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!
Between your nose and brain, you can smell and “remember” at least 50,000 different scents.
Take A Holistic Approach to Antibiotic Resistance
When it comes to our health, there are two schools of thought: the Germ Theory and the Terrain Theory. Understanding the differences is critical, particularly because it involves the use of antibiotics, which should be used sparingly and for the right reasons. So let’s examine this often confusing topic.
The Germ Theory asserts that, regardless of the state of our health, germs that can cause disease will, indeed, cause disease. That’s because the germ is responsible for our illness and not the overall state of our health. Traditional medical practice calls for identifying and destroying invading germs, including bacteria (but not by viruses including cold and flu) through the use of antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics are often over-prescribed and germs are mutating to survive them.
On the other hand, the Terrain Theory, embraced by holistic practitioners from a wide range of medical fields, asserts that germs that can cause disease will do so when the body is more susceptible and that the more healthy we are (the terrain) the less likely we will become ill; if we do, we will become less ill. In other words, when the body’s internal environment is at its best, then immunity, metabolism, and detoxification are at their strongest. Consequently, the body is less susceptible to illness and has the best defense against “disease causing” germs. Antibiotics are used sparingly and primarily in life-threatening situations.
It’s important to understand that taking antibiotics does not contribute to building immunity; they are prescribed for treatment, not prevention, and there is the real threat of resistance.
Antibiotic Risks and Drug Resistant Disease
When prescribed judiciously by doctors and used properly by patients, antibiotics can save lives by destroying bacteria or stopping it from reproducing. Despite the wonders of this medicine, there are significant problems:
20% of people experience side effects including gastrointestinal, kidney, menstrual, and joint abnormalities after taking antibiotics. Risk for side effects increase with each additional ten days of use.
About 10% of people are allergic to antibiotics.
In the U.S. more than two million illnesses per year are caused by resistance to antibiotics, resulting in 23,000 deaths when these drugs fail to work.
Antibiotic resistance (AR) means that the germ targeted by the medication has mounted defenses that render the drug ineffective even when taken properly. Situations and conditions that present the greatest risk for AR include:
Overuse of antibiotics
Not taking the medicine as prescribed
Long hospital stays
Working in parts of the world that lack proper hygiene
Not having the ability to meet essential nutritional needs
Improperly handling raw meat, consuming contaminated meat, crops, or water
Contact with infected individuals
Protect Your Internal Terrain from AR
Healthcare is faced with a dangerous rise in antibiotic resistance, making the more holistic “terrain approach” to battling germs vital to preserving health. Here’s what you can do:
Take a probiotic supplement, a quality multivitamin, follow a quarterly detox regimen, get adequate sleep, and eat a variety of whole foods
Filter your water (drugs disposed of at landfills can get into groundwater supply)
Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods (these lower immune function)
The unfortunate truth is the “kill the germ” perspective is failing. We will reach a point where we do not have effective antibiotics. By bolstering the internal terrain, a healthy and vibrant person can mount the immune defenses necessary to protect their health.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller
Apple Cider Vinegar: A News-Worthy Remedy
Over the years, the media has paid lots of attention to apple cider vinegar (ACV) and for good reason. An ancient health remedy, it’s known as a panacea for what ails us, aiding in weight loss, managing blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, lowering cancer risk, supporting digestion, and facilitating natural detoxification. It was used by Hippocrates as an antibacterial cleanser for wounds and has a long history of use by holistic physicians, particularly for its natural antibacterial properties, stemming from its fermenting process.
ACV is produced by fermenting the natural fruit sugar in crushed apples (or cider) into alcohol. Specific strains of bacteria are added to the alcohol, creating enzymes and acetic acid – the active compound in any vinegar. Acetic acid can destroy bacteria or prevent it from multiplying and spoiling foods. Probiotics and other plant compounds in ACV may help support immunity. For those who like to keep things natural and chemical-free around the home, ACV has many other uses, including conditioning the hair, cleansing the skin, gargling to soothe sore throat, and as a household cleanser.
Whether you are making ACV at home or buying from a store, the dilution ratios vary depending on whether you’re adding it to water or tea, using it to wash food, or for cleaning around the house. Because ACV contains a pungent acid, these ratios should be discussed with a holistic health practitioner. Improper mixing can result in stomach upset, reflux, or aggravation of preexisting digestive or skin condition. Most importantly, do not drink undiluted ACV.
At the first sign of a cold or flu, reach for Garlic Oxymel, an age-old immunity boosting remedy. Oxymel means “acid and honey” and is indicative of its two main ingredients (honey and apple cider vinegar). Traditionally used to help make certain herbs, such as garlic or onion, more palatable, drinking just 1/2 to 1 cup per day of this tonic will help the medicinal properties of garlic go down easily.
1 fresh garlic bulb (do not use pre-peeled or minced garlic)
4 c. water
1/4 c. raw honey (locally sourced or regional is best)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Optional: 1 T. finely minced, fresh ginger root
Peel and finely chop garlic cloves. Let the chopped cloves sit for about 10 minutes, then add to the water in a large pot with cover, heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer until garlic is very soft – about 20 minutes. Leave cover on pot, remove from heat and set aside to cool at least 1 hour.
Once cool, add honey and vinegar; mix well. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
When ready to drink, gently reheat on the stove. If desired, add minced ginger root.
Note: This remedy is not for use in respiratory illnesses where heat, such as fever, predominates.
It’s fairly common knowledge that antibiotics kill some of the health-promoting bacteria that live within your gut’s complex ecosystem. Taking a probiotic supplement can support the way gut flora work together to keep that ecosystem – and you – at the healthiest.
Antibiotics are used to kill both the pathogenic bacteria that should not be present in the body and the pathogenic bacteria that normally reside in the body in very small numbers but which have “overgrown” for some reason. Unfortunately, while antibiotics are targeting the unwanted pathogenic bacteria, they often disrupt (or destroy) the balance of “good” gut flora. The result: gastrointestinal upset. Up to 20% of people using antibiotics experience antibiotic-associated diarrhea. The longer you use an antibiotic, the more damage that is likely to occur in the gut ecosystem. Some people can experience severe symptoms that progress to inflammation of the colon, which can become life-threatening.
This is where probiotics come in. With an estimated 80% of your immune system located in your gut, taking a probiotic on a regular basis is a good idea for most people, and especially important while taking antibiotics. Probiotics are live microorganisms that encourage the growth of good gut bacteria, thus strengthening immunity. And they can help prevent that antibiotic induced diarrhea.
Which probiotic is right for you while taking antibiotics? That depends on your age, general health, current symptoms of illness, and the length of time you have been using any antibiotic medication. Probiotics come in different strains of bacteria, as well as different forms (e.g., liquid, capsule) and are usually refrigerated to preserve the integrity of the microorganisms. The selection of the strain of probiotic you should take – especially while taking an antibiotic-is very important. Just as important is making sure that you take the probiotic at a different time of day than when you take antibiotics and to continue taking the probiotic even after you have finished the antibiotic. Your health practitioner can determine which probiotic formula and dosing strategy is best for your needs.
Desert Parsley (Lomatium dissectum), also known as Toza Root, is a traditional Native American herbal remedy for colds, flu, pneumonia, viral infections, asthma, tuberculosis and many other conditions. Used in the Southeastern states during the influenza pandemic of 1917, positive results have been documented, particularly among Native people, who recovered more quickly because of their use of the herb.
Among naturopathic physicians, Lomatium is one of the most useful natural antimicrobial herbs for eliminating bacteria, fungi, or viruses that can cause infection. It’s also shown to be effective against a variety of pathogens including several types of Staph, candida, and E.coli. It acts as an expectorant, helping loosen and expel mucus from the respiratory tract and relaxing the mucosa to decrease spasmodic cough.
Lomatium is typically offered in a tincture that is dosed differently based on an individual’s needs and the condition being treated. When using desert parsley for medicinal purposes, such as to fight a cold or flu, it can be taken in pill form, tincture, tea, or finely ground root powder added to a steam bath. Supplements should be taken under the care of a holistic physician because improper use of Lomatium can cause nausea, blood thinning and may interact with prescription medicine.
Protecting yourself against infection can be done naturally. But where do you begin?
Foremost, if you suspect you have an infection (you’re coughing, expelling mucus, are feverish, etc.), now is not the time to experiment: You absolutely should be working with a holistic doctor to treat the infection. If your current aim is to boost your body’s natural protection against infection, a variety of herbs and essential oils, as well as good old soap and water, can do wonders. Use this brief overview as a starting point for an in-depth discussion with your natural health practitioner.
Food Extracts. Certain food extracts contain antibiotic properties. For example, cranberry extract is a useful remedy for urinary tract infection. Honey is one of the oldest known food-based antibiotics, dating back to ancient Egypt and Israel.
Herbal Extracts. A variety of herbal extracts have antibiotic properties and are often used in tincture, capsule, powder (e.g., tea) form, depending on the herb and the intended use. Among the herbs are goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape root, Echinacea, and Lomatium.
Essential Oils. Thyme, basil, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils have a variety of bug and germ fighting properties. Additionally, citrus fruit oils (lemon, lime, orange, bergamot) have health-protective benefits. Essential oils should never be consumed and should always be used in a diffuser or diluted with a base oil, such as almond oil.
Soap and Water. The FDA has ruled that companies can no longer market “antibacterial soaps.” The risks of adding chemicals, including triclosan, to washing products are greater than any protection when compared to regular soap and water. How does soap help protect against bacteria? When you vigorously rub your hands and lather the soap, it loosens bacteria from the skin. Simple, effective, and all natural.
There are many natural remedies in addition to those listed and most don’t have a wide body of clinical research behind them. It may take time before medical science catches up with the long history of use documented in traditional medicine. There is potential for drug-herb interaction, so it’s important to work with a health practitioner who is well trained in the pharmaceutical properties of botanical products.
A single human brain generates more electrical impulses in a day than all the telephones of the world combined.
Supplemental Knowledge: Should You Take Nutritional Supplements?
Of all the holistic health products available, nutritional supplements are the most widely used, consumed by people of every age and every lifestyle. While supplements should not be used as a replacement for healthy lifestyle choices, (whether prescribed by a physician or self-administered), even those of us who eat well and maintain active, healthy lives, will benefit from taking certain supplements. Here’s why:
Mineral content in our food is decreasing due to a combination of soil depletion and chemicals used in conventional farming and food production.
Our busy lifestyles lead us to consume convenience foods that are overly processed and low in nutrients. Foods “fortified with” are not equivalent to nutrients found in whole foods (or even in a high-quality supplement).
The majority of the U.S. population has poor dietary habits. Barely 1 out of 10 people consume at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day.
We are under more stress and often surrounded by environmental toxins, which increases the body’s need for nutrients.
Antibiotics are overused, leading to dysfunction in the gut and affecting immunity.
Certain medications, including birth control pills, can impact how the body assimilates nutrients.
Most importantly, every biochemical process in the body relies upon vitamins and/or minerals as ‘cofactors’ to facilitate processes that help maintain physical health and achieve optimal performance. When there is even a mild deficiency, or a problem with absorption of nutrients, those processes cannot take place and can lead to chronic illnesses including Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and PMS.
The Top 5 Nutrients for (Almost) Every Body
Based on the above reasons, and because there is solid research on their benefits, the following nutrients are often recommended for most people. A holistic physician who interprets nutritional analysis can help you determine which nutrients are best for you: how much, for how long, and in what form (e.g., capsule, liquid).
Multivitamins provide ‘dietary insurance’ for our modern lives. Since there are a wide variety of formulas, some with herbs, consult with a holistic practitioner about which is best for you.
Omega Oils, known as Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), usually come from fish but can be obtained from vegan sources (flax, chia, hemp, borage). EFAs are associated with lower risk of heart disease, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers, and can protect against cognitive decline.
Probiotics support the growth of friendly gut bacteria and help protect against diseases such as eczema, allergies, digestive conditions, and yeast infections.
Trace Minerals are found in perfect balance in mineral-rich ocean waters. Just very small quantities of these elements are important to good health. Since erosion has led to nutrient-depleted soil, supplementing with liquid trace minerals is the best way to obtain these elements.
Green Superfood Supplements are concentrated servings of nutrient-dense vegetables and other superfoods, such as moringa, kale, chia, chlorella, and maca; they provide important micronutrients and plant nutrients (e.g., antioxidants) that support a healthy immune system.
Emerging research also supports supplementing with Vitamin D, certain B vitamins, magnesium, and selenium.
These recommendations do not apply to all people nor for long term use (some supplements contain wheat and other allergens, and some may provide more nutrients than an individual needs or can tolerate). Remember, dietary supplements are intended to support and enhance your diet and lifestyle. Partner with a holistic physician to make the best choices for your health.
“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness. It is an expression of humility. It is a foundation for the development of such virtues as prayer, faith, courage, contentment, happiness, love, and well-being.” – James E. Faust
Turnip Greens: A Powerhouse for Good Health
Like their leafy green cousins, turnip greens contain an abundance of nutrients important to good health. Scientifically known as Brassica rapa, turnip greens are a cruciferous plant in the same family as other nutrient-dense vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage. Cruciferous plant consumption is associated with lower risk of chronic illness such as heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disease.
The entire turnip plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, but the greatest proportion of nutrients are found within the leaf blades. These nutrients include the antioxidant Vitamins A, C, E and K; B vitamins; calcium and folate. What really makes turnip greens a powerhouse for supporting good health are the antioxidants, which help the body fight inflammation and play a major role in cancer prevention, healthy aging, and a heart health.
One cup of turnip greens packs a whopping 600% of your daily requirement for Vitamin K, which helps keep bones strong and plays an important role preventing osteoporosis. The carotenes, including beta-carotene, found in turnip greens help support eye health and protect against eye disease such as macular degeneration.
When selecting turnip greens, buy as fresh as possible and opt for organic if available. Look for deeply colored leaves that don’t show signs of wilting or damage, such as spotting. The greens are often sold while still attached to the large white root. You can roast the roots and use the greens for stir-fry or add to soups or stews.
Loaded with a natural peppery flavor, Turnip Green Soup is a Southern favorite and a hearty addition to your Fall menu. Perfect for lunch or a light supper, paired with a salad and jalapeno cornbread, or enjoy a smaller serving as a starter to a multi-course dinner.
1 lb chopped fresh turnip greens
16 ounces organic chicken broth (or more, as needed)
10 ounces stewed tomatoes
4 ounces roasted green chilis
16 ounce can navy beans, rinsed and drained
15 ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
15 ounce can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 lb smoked sausage, diced*
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup sliced carrots
2 tablespoons organic olive oil
Pinch creole seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
*Vegetarian Option: You can use large chunks of Portabello mushroom, look for a vegan sausage at a health food store, or create your own vegan sausage.
Chop, slice, dice, or drain everything first.
To a large pot, add the first seven ingredients over medium-low heat.
In the meantime, saute the sausage, garlic, and onion in the oil until sausage is lightly browned and onion is desired tenderness. Add it to the turnip pot on stove. Add carrots and desired seasonings to taste.
Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, adding more chicken broth if needed or desired.
Wouldn’t we all like a little (or a lot) of superhero power now and then to help us scale life’s various mountains? If you’re nodding “yes” right about now, think Iron, a mineral critical to the circulatory system and life-sustaining functions. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the blood and is essential to powering the energy levels required for all physiological processes in the body.
Most people acquire sufficient iron from their diet, but a supplement may be needed by those who have strenuous physical regimens or who experience frequent blood loss (e.g. from heavy periods or inflammatory bowel disease). Foods containing the highest sources of iron are liver, organ meats, red meat, dark turkey meat, and shellfish. Legumes, certain seeds, and dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, do provide iron but you’d have to eat quite a bit, nearly every day, to obtain sufficient amounts.
If you’re experiencing extreme fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, headache, rapid heart rate, or unusual non-food cravings, you may be anemic and require an iron supplement. It’s important to have your iron levels tested before starting a supplement because iron can build up in the body (a condition called hemochromatosis). This can lead to life-threatening health problems involving the liver, heart or pancreas. A simple nutrient analysis done by blood test indicates if you are deficient; other tests can determine if you have difficulty absorbing iron provided by a healthy diet.
Because there are many ways to increase iron levels, consult with a holistic health physician who can recommend the right method, and if a supplement is needed, the correct form and dose for your needs.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body and you might think that’s because of the essential role it plays in building strong bones; calcium’s importance, however, goes beyond preventing fractures and osteoporosis. It also supports healthy functioning of the cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems. Numerous studies have established a relationship between calcium intake, absorption and assimilation and a person’s risk for heart disease, colorectal cancer, kidney stones, PMS, insomnia, and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
Eating a wide variety of whole foods is the best way to get the calcium your body needs for growth, maintenance, and repair. Even though dairy products contain and are fortified with calcium, foods derived from cow’s milk may not be the best choice for many people because of allergies, intolerance and other digestive concerns. Other valuable sources of calcium include almonds, dark leafy greens, legumes, and and nuts such as almonds. Be aware that just because you’re consuming the recommended amount of calcium daily does not mean your body is absorbing and utilizing it properly.
Recommendations for a calcium supplement vary by age, gender, and development (e.g., puberty, pre or post-menopause), and are influenced by health issues, lifestyle habits and taking certain prescription medicines. Different forms of calcium (e.g., carbonate, citrate) are absorbed differently by the body. Check with your holistic health physician to determine if you need a calcium supplement, and which form and amount is best for you.
They go by names such as Vitamin Drip Bar and Liquid Vitamin Lounge. You’ve probably seen the store front right next to your local Target. What they’re selling is nutrient IV – as in intravenous – therapy. Its claims range from being able to boost your low energy, spice up your libido, and instantly recover from a cold or a hangover, to improving chronic health conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and even immune disorders.
Does it work?
To be clear, for decades IV therapy has been a critical part of medical care, serving as an efficient and immediate solution in cases of dehydration, severe illness, and organ damage that inhibits the absorption of nutrients. Nutrient IVs deliver vitamins, minerals, and amino acids directly into the bloodstream. It’s typically used when a patient’s condition can result in a nutritional deficiency if treatment is not provided. This works very effectively for its intended purpose. But…
These days, ‘IV infusion therapy’ has grown in cult popularity like a vaping lounge. Mobile IV clinics and store fronts offer quick cures and transformative wellness benefits. Proponents claim IV nutrient delivery is necessary because taking high doses by mouth is simply not possible because digestion limits absorption. Really?
By definition, a nutrient is something found in food, which we eat and our bodies break down at a rate appropriate to need, and ultimately put to use for the optimal function of the body. That is what nature intended and it works very effectively so long as illness or injury does not interfere with nature’s beautiful design.
Bypassing nature’s design via IV cocktails puts nutrients into the bloodstream very quickly and in very high amounts. This can stress vital organs, not just in the digestive tract, but also the liver, pancreas, and even the circulatory and nervous systems. Just as concerning is having a technician who has inadequate medical training deliver a nutrient cocktail that potentially interacts with other medications a person may be taking.
There is a role for IV nutrients in medical treatment as well as in holistic health treatment of a select few medical conditions for patients who are carefully screened by qualified holistic physicians. For the rest of us otherwise healthy folks, we need to do as Mother Nature intended and obtain our nutrients through a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods or nutritional supplementation – and there’s no hype about that.
It takes 17 muscles in the face for us to smile and 43 muscles to frown.
When the Skin Erupts: Healing Eczema and Psoriasis
When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, doctors of natural medicine ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: holistic physicians look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.
From the natural medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:
Food sensitivity/ allergy
Deficiency in one or more minerals
Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
Emotional/ Mental Stress
Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify
Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Natural therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:
Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
Provide support for mental/emotional stress
Identify and minimize toxin exposure
Support liver function, the body’s detox organ
Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, holistic physicians may recommend nourishing the skin with herbal salves and essential oil baths specific to individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.
Psoriasis and Eczema can quickly become chronic and severe and the wrong treatments can make things far worse. Consult with a holistic health practitioner to identify the appropriate therapies for you or your loved one.
“A man’s health can be judged by which he takes two at a time – pills or stairs.” – Joan Welsh
Cherries on Top for Fighting Inflammation
Succulent cherries, both sweet and tart, provide wonderful health benefits. They contain the antioxidant vitamin C along with substances called anthocyanins, both of which help scavenge those pesky free radicals that cause damage to cells (known as oxidative stress). Anthocyanins, which give cherries their deep crimson color, also play a role in reducing cancer risk. Another powerful antioxidant in cherries is quercetin, which has a variety of health promoting properties.
Quercetin belongs to a family of plant compounds called flavonoid polyphenols, which help reduce inflammation. Among these compounds, quercetin is the one that demonstrates the strongest impact on immunity and inflammation at the cellular level, helping the immune system more effectively respond to cellular stress. Quercetin also helps the body put up a stronger defense against substances that promote inflammation in the skin, even in people who don’t get much relief from conventional treatments. This makes quercetin containing foods, such as cherries, other dark berries and onions, potent healing foods for skin conditions with a strong inflammatory component, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Enjoy cherries as a healthy snack or take the time to remove the seed and mix cherries into smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. Whether you are drinking lightly sweetened cherry juice or eating dried cherries, you’ll get a similar amount of nutrients. Frozen cherries have fewer antioxidants and canned cherries have the least.
Using calendula flowers, you can make your own healing salve with this easy recipe. Beeswax acts as a preservative, giving this salve a shelf life of about six months. After that time, it will develop a rancid odor letting you know it’s shelf life has expired. Store the salve in an airtight container, in a cool dry place, away from heat or direct light, especially sunlight.
2 oz Calendula Flowers + 1 cup Olive Oil
1 oz shaved beeswax (or beeswax pastilles)
Put the flowers and oil in a small stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pot and place a thermometer into the mixture.
Heat to 120 degrees F and “cook” at this temp for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.
Strain the oil.
Put the fixed oil into a stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pot; add the shaved beeswax. Warm until wax melts.
Test consistency with a metal spoon: Dip the spoon in mixture and place into freezer for 3-5 minutes. Add either more beeswax or oil if needed to reach desired consistency.
Put into an airtight container; allow to cool and harden completely before moving into storage.
Label and date the salve.
Adding a few drops of Vitamin E oil will help preserve the salve, increasing its shelf-life.
If, after being in the freezer, the salve is too hard to spread easily on the skin and be absorbed, add more oil. If the salve comes out softer or too liquidy, add more beeswax. Hardness or softness of the salve is both a personal preference and relevant to the purposes intended for the final product (e.g., on rough elbows you may want a harder salve. For diaper rash, you may want a softer product).
The Power of Vitamin D
Vitamin D: not only is it powerful, it’s vital for good health. Although it’s called a vitamin, D is actually a steroid hormone that acts as a catalyst for processes that protect our cells.
Every tissue in the body needs vitamin D, yet a large percentage of the world’s population is deficient, or borderline deficient, in this critical hormone. Even a mild deficiency can contribute to chronic and autoimmune diseases such diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, cancer (including ovarian, colon, and breast), multiple sclerosis, and psoriasis.
Nature intended for us to get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but absorption is blocked by sunscreen. We need bare-skin sun exposure for 15-20 minutes a day; most of us don’t get that. Additionally, we don’t eat enough D-rich foods, which include egg yolk, cod liver oil, shiitake mushrooms, and wild salmon. Fortified milk/dairy is not the best source because you need several cups every day. For anyone intolerant of dairy products, this food category is off limits.
The best way to help the body establish optimal levels of vitamin D is to take a supplement.
The recommended blood level of vitamin D (above 25 nmol/L) was established to protect people from bone disease (rickets and osteomalacia). From the natural medicine perspective (and emerging scientific data), that threshold is too low to protect against serious illness or to promote optimal health. Depending on the individual, holistic physicians identify 45-90 nmol/L as the ideal vitamin D blood level for disease prevention.
Age, gender, diet, stress level, and lifestyle factors affect absorption of vitamin D. A holistic physician can order a blood test prior to starting a supplement to help ensure you take the appropriate amount and form of vitamin D. Follow-up testing tracks improvement in your levels and health conditions. Your doctor can then adjust your supplement dose accordingly.
Considered a first-aid all-star, Calendula (Calendula officinalis) bears the nickname “mother of the skin.” It’s been used for health remedies and spiritual rituals dating back to ancient Egypt and early Christianity. Boasting antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, calendula is still used to help heal skin inflamed by chafing, blisters, bites, and burns, as well as in treatment for dermatitis, eczema, wounds, and diaper rash. Calendula is found in a variety of cosmetics, as well as medicinal lotions, creams, and ointments applied to the skin to help reduce pain and swelling and encourage new tissue growth.
Medicinal Calendula has fiery red and yellow petals and is from the Marigold Asteraceae family, not to be confused with common garden marigold from the Tagetes group. In addition to topical applications, calendula flowers and leaves are used in capsules, oils, teas, and tinctures. A holistic physician can help you determine which form of calendula is best to treat specific health concerns.
There are a few precautions for using calendula: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may use calendula topically, but should not take it by mouth. Calendula may interact with other medications, resulting in drowsiness. Since it’s part of the ragweed family, people sensitive to or allergic to marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemums should not use calendula products unless under a doctor’s care. Be sure to consult with a doctor of natural medicine if any of the above situations apply to you.
Before there was a pharmacy on every corner and a doctor at the other end of your cell phone, traditional healers relied upon the natural world to harvest, combine, and formulate herbal medicines to heal what ailed the people. Whether to dress a wound, heal irritation and inflammation, or soothe a baby’s rash, Mother Nature provides a plethora of flowers, fruit, seeds, leaves, bark and pulp from which to create topical remedies. Even today we see a resurgence, with an estimated 80% of people worldwide using herbal apothecaries and compounding pharmacies to provide natural remedies, among them herbal salves.
What is an Herbal Salve?
Herbal salves (or balms) are a combination of infused herbal oils combined with some type of wax, typically beeswax, which acts as a thickening agent. Salves are generally solid at room temperature. They can contain finely ground or pulverized material from a plant along with an essential oil (e.g., lavender, arnica, chamomile, rose) or Manuka Honey, depending on the reason for use. Salves work best when applied to bring relief to irritated and inflamed skin in a specific area of the body to which they are applied.
A salve is absorbed through the skin in a localized area allowing for concentrated and sometimes immediate relief. They can easily be used for everyday moisturizing of the skin, giving added protection without harmful chemical ingredients often found in cosmetic products. Additionally salves are a gentle, safe and effective first-aid treatment for skin conditions such as:
poison ivy or oak
*A rash that cover the body or blistering sunburn should be seen by a medical professional right away.
Spend some time exploring herbal salves and enjoy the relief they can bring to your skin, day after day, season after season. Check in with your holistic doctor to get their recommendations.
Nearly twice as many women have Alzheimer’s Disease as men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alzheimer’s Disease also worsens more quickly in women than it does in men.
Holistic Approaches to Protecting the Brain from Alzheimer’s Disease
Is Alzheimer’s Disease hardwired into the brain’s destiny as we age?
It’s a terrifying thought. Many people believe it’s true. Hope lies with the ongoing research to help us understand the root causes and progression of Alzheimer’s and the factors that may protect the brain from this devastating illness.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, affecting a person’s memory, thinking and behavior to the point where they don’t recognize themselves and their loved ones. Approximately 5.5 million people age 65 and older have Alzheimer’s Disease. Nearly 200,000 people under age 65 have “younger-onset” AD. Symptoms start slowly and worsen over time, ultimately interfering with independent living and quality of life. Signs to look for include:
Persistent forgetting of recently learned information and important dates or events
Difficulty planning, problem solving, completing familiar tasks, and understanding time
Difficulty processing visual images, object distance and contrast
Trouble maintaining a conversation
Social withdrawal and depression
Changes in mood and personality, usually becoming anxious, suspicious, or confused
Scientists believe the disease process begins when protein deposits build up in brain tissue and damage nerve cells. This can evolve over 10-20 years before symptoms are noticed. While family history can increase your risk, many factors influence the onset and progression of AD. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, as outlined below, can help alter your brain’s destiny.
The Brain-Body Health Connection. Several illnesses are linked to an increased risk for AD, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. To protect your mind from cognitive decline, exercise daily, eat more whole foods, learn new skills, meditate, read regularly, and get quality sleep each night.
Smart Food for Healthy Aging. Choosing fresh, nutrient rich foods is vital for brain health (and the body, too!). Select organic foods to decrease exposure to toxins that exist in conventional farming. Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, refined grains, and packaged foods to ensure optimal health benefits from your food.
Manage Stress. Stress elevates hormones in the body that increase inflammation which, over time, interferes with optimal functioning and contributes to illness. Relax with yoga, mindful walking, or guided imagery to help keep these hormones in balance.
Get Your ZZs. We need just as much sleep in our elder years as in our 30s and 40s. What does change is the brain’s ability to maintain continuity and quality of sleep, particularly deep sleep. Maintaining healthy sleep habits throughout your adult life can make it easier to maintain sleep quality as you age.
A Personalized Approach, Naturally. Prevention is important, but once signs of cognitive decline are noticed, you need expert guidance. Though more long-term studies are needed, initial research shows that a personalized approach incorporating natural medicines plus lifestyle change can reverse cognitive decline for some people. For expert guidance in developing a personalized prevention or early intervention program, consult with a specialist in natural medicine treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease such as a Naturopathic Doctor or Functional Medicine practitioner.
“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” – John Banville, The Sea
Hemp Seeds Nourish Brain Health
Although hemp seed comes from the same species of plant as marijuana, it does not contain psychoactive chemicals and it stands on its own regarding health benefits. Hemp is considered “brain-friendly” because it’s rich in nutrients, especially omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids – a group of fats the body doesn’t make on its own. A healthy ratio of these fatty acids (EFAs) is generally 2:1. Eating hemp seeds provides that balance, which is important for Westerners whose diets typically include more omega-6 fats. These EFAs, plus antioxidants found in hemp, help reduce inflammation, which plays a crucial role in overall health particularly for the heart and the brain.
The protein in hemp is another stand-out nutrient. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant sources that contain all the essential amino acids the body cannot manufacture on its own and yet are necessary for many bodily functions. Both fat and protein are critical for brain development from conception through birth and beyond. As we age, we need these nutrients to feed the protective layers around nerve tissue. Researchers are actively examining the benefits of hemp seed for brain health and in relation to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
The light, nutty flavor of hemp seeds makes them an easy addition to anyone’s diet. Enjoy them raw; blend to make hemp milk; mix into cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, and desserts; or add to soups and other recipes.
Hemp seeds are best bought shelled/hulled and are usually labeled as “hemp seed hearts.” Store in the fridge or freezer for the longest preservation of flavor and nutrient content. You can also store hemp in a dry, cool area away from heat sources for up to one year.
Summer gatherings at the park, campground, or by the water are a perfect way to relax, revive your spirit and reconnect with loved ones. This easy picnic salad supports good health and is a dish everyone will enjoy. Hemp seeds are a great source of plant protein and essential omega fatty acids. The herbs provide antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. For maximum freshness, prep this right before heading out.
Makes 2 servings
1 huge bunch of either curly parsley or Italian flat parsley, or 2 smaller bunches
1/2 white onion, diced
1 organic tomato, diced
5-6 heaping Tbs. of hemp seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
Dash of cold-pressed olive oil (optional)
Sea salt, to taste
Chop the parsley and place in a large bowl, along with the tomato, onion and hemp seeds. In a small blender, or whisked by hand, combine the lemon, garlic, olive oil and sea salt and blend or mix well. Pour over the salad and toss well.
Protecting Brain Health with Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as “essential” nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, in this article we highlight their importance to brain health. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation. Scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.
When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia. Adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.
Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it’s important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA – far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.
People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, chunk light tuna, halibut, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury. Look for organic, wild caught options. Your holistic physician can help you with dietary options and EFA supplement that best meets your needs.
One of the oldest living species of tree, Ginkgo Biloba‘s leaves and seeds have been used in botanical medicine for thousands of years. Touted as the “brain herb,” Ginkgo has received extensive research attention for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and the role they likely play in supporting healthy cognitive function and treating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Two components in Ginkgo help support brain health: Flavonoids, the source of the plant’s antioxidant qualities, and Terpenoids, which help improve circulation by dilating blood vessels. Ginkgo may work by increasing blood flow, flushing out free radicals that can damage cells, and reducing inflammation. It may even protect nerve cells from further damage caused by Alzheimer’s Disease or vascular dementia.
Numerous studies show Ginkgo has a positive effect on memory, learning, and thinking in people with Alzheimer disease or vascular dementia. For some people, it may work as well as prescription medication for Alzheimer’s, but Ginkgo hasn’t been tested against all drugs used to treat the disease. Also, testing Ginkgo supplements with healthy young and older adults has not conclusively shown a significant change in cognitive function. It’s likely the herb works differently in healthy people compared to people who have an impairment or illness.
Another herb worth noting is Bacopa monnieri, an Ayurvedic botanical medicine used for centuries to enhance learning, memory and attention span. Scientists have been investigating Bacopa for potential therapeutic intervention for Alzheimer’s and age-related memory loss. Research suggests it may have a protective effect on brain cells by supporting optimal nerve conduction or helping them resist damage that can occur from infection, toxins, and the aging process.
Botanical medicines can interact with other drugs and medical conditions. Consult your wellness practitioner to determine if either of these herbs are appropriate for you.
Improving Lives with Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for Dementia Patients
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is a small group program designed to improve the mental abilities, learning, thinking and memory skills of people living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular dementia, the two main types of dementia. An evidence-based treatment backed by extensive clinical research, CST has been shown effective for individuals with mild to moderate dementia. Studies also indicate that CST can be as beneficial as drug treatments and may even enhance treatment for those who require medication management of symptoms.
Components of a CST Program
A CST program is facilitated by a trained healthcare professional over a period of at least seven weeks. Each 45-minute session covers a different themed topic with activities pertinent to quality of life enhancement, social interaction, mental stimulation, visual and auditory stimulation, communication skills, and physical mobility. Groups are limited to 5-8 people. Topics typically covered in CST are:
orientation to surroundings
face/ scene recognition
art, music and culture
use of money
word and number association
Benefits of CST
Consistent evidence from multiple and varied studies demonstrate that CST is effective in improving several types of symptoms associated with dementia. This includes improvement in mood, confidence, concentration, information retention, self-expression, and motivation. Participants and their caregivers report enhancements in self-esteem, coping methods, developing new relationships, and maintaining a sense of vitality. Research also shows CST is a cost-effective program as it helps reduce the total care costs (health and social) for those who participate. Long-term involvement (additional 24 weeks) brings about continued improvement in cognition and quality of life for many people.
To find a CST program, ask your physician and check with local hospitals, senior centers, and assisted living facilities.
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.