Friday, November 19, 2010

IN THE NEWS: COCA LEAVES, BACON, SEEDS AND NUTS

Three interesting articles appeared in the last 48 hours about food being more effective than drugs for treating many diseases.  The one that kept me reading late into last night, Epilepsy's Big, Fat Miracle - NYTimes,  is about a little boy who had over 100 epileptic seizures A DAY! After trying 11 different drugs, his parents put him on the ketogenic diet.  It's cut the seizures by 75%.  Remarkably, this diet has been around for 80-90 years.  That's the interesting thing about food as medicine, so much of it has been replaced by drugs.  Drugs don't necessarily work better than food, and drugs are expensive -- particularly for those 50.7 million Americans without health insurance.  

About 3 million Americans have epilepsy, and finding a food cure for the million who have drug resistant epilepsy, would be wonderful, but what if there was a food cure for heart disease, something that effects over 80 million Americans and is the number 1 killer of both men and women?  That would be STUPENDOUS, right?   Dr.  Joel Fuhrman's article in the Huffington Post today claims he's got the food cure and has already helped 100's of people reverse their disease.  Here are some excerpts but please read the whole article.

What is the optimal diet for heart disease prevention and reversal?
Certainly not the small dietary changes recommended by government agencies and other organizations -- these are only modest changes to the average American's diet, and the average American starts developing heart disease during childhood. (5) Unfortunately, these widely voiced recommendations have made many people think by eating reduced-fat, processed foods and replacing red meat with egg whites, fish and chicken, they will be protected. They will not. These changes are simply not rigorous enough to assure predictable reversal.

I propose that a high-nutrient, vegetable-based diet can be even more effective.   90 percent of calories (must) come from nutrient-rich plant foods: vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts and seeds.

To provide optimal levels of protective micronutrients, a diet must be vegetable-based, not grain-based. Vegetables and beans are far superior to grains and white potato when it comes to nutrient density.  Seeds and nuts are indispensable for cardiovascular health. The protective properties of nuts against coronary heart disease were first recognized in the early 1990s, and a strong body of literature has followed...

Finally, also today in The Huffington Post is Dr. Andrew Weil's article, Why Plants are (Usually) Better than Drugs Please read the whole article.  Here's a small excerpt to get you interested:  

...For Andean Indians, whole coca leaf is the number one medicinal plant. They use it to treat gastrointestinal disturbances; specifically, for both diarrhea and constipation. From the perspective of Western pharmacology, this makes no sense. Cocaine stimulates the gut, it increases bowel activity, so obviously it would be a good treatment for constipation, but what could it do for diarrhea except make it worse?

However, if you look carefully at the coca leaf's molecular array, you find 14 bioactive alkaloids, with cocaine in the greatest amount. While cocaine acts as a gut stimulant, other coca alkaloids can have precisely the opposite action, they inhibit gut activity.

This means that when you take the whole mixture into the body, the potential is there for the action to go in either direction. What decides it? The state of the body, which is a function of which receptors in the gut's tissues are available for binding. 

Herbs  that can "tone" the body and bring it back to homeostasis are known as adaptogens... Asian ginseng, for example, has an array of active constituents known as ginsenosides. One of them, Rg1, can stimulate the nervous system, while another, Rb1, has been found to calm it. But even this is an oversimplification. Other constituent cofactors apparently increase the adaptogenic properties of ginseng, making the therapeutic whole more than the sum of its parts. Ultimately, this non-specific response boosts resistance to stress -- whether the stress is physical exertion, infection, or some other problem.

So using whole-plant remedies is a fundamentally different -- and, I would argue, often better -- way to treat illness. In Western medicine, we typically give the body no choice. We use single compounds that, essentially, shove physiology in one direction.

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