Archive for the ‘food’ Category

August newsletter

| August 20th, 2012 | No Comments »

Modalities Massage Therapy

August Newsletter


Dear clients, This Thursday, August 23rd, is the deadline for aromatherapy orders.  Check out the webpage on direct orders for the short list of products and pricing.  Contact me by phone or email to place your order. As always, orders should be in within a week and I will contact you regarding pick-up. Beginning in September there will be some small changes in my work schedule.  I will be teaching infant massage at Mothering Touch again but on Wednesday mornings and I will no longer be working at Achieve Health Monday and Wednesday mornings.  In terms of hours here at Modalities there will be only small changes and a continuation of the ‘temporary’ addition of Tuesday mornings.  New hours as of September 1/2012 will be:

Monday: 10am to 6pm Tuesdays: 10am to 4:30pm; one 7 pm appointment Wednesdays: 12:30pm to 4:30pm Thursdays: 9am to 4:30pm; one 7 pm appointment Friday: 10am to 6pm

I have been doing some blogging lately and wanted to share those thoughts with you. The following links will take you to them: food and drug efficacy and DNR and final wishes.

As we move into the fall I hope that we all have the opportunity to enjoy some more warm weather and sunshine. For those of you coming under the influence of school I hope your return to classes goes smoothly.

Best wishes,

Sheila Hobbs, RMT



Food and drug administration…

| August 15th, 2012 | No Comments »

I am not talking about the FDA (Food and Drug Administration – the entity in the US that approves food and drug sales) in this blog, or at least not directly, but the title just called out to me.  What I am talking about is how the food you eat and the drink you drink impact the drugs you might take.  I got inspired by a couple of tweets I checked out and re-tweeted that I found really interesting.

The question of food and pharmaceuticals, for most, likely brings to mind the little stickers you find on your prescriptions bottles or warnings on the labels of over the counter drugs that mainly circle around whether or not to have with food or alcohol and the safety of heavy machinery operation while using.  I recently was put on doxycycline, a fairly potent antibiotic, and for the first time had a warning about dairy food specifically.  Why do we receive these warnings?  We get instruction of food and drink consumption – both specific types and generally – because of  the risk of over or under-dosing.  Some drugs have greater impact with food, some less; certain minerals can alter how drugs work for all of these reasons we get little stickers and warnings.  This website has very complete information on drug interactions including foods.

How exactly do food and drink influence how drugs are absorbed and broken down in the body?  There are a few answers to that question but one of the main ones is – enzymes.  Enzymes are complex protein molecules that bring about cellular reactions within the body.  Enzymes are how we digest food and are used to speed up, slow down, allow or disallow various chemical reactions to occur.  Enzymes are produced by living cells and found in our bodies and in the things we eat and drink.  Some enzymes also are able to block each other from acting – they shut down other enzymes.  How drugs are processed by the body – especially how long they take to be broken down and absorbed impact how effective they are and how often and how much we need to take.

Alteration in drug processing in the body has profound ripple effects in terms of side-effects, efficacy and costs.  The more of a drug you take the more likely you are to have side effects so if the dose can be lowered you have fewer side effects.  The reason we often have to tolerate side effects is to ensure we receive enough of a drug to actually have it do the job it is supposed to do.  The longer a drug stays at an effective level in our body the more of an impact it can have on our system, slowing down the bodies natural breakdown of a drug into its components can allow a drug to do more.  Cost obviously ends up going down if we use less of a drug making lower doses desirable both medically and fiscally, especially in an era of rising medical budgets.  

The particular article I read was speaking of grapefruit juice and the cancer drug, sirolimus.  When ingested with grapefruit juice a one-third dose of sirolimus had the same effect.  This represents a huge cost savings and a potential reduction in side effects as the lower does was accompanied by fewer side effect.  Here is the interesting bit.  Some dosing is lowered and ordered with a particular accompaniment; in other case, like sirolimus at this time, you take more and are told to avoid the food/beverage that increases the effectiveness of the drug to avoid overdose.  I personally hope that current research will lead to increases the incidence of the former and reduces the latter.

The other interesting point that came up in the article is that not only will what you do or don’t take with drug impact their breakdown and bioavailability to your cells but it can also alter how your cells welcome the drug.  Recent studies have shown that pre-treatment fasting (of 2-3 days) by chemotherapy recipients increases the impact of the treatment on cancer cell, but even more delightfully, it reduces the impact of the same treatments on the healthy cells.  Basically, in healthy cell fasting creates decreased activity, basically the seek to reduce their consumption of fuel, in contrast cancer cells, which are already gluttons become even more ravenous when exposed to fasting causing them to absorb greater quantities of the chemotherapy drugs.

A 2-3 day fast is not a small thing but I suspect this news would be less daunting to the many cancer patients who have appetite loss as part of the symptoms or drug side effects.  The reward of less nausea, headaches, malaise, nerve damage and hair loss – just to name a few – would be a nice reward for a bit of fasting too.  Further, for those cancer patients and their families who face daily struggles to get enough food into themselves or their loved ones a brief respite would not be bad and all the parties could then focus their food efforts on their inter-treatment time.  The volunteers with the trolleys of cookies and juice that wheel through the chemo room though would become a thing of the past.

What I find most interesting about all of these pieces of data is that they can be implemented with minimal hassle, little to no harm and many benefits.  There is no costly drug research, no need for gene therapy the research I am talking about is from human and animal trials and new human trials are moving forward in several places already.  This is exciting as a new drug or therapy can take years and years to even reach human trial stage.  Plus, the cost of all of these options are negligible or well offset by saving.  Not very often is that the case with modern medical innovation.



The tweets I’m talking about:

fasting and cancer treatment

grapefruit juice and drug efficacy


Food and Cancer

| September 13th, 2010 | No Comments »

According to the World Health Organization cancer is responsible for 12.5% of the deaths globally per year. Diet is linked to 30% of cancers in the developed, and 20% in the developing world. Though those numbers are strong, there is a lack of cohesion in the medical world regarding their validity. Some recent studies have shown much less profound links between cancer and nutrition. So who is right? What is the role that food plays in preventing cancer? And who do we believe?

In articles published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute it is pointed out that the most recent, rigorous studies show only a 2-3% percent correlation of diet to cancer prevention, rather than a 30% one. Other interesting data shows a strong correlation between certain supplements and increased rates of cancer, specifically a 163% increase in prostate cancer when 1200 mg folate supplements were administered.

An article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition argues that lifestyle and nutrition are the key factors in preventing cancer. In their estimate the use of supplements and the focus on single nutrients in studies are responsible for the weaker numbers that have been found. This article argues that a balanced diet of whole foods is where the highest rate of prevention can be found. The JACN article also criticizes the reactionary focus of western medicine and highlights the need for society as a whole to make a profound shift in their approach to food.

Between the two points of view there are two points of agreement. Supplements are a greater risk than remedy and that more, better, research must be done. In exploring all the arguments out there and the recommendations being made I think that no one really knows. No one nutrient has been shown to be a magic cure for cancer, no particular diet has yet come to light that absolutely prevents cancer.

Taking a step back, why are we even exploring the impact of food and nutrition on cancer? To understand let’s quickly look at what cancer is, and what food can do for the body in preventing it.

Cancer is basically a cell gone bad. One whose intended function is derailed and which begins to reproduce wildly. We all have these cells in our bodies. In the countless cell divisions that occur daily in our bodies there are always errors that have the potential to create cancer cells. Most of the time our immune system finds those cells and kills them. Cancer as a disease manifests when our immune systems fails and those cells run amok.

How does food effect this process? Food is what makes your body go. Calories fuel our body, nutrients provide chemicals that run our systems and are the building blocks of our tissues. Even the parts we don’t digest help us, ensuring that our digestive track has enough in it to move our waste along. Eating the proper foods helps to ensure that we have the energy for cellular and nerve activity, are able to build strong protein and fatty acid chains, that our chemical messaging systems has the right messengers who do not get lost. A healthy immune system ensures that we have the Natural Killer Cells (yes, they are really called that) in proper numbers and strength to destroy the erroneous cells that do occur. Proper nutrition also ensures that our tissues are healthy and less vulnerable. There are also substances in food that help to interfere with the activity of harmful substances in the body, some block access to cells, some destroy free-radicals, some ensure a quick passage through the body to lessen exposure to a particular substance.

What really got me thinking in the JNCI was that though no significant reduction in cancer rates were noted, there was a 30% decrease in heart disease in groups with better diets. Our lack of strong, consistent, rigorous research hasn’t stopped a large number of laymen and medical professional, and their organizations from promoting a very consistent type of diet. Keep your calories and fat low, your fibre and whole grain high and eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Where is the harm in this? Maybe you won’t stop cancer, but you will likely stave off diabetes, heart disease and obesity.


World Health Organization; JCNIarticle one and article two; JACN; Specific Foods and their cancer fighting chemistry


Too Much Food

| August 10th, 2010 | No Comments »

If you are not Shaquille O’Neal, measuring in at 7 foot 1 inch, why do you weigh over three hundred pounds? Because you eat too much and move too little. There is no riddle about this, it is simple fact.

It is not politically correct to talk about being too fat. People who are grossly obese are fighting for their right not to be discriminated against by too small airplane seats and clothes that don’t come in their size. They say their genetics and environment are responsible and there is nothing they can do. We are supposed to sympathize with this and be polite about the terrible burden their genetics have placed upon them I really have trouble with this.

We all have struggles with our genetic gifts and curses. We all have things about our bodies that create challenge. Saying you can’t do anything about being fat when all evidence points to the contrary is one of the worst types of shirking. I have no desire to see the whole world fitting into size 0 clothes. That isn’t anymore realistic than saying you can’t do anything about being in triple-XL clothes. There needs to be responsibility taken. Effort needs to be made to balance the genetics we receive and the environment we live in with how we want our lives and bodies to be.

For me, I hate that I have only found one store where I can get jeans long enough to fit without spending more than forty dollars. But I admit that my size isn’t normal. I can’t do anymore about the genetics that gave me ridiculously long legs than the obese can do about their fat retaining genes. But they can work with them. They can admit that they have an unfortunate predisposition toward carrying extra weight and do some thing about it. Just as I, with a mother and grandfather who died in their 50’s of very similar lung cancers, can choose not to smoke. I will still have absurdly long legs and a higher than average chance of getting cancer, but at least the things I can do I am trying to do. For the obese to talk genetics and poor role models while eating fast food every day is no more acceptable than it would be for me to smoke a pack a day and then complain that I had gotten lung cancer. I know my risk factors, I work to do what I can to prevent promoting my genetic predispositions, we all have that responsibility.

I think there is merit to the idea that of an reasonable weight range. I think there is even more merit to the idea of a reasonable fitness level. I would rather be at a BMI of 30 (technically obese) and able to complete a quick, laughing, jog down the block to catch my two year old, than be at a 19 BMI (low end of the normal) and perpetually hungry and too out of shape to chase said two year old. Accepting your basic body type – in my early 20’s, at 5’10” and 155 lbs, I was still at a 22 BMI (mid-normal) and wearing a size 10, so I will never be a size 6 let alone a size 0 – is a good start. Then find a point where you can do all the things you need to do and still find eating enjoyable and fulfilling.

I do not want to spend 2-3 days recovering after 1 day of yard work, that wouldn’t work for my life, but I also do not want to run a marathon, or even a 10 km. I do want to be able to have an occasional drink and eat biscuits, with butter on them, with my stew. I do not need to eat a whole batch of biscuits. That is where I want my balance, and my body, to be. Your body and balance might be completely different, that is okay. But there is no balance in a body not able to walk to the corner store for milk, or to eating 5000 calories a day.

I feel for those who struggle with their weight. Even when I was within “normal” on the BMI I struggled with feeling too big. Now that I am, in fact, in the obese region (almost out again!) I know how hard it can be to get those pounds off. I also know that my choices in food and exercise are what needs to change, I am the one responsible for this balance.


Food and Advertising

| August 6th, 2010 | No Comments »

We have looked at why, genetically, we might crave high calorie, high fat food. We talked about our tendency to replace wholesome food with processed food in the name of time-saving. Is that the whole story? Not likely. There is more to this. Discipline and thoughtfulness help, making intelligent, informed choices helps, but neither are the whole story. One of the other big pieces is environment.

I am not talking about the global warming type environment, I am talking about the world around us. The world in which we work, play and live our lives everyday. Our modern environment is rich in stimulus. Rich in input. Rich in media.

Michael Mink did a study on advertising that showed that seventeen percent of ads on television are about food and that those were dominated by fast food restaurants and pop manufacturers. This probably doesn’t surprise anyone, but what might is that even the grocery store ads were dominated by processed, unhealthy foods. What a challenge this provides for our brains. Constant bombardment of imagery and sound pushing us to food that, if we were to eat it full-time, offers twenty-five times the daily recommended sugar, twenty times the recommended fat and only half the recommended dairy, fruit and vegetables.

I do not even have cable and I am still exposed to a lot of food ads. Recently McDonald’s is running a series of ads that all end by panning down the front of a woman’s body to a tray full of McDonald’s food. What does imagery of a slender woman’s body have to do with McDonald’s food? She is in one of their uniforms, but the long slow pan is just slightly sexual, and I find nothing about McDonald’s food sexy. The ad doesn’t make me want their food, but I am thinking about them, which is not the norm for me, so the campaign has achieved something. A more realistic ad would feature some slumpy overweight person with that food on their plate.

How do we combat this permeation of the airwaves too much food, and not enough nutrition? I have no answer. Awareness helps. Knowing they are, rather more literally than I am comfortable with, trying to seduce you into eating their fare, helps.

I just wish their was some way to have restaurants charge for food what is costs us to eat it. Perhaps contributions to those programs aimed at dealing with health problems related to overeating and being overweight. Programs that address diabetes, heart disease, weight reduction and eating disorders. Paying for scooters and oversize lifts that hospitals must invest in to move patients over three hundred pounds. If you are not Shaquille O’Neal, measuring in at 7 foot one inch, why do you weigh over three hundred pounds?

More simply still, and certainly less costly for everyone, why are they not spending more time and effort promoting healthy food? Is the mark-up on a cheeseburger that much better than on a salad in a plastic clam shell? If these restaurants have seen the need to have healthier choices on their menus, why do I rarely see them advertised? Why do grocery stores advertise the salty greasy chips that I love, but not the great deal they have on cucumbers, which I also love? Why, when we are being told to shop the perimeter of these stores as much a possible (where the least processed food resides) is the advertising derived from those central aisles?

When I think of that McDonald’s commercial, I remind myself it is a clever campaign. I remind myself that, regardless of any gut promptings, I do not want the burger sitting on the tray at the end of the pan shot. I think they have a good advertising firm and a great advertising budget. I wish they would spend it on something else though.


Food and Evolution

| August 4th, 2010 | No Comments »

On a recent CBC Radio edition of “The Main Ingredient” they were talking about fat. Something that caught my ear was the idea of a “North American Paradox”, which is the fact that though we, as a society, have huge amounts of information and research available on nutrition and the dangers of obesity we are a continent whose people are getting fatter and fatter. In the last 19 years Canadian measured obesity rates have increased almost ten percent. With all this very good information, why are we getting fatter? With all the ads on TV promoting diets and gyms and magazines glorifying the super slim celebrity of the week, why aren’t we the slimmest people on earth?

A big part of the answer is very simple. We like high calorie, fatty foods. They are good. As Jennifer McLagan, author of FAT: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient says “fat is flavor”. This may seem a silly reason, but I think it sums up a lot of our difficulty with embracing lower fat foods.

Where does this love of fat and calories come from? There is the taste factor. Foods that taste good tend to make us want to eat more of them. Easy. The other part is more hind brain, more evolutionary. We are now the dominant species on the planet, with excellent food resources, but this is a recent development. Not too long ago we were subject to frequent periods of insufficient, or poor quality, food and were vulnerable to severe illnesses.

During our rise to dominance, a lust for high calorie, sweet and fatty foods were evolutionary gold. Those who were willing to go that extra mile to collect honey, take that extra risk that would mean meat on the table, work those extra hours to ensure a successful cereal or starch crop were evolutionary winners. Greedy mouths ensured that when we didn’t have enough food around us, or we fell victim to some dire illness, our bodies had the reserves to survive. This isn’t just my opinion either, Michael L. Power and Jay Schulkin in their book, The Evolution of Obesity discuss a similar theory.

Modern man has descended from evolutionary gluttons. We are the products of those with genetics that made them good at efficiently processing and storing calories. We are fighting some heavy hind-brain promptings to store up fat for the famine. The problem with these prompting is that there is no famine on the horizon and our medicines keep most diseases at bay.

Most of us are still eating as if we have a famine around the corner, when most of us will never face one. Instead of fatty, rich food being treats that we had to work hard to get, we are inundated by a constant barrage of them. We can always eat red meat, cereal is something that comes to us in boxes, and honey and sugar can be bought in litres and kilos. We are the victims of our own evolutionary success.

None of this is an okay for our bad habits. I am just trying to acknowledge that eating lower calorie, higher fibre, lower fat foods is not the no-brainer it may seem. The current model certainly isn’t working. Our eating habits are killing us with ever increasing speed and in a growing variety of ways. Research has shown that being even mildly obese increases our risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The constant flow of fatty food is coating our blood vessels. Low fibre diets are leaving our intestines overworked and roughed up, hotbeds for the development of the mutated cells that become cancer. High caloric intake is leaving some bed or scooter bound and others warming ever increasing sections of the bench as their bodies break down at alarming rates.

The first step is to develop our awareness that this won’t be easy, that we have an inborn love of fatty, calorie laden foods. We need to apply the power of those big brains that granted us evolutionary success to the problem of the primitive yearnings of our hind-brains and guts. Then we need to find ways to change our eating habits so that they keep us healthy and lean while satisfying our cravings so we don’t keep falling into bad habits.

You may have noticed that I have used our and we a lot. This isn’t a royal kind of we, and is only partly a species embracing type of we, it is a we that comes from my need to lose a few pounds. Some would say that as someone needing to lose some weight I am not in a position to offer advice. I think that since I live this process, that I struggle, as so many do, to find a balance, I am the perfect person. What do I do? I work to find ways to incorporate herbs and spices for their big flavour bang at low caloric costs. I have small amounts of fat to satiate those cravings. I keep junk food out of my house, mostly. And I fail, some days I eat the wrong thing, or too much of a not so bad thing. Then I try not to feel bad, I accept it, and get back on track.

Keep in mind we need to eat. This is not an optional activity. We enjoy it too. Shouldn’t we be able to combine enjoyable eating with intelligent eating? I talked about using our big brains to help us, keep in mind what they need to work: “Although the brain represents only 2% of the body weight, it receives 15% of the cardiac output, 20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body glucose utilization.” Your big brain is not an organ that diets, not without consequences to your mental acuity, mood, and memory. If you want to use this tool to help govern your eating, you need to keep it fuelled so it can work.