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The Ancestral Health, Functional Medicine Connection

21 April 2016 - Posted by Dr. Chris Oswald

Respecting Genetics Through Ancestral Health and Functional Medicine

Ancestral health and functional medicine are movements in healthcare rapidly increasing in acceptance and popularity among both patients and clinicians. Mounting research provides powerful support for each approach, but are the approaches really all that different? Each relies on a specific set of principles to guide the clinician through a healthcare decision-making process that recognizes the body’s ability to self-heal, while also providing interventions to support its efficient biochemical function.

Our modern lifestyles don’t necessarily honor how the human body prefers to be treated. Determining what might be the most appropriate lifestyle requires an understanding of genetic predisposition, environmental influences at play, and one’s current state of health. These are the keys to taking either the ancestral health or functional medicine approach. With each model, once you have gained insight into an individual’s goals and predispositions, one can derive a plan with a foundation that caters to each person’s biochemical individuality.

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Did You Know? Eat Seasonally for Optimal Health

21 April 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

Our Ancestors Ate Seasonally for Health and Survival

Our early ancestors were not eating strawberries imported from another country during the winter-time. They were forced to eat what was available to them both seasonally and locally. Perhaps this is the way we all should be eating! Those who follow a paleo eating philosophy, want to mimic the diet of our early ancestors within the context of a modern culture. The idea is to ensure sustainable health for both ourselves and for the environment by accessing fresh local food, with the highest bioavailable nutrient content.

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Healthy Reading: The Paleo Manifesto – Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health by John Durant

21 April 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

Welcome to the MicrobiomeThere are many paleo-diet books out there, explaining how to eat for optimal health. However, this book is very different. In fact, it isn’t a recipe or nutrition book. Durant actually shares the science and history behind the paleo lifestyle, and why it makes the most sense from a biological standpoint. Durant explains how following this lifestyle (all aspects of it, not just eating), can help with many modern health issues we face.

In the first section of the book Durant gives us an overview of the history behind the human diet. He discusses life in a zoo for animals, and the behavior changes the animals exhibit when removed from their natural habitat. This gives us an understanding of how important it is to know our roots as human animals!

To understand human health we have to study our own species, the human animal. We start by looking at how we lived as hunter-gatherers on the African savannah.

Durant details how early hunter-gatherer tribes typically went about their day, divided labor, how they dressed, and what they typically ate. Unlike our modern day diet staples, heavily comprised of gluten and dairy, the hunter-gatherers diet was very diverse.

Over the course of a year a diet might have included hundreds of wild plant species, dozens of wild mammals, fish, reptiles, and insects. Almost the entire animal could be eaten or put to use, including bones, organs and marrow. Roots and tubers were an important food source. The wild predecessors to grains, like wheat, corn or rice were negligible until late in the Paleolithic era, though some wild grasses were consumed.

In the second section of the book Durant describes how a paleo lifestyle can be incorporated in a modern world. He goes over every aspect of primal living, not just diet. Durant discusses principles for a healthy diet, fasting, movement, standing and walking, barefoot running, thermoregulation, sleep, and circadian rhythm. He takes ancient principles and describes how to incorporate this into your current lifestyle.

In the last part of the book, Durant discusses some of the more “taboo” aspects of the paleo lifestyle, such as actually hunting down, and fishing for your own food. He discusses vegetarianism and other ethical issues surrounding agriculture and the industrial food system.

Our industrial food system currently feeds the world, but has some serious health, ethical, and environmental drawbacks.

Durant concludes that our planet will be here for a very long time, even after we are gone. We are not destroying the planet, it’s a self correcting system. If we screw up, we destroy ourselves, not the earth.

The Paleo Manifesto covers history, archaeology, sociology of food, and throughout he carries a sense of humor that really keeps the reader engaged. This book gives readers an honest look at the Paleo Lifestyle. Durant doesn’t make it all about paleo eating, as many other authors do. He really delves into all the components of this lifestyle! Rather than listing out paleo “do’s” and “don’ts” Durant discusses the overall purpose of the paleo lifestyle, which is living for optimal health!

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History and Benefits of Clay

24 March 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

History of Clay

Minerals are the main source of life on our planet, and are imperative to our survival. Minerals are necessary for all processes in the body, including the assimilation of vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbs as well as biochemical functions that occur. Minerals help with everything from muscle contractions to the production of hormones. A natural source of all the minerals used and consumed by humans, for a variety of purposes, is clay.

Dating back to the prehistoric era, the earliest humans used clay to treat minor ailments such as food poisoning, aches and pains, infections, and mineral deficiencies. They even turned to clay for spa and beauty treatments.1

There are indications that homo erectus and homo neanderthalensis used ochres mixed with water and different types of mud to cure wounds, to soothe irritations, as a method of skin cleaning, etc. This might be due to their mimicking animals, many of which instinctively use minerals for such purposes.2

The first written reference known to exist upon the use of ‘‘stones,” and a description of their mineral benefits, dates to Rome, 60 BC. Throughout ancient history, clay has been used topically for soothing the skin, as well as internally for gastrointestinal issues. Aristotle (384–322 BC) made the first reference to the deliberate eating of earth, soil, or clay by humans (for therapeutic and religious purposes). Later, Marco Polo described how in his travels he saw Muslim pilgrims cure fevers by ingesting ‘‘pink earth’’. This practice is still followed in certain countries and communities for therapeutic purposes, or even to relieve famine.2

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Did You Know: Not All Magnesium is the Same?

24 March 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

The Difference between Magnesium Chloride and Magnesium Sulfate

Winding down at the end of the day with a magnesium soak is an amazing way to calm the body and ease into restful sleep. Magnesium baths are great for stress relief, muscle soreness after working out, improving circulation, relieving headaches, joint pain, skin conditions, and much more. Did you know that not all magnesium soaks are equal? There is actually a big difference between magnesium bath flakes and epsom salts.

Magnesium bath flakes are made from magnesium chloride. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate. Although both contain a form of magnesium, magnesium chloride is much better suited for topical application.

According to Dr. Sircus, magnesium chloride is a most important and vital mineral required for life. Without magnesium chloride, the human body would be unable to maintain fluids in blood vessels, conduct nerve transmissions, move muscles, or maintain proper kidney function. Magnesium chloride is a highly soluble, potent form of magnesium for fast-acting topical uses.1

Magnesium chloride is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.

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Healthy Reading: Bentonite Clay. 30 Natural Recipes for Health and Beauty, by Lorraine Nightingale

24 March 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

Welcome to the MicrobiomeBentonite Clay: 30 Natural Recipes for Health and Beauty is a great little e-book containing 30 natural recipes utilizing bentonite clay for enhancing your health and beauty. The book is clearly written, and the recipes are easy to follow with simple ingredients that aren’t too difficult to find. Some of the ingredients include olive oil, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, chamomile, and aloe vera gel. Most of the ingredients can be found at a health food store, or can be ordered online.

Nightingale starts the book off by giving us the basics of bentonite clay. She includes the benefits of incorporating clay into your routine, how clay works, and why using bentonite clay, as an ingredient in homemade skin products, is better to use than products that may contain harsh ingredients. She shares some interesting information about how versatile clay can be while incorporating it into a beauty routine.

We are then introduced to 30 awesome bentonite clay recipes! Some of the recipes include an acne mask, face cleanser, skin calming mask, mascara, tattoo lightener, poultices for skin issues, toothpaste, and even products for baby. There is a chapter dedicated to how using clay can help when recovering from radiation, by pulling some of the residual toxins away from the body.

This book is short, and simple! If you are a do-it-yourself person who cares about the products you are using on your body, this is just the book for you. I found it easy to read, fun, and I’m excited to try out the recipes!

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Healthy Reading: Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

7 March 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

Welcome to the MicrobiomeTeaming with Microbes teaches the reader all about the nutrients needed in our soil, and explains how depleted our soils currently are. There is a beneficial biology taking place within our soil, and when we use chemicals and fertilizers we are killing off beneficial bacteria. This in turn impacts the health of the food grown in the soil, which the animals we consume are eating.

The authors review all there is to know about the microbiology of the “soil food web.” There are fascinating colonies of life within healthy soil. These complex communities of bacteria, fungi, ants, and insects work together symbiotically to create nutrient rich soil. When we upset this delicate symbiotic relationship, we upset the integrity of our gardens, our food, our health, and the health of the environment.

In addition to all the living organisms you can see in garden soil (for example, there are up to 50 earthworms in a square foot of good soil), there is a whole world of soil organisms you cannot see, unless you use sophisticated and expensive optics. Only then do the tiny, microscopic organisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes-appear, and in numbers that are nothing less than staggering. A mere teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, and a few dozen nematodes.

Teaming with Microbes is divided into two sections. As mentioned above, the first section is an explanation of soil and the soil food web. The authors believe that the reader has to learn the science behind soil quality before they can actually apply it into their own gardening practices. The second section teaches the reader how to “work” the soil food web to the advantage of the gardener. They provide fascinating information on how to preserve the integrity of soil, and still have that amazing garden!

In this book, there is a strong emphasis on biology and microbiology of the soil. All soil science is covered! The authors want the reader to appreciate the synergy between soil organisms, and to become a better steward to the environment. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the impact soil diversity has on our environment, and wants to truly understand the delicate life of soil!

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Did You Know? Supplements Alone Won’t Do It

25 February 2016 - Posted by Dr. Chris Oswald


People walk into my practice all the time with grocery bags full of dietary supplements. As I discuss the rest of their lifestyle with them, I begin to realize they are living on fast food burgers, pizza, and soda pop.

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Healthy Reading: Welcome to the Microbiome by Rob DeSalle and Susan L. Perkins.

2 February 2016 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

Welcome to the MicrobiomeDesalle and Perkins wrote Welcome to the Microbiome to give the reader a better understanding of all the different colonies of microbes that live on, in and around us. The authors discuss the function of various microbes and the mechanism by which they interact with us, depending upon their specific “habitat” or community.

The first part of the book discusses our ancestors, diseases, and the history of how we came to understand microbes. It explores the recent paradigm shift in the past year or so, as to how we view the microbial world. Up until recently, we treated all bacteria as “bad” or pathogenic. We are now realizing that there are vast communities of bacteria that have a symbiotic relationship with our body, one in which we need to respect.

The paradigm shift from a focus on single pathogenic organisms to understanding communities of organisms living in and on us has been possible because of a revolution in technology that allows us to “see” the extent of microbial diversity in small niches in and on our body.

Desalle and Perkins discuss how we can sequence our microbes with signatures or barcodes for different species. The microbes on our body change with age and are even different between sexes! These authors identified many of the different communities of microbes that inhabit our body, and teach us just how large and diverse these communities are, as well as the roles they play. They also discuss how our diet and exposure to chemicals can damage these symbiotic communities, and negatively impact our health.

Desalle and Perkins go on to discuss viruses and diseases, how these viruses evolved and developed, and how different species of microbes act together to make us ill. Our bodies have co-evolved to live with microbes, and so have developed some defenses against the ones that have potential to be pathogenic. They take into account the immune system and how our systems evolved to deal with infections over millions of years co-existing with these microbes. This part of the book was interesting and fascinating. We are opening ourselves up to explore a whole new world, and an entirely different paradigm for how we treat viruses and bacteria.

By the end of the book, you begin to look at your body as a complex ecosystem that we have evolved with-rather than just one single organism. Desalle and Perkins passionately teach us how to take better care of our microbes. Overall this was a very informative read, and highly recommended for anyone looking to better understand the human microbiome.

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Top Health Promoting Activities of the Microbiome

2 February 2016 - Posted by Enviromedica

Did You Know the Microbiome Lives Outside Your Gut?

The Microbiome is not limited to only the digestive tract. The microbiome exists on the skin, in the mouth, throughout the entire digestive tract, and anywhere else a mucous membrane exists. The healthy function and appropriate balance of the microbiota carry incredible power in impacting an individual’s overall health. When things start to go awry, effects can be throughout the body and many times be difficult to link back to the current state of the microbiome.

As we learn more from the data derived from the Human Microbiome Project, we are struck with the realization that the function of the microbiome is inextricably linked to the healthy function of the entire body; The effects reach far and wide with some being easier to connect to microbiome health and others a bit more challenging to see.

Let’s review a few systems in the body and how a healthy, properly functioning microbiome provides support.

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