Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We shouldn't ask "Why do bad things happen to good people?"...but believe that good people are called to help carry the cross of Christ.
-Archbishop Aymond

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jesus & the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist


     If you are looking to get deeper into your faith and are willing to open yourself to learn, here is a valuable video presentation by Dr. Brant Pitre. He explores the Jewish origins of the Eucharist. He is a clear and accessible teacher. Follow the link to see the video...and he also posts an outline to follow along with the video if you'd like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard

Courtesy of www.epicurious.com
Barley and Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard photo

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped peeled carrots
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 10 cups (or more) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2/3 cup dried lentils
  • 4 cups (packed) coarsely chopped Swiss chard (about 1/2 large bunch)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Heat oil in heavy large nonreactive pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots; sauté until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Mix in cumin; stir 30 seconds. Add 10 cups broth and barley; bring to boil. Reduce heat; partially cover and simmer 25 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with juice and lentils; cover and simmer until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Add chard to soup; cover and simmer until chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill. Season soup with salt and pepper. Thin with more broth, if desired.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Barley-and-Lentil-Soup-with-Swiss-Chard-231578#ixzz15xs55WHj

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cholesterol - the Whole Picture

Here is what I find to be the most comprehensive view on cholesterol for the average person. It will probably only be of use to you if you or someone you know is on any type of cholesterol lowering drug (aka "statin") and you're searching for a healther alternative. This article is written by Mark Hyman, M.D. -- a leading physician in the field of Functional Medicine.

     "We have all been led to believe that cholesterol is bad and that lowering it is good. Because of extensive pharmaceutical marketing to both doctors and patients we think that using statin drugs is proven to work to lower the risk of heart attacks and death.
But on what scientific evidence is this based, what does that evidence really show?
Roger Williams once said something that is very applicable to how we commonly view the benefits of statins. "There are liars, damn liars, and statisticians."
     We see prominent ads on television and in medical journals -- things like 36% reduction in risk of having a heart attack. But we don't look at the fine print. What does that REALLY mean and how does it affect decisions about who should really be using these drugs.

Before I explain that, here are some thought provoking findings to ponder.
• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but have a low HDL (good cholesterol) there is no benefit to statins. (i)
• If you lower bad cholesterol (LDL) but don't reduce inflammation (marked by a test called C-reactive protein), there is no benefit to statins. (ii)
• If you are a healthy woman with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death. (iii)
• If you are a man or a woman over 69 years old with high cholesterol, there is no proof that taking statins reduces your risk of heart attack or death. (iv)
• Aggressive cholesterol treatment with two medications (Zocor and Zetia) lowered cholesterol much more than one drug alone, but led to more plaque build up in the arties and no fewer heart attacks. (v)
• 75% of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol
• Older patients with lower cholesterol have higher risks of death than those with higher cholesterol. (vi)
• Countries with higher average cholesterol than Americans such as the Swiss or Spanish have less heart disease.
• Recent evidence shows that it is likely statins' ability to lower inflammation it what accounts for the benefits of statins, not their ability to lower cholesterol.

     So for whom do the statin drugs work for anyway? They work for people who have already had heart attacks to prevent more heart attacks or death. And they work slightly for middle-aged men who have many risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes.
So why did the 2004 National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines expand the previous guidelines to recommend that more people take statins (from 13 million to 40 million) and that people who don't have heart disease should take them to prevent heart disease. Could it have been that 8 of the 9 experts on the panel who developed these guidelines had financial ties to the drug industry? Thirty-four other non-industry affiliated experts sent a petition to protest the recommendations to the National Institutes of Health saying the evidence was weak. It was like having a fox guard the chicken coop.
It's all in the spin. The spin of the statistics and numbers. And it's easy to get confused. Let me try to clear things up.
     When you look under the hood of the research data you find that the touted "36% reduction" means a reduction of the number of people getting heart attacks or death from 3% to 2% (or about 30-40%).
And that data also shows that treatment only really works if you have heart disease already. In those who DON'T have documented heart disease, there is no benefit.
In those at high risk for heart disease about 50 people would need to be treated for 5 years to reduce one cardiovascular event. Just to put that in perspective: If a drug works, it has a very low NTT (number needed to treat). For example, if you have a urine infection and take an antibiotic, you will get near a 100% benefit. The number needed to treat is "1". So if you have an NTT of 50 like statins do for preventing heart disease in 75% of the people who take them, it is basically a crap shoot.
     Yet at a cost of over $28 billion a year, 75% of all statin prescriptions are for exactly this type of unproven primary prevention. Simply applying the science over 10 years would save over $200 billion. This is just one example of reimbursed but unproven care. We need not only prevent disease but also prevent the wrong type of care.
     If these medications were without side effects, then you may be able to justify the risk - but they cause muscle damage, sexual dysfunction, liver and nerve damag,e and other problems in 10-15% of patients who take them. Certainly not a free ride.
So if lowering cholesterol is not the great panacea that we thought, how do we treat heart disease, and how do we get the right kind of cholesterol - high HDL, low LDL and low triglycerides and have cholesterol particles that are large, light and fluffy rather than small, dense and hard, which is the type that actually causes heart disease and plaque build up.
     We know what causes the damaging small cholesterol particles. And it isn't fat in the diet. It is sugar. Sugar in any form or refined carbohydrates (white food) drives the good cholesterol down, cause triglycerides to go up, creates small damaging cholesterol particles, and causes metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes. That is the true cause of most heart attacks, NOT LDL cholesterol.
     One of the reasons we don't hear about this is because there is no good drug to raise HDL. Statin drugs lower LDL -- and billions are spent advertising them, even though they are the wrong treatment.
If you're like most of the patients I see in my practice, you're convinced that cholesterol is the evil that causes heart disease. You may hope that if you monitor your cholesterol levels and avoid the foods that are purported to raise cholesterol, you'll be safe from America's number-one killer.
    We are all terrified of cholesterol because for years well-meaning doctors, echoed by the media, have emphasized what they long believed is the intimate link between cholesterol and death by heart disease. If only it were so simple!
    The truth is much more complex.

     Cholesterol is only one factor of many -- and not even the most important -- that contribute to your risk of getting heart disease.
     First of all, let's take a look at what cholesterol actually is. It's a fatty substance produced by the liver that is used to help perform thousands of bodily functions. The body uses it to help build your cell membranes, the covering of your nerve sheaths, and much of your brain. It's a key building block for our hormone production, and without it you would not be able to maintain adequate levels of testosterone, estrogen, progesterone and cortisol.
     So if you think cholesterol is the enemy, think again. Without cholesterol, you would die.
In fact, people with the lowest cholesterol as they age are at highest risk of death. Under certain circumstances, higher cholesterol can actually help to increase life span.
To help clear the confusion, I will review many of the cholesterol myths our culture labors under and explain what the real factors are that lead to cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol Myths
One of the biggest cholesterol myths out there has to do with dietary fat. Although most of us have been taught that a high-fat diet causes cholesterol problems, this isn't entirely true. Here's why: The type of fat that you eat is more important than the amount of fat. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats and saturated fats promote abnormal cholesterol, whereas omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats actually improve the type and quantity of the cholesterol your body produces.
In reality, the biggest source of abnormal cholesterol is not fat at all -- it's sugar. The sugar you consume converts to fat in your body. And the worst culprit of all is high fructose corn syrup.
Consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which is present in sodas, many juices, and most processed foods, is the primary nutritional cause of most of the cholesterol issues we doctors see in our patients.
So the real concern isn't the amount of cholesterol you have, but the type of fats and sugar and refined carbohydrates in your diet that lead to abnormal cholesterol production.
Of course, many health-conscious people today know that total cholesterol is not as critical as the following:
• Your levels of HDL "good" cholesterol vs. LDL "bad" cholesterol
• Your triglyceride levels
• Your ratio of triglycerides to HDL
• Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL
Many are also aware that there are different sizes of cholesterol particles. There are small and large particles of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. The most dangerous are the small, dense particles that act like BB pellets, easily penetrating your arteries. Large, fluffy cholesterol particles are practically harmless--even if your total cholesterol is high. They function like beach balls and bounce off the arteries, causing no harm.
Another concern is whether or not your cholesterol is rancid. If so, the risk of arterial plaque is real.
Rancid or oxidized cholesterol results from oxidative stress and free radicals, which trigger a vicious cycle of inflammation and fat or plaque deposition under the artery walls. That is the real danger: When small dense LDL particles are oxidized they become dangerous and start the build up of plaque or cholesterol deposits in your arteries.
     Now that we've explored when and how cholesterol becomes more problematic, let's take a look at other factors that play a more significant role in cardiovascular disease.

Prime Contributors to Cardiovascular Disease
     First of all, cardiovascular illness results when key bodily functions go awry, causing inflammation, (vii) imbalances in blood sugar and insulin and oxidative stress.
To control these key biological functions and keep them in balance, you need to look at your overall health as well as your genetic predispositions, as these underlie the types of diseases you're most likely to develop. It is the interaction of your genes, lifestyle, and environment that ultimately determines your risks -- and the outcome of your life.
     This is the science of nutrigenomics, or how food acts as information to stall or totally prevent some predisposed disease risks by turning on the right gene messages with our diet and lifestyle choices. That means some of the factors that unbalance bodily health are under your control, or could be.
These include diet, nutritional status, stress levels, and activity levels. Key tests can reveal problems with a person's blood sugar and insulin, inflammation level, level of folic acid, clotting factors, hormones, and other bodily systems that affect your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Particularly important are the causes if inflammation, which are many, and need to be assessed. Inflammation can arise from poor diet (too much sugar and trans and saturated fats), a sedentary lifestyle, stress, autoimmune disease, food allergies, hidden infections such as gum disease, and even toxins such as mercury. All of these causal factors need to be considered anytime there is inflammation.
Combined together, all of these factors determine your risk of heart disease. And I recommend that people undergo a comprehensive medical evaluation to see what their risk really is.

Zeroing in on Key Factors for Heart Disease
     There's no doubt about it, inflammation is key contributor to heart disease. A major study done at Harvard found that people with high levels of a marker called C-reactive protein (CRP) had higher risks of heart disease than people with high cholesterol. Normal cholesterol levels were NOT protective to those with high CRP. The risks were greatest for those with high levels of both CRP and cholesterol.
Another predisposing factor to heart disease is insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, which leads to an imbalance in the blood sugar and high levels of insulin. This may affect as many as half of Americans over age 65. Many younger people also have this condition, which is sometimes called pre-diabetes.
Although modern medicine sometimes loses sight of the interconnectedness of all our bodily systems, blood sugar imbalances like these impact your cholesterol levels too. If you have any of these conditions, they will cause your good cholesterol to go down, while your triglycerides rise, which further increases inflammation and oxidative stress. All of these fluctuations contribute to blood thickening, clotting, and other malfunctions -- leading to cardiovascular disease.
     What's more, elevated levels of a substance called homocysteine (which is related to your body's levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12) appears to correlate to cardiovascular illness. Although this is still somewhat controversial, I often see this inter-relationship in my practice. While genes may play a part, tests done as part of a comprehensive evaluation of cardiac risk can easily ascertain this factor. Where problematic levels occur, they can be easily addressed by adequate folic acid intake, along with vitamins B6 and B12."

To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spanakopita (Spinach Pies)

I believe these to be one of mankind's greatest inventions. You gotta get in on it...
Dip them in some red gravy and call it a day.

This recipe is courtesy of Barefoot Contessa-- and she does not mess around with her food.

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch chopped scallions, white and green parts
  • 2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 40 sheets (1 box) frozen phyllo dough (such as Pepperidge Farm), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Heat the olive oil in a saute pan and add the scallions. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Meanwhile, squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a bowl. Add the scallions, dill, eggs, feta, salt, and pepper and mix together.
  • Keep the phyllo dough sheets covered with a damp kitchen towel. Unfold 1 sheet of the phyllo dough. Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Repeat the process by laying a second sheet of phyllo dough over the first sheet, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs until all 10 sheets have been used. Spoon ¾ cup of the spinach mixture into a sausage shape along one edge of the phyllo dough. Roll it up. Brush the top with butter and score the roll into 1-inch rounds. Place it on an oiled baking sheet. Repeat until all the pastry and filling have been used.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Serve warm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

There's no crying in baseball. THERE SHOULD BE.

Today in class I learned something very interesting about the human eye:
It produces 3 types of tears: basal tears, reflex tears, and crying tears. Basal tears simply keep the eye moist.
Reflex tears are produced if the eye is irritated (cutting onions or a piece of debris). AND now we get to the kicker....Crying tears are produced due to emotions. Humans are the only animals that produce crying tears. Crying tears are very unique in that they contain natural painkillers and a plethora of nutrients for the cornea.

So, if you're upset....why don't you cry about it? It WILL actually make you feel better and keep your eyes healthy in the process. :-)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grace enhances nature.

For those of you out there who are expecting a baby, this is something beautifully awesome to consider:
(especially if the idea of being hooked up to lots of machines and needles during childbirth frightens you!)


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Possible Health Concerns from Using the Birth Control Pill

     The birth control pill has several ways in which we think it works. And that might be an interesting thing to think about...in that we really don't know exactly how it works. We have four specific thoughts and this you will find in any endocrinological or gynecological textbook.
     The first method is to inhibit ovulation. And I think the older birth control pills, which were higher in estrogen dose, were probably more effective in inhibiting ovulation, but we paid for that with women's lives. We saw increased strokes, increased tumors, the very very dire consequences of high estrogen content. So, in order to protect the patients we decreased the hormonal content of the pills, especially the estrogen component, and now have a very low-dose pill. The higher dose pills are actually off the market. None exist nowadays, so that gives you an idea of how risky they were. But, at the same time, with the lower dose pills, we have given up the very low incidence of ovulation and we have a higher risk of escape ovulation. And we see that oftentimes at sonogram time. If women are complaining of pain for some reason and we're doing a sonogram, I will see a large cyst on the ovary and I know that the women has taken the pill...has not skipped a day of the pill, and yet she has a mature follicle in the ovary. Whether or not that follicle will go on to rupture may be up to if the woman takes the pill at precisely the right right time. If she forgets, the next day or the following day, that follicle may rupture and then you have escape ovulation. Sometimes medications also counteract the effect of the pill and they increase the chances of ovulation. So, that is the main method we think that the pill works by inhibiting the majority of ovulations.
     The second method is by inhibiting or slowing down the action of the cilia in the Fallopian tube. And cilia are little tiny hairs that line the cells which line the entire length of the Fallopian tube and feed towards the uterus. So, those hairs are actually helping the embryo--which develops when the egg and the sperm meet--to find its way into the uterus where it will fall and implant into the endometrium.
     The third very important function of the pill has been shown to decrease the cervical mucus-- and cervical mucus is absolutely essential in the survival of the sperm and introducing the sperm up the uterus and into the tube. It will decrease the amount, if not totally eradicate the amount of cervical mucus, and actually make it very inhospitable to sperm.
     And then the fourth very important factor, which is so often overlooked in the training of physicians and medical students, and in the informed consent for patients starting on the pill, is its potential abortifacient nature. And I'll explain that by telling you this-- that the hormones of the pill will make the lining of the inner part of the uterus very very thin. And that is one of the reasons why the pill is prescribed for women who have very heavy periods, because after several months, that woman will notice that her flow decreases. This is because the normal hormones of the woman have shut down, and the woman is responding to only the foreign hormone, which is in the pill - and that is a very controlled amount of hormone. So the woman notices the decrease in flow. But what is actually happening in the uterus is that the lining of the uterus becomes very very thin. Quite often I've had women come in and tell me "I've been on the pill for many many years, and now I have no period..what's wrong?" Actually, the pill has had its desired effect. So the lining of the endometrium is very thin. If there is escape ovulation-- if pregnancy has occurred --as the human embryo comes into the uterus and implants or tries to implant, its not going to find the environment that it needs to survive. It may survive for a few days or a few weeks, have difficulty, die, and then be expelled from the body. The woman may never even realize that she was pregnant. She may have a little bit of a delayed period, a little bit heavier than normal period, and not even realize that she's aborted.
     Most physicians don't know, have never been taught, have not read the package insert, that explains that yes indeed, the hormonal contraceptives -- ALL OF THEM -- can be potentially abortifacient. And several of them are specifically abortifacient. But that fact is cleverly hidden by the pharmaceutical companies.
     There are several health problems associated with being on the pill. First of all, I'd like to say, imagine a young woman can be on a pill for 10-20-30 years. And actually the female reproductive system is the only system that is functioning quite naturally and with the hormonal contraceptive is suppressed in its natural function -- which in medicine we do not see in any other scenario. You do not stifle, you do not suppress a naturally functioning system. And you  will pay for that...sooner or later...the woman is going to pay for that. There's an increase risk of blood clots -- which can be fatal -- there is an increase risk of migraine headaches and strokes. There's an increase risk of a liver tumor, a hepatic adenoma, which many times will resolve with discontinuation of the pill -- but not all the time, and that will require major surgery for the woman. There is an increase risk of breast cancer, and I think women are not knowledgeable of that, and I believe that is one of the reasons why we have such a tremendous surge in breast cancer.
     The pill does pose a risk in achieving pregnancy. If you read the work of Dr. Eric Ottoblat from Sweden, his research shows that for every year a woman is on the birth control pill, the cervix ages 2 years. I have seen this to be a tremendous problem for young women who are unaware of that and are prescribed contraceptives by their doctors, and when they get married and want to have a baby and achieve a pregnancy, they have almost no mucus. And then we start the therapies to increase the mucus.
     It's interesting that we as gynecologists tend to treat fertility as a curse. It makes me very sad to say that because I am a gynecologist. But in that respect, I am one of them and I can point the fingers. We treat fertility as a curse. And as I mentioned earlier, we stifle a naturally beautiful functioning system with these drugs. Fertility is not a curse. Fertility is a tremendous gift. All you need to do is ask an infertile couple and they will very eloquently tell you what a blessing fertility is.
                                                           Martha Garza, M.D.
                                                           Endocrinologist/Gynecologist in San Antonio, TX

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Silent Guide

When God becomes our guide He insists that we trust Him without reservations and put aside all nervousness about His guidance. We are sent along the path He has chosen for us, but we cannot see it, and nothing we have read is any help to us. Were we acting on our own we should have to rely on our experience. It would be too risky to do anything else. But it is very different when God acts with us. Divine action is always new and fresh, it never retraces its steps, but always finds new routes. When we are led by this action, we have no idea where we are going, for the paths we tread cannot be discovered from books or by any of our thoughts. But these paths are always opened in front of us and we are impelled along them. Imagine we are in a strange district at night and are crossing fields unmarked by any path, but we have a guide. He asks us no advice nor tells us of his plans. So what can we do except trust him? It is no use trying to see where we are, look at maps or question passers-by. That would not be tolerated by a guide who wants us to rely on him. He will get satisfaction from overcoming our fears and doubts, and will insist that we have complete trust in him.
     God's activity can never be anything but good, and does not need to be reformed or controlled. It began at the creation of the world and up to now has continued with the same energy which knows no limits. Its fertility is inexhaustible. It does one thing today, another tomorrow, yet it is the same activity which every moment produces constantly fresh results, and it will continue throughout eternity. It produced Abel, Noah, and Abraham -- all different types. Isaac is also original. Jacob is not a duplicate of him, nor is Joseph a facsimile of Jacob. Moses is different from his ancestors. David and the prophets bear no resemblance to the patriarchs. John the Baptist stands alone. Jesus Christ is the first-born, and the Apostles are moved more by guidance of His spirit than by imitating His works. Jesus Christ did not restrict Himself, for He did not follow all His own precepts literally. His most holy soul was always inspired by the Holy Spirit and always responsive to its slightest breath. He never had to consult the moment that had passed to know what to do in the coming one, for His every moment was conditioned by the breath of grace according to those eternal truths contained in the invisible and unfathomable wisdom of the Holy Trinity. His sould received its orders constantly and carried them out in His daily life. The Gospel lets us see the effect of these truths in the life of Jesus Christ, and it is this same Jesus Christ, always alive and active, who continues to live and work fresh wonders in the souls of those who love Him.
     If we wish to live according to the Gospel, we must abandon ourselves simply and completely to the action of God. Jesus Christ is its source. He "is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever" (Heb 13:8). What He has done is finished, what remains to be done is being carried on every moment. Every saint shares in this divine life, and Jesus Christ, though always the same, is different in each one. The life of each saint is the life of Jesus Christ. It is a new gospel.
                                                        Jean-Pierre De Caussade, S.J.