Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most hideous symptoms of a devastating disease, and can result in loss of limbs and eyesight, debilitating pain—and even death. I’m about to ask a favor of anyone reading this who is diabetic, but first, a brief description of diabetic neuropathy for those who haven’t already learned about it.
There are various kinds of neuropathies, or damage to the nervous system, that can result from diabetes. In diabetes, neuropathies are believed to be caused by long-term exposure of the nerve cells to high blood glucose and possibly by low levels of insulin. Symptoms of neuropathies depend on the type of nerve damage:
Peripheral neuropathies, the most common, cause pain or numbness in toes, feet, legs, hands, arms, or fingers.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN) affects the autonomic nervous system and may cause changes in digestion, bowel or bladder function, sexual response and perspiration.
Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN), one of the most serious versions, damages the nerve fibers that control the heart and blood vessels, resulting in cardiovascular disease.
Proximal neuropathy causes pain in the thighs, hips or buttocks and leads to weakness in the legs.
Focal neuropathy results in the sudden weakness of one nerve or group of nerves, causing pain or weakness in that area. While painful, focal neuropathy usually does not lead to more severe, long-term problems.
The most insidious aspect of diabetic neuropathy is that by the time you experience symptoms, the nerve damage is already done. Various therapies are available for treating the symptoms and slowing nerve damage, but the best of all approaches is PREVENTION. The best prevention is keeping blood sugar under control, but as the nerve damage often takes place long before you notice symptoms, wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to detect the onset of neuropathy before damage has been done?
While neuropathy testing has been added to the treatment recommendations of the American Diabetes Association, testing for diabetic neuropathy is usually not a part of your annual or biannual visit to the doctor. (If it is, we applaud your physician!) Neuropathy is usually diagnosed after you have developed symptoms—by which time, it is too late to reverse the damage; it can only be managed.
There is, however, a way to test for diabetic neuropathy that is non-invasive, not painful, and easy. Heart rate variability (HRV) can be used to identify nerve damage in very early stages, which would allow diabetic patients to seek help from their physicians before greater damage has occurred. (For an explanation of HRV, download our whitepaper on HRV or see the article on HRV in Wikipedia.)
SweetWater Health is working on an iPhone app that would allow diabetics to test themselves at home as often as desired (though twice a year is usually sufficient). The app would require the purchase of a compatible heart rate monitor such as athletes use, usually priced under $100. You would perform three simple physical exercises while wearing the monitor and the app will tell you if you are experiencing damage to your nervous system.
Now for the favor. If you are diabetic and are interested in the development of such an app, please go to http://www.sweetwaterhrv.com/dan.php and let us know. Your input will help us by letting us know there is a genuine need and desire for such a product. You can also sign up for more information about the product and volunteer to be a beta tester if you want.
Sincere thanks for taking the time to help us help you!
 National Diabetes Clearinghouse, http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/
 “Diabetic Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy,” A. Vinik, MD, PhD, FCP, MACP; D. Ziegler, MD, PhD., FRCPE; Contemporary Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine, Jan. 22, 2013.
Fat, fat, fat, fat. So much controversy swirls around various forms of fat. First we’re told coconut oil is deadly—then it’s a healthy miracle food. Then we’re told butter is poison—but now, it, too, has assumed the virtuous glow of health. Margarine is the healthy butter substitute—but now we hear it clogs your arteries. Olive oil, once eschewed by American cooks because it added flavors to food, is now lauded by American cooks because it adds flavors to food (and it’s good for you).
So what about the humble kitchen standby for cooking, canola oil? It’s tasteless and it contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, so it should be good for you, right?
Well, apparently not so much. Canola oil is not only bad for you, it’s horrendously bad for you.
Let’s start at the beginning. Have you ever seen a canola plant? No, you haven’t, because there is no such thing. The word “canola” was made up. Originally, it stood for “Canadian oil low-acid.” This is because growers in Canada believed, with good reason, that Americans would not want to eat something called “rapeseed oil.” It also sounded like “granola,” so the producers reasoned it would be perceived as a healthy food.
Rape is a member of the mustard/cabbage family. It has pretty, bright yellow flowers. It’s grown for its seeds—but unprocessed rapeseed has never been used for food, as has mustard seed. That’s because the seeds contain as much as 45% erucic acid, which is a poison. Insects won’t eat the seeds, and natural, unprocessed rapeseed is poisonous to humans and other animals. It causes deposits of fatty acids in the heart and thickening of the cardiac walls, which can lead to valve dysfunction and heart failure. Erucic acid can cause these effects even in quantities as small as 2%, which is the percentage of erucic acid allowed in canola oil in the United States. Rapeseed also contains glycosides, which interfere with thyroid functioning.
Growers have genetically modified the rape plant to produce lower concentrations of erucic acid and glycosides, but the oil must still be processed before it meets the standards set for food-grade oil. Using heat and hexane (and other solvents) strips more of the erucic acid from the oil, but turns the omega-3 fatty acids rancid. These are solidified and removed by partially hydrogenating the oil, which produce free radicals and some trans-fatty acids (known to create fatty deposits on arterial walls).
When Canadian researchers fed formula containing canola oil to piglets, the piglets developed vitamin E deficiency, even though the formula contained sufficient vitamin E for their nutritional needs. Vitamin E deficiency can lead to a boatload of health problems including anemia, muscular weakness, increased risk of heart disease and cancer, and more.
So what has been marketed to the North American public as heart-healthy oil, high in omega-3 fatty acids, is actually an unhealthy, genetically modified trans-fat that can damage vital organs, deplete vitamin E and promote disease. And it’s everywhere. Even if you don’t use it for cooking, canola oil is in many thousands of processed foods such as salad oils, baby foods, sauces, marinades, canned foods, baked goods, and so on.
So I don’t know about you, but when I learned this, I went through every bottle, can and jar in my kitchen and read the ingredients. Anything that contained canola oil went into the trash, never to be purchased by me again. If you want more details, there’s an excellent article in the November-December 2012 issue of Wellbeing Journal entitled “Canola Oil: Is It Healthy?” by Brian Fife, ND. It’s a pretty scary article—and I bet you, too, will clean out your kitchen after reading it!
In “The Willpower Instinct,” by Stanford University psychology instructor Kelly McGonigal, she defines willpower as composed of three parts: “I Will, I Won’t and I Want.” These three functions reside in the prefrontal cortex of the brain—something we humans have more of than most other animals.
“I Will” is the function that allows you to get things done, even if they are hard. “I Won’t” is the function that prevents you from eating something unhealthy or spending more money than you should. “I Want” is the function that tells you what you desire—what you really desire. So when your sweet tooth is screaming at you to drink a chocolate frappucino, “I Want” can remind you that what you really desire is losing 15 pounds. These three elements combine to create what we call willpower—the ability to control impulses that tempt us to do things that may not be in our best interests.
Our willpower is often at odds with our impulsive self, rooted in a deeper, more primitive part of the brain. We still need that older, less sophisticated system because it also provides us with valuable instincts such as fear and disgust that work to keep us safe and healthy. But our baser selves are always urging us to act on impulse, so it’s a pretty constant struggle.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to increase willpower, according to McGonigal: meditation. Dr. McGonigal is a scientist, not a Buddhist nun or new-age guru, and she backs up her assertions with scientific evidence.
The enemy of impulse is mindfulness: being present and aware of what you are doing and which decisions you are making at all times. A lot of poor decisions can be made while you are thinking about something else. For example, how many times have you suddenly come to the realization during a meal that you have eaten more than you intended, or eaten something that you shouldn’t have? Maybe you were reading a book or talking to a friend, and “didn’t notice”. That was your impulsive self, slipping one over on the prefrontal cortex while you were distracted. When you are fully aware of your decisions, you are more likely to make the right ones.
Meditation improves mindfulness. Neuroscientist have discovered that meditation trains the brain to become better at self-control, including “attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness,” according to McGonigal’s book. Just three hours of meditation practice led to an increase in these benefits, and after 11 hours, novice meditators increased the neural connections needed for focus and impulse control. Eight weeks of daily meditation increased the gray matter of the prefrontal cortex and led to increased self-awareness, or mindfulness in the individuals studied.
Meditation is easy, and does not necessarily involve spiritual seeking or levitation, or any of those other weird things you sometimes hear about. It is a matter of setting aside a period of time to sit and be quiet (including the inner voice we always hear). Be quiet, don’t fidget, and focus on something neutral, like breathing. It isn’t necessary to turn off that inner voice entirely; just notice that you have become distracted, and return to your focus on breathing. Start with five minutes and work up to a longer period. Even distracted meditation is better than none and will have positive benefits, so don’t get discouraged.
For excellent and simple instruction on how to meditate, see page 26 of McGonigal’s book, “The Willpower Instinct”. There are also several meditation resources online—try Googling “how to meditate” and you’ll find something that works for you.
“Up to 60% of the population can be affected by hidden food sensitivities …that can cause symptoms like weight gain.”—Dr. Mark Hyman, speaking to Dr. Mehmet Oz in “Are Food Allergies Making You Fat? Part 1”
Maybe you’ve tried dieting and exercise, but nothing works. Perhaps you’ve tried weight-loss groups and paid for the privilege. Maybe you tried Atkins, South Beach, The Zone, Pritikin, Jenny Craig–and nothing works.
Maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you have undiscovered food sensitivities. We’re not talking about allergies, where you might get hives, migraine, nausea, or worse. Food sensitivities can go undetected forever because the symptoms may not be obvious.
When you eat a food to which you are sensitive, the body reacts as it does to any stressor; it releases stress hormones. Stress hormones cause inflammation in the body that short-circuits the body’s insulin response, causing two problems:
- Fat gets released into the bloodstream, an underlying cause of hypertension, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Glucose in the blood gets stored as fat, and your stressed body is determined to hold on to every precious gram of fat as long as it can.
Now there is a way to test yourself for food sensitivities easily and non-obtrusively with the new version of SweetBeat™, the iPhone app from SweetWater Health, LLC. The test is a pulse test originally developed by immunologist Dr. Arthur F. Coca, who found that when a person eats a food to which he or she is sensitive, the pulse accelerates at least 16 beats per minute over the average resting rate.
With the new camera sensor included in the new version of SweetBeat, you take your pulse first thing in the morning, then right before eating and another three times after eating. (And a final one at night when you go to bed.) If you wear a chest strap monitor instead of using the camera sensor, the testing occurs automatically after you have recorded a meal.
If you have eaten something to which you are sensitive, your meal is given a red “X.” If you ate no offending foods, your meal receives a green check mark. In the event that you discover a red “X,” you will need to test different components of the meal to see what caused the problem—and then you can get rid of the stuff that’s making you fat.
It turns out that stress also causes inflammation, with the same distressing effect on your waistline. The original function of SweetBeat was to monitor and manage stress—and all those features are still included in the new SweetBeat (along with some nifty new features such as heart rate recovery and some cool graphs). The two features—stress management and testing for food sensitivities—are designed to help you lower major causes of inflammation—and assist you in losing those extra pounds.
The new SweetBeat is available in the Apple App Store now for $4.99. Users who have already purchased SweetBeat can upgrade for free.
Here’s our press release that went out today:
October 4, 2012—Los Gatos, CA—A new weight-loss feature has been included in the new, upgraded version of SweetBeat, originally released last February as a stress detection and management app. The dual-purpose app can help people manage food sensitivities, willpower, stamina, resilience, stress and heart rate variability with in-app graphs. The new and improved SweetBeat, from SweetWater Health LLC, is available now from the Apple iTunes Store for $4.99. People who have already purchased SweetBeat can upgrade to the new version for free. The new version of SweetBeat is compatible with the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5. Future versions will be compatible with Android phones.
“Stress management is an important component of a weight-loss program,” said Ronda Collier, the CEO of SweetWater Health and SweetBeat’s developer. “Stress releases hormones such as cortisol that can signal the body to retain fat or even cause fat cells to grow. Combining stress management and weight loss in a single app makes perfect sense.”
SweetBeat offers clinical-grade heart rate variability biofeedback for stress monitoring and management, and now offers a food sensitivity test using a methodology developed by immunologist Dr. Arthur F. Coca. According to Dr. Coca, foods to which the body is sensitive will elevate the heart rate by sixteen beats per minute or more. SweetBeat allows users to measure their hearts’ reactions to different foods and eliminate inflammation by dropping incompatible foods from their diets.
How the Food Sensitivity Test Works
Food sensitivities are a reaction from the immune system or a result of the body’s lack of proper enzymes to digest foods. When the body reacts to a food, it sends out inflammatory messenger proteins, cortisol and adrenaline, to tag the food particles for removal. This sets up a cascade of events, creating low-level inflammation that can affect the body in a number of ways. For example, low-level inflammation may affect the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in impaired digestion, it may cause sore joints or headaches, and it can prevent weight loss. A person with low-level inflammation may never notice the symptoms, or may not connect them with the foods he or she has eaten. By eliminating inflammation caused by food sensitivities, users should find losing weight less difficult. To use the food sensitivity test, a user must first take a morning reading of the pulse to establish a baseline for the day. Before eating a meal, the user records the foods comprising the next meal and performs a pulse test. After the user is finished eating, the app will prompt users to record their heart rates every 30 minutes until 90 minutes have passed. Once testing is complete, the meal will either pass or fail for food sensitivity, indicated by a red “X” or a green checkmark.
The new feature comes with a camera sensor for taking quick and easy heart rate measurements. While customers can also use one of the affordable heart rate monitors compatible with SweetBeat, the camera sensor is a convenient way for consumers to adopt the food sensitivity test into their everyday life. Using the camera sensor merely requires holding the tip of one’s index finger over the iPhone camera lens and flash.
New SweetBeat Features
SweetBeat has been updated with several new measurements based on heart rate variability. Using a compatible heart rate monitor, the user can now measure willpower and resilience. At the end of an exercise session, the user can also measure stamina through heart rate recovery. This is helpful to those who want to see how quickly the heart recovers its normal resting rate. The faster the heart recovers, the greater the stamina.
Users can now view their sessions over time to see specific trends in heart rate variability, stress or heart rate. The monitor screen with heart rate variability and stress management, the breath pacer, and the sensitivity and personality settings are still available in the upgraded version.
The calendar is available to registered users through the secure and private MySweetBeat page on SweetWater Health’s website. For more detail on using SweetBeat’s weight-loss feature, please download our whitepaper: “Five Easy Steps to Weight Loss.”
 Dr. Coca’s Pulse Test document is available free at http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/020108.coca.pdf
Yoga has a somewhat mixed reputation. I recently saw a flier from a group warning against “satanic traps” that listed yoga as one of the traps. (They listed vegetarianism and meditation, too, which just goes to show.) Some people view yoga as a physical exercise. Others see it as a spiritual exercise, or something mystical (pro-mystical believers like this; others see it as more new-age nonsense). Regardless of which view you take, science has found that yoga bestows some significant health benefits on the practitioner.
Science Daily reported a couple of years ago that yoga reduces inflammation in the body.[i] If you know something about inflammation, you know that it causes a host of health issues. Inflammation is the body’s response to infection or injury, and it serves a useful purpose when there is an infection to fight or a wound to heal. However, inflammation is the body’s knee-jerk response to anything it doesn’t like, such as stress, and chronic inflammation can cause serious, and sometimes deadly diseases such as periodontitis, atherosclerosis, hay fever, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer (such as gallbladder carcinoma).[ii] Chronic low-level inflammation can also prevent weight loss—even when you are doing everything else right.
In the study reported by Science Daily, Ohio State University researchers found that women who regularly practiced yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood than women of the same age and weight who did not practice yoga. IL-6 is key to the body’s inflammation response, so practicing yoga on a habitual basis should help protect against chronic inflammation.
The researchers also saw that when experiencing stress, the yoga practitioners’ inflammatory response was lower than non-practitioners, which means they were able to handle life’s stressors better, experiencing less bodily damage as a result.
The study at Ohio State University is just one of a wealth of clinical studies that reveal yoga’s many benefits. Studies have shown that yoga raises heart rate variability (HRV), a critical vital sign used as an indicator of a person’s state of health. HRV is the variation in the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. Your heart rate changes from beat to beat. When you inhale your heart rate speeds up, and when you exhale it slows down. So rather than referring to a fixed pulse of, say, 60, the heart rate will actually vary between, say, 55 and 65. HRV is a measure of this naturally occurring irregularity in the heart rate. About 30 years of clinical research has shown that when HRV levels are high, a person experiences lower levels of stress and greater resiliency. When HRV levels are low, this is an indication of greater stress and lower resiliency.
So anything that raises HRV is good for your health, and yoga is an effective means of doing that. A study of healthy people who practices Iyengar yoga showed that during yoga practice, the subjects’ HRV was significantly higher compared to placebo and control groups.[iii] Because yoga strengthened the vagal tone necessary for high HRV and had no negative side effects, the researchers recommended that yoga be considered as an intervention in cardiac rehabilitation programs.
Another study looked at the effect of what the researchers called “rhythmic formulas such as the rosary and yoga mantras” on HRV and “baroreflex sensitivity”—scientists’ cute little way of saying “maintaining a healthy blood pressure.” As you may have guessed, yoga mantras and rosary recitals had pretty much the same effect: HRV went up, blood pressure maintenance improved.[iv] Of course, not all yoga practitioners chant mantras, but maybe they should start. Either that, or take up saying the rosary.
There have been a number of studies of the effect of yoga on people suffering from type 2 diabetes. All have shown beneficial changes in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, blood pressure, oxidative stress, etc.[v] If that’s what yoga can do for people who are truly ill, think what it can do for a reasonably healthy person.
Yoga has even come to work with us as studies show that worksite-based yoga programs improve HRV and relieve stress on the job. Work-related stress is on the rise, accompanied by an increase in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases created by a sedentary work environment. A recent study looked at the effects of yoga and mindfulness sessions in the workplace. Participants in either session experienced higher HRV and lowered stress in comparison with the control group.[vi] The degree of improvement in HRV and stress was equivalent for both the yoga and the mindfulness groups; one wonders what might have happened if they had combined them?
This is just a tiny fraction of all the studies that show that yoga strengthens the body, relieves stress, raises HRV, combats inflammation, and is just generally very, very good for your health. If yoga is a satanic trap, it’s going to be hard to figure out just what old Beelzebub is up to this time.
[i] “Yoga Reduces Cytokine Levels Known To Promote Inflammation, Study Shows,” Science Daily, January 14, 2010.
[iii] “Iyengar Yoga Increases Cardiac Parasympathetic Nervous Modulation Among Healthy Yoga Practitioners,” K. Khattab, A.A. Khattab, J. Ortak, G Richardt, H.Bonnemeier; eCAM2007;4(4)511–517.
[iv] “Effect of Rosary Prayer and Yoga Mantras on Autonomic Cardiovascular Rhythms: Comparative Study,” L. Bernardi, P. Seight, G. Bandinelli, S. Cencetti, L. Fattorino, J. Wdowczyc-Szulc, A. Lagi; BMJ, v.323, December 2001.
[v] “The Influence of Yoga-Based Programs on Risk Profiles in Adults with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review,” K.E. Innes and H. K. Vincent; eCAM2007;4(4)469–486.
[vi] Effective and Viable Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” R.Q Wolever, K.J. Bobinet, K. McCabe, E.R. Mackenzie, E. Fekete, C.A. Kusnick, M. Baime; Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Vol 17(2), Apr 2012, 246-258.
There have been a number of interesting articles in the news lately about food and health. Here’s a compilation of some of the ones we have seen.
Scientists have discovered a way to “turn on” brown fat to burn energy more quickly, potentially resulting in another approach to combatting obesity. Wait a minute—isn’t fat supposed to be whitish? Most of the fat in an adult human is whitish, but there are also small deposits in the upper chest and neck. Brown fat, which is associated with skeletal muscle, is brown because it is rich in iron-containing mitochondria, which provide its brown color. It is particularly important to newborns (who have about 5% brown fat) and hibernating mammals. The mitochondira, which are the cells’ powerhouses, burn energy at a higher rate than white fat, and are essential to protect animals from hypothermia. A research team found that brown fat could be activated by a hormone called irisin that is normally produced by muscles during exercise. Other hormones have also been identified as brown-fat stimulators. Eventually, these studies may lead to a practical way to stoke our internal fires to burn away unwanted pounds. For more information, see Science News.
Dr. Mark Hyman, best-selling author and advocate of functional medicine, has written extensively about how food sensitivities can make you gain weight. His three-week anti-allergy plan involves removing all dairy the first week, take probiotics the second week to repair the digestive tract, then add dairy products back in one at a time the third week. If bloating, fatigue, or fluid retention occur you may have found the culprit. For more detail, see dr.hyman.com
Forbes.com reports that scientists have discovered a way to turn on the enzyme that burns fat, lipase. It turns out that enzymes only work a set number of hours during the day. Researchers were able to make lipase work three times harder, upping fat digestion activity from 15% to 45% of the time. This has the potential to be lifesaving for people whose metabolism makes it difficult to lose weight with diet and exercise. Also, it turns out that all enzymes can be manipulated in this manner, with enormous implications for enzyme-based diseases. To read the Forbes story, see forbes.com
Cocoa powder may sharpen the aging brain, according to a study published in Hypertension. (Full disclosure: the study was sponsored by Mars, Inc., one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world.) The study included 90 elderly people who had mild cognitive impairment. They drank a cocoa drink for eight weeks that had high, medium, or low levels of flavenols, a type of antioxidant. Those who drank high or medium levels of flavenols performed better on tests of cognition than did those who received low levels. However, the improvements were measurable but mild, and many scientists think that exercise yields much greater benefits than flavenols. For the whole story, see webmd.com
HuffPost asked its experts in medicine and nutrition to come up with a list of the 50 healthiest foods. The top 10 are:
- Blackberries and raspberries
- Olive oil
To find out the rest of the foods deemed healthiest and why these foods are so good for you, see huffingtonpost.com