Research shows that about 75 percent of the world’s population loses the ability to break down lactose at some point, meaning that many naturally become lactose intolerance over time. In the U.S., the condition affects around 30 million adults to some degree by age 20, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
More than Belly Aches: Acid Reflux in Children
Acid reflux is often experienced differently in children and teens than it is in adults. Along with a wide range of symptoms, kids typically tell parents they have "fire in the belly and throat," a sign of acid reflux and not simply a stomach ache. Always take it seriously. Persistent reflux can erode tooth enamel, damage the lining of the esophagus, cause sore throat/laryngitis, interfere with swallowing, and increase the risk for diseases of the esophagus.
Acid reflux is triggered by too little stomach acid, which is needed to signal the lower esophagus to close tightly. When it fails to close, stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, creating a burning sensation. When persistent reflux affects a child's ability to enjoy eating, absorb nutrients, and manifests other health problems, it's labeled as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Occasional reflux is common in kids, but GERD is more serious, afflicting up to 84% of children age 2-17 and about 40% of infants.
Causes and treatment approaches vary widely, depending on the age of the child, their diet, and other health factors. Let's take a holistic look at acid reflux in kids including symptoms, causes, and ways to resolve the underlying causes and prevent serious damage to the digestive tract.
Symptoms of Reflux & GERD in Kids:
A variety of symptoms accompany reflux - not every child will have all or even most of them.
intense irritation to burning pain in the lower mid-chest or behind the breastbone
nausea / vomiting
problems swallowing or painful swallowing
Causes of Reflux & GERD Include:
medicines a child is taking (including antibiotics)
being overweight or obese
having a food sensitivity or allergy
use of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
lack of exercise
poor gut health
You may be familiar with prescription and over-the-counter medications for adults with reflux disease, such as proton-pump inhibitors and antacids. At best, these drugs mask symptoms and give only short-term relief. Given to children and teens, these drugs set kids up for a lifetime of digestive and intestinal issues because the root cause of the reflux is not addressed.
Addressing the Root Cause of Reflux & GERD:
To get to the root cause of GERD, a holistic physician may test for food sensitivities, assess stomach acid production, and evaluate the child's diet and lifestyle habits. They may also assess for imbalances in gut health. To address underlying causes, holistic physicians may prescribe nutritional supplements / herbal remedies, guide you in making dietary changes, recommend exercise and stress management, and use physical medicine modalities such as abdominal massage. Each approach works in conjunction with the others based on individual needs with the aim to restore balance and health to your child's gut.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates
Helping Kids Eat Dairy-Free
If you've been told by a holistic health physician that your child needs to follow a dairy-free diet - don't panic! Today, there are numerous healthy and delicious dairy-free options. The first thing you will want to be clear about is if the dairy-free recommendation is due to lactose intolerance or to a dairy sensitivity. The two share similar symptoms but are very different conditions. Some children will have one, but many have both, and the approach to each is different. If you are unsure which condition your child has, double check with your doctor.
Lactose intolerance means that your child cannot digest milk sugar (lactose). It is a very common condition and you will see many dairy products, including milk, yogurt, butter and others, labeled "lactose free" or "safe for lactose intolerance." A dairy sensitivity or allergy means that your child has difficulty digesting milk protein (whey, casein).
In either condition, symptoms can include, among other things, abdominal cramps, bloating, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, vomiting, rash, sinus infection, and respiratory distress. In some cases, the child is at risk for a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction that can shut down the child's airways - immediate medical attention is necessary.
Once your physician has diagnosed the type of allergy/intolerance, together you can create a plan for finding dairy-free substitutions in order to keep your child deliciously nourished. Here are a few suggestions:
Choose Vegan Foods. Vegan foods are dairy-free, as well as meat-free. Selecting vegan foods is a great way to enjoy a variety of flavors that are free from all sources of dairy.
Try Alternatives to Milk. These days the dairy aisle has a new neighbor: a dairy-free section with a variety of alternative products made from rice, soy, almond, cashew, walnut, hemp, and coconut. The selection of products includes cheese, "milks", ice cream, cream cheese, and yogurt to name a few. Also, Kosher products labeled Pareve do not contain dairy. Different brands of these alternative dairy options will vary in consistency, flavor, and nutrition profiles. Experiment with several to find those that best suit your family's needs. As with other dairy products, keep an eye on the sugar content by reading labels.
Choose More Fresh, Whole Foods. Get your kids in the habit of eating in-season, organic, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Your physician will have other tips specific to your child's needs. It's important to follow your doctor's advice for making these changes easy and enjoyable for your child. Eventually, they won't miss dairy at all.
Kid-friendly, SO Yummy! Homemade Dairy Free Ice Cream
There are many ways to make delicious dairy-free ice cream at home, but one simple and proven approach to creating a healthy version of this cool, sweet treat begins with the following essential ingredients:
Flavoring to taste (vanilla, cinnamon, cacao powder, maca, mint extract, etc.)
Add-ins of choice (berries, peaches, banana, cacao nibs, nuts or seeds, chocolate chunks, etc.)*
The type of *sweetener, flavoring and add-ins that you choose will affect the sugar content of the ice cream. Keep nutrition in balance by choosing wisely. The Academy of Culinary Nutrition has a variety of recipes for you to choose from. Below is one of our favorites. Be sure to include your kids in the ice-cream making fun!
Dairy Free Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
1 cup raw cashews (150g), soaked overnight, washed & drained
1 cup coconut cream (250ml)
1/3 cup coconut nectar
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 tsp Spirulina
Few drops peppermint extract
1/2 cup cacao nibs (or raw chocolate grated)
You don't necessarily need an ice cream maker. While these machines do whip air into your frozen desserts, producing a fluffier result, you could easily put your ice cream mixture directly into the freezer instead.
Blend cashews, coconut cream and coconut nectar in a blender until smooth and creamy.
Add coconut oil and blend until combined
Add peppermint oil (add more or less to liking) and spirulina and blend until combined.
Pour into metal loaf tin. Stir through cacao nibs.
Cover tin with foil and freeze overnight until set.
Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving to soften.
Many foods naturally contain enzymes, which are molecules that speed up chemical reactions. Digestive enzymes, as you may have guessed, support various digestive processes. One food that contains important digestive enzymes is papaya.
A deep yellow, sweet tropical fruit, papaya is rich in papain, which contains the digestive enzyme called protease that helps breakdown protein. If the body is deficient in this enzyme (due to genetics, illness, or food allergy), then protein-rich foods cannot be properly digested; consequently, you may experience indigestion or heartburn. The protease enzymes in papaya (among other tropical fruits), have been shown to help ease symptoms associated with an upset stomach and heartburn.
To reap the benefits of the enzymes in these foods, eat them raw at their peak freshness and chew mindfully as saliva activates many enzymes. If you are taking papaya as a digestive enzyme supplement, check with your holistic health practitioner about taking it individually or in combination with other enzymes as this can make a significant difference in effectiveness for your health concerns.
An Asian spice, well-known for its sweet and zesty zing, ginger has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation and support digestion. As a digestive aid, this knobby, horn-shaped root is used to nourish and warm the digestive organs, including the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and liver. Ginger stimulates production of enzymes in all digestive pathways.
Research indicates that biologically active compounds in ginger bind to receptors in the digestive tract. This process seems instrumental for minimizing the sensations that create nausea and indigestion. Researchers also note that ginger plays a role in the breakdown of starches and fatty food - all good things when your tummy has gone sour.
There are many preparations of ginger that kids, as well as adults, can enjoy and use when experiencing an upset stomach. This includes ginger chews, lozenges, and fresh or dried tea infusions. Tinctures, capsules, and extracts can be prepared in varying strengths based upon individual medicinal needs, determined through consultation with a holistic physician.
Giving your infant a gentle abdominal massage is a wonderful approach for taming tummy troubles. It's also ideal for older children and you can teach them techniques for self-care when they're ready. Abdominal massage can improve digestion, lessen gastric discomfort, and help release tension created by stress, thus improving digestion.
The digestive process can become interrupted by health issues such as food intolerance, allergic reaction, or illness, as well as emotional stress and tension. These issues can result in abdominal ache, gas, indigestion, and difficulty with bowel movements. Massaging the abdomen helps soothe the muscles and nerves and can stimulate muscle contractions in the GI tract (called peristalsis), which helps move waste through the bowel.
The following method is wonderful to use with babies and very young children. Always perform abdominal massage when the child is quiet but alert, not when they are fussy or asleep. Use the flat pads of the fingers; never use fingertips and be mindful of your fingernails. You also want to use gentle but firm pressure. Always pay attention to the child's reaction (e.g., facial expression) to make sure they are comfortable.
Undress the child (baby in a diaper; a child can be in light and loose-fitting pajamas). The child should lie face up on a blanket or other soft surface.
Starting at the base of the rib cage, massage the abdomen in a circular, clockwise motion. Make smaller and smaller circles, gradually making your way to the navel.
Hold baby's knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward abdomen.
Gently rotate baby's hips a few times to one side, then to the other side. This can be helpful in releasing excess gas.
Place your hand on baby's tummy horizontally, rocking hand from side to side. Make gentle but firm motions, to avoid tickling the child. Cover area below navel, stopping short of pelvic region. (Note for infants: Do not massage stomach if umbilical cord hasn't healed completely.)
For an older child, the parent can perform the "upside down U" massage and can teach the child how to follow this pattern to perform the massage on their own.
Have child lie on their back. Use a massage oil, such as olive or coconut, which are generally safe for children. (Always do a patch test on the inside of the arm to be sure.) Pour a small amount of oil on your palm and rub both palms together, to make sure your hands are warm.
Massage up the right side of the stomach, then across the top of the stomach below the rib cage, then down the left side. This can help move gas bubbles along the intestines.
A circle should be completed no less than twice, but can be done a few more times. Pelvic area does not need to be massaged.
If this approach does not provide relief, use the "I Love U" massage pattern:
I: Using the pads of the fingers, stroke down from the bottom of the left ribs to the top of the left hip. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
L: Stroke from the bottom of the right ribs, over to the bottom of the left ribs and then down to the top of the left hip. You have made an L shape with your stroke. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
U: stroke from the top of the right hip up to the bottom of the right ribs, over to the bottom of the left ribs and then down to the top of the left hip. You have made a U shape with your stroke. Do this stroke at least 10 times.
Tummy massage on a baby or young child should take 5-10 minutes and can be performed periodically throughout the day or as recommended by your physician. An older child performing massage on their own might need 15-20 minutes, depending upon the method being used and until they have mastered the technique. You might feel gas bubbles or lumpiness under your fingertips – this is to be expected. However, you should not feel hard lumps nor should the child experience pain with gentle but firm pressure. If there is pain with touch, make an appointment with your holistic health practitioner.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.
The state with the highest incidence of breast cancer is Massachusetts. According the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are 139.5 new cases per 100,000 female residents in the state. Meanwhile, the state with the lowest incidence of breast cancer is Arkansas with 101.9 new cases per 100,000 female residents.
Breast Thermography: An Important Adjunct Test for Detecting Breast Cancer
The moment a woman feels a lump in her breast is likely one of the most frightening moments in her life. What could it be? What if it's cancer? Every year in the U.S., one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die from the disease. Early detection is key to surviving breast cancer.
The gold standard for early detection is a mammogram. However, aside from the discomfort of the test, there can be serious inconsistencies in the results: mammography can generate both false-negative results (not detecting cancer that is actually present) and false-positive results (detecting cancer that is not actually present). If a test is false-positive, the result could be overdiagnosis and a woman going through unnecessary treatment. If the test is false-negative, that could result in a woman not receiving treatment for an existing cancer. That's why an imaging test known as breast thermography has become a valid and important adjunct test (not a replacement test) for detecting breast cancer. A less invasive test, breast thermography is a secondary test authorized by the FDA to be used only as a risk assessment tool in addition to - but not in place of - mammography.
What is Thermography?
Breast thermography (also known as Digital Infrared Imaging-DII) is a 15-minute, pain-free, non-invasive test that shows the structure of your breast while measuring heat emanating from the surface of your body. Changes in skin temperature are the result of increased blood flow. This is important because even early-stage cancers need a blood supply to bring in nutrients to feed the cancer.
Because temperature change shows up as colors brighter than those of healthy cells, thermography can identify precancerous or cancerous cells earlier and with less ambiguous results. Studies indicate that an abnormal thermography test is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than having a family history of breast cancer.
When to Test (may vary based on personal and family medical history)
Age 20: Initial thermogram
Age 20 – 29: Thermogram every 3 years
Age 30 and over: Thermogram annually
Is it Right for Me?
Thermography is not suitable for women who have very large or fibrocystic breasts, are using hormone replacement treatment, have had cosmetic breast surgery, or are nursing or pregnant. Consult with your holistic physician to determine if breast thermography is a good option for you.
"The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today." - H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Red Cabbage, Green cabbage, Chinese cabbage: Oh, my!
Some folks might be surprised to learn that cabbage is not in the same category as lettuce, despite their similar appearance. Cabbage is cousin to kale and broccoli and is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Varying in color from pale green to red and purple, cabbage contains many nutrients that offer health benefits such as protecting against cancer, lowering risk for heart disease, and supporting immunity and digestion.
Researchers have identified 20 different flavonoids and 15 different phenols in cabbage, all of which have antioxidant activity in the human body. These plant nutrients protect the cells from damage (e.g., reducing inflammation), and are linked to a decreased risk of chronic illness. Cabbage also contains a sulfur-compound called sulforophane, which has been shown to have cancer preventive properties. A study conducted at the University of Missouri, looked at another chemical found in cabbage, called apigenin. In lab studies, apigenin was found to decrease tumor size when cells from an aggressive form of breast cancer were implanted in mice. More research is required to determine if apigenin has the potential to be used as a non-toxic treatment for cancer in humans. Lastly, red-purple cabbage contains the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin that bolsters protection for red blood cells.
Oh My is right: there are so many kinds of cabbage, with so many ways to protect your health. Be sure to include this cruciferous vegetable in your weekly diet. When buying cabbage, select one that is heavy for its size. The leaves should be tightly wrapped, as loose, limp leaves indicate an older cabbage. Store cabbage in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Cabbage can be eaten raw, or steamed, boiled, roasted, sautéed, or stuffed for side dishes or entrees. (If you smell a sulfurous odor while cooking, then the cabbage is overcooked.) Add shredded cabbage near the end of cooking to soups or stews or stir-fry dishes; add it to fresh green salads or chop and drizzle with herbs and olive oil.
Turn cabbage-haters into cabbage-lovers with this tasty side dish. The key to transforming what is often perceived as a bland vegetable into a delectable dish is a matter of seasoning selection. You can't go wrong with parmesan and garlic, that's for sure! Turn this side dish into a salad by adding fresh cherry or plum tomatoes. Partner it with eggs, a serving of chicken or your favorite vegan entree, for a more filling meal.
2 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 red onion finely sliced
7 handfuls shredded green cabbage
1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded parmesan
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a large, covered skillet over high heat.
Add garlic and onion - cook for 2 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add cabbage and cook until wilted.
Stir through parmesan, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve!
Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (Avemar pulvis)
Fermented Wheat Germ Extract (FWGE) is derived from a patented industrial fermentation of wheat germ. It was formulated by a scientist from Hungary, where it is approved as a "medical nutriment" for cancer patients. FWGE contains a number of substances that are believed to have a positive cancer fighting effect. Two of these compounds, both a type of quinone, have shown "cancer fighting" effects in lab and human studies. In addition to halting the growth of cancer cells, some studies have shown the quinones found in FWGE might interfere or halt the migration of certain types of cancer cells.
FWGE has been studied as both a complement used alongside cancer drugs and as a stand alone nutritional supplement. Findings indicate that in both populations of people there was significant improvement. Those who opted for conventional cancer treatment and those who chose a different treatment route both benefited from the addition of FWGE.
While this news holds promise for FWGE as a non-toxic complementary therapy in cancer treatment, more research is needed to determine:
What are the physiological action(s) by which FGWE works in the human body?
For whom FGWE is a safe and effective option?
Which types of cancer FGWE can be used against?
What are the side effects and risk for interactions with other health conditions, as well as other herbs, supplements, or prescription drugs?
There is currently a discussion happening in the scientific world about whether FWGE should remain classified as a nutritional supplement or be elevated to a cancer drug. More research is needed before this can be determined. FWGE is typically dosed as a powder in water and the dose varies by individual. As with any new therapy, a discussion should be had with your holistic doctor before using FWGE.
When it comes to tea, the more pure the leaf in your brew, the better the health benefits. Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves, which do not go through an oxidation process, have the richest nutrient profile among all varieties of tea. Research shows that people who drink four or more cups of green tea each day have a lower overall risk of cancer and women who frequently drink green tea have a lower overall risk (or "lower overall incidence") for breast cancer.
The powerful micronutrients in green tea are called polyphenols. One type of polyphenol is EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which shows promise in protecting cells from cancer. Lab tests and animal studies have shown EGCG is able to inhibit an enzyme that is necessary for cancer cell growth. EGCG also has been successful as a complementary approach in cancer treatment. For example, topical EGCG provides relief from radiation-induced dermatitis experienced by women in treatment for breast cancer. (Always consult with your physician before applying any ointment to your skin before or after a radiation treatment). While promising, it's important to note that scientists are still investigating the precise mechanisms through which polyphenols such as EGCG exert their effects in the body. One such mechanism is that these compounds are powerful antioxidants that gobble up cellular debris known as free radicals. This scavenging action helps protect cells from damage that could, over time, lead to the development of cancer. While green tea, overall is well regarded among health practitioners, scientists are still pursuing clinical trials to determine if green tea consumption, as well as a dietary supplement of EGCG, may play a role in the prevention and treatment of different cancers.
When selecting tea, be aware that the quality of tea and its nutrient content is degraded by processing. To reap the benefits of tea for wellbeing, use pure, loose leaf tea for hot or iced beverages. Choose organic teas whenever possible. Before taking an EGCG supplement, consult with a holistic health physician to ensure the product is pure and contains the appropriate potency for your health concerns.
It's important for a woman to be familiar with the look and feel of her own breasts. Performing a breast self-exam (BSE) at least once per month is the best way to detect a lump or other abnormality. It is best to do a BSE the same time every month. For women who are menstruating, choose a time in the month after your cycle completes.
A BSE should be done lying down, or in the shower. You want to feel relaxed, not tense, as you are performing the BSE. Follow these steps:
Use the pads of your fingers. Use the pads (not the tips) of your three middle fingers for the exam.
Use different pressure levels. Your goal is to feel different depths of the breast by using different levels of pressure to feel all the breast tissue.
Take your time. Hurrying through the process could cause you to miss something.
Follow a pattern. Don't move randomly around the breast. Instead, move your fingers in a path around the breast. Also, check the area beneath the armpits.
Look at your beautiful bosom. Women should also look at their breasts in the mirror straight on, as well as while bending forward at the waist. Notice if there is any asymmetry.
If you are uncertain about how to proceed, ask your physician for a demonstration. Also, this video will help you learn how to do a BSE correctly when at home.
What You Might Find During a BSE
For women who are menstruating, breast tissue undergoes changes at various points throughout the monthly menstrual cycle. So you may find lumpy areas or changes in your breast that are completely normal. For all women, breasts often feel different in different places. A firm ridge along the bottom of each breast is normal, for instance. The look and feel of your breasts will change as you age. Finally, diet can alter breast tissue, for example, a diet high in red meat can increase the fibrous feel of the breasts.
Contact Your Doctor If You Notice . . .
A hard lump or knot anywhere in the breast tissue or under the arm
Changes in the way your breasts look or feel, including thickening or prominent fullness that is different from the surrounding tissue
Dimples, puckers, bulges or ridges on the skin of your breast
A recent change in a nipple to become pushed in (inverted) instead of sticking out
Redness, warmth, swelling or pain
Itching, scales, sores or rashes
Bloody nipple discharge
Your doctor may recommend additional tests and procedures to investigate breast changes, including a clinical breast exam, mammogram, thermography, and ultrasound.
The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.
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.