Monday, November 23, 2009

Quick Fix Diets - How Many Calories Do You Really Need a day

Quick Fix Diets - How Many Calories Do You Really Need a day: "Find out exactly how many calories YOU need a day to help you lose weight... Everybody is different depending on their metabolic rate... Work your calories out using this easy method."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Maximizing Methylation: The Key to Healthy Aging

Maximizing Methylation: The Key to Healthy Aging: "

Taking just a few vitamins CAN optimize the function of ALL your body's systems. It’s true. But you have to know what to take and you have to know why these supplements work ...


That’s why, in this week’s blog, I am going to discuss one of the most important biochemical processes for long-term health and how you can keep it running at its very best with supplements and other measures.


Unfortunately, many people suffer from one or more of the 8 factors that negatively impact this biochemical process, so problems in this area are widespread though many don’t realize they are suffering.


The good news is that there are MANY things that you can do right now to optimize this critical biochemical process that may have a dramatic impact on your health. In today’s blog I will review the 8 factors that can lead to problems in this area, and outline 12 tips that will help you optimize this essential part of your biology.


But first, I'd like to tell you about two of my patients with seemingly unrelated health problems that were actually caused by a breakdown in this biochemical process. And I want to share a study done on Chinese babies who had a birth defect known as spina bifida.


You'll be amazed at how all three -- my two patients and these Chinese babies -- were affected by the exact same thing ...


What an Elderly Golfer, a College Professor, and Chinese Babies have in Common


One of my patients, Mr. Roberts, was an 88-year-old businessman who didn't let his age slow him down. He still golfed three times a week, worked two days a week, flew around the world in his private jet, and was 'romantic' once a week with a wife 30 years his junior. He also loved his 6 ounces of Grey Goose vodka every night.


Of course, he did have some health problems. Mr. Roberts had been treated well for mild heart disease. His doctor even recommended 800 mcg of folic acid and 250 mcg of vitamin B12 -- megadoses by any standard.


Mr. Roberts also had a check-up at the Mayo Clinic and was told that he was healthy, despite having mild anemia and large red blood cells. Yet he still complained of mild fatigue and trouble with his short-term memory. Plus, I noticed a slightly wide gait common in someone with poor balance.


Then there was Mr. McNally, a Boston college professor who was 50 years old, fit, and lean but wore a worried look as he walked into my office.


He recounted the sad tale of his 7 brothers. Four had died of a heart attack and three others had had bypass operations at a young age. Concerned about his own fate, he ate a low-fat diet, exercised regularly, didn't smoke, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and took antioxidants and a multivitamin. Perhaps his only vice was the multiple Starbuck's grande lattes he downed each day. Living under a constant state of impending doom, Mr. McNally came to me asking for a stress test to see how his heart was doing.


Strange as it may seem, these two men reminded me of my time in China. When I lived in Beijing, a study was done on a group of women in Harbin, the northern most industrial city in the Gobi desert, just north of Beijing. It seemed that there was an unusually high rate of birth defects in the area, specifically spina bifida.


The Chinese have a tradition of holding weddings during the Chinese New Year in February. In Harbin, many of the babies born 9 months later had birth defects. This study sought to determine what the link was and found that the major factor was the lack of fresh greens or vegetables in the Gobi desert in the middle of winter.


Interestingly, these Chinese babies, Mr. Roberts, and Mr. McNally all have something very important in common. They all have inadequate levels of specific vitamins, either acquired or genetic, and their methylation systems are not working properly as a result. I'll explain more about what 'methylation' is in a second. First let’s analyze the similarities in these cases.


Take Mr. Roberts. Our romantically active 88-year-old took high doses of B vitamins. But he still had very high levels of homocysteine and methylmalonic acid -- indicators of folic acid and B12 deficiency.


Mr. McNally had similar problems. Our college professor had a genetically sluggish metabolism of homocysteine which caused extremely high levels of this toxic amino acid to build up in his blood. This was the likely cause of all the heart disease in his family.


Again we see a similar set of problems in those Chinese babies. Their mothers were conceiving in the middle of winter -- when their folate intake was low from the absence of fruits and vegetables. This is what triggered such a high rate of birth defects.


The common link in all three of these cases is a problem with methylation. Let me tell you more about that that actually means.


Methylation is a key biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of almost all of your body's systems. It occurs billions of times every second; it helps repair your DNA on a daily basis; it controls homocysteine (an unhealthy compound that can damage blood vessels); it helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification; and it helps maintain mood and keep inflammation in check.


To keep methylation running smoothly you need optimal levels of B vitamins. Without enough B vitamins methylation breaks down, and the results can be catastrophic. In these cases we see more birth defects like spina bifida (as with the Chinese babies), more cases of Down's syndrome, and more miscarriage.


A breakdown in methylation also puts you at higher risk for conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, cervical dysplasia and cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, depression, pediatric cognitive dysfunction ( mood and other behavioral disorders), dementia, and stroke. And like Mr. Roberts and Mr. McNally, you may be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.


To avoid all of these problems, the key is to maximize methylation. That means avoiding the things that cause your methylation to break down, testing to find out how well your methylation is working, and including the things that support proper methylation. Let’s look at how to do that.


8 Factors that Affect Your Methylation Process


8 major factors negatively impact methylation. They are:



    1. Genetics. Like an estimated 20 percent of us, you could be genetically predisposed to high homocysteine.

    2. Poor diet. The word 'folate' comes from 'foliage.' You need to eat plenty of leafy greens, beans, fruit, and whole grains to get adequate levels of vitamins B6 and B12, betaine, and folate. Egg yolks, meat, liver, and oily fish are the main dietary sources of vitamin B12 -- so long-term vegan diets can be a problem. Plus, certain compounds can raise levels of homocysteine and deplete the B vitamins. These include excess animal protein, sugar, saturated fat, coffee, and alcohol. Irradiation of food depletes nutrients, so foods treated this way may be lower in B vitamins, too.


    3. Smoking. The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke inactivates vitamin B6.


    4. Malabsorption. Conditions like digestive diseases, food allergies, and even aging can reduce absorption of nutrients.


    5. Decreased stomach acid. Aging and other conditions can reduce stomach acid -- and therefore absorption of vitamin B12.


    6. Medications. Drugs like acid blockers, methotrexate (for cancer and arthritis and other autoimmune diseases), oral contraceptives, HCTZ (for high blood pressure), and Dilantin (for seizures) can all affect levels of B vitamins.


    7. Other conditions. These include hypothyroidism, kidney failure or having only one kidney, cancer, and pregnancy.


    8. Toxic exposures. Some toxins can interfere with vitamin production.


Watch out for these factors and you will go a long way toward protecting your methylation.


Measuring Your Own Methylation Process


To find out if your methylation process is optimal, ask your doctor for the following tests:



    1. Complete blood count. Like our friend Mr. Roberts, large red blood cells or anemia can be a sign of poor methylation. Red blood cells with a mean corpuscular volume (MCV) greater than 95 can signal a methylation problem.

    2. Homocysteine. This is one of the most important tests you can ask for. The normal level is less than 13, but the ideal level is likely between 6 and 8.


    3. Serum or urinary methylmalonic acid. This is a more specific test for vitamin B12 insufficiency. Your levels may be elevated even if you have a normal serum vitamin B12 or homocysteine level.


    4. Specific urinary amino acids. These can be used to look for unusual metabolism disorders involving vitamins B6 or B12 or folate, which may not show up just by checking methylmalonic acid or homocysteine.


12 Tips to Optimize Your Methylation Process


Just as there are many causes of poor methylation, there are lots of things that support its proper functioning. Here's how to maximize methylation -- and prevent conditions like heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression, and more.



    1. Eat more dark, leafy greens. You want to eat l cup a day of vegetables like bok choy, escarole, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, spinach, or dandelion, mustard, collard, or beet greens. These are among the most abundant sources of the nutrients needed for optimal methylation.

    2. Get more Bs in your diet. Good food sources include sunflower seeds and wheat germ (vitamin B6); fish and eggs (vitamin B6 and B12); cheese (B12); beans and walnuts (vitamin B6 and folate); leafy dark green vegetables; asparagus, almonds, and whole grains (folate); and liver (all three).


    3. Minimize animal protein, sugar, and saturated fat. Animal protein directly increases homocysteine. Sugar and saturated fat deplete your body's vitamin stores.


    4. Avoid processed foods and canned foods. These are depleted in vitamins.


    5. Avoid caffeine. Excess amounts can deplete your B vitamin levels.


    6. Limit alcohol to 3 drinks a week. More than this can deplete your B vitamin levels.


    7. Don't smoke. As noted above, smoking inactivates vitamin B6.


    8. Avoid medications that interfere with methylation. See notes on this above.


    9. Keep the bacteria in your gut healthy. Take probiotic supplements and use other measures to make sure the bacteria in your gut are healthy so you can properly absorb the vitamins you do get.


    10. Improve stomach acid. Use herbal digestives (bitters) or taking supplemental HCl.


    11. Take supplements that prevent damage from homocysteine. Antioxidants protect you from homocysteine damage. Also make sure you support methylation with supplements like magnesium and zinc.


    12. Supplement to help support proper homocysteine metabolism. Talk to your doctor to determine the best doses and forms for you. Here are a few suggestions:



      • Folate (folic acid): Amounts can vary based on individual needs from 200 mcg to 1 mg. Some people may also need to take preformed folate (folinic acid or 5 formylTHF) to bypass some of the steps in activating folic acid.

      • Vitamin B6: Take 2 to 5 mg a day. Some people may need up to 250 mg or even special 'active' B6 (pyridoxyl-5-phosphate) to achieve the greatest effect. Doses higher than 500 mg may cause nerve injury.


      • Vitamin B12: Doses of 500 mcg may be needed to protect against heart disease. Oral vitamin B12 isn't well absorbed; you may need up to 1 or 2 mg daily. Ask your doctor about B12 shots.


      • Betaine: This amino acid derivative is needed in doses from 500 to 3,000 mg a day, depending on the person.



By working to optimize your methylation you can protect yourself from virtually all the so called 'diseases of aging.' When you do, you will be well on the road to lifelong vibrant health.


Now I'd like to hear from you ...


Do you have symptoms of poor methylation?


What are you doing to optimize this process?


Do you take B-vitamin supplements? Have you noticed any results?


Please share your thoughts by adding a comment below.


To your good health,


Mark Hyman, M.D.



"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Vitamin D: What You Need To Know

Vitamin D: What You Need To Know: "Hardly a day goes by without some groundbreaking news about Vitamin D. Originally known for it's crucial role in maintaining calcium levels for bone health, it is rapidly becoming apparent that we have vastly underestimated Vitamin D's significant importance for our overall health and wellbeing. In short, judging by what I see in my practice and speaking with colleagues around the country, it's looking very much like we're facing an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency, with potential grave consequences. This Vitamin D FAQ will help to get you up to speed on this important topic.



What diseases are associated with Vitamin D deficiency?



Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to play a role in almost every major disease, including:





Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

17 varieties of Cancer (including breast, prostate and colon)

Heart disease

High blood pressure

Obesity

Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes

Autoimmune diseases

Multiple sclerosis

Rheumatoid arthritis

Osteoarthritis

Bursitis

Gout

Infertility and PMS

Parkinson's Disease

Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Alzheimer's Disease

Chronic fatigue syndrome

Fibromyalgia

Chronic Pain

Periodontal disease

Psoriasis





What is vitamin D?



Although it's called a vitamin, vitamin D is really a hormone not a vitamin. Vitamins cannot be produced by your body, we get them from dietary sources, whereas hormones like vitamin D are made in your body. It's your body's only source of calcitrol (activated vitamin D), the most potent steroid hormone in the body.



What does vitamin D do?



Like all steroid hormones, vitamin D is involved in making hundreds of enzymes and proteins, which are crucial for preserving health and preventing disease. It has the ability to interact and affect more than 2,000 genes in the body. It enhances muscle strength and builds bone. It has anti-inflammatory effects and bolsters the immune system. It helps the action of insulin and has anti-cancer activity. This is why vitamin D deficiency has been linked with so many of the diseases of modern society. Because of its vast array of benefits, maintaining optimal levels of D is essential for your health.



Where do I get vitamin D from?



The only 2 reliable sources of vitamin D are the sun and supplements. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way for your body to generate vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In fact, this is such an efficient system that most of us make approx. 20,000 units of vitamin D after only 20 minutes of summer sun without suntan lotion (or clothes!) That's 100 times more than the government recommends per day! There must be a good reason why we make so much in so little time.



You do not generate vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window, whether in your car or at home because these UV rays cannot penetrate glass to generate vitamin D in your skin Also sunscreens, even weak ones, almost completely block your body's ability to generate vitamin D.



The other reliable source is vitamin D3 supplements (not vitamin D2)



Only about 10% of your vitamin D comes from diet, so it is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your food.



What are the food sources of vitamin D?



1. Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil. 
Fatty wild fish like mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring

2. 
Fortified milk, orange juice and cereal

3. Dried Shitake mushrooms

4. Egg yolks



But to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food, you would have to eat at least 5 servings of salmon a day or drink 20 cups of fortified milk



My Doctor told me to avoid the sun, what do you think?



There is an old Italian saying 'Where the sun does not go the doctor does.'



For about the last 25 years, doctors (dermatologists in particular) have demonized sun exposure and repeatedly told us it is bad for you and causes cancer. But is that true? In the last few years, numerous studies have shown that modest exposure to sunlight may actually be good for you, helping the body produce the vitamin D it needs to keep bones healthy and protect against cancer, including skin cancer. Though repeated sunburns--in children and very fair-skinned people--have been linked to melanoma, there is no credible scientific evidence that moderate sun exposure causes it. Since it's almost impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from food alone (including fortified milk and fatty wild fish), the sun is your best source. I'm not suggesting you go bake in the sun with your suntan oil or go to tanning salons. But getting some sun without getting sunburned makes healthy sense.




We evolved in the sun; we were made to get some sun, not to live our lives indoors and slather on sunscreen every time we go outside. If the sun is shining where you are today, get out and enjoy it, talk about a free natural treatment! All you need is a little common sense when heading outdoors, do it gradually and always avoid sunburn. 




Special Note: Remember to take antioxidants when you sit in the sun, as these can help prevent skin cells from sun damage.



How much sunshine do I need?



All living things need sun, the key is balance. Too much sun exposure can cause melanoma and skin aging, while too little creates an inadequate production of vitamin D. The amount needed depends on the season, time of day, where you live, skin pigmentation and other factors. As a general rule, if you are not vitamin D deficient, about 20 minutes a day in the spring, summer and fall on your face and arms or legs without sunscreen is adequate. It doesn't matter which part of the body you expose to the sun. Many people want to protect their face, so just don't put sunscreen on the other exposed parts for those 20 minutes.




If you live north of 37 degrees latitude (approximately a line drawn horizontally connecting Norfolk, Virginia to San Francisco, California) sunlight is not sufficient to create Vitamin D in your skin in the winter months, even if you are sitting in the sun in a bathing suit on a warm January day! The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D



How much vitamin D do I need?



How much vitamin D you need varies with age, body weight, percent of body fat, latitude, skin coloration, season of the year, use of sun block, individual variation in sun exposure, and - probably - how ill you are.



As a general rule, old people need more than young people, big people need more that little people, fat people need more than skinny people, dark-skinned people need more than fair skinned people, northern people need more than southern people, winter people need more than summer people, sun block lovers need more than sun block haters, sun-phobes need more than sun worshipers, and ill people may need more than well people.



What I and many of my colleagues around the country are finding is that even people spending what we thought was adequate amount of time in the sun, are still showing up with low blood vitamin D levels. I am not sure why at this stage but there is an easy and cheap solution...vitamin D supplementation.



How much vitamin D should I supplement with?



Most important is that you take vitamin D3, (cholecalciferol) the active form of vitamin D. Do not take vitamin D2 as it is not as biologically active nor as effective, and nor as safe as vitamin D3. And taking the right amount is crucial, most doctors tend to under dose. The current recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine: from 200 to 600 IU/day depending on one's age, are way too low.
These values were originally chosen because they were found to prevent osteomalacia (bone softening) and rickets



Here are some guidelines



If your blood level is above 45ng/ml and for maintenance, I recommend 2,000-4,000 IU daily depending on age, weight, season, how much time is spent outdoors, where one lives, skin color and obviously blood levels



In other words if you are older, larger, living in the northern latitudes during the winter, are not getting sun and have dark skin, I recommend the higher maintenance dose.



If your blood level is 30-45 ng/ml, I recommend you correct it with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for 3 months under a doctor's supervision and then recheck your blood levels.



If your blood level is less than 30 ng/ml, I recommend you correct it with 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day under a doctor's supervision and then recheck your blood levels after 3 months. It takes a good 6 months usually to optimize your vitamin D levels if you're deficient. Once this occurs, you can lower the dose to the maintenance dose of 2,000 - 4,000 IU a day.



What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?



There is no clear pattern of symptoms. In fact many people remain asymptomatic despite low levels. But here are some of the more common symptoms:





Fatigue

General muscle pain and weakness

Muscle cramps

Joint pain

Chronic pain

Weight gain

High blood pressure

Restless sleep

Poor concentration

Headaches

Bladder problems

Constipation or diarrhea






What about vitamin D toxicity?



It is impossible to generate too much vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure: your body will self-regulate and only generate what it needs. Although very rare, it is possible to overdose and become toxic with supplementation as vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and therefore stored in the body for longer periods of time. Therefore if you are taking 5,000 IU or more daily, you should have your blood levels monitored approximately every 3 months.




What blood test should I have to check my vitamin D levels?





The only blood test that can diagnose vitamin D deficiency is a 25-hydroxy-vitamin D (25 OH vitamin D). Unfortunately, some doctors are still ordering the wrong test, 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D. In fact a common cause of high 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is a low 25(OH)D or vitamin D deficiency. So when doctors see the 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D is normal or high and tell their patients that they are OK, they are often vitamin D deficient.



Your doctor should do this test for you. Unfortunately even some of the labs, in particular Qwest, have had problems with correct results, usually giving erroneously high results.



If you don't want to go through your doctor, the ZRT lab does a blood spot test that you can order without going through a doctor.



What is the ideal blood level of 25 hydroxy vitamin D?



The current ranges for 'normal' are 20 to 55 ng/ml. These are much too low!!! They may be fine if you want to prevent rickets or osteomalacia, but not for optimal health. The ideal range for optimal health is 50-80 ng/ml.



How often should I have a 25 hydroxy vitamin D blood test?



At least once a year especially at the beginning of winter. If you are supplementing, I suggest you monitor your vitamin D levels approximately every 3months until you are in the optimal range. If you are taking high doses (10,000 IU a day) your doctor must also check your calcium, phosphorous, and parathyroid hormone levels every 3 months



My doctor prescribed Drisdol, 50,000 IU per week. What is it?





Drisdol is a prescription of 50,000 IU tablets of vitamin D2 or ergocalciferol. Ergocalciferol is not vitamin D but it is similar. D2 is not normally found in humans and most studies show it does not raise 25(OH)D levels as well as (cholecalciferol or vit D3) does. If you are vitamin D deficient, the best thing to do, is to take vitamin D3.



Can I take cod liver oil to get my vitamin D?





Although Cod liver oil contains a fair amount of vitamin D, it also contains high amounts of vitamin A. Vitamin A antagonizes the action of vitamin D and can be toxic at high levels.



Why is there an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency?



It is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 100% of Americans, depending upon their age and community living environments, are deficient in Vitamin D. More than half of all American children are vitamin deficient. Supposedly almost 3/4s of pregnant women are vitamin D deficient, predisposing their unborn children to all sorts of problems. Worldwide, it is estimated that the epidemic of vitamin D deficiency affects one billion people. In my practice over 80% of patients whose vitamin D levels I check are deficient. No one is exactly sure why this is happening apart from the fact that we spend too much time indoors and when we go out into the sun, we lather sunscreen on ourselves. I think it must be more than that. But whatever the reason, the reality is we have a major epidemic on our hands.



What about the use of tanning beds to get my vitamin D?



I tend not to recommend them because we don't really know if they are safe. Because the light sources vary with different tanning beds, it makes them unpredictable and possibly unsafe. In addition, most commercial tanning beds emit an unknown amount of EMF and because one is so close to the actual bed, it may be an unnecessary high dose. Theoretically both these problems could be overcome, but in reality they usually are not. 





For more information on vitamin D, go to http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/



Frank Lipman MD, is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC a center whose emphasis is on preventive health care and patient education. His personal blend of Western and Eastern Medicine combined with the many other complimentary modalities he has studied, has helped thousands of people recover their energy and zest for life. He is the author of the recent SPENT: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (2009) and Total Renewal; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health (2003).



"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Swine Flu: What To Do?

Swine Flu: What To Do?: "Summer is over and the question I am being asked most frequently in my practice is, 'what do I do about Swine flu?' My patients are wondering whether or not they should get vaccinated and the simple answer I give most of the time is ..NO!



From what you may have read, you might think that the swine flu vaccine is the answer to swine flu. Unfortunately this is not true and until we know that the vaccine is safe, I cannot in good conscience recommend it to most of my patients.



From the outset, let me say, I am not anti all vaccinations, rather I am pro vaccine safety and freedom of choice.



This is why am I not recommending the swine flu vaccine



1) At this stage, for the most part the swine flu seems benign.



Over a million people in the US have already come down with swine flu, many of them without even knowing that they had it. The vast majority of people who get the swine flu recover after a week or so of high fever, aches, and respiratory distress. It's not pleasant, but except in rare circumstances, it is not fatal. Most people who've been infected by swine flu think so little of it, they believe they just had a really bad cold or a regular flu. So unless the swine flu evolves to a much more virulent form, there's no need for mass vaccination.



2) We don't know if the vaccine will be effective.



Vaccines are only useful against the specific viral strain that was available at the time of their manufacture. But influenza viruses mutate quickly, and as the WHO has already said, the real concern with H1N1 swine flu is that it will combine with seasonal flu in the Fall, creating a new strain that will of course be immune to all available vaccines.



3) We don't know if the vaccine is safe.



The FDA has authorized an expedited approval process for the swine flu vaccine but we don't know yet if it is safe. Even GlaxoSmithKline, one of the vaccine manufacturers has said, 'The total population studied in clinical trials will be limited, due to the need to provide the vaccine to governments as quickly as possible. Additional studies will therefore be required and conducted after the vaccine is made available.'



In other words, the only thing that is safe, is to say that no one knows. Since it's never been used before and they have not had time to conduct any sufficient human testing, by getting vaccinated you are being a human guinea pig.



4) Vaccine manufacturers have been insulated from liability by the government.



The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius has granted legal immunity not only to the makers of the 2 drugs being used to treat swine flu, Tamiflu and Relenza, but also to the swine flu vaccine makers, for damages due to their use against swine flu. By effectively manipulating the legal system, the Pharmaceutical Industry through their powerful lobbyists have acquired almost complete and total insulation from any liability for their vaccines and adjuvants, which are additives added to generate a stronger immune response. It is believed that it is these adjuvants which often cause the problems. The last time the government embarked on a major vaccine campaign against a new swine flu was in 1976. Thousands filed claims for side effects such as paralysis caused by the vaccine and a number of people died. I am sure that the researchers know more now than they did last time and no one can say for certain that bad things will happen again or that you will suffer dire consequences if you get vaccinated. But this time you have no legal recourse even though this vaccine involves new factors, which makes it therefore experimental and unpredictable.



By shielding the manufacturers from any responsibility for any harm caused, the pharmaceutical firms have no financial incentive to make the safest product. In fact, they have a negative incentive to test it for safety, because if they are aware of problems, then they could potentially be held liable for willful misconduct.



Instead I advise my patients to build up and strengthen their immune systems to prevent viral infections.



Here are my top 10 recommendations:



1) Optimize your vit D level



Adequate levels of Vitamin D are essential for our immune systems to function optimally. Unfortunately there are no significant dietary sources of Vitamin D, most of our intake comes from exposure to sunlight. If you live far from the equator, you simply don't get enough sun through Fall and Winter to make all the vitamin D you need. So unless you supplement during this period, your innate immunity will be compromised. Vitamin D plays such a crucial role in so many aspects of your body's functioning, that supplementing with it makes sense whether you decide to get the flu shot or not.



We know that influenza always gets worse during the winter months. Now there is good evidence to suggest that this is because as sunlight hours lessen during the winter, the people living in the northern hemisphere become vitamin D deficient and are susceptible to influenza infections of all kinds. Here's a great article available at NIH pertaining to this topic.



There is also some evidence that supplementation with a sufficient amount of vitamin D can help to prevent the onset of a flu or cold.



The current recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. Institute of Medicine: from 200 to 600 IU/day depending on one's age, are way too low. These values were originally chosen because they were found to prevent osteomalacia (bone softening) and rickets. It is now recognized that vitamin D has many additional physiological functions, for which these levels are totally inadequate. A number of scientists are therefore calling for the Food and Nutrition Board in the U.S. and its counterparts abroad to reassess their current recommendations.



To optimize your vit D levels, you will need to





Take at least 2,000 IU of a Vitamin D3 supplement daily.

Get your 25 hydroxy Vitamin D level checked by your doctor (if that is not an option, you can self test your level with ZRT labs)





Although the current normal range is between 20 and 50ng/ml, this is much too low for optimal health. You want your level to be between 50 and 70ng/ml. This is the most important step you can take to prevent the flu!! It may require a number of months taking 5,000 to 10,000 IU of Vit D3 daily (especially during winter) under a doctor's supervision, to optimize your blood level. Monitor your 25 hydroxy vitamin D status every 3 months until you are in the optimal range, then cut back to a maintenance dose of at least 2,000 IU a day.



2) Get adequate sleep, this is an indispensable requirement for a strong immune system.



3) Get adequate exercise, this keeps you robust.



4) Take actions to lower your stress levels



Do breathing exercises, meditate, practice yoga, spend time doing something that makes you happy. Feeling spent, overwhelmed, and/or mentally run down has a causal relationship to your physical health.



5) Wash your hands frequently but not excessively



It decreases your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap because of the risk of creating resistant bacteria. Rather use a simple chemical-free soap.



6) Avoid sugar and processed foods as they decrease your immune function dramatically.



7) Eat phytonutrient rich meals (lots of colorful salads and dark greens)



8) Eat lots of garlic, it works as a broad spectrum antibiotic.



9) Take a probiotic daily (look for one with 10-20 billion organisms).



A strong immune system relies heavily on having a strong foundation in the gut.



10) Keep a supply of antiviral herbal supplements on hand.



As opposed to antiviral drugs, antiviral herbs do not cause resistant strains because they are multifaceted and contain literally thousands of different medicinal compounds. Thus they are able to attack viruses with a full spectrum of synergistic substances. Andrographis, Olive leaf extract, Grapefruit seed extract and Elderberry extract, all have antiviral properties. Use one or a combination of some of them as a prophylactic measure, for ex.whenever you travel (airports) or enter a potentially compromised environment such as a large office, auditorium, stadium, theater etc.



And if you really want to go all out, here are 4 more tips:



11) Take 1-2 grams of fish oils daily, its beneficial for immune function.



12) Take 2 grams of Vitamin C daily, yes it does help.



13) Stock your home pharmacy with an immune building formula.



Look for one that contains Cordyceps and Astragulus. Take it throughout the flu season.



14) Keep homeopathic Oscillococcinum on hand



Take it at the earliest sign of a cold or flu. Early intervention is essential. If you are exposed to someone with the flu directly, you can take one dose twice a day for two days. You can also take one vial once a week throughout the winter, and two or three times a week during flu season, as a preventative measure.



Frank Lipman MD, is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC a center whose emphasis is on preventive health care and patient education. His personal blend of Western and Eastern Medicine combined with the many other complimentary modalities he has studied, has helped thousands of people recover their energy and zest for life. He is the author of the recent SPENT: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again (2009) and Total Renewal; 7 key steps to Resilience, Vitality and Long-Term Health (2003).



"

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your Guide to Music on the Web, Part II

Your Guide to Music on the Web, Part II: "


Last month, I published Part 1 of my Guide To Music On The Web, which covered music recommendation sites, Web radio, independent music sites, playlists, and music visualizations. Today, in Part II we’ll take a tour of music search engines, Web players, ways to share music on Twitter, and music mixing apps.


I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your comments and insights on my previous post and of course, took them under consideration while creating this second part. Please bear in mind that I can’t list ALL the music applications out there. I really tried to find the best and the most used applications that will probably still be here to serve you tomorrow too.


So readers’ main concern was the companies’ business model. You are right. A few of the services might make an exit, and most of them are probably not going to have one, and some are just for fun. I think music services can make money by being innovative enough to get it. Anyway, I don’t want to get into the business model stuff too much, but I will tell you this: The Internet is too competitive, you may be succeed by just being simple, but you may also need to be sophisticated. The era where creating an application first, then two years later thinking how to make money from it, is bygone now, and companies will need to think how to make money sooner than later if they aim for it – This is where innovation comes in and usually wins.


Music Search Engine:


skreemrBack in 2007, SkreemR was truly my favorite MP3 search engine. SkreemR locates MP3 files on blogs and webpages, then indexes them on its site, allowing anyone to listen to their favorite music right on the spot. There is no registration required, all you need to do is to search for your desired song/artist, and browse the results. See something that you like? You can play it, rate it, buy it on Amazon, get the song lyrics, watch the video, find related photos on flickr, find concert tickets, download as a ringtone, and finally – yes – you can also share and tweet about it. Unfortunately, now SkreemR has jumping ads all over the site. I understand the need to make money, but did they have to choose the most annoying way to achieve that goal?


songzaI remember the hype around Songza when it first launched… it is a slick Ajax-designed service, which makes it easy to stream music on the web. Well, it still does. Songza became popular for its great usability and the fact that you can easily create playlists, and share music with your friends. At first Songza aggregated music from Seeqpod, then switched to YouTube videos and imeem (where imeem = 30 seconds of a song, and Youtube = full video, low quality). Somewhere around October 2008, the service was acquired by Amie Street for its marketing potential.


foxytunesAnother acquired service is FoxyTunes, this time by Yahoo! in February 2008. FoxyTunes Firefox toolbar extension (launched in 2004) enables control of your favorite music player from the Firefox browser. It supports almost any media player and lets you also find lyrics, covers, videos, bios and much more – all from the comfort of your browser. Today, it has more than 50,000 weekly downloads, and a cumulative total of nearly 11,000,000 downloads! FoxyTunes also released an additional add-on called TwittyTunes, which allows you to post your currently playing songs to Twitter with a click. On their behalf I have to say, they where the first to offer that. Their search engine: FoxyTunes Planet, is a mashup Netvibes-like page, that gathers music information from Rhapsody, Yahoo!, Flickr, Last.fm, Youtube, Pandora, Amazon, and more.


mufinI sure noticed the difference when I tried Mufin. Looks like they put an emphasis on the site’s usability and design. The interface is so clean and easy to use. Like other services, Mufin will search for your favorite music and will play it on the spot, via Youtube (what else?) It also lets you create playlists in a snap. But what makes it unique is its visualization tool (vision) that lets you discover more music, based on similar artists. Mufin also provides a player which can be downloaded to your desktop for free. The player will help you organize your music, create playlists, find similar music, share tracks with friends on Last.fm, Twitter or Facebook, and so much more.


fizyFizy’s search engine has no special feature really, it’s just built really well. The service has a simple look & feel, which allows you to listen to music that streams from Youtube, and create playlists if you are logged in. You can connect your Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook accounts, and share with your friends’ music in realtime. There’s not much to say other than that.


qloudQloud has quite an impressive history since they launched way back in 2006; At first, it was just a plug-in allowing you to organize your own library better, so you would be able to find the right song at the right time. Then Qloud released ‘My-Music’: A music app for social networks (Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, Myspace, etc), which led them to 1M Facebook users! And finally today, it’s all of the above, plus a real-time music search engine, and a pretty good one. You can search and find music that you like, save and organize your favorites, share music with friends, or find new friends based on shared music taste. You can also import your iTunes or Windows Media Player library, and play your playlist directly from your browser. There’s a rumor that Qloud was acquired by Buzznet last year, but I couldn’t find any formal confirmation about this at either site (Qloud or Buznet).


myspacemusicAnd finally MySpace Music: A massive hub of free music on the web. MySpace Music gathers all of its music accounts into one searchable page by genre. You can see the entire discography of your favorite artists from anywhere on the globe: view the artists’ music pages, listen to their music, track local concerts and much more. You can also search entire collections of free-to-watch video uploaded by artists or users. Read reviews by users, blog posts by both users and artists, and basically dive into an endless amount of content. Addictive.


Worth mentioning: Wearehunted, which is a playable chart of the most popular songs on the Web..


Web Players:


moofFrom your Desktop to the Web, Moof allows you to have a full back up of your own music. Export an xml file of your iTunes library, and listen to your favorite music from any computer. If you don’t want to do that, you can still browse through the Moof music library and play any song you like on-demand from the Web. Moof looks and behaves like a desktop player, with the additional ability to share and see music from friends. If your friends are on Moof, you can browse their entire collection of music, and add favorites to your own personal library. Overall, it’s a great way to find new music. Note that Moof has the coolest registration form ever :)


spool.fmSpool.fm is so awesome, but fails to explain the service to its users. What you see when you enter the site is a Web Music Player that lets you find the music you want, then play it right away. What you don’t see is the powerful feature that allows you to see what your friends are listening to in real-time! How it works: Just sign up for the service, invite your friends to join in, and each time you play music on the site, your friends will be able to see what you’re listening to as you listen to it, and vice versa. The music streams from all kinds of free sources—not Youtube.


groovesharkLike most of the Web Players, Grooveshark allows users to find any song in the world and listen to it instantly. But there are several things that makes it different than the rest; first off, the application’s UI is stunning, and the experience using this site is absolutely a joy. Other than that, there’s so much that you can do: search, find, organize, favorite and add music that you like. Also interact with people in the community, and discover new music from others’ choices. With a team of 40 people they must have a business model (or a lot of VC cash). Grooveshark has a paid VIP version with some exclusive features, and a special interface for VIP users ($3/month or $30/year)


jukyflyYoutube probably has the largest music database in the Internet, but finding music can be very frustrating since it’s not well organized. I’ve already recommended Jogli as a service that gathers Youtube music into albums in the first part of this guide. JukeFly does the same but also lets you listen to the music as if it was on your desktop music player, only it’s on the Web. JukeFly prepares everything for you, so you don’t really need to create playlists, you just need to choose from a variety of content already made for you. Additionally, JukeFly can stream music from your desktop, but you’ll have to download their plug-in to be able to do so. The player has more features and functionality, which you may or may not need, so don’t be surprised if eventually you find yourself using it as your new music center on the Web. JukeFly is working on a newer version, which will include an iPhone app, concert information, chat, fan-clubs, and Internet radio.


mixtapeMixTape.me searches an entire database of songs in addition to the millions of songs indexed by MP3 search engine SkreemR to bring you the best results possible. If you sign up for the service you will be able to save your favorite songs, create playlists by simply dragging & dropping tracks into a box, and share playlists with anyone. Users can upload custom album art to any playlist, then embed the playlist at their blog/site. All from a sexy web interface.


lalaHow disappointing is it to find out that Lala works only in the U.S when everyone keeps telling me how great this service is… Anyway, I can give you a brief overview of the service from the information I picked up on the site. Windows users can move their entire music collection from the desktop to Lala on the web. Most of your music will be matched to Lala’s catalog and will be available online in minutes; The rest and unmatched music can be uploaded to Lala. If your personal music collection is not enough, you can play over 7 million songs once for free. If you’d like to add songs to your collection, it’ll cost 10 cents per song, and your first 25 songs are free.


justhearitJustHearIt plays music over a nicely done application with a great visual experience. The application was created by two students trying to change the stereotype that access to free music is an illegal activity while immersing the user in a unique visual experience. So what can you do at the site? You can listen to music you like, create online music collections & multiple playlists, and hopefully share favorite tracks with friends (it doesn’t say this anywhere, but I presume it does) – not much different from the rest of the services here, except for its nifty UI. BTW, even with their goal to show the world that music can be free and legal, they use Youtube like most services, so I’m not sure what’s unique about that.


streamzySince Seeqpod.com’s service is mostly dead, every service that used them switched to Youtube instead. The pros: Its video ability. The cons: The music quality (but hey, at least we have free music). Same applies to Streamzy, an Ajax-based media player that lives on the web and allows users to create quick playlists from their favorite music. Streamzy says it merely provides search results for media being hosted elsewhere on the Internet – Well, I can’t argue with that. Anyhow, sign in if you want to save playlist, or use it as an alternative music player occasionally.


Post Music on Twitter:


blip.fmBlip.fm is by far my favorite Twitter music service. It is also the first service that allowed people to send music to twitter in a very easy way, which is what made it what it is today. What makes it so great is that you can use it with or without a Twitter account. Some use it via the Twitter connection, other use it as their main music playlist and enjoy the community within the site only. Anyhow, you can discover new music, and new friends based on your collections. Once you sign up to the site, you can set Twitter to send notifications each time you suggest a new song to friends. It looks like Twitter, it behaves like Twitter, but angled around music only.


twistenGrooveshark’s project Twisten.fm, came out a bit later than Blip.fm and offers pretty much the same service. Sign-up with your Twitter credentials, and share music with your friends on Twitter. The site streams music from Grooveshark, allowing you to enjoy the quality of music played there (blip.fm streams music mostly from Youtube). Overall, it’s a cool place to save your music into playlists, and share directly with your Twitter friends. I wish that both Blip.fm & Twisten.fm would allow people to buy mixed CDs created from their playlist, instead of having to buy each song separately.


funnelFunnel is the new kid on the block, basically the same as Blip.fm and Twisten.fm except with a killer tool—a nifty Bookmarklet! While you play songs on Youtube or Myspace, you can immediately add them to your playlist in Funnel. Another unparalleled feature is the ability to integrate your Twitter account or Tweet only the songs that you want. This way, you don’t feel bad about inundating your Twitter stream with too many of those annoying music updates. Also, you can easily comment on songs that you like.


song.lyIf you wish to share MP3 links with your Twitter friends, you can do it with the help of Song.ly. Enter an MP3 link, and Song.ly will generate a small player for easy listening over the web. I have to admit that the whole process is somewhat an unnecessary hassle. After all, who’s uploading songs these days when everything is searchable on the web already? On the other hand, you can enjoy a list of songs that’s already been uploaded by others, and are of very good quality, of course. I’d summarize it as a user generated MP3 search engine.


twtfmAnother successful service, is Twt.fm which finds music that you like and posts it to Twitter in a cool way. All you need to do is to log in via Twitter, type in an artist/track and click preview. Twt.fm then generates a track page using your Twitter page design. Post it on Twitter and your friends will be able to leave you comments on the same page – Example.


Worth mentioning: Listento.fm, and Twones.


Mix & Share:


8tracksNot a pure mix service but it still falls into this category, 8tracks allows you to create a Mix (playlist) with your favorite songs. It’s actually very similar to a service that already shut down, Mixwit—so if you missed it, you might as well try 8tracks. Once you sign up to the service you can start searching for music, or uploading it from your computer to build your Mix. You can publish a Mix of no more than 8 tracks and only two of these can be from the same artist. Visitors at the site can listen to Mixes without signing into the service—but for creation and music uploads, you’ll have to become a member.


jamglueA fun service to close the list with, Jamglue brings music and fans together. Any artist can sign up for a free Jamglue account and upload music in multi-track format for others to remix. There are several Creative Commons licenses to choose from. These licenses allow others to share and remix work, as long as they follow the artist’s restrictions. Fans can remix other folks’ stuff, and share the results.


Conclusion:

To summarize this whole guide, I have to admit that I’m somewhat concerned: Let’s say Youtube closes its doors tomorrow or decides to stop streaming music—there goes about 80% of what I’ve listed. Which brings me to my next point, the future of music on the Web doesn’t looks so bright right now. Not if every service depends on Youtube so heavily as its music source. For once, I wouldn’t mind paying a yearly fee if it meant listening to an unlimited source of any music that I like with good streaming & with awesome quality. And, I don’t even need to download the songs to my computer, all I really want is a place where I can play my favorite music based on monthly/year fee. Is it too much to ask? Oh wait, this is exactly what Rhapsody offers; Unfortunately, only in the U.S. . . .


For now, I suggest you try the services above and enjoy them as long as they last. For some reason, music services don’t stay around very long but I guess that’s the way they roll.


Since I can’t list them all, please feel free to add services that I’ve missed in your comments and make them handy for everyone.





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