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Flee the Flu Naturally

16 Jan

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

According to CDC regional surveillance and NH DHHS for this past week, flu has been widespread in NH- particularly in Rockingham county where it is considered “very high.” The vaccine match is excellent for the predominant A subtype H1N1 strain affecting adults 65 and over, but unfortunately only about a 58% match for the strain most likely to hit children and adults up to age 25. But even in years with a not-so-stellar match, it still can be helpful in reducing the severity and duration of illness, if not fully protective. While it is not too late to get a flu shot- it still takes a couple of weeks after getting a shot with a successful vaccine match and a receiver’s successful post-vaccination immune response to allow for some immunity to kick in.

So what can you do to help fend off the flu naturally, as well as to help support your body’s successful response to vaccination if you’ve just received the shot? Fortunately,  natural medicine techniques can do both. And, they can help keep your defenses high against all kinds of respiratory infections, not just the flu! I’ll share my favorites here that I recommend to my patients, as well as a few things to avoid. Please be advised that nothing written in a blog post should ever be taken as medical advice. You should always seek  the advice of your doctor.

First, let’s start with prevention, and then we’ll discuss what to do if you are already sick.

Prevention: 

One of my personal favorites for both first line prevention and treatment of flu is elderberry syrup. It helps to limit infection from many strains of flu and other types of viruses primarily by blocking its ability of the virus to infect one cell from another. It basically contains the virus and blocks internal spread of infection. According to this recent meta-analysis, it also appears to significantly reduce upper respiratory symptoms from colds as well as flu.  One that I recommend frequently to my own patients is Natures Way Sambucus Immune syrup. It also includes zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, and does not contain alcohol. Again, check with your doctor for advice before taking any natural remedies, especially for children. Elderberry and zinc can sometimes cause stomach upset, so taking it with food, and not overdoing it is key.

Sleep. This can’t be overstated. When flu is going around, do your best to make sure EVERYONE in your family is getting enough sleep. This is a big factor in being more susceptible to all kinds of acute and chronic illnesses. Even if you have just been vaccinated with a well-matched vaccine, just a night or so of poor sleep can knock out your ability to clear the flu virus.

Hydration. Dry air thins the mucus in your nasal passages and causes irritation, which makes it easier for flu to penetrate this protective layer. It also impairs mucus clearance and your innate immune respnse, and inhibits mucus membrane surface repair. In addition, influenza viruses can survive much longer in a dry environment than when the ambient humidity is high- humidity actually helps to inactivate the flu virus! According to prior research in a home model of flu exposure, “when humidity levels were set to 43 percent, only 14 percent of the virus particles that were released were able to transmit the influenza virus, compared with a transmission rate of 70 percent to 77 percent in a relatively low-humidity environment (23 percent). What’s more, the protective impact of higher humidity levels appeared to be rapid, with the majority of viral inactivation taking place within 15 minutes of when viral particles were first “coughed” into a high-humidity environment.”

So, in addition to drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding diuretics like caffeine and alcohol as much as possible, and having stews, soups, and fruit to hydrate from the inside, you might also consider adding a humidifier to your home and office. Avoid any with the replaceable filters. These are usually treated with triclosan (now banned by the FDA) and other antimicrobials which can irritate lungs and worsen asthma, and have other adverse chronic health effects. You can pick up reservoir systems at most any pharmacy that can be easily emptied and cleaned weekly. Humidifiers help limit spread of flu as well as ease respiratory symptoms. Just don’t forget to clean them regularly.

Vitamin D: make sure you are getting your dose! Read my previous blog on this subject here.

Probiotics: they can help prevent colds and flu AND improve the efficacy of many vaccines, particularly the flu vaccine. I prefer food-sourced products first, such as unsweetened yogurts with live cultures, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut. Plus, they help keep you regular! What’s not to love.

Don’t‘s:

do detoxes, use colloidal silver, and exercise caution about any over the counter combination manufactured homeopathic products.

Skip the fish oil. If you are taking fish oil, this is a good time to take a hiatus. (Again, talk to your doctor prior to stopping any prescribed supplement or medication.) Its inflammation-modulating effects can actually weaken your acute immune defenses and make you more susceptible to infection.

This is just an interesting aside, but did you know that simply observing the act or sound of someone coughing or sneezing actually boosts your white blood cell count? Your body has an amazing ability to anticipate the need for defense.

Easing Flu Symptoms:

If you’ve already got it, don’t despair. Even if you’re an iron man, or a fitness/wellness guru, eventually your number is up. This is your excuse to stay home, snooze, sip tea and brothy soups, and binge watch episodes of Golden Girls…unless you’re a parent of young children. In that case, it’s just business as usual! Regardless, you want to get through this quickly and here are some tips to get you back in your groove:

Warming/Wet Sock Therapy: This classic naturopathic hydrotherapy technique is great for draining pressure out of clogged sinuses and nasal passageways for easier breathing at night, and a way to skip the OTC decongestants (it often works better, anyway.) It might seem strange, but most kids love it! (Adults, too!) Click on the hyperlink above for my prior blog on this subject for information and directions in how to use this. Some have discovered a short cut of putting menthol on the soles of the feet, but I don’t think it works as well. Plus, mentholated topical products can be toxic for young children, so I don’t recommend their use.

Most people are not very hungry during the flu, but it is essential to keep your hydration and electrolytes supported. Here is a link to some great recipes by local clinical herbalist, Maria Noel Groves: http://wintergreenbotanicals.com/herbal-recipes/. In particular, scroll down the page to find some very tasty broth and chicken soup recipes.

Tea: most any herbal, non-caffeinated tea can be great when you’re not feeling well, with a big ol’ spoonful of honey. (No raw honey for kids under 2). One of my personal favorites is Throat Coat tea, or Yogi’s “Throat Comfort” tea. Both contain licorice, an antiviral herb great at soothing sore throats, but it can also interact with a lot of medications. It can also worsen blood pressure in some, so care needs to be taken here. Herbs like mint, chamomile, marshmallow root can be soothing and safe alternatives for most people.

A note about caring for children. For safety reasons, kids almost never require medication to treat coughs, pain or fever. Read this message from the FDA for more details about this. While uncomfortable, these are normal body responses experienced when the immune system is just doing its job. Research shows that giving medication for fevers can actually prolong the duration of illness. But if your child develops a fever of 102 or higher, you should contact his/her doctor for immediate guidance. If a child or adult you know has a nigh fever, becomes very lethargic, has difficulty breathing, or otherwise is showing signs of rapidly increasing illness, you should get him/her to the ER or an urgent care facility immediately.

Hope this helps to get you and yours comfortably through this flu season. As always, feel free to leave comments below.

***

Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in southern N.H. since 2006. She works with families from all over New Hampshire and Massachusetts who seek holistically effective, non-medication-focused solutions to healthcare needs and wellness goals. http://www.seasonsnatural.com

Ice, Ice, baby: Get geared, don’t slip!

6 Jan

It’s dangerous for everyone, but for the elderly, pregnant women, parents carrying small children or workers carrying equipment, or for those who otherwise have balance or mobility issues, the likelihood of slipping on ice increases. For people with osteoporosis and other health conditions, the risk of significant injury also increases.

According to data from the National Safety Council in 2014, 25,000 slip, trip and fall accidents occur daily in the US. Snow, ice and freezing temps in the winter multiply the number of wet and slippery surfaces at work and the potential for accidents. The majority happen in parking lots, roadways, driveways and walkways where individuals travel on foot between their worksites and vehicles.

Practically all injuries from slips and falls on snow and ice fall under the classification of “traumatic injuries.” These injuries range from minor bruises, cuts and abrasions to serious bone fractures, spinal cord damage and concussions.

And sometimes, you don’t even know when it’s there. Black ice is one of the most feared hazards of winter. It is virtually impossible to see to those walking or driving on it.

So what can you do to help prevent falls for you and your loved ones when conditions are icy?

Get some Yak Trax, Nano spikes or Micro spikes. They fit over your boots, and each of these are good quality and hold up over time, and worth the expense. I have previously bought some cheaper ones available in the checkout lines of stores that rip or fall apart almost immediately with wear. Here are some quick tips about when each might be the best option:

  1. Yak Trax: Best for elderly and children. They are the easiest option to get on over shoes, they are not sharp, and they are good for use on sidewalks and parking lots. . They are safe for the carpet, and gentle on hardwood floors if you walk carefully. However, I have found that they can slip like crazy on a hard, wet indoor surface like tile.
  2. Nano spikes: Great slip control on icy surfaces with little traction “stubs”, and still suitable for sidewalks as well as other surfaces. More expensive and a little more challenging to put on. Will scratch indoor hard floor surfaces. They feel even more stable than Yak Trax.
  3.  Micro spikes: These are little crampons, and they are wonderful for off-pavement, off road hikes. They can take you up and down icy hills. They will definitely shred your carpet and floors, so don’t put on indoors, and they are not very comfortable for wear on pavement.

Off the ice, practice your balance exercises. Yoga “tree” and “airplane” poses are great for improving your balance. Simply raising one leg at a time for a few moments while balancing on the other, is another good way to practice. I also often recommend that patients practice by standing with feet hip width apart, and simply swaying from side to side slowly, then back and forth, and even diagonally, to get used the feeling of shifting your weight comfortably. This helps to train your sense of proprioception, or perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. Always have a stable piece of furniture to grab onto, or practice near a wall for support.

Stay safe this season!

Image result for ice skating

Cora Rivard, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic family doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC, in Derry, NH, an hour north of Boston. Website: www.seasonsnatural.com.

 

 

Generic Ranitidine/Zantac Recalled Due to Carcinogenic Contamination

19 Sep

Zantac shelves

According to a spokesperson from Novartis, the distribution of Zantac by Novartis and ranitidine (the over-the-counter generic drug of this brand) has been halted by worldwide markets after a Connecticut-based pharmacy reported to the FDA that they found extremely high levels of N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a probable cancer-causing ingredient, in all tested batches of generic ranitidine drugs. (See source articles from Medscape, Associated Press, and ClaimsJournal.com.)

This is one of the same chemical contaminants which plagued certain blood pressure medications manufactured in China over a year ago.

The FDA is working with global regulators to better understand the source of contamination. In the meantime, the FDA recommends that people do not stop their medications, but that they may choose to switch to another type of over the counter heartburn medication that does not include ranitidine, or to talk to their doctors about stopping the medication.

By Cora Rivard, N.D.

Dr. Rivard works with patients from NH and MA with gastro-intestinal concerns, with a focus on GERD and silent reflux. In the majority of cases, in her experience, reflux can be resolved without medications by using a holistic approach which addresses the causal factor(s), which may include: lifestyle, nutritional , and stress management modifications, physical medicine and other natural medicine tools.

Contact Dr. Rivard at info@seasonsnatural.com for more information.

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.

shutterstock_271471298

  • 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.

shutterstock_152447552

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.
******

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.

The 2 Things You Need NOW to Protect Your Family from Lyme Disease.

6 Apr

Spring in New England- finally! The remains of snow piles are still present, but the first tick bites are already happening, so now is the time to take precautions. This year’s deep snow has offered insulation and protection to ticks from the cold, so we’re starting with greater numbers. Plus, as the mud season is supposed to last well into May this year, and since ticks thrive in moist, cool, shady conditions,  we have a recipe for a particularly nasty year for excessive tick populations and higher than usual incidence of tick-transmitted diseases.

You need 2 things on hand right now:

1. Tick Tubes by Damminix. You can select the number of tubes needed depending on the size of your property (smaller bundles available.) They are water-resistant tubes filled with permethrin-soaked cotton balls. Mice and other small rodents, the main vectors for Lyme disease, use these to line their nests as they get ready to breed. Now is the time to start placing the tubes, mid April until June, to coincide with nesting. They turn your local field mice into tick assassins, and are not harmful to the mice. They have been shown to be very effective at eliminating ticks before they have a chance to grow, multiply and bite YOU.

2. “Ticked Off” tick removal device. This tool is hands down one of the best ways to effectively and safely remove an attached tick. I keep one at home, one in a  travel bag.

For more detailed information about how to protect yourself from ticks and tick-transmitted infections, please read my 2 prior blogs related to these topics:

Plants Vs Ticks: Lyme-Free Landscaping Don’t let your yard be a paradise for ticks, here’s what you need to know.

When Ticks Attack: You’ve Been Bitten, Now What? Here are the steps to take when a tick bite happens.

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

Study Finds Most Olive Oils are Falsely Labeled.

4 Mar

Chances are, your olive oil is an imposter. A report published by the University of California, Davis, in 2010 found that 69% of imported olive oils labeled as “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” were either not extra virgin olive oil, were rancid, or were adulterated with other cheaper oils. They studied 52 samples from 14 of the top selling brands in California to reach these conclusions. The imported brands were the most frequent offenders. The tested California brands had a fail rate of only 10%. This is the pdf of the original 2010 report from UC Davis.

Check out this NY Times infographic called, Extra Virgin Suicide. which explains how and why imported oils are adulterated with cheaper ingredients. Short, informative (and entertaining) to click through.

A follow up study (as pdf) by UC Davis was done in 2011 to expand on the original by taking more samples of fewer brands, for more accurate results. This was sponsored by a few of the leading California brands that tested well, by the way.

Here are the brands whose samples failed the extra virgin oil tests:

  • Bertolli
  • Carapelli
  • Colavita
  • Filippo Berio
  • Mazzola
  • Mezzetta
  • Newman’s Own
  • Safeway
  • Star
  • Whole Foods brand olive oils
  • Pompeian Olive Oil

And, here are the winners:

I did a little more research to learn about how to shop for olive oils. There is some consensus that olive oils confer the best health benefits when they are fresh, preferably less than 18 months old. Low temperature cooking is fine for culinary reasons, but the health effects come from consuming it raw: drizzle it over salads, or use it as a dipping sauce. The taste should have a fresh, fruity or even “grassy” flavor with at least a slight pepper-spice sensation in the throat. (Some can actually feel quite spicy!)

The container it comes in is also an important consideration. Glass or stainless steel is best. Plastic can leach chemicals into the oil that can be detrimental to health. If glass, it is best if it is darkened to protect the oil from degradation from UV light. If clear, it should be stored in a darkened area. Olive oil loses some of its benefits if it has been heated or stored in temperatures over 90 degrees. Here is some further reading material on the pros and cons of packaging.
So, what IS in that bottle on your counter? Without a lab or a trained nose, you won’t know for sure, because imposters can be artificially flavored and colored. However, if you put it in the fridge and it solidifies- you will at least know you’ve got an monounsaturated oil that COULD be olive oil (or it could be peanut, safflower, canola- which are cheaper monounsaturated oils.)

The takeaway message here is to avoid buying imported olive oil, unless you really know and trust your source. If possible, look for olive oils that are less than 18 months old, and preferably contained in darkened glass bottles. Organic domestic brands might be your best bet, for freshness, taste, health benefits, and for general safety.

When the Moon Doesn’t Hit Your Eye Like a Big Pizza-Pie

12 Feb

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While nearing the holiday that celebrates romantic love, I am reminded of the many ways corporations and media exploit these powerful feelings to drive sales: Victoria’s Secret. Penis pills. “Every Kiss begins with Kay (jewelers).” Fifty Shades of Grey. “Magic Mike 2”. The ever impressive stacks of “bodice ripper” romance novelettes in the used books bin of my grocery store. Screaming, bold-font headlines of checkout aisle magazines seem to suggest otherwise (Cheated!Pregnant!Hottest Beach Bodies!), but loss of libido is a relatively common concern for women (and men), and it is important to identify the potential root cause(s) or aggravating factors within the context of one’s overall health.

When I was a naturopathic medical student completing my preceptorships with practicing doctors, I remember feeling shocked by how many trial packages of Viagra were given out to patients in one oncologist’s office. There were always one or two drug reps from various companies waiting for him at any given point, and the office had a large closet stuffed full of free samples. What’s with all the Viagra, in an oncology practice?? He told me that many of his patients ask for this, and that it is a great opportunity to examine their cardiovascular health, as this is a major cause of sexual dysfunction in men.

For the purposes of this article, I want to now focus on a few common causes of loss of libido in women, because it is often not discussed openly anywhere else:

“It hurts.” Changes in hormones during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years reduces lubrication, thickness and pliability of vaginal tissues. Using a lubricant that is water-based, and free of harsh chemicals during sex can promote more comfortable glide.They also help prevent urinary tract infections by protecting the urethra from mechanical irritation. Using a daily vaginal personal moisturizer with vitamin E is also recommended (this may be used in lieu of a separate lubricant- but it may not give the same “slip” factor), as a means to keep delicate tissues supple and comfortable. Surprisingly, I still encounter women who are prescribed conventional hormone replacement therapies (HRT), even though this has been conclusively shown to increase the risk of stroke and heart disease in well-defined, large studies. Naturopathic doctors are often able to help their patients ease these problems with careful supplementation and botanical medicine. For those who need a little more support, prescribing very small doses of bio-identical hormones to be applied topically directly to vaginal tissues is usually enough to improve tissue flexibility, thickness and lubrication, without the significant increase in systemic serum hormones seen in more conventional dosing regimens.

“I’m too tired.” Lack of sleep, being too busy, having low iron, thyroid problems and heart disease can all cause problems here.  Your doctor can help investigate whether there is a treatable medical condition contributing to your loss of libido. Meditation techniques can help alleviate stress responses that sap energy. Another common cause, especially for new moms, is feeling “touched out.” Sleep deprivation combined with having another human being constantly attached to your body and literally sucking the life out of you, can throw sex pretty low on the priority scale. This has to be an evolved reaction- a survival technique to help block another pregnancy from happening too soon. Time, sleep, and having some babysitting breaks might help get through the sexual desert faster.

“I’d rather just read my book.” Sometimes, health and functions are fine, but the interest just isn’t there. It can be that things have simply gone into a rut. One of the ways to combat this is to do something different together, and it doesn’t have to be sexual. Trying a new adventure, activity or interest together can be enough to jazz up more interest. Feeling warm and comfortable also helps; a study led by Gert Holstege from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found that warming feet (by wearing socks) increased rate or female orgasm to 80% of participants, up from 50%! Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also reduce libido as a common side effect. This is often a big reason that naturopathic patients are seeking alternatives to continuing with their antidepressant medications. Physical contact through dance, or massage, can be another great way to feel closer again. Essential oils such as ylang ylang, rose and cinnamon can add sultry scents to massage oil to help the mood, but it is really all about what scents appeal to each person- whether it’s floral, vanilla, bacon, or “new car smell” (why yes, that really exists as a product!) And when an extra boost is desired, a small dose of bio-identical hormones applied topically can add the extra, “Va-va-voom.” Sharing intimacy with a cherished partner can happen in many ways over the years, and change is OK. It does not necessarily mean that there is a problem if you don’t feel like you did in your 20’s anymore, or feel exactly as you did during the early courtship days of your relationship. But keeping the lines of communication open and supporting each other is key. Don’t forget the vaginal moisturizer and/or lubricant.

And there’s always “Fifty Shades of Grey.”*

*(The author has never actually read or seen, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, but social media contacts seem to like this one. 😉

Cora Rivard, N.D.

Ease Sinus Congestion Naturally with Warming Sock Therapy

14 Jan

sick kid

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

This is part #1 of my blog series for using classic naturopathic techniques of home hydrotherapy, or water therapy, to improve wellness and reduce discomfort. The main idea of hydrotherapy is to move circulation in ways most beneficial for resolving a problem. We’ll start with one of the favorite ones for this time of year:

Wet (or Warming) Sock treatment for nasal and sinus congestion relief:

This can be used for both children and adults with colds and flu, it works very well to improve ease of breathing and restful sleep at night, without the need for medications. Very important: always make sure that feet are already warm before beginning this treatment- you can use a warm water soak to prepare as needed.

Preparations. In the evening before going to bed, prepare by having a pair of cotton socks and a pair of wool socks. They must be at least 90% cotton and 90% wool, respectively.

Step 1. Soak the foot part of the cotton socks in cold tap water and wring them out thoroughly. Place the socks close to the basin or bathtub used in the next step. Note: If your feet are already warm, you can skip to Step 3.

Step 2. Put your feet into a basin or bathtub of hot water to warm up your feet. Soak them for a few minutes until they are comfortable hot

Step 3. Remove your feet from the hot water and quickly dry them off. Immediately put on the cold wet cotton socks, and then over them, put on the dry wool socks.

Step 4. Go directly to bed and keep the feet covered through the night. The therapy does not work if you or your feet are uncovered, such as when walking around or sitting in a chair uncovered.

When the Wet Sock Treatment procedure is followed correctly the feet will start warming up within a few minutes of getting covered in bed. The congestion will usually start to be relieved within 30 minutes. It will often work better than a decongestant or antihistamine to relieve congestion during sleep. In addition, it is not uncommon to see a small child or infant fall immediately to sleep after they are put to bed with the Cold Sock Treatment. After approximately four hours the socks should be totally dry, the feet warm, and the symptoms will be much improved (if not gone).

If necessary the Wet Sock Treatment can be repeated through the night or used on consecutive nights. In repeating the treatment in the same night or if an illness starts during the night, it is not necessary to warm the feet in hot water since they will already be warm. Simply apply the wrung out cold wet socks and the dry wool socks and go back to bed

Instant Sinus Pain Reliever

Here is one that you can use anytime of the day or night to help clear your sinuses:

You will need: 2 bowls of water- one hot, one filled with ice. Keep a washcloth in each.

While reclining comfortably, wring out the hot cloth and drape over bridge of nose covering cheeks, eyes and forehead. Relax and breathe in the steam comfortably until cloth begins to noticeably cool- maybe 1 or 2 minutes. Then, remove warm cloth and wring out cold cloth, and apply the cold to the same area- this time gently rubbing your sinuses. Replace hot cloth back into hot water to soak, or heat up under a faucet. Do this for about 20-30 seconds. Repeat process 2 more times. Always start with hot, and end with cold.

Explanation: Hot water causes surface blood vessels to dilate and release excess heat from the body. Ending each cycle with a cold water “searing” causes those surface vessels to then constrict, creating a pump to help mobilize areas of congestion and move circulation.

I hope you find this post useful!  Writing educational blog posts is one of my creative outlets. I am a licensed naturopathic doctor (N.D.) who has been serving the healthcare needs of families in southern NH and northern MA since 2006. I help my patients find the safest and most effective resolution for their health problems- i.e.- getting to the underlying cause(s) of issues, while at the same time improving their overall wellness. My area of expertise is using natural, non-medication-based therapies whenever possible. www.seasonsnatural.com

This is an informational article only and should not be taken as medical advice in any way. Always check with your doctor to make sure that a therapeutic technique is safe for you to try. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.

How Green Smoothies and Gluten-Free Foods Can Cause Kidney Stones

13 Jan

green smoothie

It’s January, and we heave a collective sigh as we pat our bellies and remember the over-indulgences of the holidays. As you resolve to make healthy changes, lose a few pounds and get in better shape, please consider the following information to avoid some unnecessary and painful complications:

Beware the green smoothie/juice: I am a fan of green smoothies. However, there is a real danger of causing kidney stones by consuming too many ingredients high in oxalates day after day. Oxalates are naturally-occurring substances in foods that are highly reactive and bind up with minerals like calcium, creating crystal complexes which can cause pain as well as inhibit calcium absorption in the body. While many people easily excrete these from the body in the urine and stools, there are a few foods that contain very high levels which may overwhelm one’s ability for clearance. This is especially true for those with genetic predisposition for impaired clearance. Antibiotics, which damage the intestinal flora, also impair the body’s ability to process oxalates. While these foods are fine to enjoy periodically in smoothies and in the general diet, try not to make a habit of consuming these every day:

spinach

strawberries

beets and beet greens

rhubard

chocolate/cocoa

parsley

Beware the gluten-free diet: In addition to those with celiac disease, some people are intolerant to gluten and find that they feel much better and reduce objective signs of disease by going gluten-free. However, some of the whole grain alternatives to wheat products are grains and legumes that are very high in oxalates. Some of the highest levels can be found in:

amaranth

buckwheat

quinoa

lentils

nuts and beans (not including green beans)

Again, these are grains that are very nutritious to health, but should not be eaten in excess.

Vitamin C? I often meet patients who have read that it can be helpful to take large doses to support their immune system. As it turns out, according to a couple of studies, vitamin C might increase stone formation in men (curiously, not in women) when taking higher supplementary doses. This is probably because some individuals metabolize vitamin C into oxalates.

Finally, although not related to oxalates, beware of diets that try to extol the virtues of high amounts of animal meats. This extra load of protein can also lead to kidney stone formation, as well as robbing important minerals from the bones and increasing risk of osteoporosis. High animal meat diets also boost the relative risks for breast, prostate and ovarian cancers.

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

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