Ancient advice for health during Winter says “Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret. Stay warm, avoid the cold, and keep the skin covered.” With the cold weather, hibernation of animals, decrease in plant life, and few daylight hours, winter was the toughest season to maintain health in the ancient world.
Even though the #1 New Year Resolution is weight loss, the winter months really aren’t ideal to try and lose weight. Why? Because human health has long been considered to be closely tied to nature. As organic creatures, it stands to reason that we humans are affected, directly and indirectly, by the natural environment including weather, climate, or duration of daylight.
These factors, particularly less daylight and our natural instinct to hibernate, make losing weight more difficult and frustrating which leads us to give up on that goal altogether. Less sunlight means we aren’t getting as much vitamin D. It appears that lack of vitamin D reduces fat breakdown and triggers fat storage—so calories you consume are stored in fat cells rather than being used for energy. A second factor is an increase in melatonin, the hormone that signals your body that it is time to sleep, and is triggered by darkness. Since winter means less hours of daylight, melatonin levels tend to increase and increased melatonin is associated with increased appetite. It can feel like a losing battle. Continue reading
Did you know that nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned by February? December is the perfect time to reflect on the goals you set in 2018 and think about where you’d like to see yourself in 2019.
Whether you have some health condition that you want to resolve, or if you simply want to remain well, here are three healthy living resolutions to try in the new year to “take back your health”. The key is to set goals that are small enough to be doable, but big enough to still give you that feeling of satisfaction when you realize it’s March (or even November!) and you’re still going strong.
1. Weight Loss – This is probably the #1 New Year’s Resolution. Unless you have a critical health condition that demands you shed some pounds, a better idea may be to simply resolve to make healthier food choices. One of the key ways to do this is to surround yourself and your family with healthy options to expose them to nutritious foods. The more involved your family is in planning and cooking healthy meals, the more likely they are to eat them, so try planning a weekly family menu together. When shopping, stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store where you find fresh fruits and veggies, and stay out of the center aisles where all of the processed foods live. Try to resist the temptation to buy Johnny’s favorite cookies, or Dad’s diet soda and opt for healthier options instead. You can make these changes incrementally so that it doesn’t feel so much like an exercise in deprivation.
If your current health situation (or someone you care about) requires shedding some pounds in the new year, then check out my Weight Loss Gift Basket that you can give to someone or to yourself. Continue reading
Many people get the occasional heartburn or diarrhea from time to time, but when digestive problems become more frequent or continue for a longer period, it’s time to do something to address them. Do you have digestive issues? Some of the more common problems include:
- or some combination of the above
Causes can vary widely and may include emotional stress, poor dietary habits, antibiotic or drug use, or toxin exposure.
Chinese Medicine views the digestive process a little differently than the way we think about it in Western medicine. Continue reading
By following these five tips, you will improve not only your digestive health, but your overall health and well being.
- Eat warm foods. Did you know that the stomach functions the best when we put warm food into it? Iced beverages and cold foods, like frozen desserts, actually stress the stomach. Cold foods and liquids put out the “digestive fire” needed to efficiently break down your food and make nutrients available to your body.
- Eat less. Eating only until we are 70% full is best for optimal digestion. Your stomach needs some room to digest the food you consume. This maximizes the nutrition you get from your food, and can even help you reduce weight. Recent studies have shown that in addition to cognitive benefits, eating less can increase longevity, improve the function of the nervous and immune systems, and reduce incidence of several diseases that are prevalent in our country, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, kidney disease, neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune disease.
- Eat in a calming environment. Like most Chinese medical practitioners, I recommend eating a meal in a relaxing environment (without reading/ watching the news etc) because this provides the optimum environment to process your food. When we eat while stressed or tense/anxious/angry/depressed etc, there is an impact to the Stomach causing the Stomach to ‘rebel’. This usually leads to nausea, vomiting, heartburn, or that sick feeling of having a knot in your stomach.
- Eat light at night. Eating bigger, heavier meals late at night contributes to food stagnation, causing stomach discomfort and bloating. Long-term food stagnation can contribute to a feeling of heaviness and fatigue, and a tendency toward obesity and poor health. Morning is the time of day digestive organs have the most strength and ability to digest food. In the evening (after 8:00 pm) the strength of these organs is at their weakest and our ability to process and metabolize food is greatly diminished.
- Light exercise helps promote digestion. An old Chinese saying is “Walk a hundred paces after a meal and one can live ninety-nine years.” By taking a short stroll after a meal, you help your body move the food through your digestive system and can even lower your blood sugar. This is especially important after the evening meal when our metabolism is somewhat slower.
If you are finding it hard to arrange your schedule for a Wellness Visit, here are a few tips for helping you to cope until you can come in.
- Leverage coping skills – Whether it’s meditation, breathing exercises, acupuncture, yoga, hiking, biking or another way you relieve stress, begin to manage difficult emotions and associated stress before and during this transition back to school. The idea is to balance mind and body so that you are better able to handle whatever is thrown your way. We also offer Stress Free Tea, based on a Chinese Herbal Formula used to calm stress, anxiety and depression for over 900 years.
- Get into a routine ASAP – Begin to introduce the changes before school starts back. Keeping a regular bedtime and healthy diet, while making time for relaxing playful activities are all helpful to establish a regular routine that can reduce chaos, stress and anxiety.
- Encourage healthy eating – We all know that our diet can affect both our physical and mental health. Highly processed foods that consist of high sugar, soft drinks, and nutrient poor foods can increase anxiety and depression. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and high quality proteins are important for a healthy immune system (which BTW begins in the gut).
Most importantly don’t wait until things are out of control to take action. I hope you find these tips helpful and that you will think of me when you need help.
The heat is on! In Chinese Medicine, Summer is the Fire Season and is related to the heart, blood vessels, Small Intestine and the emotions. The heart is in charge of memory, consciousness, thinking, sleep and speech. It’s not too uncommon when there is an imbalance during the summer that we see symptoms such as anxiety, inflammation, heart palpitations, and insomnia. In nature, it’s easy to see that extreme heat withers and dries plant life, and we too can easily become overheated during the summer months. By practicing these 5 tips you’ll keep your fire in check during the summer.
- Hydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the summer, especially if you sweat a lot. If you work outside or sweat profusely, you may also need to add electrolytes. Coconut water (unsweetened), fresh watermelon juice and water with cucumbers added will all help replace electrolytes.
- Eat lightly and simply. Skip the heavy meals and use a few simple ingredients in your meals. Prepare vegetables by steaming or lightly simmering. Our tendency is to go for salads, but don’t overdo it with cold and raw foods because they weaken the digestive system. Visit your local farmers market to see what is in season and focus on including those ingredients in your meals. Look for brightly colored vegetables and fruits. Greens help cleanse the arteries and cools the heart. They also help control anxiety. Try our cooling Cucumber, Watermelon and Mint Salad.
- Sweat a little. A light sweat will help to cool the body and prevent overheating. While it may seem counter-intuitive to eat spicy, pungent foods such as hot peppers, fresh ginger, and horseradish during summer, they will bring body heat to the surface creating sweat, thereby cooling you down. But heavy sweating causes to much fluid loss.
- Go easy on the ice. Iced drinks, ice cream and frozen treats weaken the digestive system, hold in sweat and heat, and contract the stomach inhibiting digestion.
- Slow down. Focus on calming the heart through slow yoga, soft music, breathing exercises and meditation. Relax.
Summer is a time of activity, travel, and play. Enjoy it!
Makes 4-6 servings
- 2 cups cubed cucumber (English or Persian)
- 2 cups cubed watermelon (de-seeded)
- Juice of 2 limes
- 3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- Salt to taste
Combine above ingredients in a bowl. Serve slightly cool. Optional: Sprinkle crumbled goat or feta cheese just before serving.
Chef’s note: If making salad ahead of time, do not add lime juice and salt until just before serving.
From The Chopra Center.
Last month I talked about how to align your diet with spring by increasing sweet and pungent flavors because this facilitates the liver to regulate the energy throughout the body. Pungents also enhance digestion, disperse mucus, stimulate the Lungs, Blood and Heart, guard against mucus forming conditions such as common cold, remove obstructions and improve sluggish Liver function.
One of my favorite ways to use pungents is with fresh ginger in recipes. I love ginger tea and drink it frequently. It’s really easy to make and is one of my go-to remedies to help get over the effects that spring time allergies has on our sinuses – excess mucus! The pollen has been really high the last few days and has hit me hard. I’m drinking some of this tea as I write this!
You’ll need some fresh ginger root that you can find at most grocery stores and some filtered water. Honey or maple syrup can be added for a little sweetness.
Fresh Ginger Tea
- 1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 Tbsp. raw honey or pure maple syrup
- Peel the ginger root with a peeler or with the back of a spoon.
- Grate the ginger with a grater/zester. If you slice it, slice it thin and use more.
- In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil, add ginger and turn off heat. Put the lid on it and let it steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the water to remove the ginger.
- Add a little natural sweetener, stir and enjoy.
Incorporate fresh greens from your yard (dandelion greens) or from the farmers market along with local eggs and sweet potato and this is a healthy spring time meal.
From Healthy Green Kitchen
- 1 tablespoon organic, extra virgin coconut oil (or use olive oil)
- 2 handfuls of chopped organic greens (dandelion greens, spinach, kale and/or chard)
- 2 eggs, preferably organic and free range
- 1 small or 1/2 large organic sweet potato, baked or steamed and then sliced and drizzled with a little coconut oil, if desired
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper- to taste
- any other seasonings you like – optional
1. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet. When the pan is very hot, add the greens. Cook for several minutes, stirring sporadically, allowing them to crisp in the hot pan.
2. Break the eggs into the pan over the greens and turn the heat to very low. Cover the pan and allow the eggs to cook for 3-5 minutes, until done to your liking.
3. Using a large spatula, transfer the greens with the cooked eggs on top to your plate. Season to taste with salt, pepper, etc., and serve with sliced sweet potato.
We are what we eat, and most Chinese dietary guidelines follow on from nature. According to Chinese Medicine philosophies, if we eat seasonal foods that are similar in nature to the external environment, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to changes in season and stay healthy.
During Spring, we want to reduce the intake of sour flavors and increase sweet and pungent flavors because this facilitates the liver to regulate the energy throughout the body. Think Spring green. Examples of recommended foods for the spring include onions, leeks, mustard greens, Chinese yam, wheat, dates, cilantro, mushrooms, spinach and bamboo shoots. Fresh spring greens and leafy vegetables should also be included in meals and sprouts from seeds are also a great addition. Raw, frozen and fried foods should only be taken in moderation since these are harmful to the spleen and stomach if consumed in large amounts. If you’ve overeaten during the cold winter months you may develop a heat imbalance in the spring, which leads to dry throats, bad breath, constipation, thick tongue coating and yellowish urine. Foods like bananas, pears, water chestnuts, sugar cane, celery and cucumber help to clear the excessive heat.
In wintertime we tend to bake our food to more deeply warm our bodies, however in the Spring steaming and stir-frying is more appropriate. As always, I recommend to eat what is locally grown and in season, as much as possible. Visit the local farmers market to get the freshest seasonal items. I was just at the Peachtree City Farmers Market over the weekend and got fresh onions, greens, broccoli, sweet potatoes, sprouts and carrots. See what you can find this Spring. Be sure to try the Pan Crisped Greens with Eggs and Sweet Potato recipe for an easy healthy way to include these suggestions into your diet.