Plants Vs Ticks: Lyme-free Landscaping

5 May

english garden

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

It is already a terrible start to the year for ticks, and for new cases of Lyme and other tick-transmitted infections. That’s the bad news. The good news is it is not too late to do something about it for your yard. This article highlights landscaping strategies proven to repel ticks and the vectors that carry them in, and offers some alternatives to insecticide soil treatments to control infestations- which can be a danger to groundwater as well as potential risks from topical exposures to kids and pets. In the end, you need to do what is best for you and your family members- furry and non-furry- but this resource is a great way to start planning your strategy with effective, non-pesticide measures. (For information about what you need on hand to reduce disease transmission if you do get a tick bite, please read my recently updated article:  2017 Updated Tick Removal, Testing, and Prevention.

Landscaping

Most ticks, including deer ticks, like cool, shady, humid places to live and they don’t venture too far from where they are dropped from their hosts. Landscaping that encourages more sunshine and warm, dry conditions will limit their range. Beautiful and repellent strategies can include native plant gardens, butterfly gardens, and old cottage-style gardens. Tasks:

  • Prune back trees and shrubs to allow in more light.
  • Keeping grass clipped allows in more light and limits moisture. Ticks like tall grasses but do not cross into trimmed, clear lawns.
  • Beware of mulch. Many veterinarians report tick problems in households following mulch applications. This is because ticks relish the moisture and hiding places that it provides. If you do mulch, the type matters. Choose cedar with a preference for the nuggets/chips over the shredded. Not only is cedar a natural repellant for ticks and fleas, the nuggets retain less moisture and are therefore a stronger repellant of ticks.
  • Use a 3 foot swath of either mowed lawn, cedar mulch, or gravel as a border between your yard and neighboring woodlands. Use it as a border around play areas, walkways and porches.
  • Avoid ground cover plants as much as possible. The hiding places they provide attract mice, chipmunks and ground squirrels that spread infected ticks. Use gravel, cedar mulch or mowed grassy lawn to also border off stone walls and stacks of wood- which are also usually infected with mice.
  • Keep it neat. Pick up and neatly stack empty gardening containers to reduce hiding and nesting spots for mice.
  • Try not to be inviting to deer, which are basically HOV’s(high occupancy vehicles) for ticks. Child-safe plants that might repel deer include strong-smelling herbs such as mint family plants and lavender. An extensive list of botanicals that generally won’t attract deer can be found at this website.
  • Chickens and guinea hens? Yes, they do eat bugs like crazy. They also poop like crazy. They do seem to reduce the tick population significantly if they can roam.

Lawn Treatments

For those who prefer to avoid the widespread use of insecticides in their property, there might be more targeted ways to kill ticks by working directly with vectors. Tick tubes by Damminix on Amazon use permethrin-treated cotton balls stowed in tubes, placed strategically around your property (you can also get them direct from the manufacturer in various quantities here). Mice take the cotton to line their nests, thus eradicating ticks from all occupants. Another newer and fascinating strategy uses bait boxes to attract rodents which are then brush past an insecticide- treated applicator as they approach the bait food. This has been shown to significantly reduce tick populations, and the CDC is currently funding a study in Connecticut suburbs to see if it reduces the incidence of Lyme disease. But, frankly, they already had me at, “significantly reduces tick populations.” Here is where you can locate an installer, state by state.

For further reading on this topic, check out this article which discusses the work and research by Kirby Stafford III PhD, Vice Director, Chief and State Entomologist, Department of Entomology, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), New Haven. He ” ..has been involved in tick research on many fronts for 23 years. His 84-page handbook Tick Management Handbook (TMH), is the definitive informational word on tick ecology, diseases, removal, repellants, and a complete and varied integrated approach to tick management for the property owner.”

About the author: Cora Rivard is a practicing licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.), a loving but occasionally embarrassing mom (according to my child), occasional writer and health activist, and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC, in Derry, NH. Website: www.seasonsnatural.com

 

 

 

The Mother’s Day Project

8 May

 

mom daughter

In seventh grade, I created a questionnaire in a notebook. Each page hosted a single question, with plenty of open lines for responses- questions like: “What’s your favorite movie? Color? Swear word? Most embarrassing moment? What are you afraid of? etc. This was passed around among all the girls in my class (I don’t remember why boys were not included, but probably because we were 12). We all delighted in reading each other’s interesting, humorous and occasionally deeply meaningful content, and it inspired some great conversations afterwards.

Thirty-one years later, with your help, I would like to try a similar, simple experiment.  In honor of Mother’s Day, I would like to ask you to share one singular piece of wisdom you have learned from your mother. Whether about yourself, life in general, or about the world. Maybe it is a quote, a particular memory that brings joy, or a special recipe, or the knowledge how to do something. Choose one, and please share it in a reply to this post. If you don’t mind sharing (and don’t feel like you have to), please also give you age and what state/country you live in.

—————————————-I’ll start:————————————–

43, New Hampshire: My mother was a Master Gardener and horticulturist, and loved all plants, but roses in particular. She sometimes judged rose shows. She brought me once to one as a child. Surrounded by all this fragrance and beauty, I asked her what she looked for when trying to judge so many pretty things. She taught me that roses, and plants in general, have certain genetic and situational challenges based on where they grow- including soil nutrition, weather, exposure to stress and elements. That there are always scars and bumps individual to each plant when you look closely, and no such thing as perfection. But that any rose can grow beautifully if its particular needs are tended well over time, and that their exceptional individual differences and adaptations are exactly the things that make them beautiful, and winners in shows! (This view impacted me profoundly in how I would later train to administer healthcare for people)

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

2017 Updated Guide for Tick Removal, Testing, and Prevention in New England

8 Mar

tick on neck

by Cora Rivard, N.D./Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC

The geese are flying back north, the songbirds are active, and the first scents of spring are already in the air…that’s the good news. But with the unseasonably mild and wet weather, we’ve had an early return of high activity for some not-so-welcome local residents: ticks. Deer ticks, in particular, transmit a number of human and canine-transmittable illnesses such as Lyme disease throughout the U.S., with the highest frequency here in NE.

I’ve just removed one last night that escaped my surveillance, and sent it off ASAP today for testing. After dealing with my own late stage Lyme infection many years ago, and working with patients who have Lyme disease, I know firsthand how critical it is to prevent it. This includes knowing how to move quickly with the right tools and steps when you or a family member gets a tick bite. So, I am providing you with the info here that I wish I had known many years ago! (1. Prevention, 2. Procedures for Bites.)

First: Prevention:

  1. Get one of these. This is hands down the best tick remover device you can get. I have tested out many styles, but my favorite by far is the notched spoon method. It can safely remove ticks of any size, even nymphs and larval sizes, with head and mouth intact every time. I like the 3 pack because it is great to have back-ups. We keep one on a hook in our home, so anyone knows where to find it quickly when needed.
  2. Wear pants (preferably light-colored so easier to visualize ticks) tucked into socks when in the woods and when doing yardwork.
  3. You may apply tick repellent sprays, herbal or chemical, to shoes, pants and legs prior to walks in the woods. For children, I recommend parents use safer, non-DEET repellants if possible. Formulations with essential oils like lemongrass, cedar, rosemary may be OK to repel ticks (but should be re-applied often). Just be extra careful using essential oils, especially on children- some can cause burns if directly applied to skin. A little applied to sock tops, pant legs/hems may be adequate: Botani Organics Tick Guard Repellant Spray — 4 fl oz(by the way- for mosquitoes, the best natural product I have used is lemon eucalyptus: Repel 94109 Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent, 4-Ounce Pump Spray. But I don’t know if it would repel ticks.)
  4. As soon as you come inside from outdoor work or adventures, remove your clothes (this is also entertaining for your neighbors) and toss them (the clothes, not your neighbors) in the dryer for 5-10 minutes. It’s not necessary to put them in the washers, ticks don’t drown in the wash,  but a spin through the dry heat of the dryer will kill them.
  5. Nightly tick checks. Ticks are not polite- they will crawl up until they hit a crease, fold, or simply can’t climb up anymore. Always check the nether regions, back, neck, under breasts, armpits, legs, belly button, and go through the hair and scalp carefully. Another important spot to always check (especially in children) is within the curves and folds of the ears. Do this every single evening whenever snow is not covering the ground, even if you or your children have not been outside, ticks can still migrate indoors on pets….so:
  6. Don’t Sleep with Rover. You might think it is OK since you treat with him/her with chemical treatments or with a collar, but think again. It may actually repel some ticks to crawl over to a more welcoming host to bite- you!

If you are really committed to prevention, consider some landscaping/gardening techniques to naturally keep out ticks- I discuss them in my previous article, “Plants Vs Ticks.”

Second: Steps to take when you get a tick bite:

  1. Get your tick remover. If using the “Ticked Off” device, apply traction to either side of the tick bite, pulling skin tight, and gently scoop tick out with a smooth, non-jerking motion so that the mouth parts don’t break off in the skin. If you only have tweezers, gently grasp from tick from where it is attached to the skin, and pull gently out, also applying traction to skin.
  2. Never try to burn, squeeze, or otherwise irritate the tick by putting anything on it, like essential oils or vaseline. This can cause the tick to disgorge its stomach contents into the wound, along with infectious organisms.
  3. Wrap tick in a moistened piece of paper towel or moistened cotton ball, and deposit into a zip plastic baggie.
  4. Apply hydrogen peroxide, or other antiseptic to the site of the tick bite.
  5. Call your doctor’s office to ask about their protocol for treating tick bites, and to seek advice based upon how long the tick was attached, or how inflated it appeared. Note: ticks can start transmitting the organisms that cause Lyme well before 24 hrs of attachment.
  6. In the mean time, consider sending the bagged tick off for testing. The TickEncounter Resource Center out of the University of Rhode Island is a great place to search for tick testing services. I have used both the UMASS Laboratory of
    Medical Zoology ‘s TickReport
     as well as the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory and have been pleased with both, though UMASS’s system is a little more user friendly. It will cost you $50 and test for a variety of tickborne illnesses, with reports returned in about 3-5 business days (but often even faster.)

For further info

Call your doctor with concerns, they might suggest preventve treatment depending on the circumstances of the tick bite, even without symptoms. “Preventive” treatment should mean full treatment time-I often recommend to patients to complete 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment in early disease. This is longer than the guidelines set forth by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and other infections may include any of the following: spreading rash, fever, head aches, stomach aches, flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and joint aches and pains. However, it is also possible to have no signs or symptoms for weeks or months during the initial infection. It is common for the skin surrounding tick bites to get a little red and even scabby- this is because your immune system becomes activated with the mechanical irritation of the bite, and also may react strongly to the proteins in the tick’s saliva. This is not the same as an erythema migrans- the typical Lyme rash. Show your doctor immediately if you have any kind of rash or reaction, they can help to distinguish the two.

Testing for Lyme disease in humans: generally, you must wait at least a month to get tested, as it takes a while for antibodies to mount diagnostic levels. Therefore if it is likely that you might have contracted a tick transmitted illness, either by symptoms, history of deer tick bite, or by an unusual rash (since many people who contract Lyme disease never discovered an attached tick)- your doctor may opt to go ahead and treat you.

If you do go through treatment, remember to talk to your doctor about taking probiotics (take at a separate time from antibiotics) throughout your treatment period and for at least 2-3 months beyond. Antibiotics will help to kill tick-borne diseases, but they will also wreak havoc on your intestinal ecology. Probiotics can help to protect you from getting a serious intestinal infection while your defenses are down during and post treatment. Again, talk to your doctor for guidance!

Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic family doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC, in Derry NH. Inquiries about appointments and services may be emailed to info@seasonsnatural.com

 

 

Does drinking a glass of red wine really equal an hour of working out at the gym?

22 Feb

wine_workout

This subject has been circulating widely on social media lately, similar claims about beer have been made. I hate to be a “Debbie Downer”here, but it’s way too early and inconclusive to make such a claim about wine… that is, unless you are simply going to the gym for the express purpose of drinking wine. If so, please let me know, because I’ll join you!

This latest boost is due to a study out of the University of Alberta in which researchers found that “that high doses of the natural compound resveratrol improved physical performance, heart function and muscle strength in lab models.” *

What they don’t mention is that this study was performed on RATS, not humans, and they were given relatively enormous amounts of resveratrol: “researchers used the equivalent of 146 milligrams of resveratrol per kilogram of body weight per day. In one glass of red wine, there is a about 0.29 to 1.89 milligrams of resveratrol per 5 fluid ounces (a serving), says Lauren Schmitt, registered dietitian, certified personal.” So, with some loose averaging and rounding, a 140lb woman might need to try an average of 5,000 glasses of wine to get this effect. Depending on how stressful a week has been, I know some women who may still be tempted to give this a try.

But really- resveratrol has spiked in popularity in recent years as a supplement for those searching for a sort of an elixir of youth. It is just one of many, many substances that has been isolated in red wine, as well as fruits/berries, nuts, and chocolate, and other sources. In wine, it tends to be higher by concentration in certain varietals, like pinot noir grapes, which flourish in damp, cool, misty environments. These conditions on the surface of the grape skins cause the plant to produce more resveratrol to control mildew and mold growth. To be honest, there have been a few cases in which I have recommended occasional glasses of pinot noir to help men with certain health conditions as part of a full program, and I have found it helpful.

Enjoying red wine in moderation can be great for the heart, but has to be weighed against the potential for increase in breast cancer in women, and possible disruptions in sleep caused by having alcohol in the evenings. Nuts, cocoa, and berries are other fantastic dietary sources of not only resveratrol, but also host many other forms of important polyphenols that contribute to health, wellness, cardiovascular support, muscle support, and slowed aging.

Best advice is to skip the resveratrol supplements, and instead (if your doctor approves), relax and enjoy a nice glass of wine once in a while with some good company and a delicious bit of dark chocolate. And snack on some nuts and berries.

As for the new wave of encouraging consistency to workout and yoga classes by following with a beer or glass of wine and some social time once a week? Anything that encourages more consistent activity, relaxed socializing, and enjoying a tasty treat sounds like a win:win.

By Cora Rivard, N.D./ Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC

Journal Reference:

*V. W. Dolinsky, K. E. Jones, R. S. Sidhu, M. Haykowsky, M. P. Czubryt, T. Gordon, J. R. B. Dyck. Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats. The Journal of Physiology, 2012; 590 (11): 2783 DOI:

Ask a Naturopathic Doctor; “Should I Do a Cleanse?”

20 Feb

juices

By Cora Rivard, N.D./Naturopathic Doctor. Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in Derry

“What is a cleanse, and do I need to do one?” If you asked your family medical doctor this question, she or he would probably take a deep breath and then try to explain to you that unless you are about to undergo a procedure that necessitates prior emptying of the bowels, there is never a reason to “cleanse” the inside of your body. The physiologies of your liver, kidneys, intestines, blood, lungs and skin already do this for you without your help; the roles of binding, detoxification and elimination all steadfastly go on without your conscious attention, thank you very much.

This is my opinion as well. However, things can still get bound up, backed up, overburdened, and just plain exhausted in your body at times- even when they are usually running smoothly. Diet, lifestyle and medications can overload the cytochrome P450 system which determines the rate of certain types of detoxification that happen in your liver. People can feel tired and worn out; they can get constipated from dehydration, being sedentary, changes in diet, food sensitivities and many other reasons (see my previous post for more information here, “Get Your Poop On…”). Skin can sometimes get inflamed when irritants hang around from metabolic waste. Those with tendencies for bronchial spasms and irritations can become more reactive when the burden of irritants on and within the body becomes too high.

So in my experience, people can feel great after a “cleanse.” But I see this as more of a “kick off” to a commitment to better eating and living habits. This is when it is time to hit the reset button, get to bed at regular times, and get outside more regularly for exposure to nature and the natural rhythms of life. A “cleanse” is a ritual that helps you to prioritize your health and wellness by backing off  from the things that are unnecessary- the burdens of bad habits of mindless excess. It doesn’t require buying fancy kits and supplements. You don’t even have to plunk down $10,000 to join Dr. Oz at a posh health spa- it doesn’t have to cost you anything! But it has to be done carefully, and some “cleanses” can actually be quite dangerous. First, don’t do the following:

1. Don’t stop eating suddenly for extended times. Unless you have been culturally initiated to times of fasting, for many people, this kind of abrupt change can present some risky challenges. Your blood sugar could get dangerously low for your brain and you could pass out, or you could experience electrolyte imbalances that can cause a heart arrhythmia. Abrupt start and stop fasting methods can also precipitate gallbladder stones, and can cause harm to your metabolism. These are usually scammy yo-yo diets and they almost always lead to rebound weight gain.  (Watch out for all those tabloids in the check out line with headlines like, “Drop 10 pounds in 10 days!!!”)

2. Please, please don’t do any cleanse that involves swallowing tablespoonfuls of oil. This can actually cause your gallbladder to spasm and expel stones, which can then become lodged in your biliary system and wreak havoc. It is just not worth it.

3. Avoid colon hydrotherapy/irrigation. Is there a fire in your bowels? No? Then don’t do this! Your bowels do not need to be “washed,” unless you have a specific medical need to do so. The ecology of the intestines is delicate, and can be upset by forcing water through them at high pressure. Plus, this type of procedure puts one at risk for perforations, infections, and other unintended consequences.

4. You do not need to use vaginal douches. The vagina is supposed to have its own ecosystem which can be damaged with douching. It has a pH and natural secretions to help protect itself and maintain health. If you are suffering from yeast infections or other problems with smell or discomfort, speak to your doctor about it.

5. Avoid juicing diets. You don’t need all the sugar- think of this as similar to drinking soda all day. And, you are throwing away much of the great nutrition of the foods in the form of fiber and other important nutrients.

Now that you know what not to do, what can you do? At it’s core, doing a cleanse lessens the burden on your body so that it can better do its job to bind up, detoxify, and eliminate. A good rule of thumb is going for a month, but even 2 weeks, 1 week, Here are the most important points for doing a cleanse for your chosen period of time:

1. Avoid eating all junky foods. This includes foods with added sugars, fried foods, heavily processed foods that contain “non-food” ingredients, chemically processed foods. Warning: for the first week after giving up added sugars- you will CRAVE sugar like crazy. But after that, smooth sailing. In fact, your taste buds will adjust, and the old foods you enjoyed will actually taste too sweet to you.

2. Avoid eating lots of rich and meaty foods. These foods can settle heavily, and can take more resources to process in your body. It is good to lighten the load occasionally. You might give up all red meats for a month, or commit to eating just fish or poultry a few times a week, and then vegetarian the other days. Or even just practicing “Meatless Mondays.” The more adventurous could go totally vegetarian, but this takes some planning.

3. Get plenty of rest and quality sleep at night. This is essential to body repairs and optimal function.

4. Avoid alcohol, and if you can handle it- caffeine. Both of these things put a burden on your liver’s detoxification system, give it a break for a while. I also find that caffeine and alcohol use can frequently interfere with restorative sleep. Warning: sudden caffeine withdrawal can cause headaches, exhaustion, and irritability. Even a reduction to one or 1/2 cup in the mornings if you are a multi-cup coffee drinker can be a big benefit.

5. Eat smaller meals, especially at night. Avoid excess.

6. Drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated.

7. Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. These are particularly great at assisting the liver to do its work. But, always go slowly when adding more fiber to your diet, you might get gassy, constipated, or even inflame your colon from mechanical irritation if you change your diet too rapidly. Check with your doctor first if you are taking blood thinners, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease. Go for steamed veggies, in small servings, once or even up to twice a day to start if you are not used to these foods.

8. Unlike longer fasting regimens, some people like to practice, “intermittent fasting.” This is where you mindfully fast from food and beverages (water is allowed and encouraged during this time) for certain regular intervals. A great way to do this is stay simple- one can try fasting for 12 or so hours a day (say, 7pm-7am.) By not eating or drinking (things other than water) within several hours of bedtime, you also reap the benefits of more restorative sleep.

9. For extra credit- go for the fermented foods. Be adventurous and throw some kimchi on your eggs, or serve a side of sauerkraut on the side of you chicken sausage. Try some unsweetened vanilla coconut yogurt with some fresh blueberries or cut strawberries. Try some kefir, or live culture plain yogurt. Adding in a regular source of fermented foods can help make your intestines function better, keep you better protected from colds, flu, and stomach bugs, and can make you feel happier as well!

And that is it! It is just that simple. Trendy cleanses and diets of the moment tend to avoid the most common food sensitivities and allergens. While there are inconsistencies and problems with many of these plans, people often feel great on them and lose weight in the short term because they cut out the junk food, many of the sweets, the alcohol, in addition to the most frequently reactive foods for people, such as gluten and dairy, coffee, soy and eggs. That is most of the magic right there. There is nothing wrong with these foods, except if you happen to be sensitive to them. If you’ve got questions about how you might be reacting to certain foods, best to consult with an N.D. or nutritionist to help you find the best fit nutritional plan for you, for your needs in the long term.

For those who are motivated and can afford it, I often recommend adding in massage, which is a great way to stimulate circulation of blood and lymph. Also try daily walks outside, regardless of the weather, meditation and mindfulness practice, and deep slow breath practice. And turning off the news, and social media, especially in the evenings.

I have become a fan of the recipe for Magic Mineral Broth 2.0 by Rebecca Katz. While she originally developed this veggie-rich recipe for use as a nourishing broth for those undergoing cancer treatment, she has updated it with more pizazz for her new book, : The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods [120 Recipes for Vitality and Optimal Health]. This has some great, nutritious recipes to use during your cleanse and well beyond for enhanced health and longevity.This broth can be a tasty, nutritious powerhouse for supporting your organs of elimination. (Enjoy it anytime!)

If you are looking for an interesting and tasty kale blend recipe, here is a fantastic one for Kale and Brussel Sprout salad. You can just leave out the sheep cheese if you are avoiding cheese. Really, even people who tell me that they don’t like kale and brussel sprouts, they like this one. If you are interested, I have a great article with some high protein smoothie recipes here. Go for one of these daily during your cleanse- they can serve as a meal replacement in a pinch. Instead of coffee in the mornings- enjoy some hot water with a fresh twist of lemon. Or, perhaps some ginger or green tea (caffeine levels are pretty low in green tea.)

Doing a cleanse can be a great way to help prevent and reduce seasonal allergy reactions, especially when started before the allergy season begins. For more information about how to prevent and limit allergy symptoms- read my previous blog article, “Nip Allergies in the Bud: 8 Tips for Relief.

*This article is not to be taken as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor about any health concerns*

by Cora Rivard, N.D.  www.seasonsnatural.com

 

 

School Snack Hacks for Healthy, Happy, and Better-Focused Kids

1 Sep

kidsnacksstarbucks

by Dr. Cora Rivard

Kids are back to school, and as parents everywhere breathe a sigh of relief- we also look ahead to doing what we can to ensure that they have a great year, which includes getting the most benefit from their education and extracurricular pursuits. As both a parent and a naturopathic doctor, this is a prime interest! This blog will highlight some snack ideas for keeping your child in good form for paying attention, feeling more relaxed and happy, and supporting more positive behavior.

Balancing a healthy supply of complex carbohydrates from whole grains, high power fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein help keep your child consistently fueled throughout the day, without the crashes in blood sugar spurred by many popular processed snacks, which can negatively impact mood, behavior and ability to focus. Serve with water, or plain milk (skip the too-heavily-sweetened chocolate, strawberry (and I can’t believe this is even an option in elementary schools- coffee milk flavors.) See below:

  • cubes of cheese with grapes and whole grain crackers
  • slices of apple with dipping container of sunflower seed butter
  • strips of baked or rotisserie chicken with pita, and carrot sticks
  • “ants on a log”: celery sticks that your child can spread sunflower seed butter on, and then sprinkle with raisins*. (Due to the high glycemic value of dried fruit, particularly raisins, it is best not to offer raisins as a sole snack, but in combination with other healthy snacks to balance them out, they are very nutritious.)
  • plain yogurt+ fresh fruit, pureed or whole, or apple sauce of your choice. You may sweeten with a touch of honey if needed. Pack in an insulated container for school snacks. For drinkable yogurt, simply throw these ingredients in a blender with small amounts of milk until you get the consistency that you desire. This is a much cheaper way to create yogurt and yogurt smoothies, and far more healthy than the sugary products in the store.
  • Zucchini, carrot, and yogurt multigrain muffins recipe
  • Homemade nut-free granola bars- you control how much sugar to add. Great option that can be made and portioned ahead of time. The following is a good example: Nut-free Healthy Granola Bars recipe
  • edamame and cubes of cheese
  • Pear and cheese pinwheels recipe
  • carrot sticks and hummus

There are many great reusable packs to keep snacks cool- I am partial to the following foldable, freezer lunch bag which has served us well (lots more interesting colors and patterns on Amazon):
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure, Black 

Stainless steel “Lunch Bots” are an excellent, “bento box” design for snacks and lunches, and are available in a variety of sizes and shapes. They fit well in the PackIt Freezable Lunch bags.

The following snacks are marketed as “healthy,”  but are surprisingly not very healthy:

Juice: Many juices are mixed with things like concentrated grape juice (which is just sugar) as well as corn syrup and artificial colorings. And even real juice from organic fruit is still very sugary and devoid of fiber and other nutrients once present in the whole fruit. Juice packs on the sugar and promotes cavities, just like soda. Whole fruit is always a better choice- by itself or within a smoothie.

“Diet” or processed and marketed “sugar free” offerings– these use a range of indigestible simple carbohydrates which interfere with focus, upset stomachs, and may cause people to over-consume at a later time.

*Raisins or dried cranberries (don’t use alone as the sole snack because they are high glycemic foods/sugary. However, they can be great as a flavoring added to something healthier- like granola bars or oatmeal)

Fruit rollups– sugar, no fiber

Processed yogurt and yogurt smoothie cups for kids- loaded with sugar!

“Snackables” and other similar processed foods- loaded with preservatives, artificial colorings, flavorings, sodium, sometimes MSG

Commercial granola bars and power bars-careful with these, some are good, but most are loaded with white sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavorings.

Tuna fish salad– unfortunately, tuna contains enough mercury to make eating it more than on occasion unsafe for the average weight adult, and therefore I would suggest that it is just not even worth it for children or pregnant women to consume it anymore. Better choices are to make salmon or chicken salads for lunch or as a snack with whole grain crackers or pita bread.

As you already know, there is a whole lot of marketing aimed squarely at your child for unhealthy and heavily processed snack foods. With a little planning, and the occasional preparation of “batch’ snacks and portioning ahead of time, you can make your own healthier, more cost effective snacks. And let your children get involved in preparations- you’ll be teaching them the nuts and bolts of putting together a healthy snack. You are your children’s best teacher- and maintaining their best health is one of the best gifts you can give!

*****

I love being a great resource for kids and families! For more information about my practice, or to schedule an initial consult online to discuss how to best support the wellness of your child with natural medicine techniques, please visit my website at: http://www.seasonsnatural.com

I am a specialist in naturopathic family healthcare, which involves an emphasis on drug-less, natural and supportive strategies to resolve common (and sometimes not-so-common) medical problems affecting children and adults. My philosophy is that this is not “alternative medicine,” but should instead be the standard of care as the first strategy employed for non-urgent health concerns before consideration of more invasive and risky procedures and medications.

The Perfected Gluten-free Pancake (with Paleo,allergy, vegan substitutions.)

14 Jan

As a doctor specializing in nutritional therapies, working with many children and adults over the years who cannot tolerate certain food ingredients, I am always on the lookout for delicious alternative recipes. And who doesn’t love pancakes? Every kid deserves to enjoy them. Yet, this has been the most vexing of all gluten-free foods for me to find. So, over the past year, I have been buying too many ingredients, mixing and testing in my kitchen like a mad scientist to try to come up with the answer. I am unveiling it today-please share!

“But,” you politely say, “aren’t there are plenty of gluten-free pancake mixes available?” Why yes…yes there are. And they not only taste like cardboard, they are also practically devoid of anything nutritious. If I even see the ingredients, “potato starch,” or “tapioca” or “rice flour” listed on anything anymore, my eyes instantly glaze over.

So instead, I have perfected my made-from-scratch recipe that tastes delicious, is fluffy and rich, and is packed with protein and fiber to keep you and your children supported all morning long, without the usual post-pancake glycemic crash that happens with most recipes, gluten-containing or not.

I am posting it below including paleo, nut free, dairy free, and vegan variations as needed.

Dr. Rivard’s Ah-mazing Gluten-Free Pancakes

The following recipe makes 6-7 medium sized pancakes, or 2 servings. Each serving contains minimum 13.5 grams of protein– that’s nearly 3x the protein in an average, whole grain pancake mix! (that’s not even counting what’s in the milk you add to the mix or the added walnut variation). Enjoy!

  • 1/4 cup hazelnut flour (may substitute almond flour, but will be denser and not as fluffy, use 1/4 cup ground flax seeds for nut free version)
  • 1/2 oat flour (or 1/4 cup oat flour and 1/4 cup buckwheat flour)
  • 2 eggs (substitute 1 tablespoon ground flax and 3 tablespoons water per egg)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (olive oil is fine but a little more bitter, I like using walnut or canola oil)

Now, decide if you would prefer apple cinnamon, or banana walnut as your pancake flavors– either track adds important “fluff” and flavor to your pancakes:

For apple version: add 1/2 grated apple to mix, and just a pinch of ginger. For those with textural intolerances- peel it first. (I like it better with peels included.) Serve with the extra slices on the side.

For banana walnut version : add one ripe banana, well sliced or mashed, and 1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

  • 1/4 cup milk (any kind of dairy or non-dairy milk.

Now, throw all your chosen ingredients together in a medium-size bowl and mix well. Always save the milk as the last addition, so you can add a little more or less based on personal taste and desired thickness of pancake batter. (I usually also add the eggs right before the milk, because my daughter likes to reach in to taste the dry ingredients and oil as they go in.)

I hope you enjoy it!  Please post what you think- I love comments- and add any variations that you liked in customizing the recipe further.

Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic doctor serving individuals and families in NH and MA for the past 10 years. Her private practice, Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC, is located in southern NH.

How to Avoid Travel Constipation

15 Jul

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This is the annual summer re-post of one of my most popular blog topics over the years. Blog stats show a recently steep surge in readership of this one.

It’s busy and you’re on the go, and yet sometimes it can be hard to “go.” This article explains the why, how and what to do about it. I will be following up soon with another post explaining how to protect yourself from other travel concerns such as blood clots in legs, stomach bugs, and other things that can ruin your vacation. Stay tuned!

Read the original article:

How to Combat Travel Constipation

Cora Rivard, N.D.

Your New Favorite Smoothies: 6 Healthy AND Scrumptious Recipes

2 Jun

awesome smoothie photo

 

Smoothies are popular beverages, but most of the recipes I see circulating are better defined as desserts…they often contain a lot of juice and sugar, not much fiber, and overall not the best ingredients.

I wanted to focus this week’s post on the best of the best: the most delicious, whole-food kinds of smoothies. All but #5 are naturally high in protein, and #’s 3-4 work great as detoxification support. All recipes here are packed with a variety of natural vitamins and minerals, nothing synthetic here!

Whether you are looking for the perfect whole food “sports drink,” a quick summertime breakfast option, kid-friendly summer snacks, or simply a cold and refreshing afternoon pick-me-up, check these out. Enjoy them! (And relax, they are really good for you!)

1. Cocoa, banana, and peanut butter smoothie. (my personal favorite.) Can be made dairy-free. This is one of the best sport drinks! High protein, high potassium, lots of bioflavonoids, antioxidants, and arginine, which supports healthy blood vessel function.

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  • 1 cup milk (you may substitute with unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder (use only raw, organic, unsweetened cocoa powder– most store-bought varieties are processed in a way that causes the cocoa to lose much of its health benefits)
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter
  • 1/2-1 frozen banana (may be substituted with 1/2 avocado if you don’t like bananas- keeps the potassium content)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • optional: a pinch of cinnamon or cayenne pepper to make the cocoa “pop”
 Directions:
  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Protein: 16.75g (based on 1 cup cow milk, 2 Tbsp nut butter and 1/2 banana) or 10g when almond milk is substituted.

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2. Mango Carrot Smoothie

Serves: 1

  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1.5 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 3/4 cup fresh mango
  • 5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth.

290 calories, 9g protein

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3. Pina Colada Smoothie

This one boasts a high carotenoid content due to the mango. I recommend amending recipe to use plain yogurt with a few drops of vanilla extract, and a teaspoon of honey as an option.

4. Green Monster Smoothie

This recipe includes spinach (and I recommend alternating with kale, to avoid the high oxalate content of daily spinach servings, read more on this topic from one of my previous blogs)

5. Green Sunrise Smoothie: makes several servings.

Ingredients
  • 4 cups dark leafy greens (kale or spinach, best to alternate)
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 orange, peeled
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup ice (optional)
Instructions
  1. Put dark leafy greens, cucumber, lime juice, water into a high speed blender and blend for a minute.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
*buy organic greens, carrots and strawberries whenever possible.
6. Strawberry Protein Smoothie
 awesome smoothie photo
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, 100 calories – 2g protein
  • 1 ½ cups 0% fat Greek yogurt, 195 calories – 34g protein
  • ½ medium ripe banana, 50 – 0.5g protein
  • ½ cup almond milk, 20 calories – 0.5g protein
  • 2 teaspoons honey, 44 calories
  • 1 cup crushed ice, or 1½ cups ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Combine strawberries, Greek yogurt, banana, almond milk and honey in a blender container. Blend on high till smooth and creamy.
  2. Add ice cubes and blend on high for about one minute.Taste and add a bit of Stevia or sweetener of choice, if needed. Pour into two tall serving glasses and enjoy.

Notes about protein powders: I am often asked by patients which are the “best” protein powders to get. Most people don’t really need to use one, but if you are crunched for time and it helps you to make a quick and balanced smoothie meal, then they can be helpful. I recommend using a vegan-sourced protein for health reasons, especially pea protein. Following are 2 of my patients’ favorites:

1. Vega Sport Performance (in a variety of flavors)
2. SunWarrior Blend Raw Vegan Protein Powder (in a variety of flavors)
by Cora Rivard, Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in Derry, NH.
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When You Lose Weight, Where Does it Go? The Answer May Surprise You

19 May

I am reblogging this topic, as it inspired me as an interesting question… where does the weight go? (Breathe it out??) This blogger gets down and dirty into biochemistry to solve the mystery.

Mitch Kirby

Recently, I was sitting and thinking about all of the diet and exercise suggestions that constantly bombard us from all sides. While trying to determine which techniques would likely yield the largest benefits, I decided to start from the beginning and attempted to answer a seemingly simple question: When we lose weight, where does the weight go? When the fat from our waistline disappears, what happens to it? Answering this question was actually way more difficult than I imagined at the start, and forced me to think back to my time as a molecular biology major in order to answer the question effectively.

After uncovering the answer for myself, I asked others to think about the question to see if the solution was more obvious to them than it was to me. Shockingly, even many physicians I asked were unable to answer this question accurately and completely. Below are the most popular answers…

View original post 980 more words

32 Turbo-Fast, Healthy, Protein-Based Breakfasts

24 Apr

A common problem I notice in my new patients, both adults and children, is eating high glycemic meals for breakfast: think bagels, sweet cereals, instant oatmeals, juice, muffins, plain toast. This leads to a crash in energy within a couple hours, and prompts cravings for more sweets and calories later on in the day, not to mention more moodiness, lack of focus and weight gain. A balanced meal in the morning with more protein and fiber keeps your energy more consistent to help you feel balanced and focused.

Here are some great, fast, and really easy breakfasts packed with protein and healthy nutrients to try out (and your kids will love them, too!):

  1. Avocado Toast With Egg

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All you need are 2 slices of whole-grain bread, lightly toasted, topped with smashed avocado and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and you’ve got a flavorful and rich base. Top that with two sunny-side-up eggs for a healthy dose of protein, and you’ve got a well-rounded breakfast.

  1. Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Smoothies are a perfect snack any time of day. Blend 1 frozen banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 cup almond milk, and a few ice cubes. You may add 2 teaspoons of raw cocoa powder, and replace the almond milk with cow milk to make this an excellent, high energy sports drink or mid-afternoon pick-me-up. If this is a morning snack, keep it in a tight-sealing container and throw it in a gym or work bag.

  1. Zapped Scrambled Eggs With Veggies

No time to scramble on stovetop? You can make a scramble with the microwave: Beat 2 eggs, throw in a microwave-safe container, add 1 handful of your favorite veggies (cherry tomatoes and spinach leaves work well), and a sprinkle of cheese. Zap the mixture for 30 seconds, stir, and cook another 30 seconds, or until eggs are solid. Throw a top on the container to eat later, or store the raw mixture in a fridge until ready to heat and eat.

  1. Fruit, Granola and Yogurt Parfait

One of the easiest, healthiest, and tastiest breakfasts out there is a classic fruit and yogurt parfait. The best part? It can be made with any toppings you like. Try choosing fruits that are in season for the most flavorful options. Start with plain or vanilla yogurt with a layer of toasted granola and then top with fruit. You can even make a jar of it the night before- replace the granola with a good Muesli like Bob’s Redmill, and everything will soften by the morning. Keep a few jars ready in the fridge to take with you to work- and you’ve got an instant, healthy breakfast.

  1. Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast burritos are a great, easy snack to keep on hand. Scramble 1-2 eggs, 1/4 cup black beans, 2 tablespoons salsa, and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese, and wrap in 1 small whole-wheat tortilla. Make a bunch, wrap in foil, and keep in the freezer for whenever the craving hits. Protein from the eggs and black beans keep you fuller longer, and the spicy salsa keeps things interesting.

  1. Healthy Morning Glory Muffins

An oat-based muffin packed with healthy carrots and zucchini, lightly sweetened with raisins and just a pinch of sugar makes a perfect breakfast or snack. Use a mini-muffin tin for smaller portions, and eliminate or cut back on the brown sugar or choose a healthier substitute to cut back on sugar.

  1. Breakfast Quinoa Bites

Here’s a new way to enjoy quinoa: make mini quinoa breakfast quiches! In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups cooked quinoa, 2 eggs, 1 cup your favorite veggies (spinach or zucchini work well), 1 cup shredded cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Portion into a lightly-greased mini muffin tin, and bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes. These are easy to bring along and delicious to enjoy warm or cold.

  1. Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

Here’s a simple and delicious smoothie recipe for the morning rush. Blend 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1 cup frozen fruit (banana and berries work very well) with 1/2 cup liquid (milk, juice, coconut water—whatever you like). Freeze overnight and thaw throughout the day to enjoy in the afternoon, or blend up in the morning.

  1. Leftovers n’ Egg

Stuck with last night’s leftovers? Place a scoop of leftover roasted veggies, potatoes, or meat in a container, top with a cracked egg, and heat in the microwave until the egg white is cooked through, 30 to 45 seconds. (Or prep in the oven.) Feeling fancy? Sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

  1. Fruity Breakfast Quinoa

Cooking quinoa in milk (cow, soy, or almond) and adding some sweet spices and fruit makes for a great substitute for classic hot breakfast cereals. Plus, it’s high in protein and essential amino acids like lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair. Simply cook quinoa according to package instructions, but substitute milk for water, and add some cinnamon or nutmeg instead of salt and pepper. Top with fresh berries and chopped roasted nuts.

  1. Zucchini Bread Oatmeal

Take a classic baked loaf and make it into oatmeal with this recipe! Adding shredded zucchini to oatmeal is a great way to fit in an extra serving of veggies. Throw on a handful of toasted walnuts or pecans for some added crunch.

  1. Quinoa Fruit Salad

Spice up a plain old fruit cup with a scoop of quinoa. Toss the whole shebang around until the quinoa is evenly distributed through the fruit. Add a scoop of plain yogurt and a drizzle of honey for a little extra body.

  1. Oatmeal Squares

Oatmeal is a great option for a hearty snack or breakfast, but what’s the best way to make it into a more convenient and portable snack? Bake it into squares!

  1. Pumpkin Oatmeal Bowl

A heaping dollop of pumpkin puree is a great way to squeeze in an extra dose of veggies. Plus, the super-orange superfood is packed with nutrients and a healthy dose of fiber. This recipe pairs the pumpkin with quick oats, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk for a quick and easy breakfast on-the-go.

  1. Ricotta and Tomato Breakfast Sandwich

Here’s a healthier take on the classic breakfast sandwich: Take 2 slices of a hearty whole-grain bread, spread each slice with 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Add 1-2 hearty slices of fresh beefsteak tomato (blotted with paper towel to remove excess liquid) and enjoy.

  1. Zucchini Muffins

Any way that fits a serving of veggies into a delicious baked good is a winner in my book. These zucchini and banana muffins with flaxseed fit three healthier options into one easy-to-tote package.

  1. Peanut Butter, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Cookies for breakfast? Yes please! While Oreos or Chips Ahoy may not make a balanced breakfast, a homemade cookie made of banana, peanut butter, protein powder, and oats is a wholesome choice. Plus, you can pick and choose what you like to mix—go for almond butter and raisins in one batch, or peanut butter chocolate chip in another.

  1. Savory Oatmeal With an Egg

Try taking oatmeal to a whole new level by making it savory. Prepare as usual with milk or water, but add a pinch of salt and pepper instead of any cinnamon or sugar, and top with an over-easy or poached egg. Sprinkle with a little cheese for an extra yummy kick.

  1. Overnight Oats

This is the ultimate lazy-person breakfast. The night before, combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 a banana (mashed), 1/4 cup chopped nuts, and a sprinkle of cinnamon in sealed Tupperware container. By morning, you’ll have delicious overnight oats! These can be heated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes if in the mood for something warm.

  1. Egg and Cheese Cups

Fried eggs are great, but what about baking a whole egg with veggies and cheese and skipping the added oil? Try making a pan of these egg and cheese cups at the beginning of the week and bringing one along each day. (Tip: If you use the individual silicone muffin molds, it makes the egg cups even more portable for on-the-go snacking.)

  1. Frozen Nutty Banana

Say banan-YEAH to this healthy snack. Cut 1 firm (but ripe) banana in half and un-peal, arrange on a small baking sheet or freezer-safe plate, and spread each half with 1 tablespoon almond butter evenly (on the sides not touching the plate). Here’s the fun part: Stick whatever toppings you like on top of the almond butter—our favorites are granola, chia seeds, or flax seeds and cinnamon. Insert a popsicle stick or skewer into the cut end of each half, and freeze until solid (at least 2-3 hours).

  1. Egg Sandwich

Who doesn’t love a classic egg sandwich? Simply sautée a hefty handful of spinach and fry 2 eggs with a dash of salt and pepper. Place on top 2 whole-wheat English muffin halves (or toast) with 1 slice of cheddar cheese. Wrap in foil so the cheese melts evenly, and enjoy whenever the craving hits!

  1. Chocolate-Banana Breakfast Quinoa

Here’s one healthy way to have chocolate for breakfast: a bowlful of quinoa makes for a protein-rich filling breakfast, and the banana even adds a serving of fruit.

  1. Fruit Soup

There are just two ingredients in this tasty, cool snack: Cold fresh fruit, and cold milk. Chop 1 cup of fruit of your choosing (peaches, plums, berries, and mango are delicious!) and combine in a container with 1 cup milk of choice. Keep chilled until ready to enjoy.

  1. Apple Surprise

This is a perfect pick for apple season, Cut 1 apple in half and remove the core (plus a bit of the extra flesh around the core). Drop 1 tablespoon nut butter between the two holes, and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon granola. Wrap up the whole apple in plastic wrap or foil to save for later, or enjoy as is bite-by-bite.

  1. PBB&C

A PBB&C is a great twist on the classic PB&J—peanut butter, banana, and chia. Try adding this superfood twist to the classic PB sandwich with 1/2 a banana (sliced) and a sprinkle of chia, which is packed with vitamins and minerals (like six times more calcium than milk!).

  1. Strawberry-Banana Quinoa Muffins

By this point, I think the Greatist team believes quinoa makes anything better. So, muffins? It’s a no brainer. Try these strawberry quinoa muffins for an easily-packed snack or breakfast (or after lunch treat).

  1. Pumpkin and Granola Parfait

This one’s perfect to try out as fall sets in. In your favorite small Tupperware container (with a reliable lid!), top plain Greek yogurt with canned pumpkin puree and a handful of granola, then sprinkle with cinnamon. The best part? Pumpkin is a bonafide superfood rich in beta carotene, which is essential for eye health.

  1. Whole-Wheat Banana Blueberry Flax Muffins

At 200 calories each, these hearty, wholesome muffins make for the perfect portable breakfast. Flax lends a healthy dose of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Mashed bananas (one of our favorite healthy baking subsitutions) allow for a slight reduction in the added fat and sugar in this recipe, too.

  1. Egg Muffins

Finally, a muffin without all the carbs. Plus, these guys are simple to make. Beat 10 eggs, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 3 handfuls of spinach, 1 shredded zucchini, 1/2 a bell pepper (chopped), 4 slices cooked bacon or ham, chopped, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Divide egg mixture evenly in a lightly-greased muffin tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F. Zap it for a few seconds in the microwave before serving.

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