This study I heard about the other day is nothing short of fascinating. It suggests that living in higher altitude areas, ie in the mountains somewhere, actually increases suicide risk. This is fascinating because up until now, this had not been identified as a major risk factor for either depression, which is always linked with suicidal tendencies, nor suicide itself.

However, that all changed when a study was done on those that have committed suicide by a major university. The findings were staggering, because high altitude was the single most outstanding and consistent factor in the suicide cases that were studied.  This means that higher altitudes must have some sort of effect on the psyche that we may not be aware of yet.

The ratio that the risk was increased by was about 1/3 which is hugely significant.  They found that the correlation came in for people anywhere above the 6,500 feet above sea level mark.  The thoughts now, without further study, but as a hypothesis, is that the decreased oxygen levels at higher altitudes may complicate the chemical reactions that are already occurring in those that may have depression and anxiety or be emotionally unstable and prone to suicidal thoughts to begin with.

There is another link to being in high altitudes and mood that has already been identified which lends credence to this theory.  Apparently one study indicated that living in a high altitude area for several days, such as being on vacation or something like that, can actually worsen a person’s mood for up to 90 days after their exposure. Wow, that’s definitely pretty compelling stuff right there if you ask me.

By Natural Advocate | September 28, 2010 - 11:02 am - Posted in Natural Anti Aging

There has been a lot of attention focused on anti-aging in general.  While a lot of it is focused on how we look and generally feel, such as our energy levels and our level of emotional happiness with minimal anxiety and depression, there is also a lot of research focused on how to keep our memories sharp well into our later years. And with good reason.

The worst part about aging is really the fear that we may one day forget our lives, forget our families and friends, and forget about the past however many years we had and enjoyed here on earth.  There is a lot of science dedicated to stopping memory robbing diseases like alzheimers and dementia because of this fear we all have that one day we may be reduced to people with no real remembered past, perhaps becoming a burden to our family even.

Well, while we all thought that our “senior moments” were really just that – moments when our age got in the way and robbed us of remembering some vital piece of information at just the right time, it really is most likely all due to disease that is happening and taking hold, not just the simple fact that our brains have advanced beyond an age where they are no longer shiny and new by a long shot.

The newer theory is that these moments when our memories fail us are actually moments that are caused by the start of a disease that actually can become full blown, like alzheimers or dementia, with time. For whatever reason, some people just don’t advance quickly or stay at the same point for a longer time, and some people advance and decline very quickly.

Researchers actually found the signs of alzheimers and dementia, which is marked by plaque buildup and tangles of proteins in the brain, in patients who reported having bouts of lost memory, and they did not find this same evidence in others of an advanced age whose memories were totally fine.

It’s important to remember that eating right and getting tons of vitamins and nutrients in your diet as well as exercise is key to maintaining memory for longer periods of time.  Also, there are some great herbs for longevity that can be taken that may be able to help you age gracefully.

This suggests that age itself has absolutely nothing to do with memory loss. Instead, it’s always driven by a disease of some sort. Now, if we could just figure out why we all tend to get these types of diseases as we get older, that would really be the ticket to discovering how to prolong our sharp senses and memories.

By Natural Advocate | September 25, 2010 - 8:49 pm - Posted in Vitamins & Minerals

I dabbled a little in spirulina. I have had it mixed in with some smoothies at smoothie bars once or twice, my sister just made me a nice, cool drink made with strawberries, water, spirulina and a bit of agave nectar recently, and I’ve eaten it in these little energy chunk snacks that I used to buy at the local health food store.  All in all, my experience with this little green and blue micro algae hasn’t been too lengthy, but I wanted to talk today about the health and energy uses  – and other potential uses for this interesting little nutrient from the sea.

Spirulina is often used in drinks as an energy booster because of it’s fairly complete nutritional content as well as it’s addition of  B vitamins, which it contains plenty of. It is also a protein, so the protein boost to your energy can also be felt, especially since it is not a hard to digest form of protein like meats are.

Spirulina doesn’t just contain energy enhancing nutrients though, oh now, it contains a lot more. Just some of them are copper, magnesium, chlorophyll (an excellent way to help cleanse the system and an overall nutritious boost for energy), iron, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, beta carotene and a few very interesting acids that may help in weight and appetite control.

Which brings us to another interesting potential use for spirulina. It may perhaps also help control weight by controlling hunger signals sent to the brain. It has actually been used to help regulate blood sugar in diabetics in chinese medicine, which makes sense because it is a pretty complete and satisfying nutrient. However, these acids, such as GLA, may also help explain why it helps to control weight eventually.

All in all, spirulina may have many uses, but as with the hundreds of other supplements you can potentially take out there, it’s worth looking into whether it’s right for you or not. It certainly can’t hurt to throw some in a smoothie or drink here or there though!

By Natural Advocate | September 22, 2010 - 8:41 pm - Posted in Foods

Apparently the diet that I remember my grandfather (who has since passed) having to adopt years and years ago due to celiac disease, or perhaps it was just generally from a lack of tolerance for the protein that is a common food additive, has now become somewhat of a sensation.  I’ve been noticing more and more specialty gluten-free foods in the aisles of my grocery store and of course also an ever expanding special gluten-free aisle in the natural food stores that I frequent, and that is no mistake.

Manufacturers are catering to an increasing population segment who are choosing to go gluten free to really enjoy better health (as they see it at least), not just because they’ve been diagnosed with an intolerance for gluten.

The intolerance for gluten, which is a sticky protein which gives a lot of foods on the shelves we see their thicker consistency, and also which binds things like breads and pastas together uniquely, is actually not a huge problem here in the US.

However, we are seeing more and more people choose to eat this way and eliminate gluten from their diets as much as possible, simply because they say that not eating this one ingredient makes them feel better. Some people say they notice their energy levels skyrocket after removing this ingredient from their diet, and others notice that their digestion process seems to be going a lot more smoothly when gluten is eliminated.

I suppose it all depends on who you talk to, but there do seem to be multiple anecdotal benefits to removing it for some people.  You’d be hard pressed to totally avoid gluten though, so it may not be an easy task if you are trying to kick it to the curb.

Gluten is in a TON of processed foods. You may find it in a lot of canned goods like soups and pastas as a thickener, and you can even find it in condiments, like some ketchups and the like.  It can be a very tricky ingredient to avoid in your foods, sort of like MSG.  Jeez, before you know it we won’t be eating anything at all!

By Natural Advocate | September 19, 2010 - 10:27 pm - Posted in Antioxidants

It seems that everyone – that is, every maker of food and food products – is jumping on the antioxidant hype bandwagon. Not that I think antioxidants are hype – I thoroughly believe that a diet high in wholesome, nutritious antioxidants and vitamins, when receive through wholesome supplements but  more importantly through the fresh produce and foods you eat, lends itself to a longer, healthier and more productive life.

That being said, there are quite a few laughable foods that now have labels that say they’ve added antioxidants. It’s almost as laughable as high sugar, carby cereals with no fiber content that say they are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Well who cares that they’re fortified when eating the cereal itself is totally unhealthy, and you probably aren’t absorbing those cheap, bulk vitamins anyways!

What brought this to mind was two things I’ve recently seen. The first is a shopping trip to Target. We were in the soda aisle, looking for some sort of soda – we enjoy our carbonated beverages here and there, even though I know they aren’t good for you, we do minimize them though.

I was perusing the sodas that we had to pick from, and one just came off as very odd to me, and it almost even sounded wrong, because soda and antioxidants really just shouldn’t go in the same sentence, especially when they are chock full of either sugar or sugar substitute and chemicals out the you know what.

The one I found hilarious was one that I actually like to drink usually, but this time, this cherry flavored soda was actually enhanced with antioxidants. Um, excuse me, I’d rather just have my plain old unhealthy soda and have that be the end of it. Isn’t that the point of certain foods, that you know they are not good for you, but yet you enjoy them in minimal quantities, on special occasions, knowing they’re naughty?

Another thing that brought this to mind was a news story I read about how two prominent soft drink makers, Lipton and Snapple beverages were  being warned for the claims they were making about their green tea infused drinks.

The government agency that extended the warning said that they found it inappropriate that a drink that is just infused with some vitamins claim that it had antioxidant and health properties. I happen to agree on this one. After all, when you are drinking soft drinks and bottled drinks that are mostly chemicals (unless you find a good natural one), you really can’t “undo” it by adding vitamins.


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