Heart Disease and Vitamin K

by Heidi Toy, NTP

The war against heart disease has largely dictated expert dietary advice over the last 50 years. Based on the principle that our diet – saturated fat in particular – predisposes us to heart disease, well-meaning diet dictocrats took to modifying our meals in specific ways to prevent heart disease. It wasn’t particularly successful. We looked to cultures that have low rates of heart disease – French, Italian, Greek – and found them eating lots of saturated fat. We declared that a “paradox” and inferred that some secret ingredient, olive oil or red wine, is protecting them from the butter and egg yolks that must be killing us.

The French/Italian/Greek “paradox” isn’t a paradox at all. Turns out that many of those rich, fatty “sin” foods are abundant in vitamin K2, the only vitamin known to prevent and reverse atherosclerosis.

The popularity of vitamin D supplements might be compounding the heart disease problem. Vitamin D increases arterial calcification when we are deficient in vitamin K2. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium from the intestines, which is a good thing for bone health. But then vitamin K2 is critical to the next step, escorting calcium where it belongs – away from arteries into bones.

Vitamin K2 works by activating many proteins that move calcium around the body. Specifically, osteocalcin attracts calcium into bones and teeth. Another protein, MGP, sweeps calcium out of soft tissues like arteries and veins where the mineral is harmful. When vitamin K2 is lacking, the proteins that depend on it remain inactive. The “Calcium Paradox” then gradually rears its ugly head with an insidious decline in bone mineral density and hardening of the arteries. When K2 is plentiful, bones remain strong and arteries remain clear.

It is possible to lessen plaque burden by stimulating more MGP to actively sweep calcium away. Whether your cholesterol is high or low, what really matters is whether calcium-fueled plaque is building up in your arteries, leading to a potentially fatal blockage.

Vitamin K2 comes in two forms:
menaquinone-4 (often expressed as MK-4)
menaquinone-7 (often expressed as MK-7)

The studies showing effects on calcium deposits in the arteries were done with 45 mcg of MK-7. Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of vitamin K, recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults.

Always take the vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.

Vitamin K1 is most abundant in leafy greens, while vitamin K2 is most abundant in animal fats and fermented foods. The richest sources of vitamin K2 in modern diets are egg yolks and cheese, especially hard cheeses.

Two distinct forms of vitamin K – K1 and K2 – were discovered in the early 1930s as the factors responsible for helping the blood to coagulate – when you cut your finger, you want the blood at the site to coagulate or you would bleed to death. The letter K came from the German spelling of koagulation. But it wasn’t until 1997 that researchers reported that vitamin K2 was recognized as being less important for coagulation, and much more important for healthy calcium deposition in bones and prevention of calcification of arteries. In 2007, the final piece of the puzzle dropped into place: vitamin K2 deficiency is very widespread, and this is having a major impact on human health.

Vitamin K2 appears to be much more effective at preventing pathological calcification than vitamin K1, and humans have a limited ability to convert K1 to K2.

Heidi Toy is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and the owner of Heidi Toy Functional Medicine/Educated Nutrition, located in Eau Claire, WI. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on autoimmune, digestive, weight, female hormone, and depression issues.

Cranenburg EC, Schurgers LJ, Vermeer C. Vitamin K: the coagulation vitamin that became omnipotent. Thomb Haemost 2007, 98(1):120-25

Winter: One Great Time to Get a Massage!

By Candace Lokken, licensed massage therapist, Sans Souci Massage

Winter is hard on our bodies. Everything from dry skin, which body treatments are good for, to physical aspects and stressors such as shoveling, different exercises compared to summer exercise, and yes even shivering, contributes to winter stressors. There are also holiday stresses that weigh heavily on many of us, from family visits to spending the holidays without a loved one. Holiday stress can affect us in so many ways—physically as the body tenses, emotionally sometimes as depression and exhaustion, and even in a dietary way as our eating habits are different.

This is the time of year that most of our clients like heat and warmth. We use different ways of warming our clients: our tables are heated, we use rice bags, and we use hot stones and different types of heated towels. As always, we do an integrative massage for each client that is detailed to meet their current needs. We definitely do more hot stone massages in winter. This type of massage is very warming, detoxifying, and can be relaxing or can be more of a deep tissue massage with heat to help the muscle tissue relax.

Essential oils are used throughout the year, but there are oils that can address dry skin and that can be warming. Make sure you or your massage therapist choose the right essential oils. Stay away from synthetic oils and look for therapeutic-grade essential oils. The top 5 essential oils you could have on hand for this time of year would be: frankincense, lavender, lemon, peppermint, and tea tree. If you are looking for specific oils for dry skin, geranium, lavender, neroli, rose, rosemary, myrrh, frankincense, and sandalwood are great. If you are looking for specific oils to help with warming of the body, try rosemary, myrrh, ginger, black pepper, and clove bud. Adding your essential oils to a carrier oil such as unrefined, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil is a good way you can apply them to your skin without any type of breakout. Some essential oils can be very harsh for your skin if applied directly. You can add the oils to a hot bath, diffuse them into the air, or apply them directly to the skin with a carrier oil.

Each Sans Souci massage therapist has at least fourteen years of experience and customizes each massage to the client’s needs and preferences. We do all different types of massage from individual therapists doing specific types of massage such as craniosacral, lomi lomi, ashiatsu, and thai yoga therapy. But also we always do a thorough health intake with our clients before the massage so that we know specifically what each client’s problem areas are, and then we work specifically on those areas.

Winter is a good time to get a massage, but it is good to receive massage throughout the year! Even a 30-minute massage gives us enough time to work on a specific problem area. It is not enough time for a full body massage though, but it can be helpful.

For the holidays, gift certificates for massage are always a great gift. We sell them in our office or they can be bought online and printed through our website.

For more information or to make an appointment, visit www.sanssoucimassage.com.

Yuck, I Have the Flu — Now What?

By Ann Bischel, Mayo Clinic Health System

Got the flu?

Don’t worry quite yet. There are ways you can self-manage:

  • Hydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids, such as water, juice and warm soups, to prevent dehydration.
  • Rest. Catch up on your sleep to help your immune system fight off the infection.
  • Medication. Generally, you’ll need nothing more than bed rest and fluids. You also may consider an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce some of the aches associated with the flu. But in some cases, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication. If taken soon after you notice symptoms, the medication may shorten your illness by a day or so and help prevent serious complications.

If infected with the flu, it’s important to take certain measures to ensure it doesn’t spread to others around you:

  • Wash your hands. Thorough and frequent hand washing or an alcohol-based sanitizer are effective ways to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Contain your coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth or nose when you sneeze or cough, and wash your hands after. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inner crook of your elbow.
  • Avoid crowds. By avoiding crowds during the peak of flu season, you may reduce your chances of infection and spreading to others. If you’re sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides to lessen your chance of infecting others.

If you do get the flu, remember these tips to help get over it quicker and avoid spreading it to others around you.

If you have flu symptoms and are at risk of complications, see your doctor right away.

Ann Bischel is a nurse practitioner in Express Care at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

 

Healthy Choices: Safeguarding against Seasonal Stress

By Dr. Lynn Thompson

Stress is defined as the organism’s response to environmental pressures or demands either internal or external. The causes of stress in humans can include any event that the individual perceives, consciously or unconsciously, as a threat. It has been reported that at least 90 percent of all diseases are related to stress and the lack of the coping skills to alleviate the long-term reactions. This particular time of year has special risks for uncontrolled stress.

This time of year we find to be more stressful from lack of sunshine, increase in sugar consumption, and “family” or community traditions. We live in an area around the 45th north latitude and as such are very limited on the direct sunlight during the winter months. Stress can present as depression (also increased in the winter months). When the skin does not have enough sunlight, Vitamin D is not manufactured. If you do not have adequate sun exposure, you should include good sources of Vitamin D in your diet from egg yolks; raw cow milk; fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring; shrimp; chicken liver; and orange juice.

Ironically, orange juice is very high in sugar. In a one cup serving (8 ounces), OJ has 124 mg (milligrams) of Vitamin C (more than 100 percent of the US government’s Recommended Daily Intake of about 60 mg/day. Research dating back to 1999 recommends an increase to 120 mg/day). Dr. Linus Pauling discovered that Vitamin C is needed by the body to fight bacteria and viruses. Glucose (simplest form of sugar found in the body) and Vitamin C have similar chemical structures. There are times when the body can confuse sugar and Vitamin C. When the blood sugar level reaches 120mg/dl, the body’s ability to destroy the bacteria and viruses is reduced by 75 percent for the next four to six hours. Here are some not-so-sweet facts about sugar, just to name a few.

 

  • The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar per year. Crazy, right?  It is even crazier when compared to the mere 8 pounds of broccoli the average American consumes annually.
  • The other white powder. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
  • Sugar is hidden almost everywhere, especially in processed foods.
  • Sugar in disguise:  corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose—watch out for the “ose” at the end of the word!
  • Refined table sugar (aka sucrose) lacks vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  In fact, your body has to tap into its precious mineral and enzyme stores to process it.
  • If your body does not properly digest sugar (and simple carbs for that matter), it contributes to candida overgrowth. If you are not familiar with candida, it is worth a Google or Bing search.
  • It feeds the bad guys. Sugar contributes to an acidic environment, which cancer and other diseases love!
  • It contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

This time of year, many of us celebrate religious holidays and overindulge in spending, eating, and lack of sunshine. Rather than participate in activities that increase stress levels, take a deep breath, go for a walk, have an attitude of gratitude, enjoy a hearty laugh, and share a healthy, low-sugar meal made with love and joy.

A cheerful heart is good medicine.
Proverbs 17:22

Dr. Lynn Thompson holds doctorates in chiropractic, naturopathy, and homeopathy. She has been involved in healthcare for forty years. Dr. Lynn resides in Foster with her husband, John, and travels extensively around the United States presenting classes on health and wellness utilizing essential oils and nutrition.

My Favorite Health Tip: Top Santa’s Naughty List!

By April Willger, Integrative Health Coach and owner of Wellness N Soul

As an integrative health coach I guide clients to do “nice” things like drink more water, express more gratitude, and clean out that closet that almost kills you each time you open it.

That’s all fun and cute. But when we get about four to five months into the program, I spring a recommendation on my clients that is one of my favorites: I tell them to BE BAD!

My clients usually give me the seventy-five-year-old grandma response in a sweet, “I’m going to run home and bake cookies for you” voice, “Oh I don’t know if I can do that. I’m just a nice person, and it’s so hard for me to be rude, and, and….”

Excuses, excuses, excuses. I’ve heard them all.

Come on, Grandma. I’m not talking about illegal drugs and a night in jail or anything. I’m talking about gently brake checking the person that’s following you a little too close on the busy holiday roads. I’m talking about ignoring an invite to a get-together, that frankly, you never wanted to go to anyway. I’m talking about going to a holiday celebration and purchasing a pie from the store instead of staying up all night and fussing over a decadent dessert. I’m talking about not contributing gift money for your lazy boss’s Christmas present. (Honestly, did he really earn a nice gift this year?)

As I give these ideas to my clients, evil grinch smiles spread across their faces that adorn a new flame in their eyes. The thought of, “Huh, maybe I could handle that,” crosses their forehead.

Don’t worry. There is a reason for my brake checking madness. The purpose behind this exercise is to put my clients back in charge of their life. You always have the choice to do whatever it is that you want in life. You choose to kill yourself the night before a holiday celebration, making that perfect dessert. You choose to attend a get-together that you don’t want to go to. You choose to contribute your hard-earned money to a gift for someone who doesn’t really deserve it.

Despite what you’ve heard and told yourself over the years, this life is about fulfilling your wants and desires. This life is about deciding what your values and mission are and living it with integrity. This life is all about pleasing yourself. It is not about pleasing others. It is actually your responsibility to create a life that you love for yourself.

Do you have the disease to please? Is the disease to please serving you and your health? What does being bad mean to you? Does being “bad” mean brake checking, ignoring holiday invites, or omitting your boss from your gift list? Or is it sleeping in, having an extra piece of pie, or curling up on the couch to relax and watch a movie?

While my sweet clients struggle to find ways to be bad, they usually are so thankful that for once in their life, someone finally told them it’s actually healthy for them, to be BAD!!

How can you implement a little of “bad” into your life this holiday season?