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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crooked Hand of Fate

crooked hand of fate
like me, just bone and sinew
it is arthritic

by Rudy Sanchez, Holistic Pharmacist

Surprisingly, for all the fuss about calcium, we only have a relatively small amount of it. The average female has one kilo of calcium. The average male, 1.5 kilos. You can carry this amount of calcium in a lunch bag. However, what we do with this lunch bag of calcium is amazing: it gives us hard teeth to chew with, bones to karate chop with, nails to scratch an itch with, and it fuels nerve and muscle activity.
Bone is living tissue and is constantly changing, giving up calcium when asked and absorbing calcium when it needs to get stronger. It behaves much like a calcium bank. The health of your bones is relative to the health of this bank account. It is a matter of balance. Most of us treat our bones like we treat our bank account. We don't really know how much is in there, we just know the "look" that the waitress gets when the debit card does not work. By then, we have already eaten the food and we're not in a position to be returning it.
The basic bone health strategy is this: deposits should at least equal withdrawals.

The Top Tip: The best strategy for bone health is to maintain an alkaline body pH between 7.4 and 7.8. An acidic environment is disastrous for bone health, as the body will withdraw calcium to use as a buffering agent to neutralize the acid. You don’t want to use your precious bone as “internal antacid”. 
Tip No. 2: Take Strontium Capsules to boost bone strength. Stontium has been shown to work in two ways. It supports osteoblast activity to reduce resorption (loss) of calcium. It also imparts flexibility to the bone, creating a calcium trap. It has been shown to be able to grow new bone.

Tip No. 3: Vitamin K is important in the formation of Gla-protein (osteocalcin) and Matrix Gla-protein which are essential for calcium assimilation. Vitamin K2 is now available as a supplement and has been showing up in some quality calcium supplements. If relying on dietary Vitamin K, It is important to have good gut bacteria so take a good probiotic.

Tip No. 4: Lecithin, when taken together with the calcium imparts a vehicle for increasing calcium absorption. It has a perfect lyophilic and liphophilic duality. It ensures transport of calcium ions across the gut wall. 

Tip No. 5: Maintain a schedule of weight bearing exercise. If possible, shoot for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity weight-bearing exercise daily: strength training and bouncy activities such as stair-climbing, mini-trampoline jumping or just plain walking. Less popular, but equally effective are: uphill pogo-sticking, moon shoe kick-boxing and unicycle-bouncing-on-a-trapeze-wire-over-the-Niagara. These bone-densifying activities signal the activity of osteoblast cells which act as spackle, gluing the calcium to the bone. In effect, if you need your bones to be stronger, the body will take care of it, no problem. However, if you are sitting on your buttocks and using your thumbs to press the remote, then you will get calcium deposits in these two areas. You asked for it; no problem there too.
Tip No. 6: Choose your calcium as you would choose your friends: not all calcium is equal. Confused about absorption rates? 
                    Calcium bis-glycinate (best) 
                    Calcium citrate-malate ( very good)
                    Calcium citrate (good)
                    Calcium carbonate (not bad, better than milk)
                    Milk (well, it's better than water)
      Magnesium, when taken at the same time as calcium, will work to increase calcium absorption. It acts like Tenille to the Captain, or Herb to the Peaches.If you get the reference, you need calcium and magnesium right about now.

Tip No. 7: Get enough Vitamin D. In the summer, sun exposure for 5-10 minutes on bare skin activates Vitamin D stored in fat cells. Supplements are needed in the winter or if you wear a T-shirt that says "spelunkalot". Vitamin D3, the activated form, is non-accumulative, and is safe even in high doses.  When shopping for Vitamin D, make sure it is D3, the activated, non-accumulating form. Look for super concentrated Vitamin D 3 drops in rice bran oil delivering 1,000iu per drop. 
Tip No. 8: Don’t forget fruits and vegetables. Eat a minimum of 5 to 10 servings of a variety of different colored fruits or vegetables daily. Important for alkalinity and Vitamin K. Avoid the three terrors (not the three tenors): alcohol, smoking and coffee.
This computerized image shows the air pockets in the bone magnified. These air pockets start appearing as the bone loses its integrity. Hormone changes, injury, inactivity and acid-loss all contribute to the acceleration of bone loss.
When bone loses calcium, the air pockets increase in proportion to the calcium. The density of the bone starts to drop. As the supporting matrix collapses, the collagen protein which gives bone its resiliency gives way to soft, brittle bone.
Unfortunately, this happens over time with little warning. It is common to discover osteoarthritis only after a fall which has resulted in a fracture.
Tip No. 9: Eat enough protein: Vegetarians and raw fooders in particular should make sure they are consuming adequate dietary protein. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 56 g/day for adult men and 46 g/day for adult women. Clean protein is hard to find, but consider brown rice protein of hemp protein. 
Tip No. 10: Avoid excess salt: Higher salt intakes increase urinary calcium loss. Keep salt intake below 5.8 g/day (2.3 g/day of sodium). Avoid salty, packaged, processed foods and preserved meat. If you add up all the salt in packaged food, you will soon discover that there is salt in everything. How to know you are not taking too much salt? Eat in a restaurant. Order soup. if you find the soup salty, congratulate yourself, your taste buds have adjusted to low salt.
Free Bonus Tip: Avoid excess Vitamin A (retinol). Look for multivitamin supplements that contain no more than 2,500 iu of vitamin A or choose a supplement with Beta-Carotene instead.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Fear of Kefir

Kira gave me some kefir starter yesterday and I have made my first two batches, using some organic milk that we had in the fridge. From the time she gave me the "babies" yesterday, to this morning, they have grown in volume by 50%. My mutual funds should take note. Kefir babies sounds cute , but they are actually a bit scary. Knowing that this army of many tribes: some bacteria, some yeast, has grown trillion-strong overnight is both impressive and humbling. A kefir horde.

Kefirnology: How do you even say it? Most people mispronounce with kay-fir. Some say kiefer (Hello, I'm Kiefer Sutherland, I was named after bacteria). The correct way: say "veneer". Now put a k in place of the v. Now say keh-feer with the the emphasis on the second syllable. Finish by making it heavy and guttural, as if you have a ball of.. uh, kefir stuck in your throat... keh-fihrr.

This ancient, magical food has been around for along time and was studied as far back as 1907 for the beneficial benefits of the lactobacillus bacteria. Even then, the people of the Caucasus and Bulgaria were living very long life spans and this fermented milk was one of the main reasons. No healthcare, no cold-fx, just kefir. It is interesting that the popularity of the technique grew from a practical means to preserve food without refrigeration. There was no kefir section in the corner market. They just discovered (or their mother told them so) that they did not get sick if they added the white cheesy stuff to their milk. Brilliant in it simplicity, instead of pasteurizing to kill any bacteria, they fermented the food to prevent spoilage. In the process, the fermentation not only preserved the food, it also preserved the foodie.

A host of very beneficial bacteria and yeast have been identified. There are different variations depending on the origin of the strain, but some species of microorganisms are always present. You will find Lactobacilli, Acetobacter, Leuconostoc and yeasts like Zygosaccharomyces, and Saccharomyces. Consider that your puny grocery yougurt tub will have maybe five million cells of bacteria. Kefir can contain 200 times more.

The process produces beautiful "mushrooms" of cheesy kefir clumps, which is strained off from the curdle of solids. (Use a plastic salad strainer) The remaining solid mush is ready to eat. The mushroom pieces are then used to start the next batch. I poured the mushrooms into a two pound jar of 2% organic milk which is right now sitting on my desk at room temperature. It is poised to topple unto my laptop keyboard as I write this. I can feel the kefir army pushing against the wall of the plastic jar in waves, " OK, you ladies...on three, we all surge forward and give this fella a nice little kefir surprise, yeah? Hey you! On the 30- milllionth row... put your psp down for crying out loud. "

Tomorrow, I will repeat the process.

Kira warned me that it is very important to start with a sterilized container, either glass or plastic. No metal should touch the culture (neither vessels, stirrers or lids) and that the culture should be checked after 24 hours, as the rate of production of solids is surprisingly very fast. Better to avoid a blast of kefir splattered into the ceiling and all over my laptop. She recommended using milk, rather than the coconut water that I was planning to use. (Much thicker, faster results)

It looks daunting to first try it. First I smell it. Then I take a gulp. The taste is not unpleasant. It is not pleasant either. It is very...primeval. Primeval yogurt. A slice of banana would easily fix it. I immediately realize that I have been spoiled by the easy texture and pleasing flavour of commercially produced yogurt. An entire civilization is softened by leisure and convenience.

The fact that this bacteria is many centuries old transports me. I am sitting at dawn on the ridge of a minor hill in the Caucasus. I have a three day hike in rugged terrain ahead of me, until I can deliver a package of herbs to my ailing friend Desislav. He has had the misfortune of eating some bad goat at the wedding. I have kefir in my bladderbag and I take a swig of its creamy fetidness. I am now sustained. A mini-cloud floats in the air as I clear my throat. .. aackk...kehfirr.

A yogurt's quality is always measured by the chatter of the digestive tract. It is either quiet (such as when I took bargain probiotics which likely had no live culture left) or market-day lively (my belly sings, as if the commensal bacteria are having a heck of a block party). I would say that the effect of the kefir was evident right away. I am now eagerly awaiting the next batch.

I salute the Caucasus mountains that gave us this amazing food. I get up from my laptop which is very unlikely to outlive the kefir army, swivel around on my man-made-materials-only Staples chair with three (yup, three) adjusting levers and go back to my day. At least my bacteria now makes sense.