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Saturday, December 15, 2012

45: Further on Fraudulent Flavours

The other night, shortly after I'd sent in “Unnatural Natural Flavours” to the newspaper, my son Ben brought up the subject. So I gave him the spiel of all I had just learned, namely, that chemical components are isolated from real foodstuffs and then mixed to come up with a taste that human senses interpret as appetizing. I gave the example of ethyl butyrate being used to flavour pasteurized orange juice, and that this chemical is extracted from the peel of oranges.

Ben said, “Well, then, if the flavour comes from real oranges ...” and I immediately saw that many people would skip to the same easy justification in their minds when confronted with artful promotional semantics.

So here is an analogy that I hope will put it into perspective. Let’s say we have a piece of writing by Shakespeare. It’s an original creation put together by an undisputed master. (An orange, also, is an original creation put together by a Master, however sometimes disputed.) Someone comes along and breaks that piece of poetry into a list of words, some of which he then breaks down further into a stockpile of letters. Then he uses those words and letters to put together some writing of his own. He may technically be a good writer, but what he writes will definitely not be Shakespeare. And supposing he chooses to write pornography, for instance, something vile, something unhealthy. And still he tries to insist that this is original Shakespeare, because all the raw components he used came directly from a creation of the bard himself.

But if you agree that what he has written must indeed be Shakespeare, then you might also say that the natural flavour added to fruit juice is natural.

In digging a little further on this subject, I stumbled upon a lot more disturbing stuff about orange juice, and juice in general. From comes the following information. “Once the juice is pressed from the fruit, it’s pasteurized.... Juice for concentrate is then heated in an evaporator that boils off much of its water but also burns away bitter oils from the orange peels, oils that can contain pesticides and degrade the juice’s taste. So-called ‘fresh’ juice, however, has to have those oils removed mechanically. It also has much of its oxygen stripped in a process called de-aeration. This is to prevent spoiling because the juice will spend up to a year in million-gallon vats before it’s packaged, sold and consumed.”

Does it say “filtered water” in the ingredients? “Under Canada’s Food and Drugs Act this can mean ... also water that contains fluoride or chlorine.”

Even if the product claims to contain only pure juice, “manufacturers can also add a variety of things ... including ... various kinds of sugar ... [and] preservative.” The article’s bottom line was to suggest that we simply buy whole oranges instead of juice.

But back to flavour fraud per se, did you ever hear about the scandal a couple of years ago when PepsiCo was accused of using aborted fetal matter in the flavouring process of their iconic soda? It caused several right-wing and pro-life groups in the US to boycott all Pepsi products.

It took some careful reading to figure out just what was hysteria and what was fact, but what I eventually found was that no such grisly ingredient was in the beverage itself. Stranger than fiction though, researchers had discovered that the kidney cells from a fetus will react to different flavours. They’ve learned to read the responses and can use them to predict what flavourings will achieve the “wow” factor with their consumers. These kidney cells all originated from one little fetus back in the ’70s, and new generations of these cells continue to be cultured in a lab.

The website of internationally recognized biotech company Senomyx (one of whose clients was PepsiCo) puts it like this: “Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.” They fail to tell the public where they get the cells to produce those receptors. Their process gives insight into how a flavourist figures out just what chemical combinations will “work” with their customers.

Last spring the boycott was lifted when PepsiCo changed their policy and declared that they would no longer “conduct or fund research that utilizes any human tissue or cell lines derived from embryos or fetuses.”

One of the boycott organizers, after expressing his appreciation for the new policy, added a personal comment: “I’m glad I can begin buying Tropicana Orange Juice, that was always my favorite!”

He probably enjoys the natural flavour.

44: Unnatural Natural Flavours

Living a week or two at a time out in Vernon, BC, so that my husband can enjoy a home-cooked meal when he comes home from his jobsite in the evening, I have taken up intermittent residence in a motel kitchenette. In contrast to our country home in Alberta, where I am 25 kilometres from the nearest grocery store, here I am less than 200 metres from Save-On Foods. Instead of shopping once in two weeks, I take a jaunt across the main drag once or twice a day. If I find I’ve forgotten something, I can literally be there and back and have my boots untied and pulled off, all in five minutes.

I was over there the other day looking for some good fruit juice. “Good” fruit juice, in my books, means that (besides, of course, having no added sugar) it has no “natural flavour.” For years, I was like most of the reasonably health-conscious populace: I would see that ingredient on any product and say, “Cool—it’s natural.” And I would buy it.

Then something I read one day made me suspicious, and I phoned the 1-800 number at SunRype to ask some questions about exactly what these natural flavours comprise. I came away unsure exactly what it all meant. The story was that, because fruits vary in flavour from crop to crop and because their customers “expect a uniform flavour experience,” they might add a little of this or that kind of different fruit juice to tweak the flavour. Well, I’m sure that’s true with some juices, because I have seen ingredient lists that, after the main juice or juices, will say, “May also contain juice of (this, that, or the other).

But I had heard that because MSG is derived from natural sources (seaweed), it qualifies as a “natural” flavour. When I put this question to the Sunrype girl, she said, “Everybody asks that. No, there’s no MSG in our juices.” She asked me for my address, saying that she would be sending me some coupons for their juices to thank me for my interest in their products. However, I had already decided that I wouldn’t be buying that brand anymore until I could learn something more conclusive. Since then, I have simply stayed away from any juices that mention natural flavour, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

Back in Vernon at the Save-On Foods, there I am cruising down this whole long aisle of juices, and I can’t find a single one without this dubious enhancement—until I come to the brand I usually buy now: Oasis. Even with this company though, you must check the ingredient list, because only four or five of their varieties (as far as I’ve seen) are pure in this sense. So I chose a carton of “Exotic Mango” and came back to our little motel room to peruse awhile on Google.

In a nutshell, there are two kinds of food flavourings: natural and artificial, and they are both produced by the same elite chemical companies. Artificial flavours are combinations of chemicals, mixed randomly until a “flavourist” finds a promising taste, a mix that gives the desired “sensory impression.” These chemicals are procured by “fractional distillation and additional chemical manipulation of naturally sourced chemicals, crude oil, or coal tar.”

What a turn-off for any thinking consumer! The word artificial is bad enough; look a little closer and you’d never want to buy it. And so enters the “natural flavour” industry. Drawing from natural, edible substances (according to US regulations, “from a spice, fruit, … vegetable, … yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf …, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products”), chemical components are isolated by “physical, microbiological or enzymatic processes” and then once again the flavourist goes to work mixing his chemical concoctions. The longer process costs the companies a little more, but the resultant flavours can be called natural because the original source of their ingredients is a natural product. (Quotes from Wikipedia)

The pasteurizing and storing of juices destroys their flavour. “Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. ... Those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs ... resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor” (ttp:// Yet the FDA has no problem with this fraud because the chemical components were originally extracted from an orange.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

43: The Last Post

The last time I sent out an email announcing a new blog post, I included a little slice-of-life kind of story that I called "The Last Post." So many people wrote to comment on it that I thought I should put it in the blog where others could enjoy it too, instead of deleting it from my "Sent" file and exiling it into outer cyber darkness forever.

But as I considered adding it to the blog, I had to take into account that this site is now visited by guests from over 60 countries, most of whom would have no idea of what I was talking about. So here is a little glossary up front:

Remembrance Day: On the 11th of November every year, countries in the Commonwealth observe the time when hostilities in World War I officially ended in 1919: at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. We honour members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty, then, and since then.

The Last Post: This is a melody usually played as a trumpet solo right at 11:00 a.m. A minute of silence follows, and is then broken by the trumpet playing Reveille (translated "wake up"). Wikipedia says, "The two tunes symbolize sunset and sunrise respectively, and therefore, death and resurrection."

The Poppy: Every year at the beginning of November, artificial poppies are made available to wear as a sign of respect and appreciation for our vets. In Canada, monies donated for these little emblems amount to $16.5 million annually. All poppy money collected by a Legion branch stays within that local community and pays for medical equipment, home services, and long-term care facilities for ex-service people in need of financial assistance.

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance through a poem by John McCrae, a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier. The poem, In Flanders Fields, was inspired through the loss of a dear friend in battle. McCrae himself, in charge of a field hospital, succumbed to pneumonia in 1918 at the age of 45.

When I was in grade school, I and my fellows students were required to memorize the poem. It's amazing how easily it still springs from the memory:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scare heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

With this rather lengthy intro, here is the story I sent out with my last email:

The Last Post

Greg and I jump out of bed at 5:45 in our motel room. He is hustling to meet his crew for breakfast; I need to fix the first meal of my day and then go back to bed for a couple of hours. The room is a little chilly, so I slip on my cosy, short grey robe. My youngest helped me pick it out at La Senza. It’s probably a couple of decades to young for me with its double row of sassy ruffles around the bottom, but I like it.

Below the ruffle hangs the hot pink print of my nightie. My legs are still bare, so I rummage in Greg’s dresser for his pyjama pants, a subtle blue-and-grey plaid flannelette. I pull them on and bunch the ample waistline up in the front, securing it with a ponytail elastic. Socks, black, to keep my feet from getting cold.

I’m still not warm enough, so I add my go-everywhere black fleece vest with the fake leather shoulders and collar. The plunging neck of the robe is letting in the draft, so I grab the scarf I was wearing yesterday, a bold block plaid of black, rust, and grey, and I sling it around my neck. Shortly thereafter I catch a reflection of myself in the full-length mirror. I’m quite a sight.

“Hey,” I say to Greg, “how do you like my look this morning?”

He pauses in his hurried morning routine and gazes at me for several long seconds. “Stunning,” he says.

Stunning. I guess that would explain the stunned look on his face.

“Halloween is over,” he adds.

“I know,” I tell him, “and so is Remembrance Day, but I still have my poppy.” I lift the collar of my vest to show him the brilliant splash of red.

I got the poppy at the Edmonton Airport just before catching the plane to Vernon. It was Armistice Day and somehow I had thus far missed picking up one of the little fake flowers with the deeply emotional symbolism. I inquired of a group, each of whom was wearing a poppy, and they directed me to where they’d got theirs. Soon I had mine pinned to my vest.

As I checked through security, I heard bagpipes coming from somewhere. I thought it was live at first, and my flesh rose in goose-bumps and tears started in my eyes, as always happens to me at this time of remembrance. I soon realized that the sound was coming from a large flat screen TV in a sports bar/restaurant.

I was sitting at my gate when I heard an airline personnel tell a passenger that there had been a gate change for the flight. I stood and gathered up my belongings to move along when suddenly the strains of the Last Post floated through the airport. I checked my watch. Eleven o’clock. I closed my eyes and bowed my head and waited while the trumpet sounded its mournful solo.

Give them a moment of remembrance; they gave us their lives.

But as I listened, I was aware of other sounds. A lot of other sounds. People chatting on cell phones, announcements over the PA, luggage wheels rolling on the hard floor. There didn’t seem to be another soul nearby who had paused for or even noticed the solemn salute. I was already sobered by the sacred moment; now I was saddened as well by the lack of attention it received. Perhaps most people now think that the Last Post only refers to the most recent blog entry.

Which brings me to mine.

It’s called Xcellent Xylitol, and it takes a look at this wonderful natural sweetener that I’ve just recently learned about. Check it out below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

42: Xcellent Xylitol

A little while back, I wrote an article (Blog #34) about the devastating effects of eating a dessert and how I was several weeks getting over it. Shortly after that, I happened to read about a new kind of sweetener, coconut palm sugar, made from the nectar of the tree flowers.

Further reading revealed that this kind of sugar, named xylitol, was discovered at about the same time by both French and German chemists, late in the 1800s, and became popular throughout Europe as a safe sweetener for diabetics. During World War II when sugar was in short supply, xylitol became a popular substitute.

What we now know about this sugar is that it has a very low glycemic index (GI). If you haven’t heard of GI before, Wikipedia explains it as “a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular type of food, … relative to consumption of pure glucose. Glucose has a glycemic index of 100.” The GI of sugar ranges from about 60 to 70; xylitol is 7 to 13.

As you look into GI information, you will find much discussion on the difference between “glycemic index” and “glycemic load.” However, for my purposes in this article, and in my kitchen where I have longed for a real and healthy alternative to sugar, I am concerned only with substituting the one straight across for the other, so GI is all that matters. Xylitol has the same sweetness as sugar, so it is used in the same amounts in recipes. With Thanksgiving coming up, I was looking forward to trying it in my pumpkin pie recipe, hoping that maybe I could indulge a little along with my family, without suffering a debilitating crash.

Well, I mixed up my pastry, which I make with half whole wheat flour and half unbleached white, using butter as shortening because I refuse to have “may-be-hydrogenated pig fat” in my home. And into the shell I poured the spicy blend of pumpkin et al. And was that pie ever good! I carefully limited myself to a half-serving and braced myself for the fall. But it never came.

The next afternoon I phoned Greg, who was already on the road again, and told him that in spite of the pie, I was feeling really good. In fact, I said, I felt better than usual.

“So what do you think?” he asked.

And I replied, “I think God is telling me I need to eat more pumpkin pie.”

He was quick to concur. He knows that if I am to eat more pie, I have to make more pie, which means that he will get more pie.

The xylitol I bought was, as I mentioned, made from the coconut tree. It’s rather coarse, and brown in colour, so best suits recipes calling for brown sugar. But now I found a white xylitol, made from birch trees. And when Greg next came home from his project in Vernon, with a box of huge apples from his client, I made the first apple pie that our household has seen in over 15 years. Hubby was ecstatic. He thought it was the best apple pie he’d ever eaten. And I ate lots, with no ill effects.

There are other sources for xylitol being investigated, including corn, but these might best be avoided, due to the GMO question. Coconut as a source is considered to be the most sustainable, being harvested from the flowers. Birch, on the other hand, must be cut down to extract the sugar, so responsible management here is really important. But a great asset of the birch product is that it has the most significant dental benefits of all the xylitols.

Yes, according to Wikipedia, with xylitol in general, “recent research confirms a plaque-reducing effect and suggests the compound, having some chemical properties similar to sucrose, attracts and then “starves” harmful micro-organisms, allowing the mouth to re-mineralize damaged teeth …. (However, this same effect also interferes with yeast micro-organisms and others, so xylitol is inappropriate for making yeast-based bread.)”

At is this information: “Use of xylitol raises the pH of saliva in the mouth. When pH is above 7, calcium and phosphate salts in saliva start to precipitate into those parts of enamel where they are lacking. For this reason, use of xylitol has demonstrated not only a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, it also has shown the arrest and even some reversal of existing dental caries."

Bring on the pie!

An addendum, July 4, 2013: Subsequent, to my publishing the article above, a vet friend wrote to tell me that Xylitol will kill a dog, in fairly small amounts. I googled a bit about it and put those thoughts on hold for a while. Recently I looked into it a little more and I decided I don’t want to use this sweetener anymore. It’s an alarmingly complex process, “refining” this “sugar” from birch and coconut trees, and there are reasons to be wary of using this product. Here is the article that set me back on my heels:
Please read it and make your own decision.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

41: Don’t Put It on Your Skin – Part III

So what do I put on my skin, and why? I mentioned previously that I start by washing my face with as pure and simple a soap as I can find. Then I spray with either colloidal silver or copper, in place of an astringent. Silver kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, so this is a gentle but effective way to prevent or treat various skin problems. Silver also has amazing healing properties that promote regeneration of healthy, normal cells. Terrific for sun burns too.

Copper has a similar, gentle antiseptic effect, but its real claim to fame is that it enables the skin to keep on (or resume) producing collagen and elastin, provided there are also sufficient resources of Vitamin C and zinc in the body. It is deficiency of copper that causes the skin to sag and wrinkle as we age. With its claim of restoring resilience and flexibility, I even suggested to one customer that she try spraying a little on her husband’s attitude.

Copper also is responsible for helping the hair follicles produce melanin, which is what gives hair its natural colour. Loss of copper leads to greying hair. For this reason, when people buy colloidal copper from me, I suggest that in addition to spraying it on their face, they likewise apply it to the scalp.

After one or the other of these skin “fresheners,” I spray on a 50/50 mix of organic glycerine and rosewater. People with oily skin have found a heavier percentage of rose water to be helpful; conversely, those with dry skin increase the proportion of glycerin.

The rose water I buy is from 100% steam-distilled fresh rose blossoms, picked in the world-famous Bulgarian Rose Valley. It is a pure, undiluted, food-grade product, containing no preservatives, additives, or synthetic ingredients. This is what they say about their product: “Rose water is one of the all-time best and most traditional facial cleansers and has multiple skin-care uses. [It] is used to treat acne and skin irritation. Rose water is also added to bathing water and is used for moisturizing the body after bath. It balances skin pH level ... [and] has anti-aging and rejuvenating effects.”

The glycerin that I mix with the rose water is an organic vegetable product. Glycerin, also called glycerol, is present in all natural lipids (fats), whether animal or vegetable. It is a “skin-identical ingredient,” meaning it is a substance found naturally in our skin. It is a humectant, that is, it attracts water. When applied to the skin, it seals in moisture that might otherwise escape. It also draws moisture from the air and from the deeper layers of tissue. With the use of glycerin, the skin takes on a healthier, more attractive appearance and a softer, more supple feel.
Glycerin helps maintain the outer barrier and prevent dryness or scaling. It is used not only in cosmetic and but also medical applications. For example, it fights the effects of skin conditions like psoriasis.

I’ve used glycerin and rose water products off and on since I was a little girl. Now with all organic ingredients, I feel confident that I have the best mix yet. Not only do I use it on my face but for an all-body moisturizer as well.

The final product I use in my facial regimen is organic coconut oil, something that’s getting a lot of press recently. Not only is it an excellent edible oil, hair tonic, and massage oil, but it’s a wonderful balm for the skin.

Comprised of healthy saturated fats, coconut oil keeps skin smooth to the touch and helps it retain moisture. It naturally contains certain fatty acids having effective disinfectant and anti-microbial properties. As a result, coconut oil protects skin from infections. Coconut oil is rich in proteins, which keep skin healthy and rejuvenated on the surface as well as deep down. It is loaded with anti-oxidants so it doesn’t go rancid, a real plus whether it’s used as a food or for skin care. You can use it as a lip balm and make-up remover as well. On a warm summer’s day, I’ll often find my little jar of coconut oil has become liquid; in the winter it’s more like refrigerated butter: I scoop some out and rub it between my hands until it’s liquid and will smooth easily onto my face.

At first I used it plain, but when I discovered the healing benefits of frankincense, I began to add a few drops of that essential oil to the coconut. Frankincense oxygenates cells, improves elasticity and reduces wrinkles. An added bonus, it’s recently been proven that breathing the fragrance eases anxiety and depression. Go ahead: put it on your skin.

40: Don’t Put It on Your Skin – Part II

A health regimen is a work in progress, continually evolving. It’s only two weeks ago that I first wrote about skin care, and now I’ve already changed my mind. (It’s a prerogative of my gender.) I said that I washed my face with Pears soap or good old Ivory. But it seems that Pears, the lovely clear amber bar whose packaging boasts that it is “a 200 years old brand” is quite up to date ingredient-wise, in its use of sodium laurel sulphate and a long list of other chemicals. And Ivory’s old recipe, sadly, is recently replaced with one new and not-so-improved.

Sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) and its shirt-tail cousin sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are harsh, inexpensive chemicals that cause our soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, and detergents to foam up in that pleasing way that makes us feel the product is really doing its job: i.e., effectively cleaning. It’s the identical agent that is used in car washes, and even in garages for degreasing car engines. Heavy duty stuff.

These chemicals are extremely drying to the skin and hair. It can cause permanent eye damage in infants and young children, and the exposure need not be directly to the eyes but even indirectly through the skin. It is retained in the tissues of the body, for as long as five days after using a single drop. It can cause damage to the hair follicles, leading to early balding. It denatures skin proteins, causing irritation and also allowing other environmental toxins to gain entry to the deeper and more sensitive layers of the skin. In this light it may be implicated in cancers of the skin.

Once it has been absorbed into the skin, one of its many effects is that it mimics estrogen. This can have all kinds of health implications, including PMS, menopausal symptoms, male infertility, and increased incidence of breast and others female cancers.

Long story short: I went hunting and found a very gentle, natural soap containing only three things: saponified olive oil, sea salt, and natural fragrance. Saponification is the process whereby lye is combined with vegetable oil or animal fat, causing a chemical reaction that produces soap and glycerin. Interestingly enough, many of the commercial, mass-produced hand soaps on the market today have had the naturally occurring glycerine with its inherent moisturizing properties removed to sell as a separate commodity, generating higher profits.

As you are inspired to read labels before buying personal care products, there are some ingredients (in addition to SLS and SLES) to watch out for and avoid:
Petrolatum, also known as petroleum jelly, is a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Its presence in skin products reduces oxygen absorption and suffocates the skin, causing the death of skin cells and thus premature aging. It increases acne and causes skin irritations and rashes. It causes skin photosensitivity and promotes sun damage. Petrolatum may also interfere with the body's moisturizing mechanism, leading to dry skin and chapping, some of the very things it’s used to combat.

Mineral oil is made from petrolatum, therefore I think we can safely assume that the foregoing side effects apply here as well.

Parabens are preservatives used extensively in personal care products and even foods. They are implicated in breast cancer and also adversely affect the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.

Phylates or phthalates are used as plasticizers or solvents. They are found in nail polishes, deodorants, fragrances, hair gels, and sprays, and hand and body lotions. They are endocrine disrupters, wreaking absolute havoc on the hormones especially of boys and men. For a sobering and frightening video on the subject, check out the following link:

This list of must-avoid chemicals is by no means exhaustive. And as bad press leaks out about a given ingredient, companies work overtime to replace it with another unknown chemical so they can get back below the radar. So my rule-of-thumb will remain, “If you don’t know what it is, don’t put it on your skin.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

39: Don’t Put It on Your Skin – Part I

If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin. This is an adage I’m learning to live by. Ever since I began to use bio-identical hormones, I’ve rethought what I use on the outside of me. Some of the hormones I take are applied transdermally (via cream on the skin), and it’s made me realize that a lot of what I put on the outside ends up on the inside. That’s a pretty scary thought when you look at the list of chemicals on some of the cosmetics, skin creams, and shampoos on the shelf. And I don’t care if you bought it for two dollars at Walmart or forty at a spa, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients or you don’t know what they are, don’t put it on your skin.

I was recently at a dermatologist to whom I’d been referred after breaking out in strange lesions on the side of my face, back in early June. By the time I’d seen three doctors and waited to see a specialist, it had all but disappeared, thanks to my trusty iodine (Lugol’s Solution) and, due to a timely tip from an acquaintance, frankincense oil. Still, I kept the dermatologist appointment because I had four or five other spots that I’ve wondered about and this was a golden opportunity to lay my mind to rest about them. The doctor, after looking me over quickly and thoroughly, assured me there was nothing of concern. She fried two of the spots with her liquid nitrogen. Then she said brusquely, “Remember, protection is key,” and handed me a sample of SPF 30 sunscreen before bustling out of the room.

Although I’d smiled and nodded at her counsel, I left the sample sitting on her desk. Call me crazy, but I just can’t bring myself to put that stuff on my skin. I’ll call you crazy as you slather it on. Okay, on the rare occasion that my husband and I have found ourselves on a tropical beach somewhere, I have made an exception to extend the tolerance to sun and surf. But generally I cover up with light clothing when I think I’ve had enough sun and I spray with colloidal silver when I’ve had too much. It’s a terrific healing balm for a sun-burn.

In all likelihood, we will eventually discover that skin cancer is rooted in nutritional deficiencies. My guess is that Vitamin D is a big player here, along with generous amounts of other antioxidants, via food or supplements. Enter Lugol’s solution, again.

So what do I do for skin care? I’ve always been a fan of glycerin and rosewater because that’s what my mother used. Tritles, it was called. A pretty, clear pink lotion in a hand-pump bottle or white frothy cream in a jar. I was so disappointed when they stopped manufacturing it fifteen or twenty years ago, as this was my staple for hand and body cream. But now I realize anyway that the nice pink colour was probably not a good thing and that what made the white cream so frothy was probably sodium laurel sulphate.

Regarding facial care, for thirty years I was a faithful customer of a well-known multi-level skin-care and cosmetic company. More recently I have seen these products sized up on a site that rates personal care products for safety health-wise. I have since stopped using all that stuff too.

This is where I stand today. I buy organic vegetable glycerin from one website and organic Bulgarian rosewater from another. I mix them 50/50 and put the clear mixture in a glass spray bottle. It’s terrific for face, hand, and body moisturizer, and a smaller spray bottle carries handily in purse (or shaving kit, in my husband’s case). One is perfectly assured of its safety on the skin, because both of the ingredients are safe to eat. In fact, the rosewater comes with a little pamphlet that includes a couple of recipes for using it in exotic desserts.

I wash my face (and body) with good old Ivory soap or glycerin-based Pears. After rinsing thoroughly, I spray with colloidal silver, in place of a mild astringent or skin freshener. Then I spray lightly with my glycerin and rosewater mix and gently rub it in. Finally I smooth on some coconut oil that has a bit of frankincense essential oil mixed in. I’m trying to find Vitamins A, E, and D in a pure oil form to add in, as these are all very good for the skin. I may eventually make this skincare “set” available at the Farmers’ Market; then if customers would like, I can tell them how to source and mix the ingredients themselves.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

38: To a Healthier Halloween

When we were kids, Halloween was the most exciting night of the year. I remember the time my brother John wanted to be a ghost. So Mom cut a hole in a big white sheet to stick his head through, leaving yards and yards of white fabric cascading down from his shoulders to flutter around him as he moved. That part was relatively simple. But la pièce de la résistance was the head. Mom carved a jack-o’-lantern, cutting a hole in the bottom (instead of in the top) of a huge pumpkin, and fitted the opening wide enough to slip right over his head. And off we went. I don’t even remember what my older sister and I were wearing—John’s costume was too exciting.

Well, we didn’t even get beyond our own neighbourhood before John, unable to see properly out the features of his giant pumpkin, tripped on his flowing sheet going down some concrete stairs and, like the proverbial Jack who went up a hill to fetch a pail of water, fell down and broke his crown. Big chunks of shattered pumpkin were all the remained of the masterpiece, and John went home crying, leaving the serious gathering of candy to his big sisters.

That’s what Halloween was really about for us: precious hoards of chocolate bars and candy, along with the more disappointing offerings of popcorn, apples, and peanuts. It is little wonder that we frequently came down with colds and flus in the week following Halloween. Sugar whacks the immune system a terrible wallop, especially in high, continuous doses following a cold, late night.

In more recent years, as we were raising our own kids, I often would make homemade treats for that special night and slip my name and phone number into the wrap so that parents could trust their children weren’t being poisoned by some whacko. Now that our kids are grown, when Halloween rolls around and I can’t come up with a good excuse to be gone for the evening, I pick up some treats to have on hand in case a few little ones show up at our rather remote location. But last year, I carefully read the ingredients on these little bagged goodies and was aghast that there were no longer any recognizable components. Not even any (not so) good old sugar. It’s been replaced, wholesale, by high-fructose corn syrup, a genetically modified abomination that is turning the health of a generation upside down. Add some chemical concoctions to give it fake flavour and colour, then some preservatives, and you have candy.

Although I still bought a package (because I didn’t want to be the “mean old lady up the road who doesn’t give out candy,” I felt that I was bestowing a very mixed blessing as I dropped handfuls into bags held by eager little hands. So it was with great interest that I read an article my daughter Rachel forwarded to me just ten days before Halloween.

It was about a young fellow named Nicky Bronner. Two years ago, when he was thirteen, his parents took away all his candy after Halloween, saying that it was not good for him. (They sound a lot like me.) But although he was initially angry, he let his anger motivate him to better things. He first set out to prove that candy wasn’t as bad as his parents said. But he quickly discovered that they were right (“for the first time ever,” says Nicky) and that it contained all kinds of junk. “I just didn't understand why it had to be this way. If candy was made with only real chocolate, real peanut butter, real caramel, and other real foods, couldn't it taste even better and be better for us?” So the young man started a company to make healthier candy. He partnered up with a creative chef and the brand Unreal Candy came into being.

To date there are five different confections available from this now 15-year-old entrepreneur, modelled after five all-time favourites: peanut M&Ms, regular M&Ms, Milky Way, Snickers, and peanut butter cups. But the difference is, “all five candies are made without corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors, GMOs, and synthetic colors. So while the candy still contains chocolate, natural sugar, caramel, and other ingredients, they are arguably somewhat healthier than other candy bars. … Even the dyes used to make the coloring for the M&M-like candies are natural ... ‘like red from beets [says Nicky] and blue from purple cabbage, to get the great colors on (our) candies.’”

Good luck to this young man on his mission “to unjunk the world,” and here’s to a healthier Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2012

37: Serious About Supplements

If you saw the number of supplements that Greg and I have in our kitchen cupboard, you’d probably think it was ridiculous. Many people are still of the mind, “I don’t need to take vitamins and minerals; I get everything I need from my food,” but we stopped believing that a long time ago. I know that if you read my articles, you could easily think that iodine is the only supplement I take, but I try to cover all my bases.

My nutrition regimen morphs as I go on learning. A few years ago, I was faithfully using a good quality all-in-one vitamin-and-mineral supplement by a company called Adeeva, at a cost of about $30 for a one-month bottle. They are available in most health food stores; also online, where you can buy several at a time and save a little. A product like this is a good place to start for those who are overwhelmed with the thought of trying to figure out exactly what they need. (I don’t recommend using the complexes marketed by the big pharmaceutical companies: often the forms of vitamins they use are not fitted for our bodies, plus there are tough coatings on the caplets to extend shelf-life, so absorption is poor.)

This particular supplement that I was using contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D, E, folic acid, biotin (generally classified as a B-complex vitamin), D-pantothenic acid (B5), calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, chromium, manganese, selenium, molybdenum, citrus bioflavonoids (essential if Vitamin C is to be fully metabolized and utilized by the body), lycopene (an antioxidant compound that gives tomatoes and certain other fruits and vegetables their color), and lutein (a plant carotenoid deficient in most western diets; important in eye health). This is a good pedigree and contains fairly generous amounts.

However, I still needed to take extra calcium and magnesium, because I’ve learned over the years how much I need, so I had to buy those separately. The citrate forms of these two minerals are well-absorbed. I’m currently using Jamieson brand: inexpensive but effective, and available in large chain stores. (Magnesium in particular is so important, yet there is wide-spread deficiency of this mineral. It promotes heart health, calm nerves, better sleep, regularity, and all kinds of other things. Try to see that you get at least 400 mg per day.)

Then I recognized a greater need for vitamin D and bought that separately, to boost my intake from 400 IU to anywhere between 2000 and 6000 IU, depending on the time of year. (If you find yourself prone to depression during our long dark winters, try upping your D intake. Seasonal affective disorder: they don’t call it SAD for nothing! It’s believed to be caused by lack of natural sunlight on the skin, which is how we normally get vitamin D.)

Then a couple of different practitioners told me I needed to increase to 3000 mg of Vitamin C a day, first for some issues with platelets and white blood cells, and then for the voracious need of my adrenal glands.

And I needed to buy some salmon oil too, so that I was getting my essential fatty acids. (Buy wild salmon oil; farmed salmon is raised in questionable conditions and given antibiotics.)

As I got into taking iodine, I found out that it works hand in hand with selenium for a healthy thyroid and also to keep heavy metals moving out of the body. My supplement contained only half of what I needed. So I bought some of that and increased my dose to 200 mcg a day. (You can take up to 400 mcg a day of selenium.)

My adrenal issues also demanded 800 IU of Vitamin E, not just the 400 I was getting, so I bought some of that. I learned, too, that many brands of Vitamin E are in the form of “d-alpha-tocopheral.” It is the most inexpensive to manufacture and therefore the most profitable. However, what we need (especially with adrenal issues) is a “mixed tocopherals” form of E, containing also beta, delta, and gamma. I checked my bottle of Vitamin E and, happily, found it was “mixed.” That’s what my mother would call better luck than good management.

I buy most of my vitamins at Nutter’s (Leduc and Wetaskiwin readers may appreciate this tip): they have a great selection and the prices are good, especially on the last Tuesday of every month when everything is 20% off. That’s where I buy my psyllium husk too—an easy way to be sure you’re getting enough fibre. I take a tablespoon in juice every morning, and it really gets the job done. (Sorry!)

As you can easily understand, I eventually dropped the “all-in-one” supplement from Adeeva. But it’s a great place for you to start if you need a new health regimen. That brand was available at Nutter’s, last time I checked, and it’ll be discounted $6 on “Power Tuesday.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

36: Get the Lead Out

It’s what we used to say when we were kids, if someone was walking too slowly: “Get the lead out!” It’s taken on a whole new meaning for me now. When the results came back from my heavy metal toxicology test, it showed that my lead levels were 3.5 times the reference range (the average healthy population). So my goal, and that of my naturopath, understandably became “Get the lead out!”

As the doctor explained how he would do this, I was busy wondering where my exposure had come from. I thought back to my childhood and how Dad had a fascinating sheet of pure lead on his work bench that we kids and our neighbourhood buddies loved to play with. It was so soft and flexible, we could easily cut it into strips and shapes with the big tin snips that were there and then bend it into all manner of interesting things. Health authorities today would take a dim view of such entertainment for children.

Then I thought of how when Dad was filling the car with gas, we kids would stand around imitating the sound the pump made each time another gallon went in (“Dingit! Another fifty cents!”). And I would stand as close as I could to the nozzle and inhale deeply, because I loved the smell of that raw, leaded gas. I remember Dad noticing this one time, and he rebuked me, saying that it would eat out my brain. (He was a doctor—he oughta know.)

And not just raw gasoline, but the exhaust as well. When Dad’s car was idling out front of the house, warming up as he got ready to go, I would squat behind the exhaust pipe and inhale. I don’t think he ever knew that I did that, but I don’t recommend it. Kneeling behind vehicles that are running can be hazardous to the health, and not just because of what you’re inhaling.

Back in the present, my naturopath was saying that he would like to do a series of chelation treatments, where an agent called EDTA, administered intravenously, would stir up the lead deep in the body, even in the bones and brain, bind to it, and carry it out through the various channels of elimination. He suggested 10 treatments. I elected to do them monthly: at $136 each, I wanted to spread the expense out over a year.

This summer, as I was approaching the end of the treatments, I got a random email from someone who reads my articles, saying that the Celtic sea salt I’m always touting is dangerously high in lead. So I asked him for his sources and did some checking of my own. I find that it’s very hard to nail things down. The main problem is that one brand’s analysis may only measure down to what is considered an “acceptable level” and another may calculate the exact content. So in a comparison of, for example, Celtic sea salt and Himalayan, the first measures in at < (less than) 0.0004% and the second at exactly 0.00001%. You simply can’t compare figures like that. It’s also hard to discern whether such information is just a scare tactic: marketing techniques of competing companies.

I talked it over with my naturopath. How crazy would this be if I was taking in lead as fast as he was taking it out? I’ve talked about how much salt I ingest, given my adrenal challenges: up to 4 teaspoons daily. I seriously need to know if I’m poisoning myself. The doctor suggested I go to my regular GP where I could get a urinalysis done without paying out of pocket. This would measure recent exposure—within the last couple of weeks. Given also that I take lots of iodine and a good dose of selenium daily, and that these two elements are known to keep most circulating heavy metals moving out of the body, I felt sure that any lead in the salt would show up clearly. Well, I did the test 19 days after a chelation treatment so there was lots of salt and water under the bridge in the meantime. And the results came back showing that I was safely below the reference range. So at present, I rest assured that there isn’t a problem with the salt I’m using.

Having now completed my 10 chelation treatments, the next step is to do a round of chelation as the provocation for yet another urinalysis. This will give a picture of lead at a much deeper level than the soft tissue provocation of a year ago and will show whether I still have lead in the bones and brain.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

35: The Scourge of Heavy Metal

I’ve never liked heavy metal. I’m more of a folk musician, where the lyrics are important and discernible and the mood is gentle and thoughtful. Heavy metal, on the other hand, is described by Wikipedia as “a thick, massive sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion, extended guitar solos, emphatic beats, and overall loudness.”

Extended exposure to heavy metal (for the musicians and the kids who listen to them) can cause some or all of the following symptoms in turn: excessive perspiration, leg twitching, headaches, spaciness, insomnia, hearing loss, mood swings, anger and other emotional disorders, dizziness, ADD, depression, hallucinations, and fatigue. It can cause anxiety, nervousness, migraines, and hostility — in people middle-aged and older, especially when their kids won’t turn down the music.

I have always avoided heavy metal. Therefore I was surprised when my naturopath brought up the subject. It was the second appointment following my adrenal burnout. The doctor was saying that he suspected I had an underlying issue that was compromising my adrenals. He thought the culprit might be heavy metals.

Okay, okay, so you didn’t really think I was talking about music.

He asked if I had any mercury-amalgam fillings.

“I’ve had dozens over the years, but I’ve had no new ones for a couple of decades; and as they’ve rotted out, I’ve had them replaced with porcelain. I’m pretty sure they’re all gone now.”

I had mentioned previously that I had been battling Candida for twenty years. Now he told me that if I had an accumulation of any kind of heavy metal, until I dealt with that, I would never get rid of the yeast problem. “It binds to metal,” he said, “and kind of hides there.”

He wanted to do a test for metal toxicity: clearly, he felt there must be a build-up stored deep in my body. So I paid the $150 and took home the kit. In the morning I took the four little pills, a “provocation agent”—I think it was DMSA—which would stir up any heavy metals stored in the soft tissues and cause these toxins to be expelled in the urine over the next 8 hours. I dutifully collected all the urine in that time-frame, filled in the forms, measured out the sample, and drove it all to Edmonton to FEDEX it off to the US of A.

While I waited for the results, I did a lot of reading online about the repercussions of carrying mercury around in your mouth. It gases off whenever you chew, slowly breaking down and releasing the mercury into the bloodstream and then mostly migrates to be stored in the brain where it will cause problems in the years to come. When these fillings are removed (hopefully to be replaced by something healthier), unless a strict protocol is in place (and there were certainly never any such precautions taken in my case), there is an awful lot of mercury sent airborne by the drill and it gets breathed straight into the lungs and then to the bloodstream again. I got pretty freaked out with it all and finally had to put the reading on mercury aside for the time being.

There are a number of dangerous metals in addition to mercury. The following information comes from

“Heavy metal poisoning has become an increasingly major health problem, especially since the industrial revolution. Heavy metals are in the water we drink, the foods we eat, the air we breathe, our daily household cleaners, our cookware and our other daily tools. A heavy metal ... cannot be metabolized ..., therefore accumulating in the body. Heavy metal toxicity can cause our mental functions, energy, nervous system, kidneys, lungs and other organ functions to decline. Learning where these metals can be found and decreasing one’s exposure is vital to staying healthy. For the person who wonders if they have heavy metal poisoning, testing is essential. If a person has heavy metal toxicity then interventional natural medicine procedures need to be performed.”

This might be a good time to re-read the list of symptoms I cited, tongue in cheek, above, as being caused by obnoxious (sorry, just my opinion) music. These signs, very seriously, are all part of an extensive list of possible effects of toxic metals in the body, and there are dozens more besides.

At this particular site, the following “heavy metals” are listed: aluminum, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, tin, and two surprises: copper and iron. Surprising, because both these elements are essential to good health. But either of them, in excess, become toxic.

And so I busied myself with more reading as I waited and wondered what the test results would be.

Addendum: Here is a list of other symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, in addition to those listed above:

Weak and aching muscles, spleen pain, stomach pain, liver dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, neuromuscular disorders, osteomalacia, colitis, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, hemolysis, leukocytosis, porphyria, heartburn, memory loss, numbness, paralysis, Parkinson's disease, tooth decay, colds, behavioral problems, constipation, flatulence, dry skin, enzymes inhibited, anorexia, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dermatitis, stomatitis, hair loss, vertigo, fever, stupor, herpes, jaundice, fluid loss, throat constriction, spasms, respiratory tract infection, garlicky odor to breath or stool, keritosis, pallor, goiter, disturbance of calcium and vitamin D metabolism, lung cancer or infections, rickets, magnesium depletion, cerebral hemorrhage, cirrhosis of the liver, enlarged heart, diabetes, emphysema, hypoglycemia, hypertension, impotence, infertility, kidney disease, learning disorders, inflammation, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, strokes, vascular disease, high cholesterol, impaired growth, cardiovascular disease, acne, PMS, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, vitamin deficiencies, paranoia, decreased libido, senility, stuttering, phobias, autism, estrogen dominance, high blood pressure, myasthenia gravis, pancreas damage, scurvy, shortness of breath, hepatitis, heart failure, allergies, anemia, blindness, cardiovascular disease, colic, convulsions, dyslexia, epilepsy, gout, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism, impotence, liver dysfunction, hyperkinesis, mental retardation, menstrual problems, muscular dystrophy, nephritis, nightmares, poor concentration, psychosis, restlessness, seizures, stillbirths, SIDS, vertigo, weight loss, adrenal gland dysfunction, birth defects, brain damage, dermatitis, hyperactivity, memory loss, pain in limbs, skin rashes, thyroid dysfunction, peripheral vision loss, hemorrhages, malaise, low blood pressure, vomiting, heart attack, oral cancer, intestinal cancer, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramping or bloating, fever, hyperglycemia, vision changes, liver pain, ataxia.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

34: Hungover!

Oh, the bleary-eyed regrets of the morning after! Dull, throbbing headache, lethargy, brain fog so thick it’s like stumbling around in the dark without a flashlight. Please, just let me crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and leave the world to go on without me. I shouldn’t have indulged, but I did. Quite deliberately, I had given in to the temptation. I ate a dessert.

It wasn’t just any dessert. Our daughter Melissa was visiting from Edmonton and invited some friends to visit with me. Before they arrived, she whipped up a little speciality as only she can. No recipe: just creative culinary intuition. She sliced fresh peaches and pitted Bing cherries into a dish. She found some red currant syrup in the fridge, her father’s noble but failed attempt at jelly; she stirred some cornstarch into the bright red liquid for thickening and poured it over the fruit. Then she mixed up a basic topping of oatmeal, flour, butter, and a little brown sugar, adding her own touch of maple syrup and then crushed walnuts.

I knew it was going to be good, and I began to think that I would choose to partake in her creation, even though I simply can’t eat sweets anymore. On a rare occasion when my husband takes me out for dinner, I might savour a half a cubic centimetre of his dessert after I’ve had a big meal. If you cannot tolerate sweets, having a full stomach after a heavy protein meal will mitigate the damage.

The damage in the case of this lovely fruit crumble was not mitigated; in fact, it was greatly compounded by some high-quality ice cream that I found in the freezer. And it was all consumed on top of only a very light savoury snack.

I dug in to the warm and colourful dessert garnished with ice cream. And it was so good that I said to myself, This is so worth it! I knew it would wipe out the rest of the evening for me, and probably the next day as well. But I was not prepared for my whole system to be totally out of kilter for well over a week.

So why would a person have such an overboard reaction to a dessert? It’s back to the same old adrenal problem (see Blogs 10 & 24). Blog 24 talks about how the adrenals when fatigued may not produce sufficient mineralocortocoids to keep mineral (electrolyte) balance inside and outside the cells; hence my current need for extra salt. The adrenals also produce glucocorticoids like cortisol and cortisone, which are predominantly involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Stressed adrenals cannot adequatelyly regulate glucose levels in the body. If you’ve noticed that you’re more prone to symptoms of hypoglycemia when you’re very stressed, this is the explanation.

This is how I picture what was happening in my own body: All the little guys that work in the Adrenal Department have been on sabbatical for over a year now, ever since my adrenal collapse. They work a kind of rotating schedule, keeping a skeletal staff on duty, just enough to keep the shop open. Then, on a lovely holiday Monday afternoon, while most of them are lying around on their bunks and snoozing in the warm weather, suddenly there comes a critical alert: “Holy crap, guys, she’s just swallowed a boatload of sugar! All hands on deck!”

One laid-back guy says, “Dude, chill. I heard it’s just a bunch of fruit sugar. Shouldn’t be any big deal.”

“Maybe not if that’s all it was, but there was refined sugar in it too. And word has it, she topped it off with ice cream.”

At the mention of ice cream, there is a collective groan and all the guys roll off their bunks, stumbling sleepily to their work stations.

“I need gluccocorticoids and I need them now!” shouts the supervisor.

And so the beleaguered crew rallies their determination and sets about manufacturing the hormone that will straighten out the imbalance I have created.

The following morning as I wake, the supervisor once more tries to rouse his exhausted crew: “Guys, she’s getting out of bed soon. I need you out here again to get some cortisol happening to give her blood pressure a little lift as she gets on her feet. Otherwise the blood is going to pool in the mid-section and lower extremities and she’s going to get dizzy when she stands up—maybe even pass out.”

But the poor guys are just too played out. They’re going to be flat on their backs all week. They stare back at the supervisor bleakly, then roll over and pull the covers over their heads. And so do I.

Monday, August 27, 2012

33: From My Readers — Part III

The other day I headed out for a walk at 10:00 a.m. Already the heat from the sun was intense; the humidity, suffocating. It made me feel weak. Once again I was glad for what I have learned about the need for extra salt in hot weather (see “Beating the Heat,” article #30). I made a mental note to have another half teaspoon in a glass of diluted juice when I got back to the house.

As I walked, the heat brought to mind a brief encounter at the Farmers’ Market last week. A woman came by my table to say hello. Her name is Joan. “What are you doing here today?” I asked. “You were here last week.” Joan comes to our market every three or four weeks with her Nuskin scanner, a device that is able to measure the level of anti-oxidants in your body. At $10 for this service, it is an inexpensive peek into how your body is doing nutritionally. If your anti-oxidants are low, she will show you her nutritional products.

But I digress. Joan explained that she’d driven all the way down from St. Albert just to pick up an order of fresh, chemical-free vegetables from our local Hutterites. Joan introduced me to her friend, who told me that Joan had forwarded “Beating the Heat” to her. “My son had sunstroke a couple of days ago,” she said. “I gave him a half-teaspoon of sea salt in some water and it really helped him. Thank you.”

Incidents like this are what make writing this column a privilege. How wonderful to know that a simply remedy has made a huge difference to someone, I thought as I walked along.

My stream of thought was interrupted as I spotted someone approaching from up ahead. It was a neighbour, just returning from his own daily constitutional. As we greeted each other, he mentioned that he had been reading some of my columns in the paper. Within minutes we were deep into a discussion on iodine. (Read: I was deep into a monologue on iodine.) This man, around my age, told me that he is using about $800-worth of prescription drugs every three months: a blood thinner that is upsetting his stomach, one of those muscle-wasting statins for cholesterol, something for high blood pressure, and I don’t know what else. He has also been diagnosed as type-II diabetic. Determined to get off these expensive meds with their scary side-effects, he has recently begun to see a naturopath, who has told him that 30% of his recovery will be from supplements but 70% will only be by his own initiative with exercise. So he is out walking, with serious intent, almost every day.

I was able to tell him some things about iodine that I have not yet touched on in my writings: it is a natural blood thinner; it will lower cholesterol; it can get people off (or at least reduce) their diabetes meds. As for high blood pressure, I suggested that he look into how sea salt can normalize it.

“I don’t use salt at all,” he said.

I cited as an illustration my 79-year-old acquaintance, a quintuple by-pass survivor, who now, since he began to add sea salt to his food, has achieved his lowest blood pressure ever.

My neighbour then bent down and folded his sock over to show me the indentation it had made in his puffy ankle. “Sea salt helps edema too,” I told him. (See Blog #30.) I promised to print him off a number of my articles that were pertinent to his issues, as he doesn’t use the internet, and then we went on our separate ways.

Another reader, Karen of, has evidently heard enough of my ravings to begin looking into some iodine for herself. She writes this:

“Last week I checked at both our local health food store and one of the pharmacies as to what iodine products they sold. The pharmacist informed me, ‘We have too much salt in our diet already, so we don’t sell iodine.’ The health food store also doesn’t sell iodine—though they do have kelp products for thyroid support. I see there’s room for some work here!”

If you’re thinking the pharmacist’s statement doesn’t make sense, you’re absolutely right. And yes, kelp is rich in iodine, but it will not deliver the doses I talk about. I checked seven different brands of kelp supplements. Their dosages range from the RDA to three times the RDA. By comparison, I was taking 80 times the RDA when I tested deficient in April. I currently take 240 times the recommended daily allowance, every day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

32: The Faith Factor

Over the years I’ve found many things that have helped my health. Our bodies are all a little different, so what helps me might not help you. But then again, our bodies, generally speaking, are all made according to the same design, so what helps me very likely will help you—you might just need more or less of a certain nutrient than I do. We all seem to have our “weakest link”: under great duress, I might have anxiety, you might get an upset stomach or even an ulcer, and someone else might have a stiff, painful neck or a migraine headache. But we all need the same raw materials—various vitamins and elements—to fuel these high-performance machines that we call bodies.

However, there is another variable that may affect whether the same remedy benefits you as does me, and that is what I’ll call the faith factor. Every time I’ve found a new kind of health-help, it has been subsequent to asking God to help me with a particular problem, because that’s just the way I live. He tells me not to worry about anything, but just to bring all my concerns to Him. So I do. Of course, you might say I can’t prove that this had anything to do with an effective answer coming my way. But I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just saying: it works for me.

I remember how 20 years ago, as I was heading into a nervous breakdown, I was unable to sleep most nights. The awful fatigue that resulted made it so difficult to deal with four small children. One night as I lay awake, still sleepless at three o’clock in the morning, the Lord spoke distinctly to my heart: “Nance, you need calcium.” I went and bought some the next day and I’ve hardly ever been without it since. If for some reason I go without calcium for a few days, I once again have difficulty sleeping. (I have since discovered, first hand, that there are other reasons for insomnia as well.)

My very first article (see my blog) tells how God led me to iodine, ever since which I’ve been telling everyone about our need for this vital nutrient. Iodine has changed my life, very much for the better. But there is this other factor: when I first bought iodine and took the first dose, I also asked God to bless it to my body. Who can ever say how much this prayer contributed to the miraculous improvement that iodine has worked in my body?

When my adrenals crashed a year ago, I did not ask God to heal them. This was quite conscious; quite deliberate. I could see that the way I was used to running my life was out of control and that some things needed to change. If God had miraculously healed my adrenals, I probably would have just jumped right back into the fray in all the ways with which I was familiar. I knew that I had some things to learn, and that I was only going to really learn them if it was a long, slow road. A miracle is great, but sometimes it’s not the best thing, because we’re less likely to retain the lessons that come hand in hand with the trial. The other good thing about the long, slow road to natural healing (as compared to a miracle) is that we have many useful things to share with other people about our journey after we reach a particular milestone.

A few months ago, I felt that it was time to begin praying for the restoration of my adrenals. So on the days when I spend a bit of serious time in prayer, I often think to reach around behind and place both hands above my waist in the general location of my adrenals. And then I say, “I speak restoration and wholeness to these adrenal glands in the name of Jesus.” I then might do the same thing to my thyroid gland and also address my entire endocrine system, and then my body in general. “Be not wise in your own eyes,” say the Scriptures. “Fear the Lord and depart from evil, and it shall be health to all your body and strength to your bones.” So I sometimes declare “health to all my body and strength to my bones.”

The neat thing is—even if you are not a believer, you can do this. God is kind to all, even to the “ungrateful and wicked,” according to Jesus, so not a single one of us is disqualified. “I will never turn anyone away who comes to me,” He said. So ask Him for wisdom, direction, and healing. The “faith factor” may be the thing that makes the difference.

Monday, August 6, 2012

31: From My Readers — Part II

A reader named Jo Anne has evidently had her life turned around by supplementing with iodine. She writes the following letter:

“I began taking iodine two years ago and, like you, I have been amazed at the improvements in my health. Iodine is [important] for the health of the connective tissue in the body. I can now climb stairs without leg pain; walk on the balls of my feet without pain. I can climb stairs without gasping for air at the top ..., because my lungs now expand big enough to take in the air I need.

“My flexibility has improved overall. I can reach down and wash my feet in the shower. Reaching my feet before was so stiff and painful, I would be in a sweat just to put on a pair of socks.

“I have been cold- and flu-free for two years [since beginning to use iodine]. Most people don’t realize that we [are supposed to] have a tiny bit of iodine in our saliva. It’s there to protect us from bacteria and viruses. It’s also there for the health of our teeth and gums. A common symptom of deficiency is catching every bug going around, [plus] dental cavities.

“I have had fibrocystic breast disease almost from the day I went into puberty. I was never told, all those years, that iodine was a standard/old-fashioned cure for this condition. There were days when my breasts were so tender and painful, I couldn’t stand to be hugged even gently. Three months after starting the iodine, I began to experience the feeling of needle-like pains in my breast; after a self-examination I found that all the lumps were gone. The pains only lasted two days, and I am still lump-free today.

“It turns out that mammary glands actually need more iodine than the thyroid does. Scientists know that fibrocystic breast disease is a precursor for breast cancer, so why aren’t more women being told about iodine? Could it be because the big drug companies can’t make money on it, because it already has a patent? [Iodine cannot be patented, as it is a naturally occurring element. —N.C.] It’s these companies that supply most of the research that our doctors are taught in school. The treatment of cancer is a billion-dollar industry, so no surprise that we never hear about iodine from our doctors.

“My eyesight has improved. I bought new glasses because the old ones were too strong. What a change! I usually have to get them made stronger. Iodine is an aid to the function of every gland in the body. Edgar Casey called it 'Oil for the Machine of the Glands.' My insulin resistance is gone. I’m no longer on a roller-coaster ride when it comes to my energy levels throughout the day.

“I can eat whatever I like; it makes little difference. It was a great Christmas present, last, when I got through the festivities eating squares, turkey, gravy, etc., and did not crash even once. I take three drops of Lugol’s iodine in a small glass of orange juice. The citric acid in the juice has a reaction with the iodine and makes it tasteless, colorless and odorless.

“It was accidentally running across a video on YouTube, “Iodine. Why We Need It and Why We Can’t Live Without It” by Dr. David Brownstein, that saved my life.”

* * * * * * *

Another reader, Leila, commented on my use of Lugol’s on suspicious-looking skin spots (#16: Scared About Skin Cancer):

“Hi, Nancy, I’m doing this too. I found decolorized iodine online—while it doesn't stain the skin, it does stain clothing, countertops, etc., plus it has alcohol in it which smells terrible, so I only use it in areas that show. I have/had several strange lumps and bumps on my back, so I got my husband to paint them every night and cover with a band-aid— sure enough, one dropped off after only a week! He's going to try it on his skin tags. I'm also using it on my scalp to combat psoriasis; seems to be working fairly well so far.”

* * * * * * *

About a month ago, I myself suddenly had four pinkish spots show up on the side of my face, the largest being half an inch across. Immediately I started applying Lugol’s. After two weeks, I figured that I’d better get a doctor’s opinion. Nothing to worry about, he said; a biopsy was not necessary. Well, what’s going on then that these spots sting like crazy when the iodine goes on? The integrity of the skin is obviously broken down. For now, I’ll apply Lugol’s twice a day, and I’m booking another appointment for a second opinion. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 27, 2012

30: Beating the Heat

During the recent heat wave, I found myself thinking of a friend’s husband. Last year he’d had a really bad go with sunstroke. I had given his wife a suggestion. Now I was wondering if he’d ever picked up on it, or if he was struggling again. So I gave him a call.

No, he said, he was having no problems at all, because, “I remember what you told my wife. I’ll never forget it.” He talked about the incident during planting season last spring. He was back in Saskatchewan on the old family farm, working underneath the cultivator in extreme heat, fully exposed to the intense sun, bare-headed in the close confines. Later he had the flu-like symptoms of heat exhaustion: “the runs,” head-achy, feverish. He drank water by the litre—it went right through him. He couldn’t eat—when he tried, it would come back up. He was terribly weak. The first two days, he struggled on; the next two, he couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t get out of bed for more than ten minutes at a time, and that was mainly to get to the bathroom again.

It was at the end of the fourth day that I happened to be talking to his wife, who told me all about it. “It’s because of loss of salt that comes with excessive perspiration,” I told her. “Then you can’t even retain the water you drink. He needs electrolytes. Tell him to take a half-teaspoon of sea salt in a glass of water.” When she talked to him that evening on the phone, she said “one teaspoon”; in his delirium, he translated “one tablespoon.” So into a glass of water went a heaping soupspoon of salt, and he choked it down. He managed to hang onto most of it, but not surprisingly, some came back up. Two hours later, he was feeling halfway back to his usual self. Amazingly, by morning he was 100%.

In retrospect he remembers that his 80-year-old Ukrainian grandmother, after a hot day of work in the garden, would stir a spoonful of salt into her tea instead of sugar. He, only six at the time, thought it was quite weird, but now it all makes sense to him.

* * *

One day at the Farmers’ Market, a friend, Joan, hurried up to my table and said excitedly, “I need to talk to you.” She sat down in the extra chair I keep there for lengthier conversations, and she told me her story. She had been to see a chiropractor in Medicine Hat who had put her on his “Total Body Modification” program, to address her many allergies. It included staying completely away from sugar (except natural sources) and drinking large amounts of water. She was instructed to be sure to get enough (unrefined) salt, that avoiding salt when drinking large amounts of water can be unsafe.

By the end of the first week on this program, she noticed that her ankles and calves were swelling. Edema has been a recurring problem for her, ever since having children (she has ten!), but normally it was sugar that triggered it. Because she hadn’t had sugar now for a week, she was surprised. And it wasn’t just her legs and feet, but even her arms were swollen—there was definitely a significant amount of water retention. She was also feeling extremely lethargic.

She prayed about it. What came to mind was something I had told her about a salt cleanse (See Blog #21). Now this is a cleanse that is normally used to clear the kidneys of bromine and other halides that are being forced out of the body by iodine supplementation. Because Joan had once mentioned that her naturopath had her on high doses of iodine, I had told her of this bromine overload that could occur, the symptoms, and what to do about them. None of these symptoms was present, and yet in prayer she was impressed that this was what she should do. So she did the salt cleanse, which involves ingesting three quarters of a teaspoon of Celtic sea salt and about two litres of water over the course of an hour.

Eight hours later, all the edema was gone—and she had her energy back! This had just happened the previous day, and she was pretty excited about it.

People who have trouble with edema usually find it is worse in hot weather. “Unrefined salt helps in regulating the levels of water in the body, thus maintaining the delicate balance that needs to exist between the cells and body fluids, while also helping to maintain the electrolyte balance.” (

While most doctors are prescribing diuretics and telling patients to avoid salt, this may well be another reason to grab your sea-salt grinder in hot weather.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

29: From My Readers — Part I

I ran into a fellow the other day who said he’d been reading my articles. Because he was suffering with some health issues, I asked him what he thought about what I’ve said in my column regarding iodine. He said he was a skeptic and preferred a more balanced approach.

It was not difficult to figure out what he was getting at. “I suppose,” I said, “that given how much I’ve talked about iodine, my readers might assume that that is the only supplement I take. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I take a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals.” I went on to tell him that I intend, sometime soon, to write about all the other things I take, and I certainly do intend to; but I keep getting sideswiped by more interesting press on the subject of—you guessed it—iodine.

I’ve had a number of comments from readers on my blog recently, and I want to share some of these. A woman named Leila read my article “So You Think You Need Iodine – Part I” and commented as follows:

“Excellent article! I had some thoughts as I read it: Edmonton is also in a known goiter area."

She shares this link: (

Then she continues: "I live in Edmonton, and almost everyone I talk to seems to have a thyroid issue. I had surgery for a nodule several years ago. I started on a very low dose of iodine last summer, less than 0.5 mg/day, and ramped it up very slowly so as not to overwhelm my thyroid. I doubled the dose no oftener than once a month.... Because 2% Lugol’s has 2.5 mg/drop, which I thought would be too big a jump for me, I also bought Naka drops—it tastes terrible! I ended up back on kelp tabs although they’re not recommended at doses over 1 mg. I’m now using Lugol’s, and I have to say, it’s a whole lot easier to take—way less drops to get the right dose and no taste at all in OJ or other juice. My GP, when asked if I could get a urine test to measure my iodine levels, said ‘There’s iodine in salt so you’re getting enough.’ Sigh.”

Leila then asked me for information on where to get the iodine test done.

I checked out the link she included. It took me to an article published in 1960. The article is 100 pages long (and does not have a search function) so I only read a fraction of it, but it was really interesting. The most dramatic statistics I saw concerned Winnipeg, which at that time had a goitre rate of 50% in the general population, and the nearby towns of Birds Hill and Stonewall, in which a staggering 85% of children were sufferers. And this was 30 years after the government began adding iodine to salt.

A little closer to home is the following information:

“In Alberta ... a great deal of goitre [has been seen] in a strip of territory running due south from Edmonton to the northern border of the [US]. Places affected are: Leduc, Wetaskiwin, ...” and it goes on to list a string of cities further south. The same article tells me there is low iodine “in the neighbourhood of the Arrow Lakes,” where I lived for the first 18 years of my life. The Kamloops area, where I lived from age 20-25 is another deficient area, and now I’ve lived in this “goitre belt” south of Edmonton for almost 30 years. Not surprising, then, that I’ve turned out to be so thirsty for this element.

(Just to clarify: Goitre is an enlarged thyroid, which is generally caused by insufficient iodine in the diet. Therefore, a “goitre” area is synonymous with an “iodine deficient” area.)

Leila also commented on my article “Burzynski’s Battle,” about the doctor in Texas who has had such astonishing success in treating “untreatable” cancers and yet has been black-balled by the FDA and large pharmaceutical interests:

“Incredible!! Sounds very much like the story of Dr. David Derry in BC. He had an excellent record of treating thyroid patients and had patients visiting him from all over the world. An endocrinologist whose patient had left him and gotten better on Dr. Derry’s treatment complained to the BC College of Physicians & Surgeons; a hearing was scheduled and he was given a week to prepare for it. The evidence he presented was rejected and they removed his thyroid prescribing privileges. When he appealed the ban the following year, his license to practice medicine was suspended. He’s not currently listed as a member of the college on their website—crazy!”

Crazy indeed. With a treatment consisting of natural, desiccated thyroid and iodine, he must have enraged Big Fat Pharma, and that is a crime that does not go unpunished.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

28: An Argument for Organics

Several months ago, I received an email forward, a YouTube clip of a third-grade student presenting a science project. This eight- or nine-year-old girl had undertaken to grow sweet potato vines at home. Her project ended up morphing into something quite different—and quite sobering.

She told how she and her grandma had bought a sweet potato at a grocery store and tried to sprout it in a jar of water. In three weeks’ time, nothing had happened. They bought another, thinking there must be something wrong with the first. Again, nothing. They went back and talked to a man in the produce department. He said, “These will never grow vines. At the farms, they’re treated with a chemical called ‘Bud Nip.’” Instead he got her one from the organic section.

Over the period of a month, the new potato grew some “wimpy little vines.” Then the girl and her grandma went to an organic food market and bought yet another sweet potato. This one took off and quickly surpassed the growth of the second.

She googled Bud Nip. “They also spray it on blueberries,” she says, “carrots, onions, spinach, tomatoes, beets, and cranberries.”

Just for fun, I, too, bought a sweet potato at my local grocery store and another one from an organic outlet in Edmonton. The picture above shows what they looked like after sitting in water for two months. (Apparently my potato from the mainstream store was not quite as dead as the little girl’s first two efforts.)

And I, too, googled Bud Nip. It also goes by Chlorpropham and at least ten other names. Its regulatory status is such that products containing it must bear the signal word “Caution.” (Hello? Have you ever seen any such label in any produce department?) It is used for pre-emergent control of weeds in the various crops that the young girl mentions above and is also sprayed on, post-harvest, to prevent sprouting and to increase the shelf-life of root vegetables—plus legumes, seeds, and pretty much every kind of produce except for leafy things like spinach and lettuce. (Leafy stuff has its own chemical issues.) Chlorpropham penetrates through the entire vegetable, so washing it doesn’t help.

It is shown to be toxic to honey bees, which are crucial to the pollination of these crops, and to amphibians (like frogs) and other aquatic life.

Chlorpropham can cause irritation to the eyes or skin. Symptoms of acute toxicity in lab animals include listlessness, uncoordination, nose bleeds, protruding eyes, bloody tears, breathing difficulties, exhaustion, inability to urinate, high fevers, and death. Autopsies reveal permanent degenerative changes in the liver and kidneys, as well as congestion of the brain, lungs, and other organs. A farmer working with this chemical could be at risk for the degree of exposure that would constitute acute toxicity.

Chronic toxicity, a little bit over a long period of time (ie, from eating the produce), can lead to anything from retarded growth to cancer. This chemical can also cross a mother’s placenta into the developing fetus.

This is a pretty horrifying profile, and it’s just one of thousands of chemicals we’re unwittingly exposed to: just one good look at a single herbicide, never mind the myriad of other herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers. The accompanying photograph alone is enough to make me want to eat organic. Did you know that most pesticides, herbicides, and nitrogen fertilizers used today are by-products of the petroleum industry? I don’t want to eat that stuff!

But what I have come to understand in the past year is that eating organic is not just about avoiding what’s in our food that isn’t meant to be there, it’s also about getting what should be there and generally isn’t. Chemical farming is a double-edged sword.

Through the knowledge of some of the local Hutterites and that of my own dear husband, I now understand that our soils are so damaged by chemicals that they have become simply an inert medium in which to grow crops artificially.

Healthy soil contains tiny microbes that break down organic matter and convert macro-minerals, micro-nutrients, and trace elements into an ionic form that can be taken up by plants. Chemically abused soils are dead: they no longer contain these vital, living organisms. Hence, the crops grown in these soils do not contain the many nutrients they were designed to give us. We hear a lot of talk today about our depleted soils, but the fact is, even if the minerals might still there, we’re not getting them. The people who eschew nutritional supplements, saying, “I get everything I need from my food!” are sadly mistaken.

Thanks to chemical fertilizers, our produce departments abound with lush-looking vegetables. But it’s an illusion, a deception. Besides being laced with who-knows-what chemicals, they are nutritionally impotent.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

27: Still More Iodine?

Last week I left off with mention of a breakthrough in my health. I was at the ten-month point following my adrenal crash, still not much better and in some ways worse. It had already been a long, hard go. But it hadn’t been wasted. I wasn’t sorry that this affliction had come upon me: sometimes we can’t recognize how badly things need to change until it gets so bad that we cannot go on.

The things that had to change in me were as follows: I had to learn to stop pushing myself beyond my limits. I had to get serious about feeding myself consistently, before my blood-sugar had a chance to go in the tank. I had to keep trying to get to bed by ten o’clock. I had to learn that I do not breathe normally when I’m focussed on the things I enjoy. A case in point: the thing that totally put me over the edge with my adrenals last spring was writing these health articles. Yep. Total irony. I’d work intensely, not realizing that I wasn’t breathing. I would suffer debilitating anxiety (because my low oxygen was telling my adrenals that we had a crisis at hand), yet never understanding why. So I would just keep going, even though I knew it was taking a terrible toll on my body.

Rewind to August of 2010. I’ve been on iodine for nine months, beginning at 25 mg and increasing over time to 50 mg. From the six-week point and onward, I’ve been feeling no anxiety. Fantastic emotional resilience. Bear in mind that these doses are, respectively, 160 and 320 times the RDA. Now my hormone doctor was suggesting that I cut back to 12.5 mg.

This dose, 12.5 mg, is generally considered to be a good maintenance dose, once you’ve replenished your body. So I found this plan copasetic. But in retrospect, I believe that from that point on, my iodine stores began to gradually diminish until, about six months later, I’m starting to struggle with anxiety again. Three months further, I’m crashed. Flat.

Fast forward again to early March of this year: I’ve changed some habits, but I’m still not doing well. I decide to go for an iodine-load test. This is a lab test (it costs $100) to discover if you are deficient in iodine. Here’s how it works: You take a dose of 50 mg of iodine first thing in the morning. You collect all your urine for the next 24 hours and send a measured sample away to a lab in the US. If you have sufficient iodine stores, they expect at least 90% of that dose to show up in the urine, indicating that the body doesn’t need much.

(Interestingly, the way this somewhat arbitrary 90% was settled upon was that they found each of the patients who expelled this percentage had, in the course of their iodine supplementation, come to the place of feeling great, both physically and emotionally. The others, whose bodies retained more than 10%, were still not feeling optimum.)

Another month went by as I waited for the results. Very early in the morning of April 11 (1:30 a.m. to be exact) I was awoken to a family crisis. When everything was finally resolved and I got back to bed, it was 4:00 a.m. But I couldn’t sleep. I lay there vibrating with misplaced adrenaline, feeling like I was levitating six inches off the bed. Eventually I slept fitfully for two hours but was unable to rest any more. By late afternoon, I was so strung out that I phoned my husband in tears. ‘‘I think I need to take some medication,’’ I said. He knew what a big deal this was. Twenty-seven months it had been since I’d used these pills, and it had been a terrific personal victory. He gently told me to do what I needed to do and not worry about it. So I did.

The very next day, my hormone doctor called with the results of my lab test. “Bottom line,” she said, “you are not getting enough iodine.” I had expelled only 58% of the iodine. Who would have guessed that I was still deficient! And it turns out, the adrenals are one of the many glands and organs for which iodine is crucial.

Immediately I increased my dosage. I continued to take my anti-anxiety medication because I was in such bad shape, but over the next three weeks I tapered down from 2 doses daily to none as the extra iodine kicked in. Two months later I’m still improving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

26: A Year in Retrospect

As I ride the mower along the edge of the bush around the outer parameter of the lawn, I see that the black currants are in blossom: tiny, delicate yellow blooms set against the bright green leaves. It takes me back to the beginning of June a year ago.

The first day of June 2011 brought a much-anticipated event for our family: the U2 concert in Edmonton. Later, after a full evening’s entertainment, Melissa and I, having got separated from the other four, stood outside in a crowd of 60,000 people waiting to get on the LRT. After we’d stood for half an hour and not seen any progress, she suggested that we walk back to our parking spot, about three and a half kilometres away. She phoned the others, passed along the plan, and told them we’d meet them at the vehicles.

She set out at a sizzling pace, her long legs eating up the metres. My legs are long too, but I haven’t near as much sizzle anymore. She is a long-distance runner, so her stamina is formidable. I tried to match her pace, breaking into a run intermittently to close the gap. Now bear in mind, it was almost midnight, and I had been up since 4:30 that morning. Dinner was a faraway memory, not a good thing for someone who tends toward low blood sugar. But I’ve always had this mentality that it’s good to push your body hard, that this is what makes us strong.

This attitude comes from long-distance training back in my own distant youth. However, I’ve come to realize that this is a dumb idea, especially when there are other mitigating factors, like being overtired and hungry. And all this on the heels of several weeks of operating with uncontrollable anxiety. I was running on fumes; more accurately, as I understand now, I was running on adrenaline.

Thirty minutes later we reached the vehicles, far ahead of the others. As I leaned against the truck, my equilibrium went strange for a few minutes and I found I was having trouble keeping my balance. The rest of the family caught up with us after a bit, and in due course we all got something to eat and got home to bed.

I didn’t think any more about the demands I’d made on my body, until I got up four days later. I tried to go for a pleasant walk on a Sunday morning with my husband and found I simply could not do it. (Adrenals Amok, Blog #10).

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the black currants being in blossom. Well, I’m getting to that. The following day I was still completely drained. I was pretty sure I had exhausted my adrenal glands. I looked up an email that had come from a reader less than three weeks earlier. She had written me about something called Ribes Nigrum, which “resets the adrenals.”

On Google I discovered that this is the Latin name for black currant and that this remedy is made from the blossoms. I ordered a couple of bottles from a supplier in Ontario, wondering how long it would take to get here. I was feeling quite beside myself. I wanted to dig out my old anti-anxiety medication, but it had been 17 months since I’d used that crutch. I wasn’t going to give in without a fight.

Midday I wandered outside in my robe and slippers, too tired to bother dressing. I climbed down the grassy embankment behind the house to the westerly edge of the lawn, looking for the currant bushes that grow wild there. They were in blossom. I picked a handful and chewed them slowly, thinking I must look like a real nut-case. They didn’t taste very good.

To my amazement the Ribes Nigrum arrived the following day around noon. How is that even possible, ground shipping from Ontario? An answer to prayer for sure. I eagerly began on the suggested two-daily doses.

Two days later found me at a naturopathic clinic in St. Albert that the same reader had mentioned. The doctor, after confirming my self-diagnosis, put me on an adrenal support product containing freeze-dried bovine adrenal and spleen, as well as 3000 mg of Vitamin C daily, and gave me some other directives. He indicated that it would take my adrenals about a year to recover.

But taking stock in early April, the ten-month point, I had to admit to myself that I didn’t feel any better. In fact I felt like I was still losing ground. And then I had an amazing breakthrough, which I’ll talk about next time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

25: More Salt?

The last thing you expect to hear in a doctor’s office is encouragement to take more salt, but it happened to me. Here’s how it unfolded:

I was at my hormone doctor’s clinic; this was just over a year ago. Into the little room came the doctor’s assistant to do the preliminaries. With her she brought a blood pressure monitor.

“Oh, good!” I said. “I’ve been wanting to make sure my blood pressure is okay, because I’ve been taking extra salt.”

“Good,” she responded.

“Well,” I qualified, “I’ve been taking quite bit. Up to a teaspoon a day extra.”

“Good,” she said again. “Take one to two teaspoon daily. But it has to be good quality sea salt.”

“Absolutely,” I assured her.

I had begun taking salt in my drinking water a few months earlier as a result of some articles I had read. I had wondered occasionally, though, whether I was throwing things out of whack. The monitor quickly confirmed, however, that my blood pressure was as low as ever.

At this site,, I have found 20-plus vital functions of salt in the body. For instance, unrefined salt is key in stabilizing irregular heart rhythm. And though reputed to exacerbate high blood pressure, it is actually essential for the regulation of both high and low blood pressure.

Table salt, by contrast, is stripped of everything but sodium and chloride. Then “to further prevent any moisture from being reabsorbed, the salt refiners add aluminosilicate of sodium or yellow prussiate of soda as desiccants plus different bleaches to the final salt formula. After these processes, the table salt will no longer combine with human body fluids, it invariably causes severe problems of edema (water retention) and several other health disturbances.” Our bodies are also obliged to function without the proper balance of the other 82 elements, causing subtle deficiencies and undiagnosable problems.

In an article last summer, I shared about sea salt’s ability to regulate blood pressure , and a reader was subsequently challenged to try it. After a quintuple by-pass some ten years ago, he had maintained a strict, salt-free diet, and he monitors his blood pressure daily. He contacted me to let me know that since beginning to use sea salt on his food, his blood pressure is lower than it’s been in years.

Salt is also apparently vital in the balancing of blood sugar levels; in digestion, clearing mucous, and preventing muscle cramps, varicose veins, and osteoporosis. It’s a natural antihistamine and also helps regulate sleep and maintain healthy libido.

If you drool while sleeping, it’s an indication of salt deficiency.

Here’s one that I found interesting personally:

“When the body is short of salt, it means the body really is short of water. The salivary glands sense the salt shortage and are obliged to produce more saliva to lubricate the act of chewing and swallowing and also to supply the stomach with water that it needs for breaking down foods. Circulation to the salivary glands increases and the blood vessels become ‘leaky’ in order to supply the glands with water to manufacture saliva. The ‘leakiness’ spills beyond the area of the glands themselves, causing increased bulk under the skin of the chin, the cheeks and into the neck.”

Seventeen years ago I developed some severe problems after a performance of an hour and 40 minutes of singing and speaking. I lost my voice for a month (Try handling four young children without a voice!) and my neck swelled up on both sides right under the jawbone. My GP said I was carrying my stress in my neck and it was affecting my salivary glands.

A dear old fellow in our church offered to pray for me; commanded those lumps to come out in the name of Jesus. I touched his arm and said good-humouredly, “No! Those lumps are my salivary glands. I need them!”
Over time I came to recognize that vocal problems come with dehydration, but it was only when I read this article last year that I finally understood the physiology of this swelling that I’ve frequently had in my neck.

Just a year ago in January, during a wintery cold snap, I was speaking and singing at a Christian Cowboy retreat in Manitoba. On the second song, I lost my singing voice—went completely hoarse. It was brutal. By the end of the evening, my contacts were stuck to my eyeballs, and I realized then that something about the heating system in the place was zapping the moisture out of the air, and my body. The second evening, before I got up to share, I drank a pile of diluted orange juice with an extra teaspoon of salt, over and above my usual quota. I sang flawlessly.

Salt. Don’t leave home without it!