Friday, October 29, 2010

Running Shoes - Do they fit right and how to know?

Recent studies show that the cost of a running shoe does not assure satisfaction (  A recent article in the NY Times reports that athletes sometimes spend as little as $25 on shoes and are quite happy.  Although in my experience, a good middle of the line shoe (usually $80 - 120 retail), will give you great cushioning and support, you can often find that level of support in a less expensive shoe.  This may not work for everyone because not all feet are created equal, especially if they are flat.

The best and most advanced way to assure the best fit for a running shoe is to
1. follow my instructions on Howcast at  Here are detailed instructions I published a while ago to make sure your shoes fit properly.
2.  Go to a running store with a treadmill - Stores like roadrunner sports or our local chain The Running Company can make the process more accurate.  You can see how you impact the ground using their treadmill and assure a better fit for your style of foot.  Different brands of shoes fit differently and sometimes the treadmill can save you money by helping you pick the right shoe for you.
3. If you have low arches or overpronated feet that flare out causing asymmetry in your gait, you can also use the treadmill to see the difference an insert makes.  Rather than buying a more expensive shoe that is stiffer and less comfortable, put in an insert and you will likely feel and run better.  Most stores will allow you to try them out.  I am personally unimpressed with some of the supposedly custom inserts some stores will upsell you.  Often, I find the less expensive off the shelf versions actually work better.  If you have a more severe foot problem, visit a professional such as a chiropractor or podiatrist and have custom inserts made. If done properly, they are more corrective and do last longer.

Cortisone - Does this cure make problems worse?

I recently came across and NY Times article which questions the wisdom of Cortisone Shots ( Often when people are in pain, they are irritable and also impatient because of what the pain does to their normal daily activities.  The cortisone shot has been used for the quick fix for heel spurs, knee pain, shoulder pain, bursitis and other maladies.  It is usually administered by an orthopedist or a physiatrist.

The problem with this solution is that while it can cause a significant amount of relief, it will also cause bone loss and problems with healing at the site of injection if overused.  The other problem is that this injection will resolve the problem because the problem is that the area is painful.  This misunderstanding is natural since most people believe no pain, no problem.  Since inflammation rarely just happens, and it is usually due to a mechanical problem, it requires a mechanical solution.  Injecting an area that is inflamed, even though we do not understand why is not a mechanical solution.  It really is a shot in the dark, with the hope that it gets rid of the pain.  If you and/or your doctor have little understanding as to the mechanism of pain (hint; rarely is inflammation a mechanism however it is a response to unusual stress and irritation), you are likely to have the problem continue to reoccur and develop other related problems at other times and think these are also just pain.  The reality is, symptoms are just a warning that something is wrong.  Years later, that degenerated joint warned you about what is eventually coming down the road.

In our office, we look at symptoms, dig for facts and try to understand and the explain the mechanism of inflammation and then get to the mechanical cause.  The benefits of this approach are:
1. Real long lasting solutions.
2. Your joints are less likely to wear out because we are resolving the forces damaging the joint.
3. You are less likely to develop other related problems because the true cause has been resolved.
4. You enjoy a better quality of life and fewer doctors office visits with less pain.
5. You will rarely ever need a cortisone shot.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How digital technology can mean better care

By Michelle Jones (shown), and Betty Walker, Charge Technologists, Rouge Valley Health System Diagnostic Imaging

Some very exciting things are happening in our Diagnostic Imaging departments at both of our hospital campuses (Rouge Valley Centenary and Rouge Valley Ajax & Pickering). We are so proud to announce that our Breast Screening Clinics at both of our hospital campuses now feature state-of-the-art digital mammography machines. We’re quite privileged and very proud that we can feature this cutting edge technology. This digital equipment can cost up to four times more than film mammography, making it too expensive for many smaller clinics to have in their facilities.

Why is that important? Well, there are a number of different reasons why this so significant for us and all of our patients:

* This improved technology improves our chances of finding breast cancer. Digital imaging is better for women under the age of 50, or young women with denser breasts. Digital technology makes it easier for us to spot breast cancer in these women. Earlier detection and improved treatment can help to save more lives.

* Remember when you would take a photo using film, and wait for days for it to be developed, just to realize that the picture didn’t turn out properly? Well, just like your digital camera where you can quickly preview your photos, when a technologist takes an image of the breast, we’re able to see much sooner if we need to retake the image.

* Since there is no more need for film, the images are available much sooner – usually within seconds. The radiologist can quickly access the images, as there is no longer a need to process films. This means you, the patient, can get your test results much sooner, cutting down on wait times and that anxiety you experience while you wait.

* Since the images can be stored electronically, there’s no need to carry around huge bulky envelopes of film to take to your physician. The images can usually be sent electronically or saved to a CD that you can easily bring to your physician.

* At RVHS, many of our physicians are connected to our Picture Archiving and Communicating System (PACS), allowing digital images to be transferred to them within minutes. So if you had an appointment for a mammogram the same day as your appointment with your physician, it could be ready by the time you see your physician.

* Last but not least, digital imaging requires less radiation than film imaging. This means that we’re giving up to a 50 per cent reduction in dose.

Overall, this new technology means that we’re able to provide our patients with the highest standard of care, something that each staff member, physician and volunteer at RVHS is committed to.
For appointments in our breast imaging centres and all other diagnostic tests, contact our central booking line at 416-281-7299 or toll-free at 1-866-752-6989. Currently, most services require a referral from your family physician. We are currently in the processing of becoming a part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP), which will allow patients over 50 to receive a mammogram without a requisition from their family physician.

Learn more about our Diagnostic Imaging program by visiting

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Early detection of breast cancer can save your life....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds!

I have vivid memories from my childhood of carving and painting pumpkins in the weeks leading up to Halloween. While the creative aspect of it was fun, what I remember most was my mom scooping out the seeds for roasting. It was such a fun and delicious treat then, and still is now. Sure, trick-or-treating is an exciting adventure for kids but some moms don’t really want their kids to come home with a bag full of goodies just to gorge on candy and sweets all night! I know a lot of moms who say that they allow their kids to choose a few of their favorite pieces of candy from their baskets and then they donate the rest. Well, what better way to compliment this healthy decision with a healthier treat for the kids so they don’t feel deprived?? I, for one, think that toasted pumpkin and squash seeds is the perfect way to do just that!

What many people don’t know is that you can roast and eat the seeds of most pumpkins and squashes, not just the typical carving or pie pumpkins. For dinner tonight I am having spaghetti squash with veggies and tomato sauce and I am topping it with its very own seeds (pictured here). You can use seeds from spaghetti squash, pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, kabocha... whatever you choose to make for dinner! Many people toss the seeds when cooking with squash but they are such a useful and healthy food too and should not be neglected! They make a great crunchy on-the-go snack for kids and adults alike. You can also throw them in salads, wraps or trail mix. I like to put them out at holiday parties and social gatherings as a great alternative to nuts.

To roast your seeds:
1) Pre-heat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.

2) Scoop the seeds out of the squash, removing any flesh. Clean and dry thoroughly.

3) Place the seeds in a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Mix until well coated. Be careful not to over do it. You want them to be lightly coated, not drenched.

4) Stir in sea salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning until well coated.

5) Cook for 8-10 minutes or until desired crunchiness!

The best part is that you can make so many variations. Tonight I made the simple and traditional version, using just sea salt and pepper, but you can dress them up any way you like. Try using cayenne pepper, turmeric, curry pouder or wasabi powder for a spicy version. You can also make a sweet treat and use cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Or, if you are really daring go for some garlic powder. Experiment with your favorite spices and herbs!

So what makes these little babies such a healthy snack? They are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids for one, making them a heart healthy source or unsaturated fat, as well as a great anti-inflammatory. They are also a good meat-free source of protein, as well as a great source of zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, iron just to name a few. Their anti-oxidant carotenoid content means they help protect against harmful free radicals and promote cellular functions too. Overall what all that means is that they help lower cholesterol, boost immunity and protect against cancer, heart disease and other disease such as those of the prostate.

Powerful little suckers, huh? So you can see why they’d make a great alternative to candy for your kids on Halloween night!

Keep it Fresh!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Statistics from our consumer advocacy hotline...

We received nearly 13,000 calls last month to our free hotline for Washington residents with problems or questions involving insurance. Along the way, we helped consumers recover $776,937 in delayed/denied claims and similar problems.

We have experts in a wide variety of insurance matters, and we can often help resolve difficulties getting claims paid, help you find health coverage, etc.

We're not an insurer, agent or broker. We're the state agency that regulates the insurance industry in Washington state. We tend to get between 11,000 and 15,000 calls a month.

Got a problem or question? Give us a call: 1-800-562-6900 or e-mail us at


Lace them up!
Hi! I had an epiphany this morning, as I was on my run. It just so happens that I was thinking about expending energy.

Something led up to these thoughts around energy and eating live food! It was that Saturday night I went to a dance at my friends horse farm. It was a blast! I have to say, that only three straight hours of dancing was not enough for me! I wanted to dance until 1 a.m.!!!

Part of it is I love dancing, the other part is it was just super fun and felt so good to expend that energy, like all kinds of electricity being discharged, static energy, out there (came out as love) to all there at the party. I gotta say, I twirled sooo many people!!! It was a hoot! (sigh, words never seem to capture the feeling!)

Seeing, that night at the dance, my untapped energy potential. It is all there, just asking to be used more and more! This morning, realizing the following:

LIVE food creates LIVE energy. What if you started a fire and gave it just enough air to keep burning, while throwing fuel in there continually.... but kept it contained? It has to go somewhere! Combustible...kabooom!

Anyway, my point is this...LIVE energy MUST be expended with movement, creativity, productivity, mental workouts, spiritual output, emotional blessings to others, and whatever other ways you can think of.

If it is not expended somehow, to me, this is where the challenge of emotions, anxiety, depression, stagnation and a whole host of things enter in. LIVING the ALIVE LIFE needs MOVEMENT! Movement is required for cleaning out all the toxins that are being released as well!!!

We started a fire here folks and now we need to express it OUT THERE! Let it out! Get it out!!!

Love, from my energy loving heart to yours! Muah! Bette B


The amounts of water, carbohydrates, fat, and protein lost during a 30-day fast

When it comes to losing fat and maintaining muscle, at the same time, there are no shortcuts. The process generally has to be slow to be healthy. When one loses a lot of weight in a few days, most of what is being lost is water, followed by carbohydrates. (Carbohydrates are stored as liver and muscle glycogen.) Smaller amounts of fat and protein are also lost. The figure below, from Wilmore et al. (2007), shows the weights in grams of stored water, carbohydrates (glycogen), fat, and protein lost during a 30-day water fast.

On the first few days of the fast a massive amount of water is lost, even though drinking water is allowed in this type of fast. A significant amount of glycogen is lost as well. This is no surprise. About 2.6 g of water are lost for each 1 g of glycogen lost. That is, water is stored by the body proportionally to the amount of glycogen stored. People who do strength training on a regular basis tend to store more glycogen, particular in muscle tissue; this is a compensatory adaptation. Those folks also tend to store more water.

Not many people will try a 30-day fast. Still, the figure above has implications for almost everybody.

One implication is that if you use a bioimpedance scale to measure your body fat, you can bet that it will give you fairly misleading results if your glycogen stores are depleted. Your body fat percentage will be overestimated, because water and glycogen are lean body mass. This will happen with low carbohydrate dieters who regularly engage in intense physical exercise, aerobic or anaerobic. The physical exercise will deplete glycogen stores, which will typically not be fully replenished due to the low intake of carbohydrates.

Light endurance exercise (e.g., walking) is normally easier to maintain with a depleted “glycogen tank” than strength training, because light endurance exercise relies heavily on fat oxidation. It uses glycogen, but more slowly. Strength training, on the other hand, relies much more heavily on glycogen while it is being conducted (significant fat oxidation occurs after the exercise session), and is difficult to do effectively with a depleted “glycogen tank”.

Strength training practitioners often will feel fatigued, and will probably be unable to generate supercompensation, if their “glycogen tank” is constantly depleted. Still, compensatory adaptation can work its “magic” if one persists, and lead to long term adaptations that make athletes rely much more heavily on fat than the average person as a fuel for strength training and other types of anaerobic exercise. Some people seem to be naturally more likely to achieve this type of compensatory adaptation; others may never do so, no matter how hard they try.

Another implication is that you should not worry about short-term weight variations if your focus is on losing body fat. Losing stored water and glycogen may give you an illusion of body fat loss, but it will be only that – an illusion. You may recall this post, where body fat loss coupled with muscle gain led to some weight gain and yet to a much improved body composition. That is, the participants ended up leaner, even though they also weighed more.

The figure above also gives us some hints as to what happens with very low carbohydrate dieting (i.e., daily consumption of less than 20 grams of carbohydrates); at least at the beginning, before long term compensatory adaptation. This type of dieting mimics fasting as far as glycogen depletion is concerned, especially if protein intake is low, and has many positive short term health benefits. The depletion is not as quick as in a fast because a high fat and/or protein diet promotes higher rates of fat/protein oxidation and ketosis than fasting, which spare glycogen. (Yes, dietary fat spares glycogen. It also spares muscle tissue.) Still, the related loss of stored water is analogous to that of fasting, over a slightly longer period. The result is a marked weight loss at the beginning of the diet. This is an illusion as far as body fat loss is concerned.

Dietary protein cannot be used directly for glycogenesis; i.e., for replenishing glycogen stores. Dietary protein must first be used to generate glucose, through a process called gluconeogenesis. The glucose is then used for liver and muscle glycogenesis, among other things. This process is less efficient than glycogenesis based on carbohydrate sources (particularly carbohydrate sources that combine fructose and glucose), which is why for quite a few people (but not all) it is difficult to replenish glycogen stores and stimulate muscle growth on very low carbohydrate diets.

Glycogen depletion appears to be very healthy, but most of the empirical evidence seems to suggest that it is the depletion that creates a hormonal mix that is particularly health-promoting, not being permanently in the depleted state. In this sense, the extent of the glycogen depletion that is happening should be positively associated with the health benefits. And significant glycogen depletion can only happen if glycogen stores are at least half full to start with.


Wilmore, J.H., Costill, D.L., & Kenney, W.L. (2007). Physiology of sport and exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Storm headed for western WA, rain and high winds Saturday night and Sunday

The National Weather Service has issued a "special weather statement" for much of western Washington late this weekend. From it:
A potent storm will slam into the region Saturday night and Sunday, resulting in locally heavy rain and strong winds, especially on the coast. Another blast of strong winds impacting a larger part of the area is possible on Monday.
If you experience damage and have insurance questions, try our winter weather information, which covers common insurance questions about everything from sinking boats to fallen trees to power outages.

Washington residents with insurance questions or problems can also call our consumer advocacy staff at 1-800-562-6900. We'll try to help.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Putting meat on the bones of strategic planning

By Rik Ganderton
President and CEO

We’re getting there!

Thanks to your participation in our strategic planning process since last April, we are now able to start putting some meat on the bones of our new strategic plan.

My thanks to all who’ve taken part so far, including staff, physicians, volunteers, community members and political leaders for your thoughts and input on our questions, surveys and many presentations.

All of this input and information was used to produce a comprehensive Current State Analysis Report. The full report and an executive summary are available on our strategic planning web page.

The report examined our current environment in terms of our:
• Programs and services;
• Patient profile;
• Workforce;
• Infrastructure;
• Approach to quality, transformation and organizational culture;
• Community Demographics;
• Inventory of providers in Central East Local Health Integration Network (CE LHIN);
• Provincial and LHIN priorities;
• Internal and external stakeholder feedback; and
• Key trends likely to impact our organization.

- Key findings –

Here are some of the key findings from the Current State Analysis Report.
• We are facing significant growth in the 905 area.
• Patient mix is changing – average age of patients is getting older and have higher levels of acuity and dependency; greater cultural diversity reflective of the catchment area. Scarborough and Durham are becoming more similar from a diversity perspective.
• There is a new normal when it comes to clinical service delivery. The number of inpatients has declined; the vast majority of surgical and diagnostic procedures can now be done on an outpatient basis; throughout the hospital sector, inpatient length of stay has decreased and occupancy rates have increased; alternate level of care (ALC) days are a system issue that create flow challenges for the hospital; there is more transfer activity between hospitals and RVHS is seeing an increase in the patients transferred in to our hospital from other places, particularly for circulatory system conditions.
• Our efforts to align with industry benchmarks have resulted in a higher occupancy rate and a lower average length of stay. But our readmission rates have also declined suggesting that we are making improvements to patient flow without sacrificing quality.
• We need to focus on the patient experience and be cognizant of how the community measures the patient experience; consumer expectations are changing and patients are much better informed on health issues than in the past.
• Regional integration is a priority for the LHIN and health system partners; we need strategies to pick up the pace, maintain momentum and make tangible change; there are many untapped opportunities for regional collaboration – both clinical and non-clinical.
• Emergency department (ED) wait times and ALC management are top priorities at the provincial level and also challenge our ability to provide smooth patient flow.
• There are opportunities to repatriate some of our catchment area residents, who are seeking services at other hospitals; the flow of patients in our catchment area is to the west and RVHS partnerships are in the east.
• Relationships with family physicians in the community are essential and can be improved through better communication mechanisms and easier access.
• Our human resources are our greatest asset; our people share a strong commitment to quality; we need to watch morale levels of staff and physicians.
• Our workforce is aging and we must implement strategies to manage the forecasted potential retirements.
• Operational and cultural transformation are taking shape and yielding tangible improvements; this is an ongoing journey and key to reaping the benefits of increased emphasis on pay for performance.
• The hospital is on the road to financial recovery, but keeping pace with infrastructure maintenance/repairs and advances in technology is an ongoing financial challenge.
• The planning environment is complex with many trends that will impact our hospital, including a provincial election in the fall of 2011.

The current state report findings put us in good shape heading into our strategic planning retreat last weekend. Thanks to the keen engagement of our Board; MAC (medical advisory committee); senior management team; directors; and members of the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, it’s my pleasure to report to you that we now have a new set of draft strategic directions.

- More consultation –

Consultation on the draft directions will begin shortly, in meetings and venues such as, but not limited to:
• RVHS Board meetings – open to the public;
• Meetings of our Community Advisory Group – volunteers who advise the board;
• Community outreach meetings – which we do throughout the year at meetings of service clubs, health care partners, municipal councils and many others;
• Leadership Forum – for management;
• MAC and/or Medical Staff Society meetings – for doctors;
• Town Halls – for all staff, physicians and volunteers; and
Strategic planning web page – for the public.

I look forward to our next blog update on this evolving process. Stay tuned and thanks for your participation.

(- For background, you could read my previous blog on this from July 6, 2010.)

Cease and desist order issued against Choice Home Warranty

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler today issued a cease and desist order against CHW Group, Inc., doing business as Choice Home Warranty and

The company is believed to have sold at least 92 home warranty service contracts to Washington residents. The contracts cover repair or replacement on major systems and appliances in the person's home, and promise that Choice Home Warrant will pay for repair or replacement of those that fail.

The problem: the company isn't authorized to transact insurance in Washington state. Nor is it registered here as a service contract provider.

Kreidler ordered the company to mail a copy of the order to all Washington home warranty service contract customers. The company must also report to the state how much it's collected in premiums from Washington consumers.

The company has the right to demand a hearing. The order takes effect today.

We'll post a link to the order shortly.

Updated: As promised, here's the link.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jenny McCarthy Is My Hero

Seriously. Yesterday I went to the library and brought home her book Mother Warriors. I sat down and read it cover to cover, crying my eyes out the whole time. Today, I went back to the library, returned that book and took out Louder Than Words, brought it home, read it cover to cover, crying my eyes out the whole time.

Let me back up a little bit. As some of you may know, a few years ago I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. An illness caused by your immune system attacking itself. I sat in a small exam room of a doctor I had never been to before, waiting for her to return with some blood test results. She walked in, said “you have such and such, there is no cure but here is a prescription. You will have to stay on this for the rest of your life. Come back in six months.” That’s it. Literally. There was no explanation of the disease or what to expect, no sympathy for the news I just received, no discussion about the medication. Nothing.

Needless to say I never saw that doctor again. After probably a year of suffering, hopelessness, finding new doctors and taking medication twice daily that didn’t seem to be doing anything except make my hair fall out, I just knew there had to be another way and I knew that I was going to have to figure it out myself. I enrolled in what Jenny calls in her books the University of Google. I searched for answers, alternative treatments, whatever I could find. I downloaded online books, tried eliminating things from my diet, and found out about different doctors and different books to read. All of that led me to changing my diet completely and I started to feel better. Eventually, I went off my medication and never looked back.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Jenny McCarthy. No, she hasn’t (as far as I know) been diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder. But she does have a son that was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum and has written books and spoken out about her journey with her son, Evan. I learned in these books that Jenny wasn’t content to hear that there was no cure and that there was not much she could do to help her son other than use medications to help some of the health problems associated with Autism, such as seizures. She knew in her gut that there was more she could do and she would not stop until she figured out what that was. She spent endless nights researching online to learn everything she could. She tried conventional, holistic and biomedical treatments even when doctors told her that some were ‘bullshit’.

I am not a parent of a child with Autism, I am not even a parent at all. I endured a much less difficult, but similar battle though and it is that to which I can relate. She went against the norm, despite what people said or thought because she had faith that it would help, and it did. What baffles me is that story after story in her book parents talk about how doctors told them that changing their kids’ diet was too dangerous. Dangerous?!?! How is something as simple as removing dairy or wheat (foods that may be toxic to some people, especially autistic children) or whatever from someone’s diet dangerous, but pumping them full of drugs, chemicals and toxic levels of heavy metals is perfectly safe??? This is something I will NEVER understand about the medical profession. Don’t get me wrong, we as a society would not be half of where we are today without modern medicine, but at some point we need to be realistic and we need to draw the line!

Ok, I will step down from my soap box to get to the point of why I started this blog in the first place... My journey with my own health issues has lead me down a path to wanting to help people heal from modern diseases, especially auto-immune ones in the same way that Jenny’s journey lead her to be the unofficial voice of parents of Autism. And so in my journey I have had some interest in the theories behind what causes Autism and have paid some attention to what Jenny has brought to the table, but I had not focused on it too much. Fortunately some recent circumstances have peaked my interest, which is why I ended up at the local library seeking out Jenny’s books and a few others. I have to say that I already have a new found interest in this epidemic, and i am actually amazed at its similarities to mine and other auto-immune diseases in its digestive and immune issues as well as causes. And so I am not at all surprised in the success of the more non traditional treatments that many parents are trying in reversing Autism, the way that I feel that some auto-immune diseases can be reversed. Yes, I said reversed.

My point is this: If you are a parent of children on the Autism spectrum, or parents of kids with even ADD/ADHD or you yourself are suffering some type of auto-immunity, please please please do not accept the ‘there is no cure and not much can be done’ answer. I am not a doctor, and I will say that not everything works for everybody. There is no one-size-fits-all answer (which is how I feel doctors treat these things) but if there is even the slightest hope that something as simple as trying a gluten-free diet or taking a natural anti-fungal can help, don’t we owe it to ourselves and our kids to try it? Is going to the health food store and looking for alternative food choices really more inconvenient and unbearable than accepting and suffering from disease?

I am going to continue to read and learn about Autism and other similar disorders simply because I am so interested and would love the opportunity to one day help people suffering from them in any way I can. But, please know there are tons of resources out there for us and we should take advantage of them! Here are two that I learned about from reading Jenny’s books that I find inspiring:

Keep it fresh!

Obesity and the Brain

Nature Genetics just published a paper that caught my interest (1). Investigators reviewed the studies that have attempted to determine associations between genetic variants and common obesity (as judged by body mass index or BMI). In other words, they looked for "genes" that are suspected to make people fat.

There are a number of gene variants that associate with an increased or decreased risk of obesity. These fall into two categories: rare single-gene mutations that cause dramatic obesity, and common variants that are estimated to have a very small impact on body fatness. The former category cannot account for common obesity because it is far too rare, and the latter probably cannot account for it either because it has too little impact*. Genetics can't explain the fact that there were half as many obese people in the US 40 years ago. Here's a wise quote from the obesity researcher Dr. David L. Katz, quoted from an interview about the study (2):
Let us by all means study our genes, and their associations with our various shapes and sizes... But let's not let it distract us from the fact that our genes have not changed to account for the modern advent of epidemic obesity -- our environments and lifestyles have.
Exactly. So I don't usually pay much attention to "obesity genes", although I do think genetics contributes to how a body reacts to an unnatural diet/lifestyle. However, the first part of his statement is important too. Studying these types of associations can give us insights into the biological mechanisms of obesity when we ask the question "what do these genes do?" The processes these genes participate in should be the same processes that are most important in regulating fat mass.

So, what do the genes do? Of those that have a known function, nearly all of them act in the brain, and most act in known body fat regulation circuits in the hypothalamus (a brain region). The brain is the master regulator of body fat mass. It's also the master regulator of nearly all large-scale homeostatic systems in the body, including the endocrine (hormone) system. Now you know why I study the neurobiology of obesity.

* The authors estimated that "together, the 32 confirmed BMI loci explained 1.45% of the inter-individual variation in BMI." In other words, even if you were unlucky enough to inherit the 'fat' version of all 32 genes, which is exceedingly unlikely, you would only have a slightly higher risk of obesity than the general population.

We agree with the government & AG

By Rik Ganderton
President & CEO, RVHS

Rouge Valley fully supports the government’s position and the findings of the Auditor General’s (AG) Report. Rouge Valley no longer uses a lobbyist, as a result of a board decision taken some weeks ago.

As part of the overall transformation of RVHS since 2007 we have taken many steps to improve controls and monitoring in the procurement area including controls over the use of consultants. This included revisions of our policies in 2008 following an external audit that we commissioned and subsequently adopting the Broader Public Sector Policy Guidelines, effective April 2010. We have implemented procurement practices and controls ahead of this present interest in consultants and procurement.

We will continue to pro-actively improve our stewardship of tax dollars to offer the best health care to our communities. We welcome the government’s action on these matters and fully support the directions taken.

* View the AG's Report.

High level activity in older adults is very beneficial - I see this with many of our patients

I came across this article ( regarding patients who are older.  Apparently, older people who stay active and are most likely to have better vitality later in life into their 80's and beyond a new study shows.

We have many people in our practice family who stay active and many still compete athletically.  This compares with previous generations who were more sedentary and as they got older, developed many health conditions secondary to deconditioning.  Check out the article.  Very thought provoking


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things are shaping up nicely at RV Ajax & Pickering hospital campus!

Slow-cooked meat: Round steak, not grilled, but slow-cooked in a frying pan

I am yet to be convinced that grilled meat is truly unhealthy in the absence of leaky gut problems. I am referring here to high heat cooking-induced Maillard reactions and the resulting advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). If you are interested, see this post and the comments under it, where I looked into some references provided by an anonymous commenter. In short, I am more concerned about endogenous (i.e., inside the body) formation of AGEs than with exogenous (e.g., dietary) intake.

Still, the other day I had to improvise when cooking meat, and used a cooking method that is considered by many to be fairly healthy – slow-cooking at a low temperature. I seasoned a few pieces of beef tenderloin (filet mignon) for the grill, but it started raining, so I decided to slow-cook them in a frying pan with water and some olive oil. After about 1 hour of slow-cooking, and somewhat to my surprise, they tasted more delicious than grilled!

I have since been using this method more and more, with all types of cuts of meat. It is great for round steak and top sirloin, for example, as well as cuts that come with bone. The pieces of meat come off the bone very easily, are soft, and taste great. So does much of the marrow. You also end up with a delicious sauce. Almost any cut of beef end up very soft when slow-cooked, even cuts that would normally come out from a grill a bit hard. Below is a simple recipe, for round steak (a.k.a. eye round).

- Prepare some dry seasoning powder by mixing sea salt, black pepper, dried garlic bits, chili powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper.
- Season the round steak pieces at least 2 hours prior to placing them in the pan.
- Add a bit of water and olive oil to one or more frying pans. Two frying pans may be needed, depending on their size and the amount of meat.
- Place the round steak pieces in the frying pan, and add more water, almost to the point of covering them.
- Cook on low fire covered for 2-3 hours.

Since you will be cooking with low fire, the water will probably not evaporate completely even after 3 h. Nevertheless it is a good idea to check it every 15-30 min to make sure that this is the case, because in dry weather the water may evaporate rather fast. The water around the cuts should slowly turn into a fatty and delicious sauce, which you can pour on the meat when serving, to add flavor. The photos below show seasoned round steak pieces in a frying pan before cooking, and some cooked pieces served with sweet potatoes, orange pieces and a nectarine.

A 100 g portion will have about 34 g of protein. (A 100 g portion is a bit less than 4 oz, cooked.) The amount of fat will depend on how trimmed the cuts are. Like most beef cuts, the fat will be primarily saturated and monounsatured (both very healthy), with approximately equal amounts of each. It will provide good amounts of the following vitamins and minerals: iron, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why early detection is the best way to beat breast cancer

By Dr. Yun Yee Chow, Radiologist, Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS)

Knowing when you should have a mammogram could save your life.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women. One in nine women will be afflicted with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. And let’s not forget that one percent of breast cancer cases actually occur in men.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a great opportunity to increase our own awareness about this disease and to learn more about what we can do to reduce our risk of developing it.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) recommends that women begin receiving breast screening, usually a mammogram, at age 40, and annually until age 49. Women can be screened every two years if they are between 50 – 69 years of age, unless there is a family history of breast cancer, or if they are receiving hormone replacement therapy. If they are in good health, women should continue to receive regular screenings after age 70.

Despite the increased diagnosis rate of breast cancer, more people are surviving. In 2005, mortality rates dropped to 24% from 32% in 1986. Half of this reduction can be attributed to early screening, and the rest to adjuvant treatment – therapy using drug or radiation after cancer surgery. So, early detection in the prevention and treatment of the disease is key, especially if cancer is detected during a screening.

Remember that lifestyle factors can also play an important role in your risk of developing breast cancer. Here are some of the things you can do to decrease your risk:
• Incorporate a healthier diet into your lifestyle;
• Exercise regularly;
• Maintain a healthy body weight, since estrogen produced from fat can increase the development of breast cancer;
• If you’re a smoker, consider quitting;
• Watch your alcohol consumption, as it has become a well-established risk factor for breast cancer in women.

In addition to self breast examination, you should have a yearly check up with your family physician. They can also give you a full physical exam and review of your medical and family history. Your doctor can give you a requisition for a mammogram, or you can simply head over to an Ontario Breast Screening Centre. In 2011, RVHS will be affiliated with the Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) at both of our hospital campuses (Rouge Valley Centenary and Rouge Valley Ajax & Pickering), and will feature Ontario Breast Screening Centres where patients can receive mammograms without a referral.

With the range of state-of-the-art diagnostic testing available at Rouge Valley Health System, including breast screening, quality preventive care is available right in your community. Both of our state-of-the-art Breast Imaging Centres, located at both of our hospital campuses, feature fully digital mammography machines that are able to provide a lower radiation dose to detect abnormalities in the breast tissue, often before they can be felt by the patient. Other imaging modalities include breast ultrasounds and breast MRIs. Minimally invasive breast biopsies are performed using ultrasound guidance, at the bedside, or by mammographically-guided stereotactic breast biopsy.

For appointments in our breast imaging centres and all other diagnostic tests, contact our central booking line at 416-281-7299 or toll-free at 1-866-752-6989. Most services require a referral from your family physician.

3HC's October Newsletter

Check out our October newsletter for information about cancer prevention and going veg!
Keep it Fresh!
- 3HCs
We're back in the black:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Which insurers sell individual insurance plans in Washington?

  • Asuris Northwest Health
  • Group Health Cooperative
  • Group Health Options
  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest
  • KPS Health Plans
  • Lifewise Health Plan of Washington
  • Premera BlueCross Individual Plans
  • Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon
  • Regence BlueShield
  • Time Insurance Company

To see who's selling coverage in your county, click here.

And to look at their rates, click here.
Want to help improve a person's health, for a living? Here's an excellent place to start:

Kreidler orders Regence to cover children

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler this morning ordered Regence BlueShield this morning to stop illegally denying insurance to children, effective immediately.

“Regence is in clear violation of state law that prohibits insurers from denying insurance to people on the basis of age,” said Kreidler. “I was shocked and deeply disappointed when Regence announced its decision last week to stop selling insurance to kids.”

The Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to cover kids with pre-existing conditions. However, to accommodate the insurance industry’s concerns that people would only enroll their children when they became sick, the federal government let states create a special open enrollment period.

Kreidler issued an emergency rule creating a special enrollment period from Nov. 1-Dec. 15. During this time, anyone looking for an individual health plan for their families or just their children can enroll their kids without having to take a health screen.

But Regence Blue Shield, the largest health insurer in the individual market, notified Kreidler on Sept. 27 that, effective Oct. 1, it would no longer sell individual health insurance policies to kids.

Here's a link to the full press release.

Update: And here's the response from Regence, which says it was shocked and disappointed by the order. From their press release:
It is important to stress that our eligibility changes do not apply to those insured members covered under small or large group policies. We've been very clear that we will insure kids during open enrollment periods when the child is not the sole subscriber -- and we will do so regardless of health status.

Tacoma woman with history of slip-and-fall claims charged with theft

A Tacoma woman who has repeatedly claimed to have slipped and fallen in grocery stores has been charged with theft and attempted theft after claiming to have fallen in two different stores within about 15 minutes.

Brenda J. Johnson, 50, is scheduled to be arraigned today in Pierce County Superior Court. She has been charged with first-degree theft and first-degree attempted theft.

Johnson said she was near check stand No. 2 at a Tacoma Safeway store on Sept. 18, 2009 at 11:46, buying peaches, when she slipped on some liquid and fell, injuring her wrist and ribs. Neither the cashier nor any other employee could recall any such incident.

On the same day at about noon, Johnson said the same thing happened in the frozen food aisle of a Tacoma Fred Meyer store.

In both cases, she said, she was embarrassed and quickly left. She filed claims with both stores, showing medical care and prescription drug receipts totalling more than $5,500.

A subsequent investigation by Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's Special Investigations Unit indicated that she apparently submitted virtually identical medical receipts to each store, including an 8-page emergency room report that was missing some pages.

Medical records obtained through a search warrant indicated that the treatment was unrelated to a fall at either store. The records also showed that there been no expense to Johnson for the care.

The investigation also revealed that Johnson has filed at least five auto-accident medical claims and at least half a dozen slip-and-fall injury claims.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I'll be out of town until the beginning of November, so I won't be responding to comments or e-mails for a while. I'm going to set up a post or two to publish while I'm gone.

As an administrative note, I get a number of e-mails from blog readers each day. I apologize that I can't respond to all of them, as it would require more time than I currently have to spare. The more concise your message, the more likely I'll read it and respond. Thanks for your understanding.

Lewis County couple convicted of insurance fraud

A Lewis County couple have been sentenced to jail for filing a false insurance claim.

Jennifer Mau, 30, and David Eden, 47, were found guilty by a jury on Friday.

Their case began as a moving claim. They rented a U-Haul truck on March 30, 2007 to move their household goods and personal belongings from a Centralia storage facility to their new home. They claimed that the U-Haul truck leaked rainwater, destroying $16,789 worth of her property.

Mau reported the loss to U-Haul and filed a claim. The couple said they threw out the damaged property at a landfill.

The insurer had the U-Haul truck water tested for leaks. No leaks were found. The insurer, Republic Western Insurance, denied Mau's claim and turned the case over to state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's Special Investigations Unit. The SIU's investigation included checks with local weather stations, which reported little or no precipitation that night.

The court sentenced Mau to 60 days in jail, with the option of electronic home monitoring. Eden was sentenced to 15 days in jail. (Both sentences are stayed pending a possible appeal.)

Cease-and-desist order issued against Capital HomeShield

Washington State Insurance Commissoiner Mike Kreidler has issued a cease-and-desist order against a Florida-based home warranty company doing business as Capital Home Shield.

The North Miami Beach company -- which was not registered as a service contract provider or insurer in Washington state -- nonetheless sold a contract to a Washington homeowner. He complained to us after he had difficulty getting them to pay for a repair to his stove. The company subsequently paid the claim.

Under the contract, Capital Home Shield, which is a doing-business-as name of MN Home Warranty Corp., promised to pay to repair or replace major systems and appliances that broke.

Kreidler ordered the company to to stop selling unauthorized contracts in Washington and to turn over a list of all its Washington clients, as well as reporting all premiums they've paid so far.

According to the local Better Business Bureau, the company has an "F" rating for repeatedly failing to respond to complaints.

Everett man who signed up for insurance AFTER crash pleads guilty

A 40-year-old Everett man who caused a three-car collision last fall has pleaded guilty to attempted insurance fraud, a gross misdemeanor.

On Oct. 8, 2009, Bieniek was driving his 1999 Ford F150 pickup. He'd owned it for about 5 years but didn't have insurance on it.

He claimed that just minutes before the collision, he'd picked up the truck from a friend in a parking lot, opened his laptop computer and bought insurance online from Geico Insurance.

But Geico, after pulling the company's online log, determined that Bieniek got the coverage after the wreck, not before. The company turned the case over to the Washington state insurance commissioner's Special Investigations Unit. Bieniek was charged with insurance fraud ("false claims or proof") in King County Superior Court in July.

On Friday, Bieniek pleaded guilty to attempted insurance fraud. He was sentenced to 6 months' probation, 120 hours of community service and a $500 victim penalty assesssment.


Do any of you tire of hearing raw people, blown all over the place by every word and wind from "others"? Feeling like they are not "doing it right" or have, once again "fallen off the wagon" or failed in raw life.
Listening always to those who have been raw a long time, or those guru type thinkers, world travellers and island hoppers (bless their hearts), taking what they say as carved in stone,what you must do? I personally am grateful for the forerunners and all they offer in experience, testimonials and knowledge!

I do tire sometimes because it is just not true direction if one looks ONLY to it for direction. Why do we need direction anyway? Ideas, recipes, support, LOVE, inspiration, kitchen equipment thoughts are all good and helpful. But as far as direction in connection with your own eating plan, THAT is exactly what it is, YOUR OWN.We are all heading in the direction of health if we are on a raw journey, the path you take to get their is YOURS!

Honoring each person, as an individual, with their unique body and lifestyle. Bio-individuality. I be me and you be you.

What do you REALLY need to see which way to go with health? An ear. Yes an ear. YOUR OWN ear.Why? Because all you need, for your health journey is to listen to your own body! The other things mentioned above are all supplementary to intuition, which is defined as an inner knowing, a guide in your body telling you what you need.

The body, your body, is always and forever on a quest to heal you and keep you well! Isn't that great? If you tune in to that station and listen, you will learn and help your body to do it's job. Every pain, every body sensation, every craving (of a healthy kind) is telling you what to do next. Shhhhh ...Sit still and listen.

How can you tune in for better hearing? Clean the gunk out. As Pooh once said "some folks might have a bit o fluff in their ears". Be willing to listen and learn. Take out the junk of life. Be silent. Let go of all you think you want to eat, what you used to like, what party is coming up and what cake will be there! Simply STOP all that programming from running and listen!

Once the body is cleaner, the body messages become louder and crystal clear. You go to the co-op and pick up the exact fruit your body wants. You look in the fridge and the exact idea comes to you what to have.

Line up with your body instead of "fighting" this or that. You hear people say "I am fighting this cold" or "I am gonna fight this thing and beat it". Often this is in reference to cancer. They truly ARE fighting it. How? By waging all out chemical warfare with powerful, toxic potions. Everyone gets to choose and choosing to work with the body vs against it is a powerful tool indeed.

What would listening look like? Giving the body life giving foods instead of a mass of chemical concoctions, in the form of junk food or medicines. Note: some people absolutely need to resort to medicine at that point in the game.

Listen to your body daily. Say YES to every food that builds health and simply turn away from foods that bring disease. It is that easy!

YOU are your own health care provider,YOU are your own "GURU", YOU are the creator of your health! That is awesome my friends!

Love from my own inner knowing heart to yours! Muah! Bette B

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Behind the scenes in our Consumer Advocacy program...

Not enough people know about it, but our consumer advocacy staff run a free phone hotline -- staffed by live people, not some endless phone tree -- to help you get answers to insurance questions and problems. It's 1-800-562-6900.

People call when they're unhappy with what their insurer's offering for their wrecked car, for example. They call, increasingly, because they cannot find affordable health coverage and are desperate to find coverage for loved ones. (We also have a special program, called Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors, that trains hundreds of volunteers to help provide information on health insurance and Medicare options. They can be reached through the same number.)

One person called because he was unhappy with the value that an insurer put on his goat, which had met with an untimely end. (True. For what it's worth, we helped get him an extra $25 for his goat.)

Not everyone, however, speaks English-- or at least well enough to get into the details of an insurance claim and policy exclusions. So we have staff who can speak Spanish and Filipino/Tagalog, and others certified to interpret American Sign Language. We have a TTY machine. Some of our publications are available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian.

And when that's not enough, we tap Language Line Services, a telephone interpreter service that can translate English into more than 150 languages (and vice versa) 24/7.

So if you know someone who's having trouble with an agent or insurer, needs help finding health coverage, etc., have them give us a call: 1-800-562-6900. We speak their language.

Seattle woman pleads guilty in insurance fraud case

A Seattle women has pleaded guilty to filing a false claim in an insurance case -- a class C felony -- after allegedly smashing her van into two parked cars and then filing an insurance claim saying the van had been stolen.

Luom Vo, 38,  was sentenced in King County Superior Court to 30 days community service and more than $4,000 in restitution and other costs.

According to Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler's Special Investigations Unit, Vo was driving on Seattle's Beacon Avenue just before 2 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2009 when she hit two parked vehicles: a Volvo station wagon and a Pontiac Vibe. Her Honda van was disabled in the crash. Neighbors said they saw Vo then climb into a friend's car and leave.

Later that day, Vo filed a claim with her insurer, PEMCO, saying that the van had been stolen. She subsequently insisted to a PEMCO investigator that she was not driving it when the crash happened.

The SIU investigation found that the van had not been stolen, and that she was, in fact, behind the wheel.


Do you realize what a wonder we have in Chia? Oh aren't they those little seeds that make those cute little green pets? Or that gift that keep on giving but you would rather not? Who knew these little seeds pack such power??

I highly recommend to forget purchasing those little pets at giftime (nobody really wants them anyway right?) and give them the gift of the Chia seeds themselves!

These babies are packed with nutrients and are a powerful addition to a vibrant life. Here is a short list of some of the blessings of Chia:

Endurance and stamina=ENERGY!

Economical (thats reason enough right now eh?)

Great source of protein

Great for weight loss (Oh boy I am in)

Assists in colon health/elimination (who dont want this I ask you?)

May asssist in prevention of heart disease

Helps prevent colon cancer (who wants that? Not me)

Balances blood sugar

Assists those with diabetes (yup grandma will even love them!)

Packs more punch than flax seed (no way, you dont say)

*anti-aging (Ok I can handle this one!I will cancel my dumb botox appointment..haha)

Chia is a rich source of protein, is a quick an easy way to get protein and also is versatile in any recipe! One awesome seed I say!

So today, go to the health food store and say ch-ch chia! Start of a brand new Chia way! Oh but you are free to still have your pet, make it a cat or a dog and leave those little terra cotta ones on wally marts shelf!

Or you could always get alot of them and cover your car huh?

Love from my chia loving heART to yours! Muah! Bette Bliss

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sleep Post Correction

An astute commenter pointed out that I misread the numbers in the paper on sleep and fat loss. I wrote that out of the total 3.0 kg lost, the high-sleep group lost 2.4 kg as fat, and the low-sleep group lost 1.4 kg of fat out of 2.9 kg total.

In fact, the high-sleep group lost 1.4 out of 2.9 kg as fat, and the low-sleep group lost 0.6 out of 3.0 kg as fat. So I got the numbers all mixed up. Sorry for the mistake. The main point of the post still stands though: sleep deprivation negatively influences body composition.

The correct numbers are even more interesting than the ones I made up. Even in the high-sleep group, nearly half the body weight lost by simple calorie restriction was lean mass. That doesn't make calorie restriction look very good!

In the sleep-deprived group, 80% of the weight lost by calorie restriction came out of lean mass. Ouch!

That illustrates one of the reasons why I'm skeptical of simple calorie restriction as a means of fat loss. When the body "wants" to be fat, it will sacrifice lean mass to preserve fat tissue. For example, the genetically obese Zucker rat cannot be starved thin. If you try to put it on a severe calorie-restricted diet, it will literally die fat because it will cannibalize its own lean mass (muscle, heart, brain, etc.) to spare the fat. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.

The key is not only to balance energy intake with expenditure (which the brain does automatically when it's working correctly), but to allocate energy appropriately to lean and fat mass.

Blood glucose levels in birds are high yet HbA1c levels are low: Can vitamin C have anything to do with this?

Blood glucose levels in birds are often 2-4 times higher than those in mammals of comparable size. Yet birds often live 3 times longer than mammals of comparable size. This is paradoxical. High glucose levels are generally associated with accelerated senescence, but birds seem to age much slower than mammals. Several explanations have been proposed for this, one of which is related to the formation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs).

Glycation is a process whereby sugar molecules “stick” to protein or fat molecules, impairing their function. Glycation leads to the formation of AGEs, which seem to be associated with a host of diseases, including diabetes, and to be implicated in accelerated aging (or “ageing”, with British spelling).

The graphs below, from Beuchat & Chong (1998), show the glucose levels (at rest and prior to feeding) and HbA1c levels (percentage of glycated hemoglobin) in birds and mammals. HbA1c is a measure of the degree of glycation of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells. As such HbA1c (given in percentages) is a good indicator of the rate of AGE formation within an animal’s body.

The glucose levels are measured in mmol/l; they should be multiplied by 18 to obtain the respective measures in mg/dl. For example, the 18 mmol/l glucose level for the Anna’s (a hummingbird species) is equivalent to 324 mg/dl. Even at that high level, well above the level of a diabetic human, the Anna’s hummingbird species has an HbA1c of less than 5, which is lower than that for most insulin sensitive humans.

How can that be?

There are a few possible reasons. Birds seem to have evolved better mechanisms to control cell permeability to glucose, allowing glucose to enter cells very selectively. Birds also seem to have a higher turnover of cells where glycation and thus AGE formation results. The lifespan of red blood cells in birds, for example, is only 50 to 70 percent that of mammals.

But one of the most interesting mechanisms is vitamin C synthesis. Not only is vitamin C a powerful antioxidant, but it also has the ability to reversibly bind to proteins at the sites where glycation would occur. That is, vitamin C has the potential to significantly reduce glycation. The vast majority of birds and mammals can synthesize vitamin C. Humans are an exception. They have to get it from their diet.

This may be one of the many reasons why isolated human groups with traditional diets high in fruits and starchy tubers, which lead to temporary blood glucose elevations, tend to have good health. Fruits and starchy tubers in general are good sources of vitamin C.

Grains and seeds are not.


Beuchat, C.A., & Chong, C.R. (1998). Hyperglycemia in hummingbirds and its consequences for hemoglobin glycation. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A, 120(3), 409–416.

Holmes D.J., Fl├╝ckiger, R., & Austad, S.N. (2001). Comparative biology of aging in birds: An update. Experimental Gerontology, 36(4), 869-883.

Jerusalem, by October blogger of the month Isaac Hatton

Al Aqsa mosque.

A helicopter hovers overhead, drowning the evening silence.  Streaky white clouds hang like the sagging palm fronds of a sukka.  The pale setting sun ignites the fringes.  There is a an unexpected stillness in a city that has caused great commotion throughout history.  Here I am laying on the rooftop of Old Jerusalem, the Al Aqsa Mosque just off to my right, layers of human struggle buried beneath my dusty feet.
My friend and I took the crowded 470 bus north from Be'er Sheva this afternoon, headed toward our first glimpse of this Holy City.  The dusty Judean Desert slowly gave way to patches of greenery as the miles fell behind us.  Orchards started appearing across the undulating landscape.  As the bus began its steep ascent I imagined the ancient pilgrims climbing across those rocky ridges, their challenging journey taking on a larger metaphor as they struggled through the questions of life on their way toward the Feast.  Toward Jerusalem.
I'm standing now on the wooden rooftop railing of the Citadel Hostel, my bed for the next two nights.  The sky above me is on fire, igniting the Dome of the Rock.  Suddenly, as if triggered by a specific hue of pink in the sky above, a husky-sounding choir from a dozen minarets across the city spontaneously erupts.  Their enchanting call to prayer billows up and falls away like the sunset clouds.  As suddenly as it started it ends, and the humming helicopter resumes his mastery of the evening stillness.  - Isaac Hatton, MSIH first-year student

>129,000 in WA potentially affected in Farmers class-action settlement

At least 129,973 Washingtonians are potential members of the settlement class in a class-action case that Farmers Group and corporate parent Zurich Financial Services Group have agreed to settle for $455 million.

The companies say payments "may vary considerably", but will average $35 per policyholder, and that some 13 million policyholders may qualify for a distribution under the settlement.

 Customers with questions can contact Farmers regarding the settlement at 1-888-538-5785.

Here's our original post on this, with more details about the case and a link to Zurich's press release.

October = Non GMO Month

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. The most frequent use of the term GMO is in relation to the food that we eat, in that many crops and factory-made foods are created from genetically modified ingredients. Genes from other plants, viruses, bacteria, animals, etc. are inserted into the genes of certain products such as corn to make them more stable and resistant to drought, disease and pesticides. However, because of this cross-breeding, the safety of such foods has not been able to have been proven and other countries (and some counties in the U.S.) have banned the modified foods from being imported and/or grown.

Now on to the health aspects of GMO’s. Though the goal of GMO crops is to make them less susceptible to pests, more resistant to drought and stronger overall, the actual result is that stronger pesticides will be needed for the stronger weeds and disease, just as overuse of antibiotics has created stronger strains of disease in humans. Do we really want stronger pesticides to be used on the food that we eat? I sure don’t, and that’s why I try to do as much shopping as possible at my local farmer’s market here in Red Bank, NJ. Even though the items are still not 100% organic, at least they aren't grown conventionally (with possibility of GMOs and harmful conventional pesticides). But still there are boxed foods in the grocery store that also have GMO ingredients in them, and as of today there are no rules that say that they must be labeled as such.

More and more consumers are becoming concerned about GMOs, yet most people don't know how to avoid them because the United States doesn't require GMOs to be labeled. Check out these 4 simple tips to avoiding GMOs, from the informative Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

How to Avoid GMOs:

Buy Organic. The USDA Organic certification prohibits GMOs. All the more reason to buy organic food!

Look for "Non-GMO" Labels. But remember: You won't just be looking for one. There are dozens of labels out there, be a food detective!

Avoid At-Risk Ingredients. These include corn (corn flour, meal, oil, starch, gluten, and syrups; sweeteners such as fructose, dextrose, and glucose; and modified food starch), soybeans (soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate, and isoflavone, vegetable oil, and vegetable protein), canola oil (also called rapaseed oil), cottonseed, and sugar (avoid anything not listed as 100 percent cane sugar, as well as aspartame).

Buy Products Listed in the Non-GMO Shopping Guide. Check out the downloadable guide here. They even have an app for your phone/iPod.

Keep it Fresh!
- Lauren

Information adapted from www.the,, and

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Superfood App approved!

A Superfood App has been approved on Monday October 5th in the Apple store! This app will prove to be invaluable for assisting people is support of optimum health and wellness. Go check it out and see what a beautifully orchestrated piece of work this is! Please be sure to write us a review!
Click the "like" button and we will keep you infomred of updates and new apps sure to come!

Yesterday the Ipad version hit the #2 spot in health and fitness category!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Healthy Happy Hour - 10/28 at Jamian's

Please join us for this month's Healthy Happy Hour at Jamian's in Red Bank!

Keep it Fresh!

Restore Your Health Through Digestion

Heartburn, bloating, irritability, depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, indigestion, constipation, gas, allergies…the list goes on and on. Digestion is everything. Gut health is crucial to good overall health. Below are some smart ways to keep your belly happy and healthy.

1. Eat Real Foods. Shop the perimeter of grocery stores in the refrigerated sections for real food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are foods that are “alive” and contain the healthy enzymes that your body needs to digest foods properly. Foods that are found in packages on the inside aisles of the store are “dead” foods that contain NO enzymes that your body needs to digest.

2. Fermented Foods/Probiotics. Consuming fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, kefir and tempeh keeps the gut flora healthy because they contain natural probiotics that our guts need to stay healthy.

3. Eat Seasonally. Our body can assimilate produce better when eaten during its peak season. When we eat in harmony with nature, all systems of the body are more at ease.

4. Stay Hydrated. Keeping your system hydrated is key for overall health, especially with digestion. Water helps to lubricate your organs allowing them to help guide your digestion and elimination smoothly along.

5. Eat Your Fiber. Be sure to include plenty of fiber in your diet. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are some of the best sources of dietary fiber that will keep your gut healthy and may help to rid you of some diseases and illnesses.

6. Trust Your Gut. Connect with that instinctual “gut feeling” when you have one and trust it. Be true to yourself, to others and in every other aspect of your life.

7. Take 3 Deep Breaths. Eating in a relaxed environment as often as possible is important for healthy digestion. Sit down before you eat and pause to take a few deep breaths before you begin eating. Slow down, relax.

8. Chew Your Food. Try to chew your food at least 10 – 20 times before swallowing. Digestion begins in your mouth and will flow a lot smoother through your digestive tract when food is chewed properly.

9. Avoid Sugar. Limit your sugar intake, especially any artificial sugars.

10. Have a Cup of Tea. Calm your belly and digestion with a cup of hot, herbal tea. Chamomile, ginger, peppermint or fennel tea are very soothing to the stomach.

Keep it Fresh!
- Lauren

Doggies Like Healthy Foods Too!

It happens all the time when I'm at my parents house. I sit down to eat and Stanley sits quietly next to my chair and stares up at me with his big brown eyes longing for my food. Since what I'm eating is almost always healthy, whole foods I can't help but save a few small pieces for him. When I'm finished, I slowly feed him what's left. The picture of him on the right is exactly the face and position of him in begging mode. He's sitting on his hamburger bed (yes, he's a hot dog with a hamburger bed) and waiting anxiously for me to feed him some carrots. Wouldn't you cave too?!

I'm a big believer that if you’re going to feed your dogs “people” food, you should feed them something that’s actually good for them! Here are some healthy, easily obtainable options straight from the food store that can be added to spice up your doggies regular fare. There are, of course, a few cautions to keep in mind. First, none of these items by themselves constitutes a “complete and balanced” meal, and if your dog has health or weight issues, check with your vet before introducing them. Next, considering that many dogs are willing to eat almost anything they find, they can be surprisingly fussy about new things in their food bowls; start with a small portion to see if it’s a go… or no. And finally, always introduce new foods gradually.

10 Healthy "People" Foods for Doggies

1. Banana
. High in potassium (great for muscle and blood vessel function as well as for regulating the acidity of body fluids), fiber (a handy home remedy for the occasional bout of doggy diarrhea or constipation) and magnesium (important for energy transport and protein building in the body). Bananas have lots of pyridoxine (Vitamin B6), which helps metabolize proteins and regulates blood cell function so the blood can bring more oxygen to the brain and muscle. They also contain Vitamin C, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage and helps build cartilage. Pup Prep: Mash a banana and mix it in with your dog’s food. Be forewarned that the compounds in bananas that make them smell banana-y are offensive to some canines.

2. Rutabaga
. A sorely ignored veggie, similar to a turnip. Rutabagas are very good boiled and mashed. They’re available year-round in most grocery stores and keep well. Their high levels of Vitamin C, potassium and carotenoids (precursors to Vitamin A) aid eye health and maintenance of DNA activation in cells. They are also important in immune system function and have a number of lesser-known phytochemicals, which are shown to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases associated with aging. Pup Prep: Peel, boil and mash the rutabaga, then add a little bit of safflower or olive oil; these oils are not harmful to dogs, who need fats and handle them far better than do humans.

3. Sweet Potato. 
Loaded with nutrients, such as the carotenoids and Vitamin C, in addition to some lesser known antioxidants and phytochemicals. They are high in pyridoxine, potassium, fiber and magnesium. They also are good sources of copper, iron and manganese–all essential minerals that perform myriad functions in cells, from transporting oxygen to assisting in the assembly of proteins. Pup Prep: As with rutabaga, boil, mash and add a bit of good oil.

4. Flaxseeds
. Small seeds–known for their alpha linolenic acid (ALA) content and benefits to coat, skin, bone and brain function–that pack a big nutritional punch. These seeds are also high in fiber and lignans (a fiber type), which may be beneficial for insulin action. They are a great source of manganese, pyridoxine, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. They also contain the B vitamin folate, which is important for cell regulation. Pup Prep: Grind fresh flaxseeds, which are nutty and crunchy; flaxseed oil is also available in most health food stores and contains a more concentrated amount of ALA. Add the ground seeds or a teaspoon of oil to your dog’s food and increase the nutrient density of any meal. (Note: Store in refrigerator to maintain freshness.)

5. Yogurt. 
Active cultures known as probiotics (necessary, friendly bacteria) help keep the bad bacteria away. Yogurt, which may improve gut function, contains a number of nutrients, including protein, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin B12, potassium, zinc and iodine. It is also a fair source of other B vitamins such as riboflavin and pantothenic acid (required for enzyme action and energy production, as well as other cellular functions). Pup Prep: A dollop of plain yogurt (with very little sugar of course) is a great way to disguise some yucky medicines.

6. Salmon. 
Bursting with Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s do wonders for skin, coat and brain as well as limit inflammatory processes that cause arthritic pain and other chronic canine conditions. (If your dog has any of these conditions, ask your vet if fish oil in capsule form might help.) Salmon is also an excellent protein source, with many essential vitamins and minerals.* Pup Prep: When you’re cooking salmon steaks for yourself, toss a few extra on the barbie for your dog. Refrigerate or dehydrate the grilled chunks and serve them cold.

7. Nori. 
Dried edible seaweed (red algae species), a Japanese staple. Often associated with sushi, nori is available in some supermarkets, and certainly in those with Asian food items. It has protein, galactans (a soluble fiber), Vitamins C, E and all the Bs, and minerals such as zinc and copper. It also contains some lesser-known sterols and chlorophyll, which have been investigated for their effects on regulating metabolism. Nori may have beneficial effects on fat metabolism, immune function and anti-tumor response. Pup Prep: Nori does not have a strong odor or flavor, and the paper-thin sheets can be torn and soaked in broth, then added to food, or just added dry. Puppy sushi, anyone?

8. Blueberries. 
Member of the Heath family and loaded with phytochemicals. Available year round either fresh or frozen, blueberries are a great treat for your dog. The deep blue color comes from anthocyanidins, which are potent antioxidants, and the berries also supply Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and fiber. Slow introduction in small quantities is particularly essential here; as anyone who has ever gorged on this tasty fruit knows, the blueberry “trots” are most unpleasant (and you’re the one who will be cleaning up!). Be judicious. Pup Prep: Rinse and serve whole, or mash lightly.

9. Rosemary
Aromatic mint relative. Rosemary provides some fiber, iron and calcium in addition to several phytochemicals thought to improve immune function and act as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. Pup Prep: Wash a sprig of fresh rosemary and add the minced needles (leaves) to foods.

10. Swiss Chard.
 A pretty veggie known as a “green.” Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and has tons of nutrients, which are best maintained by blanching and not boiling the leaves and stalks to mush. (Some feel that, in order to lap up any leeched nutrients, the water in which chard is blanched should be consumed too.) Blanching sweetens the leaves and frees up some of the oxalates, which can bind minerals. Chard’s nutrients have the potential to maintain bone health, blood vessel integrity, eye health and immune function and benefit optimal muscle function and energy production. Pup Prep: Offer your dog some blanched, chopped chard enhanced with a bit of olive oil; if you’re lucky, your best friend will want the blanching water too!

Information adapted from