Here are four stress relief activities to help you. Learning how to reduce stress and tension is an important tool for better health.
Nature bathing and star gazing is more than just medicine for our soul. It is Mother Earth reminding us that she has the ointment for our wounds, the healing for our illnesses and the antidote to our modern day stresses.
The fall and winter months bring the excitement of holiday parties, the chance the dress up in costume, and the promise of cooler months that allow us to finally enjoy the outdoors (at least in Texas). Unfortunately, they also signal the onslaught of winter viruses, the flu, fall allergies, and sniffles, coughs, snorts and sneezes of various kinds. So, how do we gear up to support our kids with a strong immune system to help them stay healthy so that they and you can enjoy the fabulous season approaching?
You may have read that the FDA has banned antibacterial products in over the counter soaps and hand sanitizers. If you haven’t read about this yet, you can do so here:
In fact, they stated this:
“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”
The harm that Dr. Woodcock is referring to is the fact that some of these antibacterial chemicals cause hormone disruption and bacterial resistance.
So, what can a parent do naturally to help minimize the risk of infections in their children while ensuring they are not exposing them to potentially toxic chemicals?
Here are a few recommendations that really work:
1. Modify your child’s diet.
Starting in the fall, I notice that my children get more sniffles and mucous. My older son begins to develop his notorious snort. After a long summer of relaxed rules which includes ice cream for dessert and grilled cheese sandwiches by the pool, I make a conscious effort to reduce the dairy included in their diet. If you are unconvinced about dairy having an effect on the mucous production and inflammation in your child’s sinuses, just try to eliminate it for 30 days and see if you notice a difference in your child. I hear from many of the parents of my young patients that reducing or eliminating dairy not only decreases their kid's constant nasal mucous , but also helps reduce ear infections as well.
Additionally, I would argue that a high dairy intake is not necessary for our children after a young age. In fact, a recent very large study in a reputable medical journal indicated that in Sweden, a country that has one of the highest rates of dairy intake, they also have the highest rates of osteoporosis and fractures. Here is the link to that study: http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015
If you are concerned about calcium intake in your child, here are non-dairy sources of calcium: calcium-fortified cereals, breads, rice milk, or almond milk, canned fish (sardines, salmon with bones), soybeans and other soy products (tofu, soy yogurt, tempeh), some other beans, and some leafy greens (collard and turnip greens, kale, bok choy). Of note, ½ cup of kale or spinach contains half the amount of calcium as 1 cup of milk. This link contains a chart to compare amounts of calcium in various foods:
I also recommend decreasing the amount of gluten in your child’s diet as this has also been noted to be an inflammatory substance for many children. Again, doing a trial of elimination for 30 days will help you decide what’s right for your own child.
2. Add a probiotic and prebiotics to your child’s daily routine.
I have a prior blog post on probiotics that you can read here: http://www.drshellysethi.com/blog/2016/8/get-dirty-to-get-healthy
To summarize however, probiotics that contain both lactobacillus and bifidobacter species of bacteria, have been shown to lower the incidence of respiratory infections and sinus infections in children. Probiotics act as a placeholder of sorts to discourage harmful bacteria from growing in the gut. It is important to remember however, that you need to continue to nourish the gut microbiome with a healthy plant-forward diet and prebiotics. Prebiotics include fiber, oligofructose and inulin found in the skin of apples, bananas, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root and beans. You can also get a prebiotic supplement or try potato starch in a smoothie.
Brands of probiotics I like: Integrative Therapeutics (small pearl that’s easy for kids to swallow): http://www.integrativepro.com/Products/Probiotics/Probiotic-Pearls
and Thera-biotic (chewable form available): http://www.klaire.com/probiotics_cat.htm
3. Give Vitamin C and Zinc supplementation daily.
Both of these supplements have been shown in studies to increase the immunity in our children and therefore reduce the rate of infections.
The doses are as follows:
For Zinc: ages 6 months – 3 years old: 2-3mg per day, ages 4-8 years old: 5mg per day, ages 9-13 years old: 8-10mg per day, ages 14-18 years old: 10-15mg per day
For Vitamin C: give 250-500 mg of buffered ascorbic acid two or three times daily up to 1000 mg daily.
Both of these can be found in liquid form or chewable, and it’s recommended to give with meals. Of course, it’s would also be good practice to increase the food sources of both vitamin C (high in yellow, red and orange fruits and vegetables, green leafy greens) and zinc (high in beans, nuts, certain types of seafood such as crab, lobster and oysters), and whole grains.
4. Maximize Vitamin D intake.
In the winter months, it is difficult to obtain enough sunlight for the skin to convert vitamin D into a useable form. Read about that here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/05/12/the-weird-history-of-vitamin-d-and-what-it-actually-has-to-do-with-sun/
Adequate vitamin D is necessary to carry out the body’s complex hormonal and immune responses that keep our kids functioning at their best. Other than sunlight, fatty fish are a good source of vitamin D. However, most children need supplementation to obtain an adequate blood level. Here is the recommended dose: Babies up to age 1 year old, 400 units per day, ages 1-5 years old, 500-1000 units per day, ages 5-10 years old, 1000 units per day, ages over 10 years old, 1000-2000 units per day.
5. Try a nasal spray to keep the nasal passages and sinuses clear.
A wonderful integrative ENT colleague of mine, Dr. Faust (http://www.boogordoctor.com) recommends a product containing xylitol. Xylitol is a powerful antimicrobial that occurs in nature. Used regularly, at least 2-3 times per week, it can help prevent sinusitis and even allergies. My young kids find it easy to use, and they like this product: http://www.xlear.com/store/xlear-sinus-care.html
6. Try increasing Quercetin if your child has asthma or is prone to rhinitis and sinusitis.
Quercetin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and is found in these foods: apple, grapes, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, some squashes and green peppers. Studies have shown that histamine release is reduced with increased quercetin in the diet. This means less sneezing, itching and runny noses for your child. We also know that quercetin is best absorbed between meals, and when combined with bromelain (an enzyme found naturally in pineapple). This is a product that I believe has a good safety profile and that I use when my child has the allergic sniffles: http://www.orthomolecularproducts.com/d-hist-jr-/
7. Elderberry can help fight respiratory viruses.
In the unfortunate situation of your child coming down with a cold, try elderberry syrup. If used early enough in the infection, the berries can help fight against influenza, common cold viruses and boost the immune system. It also functions as an anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown the following doses effective in clinical trials against flu:
one tablespoon (15 mL) 4 times daily of a specific elderberry juice-containing syrup (Sambucol, Nature’s Way) daily for 3-5 days. A dose of 15 mL (1 tablespoon) twice daily for 3 days has been used in children. A specific elderberry lozenge (ViraBLOC, HerbalScience) 175 mg 4 times daily for 2 days.
8. Try echinacea to ward off potential respiratory infections.
When I hear of a respiratory infection that’s spreading around the school, or at the first sign of an oncoming cold, I use echinacea to boost my children’s immune systems. A large meta-analysis of 14 studies published in the journal Lancet, showed that
Echinacea cuts the chances of catching a cold by 58% and reduces the duration of the common cold by almost one-and-a-half days.
I don't know about you, but being able to send my sons back to school one day earlier makes me a happier mom!
I like this product for my children, because their botanicals are pesticide free and have a good safety profile. Also, be careful of herbal products that contain alcohol as this is typically used in herbal tinctures to extract the herbs. This product is formulated for kids and is alcohol free: http://www.gaiaherbs.com/products/detail/700/GaiaKids-Echinacea-Supreme
Beginning a daily routine in the early fall will help your children and your family stay as healthy as can be which will make the season much more enjoyable for everyone. Don’t forget to encourage plenty of sleep for the whole family and keep the “holidaze” as stress-free as possible.
Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on how to keep the season merry and bright with mind-body practices for the whole family and how to eat as enjoyably and healthy as humanly possible when surrounded by cookies, cakes and gingerbread flavored everything...
What Are Endocrine Disruptors? Can They Contribute to the Development of Disease?
The interplay between our genetic makeup and the environmental exposure that we have throughout our lifetime can be complex. There are studies underway that will help us to understand how the thousands of chemicals we inhale, ingest and absorb are affecting our long term health. In the meantime, however, there are a few things we do know right now.
Specifically there are substances in the environment known as endocrine disruptors that have a similar chemical structure as our body’s natural hormones. They can be natural or manmade. When they are absorbed into the body, they can interfere with the normal hormonal system. Research has found links between exposure to these chemicals and a woman’s risk of breast cancer as well as other conditions such as diabetes and autoimmune disease. We also know that during particular phases of development, such as in-utero, early childhood and puberty, the opportunity for endocrine-disruptors to wreak havoc on the hormonal system is at it’s greatest.
We encounter these chemicals in commonly used items such as plastic toys, canned foods, personal care items, furniture, and electronics, as well as more generally in contaminated air, water, and house dust.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO LIMIT EXPOSURE?
- Eat hormone-free meat and dairy
- Reduce consumption of animal fat
- Use the dirty dozen list when deciding which fruits and vegetables to buy organic
- Use a water filter that removes chemicals, heavy metals and infectious agents
- Use stainless steel or glass containers
- Use only glass or ceramic (not plastic) in the microwave
- Eliminate phthalate-containing household items (PVC plastic), toys, and personal care items
- Eliminate products containing “Fragrance”
- Use non-toxic cleaning products
- Avoid chemical-based dry cleaning
- Avoid car exhaust and gasoline fumes
- Consider a HEPA filter to improve your indoor air quality
- Dust and vacuum your home frequently
- Consider adding plants to your home that help remove specific toxins. Here’s a link to a list of those plants:
Finding reputable online resources to research products can be confusing.
In addition, you can use the below resources to research particular chemicals found in your products. Information is key. It can help you make healthier choices for yourself and your family as well as give you the tools to help encourage industry and companies to improve their current practices.
Household Hazardous Substances Database links over 6,000 consumer brands to health effects. https://hpd.nlm.nih.gov
Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) evaluates the human health effects of hazardous substances. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides information on chemical safety, workplace health hazard evaluations and information regarding reproductive health. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh
by Meghan Dankovich - guest blogger and certified health coach
Have you ever worked with a personal trainer? Bought a class pack at your favorite yoga studio? Signed up for cooking classes? Or hired a wedding planner to coordinate your nuptials?
If so, there were likely a few reasons why you did. Convenience. Accountability. Motivation. Desire to learn. Need for help and guidance. Or maybe you simply knew you wouldn’t or couldn’t figure it out on your own.
When it comes to achieving optimal health, working with a Health Coach can provide you with benefits.
Perhaps you’ve been given a plan by a trusted physician but feel overwhelmed in implementing it. Or maybe you know what you need to do but struggle with prioritizing it. Or the truth is you’re frustrated and fed-up. You feel like you’ve tried it all and you just need someone to take the time to hear you out and assess what may have been missed.
These are all valid obstacles and is why health coaching exists.
Here are five reasons working with a certified Health Coach can help you reach your health and wellness goals faster:
1. Convenience – Health Coaches come to the table with a lot of knowledge that you may not already have about health and wellness. And when they aren’t familiar with something, they actually love to research it for you! Step away from webmd.com; let the coach share, research, translate, and guide you.
2. Accountability – Let’s be honest, we all have a ton of responsibilities and live busy lives. Prioritizing our own health often takes a back seat to everyone and everything else in our worlds. After spending 20 years traveling in the corporate world, my personal mantra became “you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can give your best to others”. Have any idea where that came from? Weekly or every other week sessions with a health coach keep your health front and center on your radar and hold you accountable for taking action.
3. Motivation – We all need motivation to forge ahead and alter our behavior, but feeling inspired to make change can be a fleeting thing. Understanding what your “on” buttons are is key and having a partner to help you decipher those buttons and tap into them when needed can make all the difference. It’s one of the reasons why buddy systems, role models, and goal setting work – all things a health coach can be for you. They provide motivation when we struggle to manufacture it for ourselves.
4. Education – Sometimes we lack the confidence to start the journey to greater health and wellness because we are intimidated by what we don’t know. Over the course of your sessions with a health coach you learn so much, get validation for what you think you already knew, and experience lots of what I call “a-ha!” and “huh!” moments. A great sense of empowerment is gained from the tips, resources, facts, self-awareness, and experimentation.
5. Guidance – Life is a trip, literally. With every mile lived our bodies change and adjust. Every choice, behavior, and feeling along the way shapes your journey and makes it unique from everyone else. This is why any approach to your health and well being needs to be holistic and personalized, meaning everything that makes you You – a whole being – needs taken into consideration. A health coach’s role is to provide proper guidance so you can navigate information from outside and inside yourself to proceed with what is best for you.
The next time you find yourself feeling hopeless, frustrated, or overwhelmed about taking action on your health, seek the assistance of a health coach. It’s what we’re here for.
Remember when you were told to wash all your fruits and veggies with soap before eating them? That all germs were bad for you? Antibiotics are used for everything from treating a common cold or a small pimple to treating a deadly blood infection. Antibacterials have become so trendy that I recently had a friend tell me that her daughter trades the sparkly, colored little bottles of hand sanitizer at school with her friends like we did scratch 'n sniff stickers. So, what DO all these germs do to our guts and our overall health?
Well, the truth is, not ALL germs are bad for us. The recent discovery of the microbiome sheds light on the multitude of beneficial bacteria and other organisms that live within our vast inner world. They lurk in our intestines and other areas of the body where they communicate with our immune system, our brains and even our genes. They provide a protective barrier between the gut and the rest of our body so that the food we eat as well as the toxins we consume remain in our intestines, where we process and eliminate what we need or don’t require. Many of these microbes help us make vitamins, process food into energy, and participate in a whole host of other important functions that keep our bodies running smoothly.
Diversity is key. The greater the diversity of these beneficial organisms, the better. One way to get diversity, is to get dirty! Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein explains in her book, The Dirt Cure, how exposure to beneficial bugs on the farm or in a garden helps keep kids from developing asthma, eczema and allergies. Just think of all the time we spend telling our kids not to play in the dirt, when all the while, it might be the dirt that keeps them healthy.
Another way to improve the diversity of our miniature little friends, is to understand how your dietary choices can affect them. A recent study published in the journal Science, examined an analysis of two large studies that looked at what increases the diversity of our gut microbiome, and what detrimentally decreases variance. Here is a breakdown of some of those results:
Top things that decreased gut microbiome diversity:
1. Medications - the most harmful ones being antibiotics and proton-pump inhibitors (used to treat heartburn).
2. A high-calorie diet high in simple carbohydrates (such as candy, white breads, white pasta, baked sweets etc).
3. Frequent eating - turns out that eating small meals every two hours (grazing) is not ideal for our gut microbiome.
4. Sweetened drinks - such as soda and juices with added sugar and high fructose corn syrup
Top things that improve gut microbiome diversity:
1. High fiber diets of whole vegetables and fruits
2. Dark chocolate - thankfully!
3. Fermented foods - examples: yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kim chi
4. Red wine
5. Green Tea
In addition to those top things found in the research studies, here are a couple of things you can also do to improve the variety of good bugs in your gut.
1. Take a good quality probiotic - it should be a reputable brand, such as Integrative Therapeutics or Pure Encapsulations. It should also have a good variety of both lactobacillus as well as bifidobacterium. Until we have more specific data on which exact strains are helpful, this is a good rule of thumb.
2. Provide prebiotic food for the bacteria - prebiotics are the nondigestible food that the bacteria need to thrive. These include fiber, oligofructose and inulin found in the skin of apples, bananas, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root and beans. You can also get a prebiotic supplement or try potato starch in a smoothie.
Overall, we need to allow these little friendly organisms to flourish within us. We certainly can’t live without ‘em! So, eat a wholesome diet full of a variety of fruits, vegetables and beans. Take antibiotics only when necessary. Enjoy a cup of green tea or a glass of red wine with your dark chocolate. And maybe, just maybe, don’t wash the dirt off the carrot you pick from your organic garden before you chop it up into your salad. Above all, take comfort in knowing that you are supported by an entire community of organisms (though mostly unseen), all rooting for your health and well-being.
Recently, there has been a lot of distressing worldly news. When I hear about these distrubing events, I find that my stress response gets activated and I become reactive. I feel powerless, sad and fearful at times. I realize that now is the time, more than ever before, to focus on keeping a calm mind. By doing so, I can continue to act from a place of love, peace and security instead of from a place of fear.
Stress is anything that upsets our mind and body’s equilibrium. Certainly, listening to the global reports of violence and tragedy qualifies as stress. Did you know however, that not all stressors are negative? Even positive events such as having a new baby or starting a new job can be just as stressful as dealing with illness or traumatic events.
So, how does it work? The perceived stressor causes your body to engage in a stress response. The stress response is an automatic response in our body that triggers a series of inflammatory changes in the body. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and a stream of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released. Our heart beats faster, our muscles become tense, our blood pressure rises and we become alert. When this happens multiple times over and over again, it is difficult for our body and mind to settle down. Getting stuck in this “on” position can cause long term changes to our neurons and immune system, leading to chronic conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, autoimmune disease and an upset in our mental health. There is not much you or I can do about the news on tv (other than turn it off), however, you can help support and strenthen your body’s ability to become more resilient and remain calm.
There are, of course, mind-body practices such as mindfulness meditation that you can do to reduce the stress response. However, did you know that you can also eat foods that help to calm your mind and body as well? Many foods have a direct effect on your nervous system, and help the body produce mood-stabilizing neurotransmitters.
Create your own natural "chill-pill" by adding the following stress-busting foods and nutrients to your plate.
1. B vitamins
Found in leafy greens, broccoli, lentils, organic pasture raised chicken, legumes, sunflower seads, nuts, barley, oatmeal, whole grains, organic asian mushrooms and salmon.
B Vitamins boost the immune system, help maintain regular blood sugar levels to keep energy and mood stable, are are essential for energy production. B5 also supports the adrenal gland and improves coping mechanisms.
Found is spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, clove, and oregano. Also found in darkly colored fruits and veggies like blueberries, raspberries and tomatoes.
Antioxidants help reduce free radicals (toxic chemicals produced when under stress), which cause damage to the body and increase the aging process.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Healthy Fats
Found in fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, mackerel and halibut. Also found in nuts such as walnuts, cashews and seeds such as flax and pumpkin seeds. Nut and seed oils are also an important source of healthy fats along with avocado, olives and olive oil.
Omega- 3 fatty acids help nerve cells communicate well with each other. This supports good mental health. Healthy fats also help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Found in sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, salmon, shrimp, oysters, seaweed, avocado, almonds and brazil nuts. Also found in whole grains and leafy greens
Magnesium, sometimes called the original "chill pill", is an important nutrient for assisting in the relaxation response. Our magnesium levels can drop, the more stressed we become.
5. Folate (also a B-vitamin)
Found in leafy greens such as collards, spinach, swiss chard and kale. Also found in avocado and asparagus.
Folate helps with nerve transmission, and production of “happy hormones” like serotonin.
I am well versed in traveling. I grew up overseas and my father had two months of paid vacation every year. Imagine that! We would hop on a plane and travel to India, Europe and the US for almost the entire summer. I have memories of getting ill many times while traveling as a child, but don’t recall dealing with constipation, fatigue, ankle swelling and bloating. I don’t remember thinking much about drinking water, trying to get exercise and paying attention to what I eat. Alas, everything changes with age. Gone are the days of eating the bag of blue corn tortilla chips on a jetblue flight across country or drinking a cup of tomato juice because it just taste so good at 30,000 feet high (there is actually science behind why it taste better high up). I now think mindfully about preparing my body prior to travel and the choices I make while traveling. I’ve found that sticking with these 5 things keeps me at my best so I can enjoy my experience of traveling and recover quickly when I get home.
Recently, I was asked to give a talk on spirituality and it’s importance in healthcare. I found myself thinking about how I have spent the last few years focusing on the “easy” fixes with my patients such as diet, sleep and exercise. Now, I am not saying that these things are truly easy to fix. However, when it comes to a physician addressing these topics with a patient, talking about the evidence on how certain foods can contribute to or prevent disease and giving specific recommendations based on current science, is much easier than talking to a patient about spirituality and how it can also contribute to or prevent disease.
I am Dr. Shelly Sethi. I am a family doctor who is fellowship trained in integrative medicine. This means that I want to build a relationship with my patients and clients placing the relationship at the center. I utilize the wisdom of many healing traditions and combine it with the science of conventional medicine to empower my patients and help them thrive. I believe that health is a journey. It is a balance of a few factors, some in your power to change, and some not in your power to change. I want to help you reach your full health potential by partnering with you to help you change the factors that are in your power. These include your diet, your environment, your community, your spirituality and your physical movement. You may not be able to change your genetic map, but you can affect the expression of it.