Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Joint Pain on the Brain

Joint pain and inflammation have been the talk of the town in my world lately so I thought I would share some info on dietary changes for inflammation.  Inflammation does lead to pain but may also be responsible for other conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.  Acupuncture works amazingly well for joint pain but diet also plays a big part.  Check out this handy and printable anti-inflammation food guide pyramid from Dr. Andrew Weil.

For those of you who like summaries, some highlights and lowlights include:

1.  No mention of coffee on the food pyramid – oh no!

As we have gone over before, coffee is acidic and acidity is no good for inflammation.  It is also a diuretic.  Our joints want to be lubricated and smooth, not dry and creaky.  Coffee breaks down to uric acid in the body which can result in pain.  The painful arthritic condition gout which many have heard of but few understand, is a chronic or severe build-up of uric acid.  There has also been research to show that coffee may lower uric acid levels so the debate over coffee goes on.  The best thing to do with anything that you think might be causing a symptom is to cut it out for 2 weeks and see how you feel!

2.  Wine and chocolate are on there – yippee!

Specifically dark chocolate 70% pure and specifically organic red wine.  Grapes are loaded with anti-oxidants though conventional ones are also loaded with pesticides so when it comes to grapes – go organic!  Also, organic red wine contains sulfites in much lower amounts.  Sulfites can cause pain and inflammation-think migraines and possibly our nasty little foe uric acid.  Other alcohols will also raise uric acid levels and are dehydrating.

3.  Asian mushrooms only, no button or portobello – boooooo!

I love me some portobello’s baked with gorgonzola or in chicken marsala, but it’s less than monthly that I have them so I am going to keep enjoying but next time I go food shopping it’s shiitake or bust!

4.  Organic free-range grass-fed meat, dairy, eggs and Healthy Fats –  yessirree bob, I mean mr. weil!

Organic free-range grass-fed meat, dairy, eggs are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have the proper ratio of omega-3’s to omega 6 fatty acids.  Common mass-produced corn-fed chicken, eggs, beef, and milk have more omega 6 fatty acids to omega 3’s and this is believed to be a factor in the inflammation leading to heart disease-artherosclerosis.  Non-animal sources of fats from nuts, seeds, and expeller-pressed oils are unsaturated so tend not to clog up the works and are essential to the health of the cells that make up our bodies.

5.  Fish and seafood-2-6 times a week, crike!

I’m not so keen on this one, does he have some magic non-polluted water he gets his fish from?  And who really eats herring, sardines, and black cod?  Pickiness on seafood aside, mercury toxicity is a legitimate concern so I’m more inclined to enjoy fish 1-2x/week and then supplement with fish oil.  I do try to get wild salmon as often as possible and find I do not get sick of it as there are a million-zillion ways to easily and deliciously prepare it.

6.  Whole and cracked grains, and even pasta – yes, he is with me, go grain!

“Whole grains digest slowly, reducing frequency of spikes in blood sugar that promote inflammation”  That’s all we have to say on that.  Well, that and cook your pasta al dente which is really the only way to eat it anyway.  See a former post “Go Grain” for  more info on this topic.

Final thoughts:

It can be overwhelming to try to incorporate all of these things into your diet at once so just try to change or incorporate one or two things at a time.   Even just starting by printing out the food guide and hanging it on your refrigerator for inspiration could be useful when it’s time to buy groceries or make a food choice.


July 13, 2010 Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Go Grain Recipes

Brown Rice

1 cup brown rice

2 cups water

Rinse the rice in a mesh strainer.  Put rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil for one minute.  Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes.  The cooking time and exact heat will vary with your pot, electric or gas stove, so if the water is cooking away before 45 minutes or if your rice is still crunchy after 45-60 minutes you need to cook it on a lower heat.  To save the current batch, just add small amounts of water and cook until it’s soft.  Once you figure it out, this is something you can start first with food prep and not worry about until everything else is done and you are ready to eat!


1 cup quinoa

2 cups water, vegetable or chicken stock for added flavor

Rinse the quinoa in a mesh strainer.  I am lazy with rinsing the brown rice at times but quinoa will have a more bitter taste if you skip this step.  Boil the liquid first and then add the quinoa, turn heat to low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the quinoa looks translucent.  You can dry roast it in skillet for a few minutes first to bring out a nutty flavor and again reduce bitterness.  Doing this with some onion, garlic, and herbs tastes great too.


1 cup millet

3 cups water or some mixture of water and veggie/chicken stock

Rinse millet in a mesh strainer.  Boil the liquid first and then add the millet, turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  This is another one that you can dry roast in a skillet for a nutty flavor and get creative with seasoning.  Have fun experimenting!

May 11, 2010 Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition, recipes, self-care | , , | Leave a comment

Go Grain!

No white flour, no white sugar, avoid the “white death”!  I was told that by a practitioner several years ago and while I agree with the concept, I prefer to try to get my point across while sounding slightly less crazy.  First, let’s understand why we should toss the pasta and cookies, and then maybe we’ll be more motivated to actually do it.

The problem with consuming too much white flour and white sugar is the resulting spike in blood sugar and the body having to deal with that spike by signaling your pancreas to secrete insulin to regulate your blood sugar.  Hyperglycemia is too much sugar and not enough insulin.    Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar because of too much insulin.  Insulin resistance is basically a bad combination of these two states.  If you eat lots of white flour and sugar for your whole life there is always a lot of glucose floating around and your pancreas constantly needs to pump out a lot of insulin.  The worst case scenario is that eventually the pancreas just can’t keep up with insulin production and you have so much sugar in your blood that you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is associated with circulation issues and heart disease.  None of these are good things so let’s get off that train right now.  Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet but it is much easier to make changes in your diet and lifestyle before it gets to that point.

The most obvious sign of insulin resistance is extra weight around the middle that is very difficult to lose, even if you feel like you are watching what you eat and exercising some.    A particular group that is prone to insulin resistance and all the resulting health issues are women who are diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  Symptoms you might experience that are less clear are the transient symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Having too much sugar and too much insulin floating around is a combination of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.  Big words aside, what we actually experience is very familiar to most people.  It’s getting suddenly very hungry, and irritable, shaky, needing food “right now!”, and a strong craving for sugar.  If you are really imbalanced you may feel fatigued and like you crave sugar all of the time.  So you grab the first thing you see, a donut, a cookie, or maybe you make what you think is a healthier choice.  A bowl of cereal, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, a fat free yogurt, a cereal bar, and you feel much better…for about 1-2 hours and it starts again.

This is where whole grains come in, real complex carbohydrate whole grains.  Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest so they don’t spike your blood sugar, and they also tend to be fibrous so they help you on the other end by also cleaning out your intestines.  Good going in, good going out, Go Grain!

Now Go Grain is not the same as the whole grain marketing craze that seems to be occurring, reminiscent of the fat free mania of the 90’s.  And incidentally, what did we get from fat free mania?  That’s right, more products loaded with sugar.  Now regarding whole grain, lots of things say whole grain but what are we really getting from those products? Should we be eating more Fruit Loops because it says whole grain on the box?  Yeah, that’s it, definitely eat more of a high sugar cereal to regulate blood sugar.  Say that out loud and see if it makes sense.

Less obvious are the foods mentioned before.  Non-sugar cereals like Cheerios, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, a fat free yogurt, “whole grain cereal bar”.  These are better choices than Fruit Loops, donuts, cookies, and straight up white bread but they don’t act all that differently in the body.   All of the above have a high content of simple carbohydrates.

OK, so what can we eat?  Changing your diet is hard.  You can’t just get a list of can’ts  and suddenly know what to do.   So what do I try to advise people when they come into my office with a sad face and a sigh of desperation about their can’ts.  I try to give them a list of things they can.   I usually start with encouraging them to start cooking 3 very versatile grains-brown rice, quinoa, and millet.

Brown rice cannot be instant, in it’s whole form, brown rice is nutritionally complete, full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and even lipids, the building blocks for fats.  Quinoa technically isn’t even a grain so especially good to have if you suspect or know of a gluten allergy.  Millet cooks  up nice and soft and is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sweetened up with agave and cinnamon for a healthier dessert.

If you focus on adding healthy things to your diet, rather than just taking things away, you tend to, over time, be more able to make healthy choices.   There is no room for Fruit Loops when you fill up on slowly digesting grains, and then you don’t need to make the tough decision between a donut and fat-free cheesecake flavored yogurt at 10a.  And if you are hungry at 10a, not having the low blood sugar crazies will help you make a good choice, like an apple, or how about a small portion of creamy full fat plain yogurt with fruit?  Full fat, sounds crazy huh?  Another discussion for another day.

October 13, 2009 Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , , , , | Leave a comment