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[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Summer 2009/10 issue]
by Roger French
New discoveries of the roles of sunshine and vitamin D in cancer. ‘Slip, slop and slap’ is being turned on its head.
The number of remarkable benefits that vitamin D can provide in protecting us from a wide range of diseases is emerging as the nutrient discovery of the first decade of the new millennia.
At the forefront of recognising this new information and assembling it into digestible form for lay people is the brilliant Dr Joseph Mercola who produces regular, voluminous health e-newsletters. These are free newsletters and can be located through his website, www.Mercola.com. Periodically, we have published in this magazine abridged versions of some of Dr Mercola’s articles.
The following article is condensed from a considerable number of his recent articles related to this extraordinary vitamin.
Vitamin D, once linked only to the prevention of bone diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, is now recognized as a major player in overall human health.
Having too little – specifically in the form of vitamin D3 – may not have any outwardly obvious signs, yet this vitamin has roles in an incredible array of systems and functions in the body. In addition to its well known role in strong and healthy bones, it is now known to be essential for heart health, cancer prevention, skin health, the pancreas, slowing ageing, proper sleep, the eyes and hair, reproductive health, the vascular system, the respiratory system, the immune system, feelings of wellbeing, weight management, and proper digestion and food absorption. It is a truly marvellous vitamin.
Needless to say, deficiency of vitamin D will mean that body and mind cannot be in optimal health. In fact, its deficiency is implicated in most of the diseases of civilization.
Already well known are the bone diseases, rickets, osteopoenia, osteoporosis and osteomalacia. Not so well known are muscle pain and weakness, about 16 different internal cancers, multiple sclerosis, type-1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, obesity, Crohn’s disease, migraine headaches, psoriasis, macular degeneration, infertility, asthma, colds, insomnia, hearing loss, seizures, cystic fibrosis, depression, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and others. The primary reason for the prominence of vitamin D is that out of 30,000 genes in the human body, it has been shown to influence over 2,000 of them.
At least five studies show that the higher our vitamin D level, the lower our risk of contracting colds, flu and other respiratory tract infections. One of these studies was published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, October 2008 (162(10):943-51).
The evidence just keeps pouring in, wrote Dr Mercola on 10th July 2008, that vitamin D is a superstar for your health. Already there are over 500 references showing the effectiveness of vitamin D for cancer alone.
One study found that people with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were about twice as likely to die from any cause compared to those with the highest levels (Archives of Internal Medicine, June 23, 2008;168(12):1340-1349).
For decades, we’ve been the target of a misinformation campaign from the media and conventional medicine that has created a fear of sunshine. Therefore, most people either intentionally or unintentionally avoid the sun – or smear on sunscreen that blocks the beneficial wavelengths that produce vitamin D in skin.
Research suggests that up to 85% of people in developed countries could be deficient in vitamin D without knowing it, and putting up with impaired health.
Current research suggests that all cells in the body have vitamin D receptors, indicating that every cell needs this vitamin.
Although the significance of vitamin D is gradually coming to be understood by orthodox medicine, few doctors do the blood test, and testing for it is unlikely to become commonplace because there is no patented drug to correct deficiency and provide financial reward for a drug company. Consequently, most people with deficiency will never know that they have a potentially serious problem, or know what is causing their existing problems.
The following is a brief account of the major health impacts of deficiency of vitamin D.
Bone health. Deficiency is well known to be associated with a greater incidence of hip fractures. It has very recently been found that vitamin D is also required for cartilage. Researchers at the Menzies Research Institute in Hobart found that people who do not have enough vitamin D quickly lose the cartilage in their knees, accelerating the development of osteoarthritis.
Roughly half the adult population of Tasmania is deficient in vitamin D, and the researchers estimate that if this was remedied, knee replacement would be delayed by an average of 14 years. The national trend of avoiding the sun, they said, is causing widespread mild levels of vitamin D deficiency, even in Queensland (Tasmanian Older Adult Cohort Study, Arthritis and Rheumatism, May 2009; 60: 1381-89).
Immunity. Naturopath, Robyn Chuter, stated in this magazine (Spring 2009, p. 14 – 16) that vitamin D stimulates white blood cells to inhibit the multiplication of viruses; it also dampens down the release of substances that lead to severe inflammation and fluid accumulation in the lungs. Research in 2009 found that people with very low serum vitamin D levels are 55% more likely to have upper respiratory tract infections (colds or flu) compared to those with normal levels (Ginde AA et al, Arch Intern Med 2009; 169(4): 384-90).
Cancer. Vitamin D plays a role in regulating cell growth and differentiation. Studies show vitamin D deficiency to be associated with four of the most common cancers – breast, prostate, colon and skin.
Autoimmune disorders. Deficiency is a factor in multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis and Crohn’s disease.
Diabetes. Deficiency is linked to insulin resistance type-1 diabetes in children.
Heart disease. Insulin resistance is a major factor in the cancers listed above and also heart disease. More heart attacks occur in the winter months when vitamin D levels are lower.
Arthritis. Arthritis of the knee and hip progresses faster in people with lower vitamin D levels.
Infertility and PMS. The latter has been completely reversed by calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
Fatigue, depression and seasonal affective disorder. Low vitamin D may contribute to chronic fatigue and depression. Seasonal affective disorder has been treated successfully with vitamin D.
Obesity. Vitamin D deficiency depresses the production of leptin, a hormone that signals the brain when fat cells are ‘full’. The brain thinks that more food is acceptable and the eventual result may be obesity.
Syndrome X. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with Syndrome X – a combination of insulin resistance, high blood fats and overweight.
There are two ways to obtain adequate vitamin D – sunlight and supplements. During exposure to sunlight, ultraviolet (UV) rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. This is the most natural way and the ideal way, and the body self-regulates the amount we receive.
Sunlight causes the ideal form of vitamin D to be produced – vitamin D3 (25-hydroxyvitamin D – or in symbol form, 25(OH)D). However, in high latitudes distant from the equator, there may not be sufficient direct sunlight for months at a time, as, for example, in Tasmania. The alternative is supplementation with vitamin D3, which is easily done, provided precautions are taken against overdosing, because excess is toxic (see below).
The optimal level of vitamin D
The current understanding is that serum 25(OH)D levels should be in the range of 125 – 162 nmol/L (50 to 65 ng/ml in American terms) for optimal health and cancer prevention. Deficiency is when the level is less than 125 nmol/L; excess is greater than 250 nmol/L. The vitamin D level should never be below 80 nmol/L, while below 50 nmol/L is a serious deficiency state.
The only way to determine 25(OH)D levels is though blood tests.
Fortunately, sunshine provides optimal levels naturally because the body has a built-in ‘fail-safe’ mechanism which shuts down production when blood levels are optimal. Vitamin D is manufactured from cholesterol in the skin, and if this cholesterol is exposed to the sun for long enough, instead of becoming vitamin D3, it is converted to other compounds (lumisterol or tachysterol), which are biologically inert.
In other words, if you stay out in the sun for a long time, your body will produce the same amount of vitamin D as if you been in the sun for only a moderate time. This mechanism, one of the body’s remarkable self-regulations, makes it virtually impossible to overdose on vitamin D from sun exposure.
However, vitamin D taken as a supplement bypasses this mechanism and leaves you vulnerable to overdose.
We can tell when we have had enough by our skin turning the first faint tinge of pink. After this, we risk sunburn, which can cause skin damage, and possibly skin cancer.
“It’s a tragedy,” says Dr Mercola, “that dermatologists and sunscreen manufacturers have done such a thorough job of scaring people out of the sun. Their message to avoid the sun as much as possible, combined with an overall cultural trend of spending more time indoors during work and leisure time, has greatly contributed to the widespread vitamin D deficiency that’s seen today.”
The components of ultraviolet radiation
The UV component of sunlight is divided into three wavelength ranges, referred to as UVA, UVB and UVC.
The most dangerous are UVC rays which don’t reach the Earth’s surface or come into contact with life thanks to the ozone layer high in the atmosphere; this is why the ‘hole in the ozone layer’ is of so much concern.
The other two wavelengths, UVA and UVB, do reach the Earth’s surface and are of great interest to us, although they impact us in different ways. UVA rays have a longer wavelength of about 320 to 400 nanometers, and UVB have a shorter wave length of about 280 to 320 nanometers.
UVB are the rays that produces vitamin D in the skin, but they are also the primary cause of sunburn when skin is overexposed to sunlight. They don’t penetrate very deeply, so the more melanin in the skin (from being born with dark skin or having a tan), the less UVB penetrates.
Because of their short wavelength, only about five percent of UVB rays pass through window glass, while sunscreen can block UVB entirely. UVA on the other hand are much more penetrating and can pass through glass – and also cloud.
If you’ve ever become sunburned on a cloudy day, it is from the deeply penetrating UVA, which, although slower than UVB to produce redness, will eventually cause burning. The amount of UVB reaching us depends on the factors that affect sunshine – as mentioned below.
Sun exposure for adequate vitamin D
It is interesting to note that skin pigmentation takes millennia to adapt to the solar UV radiation in any particular geographical region. The problem in Australia, New Zealand and the United States is that most of us have our ancestry in northern Europe, where very low levels of UV have resulted in pale skin to make the most of the UV that is available.
To protect our pale skins from the strong Australian sun, we have been urged to ‘slip, slop and slap’ with the result that we have so reduced our skin production of vitamin D that large numbers of people are deficient in it.
Exposure to sunshine is affected by season, latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog and use of sunscreens. People living in southern and northern latitudes – above approximately 35˚ – will not be able to get enough vitamin D in winter. This applies to Tasmania and the southern parts of mainland Australia. (Tasmania is latitude 41˚ to 43˚, Melbourne is 37˚ and Sydney is 34˚.)
However, even in sunny climates and summer, many people spend most of the day indoors, and if they do go outside, they are fully clothed.
Further, windows filter out most of the sun’s wavelengths that produce vitamin D, so we can’t count on getting it in the home, office or the car.
Some people have greater needs. Overweight people will have a lot of their vitamin D stored away in their fat. Pregnant women need higher levels for themselves and their babies. Elderly people have reduced ability to generate vitamin D.
Dark-skinned people, who nature designed to live under a tropical sun, are darker skinned due to high levels of melanin, which blocks some of the UV radiation and reduces the production of vitamin D3. For example, Australian Aborigines need considerably more sun than Caucasians to generate sufficient vitamin D.
A common myth is that occasional exposure of face and hands to sunlight is sufficient for obtaining enough vitamin D. For most of us, this is a miserably inadequate exposure. We need to expose large portions of our skin to the sun, and for more than a few minutes.
In strong sunshine, bare skin needs at least 10 – 15 minutes of exposure to direct sunlight every day to produce the vitamin D we need. In milder sunshine, it might be around 15 to 30 minutes per day, with the more of the body exposed, the better, preferably about 40 percent of the skin. This means for men shorts and no shirt, and for women shorts and a sports bra or short tank top. This generally applies to fair-skinned, thin, younger individuals.
If the skin is darker or the person is in high latitudes or there is cloud cover, the time could be two hours a day. But it is necessary to be not using sunscreen (see below).
Due to the body’s regulation mechanism, an equilibrium occurs in white skin within about 20 minutes of ultraviolet exposure, at which point, there might be slight skin redness and no more vitamin D will accumulate. For dark pigmented skin, it can take three to six times longer to reach equilibrium.
When light-coloured skin turns the very lightest shade of pink, it’s time to move into the shade or cover up with long-sleeved shirt, trousers and hat. In any case, it is a good idea to always wear a hat.
In summary, have anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours a day, depending on skin type and environmental factors.
The bottom line on vitamin D is that if we are able to get out in the sun for an adequate time each day, our levels should be naturally optimized. However, in the times of the year when sunshine is insufficient, we do need to consider oral supplementation with vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Adequate cholesterol essential
Because vitamin D is made in the skin from cholesterol, a person taking drugs to lower cholesterol or proton pump inhibitors to treat ulcers will have a reduced ability to manufacture vitamin D.
Food sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D is relatively rare in foods, and is only available in very limited quantities in eggs, liver and fatty fish, including salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, as well as the well known source, cod liver oil. Apart from eggs, these are, of course, all flesh foods. Their vitamin D is similar to that formed on the skin by sunlight.
The environmental and health consequences of eating fish include the facts that fish accumulate mercury and other toxic chemicals, and the world’s fish supply is rapidly being depleted.
In any case, the vitamin D in fish oil, such as cod liver oil, is only mildly effective because the abundant fat-soluble vitamin A that is also in this oil competes with vitamin D and reduces its effectiveness. (International Journal of Low Radiation October 2008; 5(4): 368-394). Nothing matches sunlight as the source of this vitamin.
Generally speaking, dietary sources of vitamin D are insufficient to produce optimal blood levels of the human form, (25(OH)D).
Supplementary vitamin D
If we are unable to get enough vitamin D through sun exposure, which is more likely in winter, the alternative is a high-quality vitamin D supplement. It is important use natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is what our bodies make, and to ¬not use synthetic vitamin D2 which is toxic at higher doses.
Overdosing on vitamin D is a serious risk with supplements, so it is essential to know if you are taking the right amount. Too much can lead to bone loss; a 2004 Finnish study found that men with average values of serum 25(OH)D have lower risks of prostate cancer than men with either lower or higher values (Tuohimaa P et al, J Cancer 2004; 108: 104-8). This means that high summertime UVB levels can be a risk factor for prostate cancer, while low wintertime UVB levels can also be a risk.
Having regular blood tests for vitamin D may be inconvenient, but Dr Mercola declares that it is one of the most important things you can do for your health. The bottom line is that the best way to get the right amount of vitamin D is through safe outdoor sun exposure, but being careful not to get sunburned. And if you have a shower after sunbathing, don’t use soap for at least two days.
Malignant melanoma has been increasing at an exponential rate in indoor workers since before 1940. Part of the reason may be indoor exposure to UVA radiation which can pass through windows, in contrast to UVB which is blocked by glass. Only UVB causes vitamin D to be produced.
Because UVA penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, it is thought to be a much more important factor in photo-ageing, wrinkles and skin cancers. UVA can cause cancerous mutations, and can also break down the vitamin D formed in the skin during outdoor exposure to UVB. But we need every bit of that vitamin D because it is a potent defence against melanoma.
Melanoma cells convert vitamin D to a compound called calcitriol, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells and also causes them to die (known as apoptotis). Very recent research indicates that increased UVA exposure and inadequate vitamin D levels promote melanoma (Medical Hypotheses 72: 2009; 434-443).
The body’s protective mechanism for keeping vitamin D levels in balance depends on the fact that vitamin D3 is formed from exposure to UVB, whereas UVA radiation destroys vitamin D. When we are getting tanned outdoors, we are getting both UVA and UVB at the same time, and the two rays balance each other to prevent overdosing on vitamin D from sunlight.
But when we are indoors or in the car and exposed to sunlight filtered through a window, the glass will filter out the majority of UVB, but minimally filter out the UVA. Consequently, very little vitamin D3 is produced, but the UVA coming through is effectively destroying vitamin D3. This creates the risk of vitamin D deficiency and all the health problems that can go with it, including skin cancer.
Unbalanced UVA is double trouble, because, in addition to destroying vitamin D3, it also increases oxidative stress. It is a primary culprit behind skin cancer and increases photo-ageing of the skin. It’s also what causes the skin to tan, which UVB doesn’t do. This means, incidentally, that vitamin D can be produced without any sign of a tan.
A key to skin cancer prevention is avoid sunburn
Dr Mercola is emphatic about the danger of sunburn: “It is important to stress that you should never get burned and should only implement sun exposure very gradually. While we all benefit from regular exposure to the sun, it is important to recognise that you should always limit your exposure so that you avoid getting burnt. Sunburn has been clearly related to an increased risk of skin cancer.”
Having regular sun exposure and avoiding sunburn should decrease the risk of the dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, and also the risk of numerous other common cancers. Remember that, in spite of what dermatologists say about sunshine, our bodies are designed to have regular sun exposure as long as it doesn’t cause burning.
Dietary fat is another significant factor in skin cancer. In Australia, as in the US, people over-consume omega-6 oils, and when sunlight hits these fats it can oxidise them and they become carcinogenic. Omega-6 fatty acids predominate in sunflower, safflower, soya and corn oils, and are consumed in large quantities in polyunsaturated margarines and many other processed foods. Omega-3 oils are not affected in this way, so consuming less omega-6 oils and having more flax oil (or fish oil or krill oil in a non-vegetarian diet) is part of the skin cancer solution.
In addition, the more antioxidants we take in, the lower the risk of sunburn. Foods containing antioxidants boost our ‘internal sunscreen’, the best being an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits for their antioxidants, other protective nutrients and phytochemicals.
Returning to Vitamin D, its protection against cancer works in several ways:
It increases the self-destruction of mutated cells (which could become cancerous);
It reduces the reproduction of cancer cells and their spread;
It causes cells to become differentiated;
It reduces the growth of new blood vessels which are needed for dormant tumors to turn cancerous.
An internationally recognised research scientist and vitamin D expert, Dr William Grant, PhD, found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths – 2 million worldwide annually – could be prevented with higher levels of vitamin D. Dr Mercola concludes, “I believe the evidence is quite clear … The benefits of normalizing your vitamin D levels far outweigh any risk you may have from optimal sun exposure.”
Safe tanning guidelines
If the skin is unaccustomed to the sun, it is important to expose it regularly, and to very gradually increase the exposure time commencing with just a few minutes. In a matter of weeks, the skin should be able to take normal sun exposure with little risk of skin cancer.
The best time to sunbathe if you have not already built up a base tan is early morning, because you’re less likely to burn. For the greatest benefit, strive to have at least 40 percent of your skin uncovered.
However, once the skin has a base tan, the best time for sun exposure is around noon – which sounds like an extraordinary thing to say. New research shows that this is the best time of day to get an optimal amount of vitamin D from the sun with minimal risk of getting malignant melanoma.
This means that the recommendations given by health authorities – and until now, the Natural Health Society – that sun exposure should be avoided for three to five hours around noon and had only early morning or late afternoon, may be not the best advice (Advanced Experiments in Medical Biology 2008; 624: 86-88).
Dr William Grant explains, “Our recommendation, based on work in England, Norway and the United States, is that the optimal time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is as near to solar noon as possible – between say 10am and 2pm.”
Firstly, because the UVB is more intense around noon, a shorter exposure time is required. Secondly, when the sun is down near the horizon, the protective UVB is filtered out much more than the UVA, and it is the UVA that is highly correlated with melanoma.
Other scientists agree with these findings. An epidemiologist at the Australian National University in Canberra, Robyn Lucas, has said, “I believe we all need a little unprotected time in the sun during the middle hours of the day when the sun is at its highest and the UVB rays can penetrate the atmosphere.”
“Squamous cell carcinoma is linked to lifetime UVB irradiants, whereas melanoma is linked to lifetime UVA irradiants, or sporadic sun burning in youth and things like that,” says Dr Grant. “And so dermatologists, by telling people to put on sunscreen and avoid the mid-day sun, were actually giving recommendations that led to increased melanoma.
Appropriate sun exposure more likely to prevent than cause melanoma
A number of studies have shown that appropriate sun exposure helps prevent skin cancer, and that melanoma occurrence decreases with greater sun exposure. An Italian study, published in the European Journal of Cancer, June 2008, tended to confirm the earlier studies showing improved survival rates in melanoma patients who were previously exposed to more sunlight [at safe levels].
It is significant that melanoma is more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers, and is also more common on regions of the body that are not exposed to the sun at all. Additionally, if you are genetically predisposed to skin cancer, UVB radiation has been found to delay the appearance of melanoma.
The real cause of the rising melanoma rates is at least partly the fact that people’s vitamin D status is decreasing dramatically. Research shows that although the sun can increase genetic damage in skin, and can cause skin cancer, the body has a cleverly designed system to avert this risk. But when we stay out of the sun entirely, we bypass this system because the key to it is vitamin D. Vitamin D does not have just a slight impact on our cancer risk. It can cut our risk by as much as 60 percent.
Sunscreens can do us a disservice in three ways: they prevent vitamin D production; they still allow sun damage; and most of them contain toxic chemicals.
Because most sunscreens block out UVB, they effectively block the synthesis of vitamin D in the skin and contribute to the widespread vitamin D deficiency. Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or greater will block the UV rays that produce vitamin D.
To make matters worse, many sunscreens allow UVA through and so don’t stop sun damage from occurring. All they stop is the burning. Worse still, a person wearing sunscreen and believing they are protected, is likely to stay out in the sun longer. If the sunscreen does not provide adequate UVA protection, this can further increase the risks of wrinkles and melanoma, without the warning of sunburn to tell the person to get out of the sun. Fortunately, more brands are now including UVA protection, although often at low levels.
If a person has no choice and must be out in the sun long enough to burn, then sunscreen use is appropriate, but it is necessary to use a product that protects against both UVA and UVB. Sunscreens based on titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect both types of rays, and have been used worldwide for over 75 years with relative safety.
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit Washington DC-based organisation that researches skincare health hazards, reports in its ‘2009 Sunscreen Guide’ that three out of five brand-name sunscreens are ineffective, contain hazardous chemicals, or both (www.ewg.org/whichsunscreensarebest/2009report).
The Environmental Working Group (see above website) after investigating almost 1,000 sunscreens found that most contain toxic chemicals that are absorbed through the skin and add to the body’s load of toxic chemicals. Some are among the most powerful free-radical generators known to man with the potential to damage health in many ways, including increasing the risk of cancer.
By following the standard recommendations to apply generous amounts of sunscreen every few hours to prevent skin cancer, a person is likely to be absorbing a fair amount of such chemicals. Examples of some of the worst chemicals used in regular brand sunscreens listed in the EWG ‘2009 Sunscreen Guide’ (click on ‘About Active Ingredients’) are:
Oxybenzone – can cause photoallergic reactions;
Octocrylene – produces free radicals when exposed to UV light;
Ensulizole – produces free radicals when exposed to sunlight, and may be carcinogenic;
Padimate O – a derivative of the once-popular PABA sunscreen ingredient, releases free radicals and damages DNA;
Menthyl Anthranilate – produces free radicals when exposed to sunlight;
Sulisobenzone – can cause skin and eye irritation.
In contrast, one of the safer brands of sunscreen, UV Natural, which was rated by the EWG as being among the top ten most effective sunscreens, contains most or all of the following ingredients: zinc oxide; oils of grape seed, safflower, macadamia nut and sesame; white beeswax; Candelilla wax; Carnauba wax; colloidal silica; extracts of green tea; grape seed extract; vitamin E; zinc stearate and iron oxides. UV Natural is cruelty-free, vegan and Australian made and owned. This brand was tracked down by the Natural Health Society and is available from its online store.
When a person has had enough sun – as indicated by the skin turning the lightest shade of pink – the obvious and safest options are to put on a long-sleeved shirt, trousers and hat or move indoors.
If a person has no choice and must be out in the sun longer than this, then sunscreen use is appropriate, and the kind to use is one that protects against both UVA and UVB and is free of harmful ingredients.
By Roger French
[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Autumn 2010 issue]
Manuka honey is covered in detail in the preceding article. Now we look at cinnamon and the extraordinary ways in which the two can be made to work in combination.
Cinnamon bark is one of the oldest spices known, being particularly popular in North Africa and the Middle East for flavouring savoury dishes.
As a folk remedy, it has been used to treat colds and digestive ailments. The essential oil of cinnamon is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. As a bonus, cinnamon is high in antioxidants.
In some of the studies of its health benefits, such as for the treatment of type-2 diabetes, the substance investigated was not cinnamon but cassia, a close relative with a stronger flavour and sticks that are thicker. Most of the powdered cinnamon sold in supermarkets is actually Cassia.
A mixture of honey and cinnamon has been used to enhance the flavour of cooked foods since early times. Their combination has also been used as a remedy for thousands of years, including in Oriental and Ayurvedic medicine. There have been claims over many years that the mixture is an effective remedy for many ailments.
In the mixture, cinnamon is in the form of powder or oil.
Both honey and cinnamon each have their own range of remarkable therapeutic benefits, but the combination is believed to be synergistic, being many times more powerful at healing than the sum of the two taken individually.
The honey-cinnamon combination is a natural food remedy that has been used to treat common ailments such as arthritis, bad breath, bladder infection, cold, cough, fatigue, hair loss, heart disease, impaired immunity, indigestion, infertility, influenza, insect stings and bites, longevity, pimples, acne, sinus headache, skin conditions, stomach distress, toothache, wind and weight loss.
But there is an important caution: never give honey to infants under about 12 months of age because its antiseptic properties can kill off the developing delicate gut bacteria.
The honey-cinnamon combination can be used to ease the symptoms of and/or promote healing for many different ailments. The following range of mixes for different ailments is put forward by Sue Bailey of South Yorkshire, UK, in the web address http://hubpages.com/profile/Sue+Bailey
For the abbreviations below: ‘tsp’ = teaspoon; ‘dsp’ = dessertspoon; ‘tbsp’ = tablespoon.
Anti-ageing. Boil 3 cups of water to which has been added 4 tsp manuka honey and 1 tsp cinnamon powder. Drink one-quarter cup, 3 or 4 times a day. Take this tea regularly and it helps control the free radicals that contribute to the aging process. It may slow ageing and help keep the skin soft and wrinkle free.
Arthritis. To 1 cup hot water, add two tsp manuka honey and one small tsp cinnamon powder. Take twice daily. This may bring improvement with even long-term arthritis.
Bad breath. Mix 1 tsp each of manuka honey and cinnamon powder in hot water, and gargle. Hopefully, your breath will then stay fresh all day.
Bladder infections. 1 tsp manuka honey and 2 tbsp cinnamon powder stirred into a glass of warm water. Drink. This can be antiseptic to bacteria in the bladder.
Colds and coughs. Mix 1 tbsp lukewarm manuka honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon powder. Take once daily for 3 days. This can ease chronic coughs and colds and reduce blockage in sinuses.
Chronic fatigue. Stir 1 dsp manuka honey into a glass of water and add a sprinkling of cinnamon powder. Consume daily around mid-afternoon when energy begins to fade. This can increase energy within a week.
Flatulence (wind). Mix 1 tbsp manuka honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon powder and consume when experiencing wind.
Heart diseases. Mix a 500 gm jar manuka honey, 2 tbsp cinnamon powder and ½ tsp clover powder. Use as a spread on bread or toast or swallow a teaspoonful or two daily. It helps control the free radicals that contribute to atherosclerosis and is believed to revitalise arteries and veins.
Hair loss and baldness. Mix 1 tbsp manuka honey and 1 tsp cinnamon in warm olive oil to make a paste. Rub paste onto scalp and leave on for 15 – 20 minutes, then wash off. Do this daily or at least a few times a week.
Hearing Loss. Every morning consume a small quantity of equal parts of manuka honey and cinnamon powder.
Indigestion. Mix 2 tbsp manuka honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon powder and consume just before a meal that might cause indigestion.
Infertility. For men – taking 2 tbsp manuka honey before retiring each night may help increase sperm count. [This is an awful lot of honey to swallow every day! However, if it works, it would be worth it.] For women – mix 3 tsp honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon powder, and take 3 times daily. Place 1 tsp of this mix under the tongue and leave for about a minute, then swallow the rest. Under the tongue there is a very high absorption rate. This mix may help increase fertility.
Influenza. Taking two parts manuka honey mixed with one part cinnamon can ease flu symptoms.
Immune System. Taking manuka honey and cinnamon powder daily can help strengthen the immune system. Mix 2 tbsp manuka honey and ½ tsp cinnamon powder in 4 cups moderately hot water and drink 1 cup 4 times daily.
Insect Bites. Make a paste of 1 tsp manuka honey, ½ tsp cinnamon powder and 2 tsp lukewarm water. Rub gently over the bite and the pain may ease surprisingly rapidly.
Pimples. Mix to a paste 3 tbsp manuka honey and 1 tsp cinnamon powder. Apply to the pimples in the form of a facial mask and leave on for 1 hour. Wash off with warm water. The drawing power of the honey could cause the pimples to disappear quite rapidly.
Skin Infections. Mix equal parts of manuka honey and cinnamon powder, and apply to affected areas. Good for eczema, ringworm and skin infections in general.
Stomach upset. Mix 1 tbsp manuka honey with ¼ tsp cinnamon powder and consume after over-eating or for a stomach ache.
Toothache. Make a paste of 5 tsp manuka honey, 1 tsp cinnamon powder and ½ tsp cloves powder. Apply 3 times daily to aching tooth until it eases.
Weight Loss. Mix 2 tsp manuka honey and ¼ tsp cinnamon powder in 1 cup moderately hot water. Drink 1 cup in the morning on an empty stomach 20 min. before breakfast and again in the evening before retiring to bed. This seems to inhibit fat absorption and so aid weight loss.
[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Autumn 2010 issue]
by Roger French
Honey is one of nature's oldest folk remedies, having been used for at least 5,000 years for its healing properties. Ancient civilisations used honey to help heal wounds.
Hippocrates of ancient Greece, the ‘father of medicine’, found that honey heals boils, ulcers on the lips and running sores.
Indigenous cultures have dressed wounds with honey for thousands of years. In New Zealand the Maori people have used a particular kind of honey, manuka, for centuries for treating flu, fevers and colds and healing skin and stomach ailments.
But along came antibiotics and the sticky stuff was nudged aside by modern medicine. But now honey is making a comeback. New research has shown that manuka honey kills every type of bacteria that scientists can throw at it, including the antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ plaguing hospitals and killing patients around the world.
These findings could lead to a range of honey-based products replacing antibiotic and antiseptic creams – that is, if the drug companies don’t block this healing agent that they cannot patent.
WHERE DOES MANUKA HONEY COME FROM?
Manuka honey comes from bees which gather nectar solely from the New Zealand Manuka bush or tea tree (Manuka honey comes from bees which gather nectar solely from the New Zealand Manuka bush or tea tree Leptospermum scoparium). It is also known as ‘tea tree’ manuka honey. In Australia it has the alternative name, ‘jelly bush honey’. True manuka honey is unique to New Zealand.
The Manuka bush flowers only between December and January, so beekeepers have just six weeks to make a year's supply. Trickier still, not all Manuka bushes produce the medicinal honey.
Honey is 25 percent sweeter than refined white sugar, and a lot healthier. Both white sugar and honey contain the simple sugars, glucose and fructose, but in white sugar they are combined to form sucrose, whereas in honey they exist separately and require no digestion. Further, white sugar has no healing properties and contains zero minerals and vitamins.
Another plus for honey is that it contains antioxidants.
WHY IS IT SO SPECIAL?
Since 1981, research commissioned by Watson and Son, a major New Zealand producer of manuka honey, has been conducted by Professor Peter Molan, Associate Professor in Biochemistry at The University of Waikato in New Zealand.
[General reference for the Waikato Honey Research Unit, established 1995: http://bio.waikato.ac.nz/honey/. Prof Molan’s key paper is entitled, ‘The Unique Properties of Manuka Honey’.]
The antibacterial property of all honeys begins with the fact that when the bees take nectar back to the hive, they add an enzyme, called glucose oxidase, while they are concentrating the nectar into honey. When honey comes into contact with body moisture, the glucose oxidase slowly releases the antiseptic, hydrogen peroxide. This is released at sufficient levels to be effective against bacteria but not damaging to tissue.
Unfortunately, the hydrogen peroxide antibacterial activity can vary widely because the enzyme is easily destroyed by heat, fluid and sunlight, and because hydrogen peroxide can be broken down in bodily tissue and blood.
However, some kinds of manuka honey have antibacterial activity that is much more potent than the peroxide effect. This extra antibacterial activity was labelled ‘Unique Manuka Factor’ or simply UMF, and is now known to be a compound called methylglyoxal. This compound is toxic on its own, but in honey it combines with unidentified compounds synergistically to be so strongly antibacterial that, as one researcher said, it causes "multi-system failure" in bacteria. Manuka honey is world famous for this very powerful antibacterial activity.
The UMF is a phyto-chemical property derived from the nectar of some, but not all, manuka flowers. For this reason it is found in only certain strains of manuka honey. Professor Molan says that, “There is nothing like UMF found anywhere else in the world."
Making manuka honey even more special is the fact that, unlike the hydrogen peroxide in regular honey, the methylglyoxal does not break down, so that the antibacterial activity of the honey remains intact. The UMF property is very stable to heat and bodily fluids and not easily destroyed.
Prof Dee Carter, of the University of Sydney's School of Molecular and Microbial Biosciences, said that these discoveries explain why the antibacterial activity of manuka is so effective and why bacteria fail to develop any of the resistance that is inevitable with conventional antibiotics. Professor Carter said that no immunity has been built up by any of the bacteria researchers used to test the honey, including superbugs such as the flesh-eating bacteria.
"Most bacteria that cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one antibiotic,” she said, “and there is an urgent need for new ways to treat and control surface infections."
"New antibiotics tend to have short shelf lives, as the bacteria they attack quickly become resistant,” stated Professor Carter. “Many large pharmaceutical companies have abandoned antibiotic production because of the difficulty of recovering costs. Developing effective alternatives could therefore save many lives."
[Reference. A study of manuka honey conducted by Prof. Carter and others was published in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Oct. 2009, vol 28(10), pps 1199 – 1208, and online 10th June 2009.]
In addition to being potent and stable, the UMF can reach deep-seated infections, which hydrogen peroxide cannot. The UMF antibacterial property can penetrate one centimetre into skin, fat and muscle overnight, whereas hydrogen peroxide does not penetrate tissues.
Although all honey is acidic – enough to slow down or prevent the growth of many species of bacteria – this acidity can be neutralised by body fluids. Because UMF is stable in moisture, it does not lose its potency.
In laboratory tests the UMF property has been found to be effective against a wide range of bacteria including:
• Helicobacter pylori – this bacterium causes most stomach ulcers. (The hydrogen peroxide of other honeys is not effective against helicobacter pylori.)
• Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, the most common causes of infected wounds.
• MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) [Reference: Paper presented at the First World Wound Healing Congress, 10 – 13 September 2000, Melbourne, Australia, by Allen, K.L., Hutchinson, G., Molan, P.C.].
• Streptococcus pyogenes – causes sore throats.
The UMF manuka honey is more powerful against some types of very resistant bacteria than ordinary honey, according to laboratory research. In particular, it has been found to be:
• Twice as effective as other honeys against Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) and Escherichia coli, the most common cause of infected wounds. MRSA strains of bacteria are notoriously resistant to antibiotics and sometimes responsible for closing hospital wards.
• Eight times as effective against Helicobacter pylori.
• More effective against Streptococcus pyogenes.
HOW DO WE FIND THE RIGHT KIND OF MANUKA HONEY?
Genuine ‘UMF Manuka Honey’ is tested and rated for its antibacterial potency. Only tested and approved products are eligible to use the UMF trademark. The presence of the UMF property can be detected only by testing in a specially appointed laboratory. These tests determine the presence of and activity level of the UMF property. For a manuka honey to qualify to use the name ‘UMF’, it must have a rating of UMF 10 or more. The UMF rating indicates the antibacterial strength of the honey after the honey has been packed in New Zealand (it does not apply to honey packed outside New Zealand). The higher the UMF rating, the higher the antibacterial activity. Products with a rating of 10 or higher are appropriate for therapeutic use. For serious wounds and illnesses, it is recommended to use medical grade manuka honey products. These have been sterilized by gamma irradiation in order to be used safely.
JUST WHAT DOES THE HONEY DO?
The Waikato Honey Research Unit website provides clinical observations documenting manuka honey's effectiveness. Health benefits include not only the treatment of serious infections, but also the treatment of wounds, cuts, burns, ulcers, yeast infections, insect bites, various skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, and fungal infections ranging from ringworm to athlete's foot.
[Refer ‘Manuka honey as a medicine’ by PC Molan, 2001, on the website of the Honey Research Unit.]
As stated above, manuka has been shown to be effective against antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria like MRSA, which is a serious problem for hospitals all over the world. Moreover, antibiotics have side effects, whereas this special honey has none.
"We know it has a very broad spectrum of action,” declared Peter Molan. “It works on bacteria, fungi and protozoa. We haven't found anything it doesn't work on among infectious organisms."
Studies are showing that high-level-UMF manuka honey could be very effective in:
• digestive upsets by helping relieve stomach ulcer symptoms and gastritis • wound care by assisting the natural healing of skin ulcers, diabetic ulcers, wounds, burns, boils, cracked skin, pressure sores, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), eczema, dermatitis
• relieving sore throats
• oral hygiene as it inhibits acid production and helps prevent cavities developing in teeth.
Honey for Wound Care
Trials are showing that high-activity UMF Manuka Honey provides an optimum, germ-free, moist, wound-healing environment, which supports and facilitates the natural healing of varicose and skin ulcers, diabetic ulcers, pressure sores, wounds, burns, boils, cracked skin, cuts and grazes.
The honey is anti-inflammatory and reduces pain and swelling. It does not damage the surrounding tissue.
A moist wound environment speeds up the healing process, whereas tissue regrowth is slowed if a wound dries. Moist healing also results in less scarring (a scab is the body’s natural attempt to keep a wound moist) and less pain.
Honey cleans wounds – its osmotic effect lifts dirt out of the wound. Dressings do not stick to the surface of the wound, allowing easy removal of dressings. Because the wound is kept moist, scarring is reduced.
Cancer specialist, Dr Glenys Round, has found honey to be an effective treatment for some associated cancer problems. "We've been using honey to treat fungating wounds, where the cancer has broken through the skin," she said. "The results have been excellent." Recently she has had success in using honey dressings on patients with wounds or ulcers resulting from radiation therapy. "Most of these patients in the past had tried various other conventional treatments without success,” she says.
A CLINICAL TRIAL AND ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
A clinical trial was carried out in 1999-2000 at Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, using UMF-rated manuka honey on unresponsive skin ulcers and chronic wounds that were infected or had a history of recurrent infections. No antibiotics or other antibacterial agents were used.
Successful healing was achieved with venous leg ulcers, leg ulcers of mixed causes, diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, unhealed graft donor sites, abscesses, boils, pilonidal sinuses and infected wounds from lower limb surgery. Infection was rapidly cleared, including in wounds infected with Pseudomonas or MRSA. Only wounds with arterial insufficiency did not heal.
The researchers concluded that, “With appropriate dressing techniques and using honey with assured antibacterial activity, it is possible to get excellent healing rates … for infected chronic wounds.”
[Reference. ‘A pilot trial of honey as a wound dressing has shown the importance of the way that honey is applied to wounds,’ by JA Betts and PC Molan. Presented at the 11th European Wound Management Association conference. Dublin, Ireland, 17 – 19 May 2001]
For gastroenteritis – it is claimed that when manuka honey is used to treat diarrhoea, it promotes the rehydration of the body and causes the earlier clearing of diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach upsets.
For eye infections like blepharitis – research is looking into the effectiveness of honey and the results look promising.
For dental health. Research is indicating that UMF Manuka Honey could be effective for oral hygiene as it inhibits acid production and helps prevent the development of cavities in teeth.
Peter Molan himself had a first-hand taste of the healing power of manuka honey applied to a wound. "When I cut my finger with a chainsaw quite deeply and quite a wide cut,” he wrote, “I put the honey straight on it, wrapped it up and kept on working for the rest of the day. Now there's not a mark on the finger."
Gary Bain of Sydney Adventist Hospital's wound clinic is enthusiastic about manuka honey. For his patient, Geoff Pearce, it meant the saving of his leg. "It was a work accident,” said Geoff. “I cut myself on some tin plate and what started out as a small scratch turned into a horrible ulcer." The wound was treated twice a week for six years with manuka-honey-impregnated dressings. These kept it free of infection and reduced the inflammation, allowing the wound to heal.
[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Autumn 2010 issue]
WHAT IS GOOD HEALTH?
Good health is much more than the absence of disease; it is a high level of wellbeing in which all systems of the body and the mind are functioning well and there is an abundance of energy.
Orthodox medicine tends to look for a germ as the cause of a particular disease, and in the case of degenerative diseases, the cause is often unknown. Natural Health recognises that almost all illnesses today are diseases of of civilisation – which means diseases of lifestyle – so that the underlying causes of our vast range of health problems, as well as premature ageing, can be found in everyday living. Understanding this connection and the fact that lifestyle can be changed enables us to gain control of our physical and mental wellbeing.
Studies of lifestyle and the experience gained by natural health centres around the world have identified natural laws that govern health. The Natural Health principles are:
1. Good health is the normal condition of the body and mind and should continue for life. Illness and premature ageing will not occur unless their causes are built into our lifestyle.
2. Broadly speaking, infectious disease is not primarily an attack on the body by some foreign agent such as a bacteria or virus. Rather its the body’s defences at work attempting to preserve the status quo of good health. The common cold is the classic example.
3. The human body – given the right conditions – is an efficient self-healing mechanism. We all know that a cut on the skin will heal, but what about damage to internal organs? They have just the same ability to heal.
4. The conditions that are needed to maintain health are also the basis for the control of disease if it arises. Good health may be retained or regained by living in harmony with nature as far as is practicable in the modern world.
5. The causes of most of the health problems in modern Australia lie in processed foods, excessive stress, lack of exercise and chemical pollution.
6. Drugs and similar treatments tend to interfere with the body’s self-healing processes. They often impede the return to full health by suppressing symptoms without addressing the underlying causes of the illness.
7. Degenerative diseases and premature ageing are the inevitable result of an unnatural lifestyle over many years. Degeneration is hastened by suppressing minor ailments like colds and flu, which are the body’s natural detoxifying processes.
8. Recovery can usually be brought about by removing the underlying causes of the illness and supporting the body’s self-healing powers. Degeneration and damage to organs and tissues are preventable and often reversible.
THE PRACTICES OF NATURAL HEALTH
1. Nutrition. Nourish the body with the foods for which it is designed; that is, a balance of natural, unprocessed foods. Three-quarters of total food intake is fresh vegetables and fruits. The balance of the diet is foods that provide protein, carbohydrate and fat. These include legumes, nuts, seeds, unprocessed cheese, free-range eggs, whole grains, dried fruits and perhaps honey and pure maple syrup. Eating mostly from the plant kingdom has proven benefits for health and the environment. Minimise the consumption of refined sugar, refined grains, salt, alcohol and food additives.
2. Relaxation. Have adequate sleep and relaxation, and find ways of dealing with stress, such as meditation, yoga, stress management courses, relaxation tapes and exercise. Maintain a positive outlook on life by overcoming negative attitudes such as fear, anxiety, hatred, jealousy, resentment, greed, etc, and focus on positive attitudes including love, kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness, unselfishness and so on.
3. Physical Activity. Regular physical activity provides a wide range of benefits, particularly tone of organs and muscles, a healthier heart and a trim body. The best exercise is brisk walking. Other beneficial exercises are jogging on soft surfaces or a mini-trampoline, swimming, tennis, cycling, dancing and so on. Maintain an upright posture, and, when lifting heavy objects, do it correctly.
4. Minimise Exposure to Toxic Chemicals. Toxic man-made chemicals are present in air, food, water and our homes and workplaces. Where possible, select organically-grown foods and pure water. Use safe household cleaning and skin-care products, and don’t take toxic chemicals into the home.
5. Pure Water. Drink adequate pure water to at least satisfy thirst. Either buy bottled water or use a home purifier. Avoid drinking with meals unless very thirsty. Consume liquids at least half an hour before meals or more than two hours after meals. Avoid excessive alcohol, soft drinks and the caffeine in coffee and cola drinks.
6. Sunshine. Have regular, daily, brief exposure to direct sunshine, but only in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are weak. Avoid sunburn.
7. Fresh Air. Avoid breathing other people’s cigarette smoke, and, if possible, live in unpolluted areas.
8. Self-healing. If and when illness does arise, use detoxification methods that remove the underlying causes of the illness and facilitate the body’s powerful self-healing processes.
IF I ADOPT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE, WILL I NEVER GET SICK?
This depends on your genes, your previous lifestyle and how fully you can adopt the Natural Health lifestyle. Certainly, the risk of disease is greatly reduced. The severity of any illnesses should ease, and the effects of any existing degenerative diseases may be largely reversed over time.
We don’t need to adopt a perfect lifestyle – in fact, it’s unattainable anyway, The golden rule is: It’s not what we do 5% of the time that determines our health; it’s what we do 95% of the time that counts.
[From New Vegetarian and Natural Health, Autumn 2010 issue]
By Roger French
Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper goes the current orthodox advice, advising us that breakfast should be the main meal of the day and the evening meal should be a light one.
The opposite school of thought – which includes the Natural Health view – is that breakfast can be a light meal and lunch and dinner both main meals. Such conflicting advice can be very confusing for the person looking for guidance.
The two approaches do have one aspect in common. It is that three main meals a day is too much, and two is all we need. It is only the positioning of the meals that is contested.
ARGUMENTS FOR A ‘HEARTY’ BREAKFAST
The major argument for a heavy breakfast has arisen from research which found that a meal eaten at breakfast time was potentially less likely to contribute to obesity than the same meal consumed in the evening. This conclusion was drawn from the discovery that the basal metabolic rate is higher in the morning than in the evening, and therefore more of the calories of that meal are likely to be burned up if it is consumed before the day's activities commence. [Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum amount of energy required to maintain vital functions in a person when resting completely, physically and mentally.]
Conversely, the calories from a main meal in the evening are not needed immediately and have all night while we sleep to be converted to fat.
There are weaknesses in this argument. Firstly, a heavy meal – in this case, breakfast – takes hours to digest and takes time to start releasing its energy. Secondly, digestion itself consumes a great deal of the body's available energy, possibly up to half, so we can feel drowsy and there is less energy, not more, available for the morning’s activities that follow breakfast.
In any case, it must surely be the total amount of energy burned up in any one day compared to the total we consume in that day that determines whether there is a surplus to convert to fat.
And what about the majority of the population who aren't obese? It is ridiculous to regulate eating habits on the basis of preventing a problem many people don't have.
Nature's purpose in giving us a higher metabolic rate in the cool of early morning is to generate extra heat to compensate for the lower temperatures until the day warms up. It is not meant to trigger eating.
Another argument for a big breakfast quotes studies which found that children who skip breakfast tend to have poor concentration and lethargy and are slower learners with overall poorer performance.
So many children (and adults) suffer from hypoglycaemia that these findings are not surprising. Their low blood sugar creates an abnormal need for meals regularly throughout the day. Correct the hypoglycaemia and the children could be expected to perform well without a heavy breakfast. The British medical journal, The Lancet (October 1987) reported that normal children were unaffected or performed better without breakfast.
Although breakfast is fashionable with orthodox nutritionists, the traditional ‘hearty’ breakfast of bacon and eggs, sausages and eggs, etc., has been officially pronounced 'dead'. Its only connection with 'hearty' is that it contributes to heart disease.
Now in fashion is a somewhat lighter start to the day: cereal and milk, toast and fruit juice. Although a considerable improvement on bacon and eggs, starchy grains are still heavy foods, much too heavy for awakening a sleepy digestive tract. What we do need is revealed by taking notice of our body's daily metabolic cycle.
THE DAILY METABOLIC CYCLE
Extensive research in the 1940s by the Swedish scientist, Are Waerland, and the American College of Health Science has charted a regular daily rhythm in the body, called the ‘circadian’ rhythm. Our ability to use food effectively is closely related to the phases of this daily cycle.
The three phases of metabolism are:
Noon to 8pm: the best time for eating and digestion;
8pm to 4am: assimilation and utilisation of nutrients;
4am to noon: elimination of waste products and food residues. (These times are very approximate.)
Although digestion, assimilation and elimination may proceed at any time of the day, each is more intense during its particular part of the cycle.
The signs of these cycles are readily visible. On waking in the morning we often have bad breath and coated tongue, indicating that increased elimination is also occurring via the lungs and mouth. During the morning there is no true appetite; once the habit of having a big breakfast is broken, most people realise this. Around midday, true appetite is heralded by a delightful sensation in the stomach that is now ready and willing to receive food.
Have you ever woken up feeling heavy and uncomfortable in the stomach after eating late at night? The digestive system wants to shut down during sleep, but when it is forced to press on, the cycles are thrown into chaos and sleep is disrupted.
The crux of the problem with a big breakfast is that it forces the body to divert energy to digestion and away from the elimination process, frustrating the body’s eliminative effort and leading to retention and accumulation of waste-products or ‘toxaemia’ – medically called 'metabolic imbalance'.
Digestion is also forced to compete with the morning's activities for available energy, so it too can be compromised.
The best time for laborious work, whether physical or mental, is during the morning on an essentially empty stomach; the best time for sleep is during the night, also on an empty stomach.
HOW LIGHT IS FRUIT?
The word, ‘breakfast’, is derived from 'break the fast' with the first meal of the day after the over-night fast. Quite apart from the need to avoid interfering with the elimination cycle, the first meal after a fast is better to be as light as possible to gradually re-awaken a sleepy digestive system.
Natural Health practitioners have long observed that the stomach tends to ‘wake up’ about two to three hours after the mind. By delaying breakfast for about this time or until after physical activity, digestion is further facilitated.
Once the big breakfast habit is broken, which can take a month or two, most people experience no true appetite until mid-morning or later. When we listen to our bodies, the answers are all there.
The lightest foods on Earth are fresh fruits or their juices. This is because their major component is water (for example, 75% in bananas, 93% in watermelon) and their only other major ingredient is easily-digested natural sugar, which is well balanced by minerals, vitamins, enzymes and fibre.
Fruit sugars need very little energy for digestion, with glucose requiring none. Fruits are naturally 'cleansing' foods and are the only foods suitable for consumption during the elimination cycle. Because the nutrients are absorbed relatively rapidly, energy is available very quickly – and from glucose (predominant in grapes), in a matter of minutes.
Because fruit is so ‘light’ to digest and tends to burn ‘clean’ in the body, it does not significantly interfere with the eliminative phase of metabolism. Consequently, having a light fruit breakfast and main meals at lunch and dinner occupies the body with full-scale digestion and assimilation for only about 9 hours a day, leaving 15 hours for the elimination of waste products. In contrast, eating three main meals a day leaves only around 10 hours for elimination.
The benefits of a fruit breakfast apply equally to sedentary and manual workers – except that the manual worker by mid-morning would probably need more fruit or perhaps a snack of a light grain food like crispbread. Starchy foods like bread (or toast), if they are desired, would be more acceptable than for the sedentary person.
For a person who has adjusted to it, a light breakfast kicks off a light, vitality-filled day; a heavy breakfast makes for a heavy day. Many Australians eat not only heavy breakfasts, but heavy lunches and heavy dinners as well. Far more time is spent eating than eliminating. It's no mystery as to why obesity is endemic and toxaemia is the norm in Australia.
Eating a good quantity of fruit in a day is not necessarily fattening – the high water content takes care of that. It's the foods eaten in addition to fruit which are fattening. Successful and relatively easy weight loss is largely dependent on the efficiency of the elimination cycle.
To prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), the guide is to avoid eating an excessive amount of fruit in any one meal – and certainly to avoid doing this day after day, month after month, year after year. In the case where hypoglycaemia is already established, a generous serve of fruit could trigger an episode of low blood sugar.
CONVERTING TO A FRUIT BREAKFAST
Breaking a life-long habit of heavy or heavy-ish breakfasts needs to be done gradually over a number of weeks or months. Making sudden changes is not good for the body because it becomes programmed to whatever the habit is and expects that event to happen as usual.
The easiest way to switch the digestive system over to a light fruit breakfast after a lifetime of cereal or eggs on toast, etc, is this. Have a small quantity of fruit first, then half to one hour later have the usual cereal or whatever. Gradually increase the quantity of fruit and reduce the cereal, maintaining the interval between the two so as to allow the fruit to partly or wholly depart the stomach before the second ‘course’. Eventually the meal will be all fruit and no cereal.
The process might take four weeks or it might take two months. How full you feel after the two ‘courses’ will tell you whether you are progressing too rapidly.
EAT ONLY WHEN HUNGRY
One of Nature's fundamental guidelines is: Eat only when hungry; don't eat when not hungry. Again, our bodies know what is best for them and have a way of conveying the message to our brains. With regard to breakfast time, if there is no appetite at that time, we are best to have just a glass of water, and not eat until hunger arrives, which is often mid-morning. When our bodies need food, they will tell us in no uncertain terms.
Most people doing sedentary work are not genuinely hungry at breakfast time, unless the previous evening's meal was very light. We often hear of children not having breakfast; if they had hunger, they would see to it that they do have breakfast.
After a light breakfast, we will normally relish a square meal for lunch and again at dinner, and this is as it should be. We will be digesting these two meals at the time when the digestive system is at its peak.
For proper sleep it is necessary to finish the evening meal at least three hours before retiring to bed so that the stomach will be empty, or close to it, when sleep begins. If a bed-time snack is irresistible, make it fruit.
If, between the evening meal and lunch the next day, we eat only fruit (or nothing at all), we are extending the night's fast to around 14 – 16 hours, a long rest which is a marvellous start for maintaining a strong digestive system.
SOME HARD EVIDENCE
Further evidence for the potential benefits of this kind of meal pattern has been provided by Professor Ray Kearney of the Department of Infectious Diseases of Sydney University. His research has found that eating two meals a day adjacent to each other, instead of three meals spread through the day, significantly reduces the incidence of skin cancers and other forms of cancer. Mice allowed to eat for six hours and fasted for 18 hours each day showed a ‘phenomenal’ reduction of 93% in the number of skin cancers compared to mice allowed access to food 24 hours a day.
The fasting mice also maintained their youthful weight while the grazers put on weight and appeared older and slower.
The longest living peoples the world has seen, all have in common the fact that they don't over-eat – their calorie intake is just above subsistence level, meaning that they consume enough food but no more. The contemporary example is the people of the Okinawa Islands to the south of Japan. Their calorie intake is 30% less than that of Australians and their longevity and freedom from cancer and other diseases is outstanding. This confirms that any eating pattern that makes it easier to not overeat is a huge advantage.
If you want your body's unfettered opinion of a heavy breakfast, try this. Get used to a fruit breakfast for a while and then try a heavy breakfast soon after rising. You will most likely feel as heavy as lead all morning and have no interest in lunch.
Many people have discovered that once they break the ‘breakfast like a king’ habit, they are better off. Hundreds of people have commented to the Natural Health Society, "Natural Health advice is right. Now that I am used to a fruit breakfast, I have more energy in the morning and my head is clearer."
A fruit-only breakfast is not a firm recommendation for everyone, it is for individuals to try if they wish. If, by any chance, a person adjusts their eating pattern in accordance with these guidelines and then experiences health problems, this would suggest that some individual factor is involved and a consultation with an appropriate practitioner may be a wise move.
People who find it inconvenient to adhere to a balanced diet of natural, unprocessed foods may perhaps find it relatively easy to adhere to having fruit only or fruit juices only before noon. This alone could be expected to yield considerable benefits. Finally, the same general rule applies as with all Natural Health guidelines – no fanaticism. It’s not what we do 5% of the time that determines our health; it’s what we do 95% of the time that counts.
FURTHER READING Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond