No Dairy? No Problem. Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium

Fortified soy beverage, 1 cup: 300 mg

Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate, ½ cup: 258 mg

White beans, cooked, 1 cup: 202 mg

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans), cooked, 1 cup: 80.4 mg

Salmon, canned with bones, ½ cup: 181 mg

Sardines, canned with bones, 1 (92g) can: 251 mg

Almonds, ¼ cup: 103 mg

Sesame Seeds, paste (tahini), 1 tbsp: 63.9 mg

Figs, dried, 5 medium: 90 mg

Bok choy, cooked, ½ cup: 84 mg

Kale, cooked, 1 cup: 93.6 mg

Collards, cooked, 1 cup: 266 mg

Rapini, boiled, ½ cup: 78 mg

Okra, boiled, ½ cup: 65 mg

 

References:
Canadian Nutrient Files,
USDA nutrient database for standards records
(via www.nutrititiondata.com and
Nutrition Almanac by John Kirshman & Nutrition Search, Inc. McGraw-Hill, 2007.)

“I drink milk for my bones”

 Dr Mahalia Freed ND, nutritional myth-buster

I regularly encounter the myth that we need dairy products for healthy bones. My clients tell me they don’t want to give up dairy, as osteoporosis runs in their family. Or, they tell me, “I don’t want to do that to my kids”.

Let me set the record straight: you don’t need milk products for healthy bones!

Adults don’t need dairy, kids don’t need dairy.

But, don’t I need calcium? Don’t my kids need calcium?

Yup. And many other minerals.

You don’t need milk products to get calcium!

As stated by researchers in a recent (July 2013) editorial in JAMA Paediatrics, “Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet.”

But I thought I needed milk products for healthy bones!

Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis” (Ludwig D and Willett W. 2013).

Furthermore, “Milk consumption increases serum concentrations of insulin-like growth factor-1, an anabolic hormone linked to prostate and other cancers” (ibid). Why increase cancer risk? Or the risk of type 1 diabetes, also associated with dairy intake?

Ludwig and Willett conclude: “For those with high quality diets (including green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and adequate protein), the nutritional benefits of high milk consumption may not outweigh the negative consequences.”

Milk, it doesn’t necessarily do your body good. You don’t need it, and neither do your kids.

More info on bones, calcium, and health:

What do I do for healthy bones?

Where (else) can I get calcium?

Healthy bones need which nutrients?

HPV Facts

I am in the midst of preparing a lecture on Cervical Dysplasia, Cervical Cancer & HPV for my Women’s & Men’s Health students at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. So, I am happily armed with new research to answer your questions.

This is a fact sheet I made up ages ago that never made it onto my website. It was meant to accompany the article on Cervical Dysplasia and HPV. Sometimes having facts like these handy can go a long way to ease anxiety about confusing medical diagnoses like “abnormal pap”.

HPV Facts

  • HPV refers to the Human Papilloma Virus, which is actually a group of over one hundred different viruses. Thirty to forty of these target the anogenital tissues (others cause plantar warts, for instance).
  • HPV is associated with cervical cancer – around 90% of the time.
  • 15 types of HPV are considered “high risk” in terms of their association with cervical cancer.
  • 4 types of HPV cause genital warts. These types are actually classified as “low risk” because they are not associated with cervical cancer.
  • HPV is sexually transmitted – via any skin to skin contact (eg finger-genital, genital-genital, genital-anus). Because it lives on skin, condoms do not prevent transmission (incidentally, neither does the spermicide nonoxynol-9). Also because it lives on skin, transmission occurs between women. Even women who have only ever had female sexual partners test positive for HPV. Oh, and for those of you who worry about these things, the virus CANNOT be transmitted by inanimate objects like toilet seats. Rest assured.
  • HPV infection is usually transient, meaning our bodies can clear the infection. And we might never know we have it. According to one medical reference, “ the overwhelming majority of [HPV] infections are cleared by the host immune system and never present as warts or neoplasia”.
  • HPV is common: Up to 80% of young women (usually defined in the studies as under 30, but sometimes younger) have HPV at any given time. According to the most common estimates, 75-80% of individuals of reproductive age have had an HPV infection. While HPV is most often found in abnormally growing cells, it is also found in healthy normal cells, indicating that the virus is not the entire cause of abnormal cell growth. So, HPV doesn’t always cause cancer, and not all cancer is associated with HPV. This is critical to understanding the complex etiology of dysplasia.
  • Gardasil, the new HPV vaccine, targets only four HPV types: 6, 11, 16, & 18. The former two types are associated with warts, and the latter are the two most commonly associated with cancer out of the 15 high-risk types. So, to clarify, the vaccine, which is based on the over-simplified notion that HPV causes cancer, does not even protect against all the high-risk strains of HPV, and of course does not address the myriad of other factors that contribute to whether or not someone has persistent dysplasia. Clearly, then, this is not a prevent cancer vaccine, exactly.
  • Gardasil, then, is a vaccine against four out of one hundred types of HPV.

Meditation is good for you. The Evidence from a Reluctant Meditator

by Mahalia Freed, ND

It took me years of resisting and suffering to develop and sustain a regular meditation practice. I share my tips and lessons in this article, Confessions of a Reluctant Meditator, or Tips for Fitting Meditation into Your Life.

If you are the kind of person who likes to know the why of things, here is a very brief summary of why meditating will be beneficial for you, too:

The evidence

As a naturopathic doctor I am well-versed in the evidence and clinical applications for meditation. It is amazing how effective various kinds of meditation can be. An unsophisticated PubMed search on the term “meditation” yields 2, 215 studies. Depression? Meditation may be as effective as medication. Cancer? Meditation improves mood, sleep, immune system, quality of life. Stress? Meditate to lower blood pressure. Heart disease? Yup. Meditation helps. Indeed, mindfulness-based stress reduction for heart disease, chronic pain and many other conditions is taught at hospitals and in private practices across North America based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD.

Even more compellingly, my clients are a fantastic and inspiring bunch. They tell me that meditation practice helps them manage anxiety, gives them energy when their work involves long hours and traveling, keeps them happier, helps them connect more with their friends and family. So not only do I know about the benefits from reading the studies, I know about it from clinical practice.

The bullet points:

  • It feels good.
  • It is free.
  • It can help restore emotional clarity and balance, making you feel better if you are stressed or sad.
  • It can energize you when you feel tired (though it’s not a substitute for quality sleep, you type A’s out there!).
  • It can help you tap your inner wisdom when you feel uncertain about a decision.
  • It can reclaim stillness from the frenzied pace of modern day life, readjusting the skewed balance between being and doing.
  • It can reconnect you with your intuition and creativity.
  • It will give you unexpected gifts (for me this has included concrete reassurance when things felt dire, and recently, the name of a remedy I hadn’t consciously heard of that was the perfect fit for someone in my care with a complex clinical case).
  • It doesn’t have to be hard.

Want some tips to help you find a way to integrate meditation into your full life? Get started here. And please share what works and doesn’t for you!

Confessions of a Reluctant Meditator, or Tips for Fitting Meditation Into Your Life

by Mahalia Freed, ND

I am delighted to tell you that I proved myself wrong this year.

In the past 12 months I have gone from a firm, “meditation is for other people” identity, to being a person who strategizes to find that time in my day.

Huge shift!

Yup, despite ‘knowing better’ via the clinical evidence I saw regularly and the clear benefits in the research, I was sure it was something I couldn’t do. I truly believed that meditation was great for other people – but not for me. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t quiet my mind, didn’t feel “good” at it. And you know, overachievers like me, we like to be good at things right away.

In effect, I was seeking less challenge, more comfort zone.

Sound familiar?

But, why leave the comfort zone? Well, you can’t grow in the comfort zone. And I got to the point where the benefits of growth outweighed my need for the ‘safety’ of the familiar. I felt like there was more within me but I couldn’t access it. I was frustrated. And stressed out. The tools I had weren’t enough to get me where I wanted to go. And then one more person told me meditation would allow me to get there, right after I finally found the type of meditation that resonates with me (see lesson #1 below). And I tried it. And I liked it. So I did it again. And again. Interestingly, leaving the comfort zone has felt great. So much for holding ourselves back to avoid hard, painful things. In retrospect, resisting meditation was a lot more painful.

I share this in case you – unlike myself – are gifted with the ability to learn from other people’s mistakes rather than needing to make them all yourself.

I hope you find the lessons I’ve learned and the tips I’ve gathered helpful on your own journeys. Why? Because meditation IS good for you (details and evidence via this link).

My two important lessons:

1)    There is no ‘one-size fits all’ with meditation, just like there is no one magic nutritional supplement that is right for everyone. Once I realized this, I stopped trying to fit myself into someone else’s favorite kind of meditation. I found one that was right for me. As someone with a short attention span and a tendency to be “doing” all the time, Shamanic journeying fits, as it gives me a focused something to do while I am breathing and observing. I found I really liked how I felt afterwards. And I liked the gifts it brought me, each and every time. Even when I approached it metaphorically kicking and screaming. Simple – and eventually kind of addictive, in the good way.

2)    Limiting my personal growth with pronouncements like, “meditation is for other people” is only as fun as laughing at myself is later on – when I prove myself completely wrong, again. I am now resolved to limit the limiting pronouncements.

Tips for incorporating regular meditation into your already full life:

1)    Most importantly, be a seeker. Be open and find the sort of meditation practice that works for you. Is it Transcendental? Mindfulness-based stress reduction? Guided meditation? Visualization? Chanting? Shamanic journeying? One of the many specific yogic meditation practices, from Kundalini chanting and breathwork to Sahaja yoga’s mental silence? One of many Buddhist meditation practices? Walking? Sitting in nature? Prayer?

Once you’ve found something that works for you,

2)    Schedule it into your planner. Block off the time or it will get swallowed by the many important tasks and even greater number of unimportant distractions that gobble up our days. Very first thing in the morning is the most popular time to set aside time for stillness. Interesting, isn’t it? Here is the tone for the day: Calm, still, centered, grounded. When you put it like that, why don’t we all do it?

3)    If possible, create a corner in your home that is set up for meditation. Having the space ready, welcoming and comfortable removes some practical and psychological obstacles. It doesn’t have to be a separate room, though it is helpful to have a door that closes if you share your house with others.

4)    Do it together. Meditating weekly with a group can help to deepen and reinforce your home practice. Or meditate with others in your household!

5)    Modern times, modern technology. Use YouTube and other electronic resources. Seriously. Whether you are looking for guided visualization or shamanic drumming, you can find it online, for free. Use those 10 minute clips as your company or motivation if this is helpful.

6)    Be flexible about the details. At the cottage for the weekend? Meditate on the dock. Meeting cancelled? Close your office door, close your eyes and breathe into your heart centre for 10 minutes.

For more about stress management and the impact of meditation on your brain, see for instance Alice Walton’s article, Eat, Smoke, Meditate: Why Your Brain Cares How You Cope.

Ready to take stress management to the next level? Want to use meditation as a tool for getting clear as you “feel your way forward” to total health? Join us for our popular seminar, Stress 3.0: Feeling Your Way Forward to Total Health (dates under Events).

What works for you? What doesn’t? Share your meditation experiences on my facebook wall or via twitter. Change is possible, folks, and it feels good!

Remembering Rachel Carson

by Mahalia Freed, ND

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson is one of my heroes, and May 27th was her birthday. There are many reasons to honor her memory and her work by sharing a small piece of her story. Author of the seminal book on the impact of pesticides on environmental health, Silent Spring (1962)(View book), she died of breast cancer in 1964, at age 56. A biologist and writer with a deep passion for the natural world, Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and by so-called “men of science” for her research. Not only did many people try to deny the truth of what she was saying, but they dismissed her for the simple fact of her biology; that she was a woman, working as a scientist and a writer at a time when this in itself was a challenge. According to biographer Linda Lear, Carson “courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment”(from www.rachelcarson.org).

Why beat this “pesticides are bad” thing over the head? Don’t we already know that pesticides cause serious, irreparable damage to human health? DDT was in fact eventually banned in North America after Carson sounded the alarm about the carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting insecticide. A leftover from WWII, DDT went from killing malaria-carrying mosquitoes in combat zones to killing the pesky mosquitoes that are abundant in North American summer. Although it was never tested, and it was known to kill a wide variety of insects on contact, it was advertised as safe & healthy for kids. It was even sprayed over them at swimming pools.

Thank you, Miss Rachel Carson, for this victory for us, the creatures of the earth.

But now, this year? There remain in use hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals whose safety has never been proven, and this is the toxic soup in which we swim.

Let us not forget, we all live downstream. There is no safe place to spray Atrazine, a popular water-soluble pesticide that turns male frogs into females when it contaminates their habitat. There is no safe place to emit heavy-metal-contaminated smoke, known to affect sex development and asthma rates in children. We all live downstream.

Let us Remember Rachel Carson, and continue on in her effort. Let us wonder at the beauty and the mysteries of the earth, and speak out against environmental destruction.

(To learn more about Atrazine – banned in Europe in 2004, but still heavily and current usage/campaigns to ban its use, see this treehugger article, sign this petition to ban atrazine in the US and search for local campaigns.)

For more information about environment, health, and action you can take, see:

http://environmentaldefence.ca/

http://www.ewg.org/

http://www.panna.org/

http://www.womenshealthyenvironments.ca/

and many others.

Plastics, Pesticides and Periods: Xenoestrogens and Health

Yes, there is a connection between hormonal balance and exposure to pesticides and certain plastics. That connection is xenoestrogens, an ever-expanding group of synthetic chemicals similar enough to our own estrogens that our bodies respond to them, but foreign enough that we cannot adequately get rid of them. They can build up in our bodies, stimulating estrogen-sensitive tissues and throwing off our delicate hormone balance. Xenoestrogens are linked to breast growth in prepubescent girls, gynecological concerns such as PMS, hot flashes, endometriosis and fibroids, and have clearly been shown to enhance the growth of breast cancer tumors. Studies also suggest that xenoestrogens decrease sperm counts in men, contribute to increased rates of testicular cancer and affect developing reproductive systems in utero. Thus, effective treatment & resolution of any of the above concerns must address this class of chemicals.

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10 Tips for Breast Health

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breast_anatomy

Lately it seems like pretty much everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer. Indeed, current statistics are that 1 in 9 women in Canada will get breast cancer in her lifetime. Understandably, this reality and the associated media attention has created a lot of fear. But what the media doesn’t emphasize is that the majority of cancer is caused by “diet & lifestyle” and environmental factors rather than genetic heredity, which in fact accounts for only about 7% of breast cancer.

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The Kale Crusader Speaks

kale

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Sunshine! Blossoms! Longer days! What do our bodies need, as we move gratefully into Spring & Summer and increased outward activity? Part of any naturopathic treatment plan is optimizing nutrition. Just as in a garden you prepare and enrich the soil before you plant, so food choices nourish your body, so that you may flourish and achieve your health goals. Whether your current concern is increasing energy or enhancing fertility, ensuring that your foundational nutrients are as strong as possible is a priority. And, it is something you can do for yourself and for those with whom you share meals.

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