Q&A: Does Debittered Yeast Have Chromium?

Q&A: More on brewer’s yeast – revisit

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Q: Does “debittered” brewer’s yeast contain chromium?

A: Nope.

It’s that simple. The de-bittering process takes out chromium from brewer’s yeast. Other strains of yeast (they are all basically the same species of one celled fungus.)

Baking yeast isn’t a source of chromium anyway… and is best used for just that, baking. Think of them as Alton Brown’s burping sock puppets on “Good Eats”  (love that show). They are “active”…some of the wee beasties are still alive to ferment your dough. Let them live! And burp! nd make wonderful things in your kitchen.

There is also “nutritional yeast”. It has a stronger flavor, but adds a wonderful cheesy element to soups and sauces without adding the fat and calories of actual cheese – if you are into that kind of thing. It’s a wonderful culinary tool for vegans. I think this is the stuff they use in vegemite and marmite. I’ve never had the privilege of trying either spread, but after having nutritional yeast, I imagine it is actually kind of tasty. They could definitely wake up your morning toast. I’ve used a powdered blend of brewer’s and nutritional yeast in vegetable broth until I could find a non-debittered yeast tablet.  Definitely had a zing to it. I can see where the flavor wouldn’t be for everyone. Brewer’s yeast alone is much milder in my opinion.

“Brewer’s yeast” that you find in health food and supplement stores is a little bit of a misnomer. It is, like nutritional yeast, INactive – the wee beasties have done their brewing duty and expired. It is like harvesting a mushroom. It isn’t alive anymore, but boy does it taste good. I like to think of nutritional yeast and brewer’s yeast supplements as itty bitty one celled mushrooms…you know, food. The yeast you actually brew with…in making beer for example…is more of the active burping sock variety. The “brewer’s yeast put into tablets has already done its burping and is now the harvested mushroom kind of thing.

The up side is actual brewers yeast does contain all sorts of lovely trace minerals, like chromium, selenium and others to go along with the B vitamins and iron. The down side is that brewer’s yeast has trace minerals…which can give it a pretty funky flavor. That’s why the debittering process came about in the first place. Originally, most people used brewers yeast as a source of iron, back when meat was only for the wealthy and leafy greens were not available year-round. Back then iron deficiency anemia was more common. The trace minerals were less of a concern and gladly purged to get a better-tasting iron source.

In the first-world nations, where meat, greens and whole grains are now abundant, the chromium in non-processed brewer’s yeast is the part we want. Often marketed as “glucose tolerance factor” or “chromium gtf” chromium in yeast form is easily absorbed, inexpensive, natural and according to several studies effective too. (University of Maryland has an excellent list of supporting research HERE).

So whether you choose dibittered brewer’s yeast or unprocessed brewer’s yeast depends on which part of the yeast you want to use. For iron intake and B vitamin supplimentation, either form will do. For chromium supplimentation, only the NON processed, NON-debittered form will work.

It is a challenge to find this non-debittered form…even some tablets labeled as “natural” are still debittered, since the yeast itself is a natural food and the debittering process is fairly ‘natural’ too. Powders are more likely to be non-debittered than tablets.

BUYER BEWARE! Read, read, read those labels! Reputable manufacturers will list  the trace minerals in their product, so if there is no chromium listed, it is better to assume it is a debittered product. If it has chromium, it should list chromium, and what form the chromium takes.

Be cautious when you see the term “chromium” or “gtf” as well. Non-biological chromium is very abundant, so take care to read. If you are looking for brewer’s yeast, make sure the “gtf” isn’t chromium piccolinate or chromium nicotinate.

MEDICINE TAKERS BEWARE! There are some medicine that can block chromiums absorption and other medicines where chromium changes the medications absorption and action. Please read this fact sheet from the National Institutes of Health for more information.

It seems very easy to process chromium right out of foods, so chromium deficiency may ironically be on the rise in industrialized nations where processed food are a large part of the diet. Brewer’s yeast to the rescue! Just like it used to help with iron deficiency and B-vitamins, now it can safely help with chromium deficiencies.

Broccoli, grapes and whole grains also contain chromium – so eat your veggies and whole grains, and you are less likely to need chromium supplementation in the first place. For those with special needs, like glucose intolerance, extra may be needed. However, those with diabetes or other health concerns should coordinate using chromium suppliments like brewer’s yeast with their doctor.

If you are healthy, though, brewer’s yeast is just wee tiny food with a big health impact.

Water of Life

Water makes a news splash – again

I know “water of life” sounds like an exaggeration, but as a science fiction fan, I couldn’t resist that little shout-out to “Dune”, one of my favorite sci fi novels.

But if you think about it, associating water and life is no exaggeration at all. We die from lack of water much faster than from lack of food. There has been seemingly unending buzz in the popular media about how much to drink, contaminants in tap water, plastic bottles leeching chemicals into the water they contain (which might just be filtered tap water anyway), you name it. The latest ruckus is the First Lady’s “Drink up ” campaign. While it is true we need to drink enough fluid to maintain optimum health, it is easy enough to get that optimum. I don’t think the point is to drink a higher volume of water, I think the point of the thing is to drink more water INSTEAD of all the sugary, or artificially sweetened beverages. Instead of ‘drink more water’ the message should be to “stop polluting the water you already drink with processed corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.”

But let’s dial all that back a bit. In the bigger picture, water has been associated with health and healing for hundreds of years.

Mostly because the water we take for granted was a difficult thing to get in the past. It was hard enough to get decent water for drinking (often impossible…leading to a panoply of diseases still found in developing nations today) – much less get enough water for cleaning and bathing. Basic hygene could have gone a long way to mitigating the great epidemics of the past.  Mineral and natural hot springs were thought to have miraculous healing properties (although it may have been less a matter of divine intervention, and more an instance of heat and minerals killing germs) Even ‘normal’ water was a revered healing method in the 18th and 19th centuries. Extended showers, mineral spas, hot and cold compresses, saunas, and “Kniepp therapy” are just a few examples.

We often take our water supply for granted. We are able to drink all we want without fear of disease or parasites. We can easily keep ourselves and homes clean. A study from Kyoto University proves that simple gargle with plain water 2 or 3 times a day can help reduce colds and flu.

Simple water is a wondrous thing – drink up.

Related posts and sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Kneipp

http://www.cartercenter.org/news/documents/doc130.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16242593

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/09/12/first-lady-michelle-obama-ask-everyone-drink-more-water

How to drink water

Head Pressure or Pain after Meditating – revisit

Head discomfort or pain after meditation – revisit

A while ago, I was asked about the sensation of head pressure or discomfort after “intense” meditation sessions.

With his permission, I shared the question with you in this Q&A post, but it is hard to translate an individual situation into a general interest / general information post. Particularly since one the big advantages of holistic health is how acutely it can be individualized.

The question of head discomfort after “intense” meditation has come up again, in a different context, so I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

One key difference is the location of the discomfort. Later mentions have the discomfort in different places on the head and face…no big surprise that would clue us in to different causes, different solutions.

In the first case, the discomfort was behind both eye brows and under the eyes, more face than head. That is smack dab over the frontal and maxillary sinuses, so that is why those were such a focus in the last discussion. The location is a key detail that built the case for a strong connection between the complaint and mainstream medicine. It was a situation where allopathy might be a key tool to bring out of the healers toolkit in this particular case.

In later instances, the location was a whole other story. This time mind-body connection was at the forefront. This time mind and spirit would be the focus, with less of a ‘body’ component. In fact, some of you might think this time the answer is too “fringe”, but the proof is in the pudding as they say…individual experience is still valid data, especially to the individual experiencing it! An open mind goes a long way when it comes to stress management.

Another person might indicate a tightness or pain in the head, less so in the face. A tight cap-like or band-like feeling often is simple muscle tension. (Mainstream medicine will agree with me there). If meditation relaxes you, how can it give you a muscle tension headache? Mind-body connection of course. If someone is meditating to relax, that can heap a lot of expectations on the meditation experience. Expectation is a big stumbling block to anyone working with meditation, intuition, visualization, imagination etc. That goes double if you are new to the process.

Meditation works in its own time in its own way…that is one of the biggest lessons it can teach us. Meditation is about letting go of those kinds of thought-bound expectations. Meditation is about being right here, right now, and letting things be as they are…NOT about getting your blood pressure down to X by Y date,  or by expecting to feel peaceful and blissed out NOW DOGGONEIT! It is very very easy to let those cultural expectations and old, well-established thought habits slip into relaxation time. It is a hard switch to turn off. The solution is persistence, and a whole lot of patience for yourself. Even in tea and mint candy commercials, wise gurus are seldom young. It takes a while to get the hang of the peace and serenity thing, especially in a ‘normal’ fast paced modern life.

The solution to this kind of head discomfort is easy to say, a little harder to enact. Let go. Don’t put any expectations on your meditation.

In the category of “when you hear hoofbeats look for horses not zebras”: if you are feeling muscle tension in you head after meditation, pay attention to your posture. Don’t slouch, but don’t try to force yourself into a full lotus zen master sitting position if you aren’t ready for it. Keep the spine erect, but comfortable. It is OK to sit in a chair that way if you aren’t comfortable cross-legged on the floor. It is even valid and effective to lay down…but I don’t recommend it unless you are fairly experienced or well-rested. I don’t know about you, but the laying down and relaxing thing is a fast-track to a NAP for me! Stretch, do a little yoga when you are not particularly meditating if you want to work your way into a pillow sitting zazen thing but aren’t flexible enough right now. Just like in the last post, working with a meditation mentor or teacher (Shameless plug: I offer meditation tutorials) can help sort some of the posture issues out.

The other scenario that I’ve heard lately is even more esoteric – this is where things get a little fringe-ish for some people.

In Eastern medicine and philosophy, there are energy centers (some might say nerve clusters) in the body that help regulate energy flow. You might have heard of “chakras”. Entire books have been written about that, and explaining it all is way outside of a blog post. Each chakra is assigned a specific location, and the one for the third eye, in middle of the forehead just above the eyebrows, is associated with meditation. If the pressure after mediation is in that location, then this is way way into mind-spirit territory.

Improper meditation (for you) can take that energy center out of its natural balance. It might become drained, or overcharged. It might just be a matter of adjusting your habits…meditating for a little less time, or changing the focus, or redirecting the energy to other things. Even little things like wearing dark blue (the symbolic color of the chakra) or making sure to drink adequate water after a session can help. The key here is to individualize your mediation practice to your particular needs if discomfort appears here. Get a little help and arm yourself with knowledge.

Meditation should be a comforting, relaxing, pleasant experience. Even if these head-discomfort problems come up, they can be handled. There are many different way to meditate, many schools of thought. If problems like these turn up, then it is just a clue to make an adjustment or slight change…don’t give up!

Sources /suggested reading:

“Wheels of Life” by Anodea Judith, Ph.D.

Flu Vaccine – a Holistic Point of View

Sometimes Holistic Health isn’t an alternative…it is a compliment

I think it does a disservice to Holistic Health when we call it “alternative medicine”.

“Alternative”  means another choice, but it also implies a mutually exclusive, this-or-that choice. I don’t think health and healing works that way. No one symptom exists in isolation…people are whole, interconnected organisms, even at the purely physical, biological level. Add to that the connections of body to mind and spirit. Add to that the connections of relationships and social functioning. Health and healing is a “big picture” venture.  “Mainstream” and “Alternative” medicine can (and do) work together – hence the names “Complimentary” and “Integrated” medicine. In the totality of health care, both are a viable ways to help. The difference comes in deciding which is the BEST approach in a given situation. Sometimes the best answer isn’t “this” or “that”. Sometimes the best answer really is “all of the above”.

The gap between mainstream, ‘scientific’ Allopathic health care and Holistic Health is narrowing. The more science studies holistic health, the more common ground is found.  Naturopaths were promoting hygene long before the days of Lister and Pasteur.  The “Nature Doctors” have been telling people to wash their hands for hundreds of years.

Vaccines are another area where modern medicine and holistic health finally agree. Now I’m sure many of you natural health fans are bristling at that and are ready to stop reading…but wait a minute first.

I realize there are religious objections to vaccines. Those are personal decisions, and outside of the scope of this post. I know there has been panic and mis-information about connections between vaccines and autism, not to mention legitimate problems with preservatives and allergies – but consider this for a minute: homeopathy.

The theory behind homeopathy is that the symptoms in an illness are actually evidence of the body’s self-healing efforts, not evidence of the disease process. So tiny doses of a substance that induces the same set of symptoms is given to help and support that inner self-healing. As the adage says,  “like cures like”.

Now look at how vaccines work. A tiny bit of killed or disabled germs are given to teach your body how to protect itself against that particular germ and the disease that it causes.The germ-containing vaccine directs and helps our natural inner germ-fighting system. The germ helps the body self-cure the germ-caused disease before it even progresses enough to cause symptoms. In essence, like cures like. Sounds a little like homeopathy, doesn’t it? Yet vaccines are supported by hard science, and are time-proven good medicine.

Whether you are an advocate of natural health, or a pure mainstream kind of person – vaccines make sense. It keeps individuals healthy, it’s true. Looking again to the big picture, it keep the community as whole healthier too.

I’ve had my flu vaccine – have you? And wash your hands.

 

http://chartiersvalley.patch.com/articles/flu-season-starting-earlier-this-year

 

What is Qi Gong (Chi Kung)?

Learn a little of the real story behind “Qi Gong”.

I don’t know quite why it is. Maybe it is simply caution about the unknown, like trying a new vegetable when you were a kid.

Sometimes people act a little nervous or uncomfortable when I mention Qi Gong (sometimes spelled Chi Kung). I’m guessing it might be because of that odd group that was in the news several years ago. I don’t know anything about falun gong, but I do know Qi Gong, and it is nothing to be afraid of – it’s better than trying brussel sprouts for the first time, that’s for sure.

Qi Gong is basically just “energy work”.

Think about junior high science class. Energy can mean electricity, magnetism, or it can be anything that produces an effect. Like the bowling ball on the shelf that produces the kinetic energy that produces the effect of denting your floor if the ball falls down. Qi is energy.

Gong is work, and tied to the idea of carrying energy. Kinetic energy in a hammer does the work of pounding a nail that produces the effect of building a house.

In this case the “energy” we are talking about is life energy. In China it is called Qi, in Japan it is “Ki” (like Reiki). Old Greek and European physicians like Galen, Hippocrates, and Paracelcus called it “vital force”. Whatever the name, it all means the same thing…that special something that makes us alive.

“Gong” in this case is simply working with the life force vital energy to bring mind and body into balance to help us have better mental outlook, fitness and health.

Qi Gong relies on visualization (focused imagination) and gentle movements to help move and balance life energy, to improve our health, and support mental well-being. To use Qi Gong effectively, you need a teacher. Think about the building a house example. Anyone can learn to pound a nail with a hammer. It isn’t really all that hard, but just pounding nails all willy-nilly doesn’t accomplish much unless you know what you are doing. You need the special know-how of a good contractor to build it right. The same is true with Qi Gong. You need to learn to do it right for it to really work at its best and cause no harm.

I don’t offer Qi Gong (yet) but to learn more about it I recommend viewing www.dctaichi.com in the Washington DC area. In the Pittsburgh PA area please visit www.teamsnow.co. for more information.

On August 18, 2012 Internationally known marital artist Master Nick Gracenin will be offering a Qi Gong workshop at 10 am at 1240 Washington Road, Mount Lebanon PA (the Unitarian Universalist Church at Sunnyhill). The cost is $40. A Bagua* workshop will follow at 11 am. Take both workshops for a discount…$70 total. Please contact Dr. David Clippinger to register at 412-480-9177.

*Bagua is a type of internal style Chinese martial arts…think “airbending” if you watch the cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender” 

Spice Up Your Healthy Eating

Spice up your healthy diet – cinnamon

There is two basic differences between the stuff on your spice shelf and the stuff on an herbalist’s supply shelf: amount and preparation.

To get a “therapeutic effect”, in other words, for an herb or spice to help fix something that’s wrong, it takes a good bit more of the stuff than you would use in cooking. The helpful stuff needs to be used in big quantities…like in capsules or pills, or concentrated through “decoction” which is more like a sauce reduction than a tea.

In general, beverage-strength teas or the pinch and sprinkle amounts used in cooking doesn’t help or hurt either one from a healing perspective. Of course those of us on friggen’ blood thinners and with (sigh) medical issues have to be a little careful even with those small amounts sometimes…BUT overall, herbs and spices can do a couple of important things. I don’t have the science to prove it, but those little smidges used regularly over time can give you a little nudge toward health, or at the very least give a little boost to the health and antioxidant effect of an otherwise healthy diet. Of course my favorite effect of using herbs and spices in cooking is that it tastes good!

Take for example, one of my breakfast favorites, cinnamon.

There are several varieties of cinnamon, all with a history of herbal medicine use. The cassia variety that is so readily available has benefits too. A good cinnamon tea can help a gassy tummy, soothe a cold, ease menstrual pain, and at higher amounts, can help with diabetes (some studies hint at a preventative effect, while there is some thought that it improves the body’s use of insulin in type 2 diabetes).

Coumadin / Warfarin folks…cinnamon has naturally occuring coumarin in it, so it can have a blood thinning effect and an additive effect to the medication. So don’t use high doses of cinnamon without supervision…to make sure it doesn’t drive the inr too high. I take the nudge approach. I put a little sprinkle in my morning oatmeal or coffee, and follow INR measurement as my doctor orders. So far so good. I do mean GOOD. As in YUM. Especially in cold weather. Cinnamon is considered a “warming” spice in herbalism.

So for a little tasty, warming oompf that might help you digest and might help sugar metabolism, cinnamon might be a good choice. For a big oompf, consult your herbalist. And read the disclaimer on the “about” page of the blog while you are at it, ok?

Source: http://altmedicine.about.com/od/cinnamon/a/cinnamon.htm