Issue 44, February 2012
Welcome to Issue 44 of our Newsletter!
Yes, those are actually daffodils popping up! Many of you know that I am spending more time in the beautiful, wooded mountains outside Asheville, North Carolina working on our retreat center. And Spring is clearly right around the corner.
This is good news for many of you. Have you noticed that your health “woes” are worse this time of year? Unfortunately, in the winter months, we get less sunshine, exercise less, breathe indoor air that becomes quite toxic, and drink less water. These habits tend to increase our aches, pains, allergies, tightness, depression, and overall inflammation. Keep reading to learn more about inflammation and a quick and simple way to reduce inflammation. You do not have to suffer!
Spring Cooking on Purpose classes are filling up. As you may know, this is the last run of this class I plan to offer in Massachusetts, so don’t miss your chance! The Wednesday night series is sold out, and there are just a few seats left in the Tuesday night series. I am also looking forward to my annual seminar and cooking demo on Wine and Chocolate: Decadence That’s Good for You! This year’s event will be on Saturday, March 24th at 7pm. Always a fun event for couples and singles alike. Come celebrate, sample, and savor delicious flavors while learning how they serve your well-being.
Eat on purpose. Live on purpose.
Inflammation Super Hero: Curcumin
The plant world is full of truly miraculous, anti-inflammatory remedies! In fact, most pharmaceuticals are synthetic versions (or standardized extracts) of a root or a leaf or a flower bud. Over the years, I’ve learned that many of us assume drugs are powerful and effective, while herbs or plants are more natural but also weaker, less effective alternatives. But did you know that aspirin was originally derived from willow tree leaves? Digoxin, an important drug for heart conditions, comes from foxglove. Taxol, an anti-tumor medication, is derived from the Pacific yew tree.
Plant components are often valuable to humans because plants too must have powerful immune systems to fight off infections and toxins for survival. When we think of what is “good for us” in plants, we tend to focus only on a small handful of “vitamins and minerals”. However, most plants have (literally) hundreds or even thousands of separate, valuable nutrients. Many of these are what we call phytochemicals – molecules such as lycopene from tomatoes, myristicin in parsley, phenols from green tea, isoflavones from soy, proanthocyanidins from cranberries, sulfides and allicin in garlic, chlorophyll in cilantro, or carotenoids from carrots. When we eat these foods or when we use their extracts medicinally, we too are benefiting from a plant’s immune system.
While I use a wide variety of tools in my practice, the herbal extract I recommend most often for inflammation is curcumin. Want to understand what inflammation really is? Check out this month’s subscriber question below. An ancient spice, turmeric is the bright gold ingredient found in many asian dishes, ubiquitous in curries. If you’ve cooked with it, you’ve experienced the permanent yellow stain it gives anything plastic or wood. Curcumin is a polyphenol and the component of turmeric responsible for its rich color. It has been used in natural healing for millenia, especially in India and Ayurvedic medicine.
Curcumin has been studied extensively and found to be a powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial, brain protectant, detoxification agent, and anti-inflammatory. Research in the past decade has even focused highly on its anti-cancer properties. The best part is that it’s extremely safe. My clients have used curcumin to reduce inflammation from arthritis, lower back pain, tennis elbow, joint replacement, cancer, infections, auto-immune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis), Crohns disease, Alzheimers, diabetes, and depression. Even if you struggle with just occasional achiness after a rough week or an aggressive workout, curcumin is a great choice.
But there’s a catch. Not all herb products are the same. To be effective, extracts must be pure and potent. Curcumin is also notorious for being poorly absorbed in the blood stream; it is largely broken down in the body via digestion. To ensure maximum efficacy, I recommend a specific formulation of curcumin that is a phytosome. That is, the curcumin is bound to a lipid (fat) molecule. This allows it to be absorbed into our lymph system for greater distribution to our body-wide blood supply. It’s called Mervia (a trade name, not a brand name, so it’s available from many suppliers). In fact, research shows that the bio-availability of Meriva is about 10 times that of plain curcumin. Yes, it costs a little more, but in my experience, it’s definitely worth it. It is easy to find on-line from a variety of outlets.
Ready to start feeling better?! For best effect, take curcumin regularly, or before and after you engage in an activity that you know might bother your body. Certainly you can start with any type of curcumin, even including it in your diet will help (try this month’s recipe!). But I highly recommend Meriva. Start with one 500mg capsule twice a day and see how you feel after a week or two. You may increase to two or three Meriva twice a day if necessary. Curcumin can have a natural blood thinning effect, so be careful with dosage if you’re taking Coumadin or daily aspirin. Curcumin often keeps the pains away and can help you with a wide variety of inflammatory symptoms long-term. Don’t settle for feeling poorly!
Inflamma-what? Are you Listening to Your Body?
Hi Tracy -
I’ve got a really basic question for you. I’m hearing all the time in the news and in stuff I read on the internet about inflammation. Inflammation in the body. What does that really mean? And what does it have to do with health? I thought inflammation is like when skin gets all red and scabby?
Confused and Curious
I help my clients to overcome a wide variety of issues, ailments, and diseases. And by far the most common challenge I see is chronic inflammation. You probably hear this term in the health media often now. But seldom is there an explanation given. As you ask, what IS inflammation? Why should you care?
Ultimately, chronic inflammation is at the root of almost every major disease in our society. Inflammation is our body’s natural response to injury. It’s why a cut or scrape gets hot, red, swollen, and oozy (quite ugly actually) before it heals with nary a mark. Isolated, targeted inflammation is healthy; it’s our body’s triage reaction. It’s required for healing. At a microscopic level, the white blood cells of our body secrete inflammatory chemicals (largely a family called cytokines) to communicate alarm throughout the body. They put the body into a stress mode that encourages repair. Ideally this happens only at a local level for a short time when there is true injury or trauma.
But what happens if the inflammation response gets triggered at the cellular level by our regular day-to-day life choices? Then it can manifest as any number of daily, bothersome symptoms such as headaches, tight muscles, achy joints, eczema, post nasal drip, depression, psoriasis, hypertension, brain fog, chronic fatigue, acid reflux, weight gain, insomnia, … The list is endless! These are often the very symptoms that many Americans simply pop a pill to overcome. But the pill usually doesn’t take away the root cause of the inflammation – just the outward expression of it. Sometimes inflammation is systemic (body-wide). Sometimes it manifests in a part of the body that is weak or was previously injured. Either way, it’s important not to ignore what our body is trying to tell us: our immune system is upset and something needs to change. If we want to maximize our vitality and avoid chronic disease (no matter what runs in your family!), we need to get to the bottom of chronic inflammation and eliminate the root cause.
Despite the myriad symptom combinations that can result in each unique body, chronic inflammation can only be caused by a surprisingly short list of insults: allergens, toxins, nutrient deficiencies, infections, and stress (emotional or physical). That’s it! And that’s what I help people to do: fit together the puzzle pieces to discover what’s holding them back from feeling fantastic every day. People are often amazed to discover that eczema or acne is being triggered by a particular food. Or arthritis in their knees and wrists is caused by an infection in the intestines. Or depression is caused by mercury. But while we’re on the discovery journey, we need to provide relief from inflammation, preferably without using a medication with harmful side effects. This year, I’m going to share a number of my secrets for helping people overcome inflammation naturally. This issue’s topic on curcumin is just the beginning – and one of my favorites!
Curried Lentil Stew
One of my oldest and most favorite recipes, this spicy soup is wonderful on a chilly day.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp curry powder (mild or hot – you decide)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- Ground cayenne to taste, or optional
- 2 32-oz container high-quality chicken or vegetable broth (no additives/MSG)
- 1 14.5-oz container of crushed tomatoes
- 1 lb. ground chicken or turkey or crumbled tempeh
- 1 cup lentils (rinsed and soaked for a couple hours in slightly acidic water)
- 2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut in small cubes
- 1 large bunch of kale, stalks and leaves separated (use two-handed stripping)
- Unrefined Sea salt (to taste)
Heat olive oil in a large stew pot. Add onion and finely sliced kale stalks and cook until soft – about 4 minutes. Add garlic, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne and cook an additional minute. Add protein and continue to sauté until lightly browned. Add tomatoes and lentils and stir well to disperse spices thoroughly. Add broth; start with 1 ½ cartons. Cover and simmer until lentils are tender (~20 minutes). Add sweet potatoes (and additional sea salt if necessary). If necessary, add more broth. Simmer until tender – about 10 minutes. Taste and add more curry powder and seasalt as desired. Coarsely chop kale leaves and add them now, stirring carefully to tame all pieces within the liquid. Cover and cook a final ten minutes.
What’s Tracy Been Up to Lately
Thank you to Lisa Beaudin (Ashland town Director, Nutrition Services) for the opportunity to present to all the Ashland town school system employees during their annual Professional Development Day. The talk Sustainable Energy: Easy Ways to Boost Your Energy All Day Long was presented to several hundred employees – to support their personal development & wellness too.
What Inspires Me, Issue 44
“If you see yourself as sick, you will be.
If you see yourself as well, you will be.
Every spiritual book in contemporary times sends us the same message. You must live the reality you wish to experience, beginning right now. Focus on your strengths. Appreciate them deeply and daily. See yourself doing the things you dream of. The Universe will get the message when you finally do.”