Sep 28, 2012

Use Unrefined Salt

Americans are so used to hearing physicians' warnings against salt that Dr. Batmanghelidj's advice to increase salt consumption sounds strange. But he's right. While refined table salt causes serious problems, natural salt improves every body function.

All popular brands of table salt have been bleached, then treated with stabilizing agents and dehydrating chemicals. Whether coarse or finely ground, this salt is between 98 and 99 percent pure sodium chloride (NaCl), and it was dried at temperatures high enough to change its crystalline structure. Its structural changes, nutrient stripping and added chemicals make table salt difficult for the body to assimilate, contributing to electrolyte imbalances, trace mineral deficiencies, digestive problems, fluid retention and high blood pressure. The sodium content of nearly every processed food derives from refined salt.

Unfortunately, nearly all brands of sea salt have been refined. Most sea salt is 98 to 99 percent pure sodium chloride and, like table salt, it contains no trace minerals, only the residue of processing chemicals. Let appearance and flavor guide you. If a salt is bright white (unrefined rock salt or mined salt is beige in color, unrefined sea salt is gray), if it is iodized (iodine added), if its crystals are large like kosher salt prior to grinding, if it pours easily in humid conditions and if it has the sharp, familiar taste of table salt, it's best avoided.

Natural salt is of special interest to herbalists. Traditionally, herbal teas were served salted to enhance the healing properties of ''simples'' and blends. A pinch of unrefined salt added to a glass of water or pot of tea helps balance the body's electrolytes and provides trace minerals often lacking in the food we eat. For a more effective alternative to commercial sports beverages, add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to water and a splash of juice for flavor.

Remember Dr. Batmanghelidj's advice to hold a pinch of salt on the tongue after drinking water for relief from respiratory congestion and to increase salt consumption in general if you suffer from asthma or allergies.

Sep 25, 2012

Support Therapies for all Respiratory Conditions

Drink More Water

In his book, Your Body's Many Cries for Water, F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., explained that many symptoms of major and minor illnesses are caused not by disease but by dehydration. "You are not sick," he wrote, "you are thirsty!" Your Body's Many Cries for Water is widely recommended by medical doctors and health care professionals because it offers a simple, inexpensive, often dramatically effective cure for indigestion, intestinal problems, rheumatoid arthritis pain, stress, depression, high blood pressure, overweight, asthma, allergies and other disorders.

At the first sign of symptoms, drink an 8-ounce glass of water. After 15 to 20 minutes, drink another. Continue drinking plain water throughout the day and do so every day so that the body is properly hydrated. In adults, this may be a gallon of water daily. Tea, coffee, cola beverages, soft drinks and juices don't count; what matters is plain water. In addition, Dr. Batmanghelidj recommends a small amount of unrefined sea salt daily, especially in cases of asthma, which he believes is not a disease but rather a physiological adaptation of the body to dehydration and an insufficiency of salt. Salt is a natural decongestant. "A pinch of salt on the tongue after drinking water fools the brain into thinking a lot of salt has arrived in the body," he wrote. "It is then that the brain begins to relax the bronchioles. People with asthma should slightly increase their salt intake."

No discussion of water would be complete without a caution regarding American tap water, which has received much negative publicity in recent years. Concerns over water safety have made bottled spring water a growth industry along with home water filters and distillers. Whatever you can do to improve the quality of the water you drink will help improve your health.

Breastfeed Your Baby

       The evidence for this health benefit is overwhelming. Breastfeeding protects children from all kinds of respiratory infections, ear infections, allergies and asthma. Many pediatricians trace their patients' allergies and ear infections to exposure to cow's milk in infant formulas. If a breastfed baby experiences colic or allergic symptoms, it is often because the mother ate something that disagreed with her own physiology as well as her baby's. In fact, the mother's diet is the most important factor in breastfeeding. According to pediatrician Lendon Smith, an expert on nutrition and the author of several books on children's health, milk, soy, corn, wheat and eggs are frequent offenders, while a baby's colic can be caused by the mother eating garlic, onion, beans or cabbage. Dr. Smith recommends that nursing mothers avoid these foods.

       Saying that a nursing mother should avoid dairy products goes against everything we are taught by physicians and the dairy industry's ad campaigns, but stop and think. Do you really need milk to produce milk? Cows don't drink milk and neither do other milk-producing animals. Millions of women around the world drink no milk at all and nurse their babies successfully. Only in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe do people assume that successful nursing requires a diet rich in dairy products.

       If the indirect consumption of dairy products creates problems for infants, their direct consumption creates more. Raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized cow's milk is the ideal food for baby calves. Pasteurized, homogenized cow's milk is far from ideal for calves and even farther from ideal for human babies. According to Dr. Smith, cow's milk formulas such as SMA, Similac and Enfamil may precipitate colic, diarrhea, rashes, ear infections, asthma and other conditions in up to 50 percent of the infants who drink them.

Long-term nursing has been shown to provide the maximum lifelong health benefits, but nursing remains unfashionable in the U.S. and new mothers are often pressured to switch from breast to bottle.

Sep 21, 2012

Consider Nutritional Supplements

     Vitamins and minerals have been used to treat illnesses other than obvious nutritional deficiencies for over 70 years.

    Jonathan Wright, M.D., treated a child who suffered from chronic nasal congestion and who had been repeatedly admitted to hospital emergency rooms for wheezing. Antihistamine medication failed to improve his condition. Wright diagnosed the boy's problem as an inability to digest and absorb nutrients, and he prescribed vitamin B12 injections, digestive supplements, magnesium and other minerals. The patient's health improved quickly and he has had no further wheezing attacks.

     Not all of the dosages used in orthomolecular medicine are in the megavitamin category, but some are dramatic multiples of the standard daily recommendations. To reduce hay fever or asthma symptoms, a physician might recommend 5 to 20 grams of powdered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to be taken in small doses with water over a 24-hour period. A mild cold may be prevented by taking 30 to 60 grams, influenza with 100 to 150 grams and viral pneumonia with dosages up to 200 grams in 24 hours. Considering that a 500 mg tablet (1/2 gram) is considered a high dose of vitamin C, these recommendations are unusual and they should not be taken without supervision. This treatment for the prevention of an acute infection lasts for several days or until all symptoms disappear. The dosage remains high until the body indicates its vitamin C saturation point by developing loose bowels, a signal to reduce the amount. Many orthomolecular physicians have found that taking vitamin C to bowel tolerance (the diarrhea point) effectively treats colds, flu, infections, allergies, burns, viral pneumonia and autoimmune disorders.

    In general, those with respiratory infections or illnesses benefit from the daily use of a well-balanced multiple vitamin and mineral supplement and additional trace minerals.

Avoid Sulfites and Other Additives

       People with asthma or allergies may find their symptoms alleviated by the simple strategy of avoiding chemical preservatives and artificial coloring. Sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfite and sulfites are used to prevent dryness, stiffening and discoloration in dried fruits, frozen potatoes, shrimp, avocado dips, salads, vegetables, wine, beer and other foods.

     According to Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., in their Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, a restaurant customer can easily ingest up to 100 mg of metabisulphite in a single meal. Asthma attacks can be triggered by exposure to sulfites, tartrazine (an orange food dye) and benzoates (preservatives), and at least four deaths caused by sulfites have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration. Always check labels for additives and, in general, try to avoid processed foods that contain chemicals.

      How can you tell if the food in a restaurant or supermarket has been treated with sulfites? If the management displays a sign claiming "no sulfites," it's probably true. In 1986, the FDA made the use of sulfites on fresh produce illegal, so salad bars are less a hazard than they used to be. Still, prepared foods may contain sulfites and it's best to be sure. The demand for a simple way of determining sulfite content inspired the development of sulfite test strips, which can be dipped into any food. The strips turn red, revealing the presence of sulfites, or green, showing that the food is sulfite-free.

Sep 20, 2012

Improve Your Digestion

        Many people with hay fever allergies suffer from candidiasis, the overgrowth of the yeast/fungus Candida albicans in the digestive tract. This microorganism occurs naturally in the human body, but its overgrowth is the cause of yeast infections, and it disrupts normal digestion. Candidiasis is often triggered by antibiotics, as these drugs kill the beneficial bacteria that normally keep Candida in check. Candida thrives on sugars and refined carbohydrates, which is why it's so widespread in America. Orthodox therapy includes dietary restrictions (no sugars,carbohydrates, fruits, alcohol or fermented foods) and the use of antifungal drugs. Holistic therapy combines dietary restrictions with such herbal antifungal agents as pau d'arco tea (also called Taheebo) and grapefruit seed or citrus seed extract.

     The most important part of Candida therapy is the reestablishment of normal intestinal flora, the "friendly" bacteria that promote complete digestion and prevent the overgrowth of Candida. One approach is to eat yogurt, which contains acidophilus and similar bacteria; another is to take acidophilus supplements, which are widely sold in health food stores. For those who are unable to digest cow's milk, or who have an adverse reaction to it, soy yogurts are available, or you can make your own at home from soy milk and acidophilus or yogurt starter.
      In addition to supplementing the diet with acidophilus, bifidus and related bacteria, consider taking a small amount of Swedish bitters or any fresh bitter-tasting herb such as dandelion leaves just before eating. Bitter tastes stimulate the production and secretion of important digestive fluids, such as bile. With age, the body's production of digestive enzymes and digestive secretions decreases, creating a variety of health complications. Indigestion is sometimes a symptom of insufficient hydrochloric acid, not an excess, so taking antacid tablets after eating may contribute to the problem rather than prevent it. Dozens of digestive enzyme products, many containing hydrochloric acid, are available in drugstores and health food stores. A nutritionally oriented physician or health care professional can help you determine exactly what type of supplement will be most helpful in improving your digestion.

Sep 18, 2012

Eat More Raw Food

       Raw foods contain nutrients and enzymes that are destroyed by cooking. The human digestive tract is designed to process a diet consisting of a wide variety of foods, much of it raw and unprocessed. Juice fasting, which is a modified type of fast consisting of only freshly made juices and water or tea, lets the body rest and recuperate. Several effective therapies for not only respiratory problems but serious diseases such as cancer are based on fresh juices. A short-term juice fast, lasting a few days or a week, can bring relief from many respiratory symptoms.
     Water-only fasts are controversial for medical reasons, but juice fasting provides more nutrients and less exposure to common allergens than the normal American diet.

     Health claims made for juice therapies on late-night television may be exaggerated, but for the person fighting chronic hay fever, asthma or other respiratory problems, several days of drinking freshly made juices may bring a welcome respite from symptoms. Instead of resuming your normal diet all at once, introduce foods one at a time and monitor your reaction. Every person's response to foods and food groups is unique, and this is a simple way to test foods and their effects on the body. Experts on juice fasting recommend avoiding the juice of any fruit or vegetable you may be allergic or sensitive to, diluting juices with high sugar content, such as carrot or beet juice, with low sugar juices, such as celery; diluting fruit juices with an equal amount of water; and avoiding juice fasting if you are pregnant or lactating. Medical supervision is recommended for diabetics and others with serious illnesses.

Sep 17, 2012

The Importance of Diet

External strategies work well to reduce the factors that trigger allergies, asthma and other breathing problems, but none of them cure the illness. Neither do standard prescription drugs, for their function is to suppress symptoms, not correct causes.

In addition to using the tactics described above, you can treat respiratory illness from the inside out, repairing and improving the immune system so that everyday exposure to low levels of environmental toxins doesn't wreak havoc on the lungs. This same approach helps prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, asthma attacks, hay fever symptoms and sinus congestion. In fact, many experts claim that the true cause of hay fever isn't pollen or dust mites or animal dander at all; it's the human body that interprets these substances as dangerous intruders and activates the immune system to repel them. Correcting this misinterpretation can be done with herbs and diet.

Sep 13, 2012

Animal Dander

     Because animal dander triggers so many adverse reactions, allergists often recommend that pets be given away. In 20 years of doctor appointments for the treatment of hay fever and asthma, I was usually told on the first office visit to get rid of my cats. Like many pet lovers who receive this prescription, I refused. None of my dozen doctors offered alternative solutions, all announced in authoritative voices that there was no way to remove the problem without removing the pets and all but one expressed annoyance and irritation at patients who refuse to cooperate.

 But for every study that links pet dander to respiratory problems, others show that pet owners live longer, have happier lives, have lower stress levels and enjoy more meaningful relationships than those who don't share their lives with pets. A recent study of nursing homes showed that facilities with a resident dog have lower death rates, lower infection rates and lower staff turnover rates than those without. A study of recovering heart attack victims showed that the most significant difference between those who died within one year and those who survived was dog ownership. For many Americans, pets are members of the family. Getting rid of them, even on a doctor's orders, is as traumatic as losing a relative.

     Pet dander in carpeted homes is more of a problem than in homes with bare floors, although any rug or fabric can harbor dander. The source of the problem isn't hair that the animals shed but proteins in their saliva and flakes of skin. This is why young kittens and puppies don't trigger allergic reactions; they have no old skin to shed and therefore no dander. It isn't until the age of three or four months, or even later, that pets begin to produce the allergen. This explains how someone can develop a sudden allergy to a pet that was for months a comfortable roommate.

    Years ago my husband and I lived in a carpeted house and a few days after we steam-cleaned the carpets, we had a house guest who was violently allergic to animals. He kept looking at our cats and wondered why he wasn't sneezing. That's when we realized that animal dander in carpets can be washed away. We had wanted only to remove old stains but, as a bonus, we had a dander-free house.

    Removing dander from rugs and carpets is only part of the solution. Washing the pets themselves is just as important. Full baths were traumatic for our elderly cats, but we found they would tolerate sponge baths. Pet stores offer products just for allergy grooming: solutions you can apply with a damp cloth or spray onto dogs, cats and birds. As an alternative, simply use plain water or an herbal tea. Don't use soap; it's too harsh, strips away protective oils and is difficult to rinse out. The secret to success in using any pet allergy product is reaching the skin. Look for dander removal products in pet supply catalogs or check with your veterinarian, groomer or pet store. If you start when a kitten is tiny, you can even convince a cat to enjoy baths. My husband's red tabby, Pumpkin, was famous for his love of water. Every week I filled a spray bottle with lukewarm chamomile tea (recommended for blonds and redheads), sat on the floor, spread towels on my lap and soaked him to the skin while he purred and kneaded. After a vigorous drying off, he would lie in the sun until his fur was once again gorgeous, fluffy, sweet-smelling and nonallergenic.

    Dog and cat owners who give their animals raw food, digestive enzymes, high-quality foods, fish oils and other nutritional supplements usually notice a rapid improvement in their animal's coat: glossy fur, healthy skin and a substantial reduction in flaking or dandruff. It makes sense to reduce the production of dander at its source.

     Brush pets outdoors or wear a pollen mask while brushing inside near an air filter and follow with immediate vacuuming to reduce the accumulation of new dander. Remember that cat dander is so light that most vacuum cleaners merely redistribute it; if you're serious about controlling dander and dust mites, you need a vacuum cleaner equipped with special high-filtration bags. For best results, use carpet steam-cleaning equipment as well.

Of course, in some cases radical measures are necessary. Some people have had to find new homes for their pets when other measures failed to prevent life-threatening asthma attacks in themselves or their children. The strategies described here don't work for everyone but what many pet owners don't realize is that these strategies exist at all. I believe they're worth trying before dogs and cats are banished from any caring home.

House Plants Can Help

     One effective air filter you don't have to send away for is the house plant. When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) discovered in 1973 that Skylab's tightly sealed air contained over a hundred toxic chemicals, the agency began a search for solutions. Learning that Russian scientists were experimenting with live plants as air purifiers, NASA hired research scientists to explore that possibility. The researchers found that all house plants share the ability to remove contaminants from the air by pulling them into their leaves. 
     The toxins migrate to the roots and into the soil, where they decompose. Trichlorethylene, formaldehyde and benzene, three common pollutants, were treated in sealed growth chambers by common plants such as the peace lily, lady palm and corn plant, any of which could clean the air in a small (10'-by-10') room. As the study discovered, the more house plants you have in a home or office, the more pure the air becomes. Other research has shown that the popular spider plant consumes tobacco smoke and that philodendrons and aloe vera are effective air purifiers. 
    To help your plant collection improve the quality of indoor air, place a layer of activated carbon at the bottom of each pot before adding soil; place a drop or two of grapefruit seed extract or tea tree oil or a tablespoon of topical hydrogen peroxide in drainage dishes every week before watering to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in standing water; keep air circulating around the plants with a low speed fan; position plants at different heights; use a variety of plants; position shade-loving plants in areas that receive little or no natural light and place sun-loving plants near windows; use at least one plant for every 100 square feet of floor space (two is better) in rooms of average height and increase the number of plants for rooms with high ceilings, in areas in which cigarettes are smoked or in homes near busy highways. Where necessary, supplement natural light with plant lights. Feed and water your green friends and they will repay you handsomely.
    While mold can be a problem in greenhouses and other humid, plant-filled spaces, carefully tended house plants don't have to promote the growth of mold. The most common problem of this nature is over-watered plants that stand on carpeting. Any carpet that becomes saturated and prevented from drying out will develop serious mold and mildew infestation. Anyone concerned about potential pathogens in the potting soil can prevent its contact with the air by spreading several inches of aquarium gravel over the top of the soil, or you can spray the surface with a dilute solution of grapefruit seed extract and water. For a wealth of information on indoor gardening, see your local library and visit nurseries and plant stores.

Sep 12, 2012

Dust Mites

    Dust mites prefer warm temperatures and high humidity, conditions that are also conducive to the growth of mold, another allergen. Mold is a common problem under carpets, especially in humid climates, and it thrives on shower curtains and other bathroom surfaces. Dried flowers or plants often contain mold and anything stored in a damp basement, especially books, papers or fabric, will become musty with mold or mildew.
    Water filters or distillers, air conditioners, bare floors, plastic encased mattresses, pillows made from dacron or other synthetic fibers, the scrupulous disinfecting of humidifiers and dehumidifiers, washable blankets and bedding in place of wool or down comforters, frequent dusting with a damp cloth, frequent vacuuming with special multi-layer vacuum cleaner bags that prevent the recirculation of allergens, heating system filters, window shades in place of fabric drapes, furniture without upholstery, HEPA (high-efficiency, particle-arresting) air cleaners, chemical-free cleaning products, paints and varnishes made without irritating chemicals, the removal of fuzzy stuffed toys, the professional cleaning of air ducts, lightly (rather than tightly) closed windows and doors that provide a free exchange of air instead of sealing the building, and a ban on the smoke from cigarettes, pipes, cigars, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves all reduce exposure to environmental toxins.
     To reduce exposure to dust mites, some experts recommend putting sheets, pillows and pillow cases in a hot dryer twice a week for 10 minutes, keeping stuffed animals, shaggy rugs, quilts and dolls out of the bedroom, having pets sleep away from the bedroom and rinsing the face in hot salted water. Another treatment for dust mites is tea tree oil. A dilute solution (0.8 percent tea tree oil) can be made by combining 1/2 tablespoon tea tree oil with an equal amount of rubbing alcohol or vodka (to make it water-dispersible) and 1 quart of water. Exposure to an 0.8 percent solution of tea tree oil kills 100 percent of treated dust mites within 30 minutes. Where rinsing or sponging is inconvenient, the solution can be sprayed. It can be applied to carpets through any rug shampoo appliance. Reducing exposure reduces stress on the immune system and in some cases, that alone is all the body needs to recover and reverse the damage. See the appendix for a list of mail order companies specializing in hypoallergenic products.
     Carpets, comforters and feather pillows are favorite breeding grounds for microscopic dust mites, which produce an allergenic protein in their excrement. Like dander, which is allergenic because of the proteins it contains, mite-ridden dust is not an allergen unless it's in the air. Oriental rugs hanging on the wall and dusty furniture that remains undisturbed are not allergy problems. It's when a rug is walked on, releasing dander or dust mites, or when a breeze circulates dust or when a person lies down on a feather pillow or curls up under a down comforter that the proteins in dust and dander trigger allergic reactions.