Nutrition

Spirulina: a journey from pond scum to outer space

Just as life depends on water, the life in water provides important contributions to our health. There are over 40,000 species of microalgae, which include edibles that we’ve come to know and sort of love such spirulina and chlorella. These relatively simple substances produce complex, health-giving products, including essential amino acids and enzymes.

The nutritional value of spirulina and chlorella

The nutritional value of spirulina was already known to the Aztecs, who harvested the algae from Texcoco Lake, near Mexico City, where it was sold as cakes and used as a daily staple. Science had now validated that spriulina is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, β-carotene, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants, and its consumption has been shown to have positive cardiovascular effects such as lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol. It is also noteworthy for its oil content, in quantity (7%) and in quality (α-linolenic acid (ALA), linoleic acid (LA), stearidonic acid (SDA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and arachidonic acid (AA). Chlorella also shares an array of proteins, amino acids, minerals and vitamins with spirulina.

Spirulina doesn’t actually contain vitamin B12

It is worth mentioning, since spirulina contains about 60% protein, it’s often used to supplement vegetarian diets, but contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t naturally supply vitamin B12. It actually contains pseudovitamin B12, which is inactive in humans.

It’s rare that a component of petroleum is not just suited for, but recommended for human ingestion, but in this case, algae’s energy-rich oils serve as not only a new potential source of fossil fuel, but also an ideal food (Cosmonaut Yury Viktorovich Romanenko successfully tested chlorella as food for long space journeys).

References

Ciferri O. Spirulina, the edible microorganism. Microbiol. Rev. 1983;47:551–578.
Campanella L., Russo M.V., Avino P. Free and total amino acid composition in blue-green algae. Ann. Chim. 2002;92:343–352. 
Habib M.A.B., Parvin M., Huntington T.C., Hasan M.R. A Review on Culture, Production and Use of Spirulina as Food for Humans and Feeds for Domestic Animals and Fish. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Rome, Italy: 2008.
Nyenje M.E., Ndip R.K. The Challenges of foodborne pathogens and antimicrobial chemotherapy: A global perspective. Afric. J. Microb. 2013;7:1158–1172.
Del Castillo B. The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, 1517–1521. Routledge; London, UK: 1928. p. 300.
Capelli B., Cysewski G.R. Potential Health Benefits of Spirulina Microalgae: A Review of the Existing Literature. Cyanotech Corporation; Kailua-Kona, HI, USA: 2010.
Juarez-Oropeza M.A., Mascher D., Torres-Durán P.V., Farias J.M., Paredes-Carbajal M.C. Effects of Spirulina on vascular reactivity. J. Med. Food. 2009;12:15–20.
Watanabe F., Katsura H., Takenaka S., Fujita T., Abe K., Tamura Y., Nakatsuka T., Nakano Y. Pseudovitamin B(12) is the predominant cobamide of an algal health food, spirulina tablets. J. Agric. Food Chem. 1999;47:4736–4741.
Watanabe F. Vitamin B12 sources and bioavailability. Exp. Biol. Med. (Maywood) 2007;232:1266–1274.

Pick a Wild Salad in Tennessee Valley

Spring is a great time to connect with your own potential.

The video below encourages you to enjoy the flora and fauna of Spring in the serene and vibrant natural landscape of Tennessee Valley. This video can direct you in a self-guided walk along the path to the ocean, while you utilize your outing as an opportunity to connect with the vibrancy of Spring.

The principles of Chinese medicine state that nature effects our own physiology. Spring is the time of the Chinese Liver system, which is associated with important aspects of conception. Walking helps the Liver get into balance while getting blood flow distributed throughout your body. You'll also learn how to forage for a wild salad and recognize other edibles along the path!

*Just remember never eat anything you're not 100% sure about properly identifying

Tennessee Valley is about a ten-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge: 
See a Map

  • Head north on US-101 N for almost 5 miles
  • Exit onto CA-1 toward Stinson Beach/Mill Valley (this is the first Mill Valley exit)
  • After .8 miles, take a left onto Tennessee Valley Rd (the Dipsea Restaurant will be just ahead on your right)
  • Follow the road all the way to the very end, about 2 miles or so. The road ends in a parking lot. 

 

The Science of Chocolate for Improving Fertility

The health benefits of chocolate may improve fertility.

 In Mayan civilization, ground cocoa was thought to be a health-promoting elixir, and the Aztecs believed that cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. Throughout history, chocolate has been used to treat a wide variety of ailments, and in recent years, multiple studies have found that chocolate can have positive health effects, providing evidence to a centuries-long established use.

Beneficial fertility-related components of dark chocolate (with a cacao content of 70% or higher) include it's antioxidants (beneficial for egg and sperm health), and it's anti-inflammatory actions that improve the bioavailability of nitric oxide, which contributes to improving platelet function and blood flow (an important part of how "nutrition" gets to the uterine environment).

A traditional hot chocolate preparation involved adding cinnamon and pepper - these are both Chinese herbs that "warm the uterus," or also help blood flow. So, chocolate can be a pleasurable and healthy indulgence to incorporate (in moderation) into your fertility routine. 

 Hot Cocoa Recipe to Nourish The Heart and The Uterus:

Warm 1 cup of almond milk (recipe below) in a saucepan and stirring constantly, mix in cocoa powder (70% cacao content) to taste. Continue to stir or whisk until thoroughly blended and desired temperature. Add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of pepper. Enjoy!

Almond Milk

Ingredients:
1 cup raw unsalted almonds, skin-on
4 cups filtered water, plus more water for soaking almonds
1 1/2 tsp honey, or one whole pitted date
Dash of salt

Blend everything together and strain through fine mesh strainer or muslin cloth.

References:

Malays J Pathol. 2013 Dec;35(2):111-21. The history and science of chocolate.

Verna Nutrients. 2013 May 14;5(5):1573-84. Chocolate in history: food, medicine, medi-food.


 


 

The Sunny Side of Vitamin D

Hippocrates suggested that it was optimal to live on the southern face of a hill - this would have been the sunny side. He may have been a real estate mogul, but considering his investment and contributions to medicine, it is more likely that he was the first person to correlate the significance of our exposure to the sun as a primary source of Vitamin D and disease prevention. Today there is a growing aversion to sun exposure. Subsequently, Vitamin D levels have significantly decreased.

What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D isn't actually a vitamin at all. It's a prehormone that is catalyzed into useable vitamin D by a heat reaction, which may account for part of the reason that sun exposure is necessary for Vitamin D conversion. Vitamin D can be obtained through dietary intake, but unless you have a diet rich in reindeer meat, lichen or seagull eggs, it is unlikely that you are getting adequate dietary sources.

Vitamin D and Pregnancy Preparation
Without the prehormone Vitamin D, we do not have the substrate for calcitriol (the hormonally active form of Vitamin D), which is pivotal for brain development - especially during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins do not prevent Vitamin D deficiency. They basically contain a homeopathic level of Vitamin D. So, during pregnancy preparation or early pregnancy, it is advisable to supplement with 5,000 IU and increase to 6,000 IU in later stages of pregnancy (5,000 for mom and 1,000 for baby).

What's a typical level and dose of Vitamin D?
A healthy hunter gatherer-style dose of Vitamin D in the blood is about 46 ml (the lab test you want to get is 25-hydroxy vitamin D test). If you're low, you can supplement with 5,000 IU/day for the days that you're not out in the sun (without sunblock). Also take into account that genetic variations and obesity can change ones response to Vitamin D uptake. So, it's not sufficient to just supplement. You also need to periodically recheck your Vitamin D levels to make sure it’s working, and of course remember that any imbalance may be related to broader health conditions. It's always worth putting any finding into the context of your collaboration with your health care practitioner.

Contributed by Caylie See, L.Ac., FABORM

Xenoestrogens

What are Xenoestrogens?
Xeno comes from the Greek word for foreign, and xenoestrogens are environmental compounds such as plastics and certain foods that imitate estrogen in the body. These estrogen-producing substances can suppress gonadotrophins, or sex hormones and potentially have a negative impact on both male and female reproductive health – especially in estrogen-sensitive conditions such as endometriosis or adenomyosis.
 
Some of the main culprits to avoid are:

plastic cups and containers that are not BPA free • foods reheated in plastic or styrofoam containers • Shampoos, lotion, soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes that contain paraben or phenoxyethanol

It’s postulated that some phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens may be an age old mechanism of plants producing estrogen to fend off their herbivore predators by rendering them infertile. The following foods have naturally occurring estrogen and should be minimized while pursuing fertility treatment:

Lavender • Sage and rosemary • Red Clover • Alfalfa Sprouts • Tea tree oil (melaleuca) • Sunflower seeds and Sunflower oil • Pomegranate – The Greeks used this plant as a contraceptive • Dates • Fennel • Licorice • Oregano

You certainly don’t have to live in a bubble (especially a plastic bubble made from BPAs) to get pregnant, but being mindful of how much exposure you have to xenoestrogens may help to optimize your fertility pursuits.
 


References:
Hughes CL (June 1988). "Phytochemical mimicry of reproductive hormones and modulation of herbivore fertility by phytoestrogens". Environ. Health Perspect. 78: 171–4.
Alleva E, Brock J, Brouwer A, Colborn T, Fossi MC, Gray E, Guillette L, Hauser P, Leatherland J, MacLusky N, Mutti A, Palanza P, Parmigiani S, Porterfield, Santi R, Stein SA, vom Saal F (1998). "Statement from the work session on environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals: neural, endocrine, and behavioral effects". Toxicol Ind Health 14 (1–2): 1–8.
Brock J, Colborn T, Cooper R, Craine DA, Dodson SFM, Garry VF, Gilbertson M, Gray E, Hodgson E, Kelce W, Klotz D, Maciorowski AF, Olea N, Porter W, Rolland R, Scott GI, Smolen M, Snedaker SC, Sonnenschein C, Vyas NB, Welshons WV, Whitcomb CE (1999). "Statement from the Work Session on Health Effects of Contemporary-Use Pesticides: the Wildlife / Human Connection". Toxicol Ind Health 15 (1–2): 1–5.
Massart F, Parrino R, Seppia P, Federico G, Saggese G (June 2006). "How do environmental estrogen disruptors induce precocious puberty?". Minerva Pediatr. 58 (3): 247–54.
Charlier C. Effects of environmental pollutants on hormone disturbances. Bull Mem Acad R Med Belg. 2006;161(1-2):116-24; discussion 124-6.

 contributed by Caylie See, L.Ac., FABORM