Natural Medicine: Quick Tips for Better Health
I hear that ghee has a higher level of bad cholesterol, but I thought it was better for you than butter. Which is healthier, ghee or butter?
Dr. Michael Murray: Ghee is clarified butter. Compared with regular butter, ghee can withstand higher temperatures without burning and has a longer storage life.
One reason to favor ghee over butter might be the increased amount of medium- and short-chain fatty acids in ghee. Butter contains 12 to 15 percent of these fats, whereas ghee contains about 25 percent. Medium- and short-chain fats are not associated with cardiovascular problems in the same way long-chain fats are. Coconut oil is an example of an excellent source of medium-chain fats.
Research on ghee and health is limited, but fairly consistent. If ghee makes up more than 10 percent of your total calories, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease—the same ratio found for butter. In other words, if you consume around 1,800 calories per day, try to limit your consumption to around 180 calories, or approximately two tablespoons of ghee.
Is there a natural cure for grinding your teeth at night?
Children often grind their teeth to alleviate discomfort from things like allergies, ear infections, or the common cold. The grinding motion of the jaw helps to open the eustachian tube and drain fluid from the middle ear to the throat. Chronic tooth grinding in children is often caused by food allergies. Eliminate common allergens like corn, milk, wheat, citrus, peanuts, eggs, and soy from the diet for seven to 10 days. If the tooth grinding goes away, add the foods back to the diet one by one to better pinpoint which may be the culprit.
In adults, the most common trigger of tooth grinding is stress. Hence, stress-reduction techniques may help, including physical exercise, deep-breathing techniques, daily meditation, and other methods. Avoid tobacco, caffeine, and other stimulants, as they are associated with an increase in tooth grinding. Consider using a mouth guard or protective dental appliance to prevent damage to the teeth.
What is “leaky gut” syndrome?
Under normal circumstances, the lining of the small intestine permits only fully digested food molecules to pass into the bloodstream and lymph vessels. In leaky gut syndrome, undigested food particles, bacteria, viruses, and waste may “leak” from the intestines into the bloodstream and stress the immune system. Fatigue, irritability, hyperactivity (in some children), lethargy, mood swings, muscle or joint pain, poor concentration, memory difficulties, sleep disturbances, food hypersensitivities, and environmental intolerances are symptoms associated with this condition.
Nutritional deficiencies, severe emotional stress or trauma, drug use (especially antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs), alcohol abuse, gastrointestinal parasites, intestinal bacterial infections or overgrowth, the ingestion of junk foods (especially deep-fried foods or those made with hydrogenated vegetable oils), an excessive consumption of starchy or sugary foods, and food allergies may contribute to leaky gut syndrome. Healthful eating habits, including following an anti-inflammatory diet, can help the gut to heal.
My feet are dry and cracked all the time, as were my mother’s and grandmother’s. Are there changes I can make in my diet for this?
The skin on our feet, especially the heel, is prone to dryness because it has no oil glands. An abundance of sweat glands keeps our feet hydrated, but without proper levels of essential fatty acids, vitamin A, and trace minerals like zinc, the skin cannot retain the water. Low thyroid function and diabetes may also lead to dry feet, so it is important to rule those out with your physician.
Topical solutions—creams, oils, or ointments—can provide important temporary relief, but it makes more sense to address the problem from the inside out. In addition to eating a healthful diet:
- Take one tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily. It can be used as a salad dressing if desired.
- Take a multiple vitamin and mineral formula that provides a minimum of the RDI for all nutrients, including minerals.
- Add additional zinc at a dosage of 20 to 30 mg daily.
Are there any natural remedies you recommend to improve one’s hearing? At 60, I have significant hearing loss and wear hearing aids.
Prevention is always easier than reversing many health issues associated with aging, including hearing loss. Risk factors include cigarette smoking, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and diabetes. A number of nutritional factors are linked to an increased risk of hearing loss, including low levels of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, various B vitamins, and magnesium.
To improve your hearing, I recommend a Mediterranean-type diet with a focus on richly colored vegetables, fish, olive oil, and low-sugar foods. Take a high-potency multiple vitamin and mineral formula; 3,000 mg of EPA and DHA from a high-quality fish oil; 250 mg of magnesium; and 100 to 150 mg per day of either grape seed or pine bark extract.
Naturopath Michael Murray is the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Please send your questions to [email protected].