Unfortunately the timing of when this test is done most of the time, increases the risk of a false negative -- meaning there is the possibility of NOT identifying a baby with PKU. Babies born to vegan mothers may even be at INCREASED risk of being falsely told their baby does not have PKU, because the vegan diet...
I learned about Phenylketonuria in my prenatal class, when I was pregnant. PKU is a genetic disease in which the gene that codes for a certain protein (an enzyme) that enables one to break down the amino acid, phenylalanine is defective. As a result, this amino acid accumulates and becomes toxic to the brain. Left untreated it can quickly result in severe and permanent mental disability. Although the incidence of PKU is only one in ten thousand births, all fifty states have laws requiring newborns to be tested for this genetic disease. That is because the effects of untreated PKU are devastating but completely preventable with treatment. Detection is simple -- they prick the heal of the newborn, and get a small blood sample. If the blood has high levels of phenylalanine this is considered positive for PKU. The treatment then is a strict, low protein diet for the rest of one's life.
Unfortunately the timing of when this test is done most of the time, increases the risk of a false negative -- meaning there is the possibility of NOT identifying a baby with PKU. Babies born to vegan mothers may even be at INCREASED risk of being falsely told their baby does not have PKU, because the vegan diet...
A new study, just published in the Lancet gives us more evidence for #4. This Nov 2, 2017 study examined a procedure, inserting stents to relieve stable angina, that has been a standard of care for coronary patients, and found little benefit. Stents are widely done, very expensive, and can
Vitamin A Deficiency -- Mowing Down Vegans?
I did it again. As I have been known to do on occasion, I went over to the dark side. That is I followed some links that led me to that part of the blogosphere, that thinks being vegan is not safe, and that the only people who are vegan long term, must be cheating, otherwise they would die.
This time my journey started because I just had to know for myself if those discussing a particular issue on-line (and I have now completely forgotten what it was) were cherry picking studies or taking lines from research papers out of context to shore up their perspective -- the plant-based proponents or the die-hard omnivores, so down the rabbit hole I went. Although I certainly don't have time to deeply pursue every point-of-disagreement between bloggers with differing nutritional perspectives, sometimes when the disagreement is over specific, "facts." I just have to know for myself, who is really misrepresenting the science.
It was a recent such foray that led me to yet another alarmist post declaring that vegan diets are
As my good friends know, I am always on the lookout for new science that may shed light on lifestyle options that may be helpful for preventing or reversing various common health issues-- and then sharing this information with those I think might have an interest in it. I had just been privately emailing a new study that I found, suggesting reversal of Hashimoto's Disease might be possible, to several friends when it occurred to me that with thyroid disease as prevalent as it is -- this one might be worth sharing on my blog and in my newsletter -- as thyroid disorders are becoming extremely common.
First a little background. Hypothyroidism is what results when the body has too little thyroid hormone, and is usually evidenced by an increase in the blood TSH levels. Hyperthyroidism is the result of too much thyroid hormone and is associated with depression or lowering of the TSH. Low thyroid or the "hypo" form is far more common and in the US is most often caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Graves Disease is also an autoimmune thyroid disease, but it results in an overactive thyroid and too much thyroid hormone.
There has been evidence for some time, that both Hashimotos and Graves, may be triggered and even maintained by the consumption of gluten, in genetically susceptible people. There is also evidence that about 2/3 of Americans probably carry the genes to become gluten intolerant, that the incidence of gluten intolerance is increasing, and that many people who would benefit from a gluten-free diet, are negative by every single currently used diagnostic test for gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease.
However, it is likely that once enough damage has been done to the thyroid as a result of exposure to gluten, simply going gluten free may not be enough to enable the thyroid to function optimally again. However complete elimination of gluten would still be important, because there is evidence that the risk of developing additional autoimmune diseases, and other health problems increases over time with the continued exposure to gluten. If you want to learn more about science on this issue, the folks down in Jackson Mississippi recorded and posted a talk I gave there on this subject awhile back. Click on the image of me giving this talk below to watch that video.
So now I'd like to share with you an interesting study that might suggest some additional possibilities for healing thyroid dysfunction. The study was published earlier this year in the International Journal of Endocrinology. Clicking on the image below will take you directly to the study, in case you would like to read it for yourself.
This study basically took people with diagnosed but very early Hashimoto's Disease (and one person with Graves Disease) and had them take Inositol and selenium for six months. They demonstrated significant normalization of TSH in this population, which translated into noticeable improvements in well-being.
If someone is already taking thyroid replacement for hypothyroidism and tries this protocol, they would probably want to carefully monitor thyroid function -- and taper medications as necessary, or else they could experience hyperthyroid symptoms and/or have the medication interfere with the body's attempts to heal and normalize the endocrine system. I will add, I am not a medical doctor, and am sharing this information for educational purposes only. If you are interested in trying this you should consult your appropriate health-care provider. : )
I do love the work of both Dr. T Colin Campbell and his Son Dr. Thomas Campbell. I believe my life, and health have benefitted immensely from my knowledge of their work, and I am a regular subscriber to their newsletter, published by the Center for Nutrition Studies. So it was with great interest that I read their article, "A Plant Based Doctor's Take on Choosing a Plant-Based Milk." However I found this article to be incomplete in addressing the wide variety of health concerns that are relevant to such a discussion. So this blog post is not only to honor their work, but expand upon this subject a bit more.
There are many good reasons to leave all dairy products out of your diet. Dairy proteins stimulate the growth of existing cancers, trigger damage to arteries, and trigger Type One Diabetes in genetically susceptible people. Dairy products are loaded with artery clogging saturated fat, and trans-fats, and they contain dozens of hormones, which increase acne and can disrupt our own hormone balance. They are rich sources of environmental contaminants that animal's concentrate in their body and only release these when lactating. Dairy is loaded with pus, and often contains pathogens, not killed by pasteurization -- such as the MAP bacteria, which may trigger Crohn's Disease, and bovine leukemia viruses, which are suspected as a cause of leukemia and breast cancer in humans.
Given the overwhelming science showing multiple harms from dairy, it makes sense to find plant based alternatives to all dairy products (I have an entire page HERE dedicated to just that) however Campbells's article really only addressed the fat, sugar and calorie content of plant-milks, and I have additional concerns:
1) Most plant-milks have added calcium. This is no different than taking a calcium supplement, and the most recent research shows that calcium supplements are associated with increased mortality -- probably by contributing to calcification of the arteries. I'd suggest avoiding the milks with added calcium.
2) Many plant milks also have added chemicals (like carrageenan) which may have some harmful impacts. I recommend avoiding these too. Look for labels that list very few ingredients.
3) Almond milk has some additional concerns. The California Almond Board requires almonds to be pastueurized either by steam or treatment with Propylene Oxide (PPO) a possible carcinogen. I suggest avoiding PPO. You can call the manufacturer to determine which method was used on the almonds in your milk, or buy organic. Natural Grocer's has a statement on this subject too.
4) Because soy is likely to be Genetically modified, which means it could detrimentally alter our gut micro biome, and or have much higher levels of Round-up, and or high levels of BT-toxin, I recommend avoiding soy like the plague -- unless it is certified non-GMO project verified.
5) Some milks are sweetened with barley malt, or have other ingredients that contain gluten -- so I look for those that are gluten-free as well.
Here are examples of soy milks that I buy for my family:
And while I do keep packaged soy milk on hand -- most of the time when I need milk, I make my own from almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds. It's very simple, quick and saves me money. See my post right below this one to learn how.
Did you know that you can make your own fresh, "milk" quickly, inexpensively and even save money? Best of all -- you can easily avoid additives you don't want -- like carrageenan, or added calcium which is very bad for arteries -- as are added sugars and oils. And on top of all that -- you can even have a truly RAW product -- none of the packaged milks are raw, they must be heated to kill bacteria in order to be shelf-stable in the package. For all these reasons, I LOVE to make my own nut and seed milks. It is super easy. All you need is a high speed blender, a brand new ankle-high nylon stocking (or you can purchase a regular nut milk bag -- but I prefer the stocking!) and a bowl or measuring cup that you can stretch the stocking over.
Optional: liquid stevia, maple syrup or vanilla
1) Take a scissor and cut off the top two inches of the stocking -- so that the elastic part at the top is completely removed. (We don't want the substances in the elastic to come in contact with our milk.)
2) Wash the stocking super well with dish soap, carefully and completely rinsing well. Then set the stocking aside.
3) Measure out 1/2 cup of raw cashews, sunflower seeds or almonds and rinse them in a strainer, then place them into the blender. Add one cup of filtered water and blend on high until you have a completely white liquid -- at least a full 60 seconds. Then add the additional 2 cups of water and blend again on high.
4) Stretch the clean nylon stocking over a bowl or large measuring cup as shown and pour the freshly made milk through the stocking. (Note: If using cashews, you do NOT need to do this -- they have so little fiber that you need not filter - just blend and drink!)
5) Lift the stocking off the cup and gently squeeze it to force the liquid out and and collect it in the cup. (see photo below)
For savory dishes -- like making mash potatoes, I use the milk as is. For pouring over breakfast cereal, or drinking as a beverage, I add a few drops of liquid stevia extract, or you could simply stir in your favorite sweetener and vanilla extract. Vary the amount of water used to create a richer product (use less water) or to reduce calories and or cost (use more water.)
Also -- if you can plan ahead...it's nice to soak the nuts or seeds in water for a few hours to overnight -- and then discard the soaking water. This makes the nutrients in your finished milk even MORE bio-available, as nature packages nuts and seeds with enzyme inhibitors that prevent sprouting until enough water is present to insure germination and growth. Soaking removes those.
Donald Trump is not the cause of our problems. Neither is Terrorism. Trump and Terrorism are symptoms of a culture in decline and a level of consciousness that is prevalent. Most of us struggle to support families and afford health care and these sometimes justify our participation in things at odds with our values. My working for pharmaceutical giant Merck is one example. Years before I finally quit, I knew I was a cog in a company actively undermining health and well-being and even our democracy! It was a trade-off I consciously made in order to have health insurance and the privileges of a living wage. Here’s another example many can relate to -- purchasing chocolate that incentivizes child slave labor (instead of spending a bit more for chocolate that is fair trade.)
Donald Trump’s power and wealth are so beyond comprehension, that if he never earned another dime he could still provide an incredibly privileged existence for his entire family, long into the foreseeable future. Why doesn’t he embrace policies that facilitate justice for the less privileged, compassion for others, and stop trying to punish/silence/scare his critics?
Even if only a tiny bit of what we hear of Trump’s conflicts-of-interest and intentional misrepresentation of facts is true, it’s an egregious record. He has been filmed bragging about his extramarital, aggressive, unwanted sexual advances. Yet most of his supporters appear to be people who consider themselves people of faith or with high moral standards. People unaware of or willing to overlook these things are keeping him in power. Why are they and a majority of our senators, continuing to make Trump our most visible “role model” the driver of our national conversations and the most powerful individual impacting our democracy?
In the final chapter of my book, Compassionate Souls – Raising the Next Generation to Change the World, The case is made that compassionate parenting built on a foundation of attachment, with firm, non-violent boundaries, that meets fundamental needs of our species, is key to creating a better world. That plus a just economic system (including food and healthcare) is key to preventing terrorism too: People who believe they have access to a decent life, plus a worldview that embodies the golden rule (and have good mental health -- which is facilitated by having fundamental needs in childhood optimally met) don’t engage in terrorism, bullying nor seek to enrich themselves to unfathomable levels by doing things that harm others.
It is possible to live in relative peace without real justice – just look at China. Will that be our future -- giving up important freedoms to end terrorism while becoming slaves to an economic engine that benefits only a few?
A widespread change in consciousness is the only way for there to be widespread peace AND justice, and how we raise children is critical to this. Too many of our cultural norms are contrary to the fundamental needs of our species -- like removing babies from mother at birth, forcing newborns to sleep alone or not allowing them to “nurse on request.” making babies or children cry it out alone, spanking them, discipline that is punitive, and/or fails to uphold healthy boundaries...all of these set humans up to feel, “not right” inside, and make us more vulnerable to materialism or to exploiting, bullying or harming others, in our pursuit of what we want. That plus an educational system that encourages competition and acquisition of stuff rather than valuing collective well-being, cooperation, and pursuit of knowledge, is causing extraordinary harm to everyone on the planet.
But each of us CAN be the change. We must open our eyes, be willing to change ourselves and then respectfully dialogue with those who hold different points of view. Here are Five things we can do right now, to be the change:
Even if initially you are unable to persuade anyone to join you in these things, each time one of us stands firmly in solidarity with justice, non-violence and compassion, it inspires others to consider their own choice of where to stand. Without enough people doing just this, power and money will always push the culture towards injustice and inequality. So please, BE THE CHANGE! It is our only hope.
I have an entire page dedicated to Passover, with recipe links and my freely downloadable Haggadah for Holistic Nonviolence on this page.
Writing this post is presenting some additional challenges. I just pulled a tray of these Matzahs from the oven, and although I was able to restrain myself from eating them long enough to take a few photos of my finished product, I can't seem to stop eating them now, which is making typing this post harder than usual.
After several disappointing attempts, I finally came up with something that not only tastes good and stays together, but also remains fairly flat instead of having the edges curl up after baking. I've been making all sorts of oil-free crackers for many years, but none of them so far would work as a substitute for matzah because they just didn't look the part at all.
Now I should warn you --what I have created here, would not pass muster with any Orthodox rabbi in terms of being kosher for Passover -- a special type of kosher that involves a lot of additional rules, like for example you have under 18 minutes from the time you mix the flour with water before you get it into a hot oven -- otherwise yeast might start to grow and cause the matzah to be leavened. Furthermore It is a mitzvah -- in fact a commandment, to eat properly made matzah on the first night of Passover, but to fulfill this, matzah must be made of one of these five grains -- wheat, spelt, barley, rye or oats. No exceptions. Some people who are gluten intolerant do eat oats -- if they are grown, handled, and processed to prevent cross contamination. But others do not. For very observant Jews, who are gluten intolerant and don't eat oats, this presents a conundrum that I do not have a solution for. But for those, who want to honor the spirit of Passover by having seders, and retelling the story of liberation from slavery -- and aren't concerned with following all those rules, my recipe may be just the thing you were looking for to make your seder inclusive for those who don't consume gluten. It's actually a very simple recipe, but does take time to roll out the dough thinly. This recipe makes six large crackers -- or one big tray (15 x 20 inches). So you might wish to double it.
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup + 1/2 cup white rice flour
additional rice flour for rolling out dough
1/2 cup water
2 TBS ground golden flax seeds
1/4 tsp guar gum
Unbleached parchment paper
I think these taste great without adding any salt, but if you are used to a fair amount of salt, you might want to sprinkle some salt on these right before putting them into the oven.
I also think they taste best right out of the oven -- but have found that several days later, you can reheat them in the oven right before serving them and they are just as good.
One final note I'd like to add is that some traditions consider legumes and rice to be verboten during Passover. The Chabad website has written about this subject Here. But I am troubled by this perspective.
In essence as I understand this, back about 800 or so years ago, some rabbis got the idea, that out of an abundance of caution, beans and rice and other healthy plant-deprived foods that are clearly NOT chometz (one of the five special leavened grains) should be avoided on Passover. This tradition took hold in some, but not all geographic areas, and has now become a source of division amongst Jews from different places.
It appears to me that Chabad's only concern about this custom is the fact that it divides Jews. But they completely ignore an important problem here, namely that this custom has the additional consequence of encouraging and increasing consumption of meat, dairy and eggs (all of which they do consider Kosher for Passover).
There are several problems with this:
1) Environmental organizations have stated that animal agriculture is a major cause of the most serious environmental problems facing humanity today,
2) In order to obtain meat, dairy and eggs, humans must engage in the practice of making other beings into, "chattel property" and "owning" them, which seems contrary to the spirit of Passover.
3) Eating meat, dairy and eggs, has been clearly shown to contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many cancers -- the leading causes of death and disability in the Western world today.
4) Rearing animals for food, means large amounts of grain and beans get fed to animals -- a very inefficient use of resources (it takes many pounds of grain to produce a single pound of meat) contributing to food insecurity for the poorest humans, while 70% of grain grown is for animal feed. Also while many areas of the US experience drought, the major use of water is for animal agriculture.
I think it is time that Jews speak up, and encourage religious leaders to address this glaring hypocrisy that undermines many of the important ideas that Torah appears to embrace: feeding the hungry, healing the world, protecting human health, compassion for animals, and taking care of G-d's creation.
I've been vegan now for 26 years, and my husband almost just as long. Our daughters are 18 and 22 years old and have been vegan their entire lives. I successfully made it through their two pregnancies and produced sufficient breast milk eating nothing but plants. One of my girls even made it to be a level 7 gymnast (doing back handsprings on the balance beam) without so much as a single bite of animal protein. And neither of them has ever broken a bone even though I deprived them from drinking the mammary secretions of cows. Despite dire predictions of disaster from so many including some uneducated doctors and even our beloved midwife over these past 26 years -- our avoidance of that most culturally revered food component -- animal protein does not appear to have harmed any of us.
My family history is even more remarkable. About 25 years ago, my father had chronic angina. His doctor diagnosed blockages in three arteries and wanted him to have immediate bypass surgery. But when my dad did his own research he discovered that surgery although effective at reducing angina, would not slow progression of his disease, would provide little benefit in terms of extending his life, and that he could do more to reduce his risk of a sudden cardiac event, by switching to a low-fat vegan diet. Furthermore, by opting for this simple dietary change, he avoided having his sternum busted open and being put on a heart-lung machine, which always causes at least some brain damage, and is a necessary part of every bypass surgery. So my father went to a program in California that taught him how to eat. In under a month, his blood pressure and cholesterol were back in the healthy range and his chest pain was entirely gone. His energy was dramatically improved. He did well like this for half a dozen years until he was derailed by those dangerous 5 words, "A little bit won't hurt." Several years after adding animal protein back to his diet, he had his first coronary event.
My mother will tell anyone who asks...the healthiest she ever felt in her whole life, was when she was a practicing macrobiotic. For several years, she ate an all-plant based diet, with the exception of fish once or twice a month, but no more. When her macrobiotic guru left town, she lost her bearings and drifted back to eating some chicken, eggs and dairy -- but always expressed regret over, "falling off the macrobiotic wagon" when she talked about this.
Both of my parents have now lived longer than any of their parents did, and so far longer than all of their siblings too.
Now you'd think that with all that family history, my sisters would not be trying to get our parents to eat more animal protein, and condemning me for my attempts to keep them largely plant-based. But if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Such are the challenges of family.
One of my sisters is a huge fan of Dr. Mercola and even claimed that according to him, our under 85 lb mother should be eating at least 6o gms of protein a day, and that some of that should come from animals. Now I don't agree with everything Mercola says, but it's worth noting that even with his obvious personal bias in favor of eating animals, he has pointed out that we are likely to live longer and better by NOT eating too much protein -- which for someone my mother's size he clearly states should be LESS THAN 40 grams of protein a day.
So I share all of this, so you will understand, why from time to time, when family anxiety gets the better of me, I continue to revisit the issue of how much protein we need and how to get enough of it on a plants-only diet. If you really want an entertaining and very thorough discussion of this issue, read the terrific book, Proteinaholic, by a top bariatric surgeon.
So what I wanted to share here was my recent discovery about just how much protein there is in mushrooms. Relative to the number of calories, it's really pretty astounding. Here in America, where most of us are eating too many calories, as long as we meet our energy needs, the less calories eaten, the better. Less calories tends to mean less cancer, less diabetes, and less degenerative disease in general. Since we don't need a lot of protein, the more important consideration is how do we get it, while minimizing calories and maximizing health-promoting nutrients? Consider the humble mushroom. A tiny little four ounce can of mushrooms provides 2 grams of protein. Now that may not seem like much...but consider this, an entire can has only 20 calories in it because there is a lot of water in mushrooms! For comparison, to get 2 grams of protein from beef, you'd have to eat 124 artery-clogging, cancer-promoting calories. Mushrooms: Real food for real people who'd like to live a long healthy life.
Easy to make and they store well for at least a week in the fridge. A delicious, nutritious, satisfying, grab and go breakfast, using leftover cooked quinoa.
Store bought whole-food meal replacement bars usually have too much sugar and fat, and I wanted something more nutritious that would also save me money. My first attempts weren't so great, but I kept working at this until I came up with something that would stay together, bake properly and solidify in the middle and taste great. I am happy to share my result here with you. You can make these using any leftover cooked whole grain. I prefer them being made with quinoa -- but if brown rice is what is sitting left over in my fridge I will use that instead. The important part, is that the cooked grain can NOT BE SOGGY! I get the best results using leftover grain that has been refrigerated overnight so that it is a bit on the dry side, and this is a great use for leftover rice or quinoa! This recipe is only mildly sweet, so if you are prefer really sweet stuff -- you might want to double the amount of maple syrup. Also, Hazelnut extract is not necessary -- just adds a tiny bit more flavor. If this is not something you keep on hand in your pantry, then omit it. And a note about liquid stevia --not all liquid stevia extracts are equivalent -- some of them have nasty after tastes! I get good results using Wisdom brand Sweet Leaf, Stevia Clear. But during the summer when I have a lot of stevia growing in my garden, I use the whole fresh leaves instead. To use the fresh leaves instead of the extract -- blend about one half cup of loosely packed stevia leaves into the almond milk (in a blender) and then proceed from there.
1/2 cup almond milk (or any plant milk of your choice)
1/4 cup raw chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp hazelnut extract (optional-not necessary at all)
1 tsp liquid stevia extract (Wisdom Sweet Leaf Brand)
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 ripe bananas
3 cups of leftover cooked quinoa or brown rice
3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
2 TBS powdered cinnamon
1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
3 TBS ground golden flax seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1) Measure out 1/2 cup of almond milk into a bowl that holds at least 2 cups. Add the 1/4 cup of chia to the milk and stir well for 30 seconds. Add the three extracts and maple syrup and stir again.
2) Mash up two very ripe bananas with a fork and then stir them into milk mixture.
3) Into a large bowl place 3 cups of previously cooked and cooled (preferably overnight!) quinoa or brown rice. Sprinkle it with the 3/4 cups of garbanzo bean flour and powdered cinnamon. Use a big flat wooden paddle to mix the rice very well and break up the clumps so that the flour coats each grain of cooked quinoa or rice. (Like the photo above shows.)
4) Place the walnuts onto a cutting board and use a knife to finely chop the walnuts up. Chop up just enough to fill a half cup measure, and then add them to bowl along with the ground flax seeds and raw pumpkin seeds. Mix all of this very well.
5) Add the banana-milk-chia mixture to the large bowl of quinoa (or rice) and mix it all very well, then spoon it into parchment paper lined 8x8 glass baking dish. (If you don't have parchment paper, rub a tsp or two of oil onto the bottom and sides of the pan instead) and carefully press it down into the pan and smooth over the top like the photo below shows.
6) Place the pan into a preheated, 300 degree oven and bake for about 40 minutes until it feels pretty firm. Remove from oven and slice into 12 squares immediately -- but then let it cool before attempting to remove slices from the pan and it will firm up. Store in the refrigerator. These keep for at least a week, or can be frozen for longer storage too.
About 20 years ago as the new mother of an infant, I spent some time in Australia. Just prior to this I had left my job as a microbiologist for a large multi-national pharmaceutical company and was deeply interested in the conversation that was happening at that time around the issue of vaccines. I knew that vaccines were one of the greatest success stories of modern medicine, but I had a friend who had not had as much science education and she did not share my view. Out of concern for her children, I decided to delve into the topic -- so that I could educate my friend and shine a light on the nonsense that she had fallen prey to.
Compared to now, it was a very different atmosphere in terms of being able to discuss vaccines and vaccine policy. Paul Offit was not yet the poster boy for mandatory vaccination, and one could actually ask questions in public arenas seeking to understand the real evidence regarding both the safety and efficacy of individual vaccines, without being vilified as, "Anti-vaccine," or "Anti-science." Today those labels are used to immediately shut down meaningful discussions. Additionally, doctors and scientists who advocated informed consumer choice for parents, were not subject to well-orchestrated attacks from those seeking to revoke their medical licenses or discredit them as professionals. I spent a lot of time as a new mother at the medical library researching vaccines and then calling the CDC over and over, as well as calling my old immunology professors to discuss my findings, and try to make sense of everything I was learning.
Also at that time, the vaccine schedule was not as extensive and did not include the chickenpox, or HPV vaccines -- both of which may actually have negative public health outcomes as a growing body of evidence suggests. For example while we've seen a decrease in Chickenpox cases since the introduction of the chickenpox vaccine, shingles has increased significantly -- which is concerning because it's a more dangerous and more expensive disease to treat. This is consistent with mathematical modeling done around the time of licensure that predicted increases in shingles might result from use of the chickenpox vaccine. Meanwhile the HPV vaccine has misled young women into thinking that they no longer need to get PAP smears, which when used regularly, have been shown to be nearly 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer, while the Gardasil vaccine is only about 40% effective at this, and there is no data showing that protection lasts even 15 years -- long enough to protect the pre-pubescent girls it is being given to at the time they really need it. Newer studies now suggest that the introduction and marketing of Gardasil, will result in increases in cervical cancer in industrialized nations as compared to what we had prior to use of this vaccine. However, due to the intensely charged rhetoric, and the advertising purchasing power of pharma which influences the types of stories the media covers, few people know that these two vaccines actually have no science to support their public health benefit. However, a law passed in 1986 gave vaccine manufactures and doctors immunity from liability should anyone be harmed by any of the vaccines on the federal pediatric vaccine schedule and that has drastically impacted the economics around vaccinations -- and thus our public policy. (keep reading....continues after photo...)
When I arrived in Australia after I had started researching vaccines here in America, I learned about some of the differences in their health care system. But the most interesting thing that I noticed while in Australia in the mid 1990s, was the very different view that medical personnel there had about the flu vaccine, as compared to their American counterparts. In America, pharmaceutical PR had already done a superb job of influencing doctors and policy makers with regards to the flu vaccine -- as most were enthusiastically endorsing it, even though there was almost no good research showing it's efficacy. However, big pharma's efforts with regard to promoting the flu vaccine had not yet saturated the land down under, and this manifested in a very different view amongst health-care personnel there. Over and over doctors, nurses and pharmacists there told me, "Well everybody knows that the flu vaccine is a joke." On top of that I also learned that many people reported having had, "flu-like symptoms" following getting the flu vaccine after not having had any flu-like symptoms for many years prior to being vaccinated.
Since it has been many years since I've been to Australia, I don't know what their attitude towards the flu vaccine is now, but in America, flu vaccines were and continue to be big business. The World Health Organization points out that vaccines are the fastest growing sector of the pharmaceutical industry, and they expect that next year in the U.S., sales of the influenza vaccine alone, will be nearly 4 billion dollars. No wonder we are inundated with advertising, and pressure from "community partners" to get our flu shot. Like the ubiquitous, milk mustache campaigns trying to persuade us that dairy will improve our health, many have no idea how much science contradicts both of these marketing ploys.
The Cochrane Collaboration is a global independent network of researchers free from commercial sponsorship. They conduct and publish meta studies to help inform health decisions and are widely viewed as one of the least biased, evidenced-based sources of medical information. In 2014 they did a review of influenza vaccines, (which I'd encourage you to actually read for yourself by clicking on that link) but here are a few things I screen shot from that document (below). In a nutshell, this meta study, found a very small benefit of flu shots overall. But since as Cochrane points out they were unable to assess the real impact of bias on this subject, it is possible that even the small benefit they found is over-optimistic (keep in mind too that most published studies are designed and funded by those who stand to profit from sales of flu vaccines. For a long time, we've had plenty of evidence that when studies don't turn out in ways that supports pharma's sales -- that data never gets published -- it just disappears -- since those funding it often have researchers sign contracts to not publish any results without permission from the pharmaceutical company.) It is also important to note that Cochrane said, "The Harms evidence base was limited." meaning that they were unable to accurately assess the risk-benefit of flu vaccines. Below are screen shots from Cochrane's study....(keep scrolling down though I have even more to share!)
Then in 2015, The New England Journal of Medicine published a flu study that is featured prominently on the CDC's site HERE which purports to show that influenza vaccination makes one less likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia, if they do come down with the flu. However, I interpreted their data quite differently. The study looked at 2767 people admitted to the hospital with Pneumonia and found that 162 of them had laboratory confirmed influenza, while 2605 did not. It is worth pointing out that what most people think of as, "The Flu" is actually a set of symptoms such as a respiratory tract infection along with fever and aches and pains. There are many other infections (including food-borne illness!) that can have these symptoms, and more often than not what most people call, "The Flu" is NOT influenza. I have never seen evidence, nor even a theoretical basis to suggest that the influenza vaccine might prevent any of these other, "flu-like illnesses".
Of the 2767 people who were hospitalized with pneumonia, 162 of them tested positive for influenza, leaving 2605 who were hospitalized for pneumonia that was not caused by influenza. The first thing I noticed when looking at this data was this: Influenza looks to be a rather minor contributor to hospitalizations for pneumonia (since only about 6% of those with pneumonia were positive for influenza.) That means most cases of Pneumonia severe enough to lead to hospitalization come from other causes -- including "Influenza-like viruses" that the vaccine would not be expected to offer any protection against.
But here is the bigger point I'd like to make. The authors of this study suggest that their data show that influenza vaccination protected people who got influenza from going on to be hospitalized with pneumonia -- because only 17% of those positive for influenza had gotten the vaccine, compared to 29% of those who had other flu-like illnesses (and had gotten the flu vaccine. ) But is it not equally valid to suggest that perhaps these different numbers are not due to the flu vaccine affording protection from pneumonia -- but rather the fact that having had the vaccine actually increased the likelihood that if exposed to "flu like illnesses" one would go on to be hospitalized for pneumonia? Just based upon the data in this paper aren't these two perspectives equally plausible explanations for the 17% versus 29%?
Given that people undergoing chemotherapy are known to be more vulnerable to infectious disease -- because we understand that exposure to toxic substances can negatively impact the the ability of the immune system to respond optimally to infections, is it not possible that injecting toxins like aluminum, formaldehyde and foreign proteins and other common vaccine components into the bloodstream might likewise make one more vulnerable to certain infectious diseases too? This paper offers no evidence to support that my alternative interpretation is any less valid then the one that the authors of this study put forth.
Furthermore, there is evidence that injections (like vaccines) can actually increase the odds that exposure to a virus during an epidemic can make a person more likely to experience more serious symptoms, (example: Polio Provocation) so it seems reasonable to me that something like that could be the explanation for the data presented in this study -- namely that getting an influenza vaccine, far from simply being ineffective, may actually increase one's odds of ending up in the hospital with pneumonia. Again keep in mind -- that this study also shows that the majority of cases of people having what may seem like, "the flu", is not influenza -- and clearly that group is NOT benefited from the flu vaccine and may even be at greater harm.
Let me restate this another way: These data suggest that for most people influenza presents a very small risk that they will be hospitalized with pneumonia. They are much more likely to end up hospitalized with pneumonia from infections other then the influenza. If they have gotten a flu vaccine and then get sick with something besides influenza, this study suggests that they will have an increased risk of being hospitalized with pneumonia.
Add to all this, evidence that US Flu Death Figures May be More PR than Science. Barbara Loe Fisher has a nice article HERE explaining all of this too, with a lot more references to the peer-reviewed literature. Even the CDC's own surveillance data shows that usually about 80-90% of what most people seek medical care for as, "The Flu" turns out, after laboratory testing to not be caused by the influenza virus. You can read CDC's figures HERE.
I believe that each vaccine needs to be looked at carefully to see exactly what science exists to support its public health benefits. Given that we have many examples of the pharmaceutical industry intentionally misleading the public regarding the safety or benefits of various prescription drugs (Vioxx being the first that comes to mind) Why should we expect these same players to suddenly be more ethical when it comes to vaccines, especially when they have extraordinary legal protections from liability should vaccines (unlike other pharmaceutical drugs) injure or kill anyone, and they have the US government mandating that many of us must purchase these products. The economic incentives to overstate the benefits, and minimize, or even hide the risks appear to be far greater for vaccines than any other pharmaceutical products. Given the fact that health care personnel are not trained to analyze health care policy, nor assess the risks and benefits of drugs, but instead to simply implement established guidelines, and the fact that drug manufacturers work extremely hard to influence both health care workers and policy makers, I encourage everyone to do their own research and critical thinking on this issue.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
I have loved ones who must cut their sugar, oil and sodium, and they are CRAVING something a bit decadent, and I can see how important some sort of indulgence is to them right now. Until recently, I had no idea how much sodium things like baking soda and baking powder contributed to baked goods --- but take my word for it -- it's a lot. So I used only a bit to make these. I did also try this recipe while completely ommitting the baking powder, and while they did turn out more or less ok doing this, I definately liked them better WITH the baking powder being used -- they weren't quite as dense. So if you can handle a bit of sodium, I definately recommend that you do use the baking powder. In creating the recipe below, I set about trying to come up with something that would fill the need for a treat -- with minimal amounts salt, sugar and oil and here it is. These cookies were a snap to make. Because I still have a huge box of pears I picked last month -- slowly ripening in my garage, I used pureed pears to replace most of the oil -- but you could probably use apples -- or even applesauce to do this too.
1 1/4 cup of pureed pears (or applesauce)
1/4 tsp liquid stevia extract
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBS olive oil (could use canola, or coconut or saflower too)
2 cup sorghum flour
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp Rumford baking powder (optional -- but recommended)
1/4 cup ground golden flax seeds
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or other granulated sweetener)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 - 1 cup GF/Dairy Free mini chocolate chips
You will also need parchment paper-lined cookie sheets.
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2) Wash and slice the pears and place in blender and puree until like applesauce keep adding pears until you have exactly 1 1/4 cups.
3) Add the stevia, vanilla and olive oil and blend well.
4) Into a large bowl place all the remaining ingredients except for the chips. Stir well with a wire wisk. Then add the contents of the blender, using a spatula to get every drop. Stir just until nothing dry is visible, then stir in the chocolate chips.
5) Using about 1 TBS of the dough for each, form little cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets. Dip your fingers in water and then press down the cookies to flatten them out as much as you can -- don't let them touch, but they can be fairly close -- they won't spread much.
Bake them about 12-15 minutes, just until the bottoms begin to brown, then remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks before serving. They won't be as crispy as cookies made with a lot more oil and sugar --- but they are satisfying and tasty.
Although the science is strong showing that many cancers, high blood pressure, most diabetes and most heart disease can be entirely prevented by following a whole food plant based diet, it is easy to be confused and not realize just how compelling this science is. Just like in the "debate" over whether human activity is causing climate change -- powerful monied interests do a lot to make it appear that the science is divided and inconclusive-- when in fact it is overwhelmingly aligned with one perspective in each case -- humans ARE modifying the weather, and eating meat, dairy and eggs DOES increase the risk of our most common causes of death and disability.
Yet headlines suggesting things like, "Saturated Fat is Back!" mislead many, who don't realize what went on behind the scenes that led to those headlines. It is important to recognize this larger context before I can address the title of this post. But we'll set all that aside for now in order to address a very real phenomenon that does sometimes happen: People try a plant-based diet -- but don't stick with it, saying something along the lines of, "I just wasn't feeling so good." There are some very simple reasons WHY this sometimes happens and being informed of these can help you be more successful and not get derailed. Here are my top five reasons why someone might feel worse after trying to be vegan:
1) They weren't eating enough! We get use to eating a certain amount of food -- based upon visual cues, or how full we feel after eating. When we shift away from meat, dairy or eggs which have a lot of calories per cup of food and eat more plants which have much more fiber and far fewer calories, we can feel fuller from what seems like the same amount of food -- but suddenly be getting only half the calories. For those who start out at about a healthy weight -- they may feel weak because they don't need to lose any more weight -- it's their body telling them they need more fuel. That's like trying to run your car the same distance but with only half the gas. Compared to meat, dairy and eggs -- most plant derived foods -- especially if they are made without using any added oils -- which is the healthiest way to eat, do not pack as many calories. The solution? You need to eat more food! (And if you don't need to lose any weight -- eat more raw nuts and seeds -- as these are the most calorically dense of the whole plant foods.)
2) They inadvertently started consuming more gluten. Many people have no idea that they are gluten intolerant, and there is evidence that our current methods of testing for gluten-intolerance are missing many who would benefit from going gluten free. When such people, reduce or eliminate meat, dairy and eggs, if they are not careful, they could end up eating more bread, pasta and baked goods. Many vegan faux meats are made loaded with gluten too. One of the more common symptoms of gluten reaction is depression, or even just a general feeling of spaciness. This often get's misattributed to a lack of animal protein -- when in fact -- they are not missing anything -- they simply need to cut out wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats! When making the change to vegan, be careful that you are not eating more processed foods and or gluten. Emphasize beans, starchy vegetables and leafy greens as the foundation of your new plant-based diet. Include small amounts of raw nuts and seeds
3) They weren't properly supplementing vitamin B-12. We only need a very tiny bit, but this vitamin, which is only produced by bacteria is critical to keeping our heart, brain and nerves healthy. Our ancestors, living in unsanitary environments, had no problem getting enough B-12, but today we chlorinate our water, wash hands after changing the baby's diaper, and don't eat our vegetables with dirt still clinging to them as many other animals do, (which is why they have B-12 in their body, which meat eaters MAY be able to absorb--but not always) and so we can become B-12 deficient. But it's not just a vegan issue -- as we age and gut problems increase, even omnivores are at risk. That's why the Institute of Medicine recommends that EVERYONE over age 50 supplement B-12. Don't count on swallowed pills either -- use a sublingual - that dissolves under the tongue, which bypasses gut problems by getting absorbed directly through the mucus membranes. For more on B-12 read this post I wrote about it.
4) Their gut micro biome needs more time to adapt! A growing body of research is suggesting that the types and numbers of specific bacteria living in our digestive tract is critical to our health and well-being, and may influence things like digestion, mood, and immunity. It turns out, that what he have been eating exerts a profound influence upon our gut micro biome - the number and types of organisms living inside of us. In addition, sudden changes in the amount of fiber we eat for example, can cause uncomfortable gut symptoms -- but don't despair -- your microbes will adapt. Some people find that shifting their diet gradually over several weeks works better for them -- others find that taking enzymes with meals is helpful too. I had been vegan for many years already when I learned just how incredibly healthy beans were, and decided to start eating several servings of them every day. Surprisingly, once I started eating lots of beans (and presumably had selected for colonies of gut bacteria that appreciated this) I noticed that I no longer had any reaction to eating beans -- which I had sometimes experienced when they were a less frequent part of my diet.
5) Anytime we attempt to make a significant change in our behavior, it is likely to stir up our anxiety for awhile. And increased anxiety usually makes us feel worse. This is even more likely to be the case, if important people in our life would prefer that we not make this change. Just like when an alcoholic quits drinking -- sometimes there is "pushback" from friends and family who resent how the alcoholic's change may alter customs or behaviors that they would prefer to keep as is. But unlike alcohol, meat, dairy and eggs, are even more ubiquitous, and consuming them is reinforced by many of our defining rituals too. The solution? Work to create a new social network that reinforces your new lifestyle. Find others who will encourage your journey -- join a vegan potluck, take plant-based cooking classes, participate in on-line forums. Watch documentaries and read books to keep reminding yourself of why this is important to you. Work hard to keep exposing yourself to information, ideas and others which will reinforce and empower your new choices.
For years, every fall as I dug down into the earth to harvest the tubers of my sweet potato plants and begin the process of curing them in my basement so that their starches would turn to sugar and make them deliciously sweet, I lamented the fact that I had no better use for all those lush green leaves, than to heap them onto my compost pile. It was obvious that many critters found the leaves delicious -- I learned long ago that I could only grow the plants in protected (fenced) areas -- lest someone come and eat every last leaf. But it wasn't until recently that I decided to see what I could find about the culinary uses for sweet potato leaves, and was surprised to find that in many part of the world, they are a commonly consumed green. In general leafy greens contain more nutrients per calorie than any other category of food -- and sweet potato leaves are no exception. When I checked out their specific nutrient profile on the USDA database I found that Kale is a better source of calcium, vitamins C, A, and beta carotene, but sweet potatoes have kale beat in terms of most of the B-vitamins (except for folate) And when it comes to the phytochemicals Lutein and Zeaxanthin, sweet potato leaves have about double what is found in kale!.
You can use sweet potato leaves much as you would spinach and they are very mild tasting. But because they are much lower in oxalic acid, sweet potato greens will not leave that funny astringent taste in your mouth, that you may notice after eating spinach.
I have also been juicing the leaves and stems -- along with carrots and celery. The sweet potato leaves add little in terms of flavor, but the resulting juice mixture is far thicker and creamier than any other vegetable juice I have ever made.
It's a bit funny that with the departure of my last child off to college, I found myself reading a parenting book for the first time in many years. But this is no ordinary parenting book. Initially, I picked it up only to give it a quick skim through. The cover boasts that the Danes are some of the happiest people on earth -- and alleges this is due to how they parent their children.
I have long believed that collectively, how a culture parents, does play a big role in how happy and healthy that generation will be on the whole -- when they become adults. In my first book, Compassionate Souls -- Raising the Next Generation to Change the World, I explained my view that the revolution of the 1960's, and the good things it brought, happened in part, because that generation had been raised with a more compassionate approach to parenting -- due to the popularity of Dr. Spock and his book on baby and child care. I further speculated that the generation coming of age right now -- or at least those who were raised more compassionately than had been the custom--- due to the growing awareness of attachment parenting, on the whole, will push our culture to evolve even more on issues of social justice. (Assuming we are able to prevent catastrophe due to our environmental problems -- combined with the fact, that many citizens have also been injured from NOT getting adequate parenting.) So I was curious to find out what these authors would say. I was also skeptical. The cover seemed kind of cliched to me, and the book is thin and at first glance appeared pretty simplistic -- using the acronym, "PARENT" to illustrate the six key points that make up the Danish Approach. Yet I found myself quickly drawn into the ideas and agreeing with what they were saying. The narrative uses short anecdotes to explain the ideas and then backs them up with brief explanations of published science that corroborates and further explains the core principles. This book effectively distills down a lot of very important ideas and concepts making them seem simple, and very doable. The chapter, "P is for play" -- succinctly reminded me of the big ideas from great books I read years ago -- like, Magical Child, The Plug in Drug, and Endangered Minds.
The chapter, "R is for "Reframing". explained how and why parents can show children how to reframe challenges, failures, or losses in a way that facilitates emotional well-being. This chapter gave me much to think about NOW, which I believe will have value for our family -- even as the mother of adult children.
But my favorite chapter in this book is, "E is for empathy," because it solidly illuminates where American culture has fallen far short of our potential to build happy healthy resilient citizens and clearly explains how an over-focus on competition and winning can undermine the connection and cooperation that is critical to our emotional well-being. That is where empathy comes in. Not only does the book make a compelling case for how natural it is for humans and other species to be empathetic, but also for how critical empathy has been for our survival -- and then they even go into detail about how the Danish go about teaching empathy to their children and encouraging it in their culture. Teachers will find much here to inspire them!
The chapter "N is for No Ultimatums" also did a nice job of explaining why spanking is harmful, and how to parent with respect and avoid power struggles. I have to say, I am smitten with this book, and while I will heartily recommend it to parents everywhere -- I believe the concepts have relevance to anyone who seeks optimal health and well-being -- you need not be raising children to find much here to inspire and inform. The more people who read this book, the better off we will all be!
I just had to comment upon KCUR's Up To Date Show that aired today (you can access the podcast HERE.)
The topic was children's headaches, and featured two MD's, who first shared facts about children's headaches, and then discussed how parents of children suffering from headaches might proceed. Although I was surprised to learn just how common headaches are in children, the reason I felt compelled to write about this particular show, was that after explaining how rarely headaches are indicative of anything truly serious, they did mention that environmental triggers including specific things in the diet, can be a cause of headaches in children. But then, the doctors went on to caution against parents trying too hard to actually figure out what their child's triggers might be, for example keeping a log of what their child may have been doing, exposed to, or eaten as a way of figuring out what their child's triggers might be. They pointed out that doing this ran the risk of making the child see him or herself, as sickly and that would not be good for the child. Since we have good treatments for headaches (drugs) and it can be hard to pinpoint the triggers, many times it's better to just treat the headache (i.e. give your child drugs) so as to not pathologize the child by trying to figure out if anything that they have control over might prevent the headaches.
Really? And being a regular user of pharmaceuticals would be less likely to cause a child to see themselves as sickly?
As I heard them saying this, I found myself thinking back to the days when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry. I remember how I was trained and how I was instructed to bring information (that supported sales of Merck's products) to doctors and to frame things in ways that connected making their job easier with revenue for my company. I couldn't help but imagine these docs having been at some medical conference, where a charismatic, pharmaceutical sales person made the case to these docs about how harmful it could be to a child, for their parent to spend time and give them attention as they work together to take note of when headaches happen, and then record data about what they ate and did just before that -- while the alternative --giving a child a powerful pharmaceutical, would spare them this possible psychological trauma and so obviously be the better choice.
All drugs carry the possibility of side effects. Aspirin can cause bleeding from the gut, and if taken when incubating specific illnesses, can be deadly. Tylenol can impair kidney function -- and long before there is clear kidney disease, reduced kidney function may mean a person has increased exposure to environmental toxins that healthy kidneys would remove. (Perhaps increasing risk long term from these other toxins) These are but two very simple examples. But the other big issue for me -- regarding using drugs in children, is that it lays a foundation for children to use drugs -- it starts with a pill for every ill, but also makes the possibility of using drugs recreationally when they get older more of a possibility. Of course if my child was in a lot of pain, I would do whatever I could to stop it...BUT I would first consider options that, "Do no harm."
Doctors who believe that giving a child a drug is better for them than helping them learn how to take charge of their own health and find and eliminate the cause of whatever is making them suffer have obviously drank the big-pharma Kool-aide.
Raising children to be wary of all drugs -- right from the start is one of the best things we can do to protect their health. Not just because even the most common and presumably "safe" drugs used correctly can still have adverse effects (with new dangers coming to light all the time) but also because this is one of the most important was for parents to lay a GENUINE foundation for drug resistance before they become teenagers.
Dr. Mercola, a successful internet marketer dispensing health and nutrition information, is obviously a smart guy, and I have on occasion found some information on his site interesting. Unfortunately, I just never know if I can trust what I find there. With some frequency, he make's statements that I know to be false -- and usually it's stuff related to his bias in favor of consuming animal protein or his view that diets completely free of it are dangerous. So when I stumbled upon an article of his, which suggests that there are no 100 year old vegetarians and then uses this idea as evidence that obviously a vegan diet is not good for living a healthy long life, I thought this would be a pretty easy example to share with people to illustrate how UNcredible his anti-vegetarian perspective is.
First off because Scott Nearing comes to mind. You may remember him as the economics professor who was black listed from academia for speaking out against child labor in the early 1900s, and then against the great wars that followed. Nearing then went on to inspire millions to live off the grid with his books on Living the Good Life. Scott made it to 100, living with his equally vigorous wife Helen shown in the picture above. They built their own house with their own hands at ages 60 and 80, and continued living in it, off the grid until their deaths (she died at 90 in a car accident -- but a friend of mine went hiking in the woods with Helen a few months before her untimely death and said that she almost couldn't keep up with the 90 year old Helen.) The Nearings had been vegetarian for decades before transitioning to veganism. I also know plenty of long term vegans in their 70s and 80s, and compared to the non-vegans I know of this age, the vegans stand out for how vital and functional they appear. So it struck me as unlikely that a group of people who are more active and cognitively sharp than is typical for their age, would be more vibrant up until their 70s and 80s and then suddenly drop off the planet in numbers greater than their less functional peers. So I thought in spite of how few cultures have embraced ethical vegetarianism -- there must be some others.
Leave it to Google to confirm Mercola's misinformation. In five minutes time I found:
This 108 year old woman in Loma Linda who credits her vegan diet with her longevity.
This Chinese woman who claims to have made it to 110 years without eating any meat:
And then there's Dr. Ellsworth Wareham -- who is now 101 years old and has been vegan over half his life, and was still helping out as a surgeon until he was 95. There were a few other names that popped up in my brief Google search -- but there was conflicting info about them too and I didn't want to spend more time sorting it out -- since I already had decent factual information to discredit Mercola's anti-veg ranting.
And it was pretty easy. Previously I had blogged HERE about some of the healthy older vibrant vegans I do know if you would like to read more on this subject. I also have a presentation I give on this topic called Healthy Aging -- How Science Can Help us Maintain Functionality into Later Life.
For the record, I typically avoid casinos. The gambling thing seems exploitative of those who can least afford to gamble and the noise, sounds and blinking lights of the slot machines jar my senses, plus I find the lack of windows oppressive. But worst of all is the SMOKE! Casinos are one of the few places left where people can legally burn tobacco in the faces of others indoors.
Yet in spite of all that, and in contrast to my usual behavior, yesterday I ventured inside of one. My husband and I were passing by the Hollywood Casino on our way home from somewhere else, when he mentioned to me that he had a credit to spend at this one, that was not transferable to anywhere else and he had noticed that they had some ladies handbags in their gift shop...and wondered if I might need a new purse. (And I DID.)
For a gift shop it was incredibly sparse. The major items they had, were souvenir glasses, a few polo shirts and ladies handbags - lots of them. I assumed that since it was a casino, the purses were probably all leather...but I started looking at them anyway, and now I am so glad that I did! About half the purses there had tags on them that declared them, "VEGAN." The clerk told me that this was because many of their customers are looking for products containing fewer toxic compounds. (Leather of course fails miserably in this regard.) People in Casinos are looking for non-toxic goods...REALLY? (I myself was looking for a breathing mask hooked up to an oxygen tank!) Anyway it was so exciting I bought myself TWO new purses. I felt like a kid at the carnival redeeming my tickets for prizes!
In addition to everything else that I posted about Summerfest in my previous post, (right below this one -- if you are on my main blog page) there is yet something else that I LOVE about Summerfest. It's a great place to explore subjects the experts may not agree on. This year I was happy to further my understanding on the B-12 issue.
For those who may be new to the topic of B-12, a quick recap first. B-12 is a vitamin produced by bacteria. It is NOT made by animals or plants. In nature, animals obtain it by drinking microbial contaminated water, ingesting fecal contaminated matter, or eating plants with dirt and bacteria still attached. Many foods are fortified with B-12 too -- like almond milk, nutritional yeast, and some breakfast cereals. Once B-12 is in an animal's body, it can pass into their milk, or will be present in bodily tissues (this is how it ends up in meat). Some of our gut bacteria may make B-12 -- but this is believed to happen too far downstream from where we absorb it, to reliably benefit us. A B-12 deficiency is VERY BAD -- and can sometimes have no obvious symptoms until it damages the heart or brain (leading to heart attacks or dementia) it can also cause nerve damage, leading to numbness and tingling in parts of the body, blindness, or can even mimmic symptoms of MS. Some of these are not reversible -- so it's important to always get enough B-12. We only need a very tiny amount and some people can store it in their bodies for years, however stored B-12 may not be available to the babies of pregnant and nursing women-- so it is critical that they have a reliable and regular source! Also be forewarned -- many tests for B-12 levels have false negatives -- the Urinary MMA test is considered the most reliable.
Increasingly we are discovering many problems that can interfere with our ability to obtain B-12 from the foods (and swallowed vitamin pills) it may be in. For example digestive issues can hinder separating it from the protein it may come bound to. Low stomach acid, bowel diseases, lack of "intrinsic factor" and some autoimmune diseases can all render SWALLOWED B-12 unavailable, However sublingual B-12 (allowed to sit under the tongue) appears to bypass all of these problems and is thus the preferred way to get it, by being directly absorbed through the mucous membranes.
The two most common supplemental forms of B-12 are cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Dr Michael Greger strongly recommends the cyano form. Many other scientists however think methyl is better, because it does not contain a molecule of cyanide (a poison -- albeit in a very tiny amounts) and because growing evidence suggests many people have undiagnosed mutations in the genes that enable us to methylate B-12 -- a necessary step if we are to use it in our bodies. So for people with MTHFR mutations methylcobalamin may be the only one that they can use.
In the past when I had discussed this with Dr Greger, he cited a study that looked at the ability of methylcobalamin to reverse documented deficiency. That study showed that 20% (1 in 5 participants) failed to improve on methylcobalamin. Pretty convincing that cyano is much better....until I found out that that study had only five people in it. But Dr Greger was steadfast in his view that we should always recommend cyanocobalamin because the only science we have (sparse as it is) shows it to be the better form.
In continuing to dialogue with Dr Greger this year, he informed me of an additional fact that I did find even more persuasive. Apparently the methyl form is very unstable. This means that when we take a sublingual methylcobalamin, there may not be enough active B-12 present in it to do us any good.
Following that conversation, I went to a lecture by Dr. Kerrie Saunders. In contrast to Dr. Greger, Dr Saunders actually works in a clinical setting -- with patients and she recommended the methyl form -- for the very reason that I had mentioned earlier -- a growing awareness of MTHFR gene mutations and that these might play a role in B-12 utilization as well.
After Dr Saunder's lecture, I had a chance to chat with Dr. Michael Klaper about all this and he told me that a person's view on which form of B-12 they think is better is likely to depend upon how much credence they give to the issue of MTHFR mutations.
So let me distill this down in a nutshell:
Methylcobalamin is a more usable form of B-12, and may be especially important for those with certain (probably common) genetic mutations, but it is unstable, so you may not be getting what you think when you take it. Cyanocobalamin, is very stable and there is more science showing its benefit to those who are deficient, but it does contain a molecule of cyanide and there is a theoretical basis for believing it might not work, or could even be harmful for some individuals.
I plan to give my family BOTH of these -- using each one a couple of times each week. The most important thing to remember here however is that given the rampant gut problems today, the highly sanitized and chlorinated environment we live in, and how serious can be the problems if one does become B-12 deficient, I think it is prudent for ALL VEGANS and ALL THOSE WITH GUT ISSUES and ALL THOSE OVER AGE 50 to include sublingual B-12 on a regular basis.
Here are select pages from Dr. Greger's nutrition facts that may be of interest:
How Much B-12 Do we Need?
The Rest of Dr Gregers B-12 info
Here is an excellent post on B-12 from Dr. Thomas Campbell as well
If you've never been there -- words and pictures simply fall far short of capturing the magic, the love, and the soul-affirming feeling of connection, hope and healing that is the essence of the North American Vegetarian Society's Summerfest Conference. Scroll down to see lots of pictures from this year's conference -- and notice what a vibrant looking bunch of humans are there! I've been to many other conferences -- and although they may share similar speakers, offer equivalent educational opportunities, provide tantalizing food and fun social gatherings, nothing I have yet experienced comes close to creating what the majority of the 600 plus attendees who pilgrimage to this event each year experience: Summerfest quite spectacularly and reliably renews people by immersing them for five extraordinary days in the very best that humanity has to offer. It connects them with the most extraordinary social justice heroes past and present, inspires them to live more healthfully by exposing them to cutting edge science that has real tangible applications enabling improved health and quality of life, and inspires everyone to live meaningful lives, to do good deeds, to learn and grow in their humanity and scientific literacy, to be critical thinkers, and to do their part to make our world a better place.
Really -- I don't go there for the food -- even though I love that the cafeteria has two salad bars, a raw food bar, a gluten-free bar, and an oil and salt-free bar. That's in addition to the regular line of somewhat more decadent vegan fare. There is also a pizza station -- which had gluten-free pizzas too, and there are always lots of desserts -- my favorite was the banana split station with melted chocolate, strawberries and peaches too. Here I am pictured with a small contingency of my, "chosen family." Many of us lingered at the table long after meal time had ended -- we all felt even more nourished by the intellectual stimulation, laughter, sharing of deeply held values and time spent with kindhearted others. Although there was a downside to our 2 hour long meals -- it meant we sometimes missed other activities! Oh well -- such are the challenges of life at Vegetarian Summerfest.
It's always fun to see the various shirts people wear too!
Wonderful vendors were selling other T-shirts, make-up, health-promoting gadgets, books, food items, nutritional supplements and other interesting stuff -- all cruetly-free of course!
Many nights, after the evening lectures ended, the party and dancing started.
One of the things I have always loved about Summerfest -- is how comfortably people mix together there and feel welcomed and included no matter what their age. After Dancing we'd end up in smaller groups back in our dorm rooms -- it was just so hard to pull yourself away and go to sleep!
Now that I am thinking about the young people there -- I must share this with you -- I just LOVED it!
While all the lectures are going on, children also have the option of hanging out at the Summerfest Children's Center -- where they do crafts, swim, play games, learn songs and have a more "camp-like" experience. Then, on Saturday night the children all got up on stage and sang a song for everyone. Ok -- I was late to this because I had just finished giving a presentation in a building that was far away -- so I only saw the last bit -- which was my favorite part it's about five minutes into the video....
Video of Children Singing
Once or twice a day we had big events called, "Plenaries" In the large performing arts center at the UPJ Campus. I especially loved these sessions because I didn't have to pick between multiple lectures happening at the same time (and miss something!) The Plenaries included lectures, and entertainment --Here the crowd is so thrilled with music from some long time Summerfest attendees (many of whom are quite talented) -- click on these links to see videos of some of the musical numbers we enjoyed:
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Coyote (original song)
One of the things we always look forward to is finding out who will be inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame -- a special event that takes place at the Saturday night plenary. This year it was Miyoko Schinner, a culinary genius who has written some of my favorite recipe books. one of her early books, now and Zen Epicure fused Japanese and French cuisine for some unique and tantalizing recipes. More recently I was wowed by her, Artisan Vegan Cheese Book, and our local library has her newest book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry. But her greatest achievement is as founder of Miyoko's Kitchen - one of the most innovative food companies ever. Miyoko's brilliance was applying traditional cheese making techniques (used with mammary secretions from cows and goats) to plant-based milks. (So no pus!) and the results have been just as delicious, seductive and addictive as the cheese I grew up on, but without the cholesterol and violence. I know before I went vegan -- my biggest concern was, "How could I live without cheese?" (Thankfully it turned out that once I was clear in my commitment -- an easy thing to do after I learned about how brutally cruel and unjust dairy farming is to mothers and their babies, it was easier than I expected.) But now, thanks to Miyoko's genius -- the whole world (or at least those who can afford Artisan Cheeses) can now enjoy them without contributing to the most horrific injustices against other beings. They are now available at Natural Grocers, Whole Foods, and through UNFI. (And for those who can't afford to buy artisan cheese you can make your own non-dairy cheese alternatives by following my recipes Here and Here. (And check our her newest book I've linked to above if you like to learn how to make your own pantry staples!) Thank you Miyoko Schinner and congratulations on being inducted into the Vegetarian Hall of Fame.
I gave four talks this year: (1) You CAN Take it With You -- Eating for Optimal Health on the Road, (2) Twenty Evidence-Backed Ideas for Parents to Consider to Facilitate Optimal Health in their Children, (3) What Vegans Need to Know About Gluten, and (4) Healthy Aging, and What We Can Learn From Science and Healthy Older Vegans. Here is a photo a friend snapped of me just after I was dancing at the Sat night party.
One of the Summerfest benefits I am grateful for is that my family gets exposed to important published scientific findings -- including one's that get very little coverage in the mainstream media (When it comes to health, media coverage is often skewed towards covering biased studies funded by large moneyed interests who'd rather make their advertisers happy by telling people good news about their bad habits.) This was a slide up on the big screen during one presentation.
A long time Summerfest favorite -- Dr. T Colin Campbell, shown here with his wife. Talk about inspiring! At 82 years of age, he is brilliant, full of vigor and darn good at explaining the science to those with less education. He grew up on a dairy farm, but was willing and able to go where the science led him -- which included the upper echelons of academia and government prestige -- until big ag flexed its muscle. Dr Campbell spoke eloquently about the multiple lines of research that all point to the power of whole plant foods and the dangers of animal protein, and explained how all evidence to the contrary relies upon reductionist thinking -- which leads to incorrect conclusions. See his wonderful book, Whole -- Rethinking the Science of Nutrition for a full discussion of this idea.
Perhaps you've already heard of this Summerfest speaker He's been making a splash sharing some extraordinary scientific findings about fish on NPR, the National Geographic channel, Scientific American, and the NY Times: Fishes have feelings too. He's ethologist, Jonathan Balcombe and he fascinated the Summerfest attendees with his stories demonstrating the complex intelligence of fish.
Cardiologist Baxter Montgomery was back presenting on "The Healthcare Center of the Future" He's the founder of Montgomery Heart and wellness. Other Doctors who presented this year included, Michael Klaper, (True North Health) Michael Greger, (NutritionFacts.org) Stephen Esser, Ron Weiss (Founder Ethos Health and Primary Care) and Milton Mills (PCRM).
On the right is Interventional Radiologist, Ted Barnett, who not only led bird watching hikes through the woods, but made us laugh during his quite serious presentation, "U.S Dietary Recommendations and the Politics of Food" which he explained have been a formula for, "How NOT to prevent disease."
(Ted is pictured here with his nephew Lee J)
And here we have graduates of the Main Street Vegan Academy pictured with Speaker/Author Victoria Moran (standing) who after decades of being vegan looks better than ever at 67! Standing on the left is Unitarian Church minister Russell Elleven who presented on, "Religion and Vegetarianism -- Ties that Bind."
Hey -- a photo that has all four members of MY ACTUAL family in it -- plus a few more of our additional chosen family....Can you SEE how much everyone is beaming? And this was on the very last day as we were getting ready to leave -- everyone is terribly sleep deprived here -- AND some of us ate way too much dessert -- but you wouldn't know it because the love and positive vibes and afterglow of this event are THAT powerful! In the white shirt is Farmer Harold Brown, who not only sings beautifully (I just discovered this) but really is a hero to so many of us (and the subject of the tribe of Heart Documentary, Peaceable Kingdom.) The cutie in the green tank top is Allison Rivers Sampson -- who taught Nia classes, and then touched our hearts with her closing words at the final plenary on Sunday.
In spite of how long this post is -- I have barely even touched on the content of this year's summerfest -- there was so much more! My apologies to those whose pictures and or names are not up here -- it was a huge effort to just cover the little bit that I did, and I didn't do a very good job of taking pictures this year (in fact many I have posted are what others shared with me.) So be sure to Take a look at the actual program to see a complete listing of all the speakers and the sessions, activities, fitness classes, cooking demos and entertainment:
(We are now in the "time between Summerfests")
MOST POPULAR POSTS:
"The Happy Meat and Dairy of Kaw Valley"
"Is Free Speech Dead in Lawrence, Ks?"
Are you a Conscientious Omnivore?
"This Information Could Save Your Life"
"The Merc Makes Another Move"
"Oppression or Justice -- which do YOU Choose?"
Judge for Yourself...Do You Approve of The Merc Board's Actions?
How We Dealt With Bullying
Flu Vaccine -- A Critical Look at the Evidence
My parents "Forced" Veganism on me (daughter's guest post)