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Category — Immunity

The Health Benefits of Capers

Nothing says “I’m better than you” like cooking with capers.  Most people either love or hate the flavor of those salty little green pellets, but no matter what, if you serve them at a dinner party and someone complains about it you can very aristocratically say “That’s okay, not everyone has refined enough tastes to enjoy the delicate nuances of capers” while gracefully adjusting your tiara.  This is especially helpful when the dinner party consists only of you, your  husband (who does not appreciate capers, by the way), and your toddler.  Here are just a few of the health benefits to justify cooking like a princess:

  • Stachydrine, a phytochemical found in capers, has been found to be a “potent anti-metastatic agent” in regards to prostate cancer and seems to work at the genetic level to keep prostate cancer cells from reproducing.  So you are actually cooking with capers to keep all the prostates at the dinner table healthy!
  • Bioflavonoids from capers have been found to inhibit NF-kappa B activation.  Who cares?  Even if you don’t, the drug companies do.  NF-kappa B is a major target for drug research because this factor has been found to be chronically activated in disease states such as cancer, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and even acne.
  • Extracts from caper plants have been found to lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels.  Of course, if your hypertension is due to salt sensitivity then eating salty capers by the bucketful is probably not the best option.
  • The anti-arthritic components in capers seem to be most concentrated when extracted into alcohol.  This justifies cooking any sort of protein (fish, chicken, lobster) in a white wine, butter, and caper sauce!
  • Capers are a rich source of rutin, a bioflavonoid that is sometimes taken in supplement form to prevent and treat varicose veins.
  • Capers have been found to have “important antimicrobial, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and antiviral properties“.  This study firmly proves that if I left anything out in my list above, you can use the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game (health version of course) to relate whatever ailment your dinner guest may have to something that capers can help with.

December 5, 2011   1 Comment

Nutrition for Radiation

I have received a lot of questions from friends and family here in Hawaii about nutritional ways to protect from exposure to radiation.  These questions are prompted by the tragic events currently unfolding in Japan.  My constant prayer and belief is that the situation will come back under control, but I still thought it would be wise to post this information for all of you out there for the sake of educational purposes and to help those of you who may be exposed to radiation at work or as part of cancer treatment.  So, here’s what I know:

  • The single most important nutrient when looking at protection from radioactive fallout is iodine, which is why almost every store here in Hawaii all the way to the west coast of the US is sold out of iodine supplements.  Radioactive iodine is a by-product of uranium fission, and iodine is a necessary nutrient for the body which is taken up hungrily by the thyroid.  If the body is low in iodine, it will absorb more than a fair share of radioactive iodine which is obviously very harmful and can lead to several types of cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.  For more info on iodine for protection from nuclear fallout, check out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s article on the subject.
  • If you are able to flood the body with real, non-radioactive iodine before possible exposure to radioactive iodine you will be less likely to absorb the radioactivity because the thyroid is less hungry.  It’s basically the same principle as ruining your appetite for dinner by eating lots of snacks…except in this case dinner is radioactive.
  • The dosages of iodine used by the NRC are either 65 mg or 130 mg once daily, which offers 24 hours of protection.  These are very high doses intended for those living near a fallout zone.  A daily intake of about 3 mg iodine for at least 2 weeks will saturate the thyroid while a dose of 10 to 15 mg should immediately saturate the thyroid.  This is a moderately high dose but has been estimated to be the regular daily intake of a person in Japan (they eat a lot of seafood and seaweed – two of the richest sources of iodine), where rates of cancer are surprisingly low.  To put this in perspective, the RDA for an adult male is only 150 micrograms per day (a microgram equals 1/1000 of a milligram – mg).  The RDA is only enough to prevent goiter, but not enough to provide the iodine needs for the rest of the body that include cancer prevention, immunity, and skin health.  I could go on and on about iodine, but that’s not the focus of this blog.  However, if you are interested in reading more about iodine as a nutrient I recommend looking into the Linus Pauling Institute’s entry or reading the book Iodine: Why you need it, Why you can’t live without it by David Brownstein, MD.
  • Children and fetuses are most at risk in the event of fallout, because thyroid cancer takes between 10 and 20 years to develop after exposure to radioactive iodine and they are growing so quickly that their thyroids are more “hungry” and therefore more vulnerable.
  • The half life (meaning the amount of time it takes for quantities to reduce by half) of radioactive iodine is 8 days.  This means that concentration is going to be highest when exposure first happens but over the course of a couple of weeks it will gradually fade (though in the event of a nuclear meltdown, large quantities of radioactive materials will persist in the environment for decades if not longer).  My point in telling you this is that if at all possible, take preventive measures at the beginning of exposure when levels are highest.
  • Vitamin E can also be very helpful for preventing side effects from radiation exposure (particularly the kind involved in cancer treatment).  The generally suggested dose is 400 IU twice daily.  Just be sure it is vitamin E in a natural form from supplements or from vitamin E rich foods such as cold-pressed oils or raw nuts.
  • Homeopathic remedies have also been indicated in prevention of radiation side effects.  That is not my expertise, however, so I won’t get into that too much except to say that if it’s something you would like to consider I would suggest working with someone knowledgable in the subject since homeopathic remedies need to be accurately prescribed to get the desired effects.
  • As far as the current crisis goes, if things progress negatively (God forbid!) and risk of contamination is serious, our immediate exposure here in the United States depends on the jet stream pattern.  Jet streams are narrow bands of high-altitude wind that move at high speeds around the world.  To see updated jet stream maps, go to the San Francisco State University’s Jet Stream Map page.

Hopefully this information has helped you to calm your fears rather than add to them.  I find that the worst thing in working with health is not understanding the risk of things we are dealing with because the mystery of it makes it that much more scary.  On a personal note, if you’d like to know what I am doing for my family in preparation for the possibility of events taking a turn for the worse:

  • I took our bottle of Iodoralout of the cabinet and put it on the counter so we’d remember to take a tablet each day (my husband and any friends that happen to be over take 1 tablet and I take 2 since I’m still breastfeeding the toddler formerly known as Mr. Milk).  Even if nothing happens, I think it’s still good for us to get our iodine levels up since I occasionally experience some of the symptoms of low iodine levels such as PMS and my husband works in construction where he’s sometimes exposed to chemicals and heavy metals that can deplete iodine.
  • I’m planning to serve more iodine-rich meals until the Japanese reactor situation is under control.  This includes sushi, miso soup, eggs, fish, using ground seaweed in the form of Gomasio or powdered kelp as a seasoning, and adding a few pieces of dry kelp to soups or stews to release iodine.
  • I’m stocking up on nori sheets (you can buy them here in huge packs at Costco).  If you don’t have access to iodine tablets, seaweed is your next best bet.  The amount of iodine varies, but an average estimate is that 1/4 ounce of dried seaweed can contain up to 4.5 mg of iodine!  Nori sheets are one of my favorite forms of seaweed because they last forever, don’t take up much space, are inexpensive, and the big toddler loves to snack on them while running around the house.  Since the situation is not more dire, I’m not having him take iodine supplements but I am letting him have his fill of nori.  Radiation or not, it’s a great snack for kids and the iodine in it helps them become supremely intelligent so they will be able to figure out 10 times faster how to get around all of your household childproofing efforts.
  • I’m also praying!  A lot.  For the people in Japan that have lost so much, for the brave workers at the nuclear plant who are putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe, for mankind in general.  I’m trusting that it will all work together for good, and I’m not letting myself go down a negative route of worrying…that’s bad for the thyroid!

NOTE: This blog is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified health care practitioner.  If you are under medical care, especially if it is surrounding your thyroid, please work with a practitioner before adding iodine  or any other nutritional supplement to your routine.  Iodine should not be taken in large doses for extended periods of time without consulting a health care practitioner to determine specific needs.

March 15, 2011   24 Comments

Flu Shots – You do what you want!

One of my great friends (whose idea it was to start this blog in the first place) told me today that flu vaccination is mandatory at her workplace.  They have a choice between the flu mist or a thimerosol-free flu shot and she wanted to know my opinion on both.  I figured that many of you out there are in similar situations and could use some objective information when you’re faced with the same decision.  If nothing else, you can just stall and be like Cartman on South Park, telling your boss who is requiring you to get the shot, “Whateva, I do what I want!”

Here is some info that I hope is helpful to you.  In no way am I trying to tell you to get or not get the vaccine, I just think it’s important to at least know what you’re doing when your place of work is requiring you to inject or sniff something into your body (I still don’t quite understand how it’s legal to require these things, but whatever).  Also, many people may not be required to be vaccinated but may still choose to be due to all of the news coverage on swine flu.  It’s your body and you have to do what feels right to you.  I just want to provide information to help you figure that out.

Vaccines in general
  • Vaccines work under the premise that small exposure to viruses, bacteria, or pieces of other infectious particles makes the immune system recognize these invaders as foreign and then provide immunity from them when and if you are exposed again.
  • The flu vaccine is an interesting one because every year the flu virus mutates into a slightly different strain which is similar to but not quite the same as last year’s virus.  This is why some people get the flu every single year, even after their bodies have experienced and (hopefully) become immune to last year’s virus.  This is also why some people are vaccinated for the flu but still end up getting a bad case – the current year’s flu vaccine is not guaranteed to protect against the current flu virus due to the fact that it is mutating and may not be an exact match.  As a side note, the ability of the flu virus to mutate quickly is the major reason that the swine flu is dominating the media – everyone is watching to see if the current strain will mutate into a more harmful version.
  • Vaccines in general are a current source of political angst and hot debate because they contain ingredients that may be harmful, especially to growing children and people with weak immune systems.  Ingredients commonly found in vaccines include MSG, sugar, aluminum, and mercury.  Mercury (in the form of thimerosol) is used in vaccines as a preservative, but recently has been dropped from many formulas due to public outcry.  A solid scientific link has not been established, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that correlates mercury in vaccines to the increase in autism in our children.  One explanation that I found for this which I would agree with from a biochemical standpoint is that some children are more sensitive to the mercury in vaccines because they don’t have enough healthy bacteria in their body (which could be due to overuse of antibiotics, stress, or other factors).  Healthy bacteria provides a barrier that detoxifies heavy metals, but if this barrier is absent then the mercury will be more likely to get into the brain and cause problems.

Flu shot vs. Nasal spray

  • The flu shot has used to be the only way to vaccinate for flu until the recent invention of a flu vaccine nasal spray.  While the vaccines may not be 100% effective, some studies show that they may be helpful in preventing flu.  Of course, other studies show that they may do more harm than good but I’m not going to get into either side on this blog – the subject is just too huge.
  • The benefits of the flu spray are that it does not contain heavy metals (at least from what I could find – it is instead preserved with MSG and sugar, so maybe don’t double up on fast food the day you get it) and it doesn’t require injection.  Possible disadvantages are that it contains live flu virus (from what I found it contains 5 different strains of flu) which may be more likely to replicate in the warm, moist area that is your nose and actually give you the flu.  There is also some question as to whether injecting live viruses right into your nose is a good idea for your brain since it is in such close proximity.
  • The benefits of the flu shot are that it normally contains inactivated virus, so it is less likely to actually give you the flu and it is injected right into the bloodstream so it gives your body a better chance to filter and detoxify the preservatives found in it rather than spraying it up your nose where it may get stuck and replicate.  The disadvantages are that it is more likely to contain heavy metals along with MSG and other questionable preservatives.

If you’re getting the vaccine

  • Avoid sugar and drink plenty of water for the week prior to getting vaccinated so that your immune system is strong and ready to imprint on whatever form of vaccination you choose.
  • Take a double dose of a good multivitamin and a normal dose of probiotics for at least 5 days prior to the vaccine to build up your levels of minerals and boost your ability to detoxify preservatives in the vaccine.
  • The day before, the day of, and the day after vaccination take a large dose of vitamin C (at least 1,000 mg but whatever you can handle) and a dose of zinc (about 20 mg – you can get this in the form of zinc lozenges at most drugstores) to keep your immune system strong.
  • Avoid aspartame and other artificial sweeteners for 1 day prior to getting vaccinated, as aspartame has been found to react negatively with vaccines and may damage nerves.
  • If you decide to get the shot, add a heaping scoop of chlorella or some other kind of green drink to a smoothie that morning to help boost your ability to detoxify heavy metals.
  • If you decide to get the nasal spray, wash out your nose with a neti pot the evening after the vaccine to make sure you don’t have any remnants left up there.

If you are refusing the vaccine

  • This may not be an option for you depending on where you work, but most employers will make allowances for religious exemption (meaning it is against your beliefs to be vaccinated) and egg allergy (because the flu vaccine is grown in eggs).
  • Be sure to live a healthy lifestyle that promotes natural immunity: sleep 7-9 hours per night, drink plenty of water, avoid white sugar, avoid processed foods, eat lots of produce, eat adequate amounts of protein for your personal needs, and exercise.
  • Be sure you are getting enough of the key immune-supporting nutrients: vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D (from sunlight, fatty foods, or supplements).  Needs vary for each individual, so I would suggest working with a nutrition minded practitioner if you have questions.
  • Eat cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc.) and/or take a probiotic supplement to boost your levels of healthy bacteria.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes or nose during flu season.
  • Regularly use a neti pot to keep your nasal passages clean and less likely to allow viruses to reproduce.

I’m in the process of getting ready for an online seminar I’m teaching for Marilyn Farms on immunity which will take place October 24th.  I’ll get into more detail on vaccines and ways to support the immune system during this talk.  If you’re interested in registering, please click here.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner.  If you are on prescription medications or are being treated by a doctor for specific disorders, please consult your doctor prior to following any of the supplement suggestions listed above.

September 30, 2009   1 Comment