By Natural Advocate | June 30, 2008 - 5:09 pm - Posted in Alternative & Herbal Health News, Foods

Elevated cholesterol levels continue to be a problem for the American population.  High cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease and heart attack.  While there are a number of prescription drugs on the market for this problem, there is a more natural approach to lowering cholesterol.
Red yeast rice, which is a Chinese product that is used as a preservative, flavoring and coloring for food, has been found to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels.    While it is a food staple in some Asian countries, red yeast rice has compounds called monacolins that act to inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol in the body.
As an over the counter supplement, red yeast rice has been sold under names such as Cholestin for naturally reducing your cholesterol levels.  There is an ongoing dispute, both legally and industrially, over whether red yeast rice is to be considered a drug or a dietary supplement.  This dispute involves the manufacturers, the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry.
In ancient Chinese medicine, red yeast rice was used primarily to calm gastric problems, promote circulation and for spleen and stomach health.  Human studies have been ongoing for red yeast rice as it relates to cholesterol levels since the 1970’s.  Reports and findings showed it to be effective in lowering total blood cholesterol and the low density lipoproteins which is the “bad cholesterol” and triglycerides.
Although red yeast rice is natural, it still has a long list of possible side effects.  These may include headache, abdominal discomfort, heartburn,gas, bloating, muscle pain, dizziness, asthma and kidney problems.  Red yeast rice is contraindicated for people with liver disease.
If you have an elevated cholesterol level, you should certainly consult with your physician about the best treatment options.  Ask your doctor if red yeast rice would make sense for your situation as it has compounds related to statins.  Another great way to regulate cholesterol that is beneficial to the heart and circulatory system is using one of the best omega 3 dietary supplements also for numerous benefits as well as skin and hair improvements and mental clarity.

According to a study done recently in China, it was found that red yeast rice can reduce the risk of a second heart attack by nearly half.  That is not just god, that’s pretty amazing, although I will say I wonder what the variable and control groups were like, but still, this points to the fact that red yeast rice may prove a hug asset as an introduction to your traditional diet.  That and of course a diet rich in natural sources of omega 3’s, fiber and antioxidants which means lots of leafy green veggies, darly and brightly colored fruits and whole grains and lean nuts. 

By Natural Advocate | June 27, 2008 - 9:57 am - Posted in Natural Depression & Anxiety Relief

You see frequently in advice columns where it is recommended to seek counseling or some kind of professional therapy for a host of human behavior problems.  But how do you decide, when it comes to your own personal situation, when and if it’s time to for you to seek professional help?
One factor to look at is if your usual mechanisms for coping or problem solving are not working, it’s time to seek help elsewhere.  Other signs to look at are the use of substances or sex or food for comfort with an increase in cravings. If any substances or destructive behaviors are controlling you, it’s time to seek help.  Also, there are some natural ways to combat light depression and anxiety, such as herbal remedies for anxiety and depression, but counseling is always recommended by doctors if your issues warrant therapy.

A huge red flag is constantly being unhappy, depressed or with suicidal thoughts.  Uncontrolled anger at friends, co-workers or family members is another sign of psychological trouble. Sometimes, for a major loss such as a death of a loved one, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job, it is necessary to seek counseling.  Major traumas such as being a victim of a crime, sexual or emotional abuse or a life threatening or chronic illness can often be handled better with the professional help of counseling.
Experiencing a loss of interest in things that usually interest you, a loss of appetite or a sense of despair that is ongoing are other signs that you could benefit from professional help.  Anxiety that keeps you from functioning in life and prevents you from doing things that you would enjoy is another sign for needing help.  If your anxiety keeps you from going to parties, dating, getting a job or meeting new people, it’s time to get professional help.
Another sign that you could benefit from psychological help is if you experience physical symptoms of illnesses and doctors are unable to find a physiological cause.  Symptoms such as headaches, gastric distress or fatigue can be rooted in emotional issues that psychotherapy can help you recognize and cope with it.  It’s hard to be objective about yourself and your own behavior.   Often, we want to “tough it out” or think it’s just a phase.  Looking at a list of signs and symptoms can help you differentiate where you could benefit from professional help.

By Natural Advocate | June 24, 2008 - 9:19 pm - Posted in Alternative & Herbal Health News

Well, after a lot of back and forth about whether drinking coffee is beneficial or detrimental to your health, it seems somewhat of a verdict has been reached – for now at least, that coffee does have some sort of unpinned health benefit.  New research shows that women who drink coffee have statistically lower rates of heart disease than non coffee drinkers, and also have a slightly longer span of life (I’m not sure how reliable that data could be though). 

This goes for whether you are a regular coffee drinker or whether you like decaffeinated, so it appears the health benefits are derived from the coffee itself rather than from the caffeine that it has in it, in fact, drinking decaf yields even more health benefits.  To me, this suggests that the reason coffee benefits those who drink it is because of its antioxidant capacity. 

Coffee is notoriously a good source of antioxidants, and it may be even better if you drink the organic stuff since the antioxidant nutrients are less “touched” by pesticides and other environmental pollutants.

While drinking coffee may be a health benefit, it probably still isn’t the healthiest, most antioxidant rich hot drink there is to wake you up.  Instead, consider trying yerba mate, or green tea as a good kick start to your morning, or maybe even white tea, which supposedly has also been found to be a vast cornucopia of anitoxidants. 

For me personally, I wish I could drink coffee, but for me, it makes me break out if I drink it too much. I also have to watch drinking highly caffeinated coffee like Starbucks since it contains higher amounts of caffeine, since this will break out my skin in two shakes of a lamb’s tail as they say.  A weaker brew or more watered down coffee might be in order for those that share my caffeine sensitivity.

By Natural Advocate | June 22, 2008 - 6:12 am - Posted in Medical News

Being that I am an adult woman with asthma, I found this news to be interesting, and on point certainly for my personal situation.  The story was about how recent findings have indicated that adult females that have had adult-onset asthma, which is an inflammatory condition that affects the breathing passageways in the lungs and causes them to constrict, making it difficult to breathe and causes a wheezing sensation, also have a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

The study did indicate however that it was in women with adult-onset asthma, not in women that have had asthma since they were children, which is what my case is since I developed the lung problem when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  The study also concluded that this statistically linked higher risk of heart disease and stroke did not apply for men who had adult onset asthma though, so it is somewhat of a mystery why it is only in women.

The group who did the study did say however that they’d like to test larger groups of people since they feel that it does not really dictate any different treatment scenarios because the control groups used in the studies were not large enough to warrant such actions.  For those with asthma, it is wise to watch your refined sugars and other foods that cause inflammation, since asthma is essentially an inflammatory disease.  Actually anyone should follow an “anti inflammatory diet”, but most of use eat too many refined foods and this leads to everything from cancer to arthritis to heart disease. 

By Natural Advocate | June 20, 2008 - 11:10 pm - Posted in Natural Depression & Anxiety Relief

There has been so much negative attention focused on the problems associated with excess sunlight exposure that many people are taking to very high SPF sunblocks almost all the time, and some have become almost like vampires – afraid to go into the sunlight for fear they may practically turn to dust if they face the sunlight without sunblock.  However, many people have forgotten about the benefits of the sun and the fact that even very fair skinned people, unless they have severe sun sensitivity, need some sort of sunlight to survive and thrive.

The reason is that sunlight causes our bodies to produce vitamin D, which is an essential vitamin, and now is being shown to possibly have anti cancer benefits as well, so it’s an important vitamin for your body to make.  Even though there are vitamin D supplements on the market that a lot of people take, these supplements are not the same thing as the stuff the body synthesizes from sunlight exposure, and it must not be a substitute for it.

Also, there are certain mood elevating elements to sunlight exposure that can’t really be duplicated by anything else.  Think about when most cases of depression and anxiety occur – it’s in the winter – in fact, it’s so commonly associated with winter time that there is even a disorder named after it called SADD, seasonal affective disorder, where people actually experience depression and a sense of melancholy that is associated with the lack of sunshine that occurs during the rainy or winter months when sunlight is scarse. 

In fact, also many people receive light therapy to combat SADD.  So, although it is still very important to exercise dilligence in protecting your skin from sun exposure, don’t go overboard and never set foot outside for fear you will get skin cancer.  There are certain health benefits of sunlight, it’s just the most important part that you don’t get burned.  Burning is what can initiate the cancerous cell formation, and this is what should be avoided at all costs. 

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