Health By Nature…Where Clean Meets Green!


Alfalfa: The Father of All Foods

Nicknamed the “father of all foods”, alfalfa has been used as herbal medicine for over 1,500 years.  A highly nutritive plant, its approximately 20 foot deep root system has the capacity to absorb minerals from deep within the soil.

In food form, alfalfa sprouts can be added to salads or sandwiches.  Alfalfa also comes in supplement form, and people who supplement with alfalfa do so for a wide variety of health benefits.  Alfalfa’s high manganese content has been shown to slighly lower blood sugar levels. To manage cholesterol levels, alfalfa can be beneficial because its fibers stick to cholesterol, preventing it from remaining in blood or collecting in blood vessels.  It has been known to strengthen one’s immunity.  Those suffering from asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions have found their symptoms improve or even clear up entirely through a regimen involving alfalfa, a natural anti-histimine.  It can be a mild diuretic; alfalfa may relieve swelling and water retention, and aid in eliminating urinary tract infections.  Because it mimics estrogen, some find it useful for menopausal symptoms.

Alfalfa has an impressive resume of nutritional content. It contains calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, chlorophyll, bioflavonoids, trace minerals and vitamins.  Its leaves and stems are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals as well.

Alfalfa also detoxifies.  It balances and cleanses the blood, alkalizes and detoxifies the body. It can also relieve gout, a painful foot ailment from excess toxins.

Just about anyone can benefit from the use of an alfalfa supplement.  Visit the Health By Nature store for ordering information.

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Are We Making Our Children Sick?

 

KIDS AND CHEMICALS, A SPECIAL PBS REPORT

BILL MOYERS TRACKS THE SCIENTIFIC SEARCH FOR
ANSWERS ABOUT HOW ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS AFFECT AMERICA’S CHILDREN

It is a medical mystery marked “urgent.” Across America growing numbers of children are suffering from asthma, childhood cancers like leukemia, as well as learning and behavioral disabilities. Scientists are searching for clues to the causes of these illnesses, and a growing body of research suggests that everyday environmental toxins-what kids eat, drink, and breathe-may put them at risk. Equipped with new technology and more sophisticated analysis, these scientists are asking compelling questions about the health risks to children growing up exposed to an ever-increasing number of untested chemicals in our environment.

Kids and Chemicals, a special edition of NOW with Bill Moyers that was broadcast on PBS,  features medical investigators and health officials engaged in the latest research on links between childhood illness and environmental contamination. The program looks at families around the country who are coping with the consequences to their children of potentially toxic exposures.

“The disturbing increases in childhood illness in America cannot be ignored,” says Bill Moyers. “How does the exposure affect children’s health? The new research is studying how chemicals enter the human body, and posing questions that they could never ask before: Do chemicals affect children, babies and unborn fetuses more than adults? What factors increase toxicity, and how can we protect children from harm?” Kids and Chemicals’ producers Gail Ablow and Greg Henry go to Fallon, Nevada, a small desert town that has had 15 recorded cases of childhood leukemia in just five years. A l armed, Dr. Mary Guinan, who was one of Nevada’s top health officials, called in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the potential links between this childhood cancer and the environment. Could toxic substances in water, food, air, schools, homes or the ground in Fallon be responsible for this “cancer cluster”? If so, which chemicals? Without clear evidence of a specific cause, everything-from jet fuel emissions to pesticides to naturally occuring arsenic in the water-is suspect.

As Moyers and his team learn in Fallon, research on cancer clusters once focused mainly on gathering environmental samples because investigators simply didn’t have tools sensitive enough to measure which toxins had been absorbed into people. Dr. Richard Jackson, the director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains how his laboratories are using the latest instruments. His research scientists are using sophisticated blood and urine analysis to test for minute traces of toxins in the bodies of the sick children and their families in Fallon.

This work is part of a larger movement in children’s environmental health unfolding nationwide. Dr. Phillip Landrigan of
the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City works with scientists around the country to understand how kids are affected by exposure to chemicals. “Of the 3000 high production volume chemicals in use in this country today, only 43% have been even minimally tested,” he tells Moyers. “Only about 10% have been thoroughly tested to examine their potential effects on children’s health and development.”

Speaking with Landrigan, Moyers learns that children are potentially more vulnerable to chemicals than adults. “First of all they’re more heavily exposed pound for pound,” says Landrigan. “They eat more food, they drink more water, they breathe more air. Then, of course, kids play on the ground. They live low, they put their hands in their mouth and so they transfer more toxic chemicals into their body than we do.”

Traveling to Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Moyers meets Dr. Linda Sheldon of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Exposure Research Lab. Sheldon demonstrates how her team of scientists is gathering evidence of exposure to everyday chemicals in nursery schools, homes and daycare centers.

In New York City, a groundbreaking study led by Dr. Frederica Perera at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, follows more than 500 expectant mothers. These women are wearing air quality monitors in backpacks to trap the environmental toxins they breathe. As their children are born and as they grow, Dr. Perera and her team will look for links between the chemicals that the mothers were exposed to while their babies were developing in the womb and asthma, cancer risk, and learning disabilities.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber, a biologist at Cornell University, joins Dr. Landrigan in asserting that exposure during pregnancy doesn’t, by itself, mean a child will get ill. What matters is the intensity of the exposure and when it occurs during fetal development. A chemical exposure occurring early in pregnancy might cause a miscarriage, argue the researchers. If it occurs later on, it might cause physical birth defects. Later still, it might damage brain cells. Scientists are trying to precisely identify these “windows of vulnerability.” Says Dr. Steingraber: “Maybe certain problems that we understand . . . as attention deficit disorders, hyperactivity, the inability to pay attention, aggressive and violent behaviors, might have their origins during those windows of vulnerability during pregnancy and these questions are just being asked. Data is just beginning to come in.”  Dr. Perera’s team at Columbia is also studying the way that chemicals can actually bind to human DNA in the womb and cause a mu t ation called an “adduct.” Work by Dr. Perera has shown that the greater the number of adducts, the greater the risk for cancer. “And that’s the missing link in all of this,” says Dr. Steingraber. “That’s the link we’re beginning to fill in.”

To place the current studies in a public health policy context, Moyers revisits the firestorm over lead research; recalling the revolutionary work of Dr. Herbert Needleman, who correlated low-level lead exposure to lower IQ’s in children in 1979. Twelve years later, Needleman’s work was attacked by the lead industry as it tried to protect its economic stake in lead products. Ultimately, the validity of Dr. Needleman’s work was fully vindicated, and new public policy required unleaded gasoline and restrictions on lead paint. And many scientists believe that, as a result, children’s IQ scores have risen, on average, three points. Yet, as Moyers points out, lead remains the number one environmental threat to children’s health; many old houses and even many school buildings are still testing positive for lead today.

In Herculaneum, Missouri, lead contamination is a very current issue. The community is up in arms about the astonishingly high levels of lead to which their families have been exposed because the town’s primary industry, the Doe Run lead smelter, failed to comply with EPA standards. “Doe Run played a really good game,” Robyn Warden, a
mother, tells Moyers. “They told people everything was under control and we were safe. And people weren’t educated enough to know any different. It took people actually investigating lead to figure out that we were being lied to.”

Dr. Steingraber knows the importance of informed parenting. Even in a seemingly pristine environment in rural New York, she knows there are possibilities of risk. “Just because there are no smoke stacks visible around us, just because you live a long way from the source of these chemicals, doesn’t mean that natu r e won’t bring them to you in some way,” she says. A mother who breast feeds her infant son, Dr. Steingraber also realizes that she passes toxins directly to her baby every time she nurses. “No woman has uncontaminated breast milk on this planet,” she states. Dr. Steingraber tries to reduce her children’s exposure at home by using non-toxic products. “But we can’t shop our way out of our current situation,” she warns. “We still need to take action. It’s time that our public policy takes action to get our kids out of harm’s way.”

There are unknown answers to many questions. Moyers reports on a proposed new project called “The National Children’s Study,” which will track 100,000 children from the womb to age 18 if it receives full funding from Congress. This long-term study may provide the definitive answers necessary for new regulations and laws protecting children from exposure to toxins. “Without conclusive science,” Moyers says, “it is a constant fight to protect children’s health.”



Going With the Gut May Prevent Allergy, Asthma

 

Good Bacteria May Help a Child’s Immune System

By Neil Osterweil

WebMD Medical News

Reviewed by Dr. Tonja Wynn Hampton

April 5, 2001 — A new Finnish study

 

Researchers say they seem to have cut in half a baby’s risk of developing allergic conditions early in life by giving a beneficial bacteria to expectant mothers and their newborns who were predisposed to eczema, hay fever, and asthma.

“Our new insight might provide an opportunity to devise strategies against allergy, the pandemic that affects almost half the population in more-developed countries,” write Marko Kalliomäki, MD, and colleagues in the April 7 issue of the medical journal The Lancet.

The researchers recruited near-term pregnant women who had a family history of allergic diseases — such as asthma, hay fever, or atopic eczema (a type of reactive skin rash) — into a clinical trial in which they and their infants would receive either placebo capsules or capsules containing a potentially beneficial type of bacteria called Lactobacillus GG.

Lactobacilli normally are found in the healthy gut in humans but may be missing or present only in reduced numbers in children born in developed countries, where attention to strict hygiene and smaller family sizes mean that infants are less likely to be exposed to the bacteria once common in the environment.

Some researchers speculate that alarming increases in allergies and asthma over the last few decades may be due to an overactive immune system in the first months of life — a result of children not having enough “good” bacteria like lactobacilli to keep the immune system in check. Such germs prevent the immune system from going into alarm mode when it detects an otherwise harmless intruder, such as pollen, dust, or a specific food, such as peanuts.

“Why is allergy becoming more of a problem? Everyone knows this; the incidence of asthma has gone up, the incidence of atopic eczema has gone up, it’s becoming a huge problem. The prevailing theory is that we’re too clean,” says Sherwood Gorbach, MD, professor of community health and medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who was co-discoverer of Lactobacillus GG (the “G”s stand for Gorbach and Goldin).

Researchers have been investigating whether giving a mixture of “good” bacteria, known as probiotics, would prevent overactivity of the immature immune system.

“There’s been a series of studies [the Finnish group has] published over the last five or six years showing that infants taking probiotics have decreased milk allergies and they have fewer skin complications,” notes Barry Goldin, PhD, professor of family medicine and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine, Gorbach’s colleague, and the other “G” in GG, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

In the current study, Kalliomäki and colleagues gave women placebo capsules or capsules containing Lactobacillus GG to take from two to four weeks before their anticipated delivery dates. After birth, they either took the capsules themselves and passed the bacteria to their infants through breast milk, or gave their infants the bacteria diluted in water. The capsules were given until the infants were 6 months old. Researchers then followed the children until the age of 2 years and determined which had developed allergic diseases The researchers found that 46 of the 132 children who were enrolled in the study had atopic eczema at age 2; six of these children had all the signs of asthma, and one had evidence of hay fever.

Of the 46 children, 15 had received Lactobacillus GG capsules, and 31 had received placebo. In other words, kids who were given the probiotics were only half as likely to have common allergic diseases as those who received the placebo.

“These figures are remarkable and, if confirmed in other studies and applicable to other allergic diseases, probiotics would represent an important therapeutic advance,” writes Simon H Murch, MD, PhD, from the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology at Royal Free and University College School of Medicine in London, in an editorial accompanying the Finnish study.

In an interview with WebMD, Murch notes, “most people in the field recognize that children today are getting very different infection exposures. I think most of the interest prior to this was in relation to infection exposures in an older age group. What this study suggests is that the very first exposure of the immune system may also be important.”

He cautions that more testing needs to be done and the safety of probiotics in infancy be confirmed before the idea of “allergy-proofing” infants with probiotics becomes routine.

 



Is Your Home Making You Sick?

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You’ve probably heard of *sick building syndrome*–people develop health symptoms, often at a workplace, and no identifiable disease or cause is known.  If you use conventional household cleaners at home, chances are you are adding toxins to your home and in turn making it *less clean*. As Dr. Herbert Needleman, pediatrician and professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center puts it, “We are conducting a vast toxicologic experiment in our society, in which our children and our children’s children are the experimental subject.”

We generally spend 90% of our time indoors.  Newer homes and buildings are sealed up tightly, which is good economically in terms of heating and cooling costs.  However, inadequate ventilation increases the concentration of *indoor air pollution*–which the E.P.A. reports is up to five times higher than outdoors.

In addition to elevated concentration of household chemicals in our air, women are particularly at risk, because we often spend long periods of time working with potentially  toxic chemicals, and research suggests that women’s physiology is more conducive to absorbing such chemicals.  We have seen dramatic increases in the rates of asthma in women over the past decade, and longer exposure to a myriad of household chemicals is believed to be responsible.  Asthma rates in children under age 5 have more than doubled since 1980, and in that time, some 20,000 new chemicals have been introduced.On average, one in every 13 school-aged children has asthma.

Toxic chemicals in the home also pose a poison risk.  Chlorine is the number one cause of child poisonings in the U.S., and is an ingredient in several common household cleaners.Aside from poisonings, 150 chemicals found in many homes  can be linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological disorders.

These household items also have a negative impact on our environment. Common cleaners like chlorine bleach, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and more are classified by the E.P.A. as household hazardous waste, and when disposed of improperly, can pollute the environment and pose a threat to our health.  The average U.S. household generates over 20 pounds of hazardous waste every year!

The National Institutes of Health Household Products Database is a useful resource to determine exactly what harmful chemicals are contained in the products you are currently using, as well as those chemicals’ toxicity and health information. You can locate this information at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/ingredients.htm.

So what can you, as consumers, do?  First, be sure and properly dispose of harmful products.  Dumping harmful chemicals down drains or in toilets has a negative impact on the environment.  Second, find better, safer choices.   To learn which products can replace your existing, harmful, chemical-laden ones, use this checklist and see what safer, powerful, alternative products you can replace your toxic ones with.



Vitamin B: Why Is It So Necessary?

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Vitamin B plays an incredibly important role in the functioning of the human body.  There are 8 water-soluble vitamins identified as B’s, which work synergistically, meaning they are much more useful when combined than alone.  Vitamin B is rapidly depleted in our systems and needs to be constantly replaced; it also does not store well in the body.  For that reason, a quality and complete B Complex supplement is beneficial for just about anyone.

Because our levels of vitamin B get used up quickly, lack of it often results in fatigue, stress, or lack of energy.  B Complex boosts metabolism, strengthens the immune system, assists in maintaining a healthy nervous system, and encourages cell growth as well as healthy skin and muscles.  Although they work together, they have different functions which work in tandem with each other.

Vitamin B1 is also known as thiamine.  It can help improve mood, and is also good for heart health and the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Vitamin B2 goes by the name of riboflavin.  It can protect against cancer, and can prevent migraines and cataracts.

Vitamin B3 is called niacin.  Its role is to aid in the release of energy from nutrients.  It plays a role in lowering cholesterol, easing depression, and relieving arthritis.

Vitamin B5, known as panthothenic acid, is found to some degree in almost every food.  It can promote a healthy nervous system and aids in metabolism.  People who can benefit from this vitamin are those suffering from alleries, chronic fatigue and migraines.

Vitamin B6 is referred to as pyridoxene.  It aids in red blood cell production, and can alleviate symptoms of asthma and PMS.

Vitamin B7 is biotin.  It assists in the release of energy from carbohydrates.  It is also essential for hair and nail health.

Vitamin B9 is called folic acid.  This is a very important vitamin for pregnant women, as it helps in the normal development of the fetus.  Folic acid facilitates the formation of hemoglobin and is often used to treat anemia.

Vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy nervous system and assists in red blood cell formation.  It is only present in animal sources such as meat, fish, milk and eggs, and therefore supplementation is strongly recommended among vegetarians.

Choosing a supplement goes far beyond looking at the front of the label.  The ingredient list can reveal harmful preservatives and fillers.  Beware of toxic solvents that have the prefixes propyl-, ethyl-, or methyl-.  Also avoid supplements that use aluminum as a base.

It’s also crucial to examine the percentage of the RDA present in a supplement.  Many poor-quality supplements will load up on the cheaper B vitamins, like thiamine & riboflavin .  We do not need much of these vitamins, and besides, they are often present in the foods we eat already.  A good quality B Complex will have a high content of the more expensive Bs like B3, B5 and B12.

Learning about the role your supplements will help you understand why you should be taking them, and will empower you to be proactive in your health.  Optimal wellness should be a priority for each and every one of us, to live a long and prosperous life.