immune support

  • Going WILD with Bitter Melon for Blood Sugar Support

    Not long ago, ScienceDaily published an article entitled, “A Ton of Bitter Melon Produces Sweet Results For Diabetes.” This headline is but one of many recent announcements regarding the benefits of an ancient vegetable that is a culinary treat throughout much of the world. Unfortunately, bitter melon and its many benefits remain unknown to most Americans.

    Bitter melon grows in the tropical and subtropical areas of the East Africa, Asia, India, South America and the Caribbean. It is used traditionally as both food and medicine in all of these areas. Momordica charantia goes by many names and is known as bitter melon, bitter gourd, balsam pear, karela, and pare. Most Westerners will identify bitter melon as looking like a pale green or green cucumber with warts. Indian varieties may be whitish to gray-green, as well. Commercial cultivars can range up to a foot or more in length, whereas wild bitter melon varieties may measure only an inch or so, more than making up for their small size with greater bitterness and intense flavor. The gourd becomes more bitter as it ripens. As a food, unripe bitter melon is used fresh in salads, cooked into soups and curries, employed as a flavoring for eggs, meat and so forth.

    Long popular as part of the cuisine of South Asia and China, bitter melon today is conquering new gastronomic territories. Okinawans, renowned for longevity, are extremely fond of a small local variety reputed to confer health benefits. From Okinawa and other sources, bitter melon is becoming increasingly widespread on the Japanese mainland. This reflects an East Asian trend typical of Korea as well as Japan: Highly flavored and colored nutrient-dense foods are being adopted as everyday sources of health. Hence black and red rice, black garlic, bitter melon and other such foods and condiments are being embraced.

    A Plethora of Benefits
    Almost every part of the Momordica charantia plant has been used in traditional medical practices, including not just the fruit, but also the leaves/vines, seeds and roots. Folk and traditional systems often suggest bitter melon for microbial infections, sluggish digestion and intestinal gas, menstrual stimulation, wound healing, inflammation, fever reduction, hypertension, and as a laxative and emetic. All these benefits are from a plant with fruit that has been proven safe by centuries of oral consumption. The only concern generally of note is that bitter melon seed consumption is not recommended for those seeking to become pregnant.

    In South Asia, bitter melon is recommended to support immune health. Some of the effects are direct and some are indirect. Benefits include the inhibition of the growth of a variety of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, including E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus and H. pylori. Extracts, similarly, according to in vitro studies, appear to have an impact on a number of viruses. For instance, bitter melon constituents may prevent viral penetration of the cell wall. Immune effects include support for healthy T-helper cell ratios, natural killer cell populations and related mechanisms.

    With current problems involving overweight and obesity, some of the more attractive actions of bitter melon involve controlling weight gain in the face of the consumption of excessive calories. Animal studies have demonstrated that bitter melon can reduce insulin resistance and visceral obesity caused by a high-fat diet. Similarly, bitter melon may be protective against many damaging results of high fructose diets, including diet-induced hyperglycemia, hyperleptinemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. The American Medical Association currently is recommending that added sugars should not account for more than five percent of the diet, yet added sugar, especially fructose and “corn” sugars, are found everywhere in the American food supply, although often hidden. Bitter melon may offer some nutritional protection against these added sugars.

    Traditional uses and preclinical research provide a very positive picture of bitter melon. Human trials have confirmed many of these findings. In clinical trials, the fresh fruit, its freshly squeezed juice and the homogenized suspension of bitter melon have led to significant reductions in both fasting and postprandial blood glucose. The caveat is that the successful trials in the literature as a rule have used almost exclusively fresh preparations. For whatever reasons, dry extracts have not fared well in clinical trials. Perhaps this is due to the fact that dry extracts usually are concentrated for charantins even though, according to some research, charantins, the saponins commonly selected for “standardized” preparations, may be inactive or only weakly active. Another possibility is that the most active compounds in bitter melon rapidly deteriorate in most dried powders and extracts.

    If you like the taste of bitter melon, the success of freshly prepared materials in clinical trials is great news because it means that the vegetable may deliver not just a taste treat, but also health benefits when consumed raw and cooked in salads, soups, curries, egg and meat dishes, etc. There also remains another option. Recent research suggests that a special form of bitter melon, especially with proper handling, may deliver on the promise of the fresh material even when dried and delivered in capsules and tablets.

    Sometimes Wild Is Better!
    With many grains, fruits and vegetables, wild genotypes retain healthful qualities that have been bred out of cultivated varieties. For instance, Khorasan wheat (Kamut), a much older form of wheat, provides more protein, minerals and more complex carbohydrates with lower gluten levels than is true of modern wheat. Similarly, carrots initially most often were purple rather than orange because of the vastly greater amounts of phytonutrients in the form of anthocyanidins. Lettuce was more bitter, and so forth and so on.

    With bitter melon, much the same is true. There are literally hundreds of different forms of bitter melon found in China and India. In many ways, the most interesting of these nutritionally are the “wild” forms found in India.

    Recently, a comparative trial in animals looked specifically at the differences among commercial herbal extracts of bitter melon of Chinese, Indian and Indian wild genotype origin. The goal was to establish benefits with regard to blood sugar and insulin regulation and also parameters linked to blood pressure. Very little work has been performed with wild genotypes of bitter melon, even though there are a great many of these in India alone. Most information available tends to cover topics such as the effect of the wild forms on inflammatory responses. Hints in the literature suggest that the blood sugar effects of some of these wild genotypes could be more potent than in the cultivars commonly used for extraction. For instance, it has been found that extracts of bitter gourd activate cellular machinery to regulate energy production (technically, Amp-activated protein kinase) and the way that fats are handled by the liver. These components can account for as much as 7.1 g/ kg of the dried wild material.

    In a just published trial that did look at wild bitter melon, over a period of 60 days the effect of an extract from the wild genotype of bitter melon offered commercially under the name Glycostat proved to be more efficacious than the varietals typically used in Chinese and Indian preparations and certainly more consistent in influencing all the health parameters tested. Wild bitter melon was compared with two commercially available Chinese and Indian preparations in an animal model with a standard test called a Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT). In this test, a fixed amount of glucose is consumed and then the amount that accumulates in the blood (Area Under the Curve/AUC) is measured and the change (delta) is calculated. A smaller change is good because it means that the body is rapidly taking the glucose into the tissues and that there is good insulin sensitivity. All the bitter melon extracts reduced the increase in blood sugar. However, wild bitter melon was superior to both the Chinese and Indian extracts and it was the only extract to deliver statistically significant results. Of particular note, this greater benefit was achieved without elevating insulin levels.

    Other interesting findings included the wild extract’s significant influence on the nitric oxide system (influencing whether the blood vessels can dilate), a system that controls blood fluid volume known as the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) and the closely related angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) activity. These three systems and activities influence blood pressure and cardiovascular health and in each of them, wild bitter melon either was the only extract that exhibited significant activity or it was more active compared to the Chinese and Indian extracts.

    Concluding Thoughts
    Bitter melon is yet another example of a traditional food and health aid that has made good when tested against modern Western standards. The benefits are real in areas such as blood glucose and blood pressure support—with the caveat that until now bitter melon needed to be eaten in large amounts or the freshly prepared juice consumed regularly in order for the benefits to be realized. Extracts and dried powders have been less successful, perhaps because unstable or for other reasons. A specially prepared wild bitter melon extract produced with special processing appears to have solved this limitation. Wild bitter melon extract supports both blood sugar and blood pressure health, all without the bitter taste.

  • Green Vibrance

    Why should I supplement with a superfood supplement?

    It has often been said our best source of vitamins, nutrients and supplements is from the food we eat. If you are eating a properly balanced organic diet with a lot of raw fruits and vegetables then you are way ahead of the curve and probably feeling pretty healthy. But it is not always easy to get the proper nutrients we need on a daily basis for many reasons. Too busy to shop often for fresh organic fruits and vegetables, limited access to the broad range of foodstuffs we need for optimum health and many other reasons.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 11% of Americans meet the USDA’s guidelines for eating 5-9 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily. CDC data indicates:

    • 93% of Americans don’t enough vitamin E
    • 56% don’t get enough magnesium
    • 31% don’t get enough vitamin C
    • 12% don’t get enough zinc
    • Many seniors lack B vitamins
    • Many people are low on vitamin K, calcium, and potassium

    In addition to our lack of eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables every day the same foodstuffs have been losing nutritional content over the decades.

    In 2004, a University of Texas research team headed by biochemist Donald Davis, Ph.D., analyzed a USDA report on 43 common garden fruits and vegetables and found that almost half of the substances containing minerals important to good health had lost some nutritional value. Dr. Davis suggests one of the reasons for this decline is the result of the faster methods major agro-farm companies employed to grow high-yield crops to meet consumer demand.

    So what is one to do?

    Step 1: Go organic. One of the reasons many people do not go organic is because of price. Take bananas for example. I see non-organic bananas for sale at 79 cents per pound sitting beside organic bananas that are 99 cents per pound and most shoppers opt for the less expensive. Why? They do not realize that the organic bananas have more nutrients and significantly less pesticides as they are just looking at price. But the fact of the matter is you are getting significantly more nutrients while avoiding toxic pesticides and herbicides. And of course you are avoiding GMOs. By the way GMO bananas are currently in testing and are on their way to a supermarket near you soon. So yes organic fruits and vegetables are probably going to cost more...but you get a lot more for your money...and a lot less (pesticides).

    In a report from The Organic Center organic foods have been found to have1:

    • Organic milk has 62% more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk
    • Organic crops have higher cancer-fighting antioxidant levels
    • Organic crops have 48% lower levels of the toxic metal cadmium than conventional crops
    • Pesticides are found 4 times more frequently in conventional crops than organic crops

    And of course organic crops are non-GMO. The devestating health effects of GMO plants are too lengthy to go into in this piece so we recommend you do a little homework. Search for the Seralini study and health effects of Roundup for startes. Read Seeds of Destruction and bookmark Institute for Responsible Technology

    Step 2: Supplement your diet with a fantastic superfood. This is where we recommend Green Vibrance from Vibrant Health.

    Green Vibrance supports the 4 foundations of health. Nutrition, Digestion, Circulation & Immune System.

    The Benefits
    There are a lot of ingredients in Green Vibrance: 73 in all. They were put together with care, in order to maximize the synergism among nutrients. The result delivers healthful nutritional support to the 11 body systems. Enjoy:

    • More complete nutrition; a host of rare, scarce nutrients.
    • Support for digestion and gastrointestinal function*
    • Support for healthy circulation*
    • More energy*
    • Support for clearance of waste products of metabolism, detoxification*
    • Support for neurological health*
    • Support for cardiovascular function*
    • Support for normal blood sugar and cholesterol*
    • Support for immunity*
    • Resistance to oxidative changes associated with aging*
    • And some consumers swear they look younger

    The ingredients in Green Vibrance were selected to support essential bodily functions without which life cannot be sustained. Cereal grass powders and juices (i.e. Certified organic barley, oat, wheat, and Kamut) deliver virtually all known nutrients and several uncharacterized co-nutrients of great value. For example, cereal grasses contain a hidden “growth factor” that causes young animals to more rapidly develop, growing larger, stronger, and healthier with robust immune systems. Those same cereal grasses allow mature animals (and undoubtedly humans) to repair bodily tissues more quickly. Organic alfalfa sprouts, organic broccoli sprouts, organic spirulina, soft-cell chlorella, stabilized rice bran, organic beet juice, organic parsley, organic spinach, organic carrot, green bean, zucchini and sea vegetables enrich the nutrient density and diversity of the primary food ingredients in Green Vibrance.

    Their industry leading dose of 25 billion friendly probiotics, balanced by a rich combination of Bifido- and Lacto- bacilli from 12 strains in each serving of Green Vibrance bolsters the one system that must function well first and foremost above all others if health is to be improved or optimized. One must be able to digest food and transport nutrients into the body from the gastrointestinal tract before health can be sustained. The 12 strains of probiotics in Green Vibrance help assure a healthy G.I. tract by building and maintaining colonies of robust intestinal flora.

    Chlorophyll from the green foods in Green Vibrance further supports intestinal health. Apple fiber from our certified organic whole apple powder plus sunflower lecithin help support elimination of heavy metals, cholesterol and toxins from the intestinal tract before they can be absorbed. To a lesser degree, they can perform similar tasks in the circulating blood itself.

    Over eons of time, the liver became quite adept at denaturing, destroying and getting rid of unnecessary substances in everyday foods. Keep in mind that 40% of a plain old carrot is unneeded, toxic material. Your liver has no trouble handling that. But when it comes to detoxifying some of the modern chemicals which are absorbed by, and circulate through, your body, we believe the liver needs a little help. That is why we’ve added liver support ingredients.

    Human metabolism is built on oxidation, which both keeps us alive and slowly pushes us toward the grave. The quiet damage to cells caused by necessary cellular oxidation defines the degenerative changes of aging. Oxidative damage is involved, too, in the progression of every known “disease of affluence” such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and others. Certainly one’s personal genetic code and lifestyle also contribute.

    Aging and degenerative disease are ubiquitous -- we all will encounter them in time. Nutritive antioxidants may diminish the severity and slow the advance of oxidative damage and.* Each serving of Green Vibrance delivers a powerful 960 mg of herbal antioxidants in addition to the beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and other antioxidants naturally present from the other plant components of the formula. These antioxidants, plus lecithin, soluble fibers, policosanol and other ingredients help support cardiovascular health.* A strong heart and clear arteries are essential to delivering nutrients to and removing waste from every cell in the body. Ginkgo biloba extract, grape seed extract, green tea extract pomegranate extract, and Silymarin (milk thistle) extract are all known to improve peripheral circulation.

    The immune support delivered by Green Vibrance is found in its content of betaglucans, ImmunEnhancer™ arabinogalactans and Astragalus extract.* But let us not loose sight of the immune enhancing effect of a healthy digestive tract. 50% of your own immune cells are found there. Well nourished, vibrant cells, amply protected by the army of antioxidants in Green Vibrance, are themselves resistant to disease.*

    Green Vibrance has always supported good skeletal health, undoubtedly due to its alkalinizing nature, bioavailable boron and CalZbone®, an extract of Cissus quadrangularis that has been clinically shown to improve bone mineral density. Beginning with version 9.0, Green Vibrance added another key nutrient for bone health: Vitamin D3. The vitamin D3 in Green Vibrance is a specially made material from an actual plant source, lichen. Green Vibrance is now safe for vegans.

    The entire Green Vibrance formula was designed and balanced to help establish and sustain good health.

    Vibrant Health gives "going green" a whole new meaning.

    Green Vibrance

    References:

    1. http://organic-center.org/organic-fact-sheets/the-health-benefits-of-organic/
  • Olive Leaf Complex-A secret weapon for health and immunity

    Olive leaf complex is quite simply one of the most useful natural compounds I’ve ever encountered. It’s a powerful health tonic that’s fantastic for general well-being and enhanced immunity.

    Let me explain.

    The olive plant is a rich source of such beneficial plant compounds as tocopherols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, sterols and polyphenols. “The real benefit of olive oil is that it delivers these amazing polyphenols,” says David Rubin, MD, MSc, an Israeli researcher and biochemist.

    What are Polyphenols, Anyway?
    Polyphenols are a group of valuable chemicals found throughout the plant kingdom primarily in berries, walnuts, olives, teas, grapes and other fruits and vegetables. They have a wide variety of health benefits. And the fresh leaves of some olive trees are loaded with them.

    These polyphenols also have antimicrobial activity against a wide variety of viruses, bacteria, yeasts and fungi.

    Scientific advances have shown there are at least 30 distinct polyphenols in fresh-picked olive leafs and that the full spectrum of these polyphenols in fresh-picked olive leaves gives a synergistic effect greater than any individual isolated compound alone. This is why the most bioeffective olive leaf products on the market today are always made directly from fresh-picked, whole olive leaves which provide the whole spectrum of natural polyphenolic antioxidants just as nature intended. This also enables them to work together in natural synergy to maximize the health benefits.

    How is Your Immune System Functioning?
    Immunity is one of the keys to good health. Think for a moment about the last time something was “going around” your office. Some people got really sick but others probably didn’t. And even among those who did, whatever “bug” was going around probably laid some people out for two weeks while others were back to work after a day or so.

    The difference? The performance of the Immune System.
    We can’t do much about the bugs and microbes we’re all exposed to—but what we can do is strengthen and support our immune system.

    Olive Leaf Complex Can Help.
    Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself if you’re interested in evaluating just how well your immune system is functioning:

    • Do you get infections frequently?
    • Do you have frequent colds?
    • Do you get the flu?
    • Do you experience inflammation or infection in the
    • upper respiratory tract?
    • Do you suffer from bronchitis frequently?
    • Do you have recurrent skin infections?
    • Have you ever suffered from recurrent infections of
    • Candida or “yeast infections”?
    • Have you been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr or chronic fatigue syndrome?
    • Do you experience a reduction in stamina and resistance, especially when under stress?
    • Are your energy levels less than you would like them to be?

    Any or all of these can be symptoms of compromised immunity.

    What about Olive Leaf for Bacteria and Viruses?
    Your best defense against the potential damage of bacteria and viruses is to have a strong, robust immune system that will prevent them from taking root and doing harm in the first place.

    Fresh-picked olive leaf complex can be a powerful weapon in the battle between your immune system and invading microbes. The bitter substances in olive leaves—since identified as the polyphenols we’ve been talking about throughout this article (oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, caffeic acid, verbascoside, etc.) have been found to be particularly helpful in resisting bacterial damage. In fact, early research by the drug company Upjohn found extracts from olive leaves to be effective in treating infection caused by a large number of viruses as well as bacteria and parasitic protozoans.

    According to James R. Privitera, MD, these are some of the unique properties possessed by the olive leaf compound for the broad killing power:

    • Olive leaf has an ability to interfere with critical amino acid production essential for viruses.
    • Olive leaf has an ability to control viral infection and/or spread by inactivating viruses or by preventing virus shedding, budding or assembly at the cell membrane.
    • Olive leaf extract has the ability to directly penetrate
    • infected cells and stop viral replication.
    • Olive leaf can stimulate a process called phagocytosis, an immune system response in which cells act like little Pac-Man, ingesting harmful microorganisms and foreign matter.

    In vitro studies have found olive leaf extract is effective against over 50 common disease causing organisms including viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa such as herpes, influenza A, Polio 1, 2, and 3; Salmonella typhimurium, Candida Krusei and Coxsackie A21.

    Biochemist Arnold Takemoto, talking to the Townsend Newsletter for Doctors and Patients put it this way: “(I have) yet to discover another herbal substance that accomplishes antimicrobially what this substance achieves.”

    But not just any old olive leaf…

    One brand I particularly like is Barlean’s olive leaf complex. It’s made 100 percent from fresh-picked leaves; it’s never reconstituted, it has no artificial preservatives, no added sugar and it comes in a fast-acting, great-tasting liquid. Every batch has been thoroughly analyzed using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), the global standard to scientifically identify and measure the healing compounds in herbal medicines. In Australia, consumers already spend up to three million dollars a month on this incredible olive leaf product.

    Barlean’s olive leaf complex comes from trees that have been farmed naturally on virgin land in Australia. Organic vermiculture (worm created) fertilizers and pristine irrigation water are coupled with early morning harvesting and immediate transfer of the freshly harvested leaves to the processing plant.

    What dosage is best?
    Though there is really no “official” recommended dose for taking olive leaf complex, many experts recommend a basic maintenance dose for general use and a “therapeutic” dose for special cases. Generally, the consensus is one tablespoonful (15ml) one to two times a day taken right before eating is ideal for maintenance.

    For conditions such as the common cold, flu, sinus infections and basic respiratory tract infections, the recommended dose is 2 × 5ml teaspoons every six hours, says naturopath Jack Ritchason, ND. For acute infections such as sore throat, swollen glands or fever, Ritchason recommends three teaspoons (15ml) every six hours.

    On a personal note, I take a capful of olive leaf complex on a daily basis as a general tonic and immune system booster. Although this is hardly a scientific statement, I can tell you I rarely get sick and on the few occasions I do, it’s very mild and I’m back to my routine in record time. Apparently, I’m not alone in being a fan of olive leaf complex. Experts agree taking this wonderful supplement can be a valuable part of anyone’s health routine.

    Says Ritchason: “From all indications—research, case studies and widespread use—olive leaf extract appears to be an extremely safe supplement that can effectively aid the body in improving immune function and fighting infection by various microbes.”