How to Protect Children With Asthma From Enterovirus D68

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

Many parents are concerned about the current outbreak of Enterovirus 68, particularly those who have children with asthma. While most who are infected suffer nothing worse than mild cold symptoms, a small percentage of children will experience more serious complications. However, there is much we can do as parents towards preventing these complications from happening. As a naturopathic doctor, I am writing this article to help parents use natural medicine strategies effectively to protect their children, with a conscious focus for those with asthma. While I use the following techniques to help guide my own patients, this information should NOT be taken as medical advice for the reader, and should not replace the advice of your trusted family doctor, pediatrician or asthma specialist, who knows your child’s history and needs best. This article focuses on prevention of infection from most respiratory viruses, including those such as Enterovirus 68 (EV-D68):

1. Make sure children with asthma are up to date with immunizations
. While there is no vaccine for this particular virus, there are vaccines for pertussis (DTaP and Tdap), influenza, and pneumococcal vaccines (PSV23), which can help protect a child with asthma from dangerous complications of these illnesses. An interesting note is that certain natural medicine techniques outlined below, particularly vitamin D and probiotics, have been shown in studies to significantly improve a child’s immune response and protection from vaccinations. If possible, it is desirable to get these vaccines during a time of year when colds and flu viruses are generally not as active, as children are more likely to get symptoms of a viral illness in the 2 weeks following an immunization. This also goes for the weeks following any pediatrician visits, because, let’s face it, doctor’s offices are a great place for viruses to mingle! If you need to make appointments to see your child’s doctor, try to get the first appointment slots in the morning, especially on a Monday, to reduce exposure. Fewer sick patients in the hours before your visit means fewer viable viruses on surfaces and fewer sneeze/cough droplets in the air.

2. Have a plan of action for preventing inflammation. Have a discussion with your child’s pediatrician, allergist or pulmonologist about the best way to prepare and dose medication should they become ill. It is important to prevent inflammation in the lungs that can occur with even common viral illnesses, this is key to preventing complications. In addition to rescue medications, I like to recommend botanical medicines that can be used at the first appearance of cold symptoms to soothe airway reactivity and inflammation. A couple examples are: bromelain (taken away from food) and tumeric. (It is recommended to use herbs only under the direction of a professional knowledgeable in their actions, safe use and dosage.) Giving extra vitamin C can also be a good support, 250mg or more per day depending on age.

3. Improved lung fitness. Keep kids active. Regular aerobic activity (to tolerance) during the school months helps kids to improve their tolerance to exercise-induced asthma as well as their tolerance to other triggers. Using game exercises such as blowing through a straw (examples: keeping a feather afloat, or paper ball races across the floor) can also help improve and protect lung function. Ask your pulmonologist for advice on specific exercises that are appropriate for your child’s condition and ability.

4. Vitamins D and A. AAP recommendations are for 400IU per day for children for vitamin D, but I think 600IU is a better recommendation for those 4 and older. The 600IU recommendation level for children aged 1-18 is supported by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which sets the U.S. government’s official nutrient guidelines. That’s about the equivalent of six glasses of fortified milk. To supplement,  I recommend that my patients use the D3/cholecalciferol form as it is the most easily absorbed. A multivitamin that contains direct vitamin A (not just beta carotene), is also a good choice for helping the mucus membranes to block viral infection. I like cod liver oil for kids; it is the one way to take supplementary vitamin D and A in a natural form. When choosing a cod liver oil, I am very picky due to concerns over heavy metal contaminants in fish. The only two brands I trust for reliable third party screening for contaminants in every batch, and for sourcing fish from the safest ocean areas, is Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals. (Carlson’s can be found in many health food stores, Nordic Naturals can be purchased online, eg. Amazon- Nordic Naturals Actic-D orange or strawberry flavor.) Use half the recommended dose for an adult for a child over the age of 2. Beware: cod liver oil does have a strong taste, and the fishy smell is difficult to remove from clothing in the case of a spill.

5. Zinc: Finding children’s multivitamins that contain enough zinc is challenging. Ideal children’s supplements should contain at least 3-5mg daily, take daily with a meal throughout the cold and flu seasons. Zinc levels are often low in those who have an over-reactive/allergy-prone immune system. This over-reactivity blazes through the body’s zinc stores, which then increases general allergic reactivity, which makes children more prone to becoming infected by viral illnesses- a nasty cycle.

6. Avoid excess sugar: especially when a lot of viruses are circulating. A sugary dessert or snack can interrupt your child’s body’s ability to mount a defense to an infection for hours after a single sweet treat!

7. Sleep. Getting enough sleep is crucial. Stick to your child’s routine and be especially careful about participating in activities that will upset this routine during cold and flu seasons. Poor sleep is one of the biggest risks for getting sick, even if you do everything else right.

8. Combining natural medicines: Probiotics, especially those containing lactobacillus cultures, help protect children with asthma in 2 ways. First, taking probiotics helps to direct the activity of the immune system away from an allergic response, and towards a more viral defense response. Second, it has been shown in studies to protect children and adults from respiratory infections, as well as a host of gastrointestinal infections. These organisms have a syngergistic protection effect when taken with elderberry, a botanical anti-viral. (see #10 for a great elderberry tea recipe.)

9. Wash hands often. Washing with soapy, warm water is always better than hand sanitizers. I recommend that patients use coconut oil as a hand cream/oil in the winter months as it is a fantastic antibacterial, limiting growth even against C. difficile and staph infections. I don’t know how it does against viruses…but worth a shot. Tip: because coconut oil hardens in winter-time room temperatures, try this: liquify a small block of virgin coconut oil in a pan over low heat. Pour into a bowl and whip it with a mixer until light and fluffy. Spoon into a couple of small jars and use throughout the winter. (I also like to add in a little vitamin E oil and vanilla extract before mixing.) Voila! You now have an awesome-smelling, all-natural antimicrobial hand and body cream. Use daily after washing hands or showering.

10. Honey. Kids who take a teaspoon of (real) honey daily enjoy a reduction in incidence and duration of upper respiratory infections. (don’t ever give to children under 1). It also works as a great cough suppressant, and helps to loosen mucus. Tip: add honey to the following recipe for an immune boosting winter Red Tea (with hibiscus and elderberry). Thanks to Maria Noel Groves, clinical herbalist and owner of Wintergreen Botanicals, LLC in Allenstown, NH, for the recipe. And, “A Market” in Manchester has bulk hibiscus and elderberry available for purchase- I called ahead to confirm!

Red Tea
This tart, fruity tea soothes sore throats and helps fend off viral infections.

  • 2 teaspoons hibiscus
  • 1 heaping tsp elderberry
  • 16 ounces boiling water

Steep for five minutes, strain, sweeten with honey and cool.

Another elderberry favorite I have is Sambucus Immune syrup by Nature’s Way: I give my own child one teaspoon daily at the first sign of infection, or whenever we know we’ve been exposed to someone who is sick. Taking it with food makes it easy on the stomach, and it tastes quite good.

11. Children with asthma should avoid swimming in indoor pools while sick, or during high seasons for upper respiratory infections. The chlorine may cause irritation of the lungs. There is also a byproduct formed when chlorine and chemicals in body sweat and urine combine that is especially irritating to the airways of children. Frequent exposure to indoor swimming pools actually increases risk of asthma in children, and worsens symptoms in those who already have it.

*A note about fish oil: while fish oil can be helpful for some patients, I generally don’t recommend taking it without good reason during the fall and winter months. Fish body oil has different properties than cod liver oil; it has inflammation-modulating properties that can be helpful at times, but it can also increase the rate of infection from respiratory viruses. Those inflammatory pathways actually help protect from the initial stages of infection. Cod liver oil does not have this effect, and is instead protective.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Q&A about Enterovirus D68

Recipes For Immune Teas and Winter Health by Maria Noel Groves/Wintergreen Botanicals, from Tea Magazine Jan./Feb. 2013

Micronutrient Chart for Children ages 4-13, Linus Pauling Institute:

Article from the American Academy of Pediatrics website: Many Children have Suboptimal Vitamin D Levels

American College of Allergy, Asthma,and Immunology: Time in Chlorinated Pool Ups Teens’ Asthma Risk

WebMD News: Chlorine in Pools May Cause Breathing Problems


Did you find this article useful? Would you like to see more like it?  If so, please support my work by leaving your feedback and comments below, sharing this article with others, and most importantly, discussing these topics with your friends, your family, your coworkers and your doctors. I know that it is a jungle out there when looking for valid information about natural medicine topics. I have a passion for writing, and I hope to help as many people as possible to better care for themselves and their families with the information presented in these articles.

Healthy, Nut-Free Snacks for School and for Improved Focus


Greetings! It has been some time since my last post, and I hope this one contains some timely information you can put to use today, for the benefit of your children (and for you, too!). The new school year has begun, and many of you might have children with nut allergies, or like me- have children who share classrooms with other children who do.

Below is an updated re-post of one of my prior articles. I just unearthed this to review some ideas on snack prep for my daughter, and thought you might also find it useful:

Original full article: Healthy, Nut-Free Snacks for School and for Improved Focus

FYI- these are also some great examples to support kids specifically for better focus and mood while at school. As always, feel free to pass on this information to others you care about. Feedback is always welcome, I love to read comments from other parents about my articles!

Cora Rivard, N.D.

Re-Post: Avoiding Constipation While on the Road


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!

Happy Trails,

Cora Rivard, N.D.


Kid’s Sunscreens: How to Choose and What to Avoid


Chemical ingredients are often present in sunscreens which are potentially carcinogenic, have hormone-like actions, or are generally irritating to sensitive skin because of perfumes and colorings and other additives. This warrants a little diligence in choosing a product to use, especially for use on your children.

EWG (Environmental Working Group) rates cosmetics and other products for safety, and can be a good starting point for researching a topical product. Anything you put on your skin, you are also absorbing directly into your body’s tissues and circulation. Chemicals with hormonal activity can absorb far more efficiently through the skin even in tiny doses, compared to swallowing a substance. This is because the liver neutralizes and helps to clear out excessive or toxic substances when something is ingested orally. This system of protection is largely bypassed when a product is administered directly onto the skin surface.

Now, when you smooth a chemical substance over your child’s skin- they have a greater surface ratio, more sensitive skin, and are generally more vulnerable to the harmful effects of hormone disrupting substances than you are. So, if you are using something frequently on delicate skin surface, it is worth your while to research it a little further. One ingredient in particular to avoid is oxybenzone- a synthetic estrogen, which is present in more than half of all sunscreen products.

The following article has some further helpful advice in selecting a product for kids::
My pediatrician taught me to avoid SPF’s over 30 or 50, because they are very drying to the skin. Also, sunscreen should be applied liberally- don’t be afraid to glop it on. Reapply regularly, especially after being in the water, this goes even for water resistant formulas.

So which one to choose? According to EWG’s list- some of the very worst picks include the sunscreens made by Aveeno, Banana Boat, CVS brands, Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, and surprisingly- even Alba Botanica. In contrast, some of the best rated include commonly found products by Badger, All Terrain, Ecco Bella, and The Honest Company.

And, summertime is ripe for exposure to poison ivy and poison oat or sumac. The best thing you can do is to stock a great big bottle of Tecnu Skin cleanser. You can find it in most drug stores. If you or your child has been exposed to poison ivy, or even when the rash starts to come out- use this stuff and it should stop it in its tracks. It removes the offending oils from within the skin. You can also use it on pets, and to wash clothes. Highly recommended!

For natural mosquito repellent, products that contain lemon eucalyptus are the best, Repel makes a great one. And they smell pretty good! It does require frequent reapplication- it will work great for about an hour or so, and then you will need another coat.

Have a great summer!



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

tick on neck

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

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

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.


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:




I can’t find my zen in this mess…..

I found it ironic to come across this blog post (linked below) as I consumed my sandwich at my desk, swamped with paperwork.

Many of my patients are concerned about becoming more forgetful. I have that worry, too, at times. But I also know that having so much going on in your head at once is a bit like having 100 browsers simultaneously open on your computer- everything runs slower and it becomes harder to focus when so much of your memory is being allocated elsewhere.

Wherever you are, whatever spring cleaning you need to get done, start with your head. Take a few moments and direct all of your senses to one object or activity: your eyes, your ears, your sense of touch, smell, even taste. Keep gently bringing your mind back when it wanders, because it will- and this is the whole secret of mindfulness practice. Memory and focus do get better with practice- I promise!

I can’t find my zen in this mess…...

7 Myths About Wellness Told By Modern Healthcare


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.

Get Fit, Lose Weight, Better Sleep: The Top 5 Free Android Apps for 2014


You don’t have to be Oprah to have your very own dedicated personal trainer, nutritionist and health coach at your beck and call, thanks to your phone! Best of all, many of the best apps out there are free. See below for the top 5 list among my patients. (There are a couple additional apps I’ve included here that are IPhone only, or are not free.) And I will be mentioning zombies, FYI.

Please feel free to comment on your favorites- I’d love to hear your thoughts about what has worked well for you!

Lose Weight:

1. Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal: FREE. Android. simple to use, extensive food databases, it even has a bar scanner! excellent reports and tracking, and add a dash of accountability and fun by making it social- you can connect with your friends and family and make it a team effort. This is a favorite with patients!

2.Restaurants & Nutrition : Fast Food Calories , Calculator for Food Score plus BMI for Weight Loss: $3.49. Android. This app can help you choose the best dishes, easily and quickly, when you are dining out. This is especially helpful if you are diabetic, but is appropriate for anyone who would like support with calorie counting and nutrition while on the go.

Sleep Great:

3. F.lux: Free for Windows. Also available for Mac, IPhone, Ipad. This program is great for supporting the circadian rhythm and getting you to sleep. Say what? Well, when you look at your computer or phone screen, that bright blue light wavelength stimulates your brain via the optic nerve into thinking it is daytime and therefore time to be alert for the hours ahead. This causes a lot of problems with insomnia in many people who use devices at night, it is like chugging a steady flow of caffeine. This program syncs with your local time to change into a more softer, reddish hue after sunset, which does not stimulate your brain in the same way as blue light. I love this program- I can get to sleep much easier now, even if I am up late on my computer.

4.Deep Sleep and Relaxation Hypnosis by Mindifi – Focus, Relax, Lower your Stress, and Cure Anxiety with Meditation (Kindle Tablet Edition) . FREE (but just for the first session, which you can use over and over.) Additional sessions cost extra. Android, Kindle Tablet. Great for calming the mind when you are having a hard time letting go of work, or stressful thoughts in general. Good way to sample self-hypnosis for better sleep.

5.Relax Melodies: A white noise ambience for sleep, meditation & yoga. FREE. Android. Not only do you get a wide selection of soothing noises and melodies to relax you, or use as background white noise- you can also layer noises to your preferences.

Get Fit:

6.RunKeeper: FREE. Android. This is not just for running, you can use it to track your fitness goals with any sport or activity. This app uses GPS to map distance, speed, route and calories burned during your workout. You can also connect with other users through Facebook and keep a page on Runkeeper to share workouts with the community, if you choose.

7. Zombies, Run! $3.99. IPhone. Zombies, Zombies, Zombies! I just had to add thiseven though I don’t have any experience with it. If you need some extra motivation to keep running, how about trying to save the human race from the zombie apocalypse? Run supplies and other tasks, and get chased by zombies in this immersive game. It has a story line that helps you to look forward to your next session, to find out what happens next…

by Cora Rivard, N.D.

How NOT to do a cleanse


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 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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