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Friday, December 13, 2013

54. A Good Time at the Dental Surgery Clinic

Women are always looking for a new, chic way to tie a scarf. I’ve got one for you. In reflection of the festive season, I suggest a scarf of red and green, perhaps in a natty plaid. Loop the middle of the scarf under your chin, lifting both ends straight up. Tie a loose knot on top of your head, and draw one end down and forward over your shoulder to show off the fringe to nice advantage.

Now take a gel ice-pack, the nice supple kind, and slip it into a fat, cozy sock from your bag of unmatched ones that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away. Then slip the sock à la ice-pack inside the scarf, down one cheek—the sore one, curving it under the jaw. This will enable you to go about a certain amount of business while hopefully curbing the swelling and pain in the jaw as the freezing slowly comes out. .
If you opt to omit the sock, you may frostbite your face. Come crying to me, and I’ll sell you a little spray bottle of my colloidal silver gel, made with half colloidal (double strength) and half aloe vera. It’s what I gave my son Lindsay last weekend when he came home with a reddish brown brand on his cheek after a sledding (snow-mobiling) trip in frigid temperatures.

But back to the ice-pack and my article: if you haven’t just had dental surgery, this post may be of no use to you—unless you find some entertainment value in it.

On the subject of freezing coming out, I thought perhaps it would be less traumatic if it thawed more gradually, because it was happening now and it was a humdinger. I quickly hit upon a brilliant way to slow down the thawing process. I dug a pint of Häagen Dazs vanilla ice cream out of a special place in the freezer where I have been hoping that no one else would find it. I began to eat it, directly out of the container, letting it float over to the very damaged side and slowly melt there, calming the inflammation. It felt very, very soothing, and it tasted very, very good.

In the middle of this inspired therapy, my son Ben came out into the kitchen. He stopped short when he saw me eating ice cream, and being a man of few words, he simply raised his eyebrows—very high. He knows, as does anyone who knows me, and anyone who has followed my blog, that I don’t “do” desserts, because my body doesn’t tolerate them, and that ice cream in particular, in the past, has thrown me for an awful whammy.

But I’ve recently made a discovery: Häagen Dazs is made only from real ingredients: cream, concentrated skim milk, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. None of the other strange things that you’ll find in various combinations in every other brand I’ve checked: glucose-fructose (bad!), pectin, mono and diglycerides (derived primarily from partially hydrogenated soy bean and canola oil. They may also be synthetically produced). Salt, sodium bicarbonate, potassium sorbate, sodium citrate, xanthan gum, phosphoric acid, glycerol monostearate, natural (read: unnatural) flavour, sunflower oil, soy lecithin, stabilizers, guar gum, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80, locust bean gum, carrageenan, calcium sulphate, colour, and tartrazine.

So I gave the Häagen Dazs the acid test one night a while ago and had a generous serving right before bed. And contrary to my recent past experience, I went straight to sleep and slept eight hours. It was such a profound experience that I remarked to my dear husband Greg in the morning: “I’ve fought this health battle for so long and suddenly realize I only ever had a Häagen Dazs deficiency.”

By contrast, he and I recently had dinner out, and when he ate his dessert with the usual two scoops of vanilla ice cream, I decided to hazard two little nibbles of his cold garnish—and within five minutes, my head was spinning. So although sugar is not a good thing, it would seem I can handle a little, but evidently it’s the rest of the ingredients that create chemical chaos in me.

Perhaps you’re wondering what the subject of this article really is. It seems to be all over the map. It reminds me of how we wrote back in some of the arts classes I took in university. Stream of consciousness, we called it. And we would read aloud what we had written to the rest of the class. No one was ever censored for rambling self-indulgence—or rank indecency for that matter. Forbid that anyone should inhibit the creative and intellectual process! And there were other influences in effect. It was the early seventies: what can I say?

But, dear readers, we were in the kitchen, with Ben watching me eat ice cream. I said in my most compassionate voice, “I would share this with you, son, but I’ve been eating it right out of the carton and I’m concerned that I may have some terrible germs and I wouldn’t want you to catch anything from me.”

Ben had been my designated driver for the day: the oral surgery clinic had told me that I would be considered legally impaired for 24 hours following my procedure. When we arrived there, I told the surgeon I was really looking forward to this. Probably not something he often hears. I clarified: “I’m looking forward to getting this behind me.”

You see, for at least a year, I had been trying to face the fact that fatigued adrenals that are not responding to treatment are very likely being kept under stress by chronic infection in the mouth. Over time I embraced the inevitable, found a “biological” dentist, who gave me a hi-tech 3D x-ray, which a radiologist then goes through carefully, millimetre by millimetre, and looks for trouble spots. This culminated in the removal of two old broken-off teeth as well as the discovery of three more, seemingly functional, crowned teeth that were all infected and poised to erupt at any moment.

It was these three molars that were removed today. The surgeon also had to do a bone graft, which required another incision back where my wisdom teeth once stood, to “harvest” some material to plant in these newly emptied sockets.

I had opted for sedation and had assumed that that meant I would be mellow but conscious throughout. Not so. They had just slipped in the IV and I was watching my pulse reading out on a screen: “74” (I guess I was just a tad anxious), then “72, 71 ...” and the next thing I knew they were telling me to climb off whatever I was on (was it a wheelchair or a gurney?) and climb onto a bed. I couldn’t believe they expected me to get there on my own steam, but I did. Then I lay there floating in and out of stupor.

A young man was wheeled in and told to climb onto the bed next to mine. I don’t know what he came in on either. I found his arrival fascinating and turned partially onto my side to watch better. Apparently the attendants found my interest inappropriate; they pulled the curtain between us. But they pulled it back again before they left. Good.

I turned toward him again. I guessed him to be in his early thirties. “How’re you doing, buddy?” I asked, as well as I could with a fat, numb mouth and a pile of gauze clamped between my teeth.

He answered with a question: “What happened?”

It was hard to understand him: he had a wad of paper towel protruding from his mouth that looked like a large origami crane had crashed and died there.

“I think you had some teeth pulled,” I offered.

“What happened to you?”

“I had three teeth pulled.”

“I had four,” he raised me, obviously remembering something.

We lay in silence for a few seconds.

“This is a good way to meet people, isn’t it?” I said.

He laughed, making a tortured sound. “You’re funny.”

He said something I couldn’t understand. “You’re mumbling,” I said. I asked him to repeat himself. He did. It sounded like, “This is the worst day of my life.”

So I repeated it as best I could with my own limitations, with a questioning inflection at the end, as a means of asking if I had heard correctly.

“No,” he said, “this is the best day of my life.”

“The best?”

“Yeah. I feel so good.”

“Yeah, me too. It’s the drugs.”

“You like it?”


“Me too.”

I thought a moment. “I haven’t done drugs in ... (It crossed my foggy mind that perhaps he would ask me why I didn’t do drugs anymore and I would share with him about Jesus. I strained my brain to think and calculate) ... thirty-five years.”

“Me either.”

“You weren’t even born thirty-five years ago.”

He started to laugh again. It sounded more like sobbing, and the origami crane flapped above his mouth. “You’re the funniest person I’ve ever met.” And he sobbed some more.

A man pulled back the outside curtain with a suddenly yank and stared intensely at my new friend, obviously thinking he was crying. “Are you laughing?” he asked briskly.

“Theth,” came the muffled affirmative through the bird’s wings. The man left.

“You’re mumbling again,” I said. “Would you please try to speak clearly?”

A man came in and told me my son was here and I could get up now. He stood there waiting.

“You’re going to let me get up by myself?” I asked dubiously.


“I’m not sure I can walk by myself.”

“Yes, you can,” he said.

I have no idea if he supported me with an arm. I floated like mist away from the bed, turning carefully back once to say goodbye to my friend. I was sorry to leave him. I wondered if I should give him my phone number. Or would he think that was inappropriate? “Good luck, buddy,” I said aloud; then I turned and swam out to the waiting room where I was put under the care of my son.

I was quite spacey on the homeward ride, and Ben was quietly amused. Once we got home, I wandered around the kitchen and various other places, slowly getting together a meal for the two of us, mine rendered unrecognizable by the blender. It was after that that the freezing began to disappear in earnest and the pain and swelling came on like a rhinoceros. I threw my usual pharmaceutical phobia out the window and swallowed one of the pain pills they’d given me, and I got out my red and green plaid scarf to rig up an ice-pack. Oh, and I’m taking the antibiotics, along with colloidal silver, which together afford a synergistic effect. Not taking any chances here. A week ago, a woman at the farmers’ market told me of a lovely young Filipino gal, part of a group she attends, who passed away just recently, suddenly, with no warning. An autopsy revealed that she’d had a silent infection in her mouth.

The swelling looked like it was going to get serious. I thought of some natural anti-inflammatory capsules I have in the cupboard and took a couple. The main ingredient is turmeric. That made me think of a turmeric drink that my wonderful massage therapist described to me. I didn’t have all the ingredients she uses, but, hey, considering my cooking skills were fostered in a remote cow-camp on Canada’s largest cattle ranch, improvisation was learned early on. (The memoirs of that time in my life, Yes, I Really Was a Cowgirl, is available on my website: a great Christmas gift for that hard-to-buy-for person.)

So I cooked up a mixture of turmeric, coconut oil, water, coconut sugar, cinnamon, and honey, and then stirred a spoonful of it into a mug of warm milk. Not unpleasant at all. Very soothing. So I sat there sipping quietly, occasionally adjusting my scarf and ice-pack, thinking about Christmas and friends and family and how I’d like to wish everyone a merry holiday and a blessed New Year.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

53. Signing Off and Heading in a New Direction

It was two months ago today that I last posted an article. Here is what’s been happening:

It was in early January that God began to try to get my attention about some of the priorities in my life. I found Him putting His finger on my health writing, indicating that it was getting in the way of other things that were more important. Not that the health writing hasn’t been important, but that the season was changing, so to speak, and it was time for a shift.

At first, not willing to completely quit this research and writing that I have so enjoyed, I rationalized that I needn’t stop writing for the newspaper; I just needed to make it last on my priority list instead of first. Fact is, I have been working on another new project since last summer, and in January I could see that, imminently, I had to dedicate a lot more time to it. (More about that in a minute.) But I wasn’t willing to give anything else up; I thought that I could just work harder and faster and smarter. The point is, sometimes when God is trying to change something, we try to cut a deal with Him and tell Him how we can work it all out. Then He just keeps quiet and waits till we’re ready to listen.

For the next few weeks, I tried to keep Here’s to Your Health on the back burner and only sit down to read and write when I’d accomplished other things in other areas. It didn’t work very well: I typically have kept three or four potential articles simmering continually, always reading and digging a little more throughout the week until I sat down to write each Monday morning. I had trouble not thinking about it. So in early February I emailed the editor at the paper and said I’d like to pull back a bit and just send in an article once a month. He thought it over for a couple of weeks and then wrote back and said he’d decided to just discontinue the column.

I was so surprised—and disappointed. I wanted to renegotiate and get the column back. But I knew in my heart it was time to let it go, at least for now. It’s still difficult: there are a half a dozen topics I could rattle off in a moment that I would dearly desire to lay out and pass on to my readers. But God knows best, and I really am trying to listen, even though it took a while to be willing.

The new project I mentioned above is a musical. I wrote the stage play last summer; in February I began the arduous and painstaking and intensely pleasurable process of transcribing 27 songs into musical score. I’m pretty much done the first ten, at least the first phase of the first ten. But since I last came home from Vernon, over three weeks ago, I haven’t had time to touch it. Been so busy, I’m really glad not to have Here’s to Your Health on my plate anymore.

Here is something that you, my readers, could do for me: Please let me know of any large churches or Bible schools or the like that have a ministry in the area of musical theatre. (This is the kind of venue where the musical belongs.) I have been sending out the stage play to interested parties for them to read and consider. Bear in mind that this musical could be produced anywhere in the world that English is spoken: distance is no barrier.

Thank you, in advance, for sending me any helpful leads. Below is my last article—at least for the foreseeable future. I will miss writing for you all.

You can email me at

52. Iodiphobia — Part II

One day I went into Value Drug Mart in Wetaskiwin, one of two places in town that have begun to carry Lugol’s Solution since my writings created a demand for the product. A question about iodine had come to me from a reader, and I wanted some professional input. In the course of my chat with the pharmacist, he gave me a “Material Safety Data Sheet” from a company that manufactures Lugol’s iodine.

As I read it over, it was interesting to see how this information reflected and fed the current medical “iodiphobia,” the fear of iodine. The first thing that leapt off the page at me was this statement: “The substance is toxic to thyroid.” This is one of the “Potential Chronic Health Effects.” How bizarre this statement is in the light of the marvellous track record of this iodine solution in resolving thyroid issues (see previous article). It’s bizarre, too, when I consider my own case: Four years ago, my hormone doctor wanted to put me on thyroid medication, as my blood work indicated that I was “hypo.” After stalling her off for six months, prayer and intuition led me to Lugol’s as a solution for anxiety (see Blog #1), and in the process, my thyroid issues righted themselves. Recent blood work indicates that all is still well in that department, even as I continue on with a dose that is 240 times the recommended daily allowance.

Back to the Data Sheet: the Health Effects information indicates also, “Chronic ingestion of iodides may produce ‘iodism,’ which may be manifested by skin rash, running nose, headache and irritation of the mucous membranes.” I am personally familiar with these side effects; however, they are not properly iodism but bromism. Generous doses of iodine (a vital nutrient) displace bromine (a nasty toxin in our air, water, and food supplies) and cause these symptoms, as well as others, as the kidneys struggle to clear the overload. A simple salt cleanse (see Blog #21) will quickly relieve the overload along with the symptoms.

The information sheet continues: DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Classified Reproductive system/toxin/female, Development toxin [POSSIBLE].

That’s strange. Reams of evidence show that iodine is crucial for reproductive health in both men and women. Iodine deficiency is one of the causes of infertility and miscarriage; and iodine deficiency in birth mothers is the single greatest cause of mental retardation in children, worldwide, so says the World Health Organization. Two women have reported to me personally that, since taking Lugol’s, they have had complete (and medically verified) resolution of fibrocystic breast disease, a precursor of breast cancer. And Lugol’s seems to have cured my own daughter from debilitating dysmenorrhoea and suspected polycystic ovary syndrome.

The data sheet warns, too, that Lugol’s is “slightly hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant, permeator, may cause burns).” Yes, it surely permeates, quickly and deeply. This is a very good thing when you want to treat a wound. I have also treated many skin lesions with Lugol’s. Damaged skin tends to stain much more than normal skin, and even as I have treated spots for days, weeks, and sometimes months on end, I’ve never had a problem with the normal skin around the lesion becoming irritated. My conclusion is that Lugol’s can be hazardous—to abnormal skin.

There is some evidence that people who have managed for years on an iodine deficient diet, once moving to an iodine-rich area, have then developed hypothyroidism. This observation has led to the conclusion that sometimes iodine can cause thyroid malfunction.

I have two thoughts here: One is that when the body suddenly gets sufficient iodine and yet still is deficient in selenium (which is crucial for the conversion of T4 to T3), the body is thrown off the balance it has managed to maintain.
The other idea seems even more plausible: These studies involved foreigners moving to the U.S., which in the studies is categorized as “iodine-rich,” because of iodized salt. However, the tiny amount in salt, and poor form as it is, is not much help. At the same time, the U.S. is the most goitrogen-toxic country in the world. The human system is bombarded with chlorine, bromine, and fluoride at every turn, all of which blast our tiny reserves of iodine into oblivion.

Iodine is so necessary for so many functions in the body. It falls to us to think for ourselves, to recognize that there are pharmaceutical interests that have reason to poison the reputation of this wonderful nutrient. Drs. Guy Abraham and David Brownstein say, “The toxicity of iodine depends on the forms of this element. ... The manmade organic forms of iodine are extremely toxic, whereas the inorganic non-radioactive forms [of which Lugol’s is one] are extremely safe. ... It can be ingested safely in amounts up to 100,000 times the RDA.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

51. Iodiphobia — Part I

If you ask your doctor about taking an iodine supplement, chances are about 95 out of 100 that he or she will tell you unequivocally to stay away from it, on the grounds that it may damage your thyroid. And yet I learned, way back in secondary school, that iodine was crucial for thyroid health. Why the disparity? What is the truth?

It was around 1860, three decades after Jean Lugol figured out how to make a water-based solution of iodine, that doctors discovered it would cure hypothyroidism. For the next 70 years, Lugol’s Solution was used successfully in treating this ailment, with the optimum dosage ranging from 12.5 to 37.5 mg per day.

The present-day view is that iodine is especially dangerous for those with a hyperactive thyroid and that it may even cause hyperthyroidism in a previously healthy person. Much to the contrary though, the clinical track record a century ago showed that hyperthyroidism, too, yielded to supplementation with Lugol’s, a combination of elemental iodine and potassium iodide. Here, though, the range of effective dosage was very wide, varying from 6 mg per day to a staggering 180 mg. The most common effective dose was 90 mg, and the success rate was 90 percent.

Again, why the disparity in the medical establishment’s opinion on iodine, on its safety and efficacy? What changed?

Well, in about 1930 the first pharmaceutical (synthetic) thyroid hormone was developed. Suddenly there was a profit-minded reason to begin to throw doubt on an inexpensive, unpatentable remedy that had served three generations of doctors and their patients. The shift was gradual at first. But in 1948 a study was done by two researchers, Wolfe and Chaikoff, and they came to some alarming conclusions: rats that were given large doses of iodine showed evidence of their thyroid failing to continue to convert T4 hormone to the active T3 form. This would be one of the working definitions of hypothyroidism. So can we conclude, as these two men did, that iodine can cause malfunction of the thyroid?

Now let me step back and explain something. Whenever there is a nuclear disaster, the emergency protocol is to dose those who have been exposed with 130 mg of iodine. This is because one of the by-products of a nuclear meltdown is radioactive iodine. If you are iodine deficient, your thyroid will hungrily gobble up this toxic form of the element, and there’s a good chance that not far down the line, you will have thyroid cancer.

If, however, you are ingesting generous doses of iodine, your body will not uptake any more because its systems are already satiated. Similarly, if you have a lab rat that you’ve supplemented to the point of iodine sufficiency, and then you administer radioactive iodine so you can track its movement through the thyroid, guess what? Nothing, or very little, will happen, because the rat’s thyroid does not need any more iodine at this time, and it will be flushed, more or less harmlessly, out of its system.

These two researchers, however, concluded that the large supplements of iodine had shut down the thyroid. This seems to have been accepted as fact now, pretty much across the board. Referred to as the Wolke-Chaikoff Effect, this “theory” is taught in medical schools today. I find myself wondering who funded their research.

Even forward-thinking physicians are afraid to mess with iodine, fearing the scorn of colleagues, the full fury of the pharmaceutical industry, and even accusations of malpractice. My own naturopath, knowing my interest in the subject, gave me a lot of current iodine research material that he studied in school. But although he is impressed with what iodine has done for me, and keeps saying he would probably really benefit from it himself, he seems reluctant to actually recommend orthomolecular doses to his patients, suggesting instead kelp supplements or watered-down plant-sourced iodine drops.

Dr. G. E. Abraham is one of the foremost experts on the subject of iodine today. He says this: “A century ago, non-radioactive forms of inorganic iodine were considered a panacea for all human ills, but today, they are avoided by physicians like leprosy.” He has coined a term for this irrational, ill-informed fear: iodiphobia. Tongue in cheek, he describes the symptoms of this “syndrome”: “split personality, double standards, amnesia, confusion and altered state of consciousness. Medical iodiphobia,” says Abraham, “has reached pandemic proportion and it is highly contagious.”

Summing up about iodine, this is what he says : “Of all the elements known so far to be essential for health, iodine is the most misunderstood and the most feared. Yet, it is by far the safest of all the trace elements known to be essential for human health.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

50. A Good Time for the Great Taste

This week’s story is about a trip to McDonald’s. Now Mickey D’s is not known for contributing to our good health. But laughter is a great tonic, and when I re-read this old story, I got a good chuckle.

Personally I haven’t eaten anything from McDonald’s in about 14 years, ever since an overdose of MSG turned me into a shrieking banshee inside of 15 minutes. My four kids had the misfortune of being in the vehicle with me at the time.

But this other incident goes back a full 25 years, to when I still considered the Golden Arches to be a treat. At least it meant I didn’t have to cook. Are you old enough to remember when that jingle played on the radio? “You deserve a break today / So get out and get away / To McDonald’s / We do it all for you!" And then the tag: "A good time for the great taste of McDonald's!"

Here is the story, from February 1988:

It was a Saturday, sunny and cold. The mercury had settled out around minus 30º C. The air was clear, shimmery and sparkly as diamonds. We were headed for town as a family to do a much-needed grocery shopping.

It was one of those grim times in the life of the self-employed when Payables and Receivables were competing to see which could go higher without crashing; a time when Cash Flow was just a technical term in an accounting textbook. A cheque had come from somewhere, which we’d been able to cash personally, and I had also rummaged through all the coat pockets for any forgotten jingles.

The plan was to head for town by 9:30 or 10:00, get the shopping done, and be home in time for lunch. Heaven knows we couldn’t afford to eat out. But plans are one thing; execution another. The truck refused to start on this cold morning. It required an hour and a half of propane torches, stovepipes, methyl hydrate and so forth before we were finally rolling.

But finally, rolling we were: my husband, our sons (Ben, a long three, and Lindsay, not quite two), and I, eight months pregnant with our third. As we passed by McDonald’s, I noticed that Big Macs were on sale, two for the price of one.
“Hey,” said I, struck with my first great idea of the day, “let’s go to McDonald’s after we get the groceries.” I immediately had three agreeing votes. Our boys have understood about McDonald’s since almost before they understood anything else. Ben, long before he could talk, used to go all stiff and start to scream whenever we passed by there without turning in.

When I came out of Safeway, I had a second great idea. “Hey,” I said, “generic apple juice was only 79 cents a litre. Let’s just go through the Drive-Thru, get our burgers and a straw, and we’ll have our whole lunch for less than five bucks.”

Within minutes we were parked in the lot, unwrapping our burgers, passing our litre of juice back and forth. We had moved the boys from the back of the super-cab to sit between us. My husband, in anticipation of selling his truck, had just spent 80 precious dollars having the interior professionally cleaned. I wanted these burgers to stay under control.

It was a little cramped, elbow to elbow, four abreast, not to mention my soon-to-be-born baby resting awkwardly in my lap, but things went pretty smoothly for a couple of minutes. Then Lindsay started to squeal in frustration. As he had worked industriously at the front of his Big Mac, the meat patties had slid out the back. Now they lay on the floor in a little puddle of Super Sauce, the object of my little boy’s rage.

Deftly I scooped them up, got the whole kit re-assembled, and handed it back. With my clean hand, I groped for some of those extra napkins we had asked for.

I returned to my rapidly cooling McChicken, carefully fielding plummeting globules of mayo and wilting lettuce onto the napkin draped over my protruding stomach. Suddenly, for reasons known only to him, Lindsay squirmed sideways and reached for my clean coat with both greasy hands, one of which still clung to his half-eaten burger. I quickly pinned both wrists in one hand, grabbing for more napkins with the other. Meanwhile, Ben suddenly stood up and turned around to see something that was going on behind us. He was hastily straightened out by his father but not before leaving little mustard and ketchup tracks on the plush velour seat-back.

At once I realized I had broken out in a sweat. Excuse me, ladies: bloom. Little drops of bloom were springing out on my forehead below the edge of my wool hat. How could it be so hot in here when it was minus 30º outside the truck? Was it a rush of hormones brought on by Baby Number Three, in utero, or a direct influence from Numbers One and Two? It seemed there wasn’t enough oxygen in the truck for all of us. I fumbled frenetically at the window release and stuck my face out into the delicious bracing chill. As my head cleared, I became aware of Lindsay again, leaning way forward, intently working at something under the dash. I leaned down, too, to have a look. He was inserting the remaining half of his Big Mac into the tape deck.

It was then that I had my third and best idea of the day. “Let’s get out of here,” I said. As we mopped up and drove away, I pondered to myself just what would have happened if he had succeeded in pushing that burger all the way into the stereo set. As quickly as I asked the question, I knew the answer: it would have played “You Deserve a Break Today.”


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Saturday, February 9, 2013

49. Beloved Sleep

Just as absence makes the heart grow fonder, so sleep, when it becomes elusive, seems a very precious thing. So it was that I misunderstood a Bible passage 20 years ago, caught in the grip of insomnia and moving rapidly toward a nervous breakdown. It was one night while trying to go to sleep that I read a promise in the Psalms: “…so He gives His beloved sleep.” In my rest-deprived state, I thought God was calling sleep itself a beloved thing. It certainly is a blessing. With four small children and a strung-out, exhausted body, I had come to understand that sleep is not a right but a privilege. As far as God calling it “beloved,” however, I was mistaken.

He was referring to me as “Beloved,” as well as anyone else who might have ears to hear, telling us that He wants us to enjoys restful sleep, and so it is that He gave the first part of the verse: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows.” Day after day of dragging yourself out of bed too early, staying up too late, and continually chewing over your problems and concerns will eventually put you in a state where you can’t go to sleep when you want to or, if you do, you can’t stay asleep more than half the night.

It was four years ago that my hormone doctor first told me, “You need to be in bed by ten o’clock.” And that means with the light out, settled down. How slow I have been to learn this! And I’m still learning: The later I go to bed, the harder it is to go to sleep and the sooner I will wake up. Yet getting to sleep before 10:00, I might sleep eight hours.

Several alternative health practitioners have told me some interesting things about sleep patterns. If you find you wake up between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. on a regular basis, it often means your liver is bogged down and sluggish and that you would benefit from a liver cleanse or a supplement like dandelion root or milk thistle (silymarin). Waking between 3:00 and 5:00 consistently may mean adrenal problems.

For people prone to hypoglycemia, blood sugar dropping too low in the night can be a cause for wakefulness. I usually have a snack before bed. If I wake up in the night and feel I won’t be able to go right back to sleep, I get up and eat again. Avoid sweets, even fruits, for these snacks: aim to include three components: a complex carb, a healthy fat, and a good source of protein. That can be as simple as a half a piece of whole-grain toast spread with peanut butter or another nut butter. A rice cake or two, buttered (or not) with a piece of white cheese (avoid those fake orange colourings!) is another simple choice.

Before I have a snack though, I always have a glass of water with some sea salt in it. Adequate salt is important in regulating sleep, and if you’ve been under stress your adrenals may be fatigued and not controlling your salt levels properly.

For menopausal women, sleeplessness may be as simple as too-low levels of progesterone; then again, if it’s hot flashes and night sweats that are waking you up, you may also need some estrogen. With all the factors in our environment that are upsetting our hormonal balance, with or without menopause, we are fortunate in this day to have the option of hormone analysis and bio-identical hormone replacement treatment.

Over 50 years ago when my brother John was about four, he went through a time of sleep-walking. One particular night, when my parents were having a cocktail party, he crept downstairs to the edge of the living room, sound asleep. Then to the shock of the unsuspecting guests, he let out a war-whoop, hurtled into the room, and went springing from chair to chair. There were several doctors there in addition to my father: their consensus was that John needed a calcium supplement. Sure enough, that soon got him sleeping soundly through the night.

Calcium certainly is key for restful sleep, but we also need ample magnesium and Vitamin D with it. Interestingly, when we’re stressed, our calcium and magnesium levels drop. Then, ironically, when we’re deficient in calcium and magnesium, the body tends to get stuck in flight-or-fight mode, perpetrating the stress.

Make sure your bedroom is completely dark (or drape a dark cloth over your eyes), to enable your body to produce melatonin. And try taking a melatonin supplement.

Lying awake can be awfully frustrating, but don’t go there. To lie quietly, not with resignation so much as relinquishment, is a much healthier way to pass the time. Try praying. And even if you don’t believe in God, spend the time in peaceful, grateful reflection. As the psalmist said, commune with your own heart upon your bed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

48. Sweet but Dangerous

A few weeks ago I wrote to challenge my readers to “Stop the Pop.” I said then that I would write another article to explain more about the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup (labelled “glucose/fructose” in Canada). Soda pop is the most prevalent source of HFCS in the North American diet, but be warned that other commercial products are full of it: baked goods, sweet snack foods, ketchup and barbecue sauces, fruit-flavoured yogurts, sports drinks, breakfast cereals, candy, fruit drinks that are not “100% juice,” ad infinitum. Especially foods that are aimed at children and teens are loaded with this questionable alternative to sugar. Please take note, before we go any further, that about 85% of the corn grown in the US today is genetically modified, so there should be concerns about any corn product from the get-go.

From comes this list of five ways in which HFCS can negatively impact our health.

1) A Princeton University study found that when HFCS was fed to rats, they gained weight three times as fast as those fed equal or larger amounts of sugar derived directly from fruit. In particular these rodents gained abdominal fat, a hallmark of obesity.

2) Consumption of HFCS increases the chances of developing diabetes.

3) “There is a strong link between the irresponsible consumption of high fructose corn syrup and elevated triglyceride and HDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Together, these can cause arterial plaque build-up and lead to heart problems including hypertension, heart disease, and even stroke.”

4) HFCS is “especially destructive to your liver. When combined with a sedentary lifestyle, permanent liver scarring can occur. This greatly diminishes the organ’s ability to process out toxins and, over time, can lead to an expansive range of other negative health concerns.” Studies link HFCS with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.

5) High fructose corn syrup can contain mercury: In various studies, between 30 and 50% of samples of HFCS contained this toxic metal. (The mercury comes from a compound, caustic soda, used in separating the cornstarch from the kernel. Some caustic soda is made using mercury-free technology; other is not.)

The producers of HFCS originally promoted it as a “natural” sugar; however this claim had to be dropped when there was a tremendous hue and cry from the sugar lobby, including lawsuits charging false advertising and demanding financial compensation. Far from being natural, the corn-based sweetener is highly processed, made by chemically altering the starch molecules that occur naturally in corn. Fructose is then added, in varying percentages. Says “As a result of the manufacturing process for high-fructose corn syrup, the fructose molecules in the sweetener are free and unbound, ready for absorption and utilization. In contrast, every fructose molecule in sucrose that comes from cane sugar or beet sugar is bound to a corresponding glucose molecule and must go through an extra metabolic step before it can be utilized.”

In this way, fructose behaves differently in the body from sucrose (white sugar). It uses a different metabolic pathway, in that it skips glycolysis (normally the first step in breaking down sugars). The Princeton University research team concluded that this omission of glycolysis is why excess fructose in HFCS is being metabolized to produce fat. Glucose, on the other hand, is largely being processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles.

Another characteristic of fructose is that it does not stimulate insulin secretion or require insulin to be transported into cells, as do other carbohydrates. Also, fructose ingestion is linked to insulin resistance in rodents, suggesting that human physiology may respond the same way.

One of the truly alarming things about HFCS, especially as it relates to obesity, is its effect on the hormone leptin. According to, “Leptin tells your body to stop eating when it’s full by signaling the brain to stop sending hunger signals. Since fructose doesn’t stimulate glucose levels and insulin release, there’s no increase in leptin levels or feeling of satiety. This can leave you ripe for unhealthy weight gain.” Also, fructose does not suppress ghrelin, a hormone that works to increase hunger.

The Corn Refiners Association continues to make the (false) claim that our bodies can’t tell the difference between sugar cane and their own product. The cat is apparently out of the bag, though, regarding health concerns of HFCS, as reflected by a serious drop in demand in the past couple of years. The Association has been doing PR damage control, seeking permission from the FDA to change the name of their sweet gold mine to “corn sugar.” And although the ruling is still pending, they are freely using this misleading moniker in their advertising.

* * * *

This was the end of the article as I submitted it to the Pipestone Flyer. Then coincidentally, very early the next morning, there was a new post from Health Sciences Institute in my inbox that caught my eye. I've copied it here verbatim.

Last year, the FDA told the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) that food packaging could not list high fructose corn syrup as "corn sugar."

No way around that, right? CRA's long-standing request hit the FDA brick wall. End of story.

Well... No. Hardly.

Turns out, it's the FDA with hands tied. Not CRA.

You might have noticed that CRA is still running TV commercials that call HFCS "corn sugar."

How do they get away with it? Easy. The FDA doesn't regulate commercials. That's the FTC's job. And so far, the FTC hasn't called out CRA on their easy use of the phrase "corn sugar."

According to The Consumerist, the agency isn't likely to rule on this issue anytime soon. Two reasons...

1) The ads use "corn sugar" almost as if it's a slang term. Nobody is saying it's the "official" designation for HFCS.

2) HFCS isn't a product. You can't go to the store and buy a jar of HFCS. So the ads aren't trying to sell you "corn sugar."

But something is for sale. The ads are trying to sell all of us on the IDEA of corn sugar.

So when they show a handsome farmer dad and his adorable little girl out walking in a cornfield, stay strong! Resist the rise of warm-n-fuzzy emotions!

All they want to do is get inside your mind and plant the simple deception that "corn sugar" is the same thing as cane sugar.

It's not. Don't buy it.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson