The July 3, 2009, issue of TIME magazine featured an article about a pregnant woman - the wife of the article's author, Joel Stein - who opted to eat her own placenta following the birth of their child. As Stein relates, "for $275, a woman would come to our house, cook Cassandra's placenta, freeze-dry it and turn it into capsules to help ward off postpartum depression and increase milk supply."
Some people, the placenta chef told Stein, prepare and drink the placenta raw, "as a smoothie."
Though it all sounds thoroughly unappetizing, placentophagy, the technical term for mammals eating the placenta of their young after childbirth, is common in many species, including primates. The reasons may involve substances in the placenta that relieve postpartum pain or that stimulate the mother's bonding response to the baby.
It seems that this is something of a trend, especially among women who embrace a rather extreme view of "natural health" - you can find dozens of "placenta encapsulation specialists" online.
But should you do this at all? I think there is probably little risk in eating cooked, freeze-dried capsules of one's own placenta, but I frankly doubt there are many benefits, either. The modest quantities of beneficial substances that would survive cooking, freeze-drying and dividing the dosage (Stein's wife was told her placenta would yield 120 pills) would, in my view, have virtually no effect.
Instead, to alleviate the very real problem of post-partum depression, I strongly recommend eating cold-water, fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, herring and sardines and/or supplementing with a quality fish oil. These will provide omega-3 fatty acids, which are depleted in many women during pregnancy as this vital nutrient is taken up preferentially by the fetus, especially by the fetal brain tissue. Two recent trials showed a 50 percent reduction in post-partum depression in women with relatively high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids.
And 120 capsules of fish oil cost considerably less than $275.
Do You Know What Fish Oil to Take?
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Health Benefits of White Tea
In their search for plant extracts that protect the skin's natural proteins - collagen and elastin - British researchers found that white tea trumped 20 other plant and herb extracts tested. The investigators from Kingston University also found that in addition to its potential benefits to skin, white tea has high levels of anti-oxidants that can protect against heart disease and cancer. Elastin is a structural protein in skin that also underlies the function of the lungs, arteries and ligaments. Beyond that, it helps body tissues to repair after injury and prevents skin from sagging. Collagen promotes skin strength as well as elasticity. The new research showed that white tea blocks the action of enzymes that break down elastin and collagen leading to skin wrinkling. The same enzymes and oxidants are associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Other plants and herbs found to have some protective effects include bladderwrack and extracts of cleavers, rose, green tea, angelica, anise and pomegranate. The findings were published in the August 4, 2009 issue of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan has a Meal Planner tool that can help you get your diet organized and on the path to optimum health. You'll quickly discover you can eat right without neglecting your taste buds! Visit today and get a free recipe.
Timing of Colonoscopy Matters
You may be more likely to get an accurate result if you schedule this colon cancer screening test in the morning. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic looked at more than 3,600 colonoscopies performed there and found that the rate of polyp detection was highest - 29 percent - when tests were done in the morning and that detection rates declined to 25 percent as the day wore on. Polyps are benign growths with the potential to become malignant; when found during a colonoscopy they are removed. The study didn't identify a reason for the time-of-day difference, but investigators speculated that physicians might be less vigilant and less attentive later in the day. However, they also saw that patients screened in the morning were more likely to be men, to be older and to have a history of polyps, all factors that the researchers said could skew the data. More study is needed to determine if physician fatigue plays a role in the differences in detection. If so, fewer colonoscopies scheduled in the afternoon might improve matters. The study was published in the July 2009 issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
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True Food Kitchen Recipe
Chocolate Flourless Cake
A True Food Kitchen restaurant exclusive! Made with high-quality, unadulterated dark chocolate, and luscious almond butter, this cake is rich, yet more healthful than its flour-filled counterparts. Topped with a fresh berry compote, this flourless cake is a non-guilty pleasure.
Healthy Aging Tip
Courtesy of Dr.Weil on Healthy Aging
Anti-Inflammatory Food of the Week: Celery. A biennial plant, celery is in the same family as carrots, dill and fennel. It is an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and its active compounds, pthalides, may help lower blood pressure. Celery has long been associated with dieting due to its natural diuretic effects (and its low calorie count). This crunchy green is also rich in potassium and sodium - important in regulating fluid balance and stimulating urine production. Always seek out organically grown celery, as pesticides are commonly used on conventionally grown varieties.
"What's a natural way to fight ants?" asks Gingerb.
Can anyone help me find a way to get rid of ants in my yard without chemicals?…We have anthills all over our yard…These are mostly the large carpenter ants, but we also have smaller ones. I have tried Terro … but only with limited success…I heard that lime kills other bugs but haven't heard if it works on ants.
What Vitamins Should I Take?
When it comes to supplements and vitamins, knowing the right amount to take is important. Help prevent taking too much or too little withDr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. Created by Andrew Weil, M.D., and his science advisory team, it asks about your diet, lifestyle habits, health concerns, medications and other factors that affect your nutrition needs. Visit today for your free recommendation and opportunity to purchase Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Complete Program.
Dr. Weil's NEW Book on Shelves, September, 8th!
Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future
Dr. Weil's new book will illuminate how healthcare in America has become overpriced, ineffective and ultimately disastrous - and what can be done to fix it. Here is a list of promotional events surrounding the launch of this landmark book. Check back often!
Why Our Health Matters, An Evening with Dr. Weil
Wednesday, September 9th, New York City
The 92 Street Y is proud to present Andrew Weil, M.D. as part of their series of Outspoken Thinkers. Dr. Weil will be discussing his latest book (Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future, due on shelves Sept 8th). Please join us for this very special evening. Tickets available from the 92nd Street Y
20th Annual Bioneers Conference
October 16-18, 2009, San Rafael, California
Dr. Weil will be speaking about environmental health and environmental medicine. The conference is a leading-edge forum where you can see tomorrow today: a future environment of hope. Social and scientific innovators focus on breakthrough solutions inspired by nature and human ingenuity. You can connect with hundreds or thousands of engaged folks making a real difference. Registration information.
Healthy Aging Workshop
October 25-28, 2009, Tucson, Arizona
Join us for this special educational offering featuring Dr. Weil and the faculty and directors of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at Miraval Resort and Spa, in Tucson, Arizona. This unique four-day healthy aging workshop was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil and will feature the latest information from leading experts in the field of integrative medicine. For rates, reservations and availability for this event, visit the Miraval website, or call 1-800-232-3969.