss:

❒ Fiber – Fiber is found in all plant foods which are low in calories and fat. Fiber will make you feel full without consuming large quantities of calorically rich foods. Women should get 21-25 grams of fiber a day, men 30-38 grams of fiber a day.

❒ Green Tea – Green tea boosts metabolism and fat burning. Drink 12 oz. or more of green tea per day.

❒ Almonds – Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fats which are needed for balanced hormones and nerves. Almonds are high in calories, so don’t eat more than one once at a time.

❒ Chromium – A mineral that helps regulate insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the metabolism and storage of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Sources of chromium are broccoli, whole wheat English muffin, Romaine lettuce, and onions. There is not an Upper Tolerable Level of chromium, as it has few side effects. Those with liver or kidney disease do need to limit their intake of chromium.

❒ Calcium – Calcium helps break down fat rather than store fat. Yogurt, tofu, soybeans, kale, and turnip greens are good sources of calcium. The Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium for men and women over age 25 is 800 mg/day.

❒ CoQ10 – Required in all cells to – converts fat, carbohydrates, and protein into energy. Sources of coQ10 are pistachio nuts, and whole grains. Recommended dosage is 30-100 mg/day.

❒ Tryptophan – An amino acids that makes HTP- 5, which converts to serotonin in the brain. If serotonin levels are low, people will have an increased appetite and sugar cravings. Tryptophan increases serotonin levels. It can be found in crimini mushrooms, spinach, tofu, and soybeans. Suggested dosage is 3.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.

❒ Siberian Ginseng – Is a root adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stress. Recommended dosage of Siberian ginseng dried powdered extract is 250-500 mg one to three times per day. Do not take if on blood thinning, anti-inflammatory, or antidepressant medications.

❒ Zinc – A mineral that helps regulate the rate our body uses up energy. Zinc can be flown in spinach, crimini mushrooms, summer squash, collard greens, and pumpkin seeds. The Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.

❒ Lipoic Acid – helps convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. Spinach, oollard greens, and broccoli are sources of lipoic acid. It is difficult to get a toxic level of lipoic acid from foods. 

1. Foxcroft, L. (2011).  Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting Over Two Thousand Years.  London, England:  Profile Books LTD.


Sugar Wars

sugarsA war going on in the courtroom between competitors you may not be aware of. Both parties are trying to convince you they are right and are fiercely competing for your dollars.

This is not just a sweet disagreement between two competitors.  The Western Sugar Cooperative, which represents sugar growers and processors and the Corn Refiners Association, representing high fructose corn syrup manufacturers including Archer-Daniels Midland and Cargill, are in an all -out high stakes battle.  In addition, each have spent millions of dollars on lobbying lawmakers in Washington, each attempting to discredit the other.

It’s a battle between the sugar industry and the corn refiners. And the stakes are high.  We unknowingly eat a lot of sugar -150 pounds of sugar per year per person according to the USDA. (Picture thirty 5# bags of sugar in your cupboard!) Impossible you say? A form of sugar is in present in nearly all packaged foods as well as in foods you may not think have added sugar including ketchup, yogurt, peanut butter, salad dressing, canned vegetables, and frozen foods.

Corn refiners, the manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup, invested $50 million in advertising to promote renaming their high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “corn sugar.” The Western Sugar Cooperative (sugar growers) sued. In support of their position, the corn refiners countersued, stating for years the sugar industry has tried to give corn syrup a bad name and have lead consumers to believe sugar is healthier than their high fructose corn syrup. The corn refiners report as a result, their market share has gone down since the sugar association made the allegedly slanderous remarks about them. Prior to the slander lawsuit, the Corn Refiners Association made an appeal in 2008 to the Food and Drug Association to allow them to use the name “corn sugar” rather than “high fructose corn syrup” because of the alleged smear campaigns and slanderous remarks the sugar cooperative have made against the corn refiners’ HFCS.  The request to rename HFCS was denied by the FDA some time after the slander lawsuit was filed.

The corn refiners have spent millions of dollars for research that concluded HFCS is not detrimental to our health. The sugar producers say their research is weak and was not conducted by an independent research group.

Let’s not be fooled here. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, and so is our health.  I would guess litigation like this is not unusual within the food industry.  The marketing of food products, being nothing short of confusing to the consumer, makes me wonder if this is the intent. High fructose corn syrup goes directly to our liver and raises our blood glucose levels quickly – something we all want to avoid. The HFCS that is not used is stored in our liver as fat. Sugar also raises our blood sugar quickly.  Both HFCS and refined white sugar are high in calories, averaging about 50 calories per tablespoon, and have no nutritional value.  Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, type II diabetes, high triglycerides, fatty liver disease, heart disease and other health ailments.  Naturally occurring sugar found in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables is not the problem. These foods are not calorically dense and contain vitamins and minerals. They also have fiber which slows down the body’s absorption rate of the sugar, preventing harmful spikes and sudden drops of sugar levels. The World Health Organization recently released new sugar guidelines recommending only about 5% of our calories come from added sugar.  This would be about 6 teaspoons a day for an average 2000 calorie a day diet.

We don’t know what the outcome of this lawsuit will be.  What we do know is consuming  any form of processed sugar is not in our best interest. Be a smart consumer. Rather than being influenced by multimillion dollar ad campaigns trying to convince us one form of sugar is better than another, remember they don’t have our health at heart.  Look at the facts when you buy. Read nutritional labels and ingredient lists on packaged goods.  Divide the number of grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label on the package by four to determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in a serving. So if the label shows 12 grams of sugar per serving, it is equivalent to three teaspoons of sugar. Ingredients listed ending in “ose” like sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose are all derivatives of sugar. Also the word “syrup” on the label such as brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup are sweeteners, as are evaporated cane juice and fruit juice concentrate. We eat and drink an enormous amount of hidden sugar each year. Don’t be “sugared over” with all the hype. For your health and waistline, read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list on packaged foods and avoid sweetened beverages. Keep your sugar intake to a minimum.

Love Your Liver

the-human-liver-locationI would guess all of us have read something recently about heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, exercise, type II diabetes, weight loss programs, or the latest superfoods.  Anyone read anything about the liver lately?  Thought not. Although the liver is a topic not often written about, it is an amazing organ that sadly doesn’t get the publicity it is due.

The Chinese call the liver “the father of all organs” for a very good reason. The responsibilities of the liver are too numerous to mention here – over 500!  Just to name a few, at this moment our liver is cleaning our blood, regulating blood clotting, converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy and nutrients, and helping our body to resist infection.  It is regulating many of our body’s functions including that of cholesterol, the supply of essential vitamins and minerals, and the balance of many hormones.  It is producing bile that breaks down fats and is eliminating fat-soluble toxins and excess hormones.

There is no getting around it – we have little control of the thousands of harmful toxins we are continually exposed to that the liver is entrusted to eliminate – pesticides, herbicides, paint, cigarette smoke, bacteria, fungus, exhaust fumes, plastics, heavy metals, cleaning products, mold, and more. In 1994, the EPA estimated more than 2.2 billion pounds of toxic chemical were released into the environment in the United States.  Our ability to detoxify these substances is critical for our well being, and our liver is working nonstop to remove them.  “Toxic load” is a term used to describe the tipping point when the liver becomes so overwhelmed, it is unable to keep up with the demand to rid itself of toxins, resulting in an accumulation of toxins in our body.

The inability to get rid of the toxins in our body contributes to a variety of health problems including allergies and sensitivities, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight gain, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, fatty liver disease, hormone imbalances, jaundice, asthma, weakened immune system, canker sores, water retention, constipation, fatigue, gallstones, difficulty with sleeping, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and joint pain. Whew!

We can help our liver stay healthy and not get overwhelmed. To help the liver relieve its burden, we can do the following:

➣ Identify and avoid exposure to toxins.

➣ Don’t smoke.

➣ Eat organic whenever possible to eliminate ingesting toxins, hormones, and

antibiotics found in food.

➣ Drink half you weight in ounces of water daily to help with elimination.

➣ Exercise – create a sweat to facilitate elimination of toxins through the skin.

➣ Eliminate saturated fats, white, flour, and white sugar from our diet.

Want to tell your liver “we’ve got your back”?  Then include the following in your diet:


➣ Oranges                                                 ➣ Garlic

➣ Lemons                                                 ➣ Parsley

➣ Green cabbage                                       ➣ Carrots

➣ Brussels sprouts                                    ➣ Cilantro

➣ Tomatoes                                             ➣ Apples

➣ Ginger                                                   ➣ Beans

➣ Onions                                                  ➣ Greens like kale, dandelion, spinach,

➣ Garlic                                                        mustard and collard greens

➣ Parsley

Prolonged exposure to toxins can lead to many chronic illnesses.  The ability for the body to detoxify toxins is necessary for our overall good health.  Taking a long term approach of reducing exposure to toxins and eating a healthy diet will help avoid toxic overload and the risk of chronic diseases.


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