Tag Archives: detoxification

Benefits of Whey Protein

I occasionally use a protein powder as a snack or part of a meal replacement. While I don’t believe we can truly replace a meal with supplements, sometimes protein powders can be a handy way to boost our protein intake. For people that tolerate dairy well, whey protein can be a good choice because it mixes easily and tends to be very palatable. Because of its particular amino acid compositions, whey protein also offers some benefits that other protein powders don’t. For instance, in a small study participants given whey protein, who otherwise ate as they wished, experienced a slight weight loss compared to those given soy protein who had no change in weight. This group also saw a reduction in ghrelin, a hunger hormone that makes us crave high calorie foods. Whey protein is also commonly used by athletes and has been shown to reduce post-workout muscle damage. Whey protein is high in branched-chain amino acids like leucine that have been shown to improve upper body strength and lean body mass. Whey protein can also help seniors shape up by helping improve muscle mass and function. In fact, whey protein led to skeletal muscle improvements that were superior to those from control groups of participants taking an equivalent amount of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins like our muscles.

In addition to helping body composition, whey protein can improve our well being in several key ways. One study demonstrated significant decreases in cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting insulin levels when participants consumed whey protein, but not when they received casein protein. Whey protein may also help with detoxification and cancer prevention since it is a source of cysteine, which our bodies need to make glutathione, a critical antioxidant for protecting our bodies from toxins. There are also immune benefits from whey protein as demonstrated in a study where elderly subjects receiving pneumonia vaccines produced more of the protective antibodies against the pneumonia-causing organisms. Whey protein is also a good choice as part of a protocol to speed healing from surgery.

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Herbs of the Ozarks

I believe that if we know the local herbs in any region well enough, we can rely on them nearly exclusively to treat most common complaints. This holds true for the Ozark region, where many classic American herbs grow and many introduced species also tend to flourish. In fact, the Ozarks are part of the native range for herbs in very high demand—like goldenseal and American ginseng.

Another well-known plant from this part of the country is black cohosh. This herb is found in nearly every blend for menopausal symptoms, but it is most effective for women that have a particular constellation of symptoms, such as hot flashes, depression, and achy muscles or joints. Studies are showing that black cohosh may reduce the hormone surges associated with hot flashes. Black cohosh might also have constituents that act similarly to the medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which could explain its possible mood benefits. Furthermore, black cohosh also has pain-relieving attributes that make it an ideal herb to choose for discomfort and complaints not related to menopause. It contains analgesic and inflammation modulating constituents that make it a promising consideration for joint and muscle pains. Women can use it to address menstrual cramps because it relaxes smooth muscles, such as those found in the uterus. Black cohosh is also an herbal option for men who have low back and knee pain, especially if they also have prostate issues or are under a lot of stress.

 Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.


Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.

Japanese honeysuckle is a plant that is probably known to every Arkansan, but few know about its health benefits. Japanese honeysuckle isn’t native to the Ozarks. It was introduced and is now invasive, but one way to combat invasive plants is to harvest them for herbal medicine. The flowers of Japanese honeysuckle are antimicrobial, antiviral, inflammation modulating, and mildly detoxifying. The most common traditional use of honeysuckle flowers is as a component of Chinese herbal blends for colds and flu. A modern use of honeysuckle flowers is as an addition to pharmaceutical or herbal antimicrobial agents to increase their effectiveness. Additionally, Japanese honeysuckle flowers can help block the pumps that harmful bacteria use to disseminate the antimicrobial agents out of themselves. Apart from supplementation, Honeysuckle flowers are also mildly cooling and can make a refreshing summertime iced tea.

So we don’t necessarily have to search exotic lands for our medicinal herbs. Instead we can use our local plants provided by Mother Nature to help our environment and ourselves.

And you can check out my recent appearance on a local Harrison TV station talking about some other common herbs found here in the Ozarks.

Prevent Parkinson’s Disease with Peppers

It is sad to see someone who used to be full of vitality now walking with slow shuffling steps or dealing with the uncontrollable tremors of Parkinson’s disease. While there are natural treatments that can slow and/or improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, we are much better off focusing on prevention. A few new studies are pointing to some easy steps to help reduce your chance of getting this illness. It has long been observed that people who use tobacco have lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, but who wants to adopt all of the other health concerns that come with smoking. Fortunately, a small amount of nicotine is found in the nightshade vegetables, which include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, and bell peppers and are in the same plant family as tobacco. It has been399270_3114 shown that the neuroprotective effects of nicotine occur with very low doses and these vegetables seem to have enough to provide that protection. A recent study demonstrated that people who regularly consumed these vegetables, particularly peppers, reduced their risk of Parkinson’s disease by 19%. The effect was the greatest in people who had never smoked with a risk reduction of 31%. Of course, a diet high in diverse amounts of veggies and fruits is generally recommended for the prevention of many diseases, but don’t forget the humble bell pepper.

A review of other studies on Parkinson’s disease prevention gives us still more reason to make sure we are getting the optimal level of nutrients and working to reduce our exposure to toxins. Optimal vitamin D levels have been linked to the prevention of many diseases including breast cancer as I discussed in last week’s blog. Again in the case of Parkinson’s, there is an inverse relationship between vitamin D levels and the risk of this illness. Also, a small study confirmed that vitamin D supplementation helped slow the deterioration of symptoms in Parkinson’s patients with specific genetic markers. It is also important to consider antioxidant intake. Some studies have shown that patients with Parkinson’s disease have reduced antioxidant capacity as demonstrated by lower vitamin E and glutathione peroxidase levels. Glutathione peroxidase is one of the most important detoxification enzymes in the body, which uses glutathione to neutralize toxins. This study also revealed that the severity of the Parkinson’s disease correlated to the degree of oxidative stress. This supports many observational studies showing higher rates of Parkinson’s disease among people exposed to different chemicals in paper mills, orchards, and even from well water. Toxins are not the only contributing factor to Parkinson’s disease, but it appears that we can help prevent this and many other diseases by reducing our exposure to toxins and increasing our antioxidants.

Detoxifying Yellow Dock

Yellow dock root is a great addition to a New Year’s detoxification plan by working gently to stimulate multiple organs involved in getting rid of toxins. Yellow dock is a mild acting laxative herb that can help with constipation or making sure the bowels are functioning well for the elimination of toxins. It is also a liver tonic herb, which helps improve vital liver functions such as neutralizing toxins. Yellow dock additionally promotes the release of bile from the gallbladder. Bile both improves the digestion of fats and carries toxins from the liver to the intestines for elimination from the body. Finally, yellow dock as a lymphatic cleanser further aids in detoxification of the tissues.

rumex-longifoliusYellow dock is particularly recommended for chronic skin issues like acne, eczema, or psoriasis, as these conditions may be reflected insufficient eliminations of toxins. Yellow dock is also considered to be a blood-building herb. The root is rich in minerals including iron, and yellow dock is said to aid in the absorption and utilization of iron. This could be due to its ability to stimulate digestion and its vitamin C content, which improves iron absorption. Yellow dock can be purchased by itself or this gentle cleansing herb is a popular addition to detoxification formulas. So whether you want to clean the body or clear the skin, search out yellow dock.

The Detoxifying Power of Burdock

Now that winter has passed, it is good time to focus on detoxification. In the winter, we are less active, tend to sweat less, and therefore can have slower elimination of toxins. In fact, it is an Arkansas tradition among some old-timers to do a spring cleanse. One traditional Arkansas herb was sassafras, but since there is some controversy about sassafras, I thought I would pick another herb to focus on: Burdock. Burdock is originally from Europe, but it now also grows here as you may have learned if you have ever encountered its huge burrs. But it is not the burrs we want; it is the root we can use for detoxification.

The general idea behind detoxification is to get things flowing so toxins are carried out of the body. The advantage of burdock is it improves the elimination of toxins by several means, but it does all of them gently. Burdock has some gentle laxative effects on the bowels and is a mild diuretic for the kidneys. In addition to these actions, it stimulates the release of bile from the gallbladder. Bile carries neutralized toxins from the liver into the bowels. Burdock’s gentle laxative action helps make sure the toxins don’t linger too long in the bowels. Burdock also increases the movement of lymphatic fluids that carry toxins away from our cells. Because of all of these benefits, burdock has a reputation for helping many types of skin conditions, which are often a reflection of issues deeper in the body like toxicity. Since it isn’t a harsh detoxifying agent, burdock can be used long term to help contribute to a healthier you. Another great things about burdock it is available as a dietary supplement or as a food. Burdock can be a great addition to stir-fry or stew, so consider making burdock a part of your life.

Detoxification for the New Year and Beyond

Many people like to start out their new year by following a body detoxification program. This can be a prudent time do a body cleanse since we often have reduced elimination of toxins in the winter. There are 5 organs that remove toxins from the body: the bowels, kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin. We can get rid of a wide range of toxins through our skin by sweating, but in the winter we don’t tend to sweat as much so we may hold on to more toxins. There are still options for us to sweat during the winter: exercise, saunas, or hot baths. Combine one or more of these sweating options with nearly any detoxification plan you follow, and make sure to continue it throughout the year. The unfortunate truth is that the levels of toxins around us are so great that to some extent we have to live a detoxifying life and not just rely on periodic cleanses.

Fiber is another important aspect of any cleanse that can also be a yearlong focus. Fiber is found in beans, lentils, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. There are also many supplemental options including psyllium powder, oat bran, acacia powder, apple pectin, or ground flax seeds. Fiber is a great detoxifier as it binds fats, chemicals, metals, and other desirables in the intestines. This helps reduce the intake of new toxins, and it also binds toxins released into the intestines by the liver after neutralization. In a study on Amazonian people who ate a lot of fish, the people who had the most fiber in their diet had markedly lower rates of mercury accumulation in the body compared to the low fiber group. The fiber in their diet was thought to bind most of the mercury from the fish so it couldn’t be absorbed.

To learn more about detoxification strategies, come to my lecture this Saturday January 7th at noon in the Ozark Natural Foods deli seating area.