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.
In 2017, the most popular New Year’s resolution was to lose weight and eat healthier. However, only 9.2% of all people who set resolutions actually reported feeling that they were successful in achieving what they set out to.
Make a Change for Better Health in the New Year
Have you set an intention to make better choices around diet and exercise in the New Year? Kudos for recognizing a change needs to be made and committing to it! As you begin to adopt new, healthier behavior, remember that change is a process. Be kind and patient with yourself. It takes about six weeks for a new behavior to become ingrained in our lifestyle, whether it’s exercising, eating more veggies and less meat, or limiting those sodas you’ve come to love.
Success involves creating plans for moving forward, as well as for for managing those inevitable setbacks. Here are some simple strategies to help you achieve your goals.
Know Your Why. Write down why you want to adopt a particular health behavior or change a poor one. Motivation is an important predictor of behavior, so be honest with yourself. Think deeper than just wanting to fit into smaller clothes – examine how you want to feel when you achieve that goal. Connecting emotion to your “why” strengthens your motivation and willingness to stick to the goal: I’ll feel healthier and stronger and more confident when I lose weight and fit into a smaller size.
Find Your Tribe. Enlist the support of loved ones, friends, and co-workers. Working toward a goal together provides social support that makes it easier (and more fun) to stick with making the change. You might start by telling the people closest to you what you are doing and why. Ask people for specific help: When you see me reach for a third cookie, please say something. Tell people what you need as you start and keep them updated as you progress.
Have a Plan and Be Flexible. Anything you want to achieve isn’t about finding the time, it’s about making the time – and that’s a choice in your power. Look at your daily and weekly routines to identify blocks of time when you can exercise or prepare meals in advance. It may mean getting up 20 minutes earlier or getting off social media. Do it. Make actual appointments with yourself and keep them. Planning also means knowing your environment – at home, work and play – and being aware of triggers that could put you off course. Examples: bring your lunch instead of going out; take a walk before eating; reduce temptation by removing salty, fatty snacks from the house; shop for food mindfully, staying in the outside aisles of the store where the food is typically healthier. And be flexible: life happens and things will get in the way. Those are temporary shifts. Get right back to your health routine the following day or as soon as possible.
Set Reasonable Goals. If you need to get up earlier to exercise, don’t start with an hour – start with ten minutes. Every five days increase by five minutes until you’re awake early enough to do the kind of workout that you want. Starting with small, reasonable goals makes them more attainable and gives you a sense of achievement. And that’s important when you’re first making a behavior change. Every small success builds up to bigger achievements.
Celebrate! In your plan, note the markers at which you’ll celebrate success. Incorporate a small reward for weekly successes and a bigger reward for milestones (e.g., 3 weeks of exercising daily, or losing the first five pounds). Rewards need not be expensive; rather, make them meaningful for you – and not food based unless you’re going out to a great new vegan restaurant.
“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” – Benjamin Franklin
With a nutrient profile similar to kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli, arugula is an excellent alternative to these other cruciferous vegetables. Its distinctive, almost peppery flavor, makes arugula easy to enjoy and you’ll easily boost the flavor and health power of a meal when you add in this Mediterranean leafy green.
Arugula is high in the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin C, A, and K: these antioxidants play a role in protecting cells from free radical damage (oxidation). Vitamins A and C also support a healthy immune system. Vitamin K is involved in the body’s blood clotting process and plays a role in bone health, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
Folate (a B vitamin): supports the production of DNA and is very important in a healthy pregnancy and fetal development.
Calcium and potassium: minerals that have many functions in the body. Both are involved in producing strong muscle contraction. Calcium is important to bone and tooth health. Potassium, an electrolyte, is essential for healthy heart and nerve function and it helps maintain healthy sodium levels in the body.
Add arugula to a salad, rice and other grains, or use in your main meal in lieu of parsley or other herbs. With its lovely leaf shape, flavor and edible flowers, arugula can add pizzazz to many dishes.
In this simple, seasonal and healthy salad, peppery arugula is combined with crisp apples, toasted pecans, red onion, and dried cranberry. A vibrant lemon vinaigrette complements this flavorful plant-based dish. It’s a perfect beginning to your lunch or dinner. To make it a main dish, consider adding crumbled goat cheese, white beans, chickpeas, or tofu for your favorite protein. Serves 4.
1/2 cup raw pecans
7 ounces arugula (organic when possible)
2 small apples (1 tart, 1 sweet, peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise)
1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)
2 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)
1 large lemon, juiced (1 lemon yields ~3 Tbsp or 45 ml)
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
1 pinch each sea salt + black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C) and arrange pecans on a bare baking sheet.
Bake pecans for 8-10 minutes or until fragrant and deep golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
While pecans are toasting, prep remaining salad ingredients and add to a large mixing bowl.
Prepare dressing in a mixing bowl or mason jar by adding all ingredients and whisking or shaking vigorously to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.
Add pecans to salad and top with dressing. Toss to combine and serve immediately. Serves two as an entrée and four as a side.
Store leftovers (dressing separate from salad) covered in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (though best when fresh). Dressing should keep at room temperature for 2-3 days when well sealed.
Co-enzyme Q10: Vital to Energy Production in the Body
Very rarely is a substance so important – and prevalent – in the human body as is Co-enzyme Q10. As critical as it is, however, our body’s ability to make CoQ10 peaks at about age 21 and steadily declines as we age. By the time most of us are in our 80’s, our natural source of CoQ10 has declined by 60-65%. Stress, medical conditions and drug interactions, especially statin drugs, can contribute to its depletion. While foods such as beef, pork, chicken, organ meats and fatty fish are good sources of CoQ10, it’s nearly impossible for our diet alone to make up for loss from age-related or external factors.
Here’s why maintaining healthy levels of CoQ10 is important: it plays a role in fueling the energy production mechanism in every cell of our body and helps maintain optimal functioning of heart muscle and blood vessel walls. As a potent antioxidant, it protects the integrity of the cells, keeping oxidative stress at bay – essential for bolstering the cells against disease and the aging process. Research shows CoQ10 benefits people who are in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. It also has been shown to improve the symptoms of congestive heart failure in some patients.
Signs of CoQ10 deficiency can vary tremendously from person to person and may include fatigue, muscle pains and / or spasms, joint pain, headache, frequent and long-lived illness and poor memory. There are tests available to check CoQ10 levels. If you’re deficient, consider taking a supplement. An interesting fact: because CoQ10 is present in just about all body tissue, the scientific name of the supplement is ubiquitous Quinone, or Ubiquinone.
There are two forms of CoQ10 supplements: Ubiquinone and Ubiquinol, both of which are generally recognized as safe for adults. Ubiquinone is the most studied form in all research prior to 2006. Ubiquinol was developed to offer the same benefits as its predecessor but with greater stability in capsule form – the preferred form used by most people. The ability to produce and absorb CoQ10 changes with age and health status. Talk with your holistic practitioner about the the amount and form best suited to your needs.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an ancient remedy for detoxifying the body, relieving pain, and supporting the health of red blood cells, the skin, and sound sleep. It’s also highly regarded for promoting mental clarity and spiritual resilience, making lemongrass a useful “mind-body herb.”
For the physical body, lemongrass has long been used for treating arthritis, fever, and anemia. It’s also used to support healthy digestion. Lemongrass is high in antioxidants, which help protect the integrity of the cells. Holistic physicians often use lemongrass in the management of anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
For the spirit, lemongrass oil is an excellent aromatherapy ‘rescue remedy’ for times when you are struggling to accomplish something but are weighed down by procrastination or lack of clarity. Diffusing lemongrass oil or burning lemongrass incense or candles can bring you clarity of purpose and focus on a task while warding off interruption.
Lemongrass has a vibrant lemon-like flavor and aroma. When you want to add pizazz to an entrée, use fresh or dried lemongrass in your broths, meat, poultry and seafood dishes and enjoy added health benefits. And, when you need to invigorate and clarify your thinking, lemongrass has much to offer: Enjoy it as a tea, in an herbal salve or lotion, and as a tincture. Check with your holistic practitioner for the best way to use lemongrass for your wellbeing.
So Many Apps, So Little Time: Which Fitness & Diet App is Best for You?
Sticking to diet, fitness or other wellness goals can be made simpler by using some of the many popular apps on the market. A well-designed app can help you stay motivated, track progress, and provide reinforcement for even the smallest successes. With thousands of apps available, the hardest part is figuring out which ones are best for you.
The majority of diet and fitness tracking apps are not regulated by a governing agency, such as the Food and Drug Administration, unless it’s considered a medical device. Be prepared for some trial and error in testing out apps; but before you get to the road-test stage, keep the following tips in mind.
Essential Features of Quality Apps
Key features to look for in an app designed to track eating and exercise behavior:
user-friendly, intuitive platform that displays data that is relevant for you;
ability to set a goal and get visual or other feedback (e.g., alerts, stickers) so you can see your progress and feel a sense of achievement;
tools for positive reinforcement/accountability (e.g., social networks, contests);
accuracy of data entered and how it is tabulated, including calories, nutrients, steps, miles, etc.
Apps that monitor dietary intake of macro and micronutrients (e.g., calories, protein, fat, sodium, sugar, vitamins etc.) should have a comprehensive food database. Make sure the database includes foods you typically eat.
A physical activity app is best if it accurately tracks the activity you enjoy and will help you stick with it over time. For most people, it may be helpful to find a fitness app that allows you to track a variety of activities (e.g., walking, weight training, or swimming) and encourages you to increase total movement each day. Others may want to gather robust data for more intense training such as distance running. There are also many apps that will take you through a basic workout right on your phone. As your fitness level improves, you can always change or upgrade the app.
Quick Tips for Choosing a Reliable App
When viewing an app in the iTunes or Android store:
Read reviews to see if the app performs as advertised.
Look at the date the developer updated the app. It should be updated regularly, at least within the last 3 months.
Visit the developer website for the app:
Look at the developer team. Ideally, you want to see medical advisors, not just engineers, with appropriate health/medical credentials
Be realistic about what is promised:
Steer clear of apps that claim to diagnose or treat as well as those that suggest you take a certain drug or supplement, or encourage restrictive diets or excessive exercise.
According to Make A Difference Day Survey (ICM Research 2004), 63% of 25 to 34-year-olds say volunteering helps them feel less stressed and half of people (48%) who have volunteered for more than two years say volunteering makes them less depressed.
Mindful Gift Giving: Tips for the Holiday Season
For many of us, gift giving is the biggest stress of the holiday season – from finding time to shop, to selecting the right gift, to getting the best price. We struggle emotionally knowing gifts often hold symbolic meaning for the recipient; yet, not having other ideas, we go to our default mode of shopping big box retailers for the “latest and greatest.” We do this despite the fact that these products tend to become outdated or lose their appeal within days.
This year, try your hand at mindful gift-giving: it can ease your stress, bring you greater joy, often costs less, and allows you to honor friends and family with gifts that are thoughtful and personal. It’s a way to say, “I thought of you” rather than “I shopped for you.” Here’s how it works:
Sit with a pad and paper (put the devices away) and make a list of the people you’re giving to this year. Leave space between each name for notes.
Jot down what you know about the person: their likes, their hobbies, their hopes, dreams and passions. What are their pet peeves? How do they spend their time at work, at play? Do they volunteer; what causes are important to them? Do they have an unmet need that you’ve observed?
Let your mind wander for a bit, exploring ideas related to what you know about the person. Imagine gifts that help solve a problem, support a hobby, enhance a sense of community. For those that require a purchase, set a price range within your means. You don’t have to buy gifts to fulfill big dreams, but it’s likely you can find or make something that holds meaning for the recipient.
Before you participate in the Big Box Rush, consider some of these ways for meaningful gift-giving:
The Gift of Presence. Do you know an overworked single parent? Make your gift a double: a gift card to a spa or salon while you watch the kids. A lonely friend or neighbor? Make up a gift certificate for time together, your treat: lunch, movie, theater, museum (you get the idea).
The Gift of Service, Skill, or Talent. Maybe someone needs help around their house. Or your unique skills. If you sew, make a gift card offering to sew for someone. If you draw, paint, take pictures, or are an excellent cook put these talents to use in the form of a gift or offer to teach them your skill. Another idea: a coupon book for services, such as rides, lawn maintenance, housekeeping, pet watching, that can be used throughout the year.
The Gift of Memories. Write a note, a poem, or create a collage of photos and captions of experiences you’ve shared with someone. A memento of times together is a wonderful way to give a gift that lasts forever.
The Gift of Igniting Passions. If you know someone who talks about wanting to learn to paint, buy them a series of classes. Or a how-to book and some supplies. On the other end of the spectrum, if your mother-in-law hates grocery shopping, buy her a month of meal delivery service.
A little mindfulness and creative thought can add joy and meaning to the process of gift giving during the holiday season or anytime of the year.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Holiday Digestive Support: Ginger
Around the holidays, or anytime you’ve over-indulged, consider sweet and zesty ginger for nourishing the digestive organs. Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a knobby, horn-shaped rhizome with a long history of supporting metabolism, aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. It helps heal upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, motion sickness, and morning sickness.
Current research indicates that ginger stimulates the production of enzymes in saliva and along digestive pathways. Biologically active compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract, which seems to be instrumental in minimizing the sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Ginger also plays a role in the breakdown of starches and fatty food. All good things when your tummy has gone sour.
There are many fresh and dried preparations for ginger including tincture, extracts and capsules prepared in different strengths; consult with a holistic physician to determine your medicinal needs.
Ginger is also available as a “chew” or lozenges and tea infusions, all of which are ideal for upset stomach. Don’t forget to try a cup of homemade Ginger Ale, enjoyed with a side of Gingerbread, both prepared with a freshly grated ginger rhizome.
Who doesn’t love this old-fashioned favorite holiday dessert? Just thinking about the aroma of warm gingerbread wafting through the air is bound to put you in a festive spirit. Enjoy gingerbread after your meal or with your morning tea.
Ingredients for Bread
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger or gingerbread spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Ingredients for Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ or glazing sugar (or Swerve)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″ square pan.
In a large bowl, blend the sugar, molasses, water and butter, stirring until the butter melts. When the mixture is lukewarm, add the baking soda, salt, and egg.
Sift together the flour and spices, and add to the wet ingredients. Gently stir in the crystallized ginger.
Pour the batter into the pan, and bake the gingerbread for 25 to 28 minutes, or until it tests done with a clean skewer in the center.
Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.
While cooling, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the sugar and vanilla, then stir in the crystallized ginger. Apply icing as desired.
Have you ever wondered how the macronutrients in food – fats, carbohydrates and proteins – get where they need to be in your body? This is where digestive enzymes come into play: they move macronutrients, vitamins and minerals out of the digestive tract and into the bloodstream where they participate in functions such as growth and repair. If the body is deficient in these enzymes (due to genetics, illness, or food allergy), food cannot be properly digested.
Major Digestive Enzymes:
Proteases break down protein into amino acids and peptides.
Lipases break down fat into three types of fatty acids.
Amylases break down carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Other enzymes target specific sugars:
Lactase breaks down the sugar in milk.
Maltase moves maltose, which is produced from starch, and converts it into glucose that the body uses for quick energy.
Sucrase works on sucrose and converts it into other sugar molecules.
Deficiencies in digestive enzymes often result in gastrointestinal distress after eating food that contains a starch, fat, or protein the body cannot break down. For example, if you’re deficient in lactase, you’ll feel ill (bloating, cramps, gas) after eating dairy products.
Digestive enzymes are naturally present in many foods. Pineapple and papaya are rich in proteases and can help ease symptoms of IBS. Mango and banana contain enzymes that break down starches. Other excellent sources of digestive enzymes include kefir, sauerkraut, honey and ginger. To reap the benefits, eat these foods at their peak freshness and chew mindfully as saliva activates many enzymes. Eat fruits raw as heating destroys the enzymes.
When treating digestive dysfunction, food allergy or sensitivity, a holistic physician may recommend dietary changes along with enzymes in pill form. Many factors influence how you should take these enzymes (before, during, or after a meal). Your holistic practitioner can help determine how digestive enzymes can best support your health.
Peppermint for Home and Health during the Holidays
Aromatic peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been used for centuries to add flavor or fragrance to foods, cosmetics, toothpaste and mouthwash, soaps, candles, and scented products for the home. Several different cultures also use peppermint leaves, oil, and fresh or dried powder in holistic health preparations.
As a traditional remedy, peppermint is used to awaken the mind and help relieve fatigue. Consider lighting a peppermint scented candle during the busy holiday season. Peppermint is also well known for relief of symptoms associated with the common cold and indigestion; it works by calming the stomach muscles and improving the movement of bile through the digestive system. Some scientific studies indicate that peppermint can improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Because the menthol component of peppermint acts as a decongestant, peppermint essential oil is a good choice for use in a diffuser, as a chest rub, or added to a warm bath. Dried peppermint leaves make for an excellent infusion for tea.
It is possible to be allergic to peppermint. Even though it can ease digestive complaints, it may not be appropriate for people who have acid reflux (GERD). Like many other herbs, peppermint can interact with other herbs, prescription medicine, or supplements. Peppermint can affect respiratory function in young children; it should not be used without the supervision of a trained medical aromatherapist. Be sure to consult your health practitioner before adding any form of peppermint (oil, capsule, tea) to your health regimen.
Lower stress, higher self-confidence, and enhanced social relationships – sounds like the health benefits of exercise, right? Surprise! Those benefits also come from volunteering. Whether you’re working at a food shelter, giving time as a literacy mentor, or helping out after a natural disaster, the many ways of doing good for others is also good for your health.
In general, people volunteer because they believe helping those who are having a harder time in life can actually make a difference. That alone makes those who volunteer feel good about themselves, about others, and about their community. But there’s much more to it; research shows that the “happiness effect” of volunteering enhances social, emotional, and physical aspects of health and that these benefits increase as we age.
Strengthens community ties
Builds in-person social networks to create genuine friendships
Reduces feelings of loneliness
Enhances professional networks and job opportunities
Strengthens emotional stability for those with and without mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD
Contributes to a sense of purpose
Lowers stress and tension
Enhances brain function
Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Promotes being physically active
People who volunteer tend to take better care of themselves; they typically have lower rates of heart disease, depression and anxiety. These health benefits don’t just apply to adults. They apply to kids and teens as well. As noted earlier, the benefits continue as we age and become even more pronounced for older adult volunteers.
So, find a cause (or two) that is meaningful for you, involve the whole family in volunteering, and celebrate all that it does for others and for you!