Friday, December 30, 2011

Epigenetics - We Are More Than Just DNA

Most of us are familiar with the idea that DNA is the template for our body and that our DNA is made up of many genes (sections of DNA that code for specific traits). We understand that our DNA (and therefore our genes) contains the genetic code that created all of our features - our eye color, hair color, ear shape, or any of the other myriad traits that differentiate us from each other. We also understand that our DNA is passed down from our parents, and part of our DNA then gets passed on to our children. One thing we all felt sure about was that our genes could not change during our lifetime and that the only genetic changes that ever took place only happened during conception (or in cancers). As genetic research has advanced, we now understand that this was a simplistic and incorrect view of the way our genes function. The real story is more complicated and yet turns out to also be a lot more interesting.

As often happens in science, our initially simplistic ideas must be updated to incorporate new research and knowledge. A fascinating new area in genetics research (called epigenetics) is now overturning most of our previous assumptions. While we once thought that environmental factors like diet, exposure to toxins, or even our emotional reaction could not change our genes - we now know that they can. Our genes (or at least our “epigenes”) can be changed and how we lead our lives is what determines these changes. Amazingly, some of these epigenetic changes can even be passed down to our children! We can no longer just blame our diseases on our genes. How we live our life may well determine whether our genes hurt us or help us in the long run.

So let’s look at what this new field of epigenetics means for you and your family and how you can use it to your advantage.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What you do in the name of "health" may not be so healthy

The most recent issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine (Winter 2011) discusses many of the ideas we have been discussing in our posts. Diet, food allergies, soy, antibiotic resistance, soap, over the counter medications, exercise, and dietary supplements are all fair game in this sweeping look at things that both Allopathic medicine and CAM practitioners get right and wrong.

So let’s look at what Johns Hopkins had to say...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

On December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew lifted off on a mission to orbit the moon. The astronauts reached their destination on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1968) and as they returned from their first orbit from the dark side of the moon, Earth was a spectacular vision. The three astronauts, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell & William Anders, being the first humans to orbit the moon, broadcast live this message back to the people of Earth.

We wish you all a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.

The Problems With Replicating Science

At Dr. Rebecca’s Healthy Planet we strive to bring you information that is unbiased and based on well documented scientific principles and knowledge. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to ferret out the most valid and helpful research. We covered a number of these problems in our article on the corruption of science but an issue we did not cover is the fundamental problem of replicating scientific research. Unless research experiments can be replicated, and the results reproduced by independent researchers, then it is very hard to draw any real conclusions from the research.
We’ve all heard news stories about people tampering with data to fit a pet theory or manipulating results because they don’t match what the person funding the work wants to hear. Replicating studies in a world where science is evolving and developing so fast is very difficult for many reasons, but why should we care?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dietary Fiber - The Lost Nutrient

Fiber - we have all heard of it. It seems that whenever we hear recommendations about how to achieve a “healthy well balanced diet” that getting enough fiber is always mentioned. Food companies have tried to take advantage of this and so we often find food packages touting that they have lots of fiber.

In our last couple of posts we discussed the value of fiber for both increasing the absorption of key nutrients (e.g. magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus) and also as a way to help remove toxic substances through the gastro-intestinal tract. I thought that it would be helpful to look at fiber in greater depth in order to help you choose the right type and amount of fiber for your health.

So what exactly is “dietary fiber”, why is it necessary for health, and what are the best choices to keep you healthy?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bone Health - Osteoporosis and Nutrients for Bones

Osteoporosis and bone health are in the news and pharmaceutical companies are hoping you are worried. A new class of drugs called biphosphonates (Fosamax, Boniva, etc.) have become the “go to” drugs for Allopathic Medicine physicians in treating older patients with decreased bone density (osteopenia or osteoporosis). But are these drugs safe? And if they are not, what can we actually do to keep our bones strong and healthy?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Detoxification - An Essential Process

Detoxification is a buzzword we hear more and more recently, especially in Complementary and Alternative Medicine circles. But what does detoxification actually mean and is it even worth your time to think about it?

Well yes, it probably is because the world we live in is so filled with toxicants (commonly called “toxins”) that even the strongest and healthiest among us are being assaulted every day with chemicals that our bodies must cope with (detoxify and remove) in order for us to survive. If our load of poisons is more than we (or each of our particular genetics) can handle, then this toxic exposure will eventually make us sick or could eventually even kill us. Our bodies, through normal operation, produce a base load of toxins that we need to process to keep functioning. We do have a capacity to detoxify more, but even if you happen to be extraordinarily careful and try to avoid every toxin in the world, there will come a time when you are accidentally exposed to a dose of some kind of toxic substance. Your body must detoxify all of these toxins in order for you to maintain your health.

Fortunately, our bodies have ways of handling foreign contaminants, primarily through the liver and kidneys. Clearing out toxic substances is known as detoxification, and our bodies are pretty good at it most of the time. But, there are some cases when your body needs just a little bit of help.

How can we help our bodies to detoxify and is it worth the bother?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sugar Alternatives

In our last post, we talked about the dangers of eating too much sugar. Diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other problems, pretty clearly, are associated with eating too much, or the wrong types of sugars. But if you want to avoid sugar, but don’t want to give up sweet tasting foods, the different alternatives to sugar can be confusing.

Equal, Sweet’n’Low, Splenda, Stevia, and dozens of others are all “sweet” alternatives to sugar. At a restaurant or coffee shop, you might get a choice between 3 or 4 of them, in different brightly colored packages, and you probably have one you instinctively reach for. But do you really know what’s inside that package and what it does when it goes into your body.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sugar - Not So Sweet After All

I love sugar and practically any food that is sweet. Unfortunately, like most of us, I don’t do well if I eat sugary foods or too many carbohydrates. It took me many years of trial and error and a lot of research before I came to understand that my sweet tooth was making me unwell. I now understand that sugar is a particularly insidious culprit in many chronic illnesses of modern society. Diabetes, heart disease and almost any disorder that is caused or aggravated by inflammation will develop or be aggravated by eating too much sugar.

If you have ever been confused by the news reports about sugar, sugar substitutes and their safety, you are not alone. We are going to try to demystify this challenging topic with several posts covering the different issues involved. In this first post, we will look at the way sugar affects our bodies.