Woodford Files – Shimmy with the Season; Ease Your Insomnia; The Vital Role of Your Microbiome

At this time of year one can’t help but feel grateful to be alive. As the sun turns up the heat in our hemisphere, the birds are singing, streams are gurgling, and plants are budding. As nature shimmies and shakes with the season, so too does our inner terrain gurgle and flow with the movement of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes collectively called the human ‘microbiome’.

In Helke Ferrie’s feature this month, we learn that many of these microbes have co-evolved with us since the beginning of human existence, working to maintain our immunity, protect us from disease, and help us to digest, absorb, and assimilate our food. But with the advent of antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals some of our ancestral microbes are becoming almost extinct. And this mass eradication of our microbiome is now being linked to increased rates of asthma, cancer, and even obesity. In his blog post, “When You Swallow a Grenade,” New York Times columnist Carl Zimmer stated that we now know beyond doubt that just a single course of antibiotics can wipe out our life-supporting gut microbiome for at least a year. And if we then consider the new evidence that other illnesses (autism, Parkinson’s, influenza) are also linked to intestinal problems (see page 46), one has to wonder why every doctor in the world is not insisting on aggressive use of probiotics to repopulate the intestines with bacteria after treatment with antibiotics. And yet, they are not.

But don’t worry – we’re here to help! I believe that home cooked meals using fresh vegetables, herbs, and quality fats are good medicine for weak intestinal function. Add to that some good-quality digestive enzymes, probiotics, and fermented foods, and you’ve got a prescription for recovery. This month, Pat Crocker brings us some yummy vegetarian recipes, including Spring Greens and Peas Soup and Grilled Portobello Stacks – nourishing fare for a spring day. And the article we’ve re-released this month on Chickweed and Stinging Nettles by Bruce Burnett is a good introduction to the green medicine that grows wild around us.

Dr. Rona’s feature on Help for Insomnia in this issue brings welcome advice for those who suffer from this debilitating condition. Here, he shares recommendations on the best supplements and hormones to soothe the mind and ease you into la-la land. In addition to his excellent advice, here’s a few tips from my own experience:

– Animal protein tends to turn on the sympathetic nervous system and increase tension in the muscles. To avoid this effect, choose light and easy-to-digest vegetables, and ancient grains which relax the  nervous system and calm the body. And look for vegetarian protein sources.

– As one of the many North Americans who tend to work too much, stay up too late, and roast my eyeballs with radiation from various electronic devices, I know that this lifestyle causes inflammation (called ‘toxic heat’ in Eastern medicine). This ‘heat’ tends to interfere with a peaceful sleep, so it needs to be reduced or cleared on a continual basis. Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture and herbal formulas to clear it, and Western herbalism uses bitters like dandelion, andrographis, and turmeric, as well as beets. I love them all, and use them in tinctures, teas, and pills every day, in addition to magnesium, vitamin C, and B-complex.
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In other news, the controversial trial of David and Collet Stephan, who were convicted of “failing to provide the necessities of life,” which allegedly led to the death of their son Ezekiel from meningitis, is currently being debated in both the mainstream and alternative media. So we have posted some ‘alternative’ viewpoints on our Facebook page, which add an extra dimension to the debate. As well, Dr. Rona has commented: “I suppose we now have to take our kids to the ER when they have a headache and a sniffle, foregoing safe and effective natural remedies. [This is a] disgusting verdict that will actually end up doing the public more harm than good. It is a terrible blow to these wonderful, loving parents.”

Julia Woodford, Editor, Vitality Magazine