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toxic stew

Part 2: Living In A Toxic Stew & Staying Healthy

toxic stewAmericans live in a constant state of toxicity that negatively impacts our already complicated chronic illness lives. We enter this toxic stew whenever we drink unfiltered tap water, eat non-organic, pesticide-heavy food, apply personal care products and makeup–even when handling those thermal receipts.

Our bodies don’t know what to do with the toxins, so they are warehoused in our fat.

health risks obesity

Many chemicals found in non-organic foods and personal care products mimic hormones. This is at the root of why it is so hard for millions of us to lose weight and makes it almost impossible if we also take prescription drugs that have weight gain as a common side effect.

This part of a multi-post series deals with eliminating as much pesticide residue as possible from our vegetables and fruits. Even organic foods may have pesticides used during the growing season. The difference is insecticides used on organic farms are found in nature and in many cases are less toxic than those used in conventional agricultural practices. (Pesticide includes herbicides used to kill weeds, fungicides to kill mold and insecticides to kill insects.)

Eat Organic Whenever Possible

Even though organics can have pesticide residue, we still should eat organic foods whenever possible. Ideally, grow your own food in pots or a garden.  Now that there are new cultivars of berries, they can be conveniently grown in a pot on the porch. Try to always eat the organic version of foods on the EWG’s (Environmental Working Group) Dirty Dozen list of the most heavily pesticide-sprayed foods.

An easy way I remember what to buy organic is knowing that the fruits and vegetables hubby and I like are all full of pesticides. Take a look at the EWG’s shopping guide.

It used to be thought that fruits that are peeled, like bananas, have minimal pesticide residue under the peel. Modern testing shows that is not true. Bananas, like many of our food crops, is grown in a monoculture where there are devastating infections and insect damage from the same crop in the same place year after year. The pesticides used today penetrate well into the fruit beneath that hard peel. Don’t fall for the stories about using banana peels to increase potassium in the garden. These peels are toxic!

How To Reduce Pesticides

recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found a better alternative–a baking soda solution–to scrubbing the outside of vegetables and fruits with plain or soapy water. Gala apples that soaked in baking soda at a ratio of 1 tsp for every 2 cups of (filtered) water for 10-15 minutes had significantly reduced pesticide residue on the surface. However, no wash will remove pesticides that have moved past the peel and into the fruit.

Here’s a quick way to wash leafy greens:

  • Fill a Salad Spinner with greens, then fill with cold water
  • Add a teaspoon of baking soda for every two cups of water and mix well
  • Soak your greens for about five minutes, swish, dump, then rinse, and spin dry
  • If you don’t have a salad spinner, you can add the greens, water, and baking soda to a bowl, let them soak, drain in a colander, rinse, then pat leaves dry with a clean lint-free kitchen towel or paper towels

To wash other vegetables:

  • Fill a large bowl with water
  • Then add a teaspoon of baking soda for every two cups of water
  • Add the veggies
  • Soak for a 10-15 minutes
  • Scrub with a Vegetable Brush 
  • And finally, rinse off the veggies

Smooth skin fruits get the same treatment

Smooth skinned fruits, such as apples, grapes, peaches, nectarines, and cherries, can be washed in a baking soda bath the same way as veggies.berries

Your instinct may be to soak berries in the same baking soda wash when you bring them home. However, doing this actually increases moisture and accelerates spoilage, microflora, and mold growth.  It’s best to rinse soft fruits like berries just before you eat or cook with them. 

Rinse berries under cold water in a mesh strainer, or colander, then gently patted dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels just before you intend to eat them. This means there is no practical way to remove even a quarter of the pesticide residue on berries before eating them. Always, always and, let me repeat, always buy organic berries for this reason. 

Blueberries are high in antioxidants which are tied to protective health benefits. In total, domestic blueberries in a 2012 joint EWG and CBS news report tested positive for 42 different pesticide residues, and 73 percent of the blueberries contained two or more pesticides.

Strawberries earned the fifth spot on the 2012 “Dirty Dozen” list because, on average, this traditional summer fruit contained three pesticide residues. A single strawberry sample contained 13 different types of pesticides five years ago, according to the group. In 2017, strawberries are Number One for pesticide residue. When farm workers have to wear a hazmat suit and breathing mask to apply pesticides to strawberries, there is something very wrong with our food supply!

These solutions–baking soda wash and buying organic–are not a guarantee of eliminating all chemicals to provide you with a pesticide-free snack. They are just a lot better than the alternatives.

Coming up next is a look at the health benefits of organic food.

What about you? Are you among the millions who believe companies that produce and sell our food have your health as their foremost concern?

Part 1 of Living In A Toxic Stew

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Total Pain Relief Is Possible

I’m not sure how many of my readers saw the post Donna from Fed Up With Fatigue posted a month or so ago. In it she wrote about her experiences with a new pain relief product called ActiPatch®. In her post, Donna mentioned there were free samples available by contacting the company.

So I emailed www.ActiPatchUSA.com and requested one of those samples. I have chronic pain arising from old injuries that are probably amplified by my underlying ME/CFS, myofascial pain syndrome and fibromalgia.

In April of 1979, I was a passenger on a Honda Gold Wing motorcycle when the driver had a heart attack and didn’t make a turn in the road. Instead we drove through two crab apple trees and hit a barn. Yes, I can hit the broad side of a barn!  😉 Fortunately, the family was home at the time and immediately called 911.

Accident when 27 started chronic pain journey

I spent 10 days in ICU with a depressed frontal skull fracture, fibula fracture and what is called a “degloving injury” to my right lower leg. (Degloving injury occurs when skin is torn off flesh by trauma.) Once out of my coma, I transferred to a surgical floor for another three weeks with an antibiotic resistant gangrene in my right lower leg. This whole time my head injury, and resulting double vision, was not addressed due to fears of cross-contamination from the gangrene. Fortunately, UW Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin was part of clinical trials for a new antibiotic. That turned out to be the only thing that halted the progression of gangrene. It saved my leg from additional surgical excision of dead tissue and amputation. After the leg infection was controlled, I had surgery to fix the depressed skull fracture and moved to a neruo floor for another 10 days.

Then, in 1995, I was T-boned by a beer truck. (Only in Wisconsin, right?) I had severe whiplash and temperomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. Basically, my lower jaw on the left side was knocked out of it’s socket by the impact. This is an extremely uncomfortable thing to have. For several weeks I was unable to eat anything that involved opening my mouth wider than a straw. Years later I continue to have myofascial pain in my neck, left side of my head, arm and shoulder that reaches around to my spine.

I found relief from chronic knee pain and inflammation

knee
My lateral collateral ligament is no longer attached. I have no medial collateral ligament. Fortunately, the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments were saved.

Apologies for the digression, but I felt you needed some background before I started writing about how well ActiPatch® worked for my right knee pain. Although the kneecap was okay, I had a jagged wound reaching into my thigh on the left side and no muscle or ligaments there. Consequently, the outer side of my knee had to compensate even though it also was missing muscle and an anchor for the lateral collateral ligament.

I always have inflammation and swelling in the knee. I cannot kneel or put weight on the joint. Since I have neuropathic pain resulting from all the nerve injury, the combination creates a kind of pain synergy.

You can understand why I was so eager to try the ActiPatch® sample. Coincidentally, the device is shown over a knee in the marketing materials.

As you can see in the photo of my own knee below, the ActiPatch® surrounds the kneecap. The loop is supposed to be positioned over the area of greatest pain. You can also see that my knee is not swollen which means it is not inflamed.

A highly reactive nervous system amplifies pain

As most of us with chronic pain know, pain lasting more than a few weeks can easily become chronic. This causes the nervous system to always be highly reactive. This amplifies and maintains the pain even after the initial injury has healed. Therefore, chronic pain is often poorly correlated to the degree of peripheral tissue injury.

my knee with ActiPatch
My right knee wearing an ActiPatch®. You can see my skin graft reflecting light. I wore a loose, old knee compression sleeve to hold it on. Tape is there to keep it in place while I rolled up the sleeve.

According to the product website (www.actipatch.com), the ActiPatch® sends out electromagnetic signal pulses 1,000 times per second to stimulate neuromodulation of the afferent (carries sensory information from the body, into the spine/central nervous system) nerves to dampen the brain’s perception of pain. 

This is basically what I learned as the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Afferent nerves are smaller than the nerves that conduct sensations such as touch and pressure. All peripheral nerves feed into the spinal column at different levels. When the painful area is flooded with other signals that involve the large nerves, pain is stopped from traveling any further than the outer part of the spine. Essentially, the large-fiber nerves shut down the “gate” into the CNS so pain signals don’t get through. 

To avoid the body getting wise and allowing pain to go through again, the ActiPatch® pulsed signal rate prevents adaption so it can be used long-term, according to product literature. Obviously, pain relief improves sleep, physical activity and overall quality of life.

Device works for many causes of pain

Although I used it on an old injury, the company says ActiPatch® can also be used for fibromyalgia pain, arthritis (definitely a problem with my knee), and nonspecific muscle and joint pain. It works on acute injuries such as sprains and strains, too.

 To the left is the trial device which lasts for seven days. The other products are designed to last longer but cost more. You can purchase an ActiPatch® designed for back pain,
muscle pain, shoulder pain (stick an arm through the ring) and other painful spots, too. The trial loop retails on Amazon for just under $10. Longer-lasting products are around $30 for a cost of a dollar each day. That seems like a pittance when compared to the costs of prescription pain pills, ointments, TENS units, rice sacks and supplements. Plus, there are no medication side effects. If you click on either picture it will take you to the Amazon sales page. I receive, as do many other bloggers, a very small percentage of sales purchased through my link.

Device downsides can easily be managed

I’ve been raving about how well the thing works, but there are some downsides. For example, the battery cannot be changed so the ring must be thrown away (in normal trash) after each use. On the other hand, batteries, except for the trial 7-day version, last for 720 hours or 30 days. I also think the device could be more easily situated on the body if it weren’t a circle. My right ankle has arthritis, but I couldn’t figure out how to make the loop work without bending it. I thought this would stop the free flow of energy. However, I watched several YouTube videos both explaining and demonstrating the device. In one of them a woman shows how she uses it for wrist pain by twisting the loop, doubling it and sliding over the hand onto the wrist and forearm.

The trial came with a generous supply of band-aid like strips. I found them difficult to open and apply without the strip sticking to itself. It would be impossible for someone with diminished hand mobility due to arthritis, cerebral palsy, injury, etc. You will definitely need some sort of sleeve or bandage to hold the device in place.

When all is said and done, I will be buying a long-lasting 30-day ActiPatch® for my knee. Maybe also one for my back and another for the ankle if I’m feeling flush with money. The ring I used on my knee went on my lower back first where it immediately stopped pain signals. I wore it overnight. When I took it off to try it on the knee, I still had back pain relief for about a day afterwards. However, my back pain is minor compared to others of us, so don’t count on your relief being maintained after the device runs out of energy.

I’d love to hear your comments. Did anyone else trial the ActiPatch®?

 

Medical Research: Low Fat vs. Low Carbohydrate Diet–Which One Promotes Weight Loss?

The debate between following a low-fat, weight-loss diet and eating to lower carbohydrates and thereby lose weight appears to be settled after a large medical study. Some people, including many ketogenic and paleo dieters, believe cutting back on carbohydrates helps them lose weight. Others, including many physicians and medical centers, promote diets that cut back on saturated fats found in red meats and dairy products, as recommended by the US Department of Agriculture in its Food Pyramid.

food pyramid
The official USDA Food Pyramid

In a 600-person, year-long study, the two eating styles helped dieters drop almost exactly the same number of pounds — and there didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason as to who succeeded on which plan.

Going into the study, which was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers wanted to settle the debate but they also wanted to know if blood insulin levels or genotype had an effect on weight loss.

High blood levels of insulin are a sign of insulin resistance, which often precedes Type 2 diabetes. Many believe high serum insulin promotes storing calories as fat. Researchers looked at the genetic profile of each participant and determined which ones had particular genetic traits thought to lead to weight gain. To the researchers’ surprise, neither genetic predisposition nor high insulin levels had any effect.

Results show you can lose weight with either eating plan

People studied were between 18 and 50 years old, and all overweight or obese but otherwise healthy. They attended nutrition classes taught by a health educator. There were no calorie restrictions. Everyone was directed to minimize their intake of sugars, refined flours, and trans fats. At the same time, they were encouraged to eat vegetables and nutrient-dense foods.  Everyone was encouraged to adopt healthy habits like cooking at home and sitting down for structured meals with family members.

As you would expect, not everyone on the diets lost weight and some had dramatic losses. The outliers were one individual who gained 20 pounds and another who lost 60. However, the average weight loss in each group was almost identical: 11 pounds in the low-fat group, compared to 13 pounds in the low-carb group.

“It’s not so much about that food — it’s really about [changing] this crazy way that Americans eat.”

About 30% of people in the study had a genetic signature that, in theory, should have pointed to success on the low-fat diet, while 40% had a low-carb “profile”. But the data didn’t show any strong similarity between these genetic markers and weight loss on the corresponding diet. Neither did measures of insulin resistance, which the team also thought would be related to success.

The successful dieters, regardless of which group they were in, credited their achievement to a reframed relationship with food. They began eating more mindfully, cooking at home more often and focusing on whole foods instead of processed, packaged foodstuff.

According to the lead researcher, Christopher D. Gardner, Ph.D., “That was more powerful than differentiating between low-carb or low-fat. Just getting them to be a lot more mindful about what they were eating. It’s not so much about that food — it’s really about [changing] this crazy way that Americans eat.”

What about your diet?

These articles may also interest you.

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/maximize-nutrition/

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/a-ketogenic-diet-improves-me-cfs-symptoms/

acetaminophen bottle

Medical Research: Pain Med Has Unexpected Effect On Sex Hormones, Blood Sugar Measurement

acetaminophen bottle
This commonly used painkiller has a hidden side.

A recent examination of patients taking acetaminophen (Tylenol ) for pain unexpectedly found that the common painkiller alters sex hormones. If taken during pregnancy it may cause male babies to be born with urogenital malformations. (Source)

Acetaminophen (APAP) has been in use for over 50 years, but researchers still don’t know all the ways it works in the body.

The effect on one sex hormone was roughly equivalent to the effect of 35 years of aging, or the normal decrease in levels seen in menopause. Fortunately, the effect only lasts for 48 hours if no additional APAP is taken

Taking APAP every day for pain causes some hormones to become menopausal–regardless of age.

Acetaminophen also causes false highs, by a rather large margin, in people with continuous glucose monitors, according to another study reported in Diabetes Care. This obviously is a concern for the many diabetics who use continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), which is swiftly becoming the standard of care for Type 1 diabetics.

Blood Sugar Measurement Also Affected

For example, three patients in the study had blood glucose meter values less than 70 mg/dL with much higher CGM readings — 63 vs 138 mg/dL, 46 vs 175 mg/dL, and 51 vs 184 mg/dL.

glucometer
New technology should eliminate false high blood sugar readings.

In 10 patients, the CGM values read higher than 180 mg/dL, but the meter reading was over 100 mg/dL lower. The effect appears to be limited to CGM since finger stick glucometer readings were used as a control.

Newer blood sugar measurement technology under development will take this consequence into account. Until then people who use CGM need to be aware of the APAP effect.

The study that found the sex hormone effect with APAP also was able to shed light on how the painkiller works in the body. People who took acetaminophen had very low levels of neurosteroids made by the brain itself, such as pregnenolone sulfate and DHEAS [dehydroepiandrosterone]. The drug also works with three distinct metabolic pathways–one of them being the endocannabinoid system, which produces marijuana-like molecules.

This may explain the calming effects experienced by some individuals and acetaminophen’s use as a mild sedative in children. The uncertainty and growing number of proposed mechanisms raise the possibility that there are further actions involving central nervous system (CNS) cell receptors. (Source)

The findings are significant because they show how the body is impacted by seemingly innocuous everyday medications. There are hundreds of other drugs that no one has done this research for.

 

 

 

Prestigious Study Finds Proof Of Chronic Lyme Disease

At long last, researchers have confirmed the presence of Lyme disease, an infection with Borrelia burgdorferi, following the recommended antibiotic treatment. Johns Hopkins University reported that chronic Lyme disease is a “real” disorder.

The study involved 61 patients who completed the recommended antibiotic course and continued to report symptoms of joint pain, fatigue, cognitive deficits, insomnia, and depression despite largely normal physical exams and blood testing. People with this holdover infection commonly call it chronic Lyme. Researchers call this collection (called constellation in medical speak) “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” or PTLDS.

Unfortunately, the study did not address what is perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of chronic Lyme–whether it’s caused by lingering infection and is treatable with additional courses of antibiotics.

tired woman on couch
Lyme Disease is growing in numbers and locations.

Published in the December issue of in Frontiers of Medicine, these findings hopefully will spur further investigation into the cause of the persistent symptoms. Lyme disease rates have climbed steadily since the mid-1970s when it was initially recognized in Lyme, Connecticut. As the disease prevalence and incidence (how widespread and the number) have grown in the following decades, so have reports of what people with it call chronic Lyme.

Medical experts have questioned the existence of a persistent B. burgdorferi infection because there is no direct evidence of the bacteria’s ongoing infection in blood or tissue samples. To help distinguish persistent infection, researchers first studied people with PTLDS, defined by the Infectious Diseases Society of America as involving significant fatigue, widespread musculoskeletal pain and/or cognitive difficulties arising within six months after completion of antibiotic therapy for physician-diagnosed Lyme disease and lasting at least six additional months.

Study Parameters Were Rigorous

Researchers gathered prior medical records with evidence of Lyme disease and excluded all those who have conditions that may mimic those of PTLDS–like ME/CFS or fibromyalgia. They ended up recruiting 61 people who were either self- or provider-referred to the Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center at Johns Hopkins and met study criteria.

Individuals studied were almost evenly split between males and females, and ranged in age between 18 and 82. Healthy controls (n=24) were also split evenly between sexes and about the same ages as the study group but had no clinical history of Lyme disease symptoms and no antibodies to B. burgdorferi that would indicate past or current infection.

A comprehensive battery of tests and exams were performed on everyone. Study participants also completed standardized questionnaires to measure the severity of fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance and depression, as well as their quality of life. 

Few clinically significant differences in blood tests or physical exams were found in comparing the control group with the PTLDS patients. The study did find, however, that some people with PTLDS had a diminished vibratory sensation–a marker for neurological involvement seen in other studies of Lyme disease.

scatter graph
Participants with post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) were compared to controls on the following: (A) Fatigue Severity Scale, (B) the Short-Form McGill Pain Index, (C) Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, (D) the Beck Depression Inventory-II, and the SF-36 (E) Physical and (F) Mental norm-based scores. The mean and 1 SD are shown by the solid lines. Clinically relevant cutoffs for each measure are shown by the dotted line.

There were significant differences in the results from the questionnaires meant to measure subjective experience. Approximately 50 percent of the PTLDS patients reported severe fatigue, 28 percent reported severe pain, about 23 percent said they had severe cognitive issues and about 31 percent reported severe sleep difficulty. None of the healthy controls reported any symptoms in the severe range.

The researchers found 19 symptoms that are not in the standard PTLDS criteria for diagnosis that were reported to be more severe among PTLDS patients than in controls. These symptoms included severe sleep difficulty (32%), severe neck pain (8%), severe numbness or tingling in hands or feet (10%), severe irritability (8%), severe low back pain (3%) and severe headache (17%). These symptoms reflect the significantly higher scores for depression and correspondingly lower scores on a questionnaire used to measure health-related quality of life, the SF-36.

No Clear Biomarkers Were Found

“Even though their exams and lab tests didn’t show much in the way of a common or clear biological marker or markers of PTLDS, it’s clear these patients don’t feel well,” says study co-author Kathleen Bechtold, Ph.D., associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “These symptoms are more severe than what the average non-PTLDS patient is experiencing even on a bad day.”Even with no objective laboratory or exam markers, Bechtold believes the results of this study suggest that PTLDS can be diagnosed through careful and thorough examination of symptoms. Finding a way to accurately identify people with PTLDS will improve diagnosis and care, as well as leading to future therapies. But as we have seen with ME/CFS, without objective laboratory or physical exam markers, mainstream healthcare providers likely are not going to diagnose it. The Johns Hopkins researchers are currently analyzing test results and blood to search for biomarkers that were not examined in the initial study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. Of those diagnosed early and treated following infectious disease recommendations, between five and 30 percent go on to experience PTLDS. Factors such as delayed diagnosis and inappropriate antibiotics and steroids (like Prednisone) given before recommended treatment occurred in over half the PTLDS patients in this study. The Johns Hopkins researchers said this could account for the prevalence of chronic Lyme.

You may also be interested in this article.

https://www.aswellasicanbe.com/chronic-illness/fight-chronic-illness-autoimmune-diseases-diet/