Green Acres
Mimbres author and goat rancher Doug Fine says, Farewell, My Subaru

The Political Kraft
Las Crucen Tim Kraft, an architect of Jimmy Carter's 1976 election

Taxicab Confessions
The bumpy road of driving a small-town cab

A World of Good
Volunteering at an orphanage in AIDS-ravaged Zambia

Voice of a
Ranch Woman

Sharing the secrets of feeding cowboys

Tales from the Rails
Four true train stories

Columns and Departments
Editor's Note
Desert Diary

Enchantment for Sale on eBay
Lowe Card Wins
Top 10

Business Exposure
Celestial Cycles
The Starry Dome
Southwest Gardener
Ramblin' Outdoors
40 Days & 40 Nights
Guides to Go
Henry Lightcap's Journal
Continental Divide

Special Section
Arts Exposure

Louis Baum
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Gallery Guide

Body, Mind & Spirit
Choosing Health
Breaking the Spell
Blissful Anointings

Red or Green
Dining Guide
Mix Pacific Rim
Table Talk

About the cover


D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    March 2008

Choosing Health

Four ways to take more responsibility for your own well-being.

By Melissa Copeland

Back in January, I wrote on these pages of the various ways in which our bodies take in toxins ("Toxic Stew"). The emphasis on toxins in any serious discussion about health today is because of the role that these toxins play in chronic disease. Inflammation, in all its many guises, is a contributing factor in virtually all chronic diseases. Read that sentence again — its implications are huge! Toxins in the body create inflammation, and inflammation, left untreated, leads to chronic disease.

Practitioners may harp at their patients about consuming sugars, sweeteners (the so-called natural ones and the synthetics) and red meats because these foods have one thing in common: They each cause inflammation in the body. There are a host of other foods, as well, that have adverse effects on many consumers. Wheat, for example, in its highly refined form, causes surges in blood sugar. Sugar causes inflammation. For many people, this translates to joint pain. The long-term accumulation of irritation in joints is also known as arthritis. And yes, cutting refined wheat out of the diet for as short a time as a week can result in a dramatic decrease in arthritis pain! Unfortunately, this dietary modification has to be sustained, if one wishes to reap the continued benefit of reduced inflammation.

Given that we are all, after all, human, I like to use the Harm Reduction Model as a method to assist people with making better choices for themselves. While it may be unrealistic to expect a patient (or oneself!) to make drastic dietary changes overnight, I've learned that people can be really receptive and willing to change if they are given clear and doable instructions for healthy substitutions. Along with an understanding of why certain foods are not good choices for us, we need to know ways to make the healthier foods more appealing. There are many ways that this can be accomplished. The major prerequisite is an open mind.

Before I move away from the topic of food, I also want to touch on the issue of unwanted weight gain. Causes may be complex, but there are some easily identifiable major contributing factors. One of these is the obscenely large portion sizes that have become the norm. Have you seen the photos comparing the size of a hamburger in the 1970s and in the 1990s? I can't find a link to that visual image, but did come across a report about a study done that documented the change in portion sizes. You can read about it at www.nbc5i.com/health/1926536/detail.html Investing in smaller dinner plates is one simple strategy that can help, if you want to lose weight!

You may also find it useful to understand why it is that the so-called "trans fats" are so unpopular among the healthy food set. I'd like to share with you just one tidbit of information on the subject. Are you familiar with the term "half-life"? The amount of time that it takes for half of an ingested substance to be metabolized in the body is what we call that substance's half-life. As an example, some drugs have a half-life of 12 hours: Half of the drug is broken down into usable components in the body in 12 hours; half of the remaining half is broken down in the next 12 hours, and so on. In the case of hydrogenated oils, which are modified to make them have a longer shelf life, the modification that makes them "stable" also makes them more difficult to break down in the body. By not breaking down readily, they stand in the way of metabolic processes that are carried on at the cellular level. The half-life of trans fats is 51 days. In other words, in 102 days from now, 25 percent of the fries you had for lunch are still hanging around internally, dragging down your energy level and contributing to your weight gain. And in the meantime, how many more orders of fries have you consumed (and cookies, chips, margarine, etc)? Further discussion about trans fats can be found at www.todayschiropractic.com/issues/archives/jan_feb_04/jf2004_ss.nutrition3.html

I'm so emphatic about foods because what we eat plays such a huge role in our overall health. Throwing money at the problem of a chronic health condition, whether the money goes out to doctors, pharmaceuticals or nutritional supplements, is not going to have optimum impact, unless the diet is also cleaned up. Our bodies are miracles of adaptability, and can tolerate a remarkable amount of insult and injury. But sooner or later, we reach a tipping point. Unless some fundamental changes are made, there is no road back to health. That road back does exist, however, and there's help along the way to get there.

In addition to improving your diet, I want to share three very powerful tools available to help people who want to improve their health. One of these is the ionic foot bath. Stress and poor diet tend to create an accumulation of waste products in the body. These include lactic, uric, carbonic, acetic and heptic acids, among others. Acid wastes, according to Dr. Theodore Baroody, author of Alkalize Or Die, attack joints, tissues, muscles, organs and glands, and cause minor to major dysfunction. He goes on to assert that maintaining an alkaline environment throughout the body enables us to avoid disease and maintain vitality.

Sessions in the foot bath usually last for 30 minutes. At the end of a session, fats, mucous and sludge have thickened the water, leaving a visible and very dramatic testament to the effectiveness of the treatment. Several of my patients have written statements about the results they've achieved from using the foot bath. Increased energy and stamina are mentioned in every case. Reduced swelling and "skin (that) feels better, healthier and softer" are also mentioned.

Another powerful tool, which many people find extremely pleasant to use, is the infrared sauna. Infrared light, which is invisible to the naked eye, is very safe, unlike its cancer-promoting cousin, ultraviolet. Infrared penetrates deep into the skin, increasing blood circulation by expanding capillaries. By stimulating blood flow and circulation, oxygenation to all the tissues of the body is increased. Detoxification is accomplished in the infrared sauna when the molecules of water that encapsulate toxic substances are stimulated to release the toxin, which is then flushed out through the skin. Infrared saunas are helpful for persons with conditions such as fibromyalgia, which benefit from mild exercise, heat and relaxation, all of which can be achieved in the sauna.

The claim of infrared sauna being a mild form of exercise comes from an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Aug. 7, 1981, which reported that the "regular use of a sauna may impart a similar (to running) stress on the cardiovascular system, and its regular use may be as effective as a means of cardiovascular conditioning and burning of calories as regular exercise." Thus, people who have conditions that prevent them from engaging in more active forms of exercise may gain similar benefits from regular use of the infrared sauna.

Practitioners in Japan have used infrared sauna for many years, and have conducted studies that show its effectiveness in treating pain associated with sprains, neuralgia, arthritis, bursitis, muscle spasms and joint stiffness. Additionally, by raising the body's core temperature, use of the sauna also promotes the killing and removal of pathogens — bacteria, viruses and parasites.

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