Pins and needles
A recent study showed that various Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) procedures and techniques are more effective with fewer side effects than anything the drug companies have come up with for seasonal allergies.
Allergies are a result of an overreaction of the immune system to things in the environment — dust, pollen, animal dander, and often foods and chemicals as well. The most common symptoms are sneezing, wheezing, itching, and other signs of inflammation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine includes therapies such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and tai chi — all of which can help regulate the immune system and prevent it from overreacting and causing allergy attacks.
One study with 52 participants who have allergic rhinitis received either weekly acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine three times a week, or placebo for six weeks. Nearly 85 percent of those receiving TCM improved, compared to only 40 percent in the placebo group.
TCM remedies may not be covered by your insurance, but, then again, neither are the side-effect-laden over-the-counter remedies that many people use day in and day out for months at a time.
The ABC’s of CRP
Q: At my last physical, I was told I had an elevated CRP. My cholesterol levels were also high, but a friend told me that I should be more concerned about my CRP. What exactly is it, and how can I lower it naturally?
JVW: CRP stands for C-reactive protein. It is a protein that circulates in the blood, especially when there is inflammation in the body, including inflammation of the coronary arteries. Doctors are finding that it is a far more accurate indicator of a future problem with heart disease than cholesterol levels alone.
The simplest way to lower the CRP level is to reduce inflammation in the body. The best way to accomplish this is to pay close attention to the ratio of essential fatty acids in the diet.
Here’s a simple rule to remember: Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory and omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. So the fatty acid ratio should be more 3s and less 6s. Unfortunately, the standard diet is much heavier on the omega-6s.
But you can reverse that with a few simple changes. Foods containing hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are the biggest offenders for loading up on omega-6s. Staying away from potato chips, corn chips, crackers, and cookies are a good start — but when you start reading the labels at the grocery store, you might find that even things you considered “healthy” also contain it. Also, most nut oils, like sunflower, peanut, and almond, are high in omega-6s. Olive oil is the best choice.
Fish oil is the best way to increase your intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids. I recommend 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil and 1,500 milligrams of DHA daily. And remember, whenever you take any type of fatty acid, you need to take vitamin E as well (400 IU of vitamin E as mixed tocopherols). Vitamin E helps keep the fatty acids from breaking down too rapidly in the body.
Also worth noting, sometimes CRP can be elevated with other types of infection such as chlamydia and helicobacteria. These can also inflame blood vessels. If CRP levels are elevated, make sure your doctor checks all possibilities thoroughly.
What is…glycemic load?
The other day I told you about a common measurement of food called the glycemic index (GI). One of the drawbacks of using only the GI is that it can be misleading, which is why some people prefer using glycemic load (GL) instead.
GI tests aren’t based on typical portion sizes of foods. Instead, researchers use a standard measure of 50 grams of carbohydrates of the foods that they are testing. For example, a carrot contains only 4-6 grams of available carbs, so you’d need to eat about 10 carrots to consume 50 grams of carbohydrates — and it’s unlikely that anybody eats that many carrots at one meal. But many people avoid carrots and other nutritious high-GI foods such as beets and squash because of their higher GI values. This is where the glycemic load measurement proves more useful.
The GL takes portion size into account and gives a more accurate picture of the glycemic value of foods. If you know the GI of a particular food, you can calculate the glycemic load by using the following formula: multiply the GI by the amount of carbohydrate in the food and divide that number by 100. Ex: A teaspoon of jam with a GI of 51 and a carb count of 5 grams would be (51 x 5 grams carb) / 100 = 2.5.
Yours in good health,
Nutrition & Healing
Sources: Brinkhaus B, et al. “Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized-controlled clinical trial.” Allergy 2004; 59(9): 953-960
Xue CC, et al. “Treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis by Chinese herbal medicine: a randomized placebo controlled trial.” Altern Ther Health Med 2003; 9(5): 80-87
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