You do not need to clean wax out of your ears unless you have an abnormal condition. Ears push excess wax out as needed.
Natural Medicine Approaches for Alleviating Earache
The splitting pain of an earache: while mostly common in children, adults can also be affected. We all know the itchy, scratchy, stuffy, feverish, achy feelings that come with a sore throat and a head cold, but ear pain is probably the worst. It starts with an overworked immune system, affecting one of our most vulnerable systems – the respiratory tract – which includes the mouth, throat, nose and ears.
Earaches can occur in the outer, inner or middle ear. When the pain is not due to a physical injury to the ear or environmental conditions (air temperature, air pressure) it’s usually associated with infection, as follows:
Outer ear infection occurs in the delicate skin that lines the outer ear canal, where infection can be caused by swimming, use of dirty headphones, or sticking objects (fingers or swabs) into this region of the ear.
Middle ear infection often stems from a respiratory tract infection that has caused fluid build-up behind the ear drums where bacteria can breed.
Inner ear infection, aka Labyrinthitis, is a disorder associated with bacteria or virus or stemming from an ongoing respiratory illness.
For decades, antibiotics were the most commonly prescribed medicine for ear infection, especially in children. Today, evidence-based medicine no longer relies on antibiotics as the first line of treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has not recommended antibiotics for earache as a general practice since 2004.
Holistic doctors have long viewed ear infection as being caused by a weakened immune system that allows for germs to proliferate and infection to develop. A strong and vital immune system can mount a defense against these germs. Here’s what you can do for yourself and your children:
Maintain healthy immunity by minimizing refined sugar and processed foods and eating organic whole foods including lots of vegetables, fruits, and legumes. For extra immune support, a holistic doctor may supplement the diet with a high-quality multivitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc. Dosing for children should be discussed with your holistic doctor.
Power-up the gut by eating a variety of fermented foods that are low in sugar and high in gut-friendly bacteria. Your body mounts a line of defense against germs from inside the gut. The greater the ratio of “friendly” to “unfriendly” gut bacteria, the better your immunity. Because many adults and children with a history of ear infections also have a history of antibiotic use, your holistic doctor may suggest adding a daily probiotic supplement.
Protect the ears from cold drafty air, which can aggravate already sensitive membranes and increase pain. When resting, keep the head and neck comfortably elevated.
When treating an earache, there are a number of natural medicine approaches for easing painful symptoms. Three highly effective ones include: an Ear Drop Formulation using herbs with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and decongestant properties; a Contrast Foot Bath, which draws fluid build-up away from the affected ear; and a Eustachian Tube Massagewhich facilitates the release of fluids and reduction of inflammation from the ear canal. You’ll see specific information on all three of these throughout this newsletter.
Always remember, for guidance about using these, and other approaches, consult with a holistic healthcare professional.
“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” – Franklin P. Jones
Garlic Helps the Body Fight Infection
For thousands of years, Garlic (Allium sativum) has been a first-line remedy used by herbalists and traditional medicine practitioners across the globe. Fondly known as “the stinking rose,” garlic has been used in the treatment of a variety of health problems, from wound care to fighting infections. Because garlic fights infection, it can be used to guard against those painful and pesky earaches in both children and adults.
Garlic contains over 200 phytochemicals that possess antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. While garlic contains several vitamins and minerals, it’s the sulfur-containing compounds that give remarkable support to the immune system. These compounds, known as allicin, alliin, ajoene, help reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. Along with enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in garlic, these compounds make the herb a powerful medicinal for health conditions – such as earaches – when inflammation is an underlying factor.
For children, the most effective way to take advantage of garlic’s properties is by using it in an ear-drop formula. For other methods, be sure to first check with your holistic professional. For adults seeking to ward off infection, be aware that the potency of garlic supplements (powder, capsule, extract or oil) can vary widely because allicin (the active ingredient) is very sensitive to methods of preparation. For example, aging garlic to reduce its odor also reduces the allicin present and compromises the effectiveness of the product.
Though generally safe for most people, taking a garlic supplement can cause heartburn, upset stomach, an allergic reaction, and breath and body odor (common with raw garlic). Garlic should not be taken by persons who are preparing for surgery or who have bleeding disorders because it can impair the body’s ability to form blood clots.
A holistic health physician can help you determine which formula works for your health and wellness needs and how you can best help your child reap its benefits.
Garlic is a powerful herbal remedy owing to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Olive oil is soothing and safe to use as a base for healing salves and lotions because it contains potent polyphenols which reduce inflammation. Together, garlic and olive oil can help ease the pain of ear infection and reduce healing time.
Note: If ear pain persists for more than three days or is accompanied by a fever, or if you suspect a perforated eardrum, check with your holistic practitioner before using the ear oil.
2 oz organic olive oil
5 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp mullein flowers
1 tsp St. John’s Wort flowers
5 drops of lavender essential oil
Glass jar – boiled clean and dry
Note: it is important to use the flowers of mullein and St. John’s Wort as this part of the plant is what is associated with having a medicinal action on the ear.
Combine everything except lavender oil in a small steel, glass or ceramic pot with a lid. Heat to approximately 120 degrees F and simmer at this temp for 1 hour; stir every 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, allow to cool for 30 minutes; using cheesecloth, strain oil into a boiled clean glass bottle. Add lavender oil. Allow to cool to body temp before using. Store at room temp.
To warm before use: place bottle in a small bowl of hot water until it reaches body temp.
Commonly known as NAC, N-acetylcysteine is an amino acid that supports critical functions and helps fight infection. Our body manufactures NAC using the cysteine from the foods we ingest. Sources include most meats and certain plants, including broccoli, red pepper and onion. Bananas, garlic, soy beans, linseed (aka, flax seed) and wheat germ also contain cysteine.
NAC does many good things in the body (boosts the antioxidant glutathione, liver and kidney protection, muscle performance, supports respiratory function), as well as fights persistent ear infections. Researchers have found NAC to be beneficial both as an added treatment to conventional antibiotics (outcomes were improved) and as a stand alone treatment. This is most likely because NAC has both mucolytic (breaks down mucus) and antimicrobial properties.
As a supplement, NAC comes in a variety of forms, including capsules, loose powder and liquid so it makes it easy to add it to something like apple sauce, pear sauce or a smoothie for picky little eaters. Whether you increase foods high in cysteine or you take NAC as a supplement, it is important that you first consult your holistic healthcare professional.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is an herb native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and has a long history of medical use among various cultures. Early American settlers brought it from Europe because it was known for its ability to help treat ailments such as coughs and diarrhea. Over time, the antiviral and antibacterial properties of mullein have received greater attention in herbal medicine and in preliminary research for its ability to treat infections in the respiratory tract including the mouth, throat, nose and ear.
Compounds found in Mullein leaves and flowers are classified in traditional herbal medicine as expectorants (promotes the discharge of mucus) and demulcents (soothes irritation or inflammation of mucous membranes). An infused oil of Mullein flowers is a gentle and highly regarded remedy for treating ear infection in adults and children. The mullein is prepared with St. John’s Wort and garlic in an olive oil base to help ease pain during acute ear infection (see the recipe in this newsletter).
Two important cautions: never use tea tree oil in your recipe as it’s too potent for inside the ear; if a rupture is suspected or you are not sure of the cause of the ear pain, do not use an oil preparation – it can obscure a physician’s view of the eardrum.
Consult with a holistic healthcare professional to make the appropriate preparation of mullein for treating ear infection.
Give these therapies a try the next time you or your child suffers with an earache: Contrast Hydrotherapy Foot Bath and Eustachian Tube Massage. Both are exceptional holistic therapies for soothing earache pain and facilitating the release of pressure that comes with ear or respiratory infection.
Contrast Hydrotherapy Foot Bath:
It’s hard to imagine that a foot bath can help relieve ear pain. But it can! Because of the way water acts to affect circulation, a hydrotherapy foot bath can help draw fluid build-up away from the ear. It’s an excellent way to strengthen your immune system, alleviate congestion, soothe sore muscles, and improve circulation. It involves immersion of the feet in cold and warm water for specified times. You’re probably familiar with using it for muscle injuries such as a sprain.
Contrast Foot Bath:
Fill one basin with ice water, and another with very warm water.
Have plenty of towels on hand as water will splash.
Submerge feet in basin of warm water for 3 minutes.
Immediately switch to cold water for 30 seconds.
Repeat the process 3-5 times.
Always end with the cold water.
Gently dry legs and feet and put on warm socks.
Rest for 20 minutes.
If there is inflammation or open wounds on the legs or feet, varicose veins, thrombosis or phlebitis, do not perform a contrast hydrotherapy foot bath unless supervised by a medical professional.
Eustachian Tube Massage:
Helps alleviate discomfort and pain that accompanies congestion and inflammation associated with earache and respiratory illness. It works by gently stretching the soft tissue that lines the tube and is suitable for an adult or a child. If you are not familiar, the job of the Eustachian Tube is to:
balance pressure in the middle ear, keeping it equal with air pressure outside the body;
protect the inner ear from nasal secretions;
drain middle ear secretions into the area between the nasal cavity and upper throat.
ETM – DIY at home for yourself or your child:
Keep in mind that the ear may be very sensitive to touch if there is an infection, so go gently to start. Some kids may not want to be touched anywhere near or around the ear, which is understandable.
40% of daily calories of US children and adolescents aged 2-18 come from added sugar and solid fats. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
Listening When Your Body Talks
There is an extraordinary two-way communication going on between your body and mind that affects both physical and emotional health. The language the body speaks is in the form of symptoms. For instance, anticipating an important interview at work can make you anxious: your mind starts racing, your heart beats faster or maybe you get a tension headache. Sure, that headache might just be a headache, related to stress. But what if it’s something more?
Having no clear understanding of your symptoms can lead to a depressed mood, making the physical illness even worse. It’s important to understand your “body talk.”
Prolonged, persistent symptoms – physical or emotional – that appear suddenly and affect wellbeing are the body’s way of saying something is wrong. Suppressing symptoms hinders the body’s ability to communicate what it needs – and more importantly – hides the underlying cause. Many holistic physicians, such as Naturopathic Doctors, are uniquely trained to translate the meaning of symptoms and identify what needs to change in order for health and wellbeing to be restored.
Here are strategies to help make correlations between the language your body is using and what it means for your health.
Keep a Body-Mind Journal. Record your physical and emotional (feelings and thoughts) experiences upon waking and throughout the day. Do you feel energetic upon waking? What are you thinking and feeling in the moments when you experience physical pain? Another example is a diet diary in which you can assess possible relationships between symptoms, such as headache or stomach issues, and emotions and thoughts associated with what, when and why you eat.
Illness & Lifestyle Inventory. If you’re experiencing chronic symptoms, you may need to dig deeper to discover the initial event and triggers that have accumulated over time, resulting in the health problems you’re having today. This inventory can include experiences that put you at risk for exposure to toxins (at work, school, an accident); tragic life events; and significant illnesses from childhood, as well as your adult years. Try to pinpoint when symptoms first started, how long they existed before you sought treatment, and what steps have been taken to address symptoms.
Don’t Go to Dr. Google. Information on the Web can scare you and easily lead to an incorrect self-diagnosis. Seek the care of a holistic practitioner who can guide you in understanding your body’s talk.
Here are some tools that holistic physicians may use to understand and translate symptoms:
Food Allergy/ Sensitivity Testing: reveals links between health conditions and the food you are eating. By removing foods from the diet that create symptoms, you allow the body to repair and heal, alleviate symptoms, and restore health.
Gut Function Tests: helps determine problems with nutrient absorption.
Nutrient Status Testing: identifies deficiencies that bring about symptoms.
Physical Evaluation: assesses how your body moves, sleep patterns, and mental focusing, which can reveal factors that contribute to the presence and intensity of symptoms.
Ultimately, your body’s talk is unlike anyone else’s. With careful listening and attentive guidance from a holistic practitioner, you can discover the meaning of your symptoms and create a dialogue with the body and mind that leads to more vibrant health.
“The best gifts anyone can give to themselves are good health habits.” – Ellen J. Barrier
The Nutrition Power of Chicken
For those who haven’t gone vegan or vegetarian, organic, free-range antibiotic-free chicken is a nutritious and versatile choice. Check out these health benefits of incorporating chicken in your diet – a few may surprise you!
Protein Packed. Chicken is a great source of lean, low-fat protein that contributes to muscle growth and development.
Heart Healthy. Eating chicken breast (white meat), compared to beef, reduces your intake of unhealthy saturated fats, which are linked with heart disease.
Phosphorus a-Plenty. Chicken is rich in phosphorus, an essential mineral that supports the health of teeth and bones, as well as the kidney, liver, and central nervous system.
Abundant in the B’s. Chicken contains several B-vitamins, in particular Vitamin B6 which is important to the health of blood vessels, energy production, and metabolism. A typical serving of chicken also contains a good amount of niacin, which helps guard against cancer. Riboflavin (or Vitamin B2), found in chicken livers, is important for healthy skin.
Three Categories of Chicken:
Conventional chicken is kept caged and does not move about freely; these conditions are often unhygienic. Conventional chicken is injected with hormones to quicken growth and make supposedly resistant to certain diseases.
Free-range chicken is allowed to roam freely in the pastures.
Organic chicken is the most expensive because it is bred freely and is allowed to eat only organically prepared grain (as per the USDA standards). It is kept in clean, hygienic conditions and is not injected with any medications to disturb its natural growth and hormone cycle. The flavor and nutrient density of organic chicken is also more robust.
Whenever possible, choose organic. It makes a difference. Shop smart and keep chicken on your menu; there’s a lot of good nutrition in that bird.
Easy, simmered slow-cooker chicken is perfect for a back-porch meal. To insure optimal flavor and a tender entree, opt for bone-in thighs instead of white meat which can dry out when cooked for long periods. Make prep easier with pre-peeled organic garlic, and pretty-up the platter with lemon slices and sprigs of thyme or rosemary.
Coat bottom and sides of a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray.
Combine stock, wine, flour, butter, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk; pour mixture into slow cooker. Sprinkle chicken thighs evenly with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place thighs in slow cooker, skin side down. Arrange potatoes, garlic, and thyme over chicken in slow cooker. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper evenly over garlic and potatoes. Cover slow cooker; cook on LOW for 8 hours.
Transfer chicken to a platter. Transfer potatoes and garlic to platter with a slotted spoon; discard thyme sprigs. Sprinkle chicken and potatoes evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and parsley. Strain cooking liquid from slow cooker through a sieve into a liquid measuring cup; let stand 3 minutes. Discard any fat that rises to top of liquid. Serve jus with chicken, potatoes, and garlic cloves.
Among the millions of U.S. adults who use nutritional supplements, multivitamin and mineral formulas are the most popular. It’s a smart choice for everyone, even active, healthy people who eat a variety of fresh, organic foods. That’s because every biochemical process in the body relies upon vitamins and/or minerals to facilitate processes that help maintain physical health and achieve optimal performance.
When there is even a mild deficiency, or a problem with absorption of nutrients, those processes cannot take place and can cause us to become ill or lead to chronic disease. A multivitamin formula helps support the body as it confronts things such as:
Depleted mineral content in the food supply due to soil erosion and chemicals used in conventional farming and food production.
Hectic lifestyles that create too much opportunity for consuming overly processed, preservative-laden convenience foods that are low in nutrients.
Failure to consume at least five servings of fruits and veggies a day.
Inability to manage stress, which increases the body’s need for nutrients.
Exposure to environmental toxins at home, work/school, and in transit, not to mention those lurking in the water supply and runoff into the soil.
Overuse of antibiotics, affecting immunity and leading to dysfunction in the gut.
Chronic illness, serious acute illness, or surgery, and use of medications that can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Your Multivitamin Insurance Plan
While multivitamins provide “dietary insurance” for our modern lives, we need to be educated on the various types and what works best for our individual needs. There are a wide variety of formulas and methods of delivery (e.g., tablet, capsule, time-release, liquid). Some formulas contain herbs, which can interact with other medications. The purity and quality of a supplement is critical to its effectiveness.
Everyone has different nutritional needs based on age, activity level, and health status. The type of multivitamin that is best for you will be different from anyone else’s, even a family member of the same age. The best way to determine what type of multivitamin or mineral supplement you need is to consult with a holistic physician.
Fondly known to herbalists as “the stinking rose”, Garlic (Allium sativum) has been used for centuries for a variety of health concerns ranging from treatment of skin conditions to fighting infection. Today, research shows that garlic contains more than 200 phytochemicals that have protective health benefits, such as regulating blood pressure, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, enhancing immunity and working against bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
Garlic contains several vitamins and minerals that support health, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and selenium. It’s also rich in sulfur-containing compounds – allicin, alliin, ajoene – that help reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. These unique compounds (along with enzymes, minerals and amino acids) make garlic a powerful medicinal that helps reduce the risk for chronic diseases where inflammation is an underlying factor, such as heart disease and cancer.
Though generally safe for most adults, taking a garlic supplement can cause heartburn, upset stomach, an allergic reaction, and breath and body odor (common with raw garlic). Because it can impair the body’s ability to form blood clots, garlic should not be taken if you’re preparing for surgery or have bleeding disorders.
Be aware that garlic supplements (powder, capsule, extract or oil) can vary significantly because allicin (the active ingredient) is sensitive to how the supplement is prepared. For example, aging garlic to reduce its odor also reduces the allicin present and compromises the effectiveness of the product. Check with your holistic physician about the benefits garlic may have for you and which formula will work best for your needs.
Confused about Your Symptoms? Keep a Symptom Journal
Whether you have a known medical condition or are experiencing vague clusters of symptoms that don’t fit nicely under a given medical definition, a symptom journal can help you make sense of what you are experiencing. It provides an organized way to gather and track information related to your health.
A physician might ask you to keep a symptom journal for a specific concern or illness, such as migraine, asthma, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, arthritis, PMS, heartburn, sleep disorders, weight management, and during recovery from surgery, just to name a few.
The key information to include in your journal includes:
Date and time
Type of symptom (pain, numbness, nausea, headache)
Duration of symptom
Triggers (what brought it on, made it worse)
Relief factors (what alleviates the symptom, e.g., medication, meditation, exercise)
Lifestyle Notes (what else is going on in your life at the time, what did you eat/drink)
Be descriptive, but also concise on the key points in your entries. Your doctor might ask you to use a rating system for certain symptoms (e.g., 0-5 or 1-10). Be sure to do that honestly as your entries may make a difference in treatment approaches. Leave room at the bottom of each page for notes on things such as your emotional state, stressors or other factors that might contribute to how you’re feeling that day.
For a symptom journal to be most helpful to you and your physician, you need to use it consistently. If you think a symptom journal will benefit how you care for yourself and treat a medical condition, speak to your physician about setting one up.
It doesn’t take much for us to get excited, and our new connection in Roanoke is no different. Of the Earth Wellness will be joining The Haven on 5th this July. Dave was invited to shout it from the proverbial mountaintops on 102.5 The Mountain.
The Haven on 5th is truly a haven of collaborative holistic health practitioners. Also home to Queenpin Family Wellness individual and community acupuncture, Terravie Wellness massage and nutrition, and the delectable organic, whole foods served fresh daily in the Garden Song Cafe. Now with Dr. Dave offering naturopathic medicine and Laura offering Western Herbalism, we feel this is a natural fit. We are excited to meet our new neighborhood and community!
Move well and move often: it’s smart advice for maintaining a strong, healthy body from head-to-toe, inside and out. With mounting evidence of the ill-effects associated with sitting too much, moving well has become essential for living well.
The way your body moves (functions) is in direct relation to its form (structure) and vice versa. To get a better understanding of this relationship, let’s talk cars…
Imagine you drive a beat-up VW Bug. Your little Bug isn’t designed to accelerate quickly. It doesn’t handle turns with finesse. The way your VW Bug moves is dictated by its structure. Now, let’s put you in a Porsche. You can cruise in and out of traffic with the smoothness of silk. This car handles turns better than a rollercoaster. It accelerates like a rocket and can practically stop on a dime. But if you don’t perform routine maintenance, all that beautiful form is for naught and your Porsche no longer functions well. Form determines function and how well you care for function affects form. Now, back to your body…
Our body’s innate intelligence creates movement patterns that are in dynamic play between form and function, influenced by the type of care we give our body. This complex interaction includes the skeleton, connective tissues like ligaments and tendons, muscles, joints, our breathing, heart function and posture.
Sitting is Killing Us
We sit about 14 hours a day: at meals, in traffic, at school or work, in front of devices and TVs. Prolonged sitting can increase our risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It’s a primary culprit in these health problems:
Chronic back, hip and neck pain: related to weakened core muscles and shortened ligaments connecting the hips and thighs.
Shallow breathing (reduced respiratory capacity): related to compression of the respiratory muscles while sitting and tightness in the accessory muscles around the rib cage, shoulders and neck.
Gastrointestinal issues and indigestion: related to reduced circulation to the gut.
Low energy level, depressed mood: related to lack of engagement of systems that produce hormones and other substances that elevate mood.
But, I go to the gym…
Even if you exercise at a gym, or fitness walk for an hour each day, you’re still sitting too much for that one hour to make a real difference. Leisurely, periodic movement is critical to lowering your risk for chronic health problems and even early death. Some ideas:
Every 30 minutes, stand/walk for about 10 minutes.
Stand while talking on the phone, using a device, or watching television.
Desk worker: Try a standing desk or improvise with a high table or counter; invest in a specialized treadmill desk.
Walk with colleagues for meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.
Once an hour, stand and breathe deeply for five minutes.
Strengthen and stretch with standing yoga poses.
Try apps designed to remind you to move and stretch during work hours.
Enjoy the benefits of getting up and moving, which include . . .
Burning additional calories, which can lead to weight loss and increased energy.
Better digestion, the result of light movement after meals.
Support for the respiratory system’s role in helping the body remove waste and toxins; movement gives the muscles “room to breathe” placing less stress on joints, muscle and ligaments.
If you have chronic pain or other problems associated with too much sitting, make an appointment with a holistic health provider, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist, who can perform a thorough postural and biomechanical assessment.
“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Your Body, On Water
Athletic or not, we all need water. And plenty of it. Hydration affects how our body works in daily activities, how prone it is to injury, and how well it recovers from injury.
Water facilitates hundreds of critical functions in the body, many of which are essential for maintaining good muscle tone, joint mobility, and even managing pain. Specific to the musculoskeletal system, water helps:
transport nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream (which muscles need to properly contract and recover).
flush out waste and toxins (which plays a role in reducing muscle soreness).
lubricate and reduce friction in the joints.
facilitate muscle contraction.
Dehydrated muscles and joints are prone to:
Cramps: resulting from imbalances in the electrolytes needed for muscle contraction.
Cartilage wear and tear: joints aren’t receiving nutrients needed for maintenance and repair after injury.
Friction in the joints: dehydration can deprive your cartilage of the water it needs to maintain cushion, which can lead to achy or “creaking” joints and osteoarthritis (OA).
Pain: dehydrated muscle tissue can’t flush out waste products or toxins that build up from exertion, injury or other stress.
Are You Dehydrated?
Dehydration means your body lacks the water required to function. You can become dehydrated if you don’t replace fluids lost through exercise, from exposure to the elements, or from vomiting/diarrhea. Excessive caffeine consumption leads to dehydration.
Your daily water requirement depends on age, gender, activity level, body composition, health status, and climate. The color of your urine isn’t an accurate guide since certain foods, supplements, and medications change urine color. To ensure sufficient water intake, drink one-half (1/2) of your body weight in ounces. Example: If you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 ounces of water each day.
Dehydration can quickly become a life-threatening emergency. Signs include:
Mild Dehydration: dry mouth, irritability, headaches and muscle cramps.
Moderate Dehydration: dizziness, clumsy, exhausted, racing heartbeat. You may be unable to urinate, stand, or focus your eyes.
Severe Dehydration: the function of vital organs is impaired. Without water, you will enter a coma and die.
Put Down those Sugary Sports Drinks. Here are Sweeter Ways to Get Hydrated
Go Coconut. Coconut water is rich in natural electrolytes. While not scientifically proven, theoretically it can boost hydration and you may enjoy the flavor more than plain water.
Infuse It! Add fresh or frozen slices of orange, lemon, or lime to your water. Try frozen berries or melon; also try cucumber, mint, ginger or parsley.
Get Fizzy. Bubbly (carbonated) spring water hits the spot on a hot day. Choose varieties without added sweetener.
Have an Herbal. Iced or hot, caffeine-free and herbal teas count toward your water intake and support healthy hydration.
Fruit & Veg Up! Many fruits and veggies have a high water and nutrient content: cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, peaches, cucumber, lettuce and celery.
For more ideas on hydrating to support a healthy body, talk with your holistic health practitioner.
Flexibili-Tea is an aromatic infusion of herbs known to support the health of muscles, bones and connective tissues. In the recipe below we use three herbs.
First, Nettle Leaf, which has a mellow, green tea type flavor that is both nourishing and invigorating. It’s rich in calcium, iron, protein and antioxidants. Second, Horsetail adds robust body to the infusion, similar to what you might find with a strong green or black tea. Rich in soluble silica, and readily absorbed by the body, Horsetail supports the regeneration of bones, cartilage and other connective tissue while improving circulation to the extremities. Finally, we use Marshmallow, which has an earthy flavor. This herb contains an abundance of mucilage, which soothes inflamed tissues and accelerates the healing of our tissues.
If you can’t locate these herbs loose at a quality health food shop, buy individual tea bags and boil them together. To sweeten the tea, use stevia or try dried organic coconut crystals.
20g Horsetail, Equisetum arvense
20g Nettle leaf, Urtica dioica
20g Marshmallow leaf, Althea officinalis
Cover in 1 pint/600ml boiling water. Strain after 15 minutes. Drink throughout day.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate & MSM for Joint Pain
Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are structural components of cartilage, the tough tissue that cushions joints. Both are produced naturally in the body and are available as dietary supplements. Since production and structure of cartilage decline with age, it is thought that boosting the availability of glucosamine and chondroitin may play a role in managing the symptoms of osteoarthritis, which destroys cartilage in the joints, causing inflammation and pain.
Another supplement often recommended for joint and bone health, and which also fights inflammation, is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane). MSM is a highly bioavailable form of sulfur that is easy for the body to absorb. For people who have difficulty tolerating glucosamine, MSM is an excellent option. It should be used in combination with glucosamine, or where medically necessary, with chondroitin as well.
These supplements are most often used in combination. Short-term studies have shown good results for people with moderate arthritis, but more long-term studies are needed. A number of other studies looking at pain reduction are being conducted both in the US and abroad. Results currently indicate that it may help some people and not others.
Be aware that glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin are derived from shellfish and should not be taken if you are allergic to shellfish. Vegan forms of the supplements are also available. If you take a medicine called warfarin, you should not use glucosamine and chondroitin. Additionally, there are many forms of glucosamine – only glucosamine sulfate has been studied for arthritis treatment. Speak with your holistic health care provider about whether these supplements are an appropriate option for you.
A cousin of the fern, Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is a flowerless plant that contains 5-8% silica and silicon acids. The body uses silica in the production and repair of connective tissue and helps accelerate the healing of broken bones. Silica is also necessary to maintain and repair the nails, hair, skin, eyes and cell walls. It’s a common ingredient in hair and skin care products and nutritional supplements. Silica is more abundant in our tissues when we are younger, but declines with age.
Horsetail is available as a dried herb, often prepared in capsule or infusion form, as well as a liquid extract and tincture. It requires storage in sealed containers away from sunlight and heat. Horsetail contains traces of nicotine and is not recommended for young children. In addition to the Equistetum arvense type of Horsetail, there is another species called Equisetum palustre that is poisonous to horses. To be safe, you should never take that form of horsetail.
There there are many other medicinal uses for horsetail — each with unique dosing based on the condition being treated and other individual variables. To ensure the potency and quality of the herb for your health needs, talk with your holistic health practitioner.
Biomechanics: contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about sports or exercise performance. It’s about how each of us moves our body, whether sitting, standing, walking, running, dancing, or playing tag with the kids. In humans and animals alike, the laws of biomechanics apply to the structure and function of the entire body, including the cellular level.
If there’s dysfunction in the biomechanics of your movement, you run the risk of overuse injury, repetitive motion injury, and structural misalignments that can affect the muscles and skeleton, and even organ systems. Pain, tension, stiffness and swelling are usually signs that you’ve got faulty biomechanics.
Physical therapists (PT) use biomechanical analysis to make a specialized study of how you move and how your movement affects your physical health. It’s a critical analysis of all your moving parts, not just an injured area.
What to Expect
During a biomechanical analysis, your PT will
ask about aches or pains you may be having,
review your medical or injury history,
ask what goals you have for becoming pain free, stronger, more agile, etc.
During the assessment, the PT will take measurements of joints and will observe movement patterns as you sit, stand, reach, twist or do whatever your body requires to accomplish daily tasks important to your quality of living.
While observing you, the PT is gaining an understanding of
which body parts and tissues are moving too much or not enough.
where muscles are tense or tight.
which joints are “stuck” or hypermobile.
where you have imbalances in muscle strength and joint range of motion.
All of this information is used to develop a plan of care to get you moving in correct alignment with as little (or no) pain as possible and with less risk for injury.
You need not be injured (nor do you have to be an elite athlete) to benefit from a visit to a physical therapist. While you do not need a referral or prescription for therapy, if you use medical insurance, you will need a referral from your primary care doctor for part or all of it to be covered. Having a biomechanical analysis while you’re feeling good can identify muscle imbalances, poor posture, and faulty movement patterns that put you at risk for injury.
While it takes some time for most parts of your body to warm up to their full potential, your eyes are on their “A game” 24/7
Digital Devices & the Health of Your Eyes
We’re in a new age of convenience and connectivity, and with it comes new health concerns. More than ever, our eyes are in front of screens – from smart devices and computer monitors to televisions and movie screens. And, more than ever, people of all ages are complaining of eye fatigue, headaches, blurry vision, dry eye, and twitching of the eye or eyelid. This is often referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Every part of our eye is vital to healthy vision – from the tear ducts to the cornea to the various nerves and muscles. And every part of our eye is affected by our habits, including the stress and strain placed upon them from using digital devices, whether at school, work or home. While research in this area is still new, current studies show that the blue light emitted from cell phone screens and similar devices causes damage to retinal cells. Scientists believe the damage stems from the higher energy level in the shorter wavelength of blue light, hitting the eye with greater intensity than other light sources.
Reduce Eye Strain While Using Digital Devices
Serious vision problems don’t necessarily happen all at once; they can creep up on us over time if we’re not careful. That’s why early – and daily – intervention is critical. The following strategies can help minimize eye strain and prevent CVS from becoming a problem for you now and in the future.
Position your desktop computer screen 20 to 26 inches away from your eyes and a little bit below eye level. Hold smaller devices 12-15 inches from the eyes.
Choose screens that can tilt and swivel. Use a device holder for smaller devices.
Use the appropriate screen display for your computer; change displays between light and dark mode; invest in a high-quality monitor.
Use a blue-light / glare filter over your computer screen or your glasses.
Place a document holder next to your screen. It should be close enough to allow you to comfortably glance back and forth to the screen and document.
Use soft lighting at your work space to reduce glare and harsh reflections.
Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes. Look at objects in the distance, such as a picture on a far wall, a building outside, or a tree, for example. Blink often and exercise your eyes (see Therapy article, below).
If you’re concerned about changes in your vision or have experienced the symptoms of CVS, speak to your holistic eyecare professional about additional health steps you can take.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
That’s One Powerful (Sweet) Potato!
Here’s an interesting fact: one medium sweet potato provides 100% of your daily needs for Vitamin A, as well as a healthy dose of vitamin C, several of the B vitamins, plus the minerals potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. That’s one powerful potato!
But that’s not all…
Sweet potato is also abundant in antioxidants, which help protect against inflammation and play a role in blood sugar regulation. The antioxidant Beta-carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their orange flesh, is necessary for the body to produce Vitamin A. We need Vitamin A for eye health, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. Research indicates that this tuber’s anti-inflammatory nutrients (anthocyanin) can be instrumental in protecting against the cellular damage and degeneration that occurs with age, particularly related to vision (e.g., macular degeneration) and the circulatory system.
Sweet potato color, both flesh and skin, can range from white to yellow-orange to brown or purple. There also are “firm” or “soft” varieties. Just remember, yams are not the same as sweet potatoes. The two are not even in the same “food family.” Sweet potatoes are harvested in the United States whereas yams are typically imported from Africa or Asia. Check your grocer’s labels and, if you aren’t sure, ask a store associate for assistance.
Shake up a traditional potato pancake recipe with an exotic combination of cinnamon, curry powder, and cumin. Breakfast will never be the same. Also consider incorporating these pancakes into a holiday menu for brunch or even dinner.
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup milk (or your favorite non-dairy alternative)
Shred the sweet potatoes and place in a colander to drain for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, raw honey, brown sugar, curry powder and cumin. Make a well in the center, and pour in eggs and milk. Stir until all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed. Stir in sweet potatoes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop the potato mixture by spoonfuls into the oil, and flatten with the back of the spoon. Fry until golden on both sides, flipping only once. If they are browning too fast, reduce the heat to medium. Remove from the oil and keep warm while the other pancakes are frying.
Part of a family of substances called retinols, Vitamin A is important to our overall health and, specifically, our skin, immune system, and eyes.
When hearing about Vitamin A, most people think of carrots. It’s important to know that Vitamin A can be acquired from both plant and animal sources of food, and the source can make a difference in the type and amount of Vitamin A the body absorbs. In plant foods (including carrots), Vitamin A is in a form called carotenoids and has to be converted from this form to its active form, retinol. When acquired from animal sources, Vitamin A is more readily available to the human body. Our daily diet should include a mix of plant and animal-based foods.
The following foods provide Vitamin A in its most readily available form; they are listed in each category according to their highest level of readily absorbable Vitamin A content. (This is not a complete list, but a good sampling of high Vitamin A foods):
Meat and Fish
Cod Liver Oil
Sweet Red Pepper
There are dozens of other fruits, veggies, and seafood sources of Vitamin A. Those listed above contain 16% (cheese, fruit) and up to 200% (some veggies and fish/meat) of the daily recommended adult intake of Vitamin A in one serving. The daily recommendation for children changes from birth through age 18, so it’s best to check with your healthcare provider before giving Vitamin A to a child. While your practitioner may want to adjust the dose, here is a quick reference for daily recommendations
Even if you’re eating a variety of organic, whole foods, it’s possible you’re not getting enough Vitamin A. For some people, the body isn’t able to convert Vitamin A due to a problem with absorption or because of a medical condition (e.g., cystic fibrosis). Others may have a genetic factor that doesn’t allow them to convert Vitamin A. These situations reduce the amount available for the body to utilize, which often leads to a nutrient deficiency that may show up as health conditions of the eyes, skin, or immune function.
Vitamin A supplements are widely available but the purity and consistency of the supplement can vary. Some supplements will contain preformed Vitamin A; some will have beta carotenes, and some will contain a combination. Dosing Vitamin A is highly individualized and because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can accumulate to toxic levels in the body. Women who are of childbearing age or pregnant should be under a physician’s care if taking Vitamin A. As always, speak to your holistic physician about the best form and dose of a Vitamin A supplement for your needs.
Bilberry and Blueberry: They’re both blue. They’re both tasty. And they’re both good for you. But compared to their sibling berry (the blueberry), wild-grown European bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are more intensely sweet and have much more delicate skins.
Since the early Middle Ages, dried and fresh bilberry leaves and fruit have been used for managing diabetic concerns, gastrointestinal complaints, and urinary system infections. Extracts of bilberry are used to address age-related degeneration in the circulatory systems and diseases where inflammation is a strong underlying factor, such as heart disease and retinopathy. There’s also evidence that bilberry may help alleviate eye fatigue caused by extensive computer and video monitor use.
Bilberry fruit contains potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Particular attention is on the fruit’s anthocyanoside (aka anthocyanidins). These plant pigments act as powerful antioxidants and may help protect the body from the damaging effects of inflammation and oxidative stress.
Bilberries are a deep indigo, almost black in color. They have found their way into every imaginable culinary delight: jams, pies, sorbets, liqueurs, and wines. Adding bilberry to your daily diet is a delicious way to enjoy its health protective benefits: Incorporate a cup per day of fresh bilberries by topping off yogurt, oatmeal, or salad with fresh bilberry. For a delicious tea, simmer 1 Tb. dried berries in 2 c. of water for 20 minutes; strain and drink.
For specific health concerns, extracts of bilberry are available in capsule and tincture, both of which should be standardized to contain a specific percent of anthocyanins. Check with your health practitioner for the appropriate extract for your medical needs.
The idea that certain eye movement patterns can correct vision abnormalities such as near- or farsightedness has been around since the 1920s. While there’s no scientific evidence to support these claims, exercising the eyes does have health benefits.
The eyes are supported by bands of muscles (the extraocular muscles) that control their movement. Exercising those muscles can improve circulation to the eyes, which helps reduce inflammation and minimize eye fatigue. Strong eye muscles also protect against the negative effects of vision overuse patterns, such as digital eye strain or frequent night driving.
Below are two eye exercises; the first is for general eye health and the other is for glaucoma.
Figure Eight Eye Exercise
You may have practiced this exercise, sometimes called “yoga eyes,” if you’ve ever taken a yoga class. This exercise should be done from a seated position, such as at your desk, while relaxing in your favorite chair, or in an easy, seated yoga pose.
Pick a point on the floor about 10 feet in front of you and focus on it.
Trace an imaginary figure eight with your eyes.
Keep tracing for 30 seconds, then switch directions.
Exercise to Reduce Intraocular Pressure Related to Glaucoma
Perform either option A or option B in combination with the blinking technique, performed simultaneously. These can be done with or without wearing your glasses.
A. Alternate between looking at very distant and very close objects. For example, when seated or standing, alternate between looking at your thumb, then looking at an object that is farther away, such as a building or a tree. Repeat several times.
B. Alternate between looking right and left.
Blinking Technique. Very light and fast blinking, the eyelids are light as “butterfly wings”.
While not all vision abnormalities or medical conditions can be corrected by eye exercises, keeping the eye muscles strong, flexible, and nourished is essential to protecting eye health.