Tag Archives: naturopathics

The Best Grab-N-Go Superfood Breakfasts

tumblr_mj4j59lg5R1rnp953o1_500If you’ve read some of my recent articles, you’ll know that I not only believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but that it should also be the largest. Not just for the reasons you likely heard as a child (i.e. improved mental focus and test scores), but because a big, nutrient-dense meal at breakfast also supports things like:

  • A healthy body weight
  • Stable energy due to less fluctuation in blood sugar levels throughout the day
  • Improved digestive function (a.k.a, stimulation of a regular, healthy bowel movement)
  • Manifesting your modern day superpower (mine happens to be finding decent parking spots)

Most days, I don’t have the luxury of a leisurely breakfast, and more days than I’d like to admit, breakfast happens while driving in my car. So, after many years of perfecting my need for grab-n-go breakfast options that meet my nutrition requirements, I landed on a few favorite options that give me everything I need to feel great and get my day off to a healthy start.

Superfood Muesli 

This is a recipe I was given while in naturopathic medical school. It can be eaten warm or cold, and it’s super easy to make. You can store a big batch for weeks and then place a scoop in a Pyrex dish the night before so you can literally grab it out of your fridge and go. I like to use soy milk as the liquid and add some honey for sweetness. It is incredibly dense and gives you a “stick to your ribs” kind of feeling which is great if you have a busy day ahead.

Superfood Smoothie 

One of the reasons I love smoothies is that I can throw supplements like vitamin D, fish oil and multivitamins into the mix to streamline my morning ritual even more. This recipe was my go-to breakfast almost every morning through both of my pregnancies. I’d often grab a handful of peanut butter pretzels as well to balance out some of the sugar from the fruit. Tip: Put all your smoothie ingredients into a large mason jar before going to bed so all you have to do in the morning is take it with you (if you happen to have a blender at work), or blend at home and then put back into the mason jar to use as a travel container.

Nut Butter Balls 

I came across this recipe while looking for snack options to have on-hand for my boys to eat. It turns out this recipe is not only easy to make and kid-approved, but a great on-the-go breakfast option. I like to add lots of goodies like chia seeds, flax seeds and fresh shredded coconut. You can make a big batch and keep in a large Pyrex container (create layers in the container using wax paper) for up to a week. Two or three of these balls and you’re satisfied until lunch, no problem.

Nut Butter Toast

When your best attempts at planning and prepping don’t manifest, there’s always basic nut butter toast. I like to trade between almond and sunflower butter, and when I know I have a big day planned, will make this into a toasted sandwich using two slices of stone-ground bread with a thin layer of jam. Basic and perhaps a tad boring? Yes. Super fast to make and easy to eat while driving? Absolutely.

Like this post?

 

Photo credit: Instagram @riiaberg

Your Seasonal Guide to Food as Medicine: September Produce

Apples on treeOver the past few weekends, my sister-in-law and her family have made over 20 gallons of cider from some of the pie apple trees that grow on the pasture of our family’s Iowa farmland. Nothing says autumn like apple cider! And so it is here…the end of summer. Luscious berries and delicate flowers are fading as hearty leaves and roots make their entrance into our farmers markets and recipes. Whether you are in Arizona or Maine, I’m sure you’re noticing the changes all around you.

However, because the expression of the seasons is not the same in every state, what’s “seasonal” in terms of produce can vary quite a bit. I recently came across this interactive map that allows you to choose your state and see what’s in season where you live. There are lots of tools like this out there, but this one happens to be especially easy to use.

For this month’s seasonal guide to food as medicine post, I’ve chosen to focus on some of the edible herbs that also act as common botanical medicines and then, of course, I must talk about the amazing properties of apples. If you’d like to start at the beginning of this series, you can find the first article here.

Horseradish – A hardy root that’s been cultivated for over 2000 years with long list of traditional uses for everything from acting as a blood cleanser to treating headaches. From a modern science perspective, compounds in this spicy root have shown benefit as an antibiotic. In a 2006 study, a constituent of horseradish was found to decrease symptoms from acute sinusitis, bronchitis, or urinary tract infections as effectively as standard antibiotic therapy. From my own personal experience, I also believe a nice-sized bite of this raw root does an excellent job of opening up congested sinus passages!

Lemon balm – This herb gets its common name due to its lemon scent although it’s not related to the citrus fruit itself. An edible plant, the leaves show promise as an anti-viral medicine, specifically indicated for the virus, Herpes simplex, as well as showing benefit for symptoms of anxiety. You can crush up the leaves to make a hot tea or find dried versions in capsule form at your local health food store.

Borage – This plant is native originally to Syria, although it has spread throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean and can be grown in many temperate climates. The leaves and beautiful lavender flowers may be eaten, but it’s the seeds that get the most attention in the natural medicine community. According to a retrospective review of more than 2,000 supplement and medication records for elderly Americans (60-99 years), borage oil supplements are one of the most popular herbal products among elderly women, likely due to their relatively high level of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid linked to improvements in inflammatory conditions and menopausal symptoms.

Elderberry – This plant has an incredibly long and impressive history as a medicinal plant. Native Americans used elder for infections, coughs, and skin conditions. Ancient Egyptians even used elder flowers to improve complexion and heal burns. From a modern science perspective, elderberries show promise as an anti-viral medicine, decreasing viral load in the body as well as improving flu-like symptoms.

Apples – Last but not least, apples! We all know the famous apple saying relating to health, and it’s true that this little miracle from Mother Nature is packed with goodies like fiber and vitamin C. However, what I find especially exciting about apples are some of the amazing compounds, called phenolic phytochemicals, found primarily in the skin of the fruit that are currently undergoing scientific investigation. An emerging theory is that these phenolic compounds may protect against certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by acting as an antioxidant in brain tissue.

Like this post?

How I’m Moving Forward in the GMO Food Debate

Bosworth Battlefield (2)

A few weeks ago I wrote a post, “The Genetically Modified Food Debate”, which introduced a series of articles by Nathanael Johnson, a Grist.org writer that’s taken on the big task of sorting through the GMO debate to provide the straight story on where the science, politics and implications to people and planet truly stand.

As someone who’s followed the topic of GMO for many years, I’ve often wished for a series of articles just like this. It’s a heroic effort and having the opportunity to go on an exploration of sorts through these articles has helped me crystallize what I believe are the biggest issues and necessary next steps in the GMO food debate. If you’d like to read Johnson’s series, you can start here and find links to subsequent posts at the bottom of each article.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things can get complicated. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and planet as it relates to genetic modification is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

My primary concern about genetically engineered food crops is not so much about the study of biotechnology in plants, but the ripple effect the application of these crops is having on current farming practices and our global food community. Here are some of the things I find most troubling:

  • GMO are often bred for resistance to herbicides and pesticides. As a result, weed-killing herbicide use on genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton increased by 383 million pounds in the U.S. from 1996 to 2008.
  • GM crops support the practice of mono-cropping (growing only one type of agricultural product in a large area of land, year after year). This approach has an economic benefit in that it simplifies farming operations and decreases labor costs. However, mono-cropping depletes nutrients from the soil and decreases crop-yields over time creating a need for increased synthetic fertilizer use. Although there may be a short-term economic gain, there’s a larger long-term cost to the health of the planet.
  • Implementation of GMO and mono-cropping practices in developing countries has impacts that go beyond just human and planet health. Traditional knowledge about how to farm the land, what indigenous plants provide nutrients of need and seed saving techniques to maintain biodiversity…all this wisdom that is passed from generation to generation may be lost and maybe more importantly, be seen as inferior to modern conventional methods.

The biggest hurdle to finding a path forward that is acceptable to groups on both sides of this issue seems to sit within science. Through Johnson’s articles, it’s clear that the methods we have to determine safety and the impact to human and planet health are flawed. The questions we’re asking through testing simply do not provide the answers many people are seeking to understand. This is an issue that’s much bigger than just GMO, but yet one that is effectively stalling the ability of the food community to find consensus about how to move forward. Until we evolve both the methods of testing and what we’re testing for, I don’t see how we’re going to come together.

So, what to make of all this? Well, as for me, I plan to keep looking [read: hoping] for an evolution in testing, particularly in the form of support from our government to investigate new approaches to better answer the valid concerns around GMO’s impact to people and planet health. In the meantime, as we continue to navigate our way to better answers, I believe the right thing to do is provide as much transparency and through that, education, as possible. We don’t have the answers, and until such a time that we do and this matter is settled, why not let people make their own decision? Let’s label GM foods, raise awareness and hopefully get to a place where we can argue towards solutions.

If you’re interested in doing some digging of your own into this issue, Johnson also did a recent article that provides a “Cliff’s Notes” version of some of the most popular books on GMO. You can read this article here.

Like this post?

Tips to Avoid Harmful Chemicals and Make Your Home a Healing Space

Δ†In the naturopathic profession, often one of the first challenges a doctor will tackle in working with a new patient is to determine and remove the “barriers to cure” – things that are interfering with the body’s ability to heal. In the past, I’ve written about treatments for common barriers to cure such as insufficient sleep, food sensitivities and seasonal allergies. I’ve learned through many patient experiences that no matter how amazing a medical treatment or how hard I work, a patient will be hard-pressed to truly heal as long as barriers stand in the way.

Often, some of the toughest barriers to remove are allergens and irritants in the home.  Chemical usage in home products has skyrocketed in the past few decades. Everything from laundry detergent to stain-resistant carpets, air-freshener sprays and synthetic-fiber bedding is a source of chemicals that put stress on our livers and immune systems. If you’re not aware of what I’m talking about, here’s a touching video from Healthy Child Healthy World that puts this issue into focus, especially as it impacts children (who are even more susceptible to the negative impacts of these chemicals than most adults).

My mother happens to be a Seattle-based interior designer with a fluency in eco-design and hypo-allergenic products for the home. While visiting her recently, I took some time to ask her for resources and tips she could share for those of us who are looking for ways to create a healthier home environment. The following are highlights from our conversation:

Q: What kinds of materials and treated fabrics are best to avoid in order to minimize chemical exposure?

A: Ideally, avoid anything synthetic. Synthetic materials, such as polyesters and acrylics, contain chemicals that can be harmful.  In addition to the material itself, these types of products are often treated with other chemicals to make them stain-resistant or otherwise “low-maintenance”. Unfortunately, buying convenience can also mean having to live with toxins that can be harmful to health. Terms like “easy care”, “water-repellant”, “no iron”, “anti-cling”, “static-free” and “flame retardant” are all signs that the product may be treated with harmful chemicals.

Q: What are some of the healthiest and least allergenic fibers to look for when choosing fabrics and floor coverings for a home?

A: The easiest rule of thumb is to stick with natural fibers. Linen, hemp, ramie, and abaca are all natural fibers that are hypo-allergenic and tend to be free from additional chemical treatments. When possible, look for organic textiles, not just organically grown materials, but products that are processed using organic-compliant compounds. Sometime a material will be organic, but then it’s processed with a harsh, non-organic dye and that can defeat the health benefits of sourcing the original organic material.

Q: In general terms, how to you suggest approaching the design of an eco-friendly and hypo-allergenic space?

A: Keep the space free of clutter where dust and allergens can accumulate. Opt for wood or tile floors and avoid carpet. Use natural fibers for window coverings, like wood-based plantation shutters instead of heavy fabric curtains. Optimize air circulation by strategically placing doors and windows to optimize air flow and utilize the air-filtering mechanisms of plants to improve air quality.

Q: Are there certain products, brands and resources you can suggest for people who are looking for products or just want more information on how to make smart choices when it comes to creating a health-promoting space?

A: The following are all great resources to check out:

  • O Ecotextiles is a Seattle-based textile company that creates luxurious fabrics that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable. Not only do I love their products, but they are leading experts on this topic and their website has an incredible amount of information for how to make smart choices for the home.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals often found in paint and other home-based textiles. This site does a great job of explaining the dangers of VOCs, what products typically contain them and how they can be avoided.
  • Unique Carpets, Ltd. sells eco-friendly floor coverings made from natural fibers that are treated in an environmentally-safe way. If you are looking for floor coverings to soften a space, this brand is a great option to check out.

Like this post?

Will “Obamacare” Improve Access to Preventative and Integrative Medicine?

The StethoscopeAlthough passed into law back in 2010, The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system, commonly referred to as “Obamacare”, is beginning to gain media attention once again as the October 1st enrollment date approaches.

A significant number of people (40% of Americans) not only don’t understand this legislation, but cannot even confirm that it is, in fact, law. Although I am at least with it enough to know that it exists, I admit that the details of the ACA and what it will truly look like in practice is a source of confusion for me. If you want to try and make sense of the ACA for yourself, you can find information here, here and here.

As a health professional, I support the idea of accessible healthcare. As a naturopathic doctor, I also believe in the power of a preventative and integrative approach to medicine.  It’s with a belief in this approach that I am most interested to see how the complete roll-out of the ACA will ultimately make a mark on health, both financial and physical, in this country.

A specific clause of the ACA, Section 2706, is at the heart of both the preventative and integrative medicine debate. This clause requires that insurance companies “shall not discriminate” against any health provider with a state-recognized license. Again, coming from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor, this is a compelling statement. Although I’ve been licensed and recognized as a primary care physician in California since 2005, participating as a provider though major health insurance plans has not been an available option for me. Most plans cover traditional providers: MDs, DOs and perhaps RDs. This means that although I have valuable, largely preventative and low-cost treatments to offer, they are out of reach to most people. A $90, 30-minute visit is quite reasonable…unless you’re used to paying a $10 co-pay.

Given what I have been able to tease out of the research I’ve done on the ACA and Section 2706, it seems a more integrative approach to health options will largely be up to interpretation by each individual state. Hopefully, overtime, and assuming the ACA survives long enough to truly become successful, best practices will emerge and states will adopt a more consistent approach to the delivery of preventative and integrative services.

A recent piece in The Washington Post interviewed a leader within the naturopathic community, Dr. Jane Guiltinan, about her predictions and hopes for the future of healthcare in our country as a result of this piece of legislation. In the piece she quoted an often referred to belief in naturopathic care,

Health is more than the absence of disease.

If we really want to shift the status of health in our country, it seems a mental shift by insurance companies, state government and society at large may be required first.

Like this post?

Deepak Chopra: The Power of Ayurveda for Perfect Health

Does Ayurvedic medicine really work, and if so, how?

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra is joined by Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, an renowned Ayurvedic doctor, to explore Ayurveda as a science of health, wellness, and wholeness. How can Ayurvedic practices be used to create balance and health? Dr. Kshirsagar explains that the purpose of Ayurveda is to connect to your spiritual self and remove the fear of death and disease — that health is a by-product of enlightenment. How do we move beyond a quantitative approach to healing to a more qualitative one?

Ayurveda is the holistic approach to healing that is greatly needed in an age filled with all manners of dis-ease. It is the mind-body-spirit approach to health and wellness that can provide a powerful alternate, or at least addition, to the medical practices we are more familiar with in the West. Unfortunately not everyone is quick to accept this ancient healing wisdom.

What do you think? Would you seek out Ayurvedic healing to address various health conditions and improve overall wellness? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Subscribe to The Chopra Well and check out Deepak’s book, Perfect Health!

Plants of May: Your Seasonal Guide to Food as Medicine

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 4.03.23 PM

The arrival of May means that no matter where you live, warm days are finally beginning to outnumber cold; daylight is beginning to stretch into the evening hours, and Pinterest boards are likely filling with recipes for barbeques, tasty salads, and Sun Tea.

In the plant world, spring is a time for new growth. Flowers introduce sweet berries, and delicate green shoots grow into edible leaves for salads and sautées. I love this time of year, and as a naturopathic doctor, I especially love the healing properties of fruits and vegetables that are seasonal in May. Here’s my sample guide to what’s in season this month and how each edible plant acts as medicine in the body:

Dandelion leaves – You may be thinking, “Wait, this is a weed not a food, right?” Actually, young dandelion leaves are an edible, slightly bitter addition to any spring salad or sauté and contain a compound, aesculin, which supports the tone of our vessels and can help with issues like swelling, puffiness and poor circulation.

Fava beans – Like large sweet peas, fava beans can be found in pods and are a beautiful rich green color. They are a substantial addition to any recipe and a great vegetarian/vegan option. In addition to providing a spectrum of vitamins and minerals (thiamin, folate, calcium, magnesium and zinc to name just a few), these beans are an excellent source of fiber. That means that in addition to filling you up, they also help to clean you out!

Mint leaves – Plants in the mint family (peppermint and spearmint are two common examples) contain menthol, a compound that provides the cooling quality these leaves are known for. Used in a tea or even rubbed on the skin, mint is used to calm digestion and may be soothing when fresh leaves are crushed and applied to insect bites or itchy skin.

Onions, sweet Vidalia – As medicine, onions are most commonly thought of for their sulfur-containing compounds that have been researched for a range of actions in the body from supporting liver function to inhibiting cancer growth. I love the sweet, mildly spicy flavor of these beautiful onions…a great addition to a vinegar-based potato salad.

Oregano leaves – A staple in most spice racks, dried oregano leaves are a common addition to all kinds of recipes. When in season, fresh leaves can be used to provide a spicy and beautiful pop of flavor and color. Oil of oregano provides a broad spectrum of anti-bacterial, viral and fungal activity and can even be found in some natural insect-repellent recipes.

 

Like this post?

Photo credit: Linh H. Nguyen via Flickr

Stinging Nettle Tea: A Natural Remedy to Fight Spring Allergies

nettle intent imageI don’t know how you fare this time of year, but it’s usually right around now that I start to experience seasonal allergies.  For me that means itchy eyes and throat and sneezing, especially in the morning. However, seasonal allergies can be present in many ways, with symptoms that span from a mild runny nose to severe chronic headaches.

For the past few years, I’ve mostly just toughed it out (thankfully my symptoms are mild enough that this is an option), but this year I have a natural medicine plan: Stinging Nettle tea.

In the United States, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is considered a weed by many given the ease with which it grows.  It’s funny name comes from the Latin verb urere, meaning “to burn,” because of its urticate (stinging) hairs that cover the stem and underside of the leaves. So, while walking through a field of this plant is probably not a good idea, using it for its anti-allergic activity can be an effective way to manage seasonal allergy symptoms. It has a nice amount of published research demonstrating positive benefit for a host of allergic and inflammatory conditions.

Stinging Nettle contains a set of compounds that act on the immune system to provide anti-inflammatory action and block histamine release. Perhaps you are familiar with over-the-counter medicines called “anti-histamines”?  Well, stinging nettle works in a similar fashion, blocking the release of histamine compounds that alert our immune system and trigger inflammation, redness, and all those pesky symptoms those of us who are sensitive to pollen, etc. experience this time of year.

Because stinging nettle doesn’t contain caffeine, you can brew it as tea and exchange it for your water source throughout the day.  Here’s my recipe/plan:

  • Add 1tsp dried Stinging Nettle leaf to 16oz hot water. Steep for 2-3 minutes.
  • Drink right away in the morning when I experience the most symptoms.
  • Re-fill tea infuser with hot water and re-use same tea leaves a couple more times throughout day (although most of the anti-histamine activity will come from the first steep, there is a mild benefit from re-using the leaves)
  • Continue as I feel like I need symptom relief throughout day

With any treatment, you should always talk to a licensed health professional and make sure the products and medicines you are using are appropriate for you. Licensed naturopathic doctors are a great source for natural therapies like this one.

 


Photo credit: John Tann

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...