Before pregnancy, a woman’s uterus is typically the size of an orange. By the third trimester, it can be about the size of a watermelon. In fact, it can expand up to 500 times normal size during pregnancy.
Healthy Pregnancy – for Mom and Baby
During pregnancy, a woman’s body creates an environment in which an entire human being is formed. What could be more amazing than that? As the new mom-to-be strives to protect the integrity of the womb in which her baby will develop, she needs to make good lifestyle choices and commit to high-quality food and nutrients. Here’s some important information to help achieve those goals.
Pregnancy Nutrition Essentials
Daily requirements for macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates), vitamins, and minerals change dramatically in pregnancy and are crucial to the health of mom and her developing baby. For most normal-weight pregnant women, the right amount of calories is about . . .
1,800 calories per day during the first trimester.
2,200 calories per day during the second trimester.
2,400 calories per day during the third trimester.
These calories should be acquired from a variety of whole grains, fruits and veggies as well as eggs, lean cuts of meat and poultry, and low-mercury fish, such as tilapia or salmon. (Vegetarians and vegans will have dietary considerations to discuss with their holistic doctor in order to ensure they meet their caloric and nutrient needs.) During pregnancy it’s particularly important that food is sourced organic, verified non-GMO and antibiotic-free to ensure chemicals are not passed along to the baby.
Tips For Meeting Pregnancy Nutrient Requirements
Increase Protein. Pregnant women need 75 – 100 grams of protein daily, Good sources include: fully cooked fish, lean meat, poultry, nuts, legumes (black beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.), plain yogurt with added fresh fruit, and tempeh. If you find it challenging to eat high-quality sources of protein, speak with your doctor about using protein powder to make smoothies (or to add to yogurt or oatmeal).
Choose Healthy Fats. Consuming adequate fats is vital to baby’s organ and brain development. Focus on healthy sources such as avocado, nuts and nut oils, olive oil, coconut, eggs, low-fat plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
Snack on Veggies and Fruits. Eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies helps curb cravings, boost energy, and provide essential fiber, vitamins and minerals (calcium, vitamin C, folic acid, and others). Ideally, eat veggies raw or steamed; also consider fermented veggies.
Drink More Water. A woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy and her body has to supply fluid to replenish the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. Drinking water is important for hydration levels and may help with morning sickness and prevent constipation. The amount of water needed varies by activity level, climate, food consumption; an average rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 body weight in ounces.
Go for Whole Grains. The carbohydrates provided by whole grains are your body’s primary source of energy. Grains also provide B vitamins and fiber. Ancient Grains (such as millet, flax, farro, oat, and quinoa) are an excellent source of whole grains. Choose fresh-baked breads; opt for whole grain crackers, pasta, and brown rice.
Consume Fermented Foods. Fermented foods are a potent source of probiotics, which are essential to powering up the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract and producing antibodies to pathogens. Both are key to maintaining vibrant health for mom and baby. Your holistic doctor may recommend a probiotic in lieu of fermented foods.
Eat Smaller Meals. Morning sickness, special dietary needs, and other factors can alter the food a woman can tolerate during pregnancy. Many women find eating smaller meals, more frequently, is easier for digestion and managing nausea.
Avoid Chemicals. Chemicals in processed foods, caffeine, and sugar can affect the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system, as well as immunity and gut health. Try to avoid (or significantly reduce) your intake of processed/packaged foods, caffeine, and sugary snacks. If you need a caffeinated beverage, opt for green tea over soda and if you drink coffee, keep it to one cup per day.
Consider Supplements. A prenatal vitamin containing folate is beneficial to many women during pregnancy and many holistic doctors recommend starting it a minimum of three months preconception. A number of other supplements are considered important for mom and developing baby, based on individual needs. Consult your holistic doctor to determine what is safe and best for you.
The Integrity of the Womb
Many chemicals and medicines have unknown risks for the fetus, which can result in birth defects. To protect the integrity of the womb, it’s important for a woman to avoid use of over-the-counter and prescription medicines that are not essential for a health condition. Of course, recreational drugs, alcohol, and smoking are to be avoided. Finally, herbs (botanical medicines) and essential oils should be cleared by your holistic physician before use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
These tips skim the surface of making healthy choices during pregnancy. To address your unique needs, speak with your holistic doctor, obstetrician or midwife about what is best for you and baby during pregnancy.
“Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch.” – E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
Oh, SO Yummy! Homemade Dark Chocolate
Finally, a homemade dark chocolate recipe that will make your tastebuds sing in delight! Made without artificial ingredients, it’s the ideal treat for any health conscious person who enjoys an occasional sweet indulgence. You can adjust the intensity of sweetness to your preferred taste, and add-in options are endless – berries (fresh or dried, without added sugar), nuts or seeds.
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Gently melt coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir cocoa powder, honey, and vanilla extract into melted oil until well blended. Pour mixture into a candy mold or pliable tray. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
You’ve probably heard that folic acid is an important nutrient during pregnancy. However, there’s a misconception around this. And it’s an important one: What you really want is bioactive folate (aka Vitamin B-9). Folic acid is actually a synthetic form of folate and the body has difficulty converting it into the folate needed during pregnancy. Folate is essential during the first several weeks for the development of genetic material, as well as throughout a baby’s growth in the womb.
Low folate levels in pregnant women have been linked to birth abnormalities, such as neural tube defects (NTD), which affect the brain and spinal cord, and congenital heart conditions. While not every type of NTD is linked with low-folate levels (some have other biological causes), the majority can be prevented by taking 400 mcg of folate daily.
The best way to acquire folate is through a diet rich in whole foods, including asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce. It’s not ideal to rely on foods labeled as being “fortified with folic acid.” A dietary supplement (typically 400 mcg) may be necessary in order to ensure sufficient levels during pregnancy. Some women have a MTHFR genetic mutation which requires a special form of folate called 5-Methyl-tetrahydrofolate. If you have questions about the role of or form of folate you need during pregnancy, consult your naturopathic doctor or holistic physician for guidance.
Because herbs come from nature, many people believe they’re safe to take at any time. But, that’s simply not true. In fact, many herbs should not be taken while trying to conceive or during pregnancy and post-partum, while breastfeeding.
The constituents of plants – phytochemicals and other active compounds – can interact with hormones that circulate during the prenatal period and as the fetus is developing. Some herbs can stimulate the uterus to contract. And, if you have other health conditions for which medication is prescribed, there is potential for a drug-herb interaction. Also, once the baby is born, just like with prescription medicines, some herbs can get into breast milk and passed on to the baby. Even if you’ve taken a certain herbal medicine prior to pregnancy, this does not make that herb safe for you to use when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Here are a few of the many herbs that are not safe to use during pregnancy:
Aloe. If you’ve taken aloe vera juice for gastrointestinal symptoms, you should not continue to use it during pregnancy. Internal use of aloe stimulates bowel function, but may also stimulate uterine contractions and cause a drop in blood sugar.
Goldenseal. Often recommended by herbalists for stomach aches, to support digestion and to treat hay fever, goldenseal can cause uterine contractions.
Licorice. Commonly recommended for gastrointestinal complaints, as well as sore throat and cough, licorice is contraindicated for pregnancy because it contains a compound called glycyrrhizin that can deplete potassium and raise blood pressure. There are products, such as Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL), that contain the benefit of licorice but which have had the glycyrrhizin removed.
Sage. A chemical found in sage called thujone can bring on a woman’s menstrual period, which could cause a miscarriage. Postpartum, sage is not recommended because it can reduce a woman’s milk supply. Avoid using sage essential oil, as well as drinking tea with sage. As a cooking herb, sage is safe to use.
Keep in mind, there are many herbs for which there is no safety data because research cannot be conducted while a woman is pregnant; animal studies, if conducted, may not be applicable to human pregnancy and breastfeeding. While there are many herbs regarded as safe to use at various times during a pregnancy, it’s imperative that you not make such decisions on your own. Your best resource for choosing herbs during pregnancy is a consultation with a holistic physician who has been trained in botanical medicine and women’s health.
Pregnancy brings forth emotional ups and downs along with physical shifts that take place within a woman’s body. It’s a time that is equally exciting and exhausting, which makes it so important for a woman to focus on self-care for her mind and body. The following activities support a healthy, active pregnancy while helping to reduce stress and anxiety that can often comes with bringing a new life into the world.
Keep Moving. Aerobic exercise enhances circulation, facilitates bowel motility, reduces stress, supports restful sleep, and strengthens the cardiovascular and muscular systems. Taking moderately-paced 30-minute walks, twice a day is a good start for most women. If it’s been a while since you’ve engaged in daily exercise, check with your physician about the best way to start. If you’ve been exercising regularly or are an athlete, you may need to modify your usual routine to prevent injury and reduce the risk of strain on the pelvic muscles that support the uterus. Whatever your routine, it’s good for both mind and body to spend time outdoors in nature,
Strengthen Body and Mind with Yoga. Yoga, which is meditation in motion, can be practiced throughout your pregnancy, with modifications made as your belly grows. Yoga strengthens and stretches the muscles, including those that support the pelvis. Specific breathing patterns used in yoga help strengthen the respiratory muscles needed when the time comes for delivering the baby. Be sure your instructor is certified to teach yoga for pregnancy.
Sleep Well. There will be lots of sleepless nights as you get closer to delivery and once the baby arrives, so make sure you are getting adequate rest during pregnancy. Restful sleep supports immunity, enhances resilience to daily stressors, and supports the development of the fetus. Try to keep routine times for lights-out each night and wake-up each morning. Sleeping on the left-side seems to improve sleep in pregnant women. If you have difficulty sleeping through the night, try taking a brief nap at least once during the day.
Get “Ah” Massage. Prenatal and pregnancy massage helps nourish the muscles and organs, lowers stress, and reduces swelling that occurs during pregnancy. It can also help reduce back and foot pain, improve sleep, reduce emotional angst that can arise as the due date approaches. Look for a licensed massage therapist who has been trained in therapeutic massage for pregnancy.
While all of these modalities are considered safe during pregnancy, every woman is different. Please check with your physician before starting or changing your exercise or self-care routine to make sure the modality is appropriate for you and baby.
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.
A custom (read: non-stinky) version of Kimchi, South Korea’s national dish, accompanied Yi So-Yeon, the first Korean astronaut in space. When stored properly, a jar of kimchi can last for a couple of years.
Digestive Distress: Holistic Approaches to Irritable Bowel Syndrome
When the smooth rhythm of the muscles of the digestive tract is disrupted, either moving too quickly or too slowly, we experience digestive distress. For some of us, this distress can be frequent and painful, creating a major disruption in our life and in our lifestyle.
Several health conditions are marked by severe digestive distress including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). While all of these conditions involve inflammation of the lining of the bowel, IBS can be healed through careful shifts in diet and lifestyle.
What is IBS?
IBS is marked by abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and a cluster of symptoms that last for three months or longer. Symptoms vary for each person and can include:
Stomach gas and bloating
Alternating diarrhea and constipation
Mucus in the stool
Nausea after eating
Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night
Weight loss not explained by dieting or other health concerns
IBS can be caused by one or several underlying health factors that cause a disruption in the digestive tract. These factors can include:
Food Allergy or Sensitivity. Research has shown that IBS can be triggered or made worse in people who are consuming foods to which they have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. For some people a specific category of carbohydrate foods known as “high-FODMAP” create symptoms of IBS. For a list of food culprits, read the article below and see how you can help determine what is causing your distress.
Imbalance in Gut Flora. In the digestive system, we have friendly gut flora that support the process of digestion, nutrient absorption, and immunity. If we don’t have enough friendly flora, or there is an overgrowth of unfriendly flora, or an “invader” yeast or bacteria, then inflammation, nutritional deficiency, and digestive distress can result. Toxins, processed foods, stress and antibiotic use can also increase inflammation and trigger or worsen IBS.
Hormones. Changes in hormones, particularly for women, can cause a cascade of changes in the body, including digestion.
A Holistic Plan for Healing IBS
Holistic practitioners assess for IBS using diagnostic tools such as physical exam, lab tests, stool and urine tests, food allergy or intolerance testing, dietary assessment, and assessment of lifestyle factors including stress level, fatigue, etc. The goal is to identify sources of inflammation that have set the stage for developing IBS. Once identified, doctor and patient, and sometimes a nutritionist, will develop a plan to minimize/ eliminate exposure to triggers, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
The “healing plan” for IBS will be different for every person because so many factors interact to produce inflammation and symptoms. This plan can include following a Low-FODMAP Diet (useful for a variety of GI conditions), nutritional and herbal supplementation, stress management, avoiding smoking and caffeine, moderating alcohol intake, adjusting sleeping habits, homeopathy and exercise.
If you suspect that you are affected by IBS, contact a holistic health practitioner about an evaluation and put yourself on the road to wellness. It is possible to enjoy food again and heal from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” – Wade Boggs
You can support your gut health with fermented, nutrient-potent foods. Ranging from tangy to bitterly-sweet in flavor, these foods originated decades ago in the cultures of Japan, China, India, and Germany.
Fermenting imbues foods with the health-enhancing properties of live bacteria, providing an ample source of probiotics, which are essential to a strong digestive tract. Probiotics help build up antibodies to pathogens and provide for a strong “gut immunity” which is key to maintaining overall vibrant health.
Fermented Foods Short List
Cultured Dairy: Yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sour cream, and some cheeses
Veggies: Beets, radishes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, kimchi, green beans, sauerkraut
Condiments fermented at home or commercially: ketchup, relish, salsa, chutney
Other: Miso, tempeh, tofu, soy sauce, and kombucha (check that sugar content is not high on any pre-packaged or bottled fermented food).
Tips for Choosing & Storing Fermented Food
Food labels must be marked “fermented.”
Fermented and “pasteurized” do not go together. Pasteurization kills live cultures.
Pickled is not the same as fermented (unless indicated on the label). Pickled foods are soaked in vinegar or brine.
Choose organic, non-GMO items or locally farmed products.
All fermented foods must be kept cool to maintain the live cultures.
Adding Fermented Foods to Your Daily Diet
When introducing fermented foods to your daily diet, start with small servings such as 1-2x a day. A few easy ways to sneak in fermented foods: Toss fermented veggies into salads or rice dishes. Enjoy fermented food as a snack or as a side dish (e.g., beets, tempeh, kimchi). Add a spoonful of a fermented food to your morning smoothie (e.g., beets, kefir).
When you hunger for something tangy, nutritionally potent, and full of beneficial bacteria to help heal an aggravated digestive tract, fermented veggies are a wonderful option. They’re a great side to any meal (vegan or carnivore) and can be added to a hearty stews. This recipe gives you a variety of options, with a focus on veggies that are least likely to irritate those with sensitive digestion.
Equipment Needed for Preparation & Storage
1-gallon or 4-liter glass, enameled or clay jar which will be your fermentation jar
1 small plate that fits into the fermentation jar
1 small glass jar, filled with water
1 head of red cabbage, roughly cut
1 medium-size beetroot, sliced
Handful of garlic cloves, peeled
2 T of sea salt
1 t. dill seeds or dill herb (fresh or dry)
Personal Choice of Additional veggies & herbs: carrots, bell pepper, fennel, parsnip, radish, shredded broccoli, etc.
Combine all the vegetables and herbs and put them into the fermentation jar. The amount of vegetables should not go beyond the half-way mark on the jar.
Fill the rest of the jar with filtered water and add salt.
Float the small plate on top and submerge it with the small jar (filled with water to keep it down). This way the vegetables won’t float to the top and get moldy.
Leave to ferment for 1-2 weeks at room temperature.
You will know the medley is ready when the vegetables are soft and tangy.
To stop the fermentation process, transfer the medley to smaller jars and keep them in the fridge; they keep well for weeks.
Soothe Digestive Irritation with Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
Slippery Elm has a long history of use in American medicine. George Washington and his men found sustenance in Slippery Elm porridge during their 12 days at Valley Forge. It helped soothe “nervous stomach” and provided nutrition when they ran out of food. Medicinal preparations (teas and syrups) were used to soothe irritations of the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. In addition, the salve was used for treating wounds.
One of the few herbs approved by the U.S. FDA, Slippery Elm is a non-prescription drug that can help heal inflamed mucosa in the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It is commonly used by holistic physicians for treating GERD, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, IBS and common bouts of diarrhea and other inflammatory GI conditions.
Slippery Elm bark first appeared in the United States Pharmacopeia in 1820. Since then, scientific research has slowly emerged. Recent studies, combined with the historical medical uses of Slippery Elm, show a variety of medicinal applications for tea, capsules, powder, lozenges, and topical ointments. Within the bark, is a group of compounds called mucopolysaccharides, which become like loose jelly when they come in contact with water. This property allows the medicinal preparation to coat and soothe inflamed tissue in the body. The unique consistency of mucopolysaccharides allows it to add “smooth bulk” to fecal matter, which makes Slippery Elm useful for both types of IBS – constipation dominant and diarrhea dominant.
Since there are a variety of ways to prepare and use Slippery Elm, and because it can affect the absorption of other medicines, consult with a holistic healthcare practitioner about the best way to take Slippery Elm for your health and well-being.
With long, thick, plump and pointed deep green leaves, Aloe vera is one of the most well-recognized medicinal plants in the world. It has a long history of use in pharmaceutical, food, and cosmetic products. A great deal of research supports the use of topical Aloe gel, balms and creams for wound healing, sunburn, frostbite, and other inflammatory skin conditions. But did you know Aloe juice is highly regarded for supporting digestive health and can be used to manage chronic constipation and IBS?
Aloe leaves consist of a fleshy tissue that stores water and contributes to the familiar pulp that oozes from the leaves when sliced open. The Aloe plant contains more than 200 different biologically active substances, most of which are found in the pulp. This includes amino acids; antioxidants; vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, and E; and the minerals sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, and traces of magnesium and zinc. Many of these compounds are natural relaxants, helping produce a laxative effective for stressed bowels.
When selecting Aloe juice as a remedy for IBS related symptoms, look for juice without Aloe latex. Aloe latex contains anthraquinone, which is a natural laxative. Too much aloe latex can worsen GI symptoms; consult with your holistic health provider about how much, and which type of extract, supplement or juice is best for you.
For blending into smoothies, use in cooking, or adding Aloe to other beverages, remember that Aloe’s flavor is similar to cucumber. It’s best to use Aloe in recipes with flavors on the same spectrum such as watermelon, lemon, lime, or mint.
Digestive complaints are among the most common health concerns. If you’re experiencing distress, a holistic practitioner will evaluate the foods and substances you are eating to identify where a reaction exists. There are many ways to conduct a dietary analysis, including food diary, food allergy testing, muscle testing, and elimination diets. The FODMAP Diet is often recommended by healthcare practitioners.
What is a FODMAP?
FODMAP stands for fermentableoligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols. This scientific term is used to identify groups of carbohydrates – also known as “fermentable carbs” – that trigger digestive problems such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, or diarrhea.
FODMAPS in Food?
You will find FODMAPS in a variety of foods:
Oligosaccharides: in wheat, rye, legumes, garlic and onions.
Disaccharides: in milk, yogurt and soft cheese. Lactose (milk sugar) is the main carb culprit.
Monosaccharides: in many different fruits, including fig and mango, and sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. Fructose (fruit sugar) is the main carb culprit.
Polyols: in blackberries and lychee, as well as some low-calorie sweeteners like those in sugar-free gum.
Why the Low-FODMAP Diet?
Research and clinical experience demonstrate that following a diet low in fermentable carbs reduces digestive distress, improves enjoyment of eating, and supports gut health by promoting the growth of good gut bacteria.
Starting a Low-FODMAP Diet
There are several stages, briefly outlined here:
Stage 1: Restriction of high-FODMAP foods. This involves strict avoidance of foods that have been identified or are suspected to be irritants to the digestive system. This stage lasts eight weeks for most people. You will record food intake and monitor symptoms and health variables, which you will discuss with your doctor/ nutritionist.
Stage 2: Reintroduction. You systematically reintroduce high-FODMAP foods to learn which ones you can tolerate and in what amount, or if you are sensitive to several/ all FODMAPS.
Stage 3: Personalization. With the data collected in the first two stages, you and your health practitioner will establish a personalized low-FODMAP diet. You will progress over time to ensure you have a diet that is flexible, manageable, and provides a variety of nutrients and flavors.
Remember: check with your health practitioner before you try adopting this diet because it has to be customized to your specific food intolerances/ allergies.
One day you wake up with a tremor in your thigh. Then, it’s an annoying twitch in your eye. You notice it’s harder to pick up grocery bags. You begin to feel weak, even clumsy. Your doctor passes it off as stress or fatigue due to your challenging work schedule. You’re not convinced and you push for further testing. After ruling out other possibilities, you learn you are among the estimated 2.3 million people who have Multiple Sclerosis.
A disease of the nervous system, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) develops when an inflammatory process in the body attacks the delicate myelin sheaths that insulate nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. This results in scarring (sclerosis) of the nerve tissue, ultimately, damaging and blocking nerve impulses that control muscle strength, sensation, coordination, and vision.
While the exact cause of MS is not known, experts agree that it’s characterized by an altered immune response. Environmental triggers, infections, and heredity may play a role. MS can affect young children and the elderly, but is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40; it’s two times more likely in women.
Symptoms vary widely but often include:
Fatigue and dizziness
Weakness and loss of coordination
Numbness or weakness in the extremities
Electric-shock like sensation with certain head motions
Significant changes in vision or complete loss of vision
Other symptoms can include slurred speech, muscle spasticity, paralysis, and problems such as loss of bladder control.
Working with a Holistic Physician
Managing MS is an ongoing and often lifelong process. Whether treated conventionally or holistically, it involves changes to lifestyle and health habits. The goal with holistic treatment is to go beyond addressing symptoms and strive to identify the underlying cause in order to restore optimal well-being for each patient.
A holistic doctor’s approach includes a physical exam, lab tests and a thorough medical history, including any significant infections or illness. It also addresses nutrient imbalances, food allergies/ sensitivities, and lifestyle factors, such as smoking, weight management, stress, and exposure to toxins. Treatment may also include:
A Diet Rich in Antioxidants. Dietary intake of foods rich in the antioxidant Vitamins A, C and E helps the body reduce oxidative stress, which is damaging to cells. These vitamins help slow the damage done to the nervous system.
Supporting Energy Levels with B-vitamins. People with MS tend to be deficient in B-vitamins, which support nerve structure and function. Vitamin B-12 is critical for shielding the nerves from the worst damage caused by free radicals, as well as for energy production.
Creating a Healthy Lifestyle. Includes eliminating smoking, reducing use of alcohol, managing stress, and creating opportunities to experience joy and renewal from life’s daily hustle.
Strengthening the Neuromuscular System. People with MS can, and should, exercise. Yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Gong are excellent ways to strengthen the body and the neuromuscular pathways for movement, balance, and coordination. At any level of MS, exercise can be performed, whether with assistive devices, in a chair, or with the aid of a trainer or physical therapist.
Water Therapy for Pain and Stress. For swimmers and non-swimmers alike, getting in the water is great for MS. It reduces stress on the joints, muscle pain, mental stress, and fatigue. Epsom salt baths may also provide comfort. Another “water” therapy that may be considered is constitutional hydrotherapy. In general, hot baths, saunas, and whirlpools should be avoided unless otherwise recommended by your doctor
Homeopathic Remedies. Intricately individualized, homeopathic remedies are selected based on symptoms, severity of disease, lifestyle factors, a patient’s level of vitality, environmental toxin exposure, and a patient’s ability to comply with a treatment plan.
Detox. Because exposure to toxins in the environment can play a role in triggering MS, it’s important to follow a physician-guided detox plan. This can include modifying the home/work environment and limiting exposure to known toxins.
In partnership with a holistic physician, with commitment to a treatment plan and attentive, personalized attention to symptoms and underlying causes, people who have MS can live highly functional lives and even heal from MS.
“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”– Joyce Meyer
Sweet and tangy pineapple – who can resist its juicy, vibrant flavor? Not too many of us: pineapple often ranks as one of America’s most in-demand tropical fruits.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus) contains two important enzymes, pancreatin and bromelain, that help break up protein molecules for easier digestion and absorption. Besides being anti-inflammatory, these enzymes help reduce the level of circulating immune complexes (CICs). High levels of CICs occur in a number of autoimmune diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis. Rich in Vitamin C, pineapple also provides antioxidant protection and support for the immune system.
Pineapple season runs March through June, but some markets may have them available throughout the year. Look for one that has a sweet aroma at the stem end, is free of soft spots, bruises or darkened “eyes.” It’s also good to choose one that is heavy for its size. While larger pineapples yield more edible flesh, there’s usually no difference in quality between a large and small fruit. You often get more flavor in a hefty, smaller pineapple. Cut the fruit within two days of purchasing. Once cut, chilled pineapple retains its nutrients for up to a week. You can also freeze pineapple chunks for use in smoothies, fruit water, and ice pops.
Since cooking pineapple can destroy the enzyme action important for the body, it’s best to eat fresh, raw pineapple, or dried (dehydrated) pineapple without added sugar or sulfites. Another good option is frozen pineapple, no sugar added. Raw pineapple is ideal to use in dishes such as relish, fruit salads, dressings, smoothies, and yogurt. If you do choose to cook with pineapple, add small chunks or medium-size slices toward the end of the cooking process. Better yet, top warm food with chilled pineapple and enjoy!
When you want to add sweetness to an entree, put Pineapple Relish at the top of your list. It’s perfect with fish tacos, or to accompany any meat or vegan protein dish that’s got a lot of mojo for your tastebuds.
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh serrano chile, including seeds
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Combine all ingredients and serve immediately. Store leftovers for up to three days.
The Power of Potassium for Muscle and Nerve Function
Potassium is a mineral that, once inside the body, operates as an electrolyte. Potassium ions carry a positive charge that the body uses for neural and muscular function. The average adult needs 4,700 mg of potassium daily compared to only 200 mg of sodium. Unfortunately, for most people, our eating habits fill us with too much sodium (3,300 mg a day) and not nearly enough potassium. This imbalance can cause muscle cramps, as well as problems with nerve transmission, hypertension, fluid balance and cellular function throughout the body.
Conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis are marked by changes in muscle tissue, including strength, tone, and resiliency, as well as the inability to generate strong nerve conduction. Too little (or too much) potassium in the blood has a significant impact on the strength of nerve impulses and muscle contraction for both the heart and skeletal muscle.
When your body is receiving enough potassium, blood pressure and fluid levels stay in optimal balance, providing protection against stroke, kidney stones, and more serious muscle or nervous system conditions.
Great sources of potassium include cooked beet greens, Portobello mushrooms, avocado, spinach, kale, salmon, bananas, and yams. Taking too much potassium can lead to kidney damage or even heart arrhythmia. You’ll want to consult with a holistic physician regarding the right dose for you.
Among the most nutritious of berries, Black Currants (Ribes nigrum) were once a forbidden fruit in the United States. Native to Europe and Asia, it was believed that the berries spread a fungus that killed pine trees. Fortunately, we know better today and have discovered the many health benefits of this herb. Important compounds and nutrients found in black currant include antioxidants, vitamin C and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
GLA is an unusual fatty acid that is not available in many other dietary sources. It works as an anti-inflammatory and has been used in managing several autoimmune disorders, as well as health conditions where inflammation plays a significant role. Because it’s an adaptogenic herb – meaning it helps support your adrenal system – it can work with your body to modulate the effects of stress.
For nutritional supplementation, black currant is available in tea blends, oil, pill and capsule form. When using black currant medicinally, it can take up to eight weeks to see changes.
Because it can impair blood clotting, produce soft stools and mild intestinal gas in some people, be sure to check with a holistic health provider before adding a black currant supplement to your health regimen.
You know you should do it, but in a rush, you often skip it: Stretching. It’s important to your health, regardless of how intensely you do – or do not – exercise Regular stretching helps increase muscle flexibility, which is one of the important factors of fitness. Muscles that are limber have better reaction times, help protect joints, support posture, and reduce stress and body aches.
Additional benefits of stretching include:
Increased range of motion around the joint
Enhanced blood flow circulation throughout the muscle
Enhanced performance in physical activity (for work or play)
Prevention of injury to muscles and joints, including the back
Improved recovery time and reduced soreness after a workout
Styles of Stretching:
Static Stretching: Involves holding the body in a particular stretch position for 10-30 seconds. This is most beneficial after you exercise. You often do a lot of static stretches in a gentle yoga class.
Dynamic Stretching: Active movement that gently warms the muscles as they stretch, but you don’t hold the stretch. This is the type of movement done before exercise or sport. The movements might mimic those being done in an exercise routine, but at a slower and more deliberate pace. If you watch pro athletes before an event, you’ll see this type of stretching.
PNF – Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation: Involves actively contracting and relaxing specific muscles in specific patterns. For example, a “hold-relax” pattern places the muscle in the stretched position for a few seconds and is followed by contracting the muscle without moving the joint. Other PNF patterns involve contraction, stretch and relaxation for different lengths of time and in differing order. PNF is commonly used by physical therapists, athletic trainers and athletes. It can be done with a partner’s assistance or on your own (possibly using props such as straps or blocks, as in a yoga class). The muscles that respond best to PNF are the ones we often overuse and/or neglect, making them most prone to injury: hamstrings, glutes (your squatting muscles in the butt), back, and shoulder muscles.
To learn more about the type of stretching that best addresses your needs, consult your physician and/or an experienced physical therapist or chiropractor. You might also consider working with a yoga teacher certified in Yoga for MS or an exercise specialist/trainer certified in water fitness or medical exercise.
Fever phobia is fairly common among parents of young children, and even some adults when they become sick. We worry that something serious is going on. Most often, that’s not the case.
Fever occurs when our body’s internal thermostat (an organ in the brain called the hypothalamus) shifts our body’s normal set-point upward, indicating that something is out of balance. It can be brought on by a virus, bacterial infection, heat exhaustion, inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, teething, pain and vaccinations just to name a few. Symptoms may include:
Chills and shivering
Headache and muscle aches
Loss of appetite
While these symptoms are uncomfortable, be comforted knowing that fever is a natural and beneficial response of the immune system. It plays a key role in helping the body fight off infections and can even help strengthen immunity. It typically resolves on its own.
You should know . . .
For infants, toddlers and young children, a slight fever generally will go away with attentive care and holistic therapy such as those outlined in this newsletter. However, for infants younger than two months, fever should be discussed with your family doctor.
If a child is unable to hold eye contact/seems unresponsive, has intense neck pain or uncontrolled vomiting, seek emergency medical care. Adults should seek emergency care if they become confused, experience abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, intense head or neck pain, or have a seizure.
Children between the ages of six months and five years might experience febrile seizures. The seizure is triggered by a rapid change of temperature. About one-third of children who have one febrile seizure will have another one, most commonly within a year. This is generally not harmful and unlikely to cause long-term damage. If a seizure occurs, loosen tight clothing and gently hold the child on the ground in a safe area to prevent injury.
Holistic, Gentle Ways to Manage Fever
Since most fevers resolve on their own, don’t be quick to reach for over-the-counter meds to lower it. Instead, consider the following simple therapies aimed at supporting the body’s innate ability to heal and restore balance.
Fast the Fever. Never feed a fever. The body’s resources should not be diverted to digesting food while it’s fighting fever. Drink clear broth, homemade electrolyte replacement drinks, water or suck on ice cubes.
Keep a Journal. Record when the fever started, temperature, how you measured (oral, ear, rectal, etc.), and note any symptoms. Be sure to measure temperature consistently, not with different instruments each time (note differences in recording methods). Also, note if there was exposure to anyone who’s been ill. List all medications, vitamins and supplements taken. You’ll need this if you have to see the doctor or go to the ER.
Use Hydrotherapy. This home remedy increases comfort while supporting the body’s ability to lower temperature. It involves the use of cold towels or sheets with a wool blanket over top and all wrapped around the body. Details are in the therapy section of this newsletter.
The bottom line is that a fever is the body’s attempt to restore balance. Your holistic practitioner may have other suggestions and strategies for supporting the body through a fever so be sure and check in with them!
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”– Helen Keller
Broth: Health Benefits Approved by Mom
From Mom’s best health advice – to holistic doctors everywhere – soup broth tops the list of healing foods to eat when you’re feeling sick or simply need a soothing, light and nutritious meal.
Varieties of soup broth include vegetable, fish, chicken, beef and bone broth without meat. Make your broth by simmering the ingredients, straining off the solids and saving the liquid. Overall, broths don’t contain much protein, are low in carbs, and abundant in nutrients. For robust flavor and nutrition power, you want the broth to include a variety of veggies and herbs such as carrots, celery, garlic, mushrooms, onion, spinach, leeks, broccoli, green beans, bay leaf, turmeric, ginger, parsley, and pepper to name a few.
The soothing effect of drinking warm, steaming broth happens to be an effective way to loosen up mucus when you have a stuffy nose and it can ease irritation from a sore throat. Broth helps provide what the body needs to prevent dehydration and manage nausea. This is because broth contains many minerals, including potassium, sodium, and calcium, which are important to hydration and heart and muscle function. Broth also contains Vitamin A which is important for immunity. The wider the variety of veggies and herbs included in the broth, the more robust the vitamin and anti-inflammatory power.
Consider this soup-broth bonus: it’s not only good for you when fever hits; the endless varieties of broth offer health benefits when you make it a frequent part of your usual diet.
Dr. Henry Bieler was a visionary American physician who advocated for the treatment of disease through diet. He believed the primary cause of disease is not germs, but imbalances in the body caused by lifestyle, including poor diet. His famous broth is rich in potassium and sodium. It supports the healthy functioning of the liver and the adrenal glands. This broth also provides nourishment for the body when feverish.
4 medium zucchinis, chopped
3 cups string beans, ends removed
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 bunches parsley, stems removed
1 quart filtered water
sea salt to taste
*Use organic veggies when possible, or local and in season.
Place water, zucchini, string beans, and celery in a stock pot.
Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until vegetables are softened but not overcooked. Spoon the mixture into a blender, add a handful of parsley, and liquefy. Pulse a few times to get it started. Make sure you hold onto the lid.
One pot of broth will create several blender batches. Have a pitcher or jars on hand to fill as you blend. To thicken the broth and enhance the healing properties of the broth, add a teaspoon of ghee to each blender batch.
Skip the Gatorade and Make Your Own Electrolyte Drink
Why use a commercial electrolyte replacement beverage when you can make your own and know that it will have far greater benefits and less sugar and chemical additives than anything sold in stores? An electrolyte drink is essential for rehydrating after intense training or competition in the heat, for hydrating a day or two before a sports event, and for preventing or recovering from the dehydration caused by illness.
16 ounces filtered water
1 large or two small oranges
1/3 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 tsp liquid trace minerals *optional
1 Tbsp raw honey (use maple syrup for children under 12 months of age) *optional
Juice the orange and the lemon.
Mix the fresh juices with the sea salt, honey (maple syrup), and optional trace minerals.
Blend the juice mixture with filtered water in a tall glass.
Serve electrolyte replacement at room temperature, NOT cold as this inhibits absorption.
Sip and drink half within about one hour. Consume the rest as needed.
Refrigerate remainder of juice. Use within 2-3 days. Remember to bring to room temperature before drinking.
Just a glance at the lavender-hued petals and deep crimson center of Echinacea flowers can brighten a gloomy day. That’s probably why this wildflower is a staple in many gardens. Plus, with many medicinal uses, echinacea is a wonderful addition to your home apothecary, especially during cold and flu season.
Historically, Native Americans used echinacea for more therapeutic purposes than any other herb. Fresh root was chewed to numb a toothache while juice made from the roots was used in baths and salves to treat skin irritations and even snakebites. By the mid-1800s, American herbalists were using it to treat cold, cough and other respiratory symptoms. Usage in America declined in the 1900s but picked up in Germany where much of the research on the herb has been done.
Today, echinacea is one of the most well-studied herbs. Herbalists and physicians from many different countries use it for the treatment of the common cold, flu, cough, sore throat and fever. While many believe echinacea can be used to prevent illness, it’s more effective at reducing the intensity and length of a cold by about two days. Echinacea also helps boost immune function thereby enhancing the body’s ability to resist infection.
Echinacea can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsule form. Daily use of tea is a wonderful addition to your relaxation ritual. When taking echinacea to combat a cold, it’s best to take it at the first sign of illness. Ask your holistic physician which form and dose of echinacea is best for you.
When an adult is struck down with fever, we make our way through the misery. When a child runs a temp that just doesn’t come down (or keeps rising), you want to have every reasonable remedy at the ready to help make the child comfortable. The hydrotherapy remedies described below are also suitable for adults but our focus is on children.
“Magic” Socks at First Signs of a Fever
Typically done at night before sleep, this therapy can really boost immune function. Wet a pair of thin cotton socks and wring out well. Put on wet socks and cover with a thick pair of wool socks. Snuggle up in bed and allow the body to dry the socks through the night. This can also be done during the day as long as the person is lying down and resting until the socks have thoroughly dried.
Cold “Magic” Towel Remedy to Reduce Mild Fever (99-102 degrees)
Place a cold, well-wrung out towel on the abdomen and cover it with a wool blanket. Leave it in place for 20 minutes as the body warms up the towel. This will reduce temperature by one degree or return to normal temperature if the body is ready. If fever is 102-103 degrees, this method can still be beneficial or try the remedy below.
Spanish Mantel (or Magic Carpet) Remedy for Fever over 103 degrees
Since the fever is higher and the child’s discomfort is greater, a full body wrap is used. Wet a sheet in cold water, wring it out well, and wrap it around the body; then, cover in a wool blanket. This will bring the fever down by two degrees or the fever will break.
When fever is over 99 degrees, the child must be on a liquid fast, drinking clear broth, homemade electrolyte replacement drinks, water or sucking on ice cubes. Food requires digestion which generates heat that causes temp to rise. The body doesn’t use resources for digestion when fighting a fever so either your youngster will wind up nauseated as food sits in the gut or the fever will persist much longer than if fasting.
The liquid fast should continue until the temp stays below 99 for at least six hours. With very high fevers, this could take a few days. At this time, introduce homemade vegetable soup or other foods suggested to you by your holistic practitioner.
The child may lose a pound or two, but once free of fever and return of appetite, they will regain that weight.
Seek emergency care immediately if you are unable to manage the fever, if an infant has persistently dry diapers, or if a child becomes lethargic or unresponsive. Never hesitate to get help.