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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.

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

Re-Post: Avoiding Constipation While on the Road

16 Jun

cause-of-constipation-400x400

I wrote this article a couple years ago and it continues to circulate as a popular post. With hot weather arriving, and summer travel plans coming up, or maybe you have long work commutes, this includes timely tips to help you avoid and ease an uncomfortable and common problem.  Nobody likes to talk about it, but please pass it on- you’ll help someone you know have a better vacation!

https://themommyilluminati.wordpress.com/tag/natural-relief-of-constipation

Happy Trails,

Cora Rivard, N.D.

 

When Ticks Attack: You’ve Been Bitten, Now What?

6 May

tick on neck

By Cora Rivard, Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.) in Derry, NH. www.seasonsnatural.com

Tick bites are already happening at increased rates, especially in the northeast and all along the east coast, and it is predicted that a large number of adults and children will be affected this year. But there is a lot that you can do to prevent them, as well as to significantly decrease your risk of contracting a tick-transmitted infection. (You can also check out my other article in this series, “Plants vs Ticks: Lyme-free Landscaping” to learn about landscaping strategies to repel and prevent ticks from migrating into your yard.)

My personal story: I used to use tweezers to remove them from us and our pets…until four years ago when I had a deer tick attached to the back of my arm. It was attached less than 24hrs, not visibly engorged. It wasn’t my most efficient removal, and it got squeezed and slightly messy as I took it out. It wasn’t considered a “high risk” bite due to the less than 24 hr attachment rule, so my doctor decided it was not worth treating. I did elect to do a 2 dose “prophylactic” doxycycline treatment within 48 hrs of the bite (only a single dose is recommended, but I really wanted to be careful.) However, it appears that evidence is scant for effectiveness unless used on the same day of the tick removal, and after that, it could even be harmful.  In mice, prophylactic treatment has been shown to reduce appearance of the rash, but was not shown to decrease infection. Having the prophylaxis was a big mistake for me, even with the double dose. Long story short: within a couple months I developed a mean case of Lyme, affecting the joints of the bitten arm first and then the rest of me. I consulted with an infectious disease specialist in Boston who helped me understand that early treatment of certain types of acute infection with antibiotics can actually interrupt your body’s natural development of immunity to the organism.  If the treatment is inadequate or incomplete- this leads simultaneously to a more resistant bug and a decrease in your effective immune defense to that bug. In my case, taking the prophylaxis instead of a full treatment likely made my disease that much harder to treat later.  It took consulting with Lyme specialists,  a whole lot of antibiotics over a couple of years, and a lot of stress and side effects to kick the infection. And thankfully, I was finally (hopefully) able to kick it with the guidance I received. But I don’t want you and your loved ones to ever have to go through any of this. So here’s what to do:

Let’s start with a quick review to help prevent tick bites:
1. Wear lght colored pants tucked into socks when in the woods and when doing yardwork.
2. 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 whenever possible. Formulations with essential oils like lemongrass, cedar, rosemary can be great to repel ticks (but should be re-applied often):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 how well it works to repel ticks.)

3.  As soon as you come indoors from an outing in the woods, remove your clothes and toss them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes, then wash if desired. Ticks don’t drown in the washing machine, and the hot water of the wash will kill them, but a spin through the dry heat of the dryer will.

4. 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.

If you find one attached:
**Use a tick remover. I have tested out many styles, but my favorite by far is the notched spoon, such as “Ticked Off” sold by Amazon. It can safely remove ticks of any size, even nymphs and larval sizes, with head and mouth intact every time. Get one now. I  keep 3 of them, so that there is always one on hand- backpack, travel bag, bathroom, etc. One stays packed in a travel bag- it goes everywhere with us. When using it, always use your other hand to provide traction- pulling the skin tight around the area of the tick, as you gently press in and slowly “scoop” out the tick with the notch.

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.

If you are concerned about infection, save the tick and have it tested. Pack the live tick in a piece of moistened paper towel and place inside a ziploc bag. You can send it to a lab for testing, follow this Univ. of RI link for a list of available testing facilities in the Northeast. They can screen for Lyme and other common tickborne infections (Lyme is still the most common disease present in tested ticks- the others tend to be more common as coinfections to borrelia), identify the type of tick, as well as the level of engorgement and assumed attachment time, and report back to you within a few days. This information can be very helpful for you and your doctor to decide whether treatment is necessary in the absence of signs and symptoms. I’ve used the one at the University of CT several times for my family members, and often recommend it to patients. But any of them should be helpful.

After removal, treat the site of the tick bite with hydrogen peroxide or essential oil. I like using oregano oil as a heavy duty topical antimicrobial for spot treatment, it kills a lot of infectious things.

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.

About the Author: Dr. Rivard is a licensed naturopathic doctor and owner of Seasons Natural Healthcare, LLC in Derry, NH. She consults with both adult and pediatric patients regarding nutrition, natural treatments and effective alternatives to medications for a wide range of common health concerns.  Any informational content should not be taken as medical advice, or to replace the advice of your doctor in any way.

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

 

 

 

7 Myths About Wellness Told By Modern Healthcare

22 Apr

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Picture the last time you saw an advertisement with imagery similar to this: a couple frolics on the beach; his teeth are way too white, she puts on her best “come hither” look. Or, she stands alone, smiling with closed eyes and arms outstretched towards the sunny skies with her swimsuit wrap billowing out behind her in the breeze. This is the ad template used to sell any number of interchangeable medications and supplements: male enhancement pills, female hormones, antidepressants, you name it- all in the name of wellness.

What bothers me is that the concept of “wellness” sells a lot of things, as if it is a nirvana that can be reached and inhabited indefinitely;  if only you would buy this “very important product”. One that did not even exist a short while ago. One that (by the way) will immediately be followed with whole screens or magazine pages full of unpleasant and downright frightening potential side effects in tiny, unreadable print.

But we want to feel like this, we want to be well, so we buy into it. The problem is, “wellness” is no cookie-cutter place where you can reside indefinitely. It is a process that cannot be substituted by a product. Life has its highs and lows, and nothing will stop that. But movement between and within these poles is essential. Much of what we know to be static “wellness” is based upon a template that is marketed to us, and this is a problem. What I’d like to do here is to dispel some modern myths about wellness, based upon my education as a naturopathic doctor and from what I have learned over the years from working with my patients.

Myth #1: A calorie is calorie. the “Big Soda” industry has been pushing this agenda with bazillions of dollars in marketing campaigns, and they will continue in the hope that you will not just simply drink water, tea or coffee. They are even heading up major government incentives to design wellness programs for our schools and our military, that will conveniently help keep sweet drinks as a necessary part of daily life. Fewer people drink classic soda now, but they still need your dollars so the same makers that brought you soda now ALSO bring you… Water soda! (water infused with sugar or sugar substitute, vitamins and flavorings), Coffee and Tea soda! (it looks like coffee or tea, but they add a bunch of sugar/sugar substitute and flavorings. Oh, and there might be a little tea or coffee in there, too), and Sport drink soda! (caffeine, sugar or sugar substitutes, flavorings.) Don’t be fooled, it is still just soda. But, you say, it uses non-caloric sweeteners, that is better for me, right? Wrong. People who drink non caloric sweetened beverages actually gain more weight and have more health issues with these beverages than even regular soda. The reason is that when your taste buds register the overpowering sweetness in these beverages, it prepares for the onslaught of easy calories coming its way. When they don’t immediately materialize- your body will prompt you to over-consume later in the day to make up for the deficit in what was expected. And you’ll feel more tired and irritable when your body discovers this little ruse. And you’ll need more sweety-sweetness later to make it feel better- now you’re hooked! This is becoming a particular problem with our young people, and can contribute to the severity of #2 below (especially when you widen to include fruit juices, chocolate milk, coffee milk(?!), and others):

Myth #2: Children who do not behave as expected in school need to be medicated. I will be writing on this topic in greater depth over the summer with a friend who is a counselor. Whether for ADD/ADHD or autism spectrum disorders, or other behavioral issues, medication is often the first line of therapy that is discussed between doctors and parents. While these interventions have their place and can be beneficial with careful considerations, we also have to recognize that they often involve medications tested mostly in adult populations as single drug therapies, and for relatively short periods of time. We don’t really understand how these things affect a developing brain, over many years of use and in combination with other psychoactive drugs. Natural therapies and cognitive/behavioral strategies can work well for many children, without side effects, and should be considered as a first line far more often than they currently are.

Myth #3: You need to have 8+ nonstop, uninterrupted, consecutive hours of sleep per night. This one causes a lot of stress with my patients. We like to think that a good night sleep requires zonking out completely and waking up to stretch 8 hours later to bound out of bed. Sure, this is great! But, healthy sleep patterns don’t have to be like this. Your body will go through several cycles of deep and lighter sleep during an average night, ranging from 70 minutes to 2 hours each. Important things happen regarding repair of tissues, hormone release, and other biological functions during different phases of sleep. During light phases, we might even wake up for a while- this is completely normal! You might wake up, change positions, use the bathroom, or even just be awake for a little while before falling back asleep. This does not generally interrupt a good night’s sleep. For more reading about the science of sleep cycles, here is a good article from Harvard Medical School. Historian Roger Ekirch has some very interesting research regarding how people slept at different times in history; the idea of segmented sleep used to be more the norm versus our modern and relatively recent idea of what it should be. In the past, people were accustomed to use the times that they were awake at night to read by candlelight, have creative inspirations, have sex, and perhaps meditate on philosophical subjects.

Myth #4: Napping means you are lazy.
This might be more of a generational issue. I find that many adults, especially those over middle aged, believe that napping somehow means that they are lazy and not pulling their share. However, napping is a natural part of our evolution and still practiced daily in many other parts of the world. Napping is a great way to refresh and recoup energy, boost memory skills and learning, and let’s face it- it just feels good. We need to especially encourage our seniors that it is OK to nap! Here is a really great blog article all about napping, and a cool chart helping to answer the question, How Long Should You Nap?

Myth#5: Fevers need to be reduced with medication. It is always a good idea to discuss this with your doctor to understand the threshold for bringing a fever down and what signs to watch out for. But here’s the problem, fevers are a way that your body helps boost metabolism to fight off infections. Optimal immune function can require this to happen. Unnecessarily bringing down a fever can actually prolong illness, and possibly make the body less efficient at recognizing and dealing with other similar illnesses in the future. Plus, it brings more infectious people to work or school to spread to others. The vast majority of the time, healthy people with fevers and no complications simply need rest, and fluids, and light foods if they can tolerate them. And time. Being “well” means that you can get sick sometimes- consider it a drill exercise for your immune system. Here is a classic naturopathic for helping reduce the pain and congestion that can accompany a fever- to promote better sleep, for kids and adults: the much loved wet sock treatment.

Myth#6: Grief is an illness that needs to be treated with medication. If we are lucky enough to live a long life with friends and family we love, then grief and sadness are inevitable. These are not medical conditions, but an important way that we must transition to a life without, an unwanted but nonetheless forced change in life. Some could need help for while, especially if the tasks of living cannot be completed without the help of medication temporarily. However, I think more acceptance and support of grief as a necessary step is essential to a return to wellness. Those who are allowed to grieve deeply and fully as needed from the beginning, generally have a better outcome than others who are persuaded to try to relieve it and delay it to some degree. Feeling sick, feeling grief, and going through hard times is an inevitable part of life- but facing this head on, when possible, is often the quicker and better solution (in the long run) to return to wellness.

Myth#7: If you take the right multivitamin, goji berries, acai, whatever- you will be well. For general nutrition, nothing beats food. Real food. If your great grandmother walked with you in the grocery store, she should be able to recognize everything you pick up. You should be able to recognize all the ingredients that you read on a label. Even if t is natural but it has been harvested and then dried, dessicated and stuffed into a capsule or powdered mix, it is going to lose much of its potency. Now, there are times when people need to supplement with one thing or other for a period of time- natural supplement or drug, but there should be a clear reason why and a plan, monitoring and an endpoint. And if that endpoint is a picture of a woman on a beach with a billowing wrap in the sunshine- run away!

*Warning: reading this blog might cause side effects including but not limited to: more napping, less money spent on useless and/or harmful products, and more time spent in food preparation.

How NOT to do a cleanse

8 Apr

 

It’s spring time, and many a young (and mature) woman’s thoughts turn to…cleansing. First, what is a “cleanse”, and do you even need to do it? 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.

And while this is certainly true, things can still get bound up, backed up, and just plain exhausted at times. Diet, lifestyle and medications can strain the cytochrome P450 system which determines the rate and types of detoxification that happen in your liver. People get constipated from dehydration, excess, food sensitivities and other reasons (see my previous post for more information here, “Get Your Poop On…”). Skin can 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.

In my experience, people can feel great after a cleanse. But it has to be done carefully, and some “cleanses” can actually be quite dangerous. Don’t do the following:

1. Stop eating suddenly for extended times. For many people, this kind of abrupt change can be dangerous. 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.

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 butt? 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 and other unintended consequences.

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. 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.

2. Avoid eating lots of rich and meaty foods. These take more resources to process in your body. It is good to lighten the load occasionally.

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- all caffeine. Both of these things put a burden on your liver’s detoxification system, give it a break for a little while.

5. Eat small meals, 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.

And that is it! It is just that simple. In addition, you may also try temporarily avoiding foods that many people can be sensitive to (not everyone)- especially dairy and glutein. Yes, there are herbs and nutrients that can help- which your local friendly naturopathic doctor or herbalist can help explain and guide you in proper use.

I recommend adding in some dry skin brushing, which is a great way to stimulate good circulation of blood and lymph.

I have become a big 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 with more pizazz (did someone say Shabazz??) 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 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 smoothie recipe, here is a good one at Allrecipes.com. Go for one of these daily during your cleanse. 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 reduce your seasonal allergy reactions- 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.”

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

 

 

 

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