Monthly Archives: December 2014

Evans Syndrome: Autoimmune Illnesses and Natural Healing

Evans Syndrome

Targeting Cells for Drug DeliveryPhoto from National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

Evans Syndrome is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own antibodies attack the red blood cells that carry oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and rashes and discoloration of skin due to bleeding from the capillary blood vessels beneath the surface of the skin.  This is due to shortage of platelets (disk like blood cells) that block bleeding and combine with proteins to cause clotting to stop bleeding.  Evans syndrome more commonly afflicts people under the age of eighteen and has an 18 per cent mortality rate.  No one knows the cause which may be different in every case and some people spontaneously heal from it and no one knows why this happens either.

Usually when we speak of natural healing we generally want to strengthen the immune system but when a body’s own immune system is attacking it this appears to be a dilemma.  In fact there is with Evans Syndrome a shortage of all three kinds of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  The shortage of white blood cells makes those afflicted susceptible to infections and illnesses.  The antibodies that damage the red blood cells and platelets are actually y shaped proteins whose purpose is to destroy foreign bodies that enter the body.

I have often thought that the only reason the body’s own immune system would attack any part of a person’s own body must be because there is something wrong with that part of the body.  In this case this would appear to be true that in the case of Evans Syndrome the red blood cells and platelets are damaged and thought by the body to be foreign elements in the body.  It seems to me that toxicity has to play a part.  As with everything with natural healing and certainly in this case the cure has to do with understanding the cause.  One must look at the environment one is in and the possible toxicity that must play a part.  Cure must start with eliminating the causal factors then giving the body the proper nutrition and other tools to heal itself.

Mercury poisoning in fact attaches itself to the cells in such a way as to change the markings on the surface of the cells so that the body does not recognize the cells as being a part of the body which will cause the antibodies to attack the cells.  Since mercury is a liquid mineral that builds and stores up in a person and takes a long time for the body to eliminate it may take years before a person can be diagnosed with mercury poisoning.  In the meantime people with mercury poisoning are often misdiagnosed as having illnesses such as muscular sclerosis, rheumatory arthritis and autoimmune diseases.  It has been proven that silver, dental fillings which are known as amalgam because of the combination of metals in them are one of the most significant sources of mercury poisoning known if not the most significant with those who have these fillings despite information to the contrary from the dental industry.  It has been proven that silver, dental fillings can permanently damage the brains, kidneys and immune systems of children.  Studies have shown that amalgam fillings are linked to gastrointestinal problems, sleep disturbances, concentration problems, memory disturbances, lack of initiative, restlessness, bleeding gums and other mouth disorders.

img6_smPhoto from Center for Disease Control

One must not rule out any form of toxicity.  Drinking water with impurities in it can be very bad for a person’s health.  Bad water may contain mercury but water may, also, contain contaminants that the EPA does not regulate when analyzing water.  Some of these unregulated contaminants are known to cause cancer, reproductive toxicity, developmental toxicity and immune system damage.  It is good to drink purified water from water purifying machines.  I don’t recommend Perrier water as it is high in sodium.  Once I was in a pharmacy where a woman had a young daughter who had gotten an infection from drinking tap water that was causing her abdominal distress and diarrhea with blood in her stools.  The local water board later had been mailing us literature trying to convince us the quality of the tap water is good because they had an overabundance of water.  I was talking with an engineer recently who told me that the local tap water has radon in it, a dangerous form of radioactivity that in this area is naturally occurring in the geography.  Among some of the contaminants that can be found in tap water are steroids and contraceptives. Fortunately due to two water improvement acts the tap water here in California is much better. However as I learn more about water purity it keeps getting more complicated and requires more research.
There is, also, air pollution.  I remember in the seventies when as the result of the first air pollution laws being enforced the quality of the air in big cities greatly improved.  Since then sadly air quality in major cities has reached worse levels of pollution than ever.  Today more people suffer from asthma than ever due to air pollution.  One may have to consider seriously changing one’s environment in order to heal.  Getting above the smog line and taking trips out of town may help.  One may consider getting an air purifier for the home.

Other factors that can cause autoimmune diseases include overuse of aspirin, ibuprofen, fish oil supplementation and antibiotics.  Even vaccinations can be a contributing factor.  Inadequate rest can contribute to the problem.  Frequent exposure to infectious agents: bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, Candida overgrowth in bowels may be causal factors as well as sugar and other concentrated carbohydrates. Food allergy and obesity can play into the causes.

Building up the blood with healthy red blood cells, platelets. white blood cells and healthy hemoglobin is absolutely important.  I have mentioned the need for vitamin B12, iodine and iron for healthy cell growth and especially in blood cell growth.  Folic acid is absolutely important to this cell growth as it is necessary in the differentiation of cells in cell growth.  Getting ocean going fish especially cold water fish such as salmon and tuna in the diet absolutely helps a person to get enough iodine and vitamin B12.  Seaweed is not only an excellent source of iodine and vitamin B12 but is rich in lots of vitamins and minerals including the more rare ones.  There are those who say that nutrition in seaweed is not accessible to the body but I recommend seaweeds that have traditionally been in people’s diets for thousands of years such as kelp, nori, dulse and sea palm.  I like to eat plain dried sea palm as a salty snack.

am.celllibrary.orgPhoto from cellimagelibrary.org
As you became aware from reading our website a person may not be getting the proper nutrition from their food because they are not digesting their food properly such as in the case of malabsorption.  This can cause nutritional deficiencies that will cause organs of the body including glands to not work properly.  This can contribute to poor cell growth and the inability of the body to break down and eliminate toxins as well as generally interfere with the healthy functions of the body.  One must get raw fruit and vegetables in the diet to get the enzymes necessary to digest food properly.  To avoid malabsorption one must avoid foods made of processed white, wheat flour and have whole grains in the diet instead.  Other causes of malabsorption can be alcohol consumption and infections in the intestines.
It is important with Evans Syndrome I believe to promote a healthy lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system has a complex of vessels throughout the body with capillaries just like the blood system.  The purpose of the lymphatic system is to remove damaged and dead cells, toxins including those naturally produced as waste from the cells of the body and foreign debris from the body.  Lymph is the liquid that is between the cells of the body.  Organs of the body produce and clean the lymph to circulate through the body.  The lymph that picks up the debris and toxins of the body must be circulated out from between the cells of the body to be cleaned and returned back to the lymph system.  Certain organs are involved in the cleaning of the lymph such as the spleen.  The kidneys remove some of the impurities into the urine.  Some of the toxins are sent to the colon to be eliminated through the intestines through defecation.  More good reasons to have a lot of fiber in the diet.

The lymphatic system unlike the blood system does not have a pump to circulate the lymph.  The movements of the body cause the lymph to circulate.  It has been shown that deep breathing helps the lymph to circulate.  Sounds like yoga has something to it doesn’t it?  Yoga combines deep breathing with certain positions of the body and, also, deep breathing with certain movements of the body for health benefits.  Sounds like some simple stretching exercises will help.  Once I met a man who as with a lot of things people do turned to excess with one thing.  He tried to go right to extreme yoga and permanently damaged his back.  Best to start out gently.  Here is an easy yoga technique to help elimination that I found on a box of organic Yogi Tea blend.  Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels.  Bring your forehead to the ground in front of your knees.  Place your clenched hands by your ears and raise your buttocks as high as possible.  Breathe long and deep through the nose for one to three minutes and relax.  Here is another easy yoga technique for purification I found on a box of Yogi Detox tea.  Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels and bring your forehead to the ground in front of your knees as in the exercise before but stretch the arms straight forward in front of you on the floor with the palms of your hands together as when praying.  Breathe long and deep through the nose for one to three minutes.  Then slowly sit up straight, take a few deep breaths and relax.  I like to align my spine just by lying on the carpet on the floor flat on my back after exercising.  I have worked jobs that tend make me stooped over.  Since so much of the body’s energy flows through the back getting it straight is important.  After lying flat on my back for awhile when I stand up I stretch, arch my back and take deep breaths.  Once I was looking upward and took a deep breath and let the breath out slowly while slowly moving my head from looking up to moving it downwards and I couldn’t believe the feeling.  Therapeutic massage can be a help.

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Photo from Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
After considering eliminating all the sources of toxins that have contributed to the condition and considering proper digestion and healing nutrition one should consider detoxifying.  I would not recommend fasting to someone who needs the nutrition for cell growth but I would recommend organic, detox, herb tea.  I like to use Yogi detox tea which is more affordable but natural food stores, also, carry detox, herb teas that are quite expensive. Some so much so that one has to ask a clerk for it as they tend to get stolen.  I like to use Yogi fasting tea between meals and when eating lightly as it soothes and heals the digestive system and intestines.  Dr. Gary Null, the famous, natural healing doctor who has a natural healing program on KPFK radio says a combination of organic watermelon juice and lemon juice helps to clean out the system.  Aloe vera juice is good for this and aloe vera juice, also, kills germs.  Sweating is one of the best ways to detoxify.  One should drink lots of good water when sweating.
Here are two blends of herbs that can relieve symptoms and heal.  The first is: red clover blossoms, sheep sorrel, prickly ash bark, sarsaparilla root, buckthorn bark, burdock root, licorice root, peach bark, barberry root, echinacea, cascara sagrada, rosemary.  This combination is a blood purifier.  It eliminates toxins from the blood and cells.  The prickly ash increases circulation and dissolves mineral deposits in the joints.  This formula neutralizes acids and toxins and is good for immune system disorders.  Here is the second: gentian root, catnip, bayberry, golden seal root, myrrh gum, Irish moss, fenugreek, chickweed, comfrey root, yellow dock, prickly ash, St. Johnswort, blue vervain, mandrake, evening primrose, cyani flowers.  This combination is a general cleanser.  It cleans morbid matter from the stomach and digestive tract.   This  formula cleans the spleen and liver.  This  blend of herbs is good for malabsorption and immune disorders.
When one begins to heal from Evans syndrome there may be long periods when the body produces an abundance of red and white blood cells and platelets.  Then the body may go back to low counts of these cells again.  I attribute this to the fact that cleansing the body of toxins will cause the body to heal but toxins stored in the body may start to be released into the blood stream again as part of the detoxifying process.  For instance toxins store in the fat cells of the body.  After the blood is cleansed of toxins for awhile toxins from the fat cells will be released into the blood stream.  One must continue detoxifying to be restored to good health.

cellPhoto by Виталий Смолыгин

There is a lot of talk about antioxidants being good for a person’s health and antioxidants are critical in preventing and healing damage from free radicals. Unfortunately corporations have capitalized on people’s interest in antioxidants knowing they can reap rewards of profits from people’s fears about health issues. For instance it’s nice to know that there is a particular type of antioxidant in green tea but people should not seize upon one thing as a fad for the solution to good health. It’s very disconcerting to me to see companies that have been selling Chinese tea and tea from India with well known labels we all recognize putting messages on their boxes about how their products have antioxidants. These popular teas contain caffeine, pesticide residues and chemical fertilizer residues and have probably been zapped with ultra violet radiation for long shelf life and are hardly healthy for a person. The truth is fruit and vegetables and natural herbs all contain antioxidants. Vitamins A, C and E are all antioxidants. There are a lot of different agents in natural foods that are antioxidants. Oxidants occur when oxygen molecules have an electron missing from an electron pair. They acquire a foreign type of electron from a different kind of molecule which turns any compound with these damaged oxygen molecules into free radicals. Free radicals damage the cells of the body and do harm to the vital organs of the body. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, protect the cells of the body from damage and help the organs of the body to be repaired. The body naturally produces free radicals and antioxidants. The antioxidants the body produces are not enough to neutralize all the free radicals. This is why natural foods should have all the antioxidants that a person needs to stay healthy. People get excess free radicals from environmental stress. When a person gets free radical overload the body produces more acid. This excess of acid in the body causes problems associated with aging. When the body is out of balance with too much acid the body produces even more free radicals creating a vicious circle effect. The more damage to the organs of the body, the less the body is able to stay healthy.

6302352901_9d01f9767f_zPhoto from usa.gov

In this article I have been implying a very important principle. To cure complicated, chronic illnesses such as Evans syndrome one has to think holistically and consider the overall health of the individual. All to often with people in this society and with modern medicine there is a tendency to focus on the specific illness and a cure. I may not know what other conditions for instance may be a part of the problem. A good example is a woman I used to work with. She has lupus, an autoimmune illness in which the immune system attacks the joints of the body. She is extremely obese and chronically getting colds and flus. I kept telling her that antibiotics don’t work on viruses, only on regular germs, but she always uses the antibiotics anyway. I have told her that she needs to build up her immune system and that antibiotics are bad for her immune system but she won’t listen. She actually has come to work with walking pneumonia with her nose red and chaffed from blowing her nose so much because she has missed so many days of work. At work I mentioned that people need iodine in their diet for their thyroid gland to work properly. She overhears me saying this and says to just take fish oil capsules. I have responded twice to her that fish oil capsules only have Omega essential fatty acids, they do not have iodine but she doesn’t listen. She talks about being on a diet and then says she is being bad today and eats a hamburger and french fries and a soda from a fast food chain. Her eating habits are atrocious. She used to eat a lot of candy at work and still eats a lot of sweets.

Basically there is no point in me addressing her lupus condition when she doesn’t do anything I tell her. She commutes a long distance to work and I have no idea how she does all the things she does. Her doctor ordered her to only work three days a week for awhile. After a few months of getting proper rest this way she started feeling better. She said she actually has energy in the morning. Surprise. She says she has had attacks of lupus before and it can return to her. The fact is it is her overall health which will only continue to deteriorate that is the issue. Holistically speaking this type of person refuses to accept the fact that her entire way of living is wrong and that she needs to change her entire lifestyle. This is a part of the personal revolution I have been speaking of on this website that is necessary for good health. To this woman it makes sense to commute long distances so she can afford to buy a home since the town she works in is expensive to live in. Amazingly she has a real estate license and tries to make money on the side by driving up the cost of buying a home. This woman needs to change her life entirely. She needs to come up with a better plan. Does she have a moral and spiritual bankruptcy in her life? Yes. She goes to church but what people say they believe in is not as important obviously as what they do and how they live their lives. At the core of her unhealthy lifestyle and behavior are psychological factors rooted in her childhood and there are societal and even historical factors that have determined the pattern of her life. Illness sometimes is telling us a lot more than we realize.

green-patterned-mandalaPhoto by Irina Pechkareva

For me discovering a new world of delicious foods and recipes and entirely new ways of thinking and living has helped me to have a life of limitless possibilities and discovery.  Figuratively speaking it almost seems sinful the sensuous pleasures that please all of the senses that I have discovered from developing a healthy, natural lifestyle.

Back to speaking holistically about Evans syndrome one must not rule out other factors in a person’s personal life and environment.  This includes getting sun and fresh air.  Getting outdoors to a beautiful, natural place and developing a connection with nature has healing power.  When I go out for a run at the natural, unspoiled beach I live next to and take a leisurely walk back which is a meditation for me I say that I am altering my state of consciousness in a positive way.  As it turns out the hemoglobin of the blood is much like chlorophyll in plants in some ways.  Sunlight actually passes through the skin into the blood vessels and helps the hemoglobin of the blood to be healthier and carry oxygen better.  When people do not get enough exposure to sunlight they often get depressed.  This is true of people who work at night and people who live in places where there is little sun.  These days fortunately people like that have turned to buying lighting in their homes that simulates natural sunlight.  This has been proven to be a big help.  One may consider fresh flowers in the home that have scents that have healing power.  Aromatherapy may be a help.  Mainly creating a home environment that is healing is important.  One has to consider everything.  This could include people in a person’s personal life.  For instance having someone around with a negative attitude towards natural healing could be a problem.  Having another family member or friend talk to this person and explain that their attitude is not contributing to an atmosphere of healing might be useful.  One should consider career, employment, where someone is living and general dissatisfaction with one’s life.  If there are things that can’t be changed perhaps alternative ways of thinking about and dealing with these things is in order.

Holistically doctors have discovered another dimension to healing that is important that has to do with the power of the mind.  Although mind power alone can’t do it the concept seriously bears mentioning.  The best way to explain it is with the example of a healing technique called guided imagery.  Guided imagery doctors help patients to heal using the power of the patient’s mind.  A well known example of this technique in practice is the story of a forty year old woman who had surgery and radiation for cancer.  She still kept complaining about having pains in her upper back.  Doctors could find nothing wrong with her and recommended her to a guided imagery doctor.  The doctor told her to imagine herself in a beautiful place in nature.  The woman imagined herself on a beach with surrounding cliffs.  The doctor told her to imagine an inner advisor.  She visualized an old man on the beach sitting in front of an open fire.  He looked like Merlin, the magician.  She asked the old man for advice about her illness.  The old man said,”Ask for help.”  She broke down crying.  Throughout her ordeal she had been afraid to ask for help from anyone because she didn’t want to be a burden.  The old man told her that her family and friends felt frustrated that she had left them out of her healing process.  The woman made up her mind to ask her husband for help.  Instantly the pain in her back started going away.  The idea behind guided imagery is that if a person can worry himself sick he can imagine himself well.  The fact is the power of the mind to have a negative affect on a person’s physiology has always been well known.  Guided imagery is a useful tool in the healing process.  I believe that some type of meditation is always important in staying healthy.  One must always take the time to take stock of one’s life and ask what am I doing and what do I want really and is there something I need to change.   Illness sometimes is telling us that we are too driven by routines and have lost sight of our real goals.

1-1240318699LVHMPhoto by Petr Kratochvil

With natural healing it is well known that there are healing herbs a person can use everyday that are healing and good for keeping healthy the vital organs of the body.  Healing these vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc. is an ongoing process of everyday life or should be. These healing herbs can be found in organic herb tea that one can buy in bulk or for convenience in blends in tea bags.  Some of the more well know herbs for healing vital organs such as the liver and kidneys are milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, juniper berry, garlic, ginger, sage, parsley, nettle leaf and ginseng.

For cell growth, particularly blood cell production, the element, selenium, is important.  Good sources of selenium include barley, oats, mushrooms, cod, shrimp, salmon, snapper, tuna, eggs, turkey and lamb.  How much selenium is in plants and animal sources is dependent on how much selenium is in the soil.  I recommend sprinkling some natural brewers yeast on a person’s meal before eating for selenium, iodine, iron, protein, amino acids and lots of vitamins and minerals including the more rare ones such as vitamin B12.  One serving of brewers yeast has about 120% of the selenium a person needs in a day.  One has to remember that there is less than one milligram of selenium in the human body.  This is why I warn against getting nutrition from supplements as too much can be harmful.

Flax seed oil is recommended for healthy cell growth because it helps cells to have healthier, stronger membranes.  Flax seed oil, also, is anti-carcinogenic, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  Flax seed oil is rich in Omega essential fatty acids to help the body break down fat and cholesterol.  Flax seed oil has untold health benefits.  It is, also, beneficial to use whole flax grain such as in organic flax seed bread.

Iron is probably one of the most important substances for healthy cell growth especially blood cells.  I recommend shiitake mushrooms.  One serving of shiitake mushrooms contains 40 to 50 per cent of the iron one needs in a day.  Black fungus which has a mild, mushroom like taste but is not in the form of a mushroom is, also, recommended.  Dried, black fungus can be found in Oriental markets.  One soaks the dried, black fungus in water that has been brought to a boil then cuts it into pieces.  It does not have much flavor but is good as an ingredient in stir fries and soups and is often found in these dishes in Oriental restaurants.  One serving of black fungus has 400 to 500 per cent of the iron one needs in a day so there is no reason why a vegetarian should be anemic due to a lack of iron.

11853984805_b3692e28eb_zPhoto from usa.gov

In the case of Evans Syndrome one must still be tested by doctors for blood cell counts and stay on the safe side.  Nothing I have described to you about natural healing techniques that will help you can hurt you.  It is important holistically to consider one’s overall health and other health conditions such as high blood pressure.  It is good to do everything I have described here  to improve the overall health condition to help the body’s own ability to heal itself before turning to extreme, modern medicine treatments.  Modern medicine treatments may be counterproductive to natural healing techniques but the natural healing I have described here cannot hinder the modern medicine techniques but if you are under a doctor’s care you should ask.  I’m sure your doctor will agree.

Dr. Gary Null the famous, naturopathic doctor, says that if you give the body half a chance to heal itself it will.  Not even a whole chance but half a chance.  He publishes books and has a video out called,”Supercharging the Immune System”.  Dr. Gary Null often recommends to his patients to eat nothing but raw fruit and vegetables for a month or more.  I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone but it is interesting how he says this will cure hay fever, allergies and asthma.  For more information about Dr. Gary Null one can contact KPFK radio.

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Understanding Protein and Amino Acids: Natural Nutrition and Health

proteinPhoto from usa.gov

On my path of learning and living natural nutrition and natural healing I came to the realization that, as with myself, one of the main concerns people have about a vegetarian diet is getting enough protein. I came to understand after a time that although so many have a sense that protein is essential to their diet many do not seem to really know what protein is or what it does. Speaking for myself I always understood that protein is necessary for muscle growth which is why athletes who are trying to build muscle put an emphasis on getting a lot of protein in their diet. I ascertained from this that protein must be necessary as well for organ tissue, nerve and brain cells. I always remembered from school that protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. I assumed that whatever protein people ingest has to be broken down into its essential components and reconstructed as human protein. Unfortunately when I would mention this in a discussion with people I would just get blank looks. What I would keep hearing from people is that they felt that protein was necessary to “have energy”. I of course realized that the body mainly gets energy from carbohydrates including breaking down fats for calories to use for energy. I, also, knew that the body has to convert starch, sugars and fat to glucose which is the only kind of sugar the cells of the body can use for energy from calories. As well I knew that the body has to produce insulin to deliver the glucose in order for it to be usable to the cells. I did know that the body can use protein for energy from calories but this is not the main function of protein in our diet.

When I started on a path of reducing meat in my diet and learning to cook organic, vegetarian meals from scratch I chose a book called, Diet For A Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé, which had vegetarian recipes, each of which had complementary proteins listed. I felt that I could trust these recipes to have well balanced meals with the protein I needed in my diet. I certainly was not disappointed and have reaped the rewards of good health.

After a time however my continual frustration with the fact that most people did not seem to understand what protein is or what it does even though they emphasized so much importance on having lots of it in their diet brought me to the conclusion that I had to do the research to back up what I essentially knew. When I even tried to tell people that too much protein is bad for them I would either get blank looks or a canned response of “Well, too much of anything is bad for you”. I realized that I, myself, owed it to myself to really understand protein and amino acids more thoroughly. I especially needed to be able to explain protein and complementary proteins from plant sources to people to take away their fear of vegetarianism. I could plainly see that this lack of knowledge about health and nutrition was responsible for people simply taking the easy way out and continuing to consume lots of meat. I was tired of seeing people literally making themselves sick and killing themselves by degrees because of a lack of knowledge about something so fundamental to understanding good health.

When I started my research on protein I was immediately confronted by some amazing facts! The first was that after water people are mainly made of protein, more than calcium or anything else. The second fact was something I had been taught in school but had forgotten about which was that our very genetics, our genes and chromosomes, are made of protein.   Well, this obviously explains why after water we are mainly made of protein. Even our bones and teeth have protein in them. All cells of our bodies have to have some protein because of the genetic information they contain. Obviously muscle tissue has more protein than other tissue.

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Of course protein whether from animal or plant sources has to be broken down by the body into its essential components to be useable to the body and reconstructed into human proteins (plural). What are the essential components of protein? They are amino acids but more importantly the human body needs the “essential” amino acids. The term, essential amino acids, is a little difficult to understand because in fact the human body, mainly the liver, produces eighty per cent of the amino acids that we need. However the essential amino acids are the amino acids that our own bodies do not produce so we have to get these nutrients from food. These essential amino acids then are the building blocks from which our own bodies are able to produce all of the other amino acids to produce all of the different types of proteins our bodies need. The liver takes the essential amino acids and puts them together in different combinations of varying amounts and even aligns the molecular structure of the amino acids to produce all of the proteins our body needs. In fact enzymes and hormones are specialized types of proteins. Cholesterol is a specialized type of protein.

What are the essential amino acids? As with most things when doing research we may get different answers especially since science is perpetually trying to keep up with learning about nature. Many sources say that there are eight essential amino acids but a good recourse I use, Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, doesn’t say how many essential amino acids there are but names them. I have counted them over and over again and I count nine and they are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylananine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

So what about complementary proteins? People apparently assume that if they eat meat they get what they call, “a complete protein”, therefore they assume that if they eat meat they don’t have to worry about getting the protein that they need in their diets. This actually is incorrect. In fact an egg is the closest thing to a completely useable protein by the body. However one egg has all the cholesterol we need in a day so it is not a good choice to eat eggs all the time. Even with meat a person needs protein from plant sources. All of the essential amino acids have to present in the body within a four hour period in their proper amounts for the body to be able to produce the amino acids and proteins that we need. Excess protein causes the liver to try to turn it into glucose for energy but there are only four calories in one gram of protein and the process of converting it to glucose creates ammonia which is harmful to the body. The liver turns the ammonia into urea which is less toxic and then eliminates the urea through the bloodstream and kidneys. Excess protein, too often, will wear out the liver and kidneys. Not having all the essential amino acids in balance can cause a negative nitrogen imbalance which is unhealthy. The body will urinate out nitrogen.

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Clearly getting less meat in the diet and getting more protein from plant sources will keep people from getting too much protein and protect people from some of the other harms of excess meat consumption. This gets back to the question of how do we know we are getting the right balance of complementary proteins. In the book, Diet For A Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé has charts of complementary proteins for easy understanding. After studying these diagrams I have noticed that a good rule of thumb is to eat foods from different food groups in each meal. These food groups for complementary proteins may be a little different than what people are used to however because seeds and nuts are in a different group than grains. Fruits are not really mentioned because they are so low in protein. This is a little confusing because people think of seeds as being grains however sunflower seeds and sesame seeds are in the group with seeds and nuts for complementary protein purposes. In general then we would be looking at whole grains with beans or legumes such as peas and lentils would be complementary proteins. Corn and beans, wheat and beans and, good news, wheat and dairy made with whole or skim milk are complementary proteins. Even a single serving of pasta has seven grams of protein so you do not have to give up your bagel with cream cheese or pasta with parmesan cheese! If you have sesame seeds on your bagel you even get an extra complementary protein. Peanuts are very deficient in some essential amino acids but with grains and especially with sunflower seeds added it is well balanced with essential proteins.

It is important to note that even if a person gets the proper amounts of the essential amino acids in the diet the body may not be able to use this available protein without the proper balance of vitamins and minerals. As a general rule as Frances Moore Lappé so aptly puts it even in a completely plant based diet the more different kinds of food one eats the less one has to worry about getting the proper balance of essential amino acids and healthy protein.

But what about the people who say that we get energy from protein? As it turns out some of the essential amino acids do help to supply energy to muscles. Isoleucine helps to regulate blood sugar and energy levels. The best way to think of protein however is that it is necessary for cell growth. This definitely includes making babies. Women who are expecting a child or nursing need more protein. People’s protein needs change at times. Small children have very different nutritional needs including a lot of fat before the age of two for the brain to develop properly for one thing and since children are growing they need a higher percentage of protein per the total caloric intake in their day.