Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

27 Jun

Because We’d Miss the Puppies & Flowers & Fields

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We’re all for the first amendment right to free speech, but in the interest of public health something really should be done about the misleading claims in those shiny, happy pharmaceutical commercials. To the drug makers that bombard us with them, and the U.S. Representatives that didn’t take a tougher stance goes the coveted Rotten Apple Award.

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Congrats! 

What do you think, Apples?

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27 Jun

This Comeback Kid Is Much Prettier than Travolta

And it fits in a vase! (Sorry, John.) Echinacea, or purple coneflower, was widely panned after a rock-solid controlled study proved its inefficacy in 2005.

You can put away your Puffs: echinacea is the toast of the sniffle set again.

In a meta-analysis of fourteen studies and a whole bunch of people (okay, 1,630 for those who like numbers), scientists found that echinacea does, in fact, reduce both cold infection rates (by 58%) and duration (by 1.44 days).

More numbers:

There are three different parts to the echinacea plant (you know, leaf, stem, flower…) This does appear to make a difference in effectiveness. There are also three different species of echinacea, and there are three different substances in the plant that are thought to be the active ingredient.

There are 800 different echinacea products made from these three different parts and/or three different species and/or three different extracts, and they come in teas, drops, powders and pills. Good luck trying each one – my advice is to be a princess (or prince) and buy the best. You only get a cold a few times a year (I hope), so spend the extra cash and you’re likely to get a better product. Or check out online customer reviews at sites like Epinions.

The reason why echinacea does…and doesn’t…work:

There are over 200 different cold viruses. That’s why you always catch the common cold and that’s why there’s no cure. Echinacea seems to be less effective on induced colds (scientists use rhinovirus to induce a cold).

The great thing is that whether or not you take echinacea, your body will develop immunity to any cold virus that infects you. The not-so-great thing is that after you get your first one, you still have 199 or so to go. But, since the average person gets between 2 and 4 colds a year, by the time you’re about 50, there shouldn’t be many more to go. Instead, you can concentrate on building up immunity to every flu virus in existence. Isn’t that awesome?

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Psst…and we all know what Mark would recommend: eat right, work out, reduce stress, and you’ll have a better immune system!

Want more?

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What does echinacea tea taste like? I don’t know, but I bet it would be great in the Fuming Fuji mug! icon wink

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26 Jun

Ooh! I’ll Have the Stress, Please

We talk a lot about hot topics like Big Pharma and carbs. But today we’re going to share some of the best tips for both preventing and addressing stress. Stress is ultimately at the root of many, if not all, of our most pressing health issues, including aging.

Of course this depends on your understanding of “stress”. An unhealthy diet that triggers an inflammatory response or the development of arterial plaques is one definition of “stress”. So does the emotional anguish of being in an unhealthy relationship. Another big one: the oxidative stress that promotes cellular breakdown. And simply failing to use your body actively – not moving your body daily – is stressful to your heart, muscles, bone tissue and even to your brain.

A little stress is useful: it’s how we learn, and grow, and survive. Indeed, when you work out, you’re stressing your body, just as if you were pruning a rosebush. There’s some value in moderate amounts of stress, which is a good thing, since life will never be free of it. But most of us probably suffer from too much chronic stress, and if we aren’t taking prudent steps to healthily deal with stress, the cumulative effects are devastating. Whether from the environment, lifestyle, injury or the way you use – or don’t use – your body, stress is really an umbrella term for a critical host of factors affecting your health.

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Here’s what we recommend:

10. Take a vacation.

Really. Just find a way to do it – even for two days. For some of you that means actually taking the weekend off. It’s amazing how a brief change of scene literally refreshes your spirits and helps you gain some perspective. On a daily basis, apply this shift logic and take a brisk walk outside or call a friend.

9. Say no.

This one is on every stress list, but everyone has a hard time following it. No one needs you that much. Strangely, the world will go on without you. If someone is trying to make you feel otherwise, you need to go on without them.

8. Stay away from processed food.

Most processed, packaged foods are land mines of sugar, empty calories, fat, sodium, chemicals, dyes and other ingredients detrimental to overall health. Refined foods spur inflammation, but they also can alter your mood, especially if you’re sensitive to drugs and chemicals. Very simple: eat food, not food products. You can get salads, veggies and fruit to go, just about anywhere. (What to eat in a day.) No excuses…unless you like running around at 80% all the time. Eat food that nourishes you, energizes you, and strengthens your brain.

7. Exercise.

Most Americans don’t. We’ve blogged about one major overlooked reason why. Here’s a trick: just put on your sneakers. Don’t think about the workout. Just don’t think. Simply think “I’m going to put my sneakers on.” If you do that, and give the workout three minutes, you’ve won the battle. Exercise is just too much of a health panacea to forgo. It stimulates a better stress response (we all know about serotonin – see below). It helps you sleep. It boosts immunity and can speed healing. It’s a tension reliever. It can help you lose weight. Exercise will cut your risk of every major disease and health condition drastically. Exercise helps you eliminate toxins, it improves digestion, and it stimulates your organs.

6. It’s the beating yourself up that hurts.

We all have negative thoughts and emotions, and “bad” desires or feelings. It’s not the feelings, even the supposedly “bad” ones, that really harm us – it’s worrying about them, repressing them, fighting them. Don’t beat yourself up for not being perfect.

5. Be your own best friend.

Enough said.

4. The usual suspects are no-no’s.

Smoking. Excessive drinking. Dessert. Junk food. Mindless television. Breathing exhaust fumes. You know, the usual self-destructive habits that all add up to a lot of stress.

3. Engage your mind.

Most people stop learning and reading after college (or kids, mortgage, whatever). Mental health and longevity studies consistently show that humans who engage their minds with activities like puzzles, reading, art, travel, new hobbies, and languages are happier, healthier, and live longer. This is your one, precious life – make the most of it! It doesn’t matter if you’re a lousy painter or can barely catch the ball. If you like it, do it.

2. Fish oil.

Fish oil may help prevent Alzheimer’s. It reduces inflammation. It’s essential for cardiovascular health, mental health, and antioxidant support. Fish oil is truly a super star stress tool because it’s a double positive: fish oil addresses both physical and mental stress.

1. What else?

What’s your best tip for stress? What aspects of stress have you learned to address successfully? What kinds of stress do you need more suggestions for properly managing?

In next week’s Primal Health post we’ll be discussing the whole cortisol/stress issue. Tomorrow’s PH topic: sugar.

Further reading:

Boost Serotonin with These Easy Tricks

10 Really Simple Longevity Secrets

Georgie Sharp Flickr Photo CC

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26 Jun

As American As…

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26 Jun

Captain Obvious Returns

This just out from Business Week: “Are Pharmas Addicted to Lifestyle Drugs?”

Ya think?

I know I rail against drug use. I have no problem with life-saving technologies that honor and extend the lives of human beings. And the good news is that the FDA is finally taking action (it only took half a dozen scandals). What I get furious about are the lifestyle drugs. For example, Alli, Ambien and Prozac. Obesity, insomnia and depression are all common and they are all seriously detrimental to health and longevity. They are all frequently preventable through lifestyle changes. In some cases, they aren’t, and for those cases, I say do whatever needs to be done. There are individuals who work out daily, eat a clean diet of vegetables and lean protein, supplement with plenty of high-quality fish oil, and take steps (like therapy and meditation) to manage stress, yet still fight depression. I can’t stand the harbingers of the extreme who believe everything can be resolved with a salad and a chipper attitude. People are unique.

That said, how many of the thousands on Prozac are stuck in stressful, sedentary office jobs, shoved into tiny urban apartments, living on junk food and alcohol, watching television and never moving their buns off the couch? It seems to me that our modern lifestyle is a recipe for depression – I’m surprised more people aren’t depressed. Staring at a computer all day and being inundated with media and noise are fairly traumatic experiences when you consider what our grandparents did in a day, yet the ever-resilient human body finds ways to cope.

Though we can’t necessarily get different jobs or pack up and move to the Bahamas, there are significant lifestyle adjustments within the easy reach of most individuals that can effectively support proper weight, rest, and mental health.

When people are eating packets of cigarettes and driving in their sleep while taking a drug like Ambien, it’s time to rethink our approach to health. Pharma makes a load of cash off the problems created by our Western lifestyle. Who’s addicted?

Stick around for the Tuesday 10. This week: tips to beat stress…naturally!

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