26 March 2011

Have You Got Hay Fever? You Are Probably Not Drinking Enough Water!!

The human body is made up of between 60% and 75% water. The brain is even more than that, reaching 85% of water content. Water is vital to carry nutrients through the system, to regulate our temperature and blood pressure, as well as to carry out toxins and other unwanted residues from our body. It should be easy to conclude therefore that drinking water is one of the most fundamental actions we do during the day to keep us healthy and to keep our body working efficiently.

Many people however wait until they are very thirsty before they drink, and often, even then, they drink something other than water. Tea, coffee, alcohol or a carbonated drink like coke are the worst choices and a fruit juice is the least damaging option. 

Truth is your body needs just pure water in an amount of about 1 litre for every 30 kilos of body weight, and not even a freshly squeezed orange should be counted as part of the daily water intake. Any fluid other than water contains substances like sugar in alcoholic drinks, or proteins in the case of milk, or potassium in orange juice, which need water to be broken down and processed by the body. 

Therefore the amount of water that these drinks contribute to the body is greatly reduced by the other substances that they contain. In the case of alcoholic drinks like wine and beer, the amount of water needed by the body to process them down is actually much greater than the amount of water that the drinks provide to the body in the first place.

Histamine is a very important protein and neurotransmitter which helps regulating the amount of water in our body. When there is an insufficient amount of water for the healthy functioning of the body, a greater amount of histamine is produced to manage the limited water in our body and make sure that we survive. It does that by shutting down areas of the body that are not fundamental to live, like muscles, bones and skin, so that the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver and glands can receive and use the limited supply of water. The more we are dehydrated, the more histamine our body produces to switch on the “drought emergency process” in our body. As histamine shuts water off areas of the body that are not essential for life it also creates the perfect environment for an allergy or an asthma attack.

Let’s start with hay fever: there is pollen in the air and the wind brings it into direct contact with your eyes. A normal reaction of a well hydrated body would be to produce tears and wash off the intruder. However, because there is not sufficient water in the body, a great amount of histamine is produced and its “water saving program” starts... Eyes are not as essential to life as the brain or the kidneys, so histamine severely limits the supply of water to the eyes which then become red, swollen and itchy because of the pollen.

 Traditional allopathic medicine treats allergies with anti-histamine which stops the ability of histamine to redirect the limited amount of water to the areas that most need it. So due to the action of anti-histamine your eyes will have back the water needed to wash away the pollen, but at the same time it will also severely reduce the water into the cells of vital organs like the brains, liver, lungs and kidneys causing damage to their already stressed and dehydrated cells.

Let’s now look at asthma: in a situation where there is not sufficient water in the system, the increased histamine production will cause the bronchioles in the lungs to constrict reducing in that way the amount of water that evaporates from the body during breathing. Lung tissue is very vulnerable to dehydration because the thin walls of the air sacs that form the lungs have to stay moist all the time. Therefore dehydration will cause a huge damage unless the amount of water lost through evaporation is restricted by the action of histamine, which can also be a trigger of an asthma attack and the classic shortness of breath.

Once again allopathic medicine addresses the symptoms and administers inhalers that force the reopening of the bronchioles for easy breathing.

In both cases, allergy and asthma, the remedy provided by traditional western medicine solves the immediate problem and relieves the symptoms, but in reality also acts against the natural defences of the body which, through histamine, tries to make the best use of the little water it has available. Proper hydration, or to put it simply, a few good glasses of pure water would actually serve both purposes to relieve the symptoms and correct one of the possible triggers of the allergy or asthma attack: lack of water.

To give a different example, if you had a broken pipe in the house which was pouring water all over the floor of the house, would you mop up the water from the floor or try to fix the broken pipe?

18 March 2011

Is Salt Good or Bad For You?

Salt is not just good for you, it is a basic and necessary nutrient needed for the healthy functioning of our bodies. 

However, as is the case for many other foods, the amount of processing that the common salt undergoes before it reaches our tables is unfortunately enough not only to strip it down of the great majority of its nutrients (more than 80 minerals apart from sodium and chloride), but also to change radically its structure to the point that, instead of being beneficial it actually becomes a damaging substance.

The human body is made of about 70% water and 0.9% salt. This is also the same concentration of salt that makes up the amniotic fluid in which the baby grows during the nine months of pregnancy.

The wonderful way in which salt interacts with water is a true synergy (when two or more components produce an effect which is greater than the sum of their individual effects) and it is what makes salt so important for our body.

Salt crystals have a unique characteristic that distinguish them from other crystals: the sodium (Na) ions are positively charged, while the chloride (Cl) ions are negatively charged. The main structure in salt crystals is therefore not molecular but electrical. When salt crystals come in contact with water, the water molecules – made of one negative oxygen atom and two positive hydrogen atoms – surround each sodium and chloride ion, separating them from the compound and making therefore the salt dissolve in water. When the water evaporates the sodium and chloride ions are able to get together again and becoming, once again, salt crystals.

For our body to stay healthy it is fundamental to have a constant balance of the water inside and outside the cells, and salt provides this balance through the process of osmosis.

Also, each and every cell in our body absorbs nutrients and energy from the salt carried through the body by water.

Table Salt magnified
Unfortunately the “table salt” that we know and use every day has undergone a great amount of processing, filtering and bleaching to eliminate each and every trace of the 84 minerals which are normally found in sea salt and rock salt. After all this processing the product that reaches our tables is no longer “salt” but it is reduced to no more than just sodium and chloride (NaCl). 

The problem is that sodium and chloride, in order to be available to our body, need other minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium and zinc, just to name a few. Since the common table salt is only made of sodium and chloride, our body has to provide all the other minerals needed, sourcing them from the cells.

Therefore, when we consume regular table salt (as different from sea salt and rock salt), instead of giving our body the fundamental nutrients needed by the cells to work and keep us healthy, we are actually introducing in our system a substance which robs the cells of precious minerals and energy. Our body reacts to this attack with a domino effect of physiological responses like high blood pressure, cellulite, fluid retention, heart enlargement and osteoporosis (due to the extraction of calcium from the bones in order to process the sodium chloride). An excess of sodium chloride in our body also causes airway restriction and consequently increases the number of attacks in asthma sufferers.

Sodium is also used by the food industry as a preservative. Pick up any jar from your pantry, even jam, and you will find that it contains some amount of sodium, which, at the end of the day, increases by many times our total amount of sodium and chloride intake, creating an increasing burden on our body.

Therefore the main reason why we are told to severely lower our intake of salt, especially if we suffer from hypertension, is because the common table salt truly poses a big threat to our system.

Rock Salt magnified
However what we are rarely told is that unrefined sea salt and rock salt are actually fundamental and beneficial to our health.

One of the purest form of salt is the crystal salt from mines on the Himalaya. Deposited there million of years ago, the Himalayan salt comes to us from a time when oceans were still pristine, unpolluted and full of vital energy.

Dr. Barbara Hendel, co-author with Peter Ferreira of the book “Water & Salt. The Essence of Life”, has conducted many years of clinical studies on the beneficial effects of using Himalayan salt and found that regular intake of this salt brings blood pressure back to normal – lowering it if it is too high and actually increasing it when it is too low. It also raises the pH of our body towards a more alkaline level (protecting us from cancer and diabetes) and it heals diseases like arthritis, gout, skin disorders and asthma.

Therefore, going back to the question in the title of this article, unrefined sea salt and rock salt are fundamental and extremely beneficial to our health. We need these minerals as a daily intake, together with plenty of water, to keep our system balanced, strong and healthy. Sodium chloride on the other hand is not more than a mere ghost compared to the rich and vital salt that it was sourced from, and as such is a dangerous and unhealthy addition to our diet.

04 March 2011

Five Great Herbs to Fight Colds and Flu

A common cold is always lurking somewhere, whether you live in the southern hemisphere with the winter months fast approaching, or in the northern hemisphere where the change of season can bring the occasional “spring cold”.

Five herbs, which are also very common in almost every household, can help a great deal in fighting the onset of a cold and to help get rid of the excess mucus and coughing – the most annoying symptoms of colds!

Garlic has long been known for its beneficial action on the immune system. It is very good both for the digestive system and for the lungs and respiratory system. In the past garlic has been used for bronchial infections and tuberculosis. If you don’t like too much the taste of fresh garlic, you can buy it in capsules and it works well. However the best way to use garlic in the case of a cold is to crush a fresh clove, add some fresh grated ginger (see below), pour some boiling water, add some lemon juice and honey and have it as a tea. Taken in this way garlic is also beneficial for the sore throat which often comes with a cold. Garlic also helps in getting rid of the mucus by coughing it up.

Ginger has many therapeutic properties. It is probably mostly known as an aid in digestion and as a relief to both morning sickness and motion sickness. It is also widely used as a treatment for muscle spasms and to help blood circulation. The use of ginger is also highly recommended in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems and it is also helpful in breaking fevers by warming the body and increasing perspiration.

Cinnamon, which is generally known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and anti-clotting properties is also highly valued for its warming qualities and therefore effective to provide relief for a cold or a flu. You can use it as a tea mixing it with fresh ginger. High doses of cinnamon can cause a miscarriage, so use it with caution if you are pregnant.

Elder has strong antiviral properties and it is well known to help destroying intestinal worms. It is also useful in case of rheumatism and diseases of the respiratory system. A tea of elder flowers helps detoxify the body, and therefore is very beneficial for colds, flu and bronchitis. Like ginger, elder is also useful in increasing perspiration, helping in this way to detoxify the body and breaking fevers.

Thyme has great antiseptic properties as well as being an expectorant and digestive tonic. It is highly regarded in the relief of respiratory congestion, bronchitis, asthma, cough and sore throat. It can be use as a dry herb to make a tea, or add a few drops of thyme essential oil, together with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils in an air diffuser to help you breathe easier and give the room a healing and calming scent. As in the case of cinnamon, thyme also should be use with caution if pregnant.

Some might wonder the reason Echinacea is not in the above list. 

Echinacea has been publicized and sold all over the world by natural supplements producers as a prime natural remedy for colds. Then, all of a sudden, in 2003 and then 2005 several scholarly articles revealed the results of studies which proved that Echinacea is not really that effective in the treatment of colds and flu.

The reason for this “discovery” is quite simple. If you look at ancient uses of Echinacea, both in Old Europe as well as among many native American tribes, you will discover that Echinacea has always been used for snake, spider and insect bites which are severely swollen. The highly regarded cleansing and detoxifying properties of Echinacea are in fact extremely effective for blood poisoning. However, this has nothing to do with colds and flu, which is probably the reason why Echinacea didn’t bring any major relief with those ailments.