Sunday, August 29, 2010

Air Purifying House Plants

These are the two little plants in our bedroom that we count on to purify our bedroom air. 
The extent to which they can clean our air is unknown but what we do know is that new infrastructure and construction sites are rising up all over the city, road maintenance is a regular occurrence, and smog produced by our daily usage of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and coal, are major contributors to Toronto’s poor air quality and pollution.

North Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. We would except that this would decrease our exposure to air bound toxins. However, air quality indoors is often times just as, if not more, toxic! There are at least 300 known toxic substances found indoors ranging from insulation, sealants, paints, to household cleaners, detergents, and even carpet. Three most common air pollutants found indoors are formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene. Poor indoor air quality often results to a condition called Sick Building Syndrome which includes symptoms such as allergies, asthma, eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, fatigue, sinus and respiratory congestion.

In the 1970s, NASA conducted many studies in search for solutions to maintain air quality inside confined spaces (e.g. space pods). Results showed that plants, through the process of photosynthesis, can break down contaminants and greatly reduce indoor air pollutants!

It is recommended to have one mid-sized houseplant per 100 square feet in your home or office.

Here is a list of the top plants that will help to naturally detoxify indoor air for cleaner breathing:

Bamboo Palm
Chinese Evergreen
English Ivy
Gerbera Daisy
Janet Craig
Mass cane/Corn Plant
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
Pot Mum
Peace Lily

In addition to air purification and detoxification, plants can add many additional benefits:
-  Studies have found that plants can help to reduce stress (lowers blood pressure and heart rate).
-  Plants can help with productivity and creativity as they allow us to relax and focus
-  Plants can keep the air in our homes from getting too dry by increasing humidity
-  Plants aid in reducing noise - add a few by your windows to reduce noise from outside

Add a few plants to your home and give them some TLC. They offer you so much in return!

Give a plant a home today!
If you need further assistance or want to purchase air-purifying houseplants, contact Paul (he is super knowledgeable and very, very nice!) at Bloom The Flower Company (1009 Yonge Street, at Crescent Road), 416.324.9900.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Officially Fall: Does the Cold Weather Cause The Cold/Flu? Tips on How to Adapt to the Cooler Weather

I know it's not Sept. 21st yet but for me, there are 3 things that make it Fall:

1.  For the first time since Spring, the weather is cool enough that I wanted to come home and take a warm lavender bubble bath, make a cup of tea (it's the first Saturday in months that we didn't come home and open up a bottle of white wine!) and then pull out extra blankets for Makoto, Rambo and me.

2.  While at our friend's (gorgeous) penthouse abode, I had a bird's eye view of the luscious green trees turning red in Allan Gardens.....tear.

3.  I picked up the September issues of Vogue and Bazaar....this confirms that it's officially Fall.

In Chinese medicine, many philosophies on health are directly related to the changes in seasons.  As leaves fall off trees, flowers stop blooming and several plants become dormant, they are conserving their energy in their seeds and roots to prepare and survive the winter.  We should also take cues from nature and use this time to conserve our energy as the Fall and Winter are designated the "yin" seasons where our bodies priorities shift towards recharging and nurturing our "qi" (inner energy).

Now...this doesn't mean stock up on cheetos and become a couch potato until March.  But it does mean that the Fall and Winter are a fantastic time for renewing, exploring, starting fresh and taking care of yourself.  I make a lot of referenes to Chinese Medicine in this blog post so you'll either think this is interesting or that I'm talking about a lot of mystical voodoo weirdness, but whichever camp you are on (or maybe somewhere in between) I hope you can take something from these tips which can help you stay healthy and happy during the Fall and Winter:

Weird Health Fads Review #4: The Master Cleanse

Often called "The Lemonade Diet" or "Maple Syrup Cleanse" the Master Cleanse became popular (as most health fads do) as a result of the Hollywooders. Although created with the intention of being a cleanse or detox, it is most often misused as a crash weight loss program.

Originally concocted in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs, an alternative health practitioner, it has increased exponentially in popularity in the last decade. It is quite a simple program as there is only the "lemonade" solution consumed during the detox period. The length of time suggested ranges from 10 to 40 days...this is without any food, only the lemonade.

The solution is a mixture of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, dark unrefined maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Taste-wise, the Master Cleanse solution is actually not bad - goes down like a natural tangy lemonade.
The theory with this cleanse, as with other fasts, is that the lack of food gives the body a break to recuperate and repair its tissues. Lemon juice provides vitamin C and electrolytes, maple syrup provides natural sugar and minerals, and cayenne pepper increases circulation and sweating.

The composition of the lemonade provides basics to sustain the body during a fast, but unsupervised, this can be quiet dangerous particularly with underlying health conditions and/or medication. The other problem is that fasting, although targeted to eliminate toxins from the body as a result of nothing else being consumed by the body, can actually do the opposite.
Metabolic detoxification pathways in the liver require many nutrient co-factors that can be depleted during a fast. Because of this, toxic metabolite intermediates may actually back up in the body or be prevented from being properly eliminated. Proper foods and nutrients should be supplemented with to support the detoxification process. Without this support, it actually defeats the purpose of cleansing.

Short-term, under medical supervision, The Master Cleanse can have benefits for some people, but I would not recommend doing this for longer than a 2-3 day period without food. And to reiterate, this is only after a thorough medical assessment and under supervision.

Many people use this cleanse as a quick weight loss program, which will absolutely work in the short-term, but as most diets that put the body in a state of ketosis (or starvation) will have a rebound effect as you reintroduce food. You will quickly regain the weight you lost, and often more than previous, as your body wants to protect itself from starvation again.

I think the cleanse lemonade solution is a great adjunct to a normal healthy diet, taken first thing in the morning, or even as a natural homemade Gatorade replacement (with a pinch of salt and baking soda added), but would not recommend it for extended periods of time.

REVIEW (out of 10):
Weird Factor: 5
Safety Rating: 3
Health Benefit: 4

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What We Learned from a 15 Year Old

My little cousin Andrew (aka Andy Pandy or Drew-Poo :)) stayed with us for a few days at the end of July/early August.  He just came off of a 2 week trip to Washington and New York where he was chosen to represent Canada in a youth leadership conference and his days were filled with learning about international politics and world banking.....he's also the captain of his volleyball team, a debate champ, reads The Economist on his free time and dresses like a fashion model.  Oh, did I mention he's 15 years old?!?!?  At 15, my main priority was to get home in time to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Makoto's hottest outfit at age 15 was his red sweat pants and matching Spiderman shirt.

Makoto and I were completely entertained by him and realized that 15 is not what it used to be.  Here are a few things that we learned from him:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gluten-Free Beers and other Alcohol Options for Celiacs or Gluten-Sensitive Folk

Nothing is as refreshing as a cold one on a hot summer day.

For the increasingly many who are either gluten-sensitive or suffer from celiac disease, options may seem limited for enjoying a drink on the patio with friends. But fear not...there are actually a good selection of options available.

Firstly, wine, and its fortified counterparts (sherry, port) are all safe. As a general rule, there are no gluten containing ingredients used in wine production.

Secondly, essentially any pure distilled spirit such as whiskey, rye, vodka and gin will lose its prolamin (celiac-aggravating proteins that include gluten and gliadin) content during the distillation process. As a result, it does not matter whether the initial fermentation uses gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye or barley, as long as the final product is a result of distillation. The only caveat to this is if there is some gluten-containing ingredient added after the distillation process (ie. in some kind of weird mixed drink concoction).

Beer on the other hand, is fermented from barley malt or a mix of other grains (rye, wheat, oats)with barley. Because these standard grains contains gluten and this is not broken down or extracted in the fermentation process, beer is sadly excluded as an option for those with gluten sensitivities. The great news is that there are an increasing number of breweries that are catching on to this predicament, and are producing gluten-free beer options.
Rejoice, celiacs!

Keep in mind that because they are brewed from non-standard grains, they have a slightly different taste, but not difficult to get accustomed to. It is still beer after all.

For Canadians, there is the health-conscious Quebec brewery, Les Bieres de la Nouvelle France, which has not one but TWO gluten-free and preservative-free beer options. La Messagere and La Messagere Red Ale are both derived from buckwheat and rice and are available across Canada.

Albertans give us Bard's Beer, founded by Craig Belser and Kevin Seplowitz, both diagnosed celiacs who could not stand a miserable life without beer, and brought us their popular beer derived from sorghum.

American beer-makers, Lakefront Brewery, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also has a gluten-free beer available. Their beer is called New Grist, which is brewed from rice and sorghum (a gluten-free grain from the grass family).

Brewing giant, Budweiser, has gotten on the bandwagon by partnering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and providing us with Redbridge Beer, another sorghum-based gluten-free beer, available widely in the States, but unfortunately not yet to us Canucks, as far as I know.


Monday, August 9, 2010

How much Calcium do we need? Non-Dairy Calcium Sources Exists!

It amazes me how many of my patients can make the link between dairy milk consumption and their maldigestion symptoms (ex. stomach aches, gas, bloating, diarrhea) yet they continue to drink it because they "need the calcium!".  So let's chat about non-dairy sources of calcium.

Calcium is super important as it is the most abundant mineral in the body and needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth as well as play a role in preventing osteoporosis. 

Recommended Intake of Calcium:
Infants (up to 12mos) - 200mg per day
Children (1-4yo) - 500mg per day
Children (4-8yo) - 800mg per day
Children (9-13) - 1300mg per day
Adults (18-50yo) - 1000mg per day
Adults (>50yo) - 1500mg per day

1 cup of milk has 300mg of calcium...but 1 cup of cooked collard greens has over 350mg!  Here are some other non-dairy sources of calcium:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bulk Barn Healthy Options & Gluten-Free Section

Aileen and I work and live in downtown Toronto, and as such we hardly encounter Bulk Barn, which always seems to be somewhere in a random plaza in the burbs. We happened to be out on the northwest end of Toronto this past weekend, and stumbled across a Bulk Barn.

We all have fond memories of Bulk Barn...pretending not to notice the "Do Not Sample" signs, and tasting - just a few - of every awesome snack available. We were quite impressed with the extensive gluten-free section. (Note that although these are labelled gluten-free, this is more applicable to gluten-sensitivities rather than celiac disease, in which case bulk sections are not recommended due to cross contamination with trace amounts of gluten).

The gluten-free options range from almost every type of whole grain (organic quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, and a great variety of rices) to flours and pancake mixes to gluten-free pasta.

Of course, prices are reasonable as a result of being sold in bulk and use much less packaging...I think they would actually be even cheaper, but Bulk Barn must be taking into account the "snack factor" that we all have been guilty of.

Other awesome finds: Cassava chips, bulk almond and sunflower seed butter, apple butter, tamari almonds, honey-coated sunflower seeds, dried herbs, pinatas, and cool cake and pastry molds. And since this blog is all about healthy compromises and honesty, of course, we had to get a selection of some nostalgic childhood candies. Aileen loves her gummy green mint leaves and blue sharks, and I love my red lips and sour keys. Mm mmm.

Heard there is a Bulk Barn just at Leslie and Lakeshore, just a few minutes from downtown...I think we will be paying it a visit once our new stash of clear-bagged goodies starts to dwindle down.

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