Are the benefits of wheatgrass overblown?

Mosey up to the bar at a health food café or juice bar and you’ll likely find someone ordering a shot. Not a shot of tequila, mind you, but of wheatgrass.

For some people, shooting a shot of wheatgrass offers a sense of well-being, the feeling that they are gulping down something with numerous health benefits. Let’s review some of purported health benefits of wheatgrass and medical studies.

Proponents of wheatgrass claim that it can help cure:

Bronchitis (and other respiratory conditions)
Fever
Infection
Skin disorders
Digestive disorders
According to the Mayo Clinic, some supporters even believe that wheatgrass can help treat cancer, anemia, diabetes, infections and joint pain, among other health conditions.

Wheatgrass nutrients

On a macronutrient and micronutrient level (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals), wheatgrass doesn’t seem like a health food to get excited about. A typical one-ounce serving contains only seven calories, no fat and virtually no carbohydrates and protein. Wheatgrass contains no essential omega-3 fatty acids nor does it have much vitamin content with the exception of 7 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C. A one-ounce shot also contains 10 percent DV of iron, but only a trace amount of any other well-known vitamins and minerals.

So why all the hoopla over wheatgrass? Chlorophyll — the green pigment that plays a critical role in photosynthesis, allowing plants to absorb energy from the sun — is touted by natural health advocates as an all-star health compound that increases the blood’s oxygen content.

It’s the chlorophyll, wheatgrass advocates claim, that helps rid the body of toxins, strengthens immunity and improves the micro-flora ecology of the digestive tract.

Is there any proof to back these claims?

Many cancer survivors swear by wheatgrass. But is consuming wheatgrass any more effective than, say, eating copious amounts of fresh vegetables? To date there is little scientific evidence to support wheatgrass’ nutritional merits. According to New York University’s Langone Medical Center, a small study of 24 patients with ulcerative colitis concluded that those who took a wheatgrass supplement improved their conditions versus those who took a placebo.

Another small study in the journal Indian Pediatrics concluded that patients with a form of anemia (thalassemia) required fewer blood transfusions after consuming 100 milliliters of wheatgrass daily.

An Israeli study of 60 patients with breast cancer concluded that wheatgrass juice may reduce myelotoxicity and chemotherapy dosage. The study’s preliminary results need confirmation upon further testing.
There’s little evidence that consuming wheatgrass is any more beneficial than just eating a lot of fresh vegetables.

One shot of wheat grass = 2 pounds of vegetables?

Several natural health articles and websites claim that consuming two ounces of wheatgrass contains the same nutritional composition as several servings of vegetables. But no clinical trials support this claim or other validations of wheatgrass’ positive effects on tumor shrinkage, prevention of heart disease and diabetes, or its role in the elimination of heavy metals from tissues.

Dietitian Alison Hornby, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, tells health website NHS: “There is no sound evidence to support the claim that wheatgrass is better than other fruits and vegetables in terms of nutrition. It cannot be recommended above any other choices in this food group. Although it contributes towards your recommended daily intake of fruit and veg, a single shot of wheatgrass doesn’t count as one of your 5 (vegetables) a day. But if you’re a big fan, you could combine a shot with a fruit or veg smoothie.”
A natural health website claims that Bernard Jensen, a naturopath and chiropractor who passed away in 2001 at the age of 92, wrote several natural health books and claimed that he was able to double the red blood cell count of his patients by having them soak in a chlorophyll bath. However, there are no medical studies to support Jensen’s.

Dr. Chris Reynolds, an Australian-based doctor who goes by the alias “Dr. Wheatgrass,” tells Mother Nature Network that he’s had tremendous success over the last 18 years in his practice by having his patients take a chlorophyll-free wheatgrass sprout extract.

But isn’t chlorophyll supposed to be the compound that gives wheatgrass its healing properties?

“Although chlorophyll is essential for keeping us all breathing, it has little if any physiological or positive effect on human health,” says Reynolds in an email. “The benefits of wheatgrass are largely biological, not nutritional as most purveyors of wheatgrass in its various forms would have one believe.”

Reynolds argues that there is plenty of evidence to support wheatgrass extract’s role in supporting biological functions, including one preliminary study in the Journal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research, which suggests that fermented wheatgrass extract “exerts significant antitumor activity.” The study concludes that the extract requires further evaluation as a candidate for clinical combination drug regimens.

credit: Judd Handler

Yoga effective against arthritis pain as new study shows.

Those suffering from the debilitating pain of rheumatoid arthritis might want to consider purchasing a yoga mat. A recent study published in the Journal of Rheumatology discovered that people with arthritis who practice yoga regularly stand to reap the benefits of reduced joint pain and depression and increased flexibility and energy. As the authors note, this news is especially important in shattering the myth that yoga is not appropriate for those with sensitive joints.

“I think the study is more evidence that, in fact, that’s not true,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Clifton O. Bingham III, director of the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, told Time.

The study, called the “largest, most rigorously conducted, randomized, controlled trial of yoga to date,” involved 75 people who did not regularly exercise and had rheumatoid arthritis. One group practiced yoga twice a week with a yoga therapist and once a week at home, while the control group carried on with the normal routine. After eight weeks, improvements with the yoga group were seen across the board, with gains in “joint health, physical functioning, and mental/emotional well-being.”

Even more promising, these benefits were still found to exist some nine months later.

And just how intense were these classes? From the researchers:

“Each class began with questions/comments (5 min), breathing exercises and chanting (5 min), a warm-up and moving sequence (surya namaskara; 15 min), and isometric poses (asanas) (20 min) to increase strength, flexibility, and balance. Classes ended with deep relaxation (sivasana; 10 min), a closing chant, and meditation (5 min).”

Speaking with Time, Bingham called the activity transformative for some of his patients.

“What [one patient] learned from the yoga experience was the philosophy of non-harming and the idea that where she is today is good enough,” he said. “Those types of things are very difficult to measure in terms of an outcome from a study, but we certainly saw them on a real one-on-one patient level.”

Want to give it a try yourself? A quick search online found a variety of arthritis-focused yoga poses available to try, as well as a few videos. Like any other physical activity, the authors recommend checking with your doctor first. A full checklist is available here.

Credit: Michael D’estries

Manipulating gut bacteria may cure disease, study shows

Researchers fed volunteers extreme diets of meat and cheese followed by extreme diets of grains and vegetables and found gut bacteria changed greatly according to diet.
I started paying attention to information about gut bacteria after my friend Amanda started educating me about fermenting food. She introduced me to the fact that science is increasingly linking many food-related ailments to our gut bacteria. I’m still learning about it, and I found the results of a recent study interesting.

The scientific study by Harvard University scientists put volunteers on extreme diets to see if consumption of certain foods can significantly alter gut bacteria in a short period of time.

A group of nine volunteers were first put on an extreme diet of meat, eggs and cheese for five days. After a break, the same volunteers were then put on an all plant-based diet of legumes, grains, fruits and vegetables.

During both time periods, the change in gut bacteria was evident after three days. When the gut bacteria of the volunteers during the animal-product only diet was tested, their guts began to make “microbes that ‘love bile’ — the Bilophila.” It’s believed that Bilophila promotes inflammation in the stomach. When the volunteers ate the plant-only diet, there was not an increase in Bilophila.

Of course, the meat diet was extreme, and for many people, the plant-based only diet was extreme also. Most of us, except for vegans, eat a combination of plant and animal products. If so, why should we be interested in the results of this study?

The results are interesting, and I’d also say they’re important, because as study contributor Dr. Lawrence David noted, “Our study is a proof of concept that you can modify the microbiome through diet.” It’s an initial step in figuring out how to treat intestinal diseases with diet.

The researchers admit they are a long way off from being able to “manipulate the community” of bacteria in a person’s stomach to actually treat disease, but it’s a step in the right direction. That’s why the study is important. When the scientific community is working to discover how changing what we eat can treat diseases, instead of just creating drugs that will manage the diseases that our diets may create, it’s important.

Source: Robin Shreeves

5 ways to banish negative thoughts

Whether it’s every once in a while or almost all the time, negative thoughts can barrel their way into our brains. It’s obviously not healthy if you let them fester, so it’s key to find a way to stop them. Here are five good ways to deal with negative thoughts when they’ve invaded your head.

Talk about it.

Most people try to push negative thoughts out of their minds with little success. It’s like the old joke goes, if I tell you not to think of purple polka-dotted elephants, you’re going to think about just that! A study published in 2005 in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy finds that the best way to get rid of negative thoughts for good is not to suppress them, but to accept them. Talking about those feelings, getting them out of your head and giving them words and labels instead of pretending they don’t exist, can go a long way toward easing your emotional distress.

Write about it.

Similar to the tactic mentioned above, writing about your feelings may help you get rid of them for good. University of Virginia psychologist Tim Wilson tells Business Insider that writing about your negative feelings as often as three times a week can help you let go of them for good. Putting pen to paper is another form of acceptance, because by writing the thoughts down, you’re acknowledging their existence.

Practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness exactly? Psychologist Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes it in his book, “Wherever You Go, There You Are” like this: “Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” A new study being conducted over the next 7 years in the United Kingdom by psychologists and neuroscientists at Oxford University and University College London is attempting to discern the effects of mindfulness on adolescents. Said the study’s lead author, William Kuyken, “Just as going for a run is a well-known way of protecting general physical health, mindfulness exercises develop mental fitness and resilience.”

Focus on the good.

In her book, “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline,” internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology Dr. Becky Bailey describes one of her tactics for building a better relationship with your kids. By focusing on the positive aspects of disciplining your children, i.e. what you want to happen as opposed to what you don’t, you can break the cycle of negativity in your home. She puts it this way, “What you focus on, you get more of…. Learning to focus your attention on the outcomes that you desire will bring you enormous power. It is probably the most important technique you can learn for living peacefully with children (and with other adults) and finding joy in life.”

Distract yourself.

Distracting yourself with a feel-good activity can also be an effective way to free your mind from negative thoughts, especially if you’re just trying to get rid of them for a short period of time. For me, this is especially true on a plane, where my larger-than-life fear of flying once led me to scream out for the entire plane to hear, “We’re all going to die!” when we hit a bit of bad turbulence. (Oh how I wish I was making that up.) But I find it much easier to fly with my kids, distracting myself with occupying them with snacks and games as opposed to letting myself wallow in my negative thoughts. And what I know anecdotally to be true is backed by science. Says Dr. Becky Weinberg, Pittsburgh-based clinical psychologist, “Distracting yourself with something like exercise or another pleasurable activity can definitely help you shift focus.”

We all have negative thoughts, so the next time you do, try one of the strategies above to banish them for good.

 

Acupuncture may relieve COPD

Relief may be on the way for some of the roughly 24 million Americans who suffer from COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study has found that acupuncture may improve breathing problems in people with COPD, making it easier for them to complete physical tasks and minimizing the feeling of breathlessness that often accompanies exertion.

The study, conducted in Japan and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed patients who had received three months of acupuncture. Researchers found the benefits from the alternative treatment were equal to, or better than, what’s been reported for conventional drugs and exercises.

COPD — a disease categorization that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis — is irreversible lung damage that is often caused by smoking. The primary symptom of the condition is shortness of breath. At present, the disease is typically treated with medications such as steroids and inhalers as well as breathing exercises.

For this study, doctors followed 68 COPD patients, half of whom were given weekly acupuncture sessions, while the other half received “fake” acupuncture sessions with needles that don’t actually pierce the skin. Prior to the treatment and at the end of the 12-week trial period, patients performed a standard six-minute walking test during which researchers measured the distance walked and shortness of breath during walking (on a scale of 1 to 10.)

In the real acupuncture group, shortness of breath was initially rated at 5.5 out of 10 after walking. After 12 weeks of treatment, that fell to 1.9. The average distance those patients were able to walk in six minutes also improved, from about 370 meters to 440 meters.

The comparison group did not see these improvements. Breathlessness scores held steady — they were 4.2 before treatment and 4.6 after — and there was no improvement in patients’ walk distance.

While the researchers don’t recommend using acupuncture in lieu of conventional treatment, they do think the benefits noted by the survey warrant more research — and for those who can afford it, it certainly can’t hurt to try it.

SOURCE: Jenn Savedge

Yoga:the breastcancer recovery key

Breast cancer survivors have a lot to think about when it comes to their recovery. There are often suggestions from doctors on what kind of food to eat, or how often to exercise in order to help reduce the chance of recurrence. But for breast cancer survivors, sometimes just the thought of exercise can make them want to sit down and rest. A cancer survivor is often weak from the treatments he or she has gone through.

Consistently, cancer survivors’ average fitness levels are about 30 percent lower than those of sedentary people without a cancer history. That’s why I think the findings of a new study that I just completed will help these patients. The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that yoga is beneficial in many ways to breast cancer survivors. Yoga provides graded exercise that can be tailored for individuals who have been sedentary, and the postures can be modified to accommodate functional limitations.

It is widely known that yoga benefits your health. Many people who practice yoga experience gains in flexibility, feel more relaxed, sleep better, have stronger muscles and also might even see a drop in their blood pressure. What my colleagues and I at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center concluded in our study is that inflammation for cancer patients also dropped when they routinely practiced yoga. [Yoga Holds Benefits for Breast Cancer Survivors]

My study was a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of 200 women who are breast cancer survivors. I compared a 12-week hatha yoga intervention with a wait-list control condition, which is a group who did not do yoga during the study. We collected questionnaires and fasting blood samples at beginning, immediately post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment — with both groups. Participants ranged in age from 27 years to 76 years old, and had completed cancer treatment within the past three years. We chose these participants who were at least two months past their surgery or last radiation treatment, whichever occurred last. Women in the yoga group participated in two 90-minute weekly sessions, while participants assigned to the wait-list control group were told to continue performing their usual activities, and to refrain from beginning any yoga practice. After their final assessment, they were offered the yoga classes, meaning everyone had the chance to join yoga after the study ended.
When we began this study, we hypothesized that participants who participated in yoga would have decreased inflammation, depressive symptoms and fatigue in contrast to those participants in the wait-list control. After reviewing the outcomes of all women in the study, we now know that our hypothesis was correct.

Immediately post-treatment, vitality was higher in the yoga group compared to the control group. At 3 months post-treatment, the yoga group’s fatigue was lower, vitality was higher, and the inflammation markers in their blood that we tested for (IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β — which are pro-inflammatory markers) were lower for yoga participants compared to those in the control group. What we also discovered is that the more a woman participated in yoga, the greater the benefits in fatigue, vitality and inflammation reduction.

Despite the fact that our participants’ weight did not change and our trial did not include aerobic or resistance exercise, pro-inflammatory cytokine production decreased significantly in yoga participants compared to the wait-list group. This is important, because inflammation enhances risk in many age-related diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and also increases the risks for cancer recurrence.

Another benefit of this trial was that we showed yoga can help cancer survivors get better rest. Previous studies have shown that up to 60 percent of cancer survivors report sleep problems during survivorship, a rate that is two or three times as high as similar adults without a cancer history. The problem with that is disturbed sleep elevates inflammation, as well as fatigue, and thus the improved sleep reported by yoga group participants likely contributed to the positive changes both at the beginning of the trial and through the 3-month post-treatment visit.

While our study may underestimate the entire list of potential benefits of yoga, the results show that yoga can have a significant benefit, and therefore I recommend that all breast cancer survivors consider adding it to their exercise plan.

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What is energy medicine

The term energy medicine usually refers to putative energy fields (energy that is presumed to exist). Although it can’t be measured in conventional ways, therapists or energy healers say they can see it, sense it or feel it.

Energy healing or energy medicine is based on the fundamental premise that everyone’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs and attitudes are made of energy. Therefore, if we are all infused with this life force often referred to as qi (pronounced chee), we can channel or use its power for healing.

In Chinese medicine energy is called qi; in Ayurvedic medicine it is doshas; in traditional Hindu metaphysics the word is chakras (illustrated in the photo at bottom). Therapies such as acupuncture and acupressure, reconnective healing and reiki work on these energies to restore health and well-being.

“In Chinese medicine the theory is that energy flows through 12 channels that cover your body. When you are healthy, this energy flows smoothly and your body remains in a state of balance. When you experience a physical, emotional or spiritual trauma, the energy gets disrupted, depleted or stuck,” says Tom Ingegno, a licensed acupuncturist with a masters of science in Oriental medicine and a certified animal acupuncturist in Baltimore.

Acupuncture is a form of energy medicineIf left in this state too long or if the trauma is severe enough, disease or pain manifests. “By placing needles in points along these pathways we can help restore proper flow of energy and allow the body, mind and spirit to heal itself,” says Ingegno.

“What reiki does is actually use the universal life-force in association with the qi of our own body, so it’s a combination of those two,” says Dr. Kathy Gruver, a massage therapist, reiki master and author of “Conquer your Stress with Mind/Body Techniques.”

“The great thing about reiki is I’m not using my energy, so when I put my hands on somebody, they’re not getting my bad morning, my illness, my karma; I’m a conduit. I’m a total empty vessel for the energy to flow through.”

How reiki works

To do reiki, practitioners have an attunement, which consists of a reiki master giving you reiki energy. They teach you the symbols and the hand positions and perform a ritual, which awakens your hands and allows you to perform energy healing on someone else. Gruver advises people to receive an attunement in person, never over the Internet.

“I think it’s a complete misconception that there are these special gifted people that can do it. Certainly people have gifts that are unexplainable, but reiki is not one of them; anyone can do it,” says Gruver.

During a session Gruver lays her hands on or hovers them above the part of the body she wants to heal or send energy. She also does it unconsciously when she rests her hand on her husband’s leg during a movie, for example. If he has any pain or something going on emotionally, the energy goes to where it’s needed.

The majority of people seek reiki for emotional issues, physical problems or because they are terminally ill. Reiki provides peace, comfort, healing and relaxation. Cancer patients often say it’s the only thing that helps their pain. There are some preliminary studies that suggest reiki can knit bone back together more quickly and heal wounds faster. The American Hospital Association says 15 percent of hospitals (more than 800) offer reiki in the U.S.

After a session people are relaxed. They may fall asleep, giggle or cry; it opens up many emotions. Some find it completely energizing, while others want to curl up and sleep. It’s also a powerful treatment for grief, loss and sadness.

Chakra energy centersA massage for the soul

Shani Enns, spiritual coach, energy healer and founder of www.embraceyourhumanity.com in Kansas City, grew up around energy healing. She has certificates from many modalities but says she’s practiced her own brand of energy medicine for the past 10 years.

Enns performs energy healing along with spiritual coaching and says whatever problem someone comes in with, she works to shift their beliefs, patterns and habits with both coaching and energy healing.

Some people come in with cancer, some with health problems, others with depression; many come for emotional issues. It usually goes in tandem. “People who don’t feel good physically also don’t feel good emotionally,” says Enns.

Someone once described her work as a massage for the soul.

Similar to reiki, Enns lays her hands on various parts of someone’s body such as their head, heart or belly and sends energy inward. She frequently works with entrepreneurs who are looking to manifest wealth and success in business.

During or after a session people feel buzzing, tingling, dizziness, a sense of heaviness, and may see colors, Enns says. Many feel a state of peace or nothingness. Occasionally people say they don’t feel anything other than well rested. Enns says one of the most gifted energy healers she knows doesn’t feel anything giving — or even receiving energy work. He goes on faith because his clients experience amazing effects.

Results are very individual for any type of energy work. Enns says she had a client in kidney failure who was cured and didn’t need further dialysis. She also had a client with advanced breast cancer who was comforted and benefited from pain relief. “Sometimes healing means being OK with dying,” says Enns.

There are many ways practitioners provide reiki. Some use crystals and gemstones; others play music; some chant. “If it’s too weird for you or too mainstream for you, find another practitioner,” says Gruver. Enns offers her first session free for just this reason.

Many practitioners provide distance energy work via phone or Skype, and many offer animal healing. Enns explains that practitioners of energy medicine draw energy from the endless source that the universe provides. She always comes out of energy work feeling better than before she gave it. “I feel joy, peace and bliss giving it.” People who receive energy healing often feel the same way.

credit:JenniferNelson  sources:mnn.com