It is always my quest to find "food as medicine" types of choices. The combination of the practicality of this approach and the health benefits makes it extra appealing.
Today we are going to discuss two foods ; cocoa and maca root, and some research studies that showed that they may be medicinal.
First we find an article entitled Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study (Am J Clin Nutr 2011;93:62–72.)
In this study, 22 healthy participants were randomly assigned to consume a high-cocoa flavanol (494 mg cocoa flavanols per day) or a low-cocoa flavanol (23 mg cocoa flavanols per day) drink, daily for four weeks. Participants were measured for number and types of bacteria (using 16s rRna analysis of stool) before and after the intervention and measured blood markers associated with chronic disease. The results were interesting those who consumed the high-flavanol cocoa had decreased numbers of bacterial strains of clostridia and also lower numbers of inflammatory markers such as triglycerides and c-reactive protein. High Cocoa drinkers had increased bifidobacterium (P < 0.01) and lactobacilli (P < 0.001) populations .
The implications of this study in real life are significant as I often treat gut dysbiosis in irritable bowel syndrome and also in the digestive disorders of crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Generally speaking the incorporation of cocoa in the diet may lead to more favorable management of these digestive problems. When choosing a cocoa powder to consume you want to make sure its higher quality and organic; this will assure a high flavanol content which appears to be the active ingredient. By the way, flavanols are also seen in apples, red-wine, and chocolate. Of course in practice I use the Gut Zoomer or GI Map to analyze the gut microbiome as a further understanding. You would be surprised how varied our gut microbiome is from person to person.
My intake of cocoa usually involves throwing it in smoothies or with healthy treats and also I will sip on a cup as part of a modified fast. I am personally a fan of Navitas cocoa
Next; I share a systematic review on Lepidium meyenii entitled. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review (BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2010;10:44). The root of maca has been used traditionally in indigenous cultures of Peru for many medicinal and spiritual reasons. I personally was introduced to it by Julie Morris in 2008 and later medicinally by one of my mentors Tori Hudson,ND.
This systematic review included only randomized clinical trials comparing maca to a placebo in men or women with sexual dysfunction. Four randomized controlled trials (RCT) met the inclusion criteria. Two of these trials suggested a positive effect of maca on sexual dysfunction or libido in menopausal women or adults. One other RCT did not show effect of maca in cyclists. The fourth study assessed the effects of maca in men with erectile dysfunction and did show significant effects. While the evidence is limited, there does appear to be some effectiveness of maca in improving sexual function. My opinion: Maca is thought to have constituents including fatty acids and amino acids that affect serotonin and dopamine so it's no surprise that libido is enhanced with maca. This can be as an adjunct therapy in those suffering from sexual dysfunction. In my opinion working with a counselor to resolve possible underlying barriers is also important. Sometimes sexual dysfunction is related to physical causes and other times its psychological reasons. And often it is both. I continue to recommend maca for depression, ADHD, fatigue, and libido issues. As a middle-aged man (and father of a toddler); I sometimes have the delusion that I am in still in my 20's. One sprint down the block will correct that delusion in a..umm. heartbeat. Alas, I am so glad to have the brain, experience, and knowledge of a middle-aged man who doesn't wish for the physical body they had in their 20's. But since aging is an inevitable part of life, I continue to find ways to maintain and improve my performance in many arenas. Hence, I like to incorporate Maca into my lifestyle in smoothies, salad dressings, and sauces. I find that it helps me with drive, focus, and energy.
Personally I like the gelatinized version of Maca by Navitas as it blends well with smoothies and in recipes. If you prefer a supplement then I would recommend Femmenessence or for men; Revolution Macalibrium . For deeper understanding of your hormones whether you are in teens or older I find that the dutch test or ZRT labs hormone testing are useful in figuring out what your brain and hormonal systems are needing for health.