Whole Grain, Stone Ground, Organic Bread: It’s Good For You!

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I’m a big proponent of including grains in our daily diet. Not just any grains, though. Grains that are healthful for us are organic, whole grains, enjoyed either in their whole form or as freshly milled flour.

Despite the current dietary fad of shunning all grains, a growing body of evidence shows that increased intake of less-refined, whole-grain foods has numerous positive health benefits. People who consume greater amounts of whole grains are consistently shown to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2-diabetes, and many cancers. People who eat whole grains also appear to have better digestive health and are likely to have a lower BMI and gain less weight over time. The bulk of the evidence for the advantages of whole-grains comes from observational studies, but researchers are discovering the same benefits in intervention studies, and are identifying the mechanisms behind the protective properties of whole grains.1

Whole Grains Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease

Here’s an example of the health protective benefits of whole grains: A meta-analysis of seven major studies showed that cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, or the need for a procedure to bypass or open a clogged artery) was 21% less likely in people who ate 2.5 or more servings of whole-grain foods per day compared with those who ate less than 2 servings per week.2

In a study on the association between a high-quality carbohydrate index (CQI) and cardiovascular health, researchers found that a better quality of dietary carbohydrates (measured by the CQI) showed a significant inverse association with the incidence of CVD. Specially, a higher proportion of carbohydrates from whole grains was strongly inversely associated with CVD.

These findings make it clear that “heart-healthy” diets should be focused not only on carbohydrate quantity but also on an assessment of the type and quality of carbohydrates. This means focusing on organic whole grains while avoiding processed, refined grains and flours.

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Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains4

A 2016 meta-analysis of thirteen studies on total mortality (104,061 deaths), 12 on CVD mortality (26,352 deaths), and 8 on cancer mortality (34,797 deaths) found that there was a significant inverse relationship between whole-grain intake and mortality due to any cause, CVD, or cancer.5

In addition, a 2017 meta-analysis of over 1 million participants found that each 28 g/d intake of whole grains was associated with a 9% lower risk for total mortality, 14% lower risk for CVD mortality and 3% lower risk for cancer mortality.6

Whole Grains: The Best Food for Gut Microbial and Immune Health

Two clinical trials from Tufts University, published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show that that substituting whole grains for refined grains, even for a short period, improves the balance of intestinal microbes and enhances immune response and energy metabolism.

Both studies involved healthy adults (ages 40 to 65), half of whom consumed a diet rich in whole grains (whole wheat, oats, and brown rice) for six weeks, while the rest ate refined grains. Other than the different grains, the diets were virtually the same. The whole grains provided about twice as much fiber (mostly insoluble fiber) as well as some extra nutrients and other potentially bene­ficial compounds.

The results of the studies revealed two noteworthy findings:

  • Whole grains create a happier microbiome.  To determine the effect of whole grains on the microbiome, researchers analyzed the participants’ stool for bacterial content and concentration of fats. Previous research has shown that whole grains increase microbiome diversity and boost production of short-chain fatty acids, both of which are linked to improved immune function and digestive health. Along these lines, the whole-grain group showed an increase in bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids and a decrease in pro-inflammatory bacteria, among other positive changes, compared to those eating refined grains. Blood samples from the whole-grain group also showed improvements in several markers of immune response.7
  • Whole grains negate calories. This fascinating finding indicates that consuming whole grains can promote weight loss. The researchers discovered that whole grain consumption led to decreased calorie retention during digestion (as measured by calories in stool) and a slightly higher resting metabolic rate—resulting in a net daily energy loss of 92 calories per day, on average, compared to those participants consuming a refined-grain diet. Self-re­­ported hunger and fullness were not statistically different between the two groups. The additional fecal energy losses appear to be the result of the extra fiber on the digestion of other food calories.8

How Wholegrain Wheat Differs from Refined Wheat

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https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/whole-grains/

Whole grain foods that undergo processing and reconstitution must deliver the same proportion of bran, germ, and endosperm as that of the original grain to be considered whole grains. The outer bran layer is composed of non-digestible, mainly insoluble, poorly fermentable carbohydrates (such as cellulose, hemicelluloses, arabinoxylan), and the inner germ and starchy endosperm contain viscous soluble fibers, fermentable oligosaccharides, resistant starch (RS), lignans, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, oils, and other phytonutrients.

During the refining of whole grains into white flour, the outer bran and inner germ layers are removed and the remaining endosperm is processed into flour. Thus, compared with refined grains, whole grains are inherently richer in dietary fiber, containing 80% more dietary fiber than refined grains. Furthermore, as a consequence of the refining process, there are substantial losses in essential minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients.9.10

The Remarkable Antioxidant Properties of Whole Grains

Whole grains are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, lignans, β-glucan, inulin, numerous phytochemicals, phytosterols, phytin, and sphingolipids. In wheat kernels, ferulic acid and other phenolic acids provide protection by generating physical and chemical barriers through cross-linking with carbohydrates; these antioxidant activities combat destructive radicals.11

The phenolic acid concentration of whole grains corresponds to their total antioxidant capacities. Corn has the highest phenolic acid content, followed by wheat, oats, and rice, with 265, 136, 111, and 95 mg gallic acid equivalents/100 g, respectively.12

Although fruits and vegetables are widely recognized for their antioxidant benefits, whole grains offer equal and even greater antioxidant protection. For example, the antioxidant capacity of whole grain breakfast cereals ranges from 2200 to 3500 Trolox equivalents (TE). (Trolox is a water-soluble analog of vitamin E.) In comparison, the antioxidant capacity of fruits generally ranges from 600 to 1700 TE, with a high of 2200 TE for red plums and 3600 TE for berries. Vegetables average 450 TE, with a high of 1400 TE for red cabbage.13,14

Carotenoids are another group of compounds found in whole grains. Lutein, zeaxanthin, β-cryptoxanthin, β-carotene, and α-carotene are the most common carotenoids and are commonly concentrated in the bran or germ portion of whole grains.15

Micronutrients such as folate and vitamin B-6, polyphenols, and antioxidant compounds, along with prebiotics such as inulin, oligosaccharides and immune modulators such as β-glucan found in whole grains work synergistically to lower oxidative stress, inflammation, and pathogen load.16

It’s obvious that including whole grains in our daily diet offers many more benefits than just extra roughage. Researchers are just beginning to recognize the many ways that whole grains improve our health, from nourishing the gut biome and improving metabolism to providing powerful antioxidants that help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. Stay tuned for Part II of this blog—I’ll be sharing some of the ways that bread, made from fresh, organic stone ground whole grains, provides us with a unique source of emotional and spiritual sustenance.

Research

  1. Seal CJBrownlee IA. Whole-grain foods and chronic disease: evidence from epidemiological and intervention studies, Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 Aug;74(3):313-9. doi: 10.1017/S0029665115002104.
  2. Mellen PB, Walsh TF, Herrington DM. Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008;18:283-90.
  3. Segui-Gomez, M. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2016 Jul 12. pii: S0939-4753(16)30109-0. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2016.07.002.
  4. Jonnalagadda S, Harnack L, Liu R, et al. Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium, J. Nutr. 141: 1011S–1022S, 2011.
  5. Chen G, Tong X, Xu J, et al. Whole-grain intake and total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (May 2016)
  6. Zhang B1Zhao Q2Guo W1, et al. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017 Nov 1. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2017.149.
  7. Vanegas, S.M., et. al., Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial has a modest effect on gut microbiota and immune and inflammatory markers of healthy adults, Am J Clin Nutr October 2017 106: 1052-1061; First published online August 16, 2017. doi:10.3945/ajcn.117.155424.
  8. Karl, J.P. et. al., Substituting whole grains for refined grains in a 6-wk randomized trial favorably affects energy-balance metrics in healthy men and postmenopausal womenAm J Clin Nutr ajcn139683; First published online February 8, 2017.
  9. Okarter N, Liu RH. Health benefits of whole grain phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2010;50:193–208
  10. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page; 2009. [cited 2010 Jun 1]. Available from: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl
  11. Adom KK, Sorrells ME, Liu RH. Phytochemicals and antioxidant activity of milled fractions of different wheat varieties. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 23; 53(6):2297-306.
  12. Adom KK, Liu RH. Antioxidant activity of grains. J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Oct 9; 50(21):6182-7.
  13. Miller HE, Rigelhof F, Marquart L, et al. Antioxidant content of whole grain breakfast cereals, fruits and vegetables. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Jun; 19(3 Suppl):312S-319S.
  14. Okarter N, Liu RH., Health benefits of whole grain phytochemicals. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Mar; 50(3):193-208.
  15. Adom KK, Sorrells ME, Liu RH. Phytochemicals and antioxidant activity of milled fractions of different wheat varieties. J Agric Food Chem 2005;53:2297–306.
  16. Jonnalagadda S, Harnack L, Liu R, et al. Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium, J. Nutr. 141: 1011S–1022S, 2011.

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Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens

Aging is associated with a decrease in adaptive abilities along with increased vulnerability to stress. At the same time, aging is a complex process involving a persistent activation of some stress response systems, often involving transcriptional reprogramming, and the activation of vitagenes, which can be consider a ‘geroprotective’ adaptation.13   Environmental stressors induce specific and predictable epigenetic changes that can eventually result in an adaptive response to the stimulus. It seems likely that mild stress-induced hormetic response involves mechanisms similar to those that underlie developmental epigenetic adaptations.

The illustration below shows the involvement of hormesis in the epigenetic processes that determine age-related disorders and longevity.14

adaptogens

Dose–response curve depicting the quantitative features of hormesis

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.

The Role of Adaptogens in Hormesis

Botanical and dietary compounds, such as polyphenols, have recently been shown to be neuroprotective through the activation of hormetic pathways, including vitagenes. Hormesis provides the foundation of neuroprotective responses, and offers a framework for explaining the common measurable features of their dose response relationships, their mechanistic foundations, and their relationship to the concept of biological plasticity as well as providing a key insight for improving the accuracy of the therapeutic dose of pharmaceutical agents.15

Adaptogenic formulas allow for the modulation of endogenous cellular defense mechanisms, and represent an innovative approach to therapeutic intervention in chronic diseases and aging.

Adaptogenic formulations are the foundation of botanical medicine and their unique mode of beneficial actions include the expansion of “homeodynamic space.” A crucial component of the homeodynamic space is the stress response, in which a living system senses disturbance and initiates a series of events for maintenance, repair, adaptation, remodeling and survival.

Adapting to stressors provides a wider dynamic range of stability, also referred as the homeodynamic space. Adaptogenic formulas strengthen and maintain expansiveness of the homeodynamic space, mitigating the negative impact of aging on this important aspect of health and healing. In this way, they offer protection against a wide variety of environmental assaults and emotional and physical stressors.

What is an Adaptogen?

The general pharmacodynamic characteristics of an adaptogenic substance were defined by Brekhman and Dardymov (1969) as follows:

  • An adaptogen is almost non-toxic to the recipient;
  • An adaptogen tends to be non-specific in its pharmacological properties and acts by increasing the resistance of the organism to a broad spectrum of adverse biological, chemical, and physical factors;
  • An adaptogen tends to be a regulator having a normalizing effect on the various organ systems of the recipient organism.

One mode of action of adaptogens has been associated with the neuroendocrine-immune system and the system involved in regulation (activation and inhibition) of stimulus-response coupling, which are responsible for defense and adaptation of the organism to stressors.16-18 Although useful, this classic reductionist model is insufficient for explaining the mechanistic aspects of the physiological notion of “adaptability” and the adaptogenic activity of adaptogens.

To consider adaptogens in a broader sense, they are associated with stress hormones and key mediators of homeostasis. In this context, the mechanisms of action of adaptogens are specifically related to stress-protective activity and increased adaptability of the organism. Adaptogens exhibit multiple protective effects against chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer, and other aging-related diseases.

Current uses of adptogens are mainly related to stress-induced fatigue and cognitive function, mental illness, and behavioral disorders. It is very unlikely that the pharmacological activity of any phytochemical is specific and associated only with one type of receptor, particularly adaptogenic compounds, which affect key mediators of the adaptive stress response at intracellular and extracellular levels of communication. Therefore, their prophylactic use by healthy subjects to ameliorate stress and prevent age-related diseases appears to be justified. 19

Beginning in the early 1960’s, extensive human and animal research on adaptogenic plant extracts has consistently shown that adaptogens enhance stress resistance by promoting vitality and enhancing physical and mental performance. Adaptogens improve health by enhancing the four life requirements, which are 1) Energy, 2) Adaptation, 3) Protection, and 4) Reproduction.  Adaptogens aid in all aspects of response, and then normalize and restore function.

In my experience, the value of adaptogenic formulas for health and vitality is their ability to enhance the four Rs: Recognition, Response, Recovery, and Revitalize.

  • Recognize. Recognition is the first step to any response. When the body comes into contact with a pathogen such as a flu virus, the first step is to identify the invader so that the immune system can mount an appropriate response. Another way to think of this is awareness. The immune system cannot respond until it is aware of what is wrong. In the event of cancer, the failure of the immune system to recognize cancer cells as abnormal occurs in all stages of the disease, including initiation, progression, angiogenesis, and invasion.
  • Respond. Once the body is aware of a physiological need, it mounts a response. For example, digestion begins as a response to food entering the mouth, which triggers the secretion of digestive enzymes. After food is digested, hydrochloric acid and enzymes are turned off, and the body produces bicarbonates to buffer the acids. If we don’t respond appropriately because our energy is diverted elsewhere, then we either don’t make enough digestive enzymes, or we make too much, or we don’t make bicarbonates because we never fully digested what we ate.

All of these unhealthy responses are often caused by stress, but in most cases, the root cause is never addressed. For example, enzyme deficiency (caused by stress) is the primary cause of acid reflux. Antacids are usually prescribed to quell the excess acid, but the real problem has not been addressed. By blocking acid production, we don’t feel discomfort, but the body is unable to digest and assimilate nutrients, and thus, cannot maintain optimal health.

  • Recovery. Once we respond to stress, we must recover from that response, turn down or off certain metabolic switches, and turn others back on. An important aspect of recovery is anabolic restoration. When energy goes to the surface it is catabolic. When we recover it is anabolic.
  • Revitalize. All energy systems or organ networks require that we restore their energy reserves. If energy reserves are not sufficiently replenished, an individual will not be able to effectively heal.

Adaptogens improve the efficacy of energy transfer, which include catabolic activities that involve oxygen, glucose, and fats for optimal efficient energy production, as well as anabolic processes utilizing amino acids to build up all tissues and cells of the body. Anabolic restoration is an essential feature of adaptogens.

The Subtle Energetics of Adaptogens

The idea that energetic relationships within the body give rise to adaptation and healing, such as the vis medicatrix naturae (the healing power of nature), is a pivotal concept of naturopathic and herbal medicine. Vital to an understanding of healing is an exploration of aspects of energy utilization including the impact of belief systems, lifestyle choices, sexuality, and spirituality.

Energetic relationships are important and relevant, yet because they cannot be methodically analyzed and explained on a biological or physiological level, they are misconstrued and largely ignored in modern-conventional medicine. The language and approach of traditional healing systems is better suited to explore and understand the concepts and interrelationships that are essential for the creation and maintenance of optimal health.

Adaptogens act to normalize homeostasis, optimize metabolism, and improve resistance to a variety of adverse factors. All of my protocols are built on a foundation of adaptogenic formulations. Just has a building has framework, so does a supportive protocol of botanical and nutritional remedies.

Mederi Medicine utilizes five medicinal toolboxes, and multiple interwoven treatments or modalities, to provide synergistic effects—not merely additive or opposing effects, but optimizing a harmonious effect whereby the combination is significantly better in every way, in comparison to any of these medicines alone.

In summation, a house in not built by beginning at the top and working down. You must first create a strong foundation. In the same way, people with health issues must return to their foundation, creating a solid base from which they can rebuild their health.

In physical terms, this means supporting the body with optimal nutrition, rest, and appropriate exercise. This is where adaptogenic tonics provide fundamental support. This special class of botanical and nutritional medicines works on a foundational level to sustain everything else you do to improve your health by nonspecifically enhancing and balancing the ‘whole,’ (the life force). In terms of the mind and emotions, we must learn to calm the mind, to forgive, to love, and to live with integrity in our relationships with others and ourselves. And in terms of spirit, we must nourish our connection to God through prayer and reflection. By attending to all of these aspects of our being, we can find our way back to true health.

Saint John of the Cross, a Carmelite priest and a great mystic, taught the monks a humble exercise; to sit and contemplate where they could view the open sky, hills, trees, fields, and growing plants, and to call upon the beauty of these things to praise God. This simple meditation on Nature reminds us of Divine Power, and the wisdom and goodness that exist in Her. If we stop for a moment to consider the origin, magnitude, beauty, fullness, activity, and order of all things, we cannot doubt the beneficence of God.

I offer this prayer to you and our world:

Dear Lord,

Nourish us,

Shed your light upon all of our thoughts,

Breathe holy inspiration into our hearts and minds,

Bring peace to the world and us.

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References:

  • K. Pon, J. R. Lane, E. K. Sloan, M. L. Halls. The 2-adrenoceptor activates a positive cAMP-calcium feed forward loop to drive breast cancer cell invasion. The FASEB Journal, 2015; 30 (3): 1144 DOI:10.1096/fj.15-277798
  • Liu, D., et. al. β2-AR signaling controls trastuzumab resistance-dependent Pathway, Oncogene (2016) 35, 47–58
  • Partecke LI. Et. al., Chronic stress increases experimental pancreatic cancer growth, reduces survival and can be antagonised by betaadrenergic receptor blockade, Pancreatology. 2016 MayJun;16(3):42333. doi: 10.1016/j.pan.2016.03.005. Epub 2016 Mar 23.
  • Pasquier, E., et. al. Propranolol potentiates the anti-angiogenic effects and antitumor efficacy of chemotherapy agents: implication in breast cancer treatment, Oncotarget, October, Vol.2, No 10, 2011
  • Chow W , Amaya CN , Rains S , Chow M , Dickerson EB , Bryan BA., Growth Attenuation of Cutaneous Angiosarcoma With Propranolol-Mediated β-Blockade, JAMA Dermatol. 2015 Sep 16:1-4. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2554.
  • Calvani, Maura, et. al.Norepinephrine promotes tumor microenvironment reactivity through β3-adrenoreceptors during melanoma progression, Oncotarget, Vol. 6, No.7, 2014 Oct.
  • De Couck M, Maréchal R, Moorthamers S, Van Laethem JL, Gidron Y. Vagal nerve activity predicts overall survival in metastatic pancreatic cancer, mediated by inflammation. Cancer 2016 Feb;40:47-51. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2015.11.007. Epub 2015 Nov 24.
  • Demirovic DRattan SI. Establishing cellular stress response profiles as biomarkers of homeodynamics, health and hormesis, Exp Gerontol.2013 Jan;48(1):94-8. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2012.02.005. Epub 2012 Feb 22.
  • Rattan, SI, 2004. Aging intervention, prevention, and therapy through hormesis. J. Gerontol. Biol. Sci. 59A, 705–709.
  • Rattan SI, Hormesis in aging, Ageing Res Rev.2008 Jan;7(1):63-78. Epub 2007 Aug 31.
  • Davies, Kevin, JA, Adaptive homeostasis, Molecular Aspects of Medicine 2016;49:1-7
  • Lushchak VI. Dissection of the Hormetic Curve: Analysis of Components and Mechanisms. Dose-Response. 2014;12:466-479
  • Vaiserman, Am., Hormesis, Adaptive Epigenetic Reorganization, and Implications for Human Health and Longevity, Dose-Response, 8:16–21, 2010, DOI: 10.2203/dose-response.09-014.
  • Vittorio Calabrese, Carolin Cornelius, Albena T. Dinkova-Kostova, Edward J. CalabreseMark P. Mattson, Cellular Stress Responses, The Hormesis Paradigm, and Vitagenes: Novel Targets for Therapeutic Intervention in Neurodegenerative Disorders, Antioxid Redox Signal. 2010 Dec 1; 13(11): 1763–1811.
  • Calabrese V, Cornelius C, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Iavicoli I, Di Paola R, Koverech A, Cuzzocrea S, Rizzarelli E, Calabrese EJ. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May; 1822(5):753-83. Epub 2011 Nov 6.
  • Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H, 1999. Plant Adaptogens Ш, Earlier and More RecentAspects and Concepts on Their Mode of Action. Phytomedicine: 6(4): 287-99
  • Panossian A, 2003. Adaptogens, Tonic Herbs for Fatigue and Stress. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 9(6):327-31.
  • Panossian A, Wagner H, 2005. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res, Oct. 19 (10): 819-38
  • Panossian A, Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals, Ann N Y Acad Sci.2017 Jun 22. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13399.

 


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The tradition of baking and sharing holiday cookies is one that my family enjoys. Of course, I like to make our treats as healthy as possible. I have special memories of the delicious cookies that my mother made at Christmas, and I’ve updated her recipe, making it with healthy ingredients. It’s our favorite holiday cookie recipe, and I’d like to share it with you.

Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ground pecans: I use a wooden rolling pin to crush the pecans
  • 2 cups flour: I use a combination of 1 cup organic oat flour (freshly ground from organic whole oat groats), ½ cup coconut flour, and ½ cup sprouted spelt flour. (If you prefer a less crumbly cookie, substitute kamut flour for the oat flour.)
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ½ cup dried maple syrup powder
  • ½ cup organic salt-free butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 2 tsp. high quality vanilla extract

For sprinkling on cookies:

  • 1 teaspoon dried maple syrup powder
  • 1 tsp. coconut milk powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Soften butter and mix with coconut oil and vanilla.
  2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, salt, and ½ cup of maple syrup powder) and add to wet ingredients.
  3. Fold in the crushed pecans.
  4. Chill for at least 30 minutes, but longer is better.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Roll the dough into little balls and arrange on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  7. Cook for 5 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle with a mix of 1 tsp. of maple sugar, 1 tsp. coconut milk powder (optional) and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  8. Lower oven to 350 degrees F and bake another 5-7 minutes until golden.

We hope you enjoy these scrumptious, healthy cookies as much as we do. Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

— Donnie

 


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be the light

In the midst of the busyness and celebration of the holidays, let us all as a collective pause to shine forth with loving kindness and goodness.

Be the Light

The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, and the gradual but noticeable shift toward the light. Bonfires, candles, and twinkling holiday lights remind us of how even a small light illuminates the darkness.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”Mother Teresa 

Be the Light 

At this time of festivity, let us draw inspiration from the Christmas Psalms, and “Be the Light” that shines forth into the world.

A Trilogy of Christmas Psalms: “Sing to the Lord a New Song” (Psalm 96); “God Reigns! Earth Rejoices” (Psalm 97); “Joy to the World” (Psalm 98).

Be the Light

The ancient hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is sung during Advent and on Christmas Day. Believed to have originated with a community of fifth-century Jewish Christians, the hymn was perhaps part of their Hanukkah festival. The text contains many elements of the Hanukkah celebration, with remembrance of wandering in the wilderness, darkness and death, but also the celebration of light.

“Dispel the shadows of the night and turn our darkness into light. Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel. O come, O King of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind.”

Be the Light

At this sacred time, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and Joyous Solstice, and a New Year blessed with love, light, peace, and wellbeing. Let us pray for one another that we may all “Be the light.”

— Donnie

 

 


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In my observation, far too many people today are merely surviving instead of thriving. I attribute most of the erosion of well being—including the growing prevalence of chronic, degenerative diseases—to the increased stressors of contemporary society. Although the role of stress in disease has long been recognized, it is now more fully understood through the advances of scientific research.

Perhaps the biggest breakthrough in cancer has been the discovery of the relationship between the sympathetic nervous system and cancer growth and reoccurrence. This was first detected though observational research showing a strong association between cancer patients on beta-blockers and a reduction in reoccurrence rates, a slowing of cancer growth, and decreased angiogenesis. 1-6 Researchers studying the relationship of vagal nerve activity (measured through heart rate variability) and the neuro-modulation of tumors found improved overall survival rate in cancer patients when the parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for calming the body) is activated.7

These are exciting discoveries, and support my life’s work on the importance of using herbal adaptogens and nervines to help the body adapt to physical and emotional stressors. Neither disease nor treatment of disease, including natural approaches through health optimization, can be described in a linear reductionist model, which is what almost everyone attempts to do. It is the collective effect of the perturbations in multiple underlying networks that result in the symptoms of disease, thus effective treatment should be directed at strengthening and harmonizing all systems of the organism.

Because modern medicine and specifically pharmaceutical medications do not offer permanent solutions, we must support our innate life force in building resilience. I feel more strongly than ever before that adaptogenic formulations, together with nervine formulations, are the most important supplemental support for protection against chronic disease and the promotion of optimal health and a long life.

A Practical Approach to Supporting Optimal Health

In my clinical practice, which now spans three decades, my main goal is to provide comprehensive gentle medicine that lends a helping hand to the Life Force in building and sustaining an optimal state of wellbeing. The following three objectives are the foundation of the medical model (Mederi Care) and the foundational adaptogenic formulas I have created:

  • Build robustness and resilience
  • Enhance auto-regulation
  • Enhance auto-organization

Everything within us and around us is interconnected. Interconnectedness, within, is achieved through networks on many levels, across cells, tissues, and organs (these types of networks are called multi-scale networks).

The entire biological system can be viewed as a nested network within networks within networks with the overall control acting like a Global Autoregulation Network.

blog 1

Supporting the innate Life Force and the body’s capacity for self-healing by using the least invasive treatment possible yields a system-wide benefit, optimizing and restoring the body’s self-healing abilities and minimizing side effects. Supporting the Life Force includes:

  • Enhancing anabolic restoration and systemic energy, harmony and efficiency
  • Expanding adaptive capacity
  • Building protective capacity

Supporting the Adaptive Capacity
All living systems have the intrinsic ability to respond, to counteract, and to adapt to external and internal sources of disturbance. Homeodynamics, one of the basic concepts of functional medicine, states that as human beings, we are an integral part of our environment rather than creatures that merely adapt to our environment. The body maintains biochemical individuality through continual physiologic and metabolic processes. A crucial component of the homeodynamic space is the stress response, by virtue of which a living system senses disturbance and initiates a series of events for maintenance, repair, adaptation, remodeling and survival.9 As we age, there tends to be progressive shrinkage of the homeodynamic space!

Adaptogenic formulas enhance dynamic stability through auto-regulation and organization.

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A Graphic Representation of Adaptive Homeostasis

Shown here, in addition to the normal or physiological range, are both positive and negative adaptive ranges that can be transiently induced via signal transduction pathways in response to sub-toxic, non-damaging stimuli. For example, when organisms are exposed to a diet rich in amino acids, they turn off production of amino acid synthetases, thus decreasing the capacity to synthesize amino acids. This is a case of negative homeostasis. Restoration of a ‘normal’ diet reverses the transient decrease in capacity and restores function in the normal homeostatic range.

How Mild Stress Can Have Positive Effects

Although unrelenting stress is never beneficial, not all stress is bad. In a process known as hormesis, exposure to mild stress triggers cellular responses with biologically beneficial effects. Single or multiple exposures to low doses of otherwise harmful agents, such as irradiation, food limitation, heat stress, hypergravity, reactive oxygen species, and other free radicals has a variety of anti-aging and longevity-extending hormetic effects. A result of hormetic amplification is an increase in the homeodynamic space of a living system, with enhanced innate defense capacity and a reduced load of damaged macromolecules.

Hormetic strengthening of the homeodynamic space provides wider margins for metabolic fluctuation, stress tolerance, adaptation and survival.10-12

blog 3

The diagram above shows the four common types of dose-response relationships that have been identified.

  • The top left (linear) is the one we are most familiar with, where starting from a ‘zero’ dose, there is a linear relationship between increasing dose and the observed response.
  • In the right top (threshold) corner, we know that sometimes there is no response until a certain threshold is reached, followed by a linear relationship. Sometimes there is a lag phase until a response is observed.
  • As shown on the bottom two curves, what we are discovering is that in many cases the dose response relationship at low doses does not follow either a linear or threshold model but shows different responses over zones of high doses compared to low doses.
  • This dose-response relationship can be either J shaped (bottom left) or inverted U shaped (bottom right) depending on what is being measured and the model it is being measured in.13

To be continued…


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Donnie Yance Blog Post

St. Francis has been a major influence in my life since I was in my early twenties and searching for Truth. I studied a bit of theology in school, and being brought up as an Italian Roman Catholic, had more questions than answers. I thought, “Either there is a God, our faith should be our guiding force in our lives, and we should serve and love God and others, or we should stop pretending.” It seemed so simple, and so clear.

I looked for Truth in other faiths, but Francis pointed me back to Catholicism. I recall one day thinking, “If St. Francis could live with such clarity, compassion, and generosity of spirit and never stray from his faith, nor even question it, who am I to think I need to?” When I discovered Eastern Christianity from an Eastern Rite Franciscan monastery, I found my home. I joined the Order of St. Francis as a Secular (3rd Order) Franciscan, took vows, and spent close to three years living in a Byzantine Eastern Catholic Rite Franciscan Order in New Canaan, Connecticut.

I find the teachings of St. Francis to be as relevant today as they were back in the 13th century. Consider this letter that he wrote to all leaders of his day, reflect on the world we live in now, and contemplate how we each can do our part to create ‘heaven on earth.’

Letter to the Rulers of the People, by St. Francis of Assisi

“Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Do not let worldly cares and anxieties or the pressures of office blot out the divine life within you or the voice of God’s spirit guiding in your great task of leading humanity to wholeness. If you open yourself to God and His plan printed deeply in your heart, God will open himself to you.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – fading symbols of honor, trappings of power – but only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.

Embrace the God of us all and His Word wherever it surfaces. Imitate His preference for the poor and powerless. Enter into His plan of liberating all peoples from everything that oppresses them and obstructs their development as human beings. Do not grow tired of working for peace among all people.

Help remove unjust social structures and patterns of exploitation. Uphold the rights and dignity of the human person. Foster the creation of a society where human life is cherished and where all peoples of the planet can enjoy its gifts, which God created for all in a spirit of love and justice and equality.”

The Eastern approach to theology, just as in medicine, is open to the mystery of life. Although there were many things in Buddhism that resonated with my being, there was a central piece missing for me. My faith is rooted in Christianity, and centered in the teachings of Christ and the message that God humbled Himself and loved us enough to become one of us, only to be crucified, and then to forgive and love us still. This great gift from God enlivens my faith and awakens my desire to serve my fellow human beings, animals and Nature.

Although I am devoted to my faith and the theology of Eastern Christianity, I am drawn to learn from other faiths as well. I recently joined a Mussar group to further my theological studies, to find practical ways to use all of my being for good, and to better the world in which we live. The Mussar movement is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in the 19th century in Lithuania, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term “Mussar” is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 and means moral conduct, instruction or discipline. It espouses expressing your faith through living action, practicing loving kindness, and caring for all in need, but especially the poor and oppressed. Mussar is essentially the practice of loving your neighbor as yourself.

I am fortunate in many ways that all of my work is my ministry. I believe as Pope Francis states, “Before there was God there was Love, and God came from Love.” We must remember this and live accordingly, recognizing that we are all part of one family.

In celebration of the feast day of St. Francis, I’d like to share with you a bit about St. Francis:

• More books have been written about St. Francis than any other saint.
• His “Canticle of Brother Sun, Sister Moon” was the first major poem written in Italian.
• Franciscans established the first college in the New World in Mexico City in 1536.
• The City of San Francisco is named after him.
• New Mexico’s second Spanish governor founded a new city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1607, which he called La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi).
• Arizona’s highest mountains are called the San Francisco Peaks.
• In Arkansas both a river and town bear the name St. Francis.
• One of the precepts of St. Francis states that followers cannot bear weapons or kill. Thus, St. Francis and his followers were partially responsible for the downfall of the feudal system. Serfs were freed and the number of petty wars was reduced.
• Our present Pope is the first Pope in history to take the name Francis in honor of St. Francis; and he is a Jesuit.
• St. Francis is the patron saint of peace, of ecology, of Italy, and of animals.

Donnie Yance Blog Post 2

Saint Francis had great love and respect for the sanctity of all life, seeing all creation as his brothers and sisters in the Lord. On one occasion he came upon a merchant carrying two small lambs to market. Moved by the plaintive bleating of the lambs, he caressed them and asked the peasant, “Why do you torment my brothers, the lambs?” When he learned that the man intended to sell them for slaughter, he declared, “That will not happen!” and bought them. At Portiuncula for many years he had a tame lamb that followed him everywhere, even into the church, where the lamb’s bleating mingled with the chants of the brethren.

I leave you with this prayer for the Blessing of Pets, which commonly take place on Saint Francis’ feast day, October 4th:

Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired Saint Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.


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