Category Archives: Nutrition

Staying Healthy This Fall

Even though it’s still hot outside, we are fast approaching the change of the seasons – summer into fall – and of all times of the year, this is the most susceptible for colds, flu and allergies. The weather should be cooling soon, school has started, and activities pick up so generally there’s more stress. And this year, “COVID stress” brings the usual fall stress to new levels.

Autumn is the season associated with the Lung and its partner, the Large Intestine. If you tend to catch colds or have allergies in the Fall, it’s important to take care of these organs! Together the lung and large intestines are related to immunity through the strength of the protective external layer of our skin. Generally, outside pathogens most easily enter through the respiratory and digestive systems, and the lung and colon are responsible for maintaining the function of these systems so that they are not penetrated by outside pathogens. According to Chinese medicine, the body’s defensive energy is directly dependent on the strength of the lung and colon. Incidentally, these are the two areas attacked by the Coronavirus.

So how do you stay well through this vulnerable time and keep your family well, too? The good news – there are many alternatives to support health through this time. The serious news – NOW is the time to act.

DIET CHANGES

First of all, change your diet now to reflect the season to come. Cooler weather means ingesting warmer food and drinks.

Here’s what to eat:

  • Switch from salads to soups.
  • Eat cooked rather than raw fruit – consider crisps, cobblers or pies.
  • Use lots of spices such as ginger, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, and fennel.
  • Ingest root veggies and winter squash.
  • Increase protein intake.

Here’s what to avoid:

  • Cold, refrigerated or iced drinks
  • Dairy
  • Raw foods
  • Smoothies
  • Cold juices
  • Ice cream and other iced/cold foods

Supplements:

I recommend the following supplements to keep your immune system in top shape:

  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics – select a formula with a variety of strains of bacteria
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Herbs prescribed by your Acupuncturist/Herbalist for your unique situation. This may include prevention from viruses and other pathogens.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES

It’s important to reduce stress and plan for the cooler season to come. Even though it may still be warm during the day, the evenings are beginning to be a little bit cooler, reflecting the weather to come. Thus, this is the time to dress warmer. Here are several ways to change lifestyle to support your immune system.

  • Carry a jacket or sweater as needed.
  • Wear a scarf or high collar to protect the back of your neck and protect immunity.
  • Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
  • Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, even if it’s late morning (skipping meals lowers immunity).
  • Take rest breaks during the day.
  • Include daily meditation or contemplation time to manage stress.
  • Strengthen the Lungs by exercising, stretching, and moving your body.
  • Pay close attention to how you feel daily so you can act immediately if you feel something coming on.
  • Make sure you are having a regular bowel movement too. Here’s why.

WHAT TO DO AT THE FIRST SIGNS OF ILLNESS

What if you do begin to feel sick? Can you prevent it from taking hold? Yes – it is possible to prevent a pending virus or cold if at the first signs of it you do one or all of the following:

It’s HOT out there!

Most of us associate the summer season with heat, and rightfully so. In Chinese Medicine, summer is the season of Fire. The Fire element is in charge of the heart and small intestine, and these organs help us optimally digest our food.

Salad and Watermelon Smoothie

In this season of sunshine and heat, it’s smart to find balance with cooling foods and foods with a salty taste. Recipes that include ingredients from the sea like shrimp and cooling fruits and veggies like watermelon and cucumber are ideal. Your body craves these foods in the summertime, and when you allow yourself the indulgences of cool and salty foods, you’ll be able to combat the heat and improve your digestion during the dog days of August.

There is one caveat. I don’t typically recommend cold foods and drinks because they can be difficult to digest and dampen your digestive fire. So use these foods wisely, and don’t overdo it. Use them when it’s really hot out, and when you experience heat-like symptoms such as heavy sweating, hot flashes, dry skin, constipation, thirst or heart palpitations.

See my previous post for a wonderful Watermelon Smoothie Recipe that cools you from the inside out. Watermelon is especially good for improving hydration, recovering from heat stroke, quenching thirst and boosting energy.

Watermelon Smoothie with Goji Berries and Lime

From The Chinese Medicine Cookbook by Stacey Isaacs

This watermelon smoothie is truly refreshing during the dog days of summer!

Watermelon smoothie
Watermelon healthy juice in mug with lime and mint

Ingredients:

4 cups seedless watermelon chunks
1 cup ice
1 tablespoon goji berries
Juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend. Pour into a glass and enjoy! Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

Watermelon is considered a Chinese herb(xi gua). It is the perfect answer when you are overheated on a hot day; it cools you from the inside out and quenches thirst. The rind of the watermelon is also a Chinese herb (xi gua pi), and it is even more powerful at relieving summer heat and generating fluids in the body. So the next time you are cutting up a beautiful fresh melon, don’t remove all of the white/light green rind. It will do your body good.

Especially good for: improving hydration, recovering from heat stroke, quenching thirst, boosting energy.

Enjoy the Bounty of Summer

Summer is officially here and that brings a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Summer Fruits and Vegetables

By now everyone knows that eating more vegetables and fruits is beneficial for our health. Most “standard” dietary recommendations suggest at least five servings of vegetables and fruits daily, however many studies show that more is better. The benefits of eating a wide variety of vegetables and fruits are many, including:

  • Reduced obesity and hypertension
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes
  • Improved mental/cognitive performance
  • Improved lung function, particularly those with COPD
  • Reduced adverse effects of environmental pollutants
  • Reduced risk of cancer

Diet Suggestions for Summer

Summer is the time of heat and fire, and that equates to the heart and small intestine in Chinese Medicine. These organs help us optimally digest our food. During this time of sunshine and heat, it’s smart to find a balance of cooling foods and foods with a salty taste.

  • Seafoods and seaweeds can be a great addition to your diet during the summer to combat the heat and improve digestion.
  • Cooling foods include fruits like kiwi, citrus and watermelon, and veggies like cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, mint, and cilantro.
  • Drink lots of water and try watermelon juice to expel toxins and cool the heart fire. See the recipe below for Watermelon Smoothie with Goji Berries and Lime for a refreshing summer beverage on a hot day.
  • Avoid: Hot and dry foods such as coffee, excessively spicy foods, ice cold foods like ice cream since they cause the digestive system to slow down.

What to look for

It is best to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables; variety in color being one of the more important characteristics. The color of a fruit or vegetables can be a good indicator of the nutrients it contains, and therefore by eating a wide variety in color, you are getting a wide variety of nutrients.

Look for vegetables and fruits that are in season, fresh and ripe. We have a few local farmers markets in our area that are definitely worth a visit. We’ve mentioned before that attuning your body the the seasons is important to maintain balance in our health. While its nice that we can get a variety of fruits and vegetables from all over the world at the supermarket, it’s best to stick with those that would normally be found in your area and to pass on those that have been picked unripe and shipped across the world. It is best to eat fruit fully ripened to get the most antioxidants.

How to Make This a Great Thanksgiving

Even if you are by yourself

In past holiday newsletters, I’ve offered advice on how to have a less-stressed holiday season.  This year requires a different twist on that theme.

A long time ago, I had a boss who taught me how to take advantage of change/chaos. The secret is to figure out what the opportunity is. And I’d like to offer that in these times, the opportunity is to take time for yourself, find joy and gratitude. There is no doubt that these are stressful times, and honestly, adding a family gathering or holiday party to the mix at this time would add even more stress. Most times I’m giving advice on stress relieving techniques to cope with the chaos of holiday shopping, family gatherings, and work parties. But all of that is so last year!

How is stress affecting you now?
For some we turn to food to calm our nerves. How about looking at food preparation and eating as an opportunity to express thanks? Our mindset before eating or preparing foods has a big impact on how we digest food. I’ve taught classes on mindful eating and one thing that I always emphasize is practicing gratitude during preparation, cooking and eating what we have. That is the idea of preparing and eating meals with calmness and enjoyment so that the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged which, incidentally, helps with digestion. Taking time to appreciate the work that went into growing and harvesting the fruits and vegetables, is an example. Eating slowly and appreciating all of the flavors is so beneficial to your body and mind.

Bring in Gratitude and Joy

Did you know that you can’t experience two opposite emotions at the same time? So by expressing gratitude or joy, you can’t simultaneously feel sorrow or fear. So look for those opportunities to do the things you enjoy doing during the holidays, even if you are by yourself and can’t be with family members. Do you love to decorate for the holidays? Then do it, even if you are the only one who will see it!

How can you express gratitude during this time? What comes to mind when I ask “what are you thankful for?” Notice, I didn’t ask “what is missing from your life?” It’s all about how you frame things. While I’m missing my family this Thanksgiving, I am grateful that they are all healthy and safe. I’m also thankful that there will be less stress and I can cook whatever the heck I want to cook without having to worry about the special requests from everyone. I can take a deep breath for a few days! I’m looking forward to it. I’m also grateful to spend some quality time with my partner, David and my cute doggie, Jess!

This year, I am extremely grateful for you, my patients! You bring me great joy and I care about you all. Please see the special holiday offers below and take this opportunity to treat yourself, friends or family to the gift of wellness!

Happy Thanksgiving!

July Clinic Updates

It’s great to be back in business! I’m really enjoying seeing everyone and feel my work is helping me as much as it is helping you.

As most of you have probably seen, this virus isn’t going away any time soon, so precautions will need to remain in place for the foreseeable future. Everyone wants to get on with life and we want this thing to go away, but it’s not in any big hurry. This means we need to stay vigilant and take care of ourselves like never before. I encourage you to reread the blog posts I did back in February for some tips on keeping your immune system strong, and this one with acupressure points you can do at home. Fall is just a few short months away, and then we will be back into flu season again. It’s uncertain what COVIDs next turn will be, so I’m advising everyone to take these measures now if you haven’t started already:

Immune boosting foods
  • Eat a healthy diet – avoid sugar (like the plague)
  • Take Vitamin C, Zinc, and Vitamin D,
  • Get outdoors and exercise (just be careful in the heat),
  • Get an acupuncture immune boost,
  • Practice stress reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing and yoga
  • Ask me about Herbal preventative formulas that might be right for you

We’ve clearly seen that those with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some other underlying issues are most at risk, and we all need to put our health as a top priority so we are equipped to fight off any cold, flu or other illness that comes our way.

PLEASE, Wear a Mask

Part of staying healthy right now means we need to continue to wash our hands frequently and wear masks when around others that aren’t part of our household, especially in indoor spaces with several people and poor ventilation. I know, I know, masks are a real pain. They are uncomfortable and hot; trust me I know!

Wear a Mask

But research and experiences from other countries where cases have been low show that wearing a mask helps to prevent transmission. I wear a mask to keep my “respiratory droplets” from getting to you (even though I don’t think I have been in contact with anyone who has it, I just don’t know). I hope you will wear a mask for me.

In fact, as our infection rates and hospitalizations continue to go up all across the south, I really insist that my patients wear a mask while in the clinic with me, especially while we are in close distance of each other. I am okay if you take it off once I’m out of the room, or when you are face down on the table. Your mask helps to keep me safe so that I can continue to help as many people as possible. If you don’t have one or forget yours, I have one for you.

If I am exposed to the virus, that means I have to close the clinic for 2 weeks minimum. None of us wants that to happen. When we both wear a mask, our chances of transmitting the virus are reduced significantly. That said, if you come to the clinic and find out later that you were exposed and may have been contagious while in the clinic, please let me know so that I can get tested and not inadvertently infect others.

Yes, I know the death rate from this virus is pretty low and the majority “recover”, but if you know anyone who has had COVID-19 with symptoms, you don’t want to get it. The after effects can linger for months, and we really don’t know what the long term effects will be. However, we do know that internal organ damage is a very possible outcome. Please err on the safe side and take precautions… for everyone.

Thank you! Okay, I’ll get off the soapbox now.

Clinic Updates and Self Help

Well, we’ve made it through the first week of “Social Distancing” and sadly my first week of the clinic being closed. I really miss you all! Unfortunately, this is going to be around for a bit longer, so I’m closing again this coming week and expect to be closed at least until April.

I am available for phone calls and can provide herbal formulas to you by mail. Herbal formulas can be used for virus prevention, digestive problems, anxiety, or even if you do get sick and are isolated at home (most doctors and hospitals are sending people home unless they are having significant breathing issues). I’ve updated my website so you can schedule an herbal consultation if you are interested.

This last week has been surreal, but my thinking is that this is a great time to do some self healing. There are so many things we can be doing right now to help our bodies get stronger so that we can fight whatever comes our way. Here are my suggestions:

MOVE!

While we are stuck at home, there’s a tendency to binge watch TV and Movies, or be on Facebook or Twitter, which usually means we are sitting around like couch potatoes. You don’t need to go out and run a marathon, but some gentle stretching can go a long way towards easing pain, loosening tight muscles and generally keeping your body and mind in a good place. It’s also a good idea to sweat a little to allow your body to push out pathogens and body toxins. You don’t need to work hard to break a sweat – a brisk walk will do it especially now that the weather is warmer (just beware of the pollen right now – see below).

Continue reading

Food As Medicine Cooking Workshop, Thursday Feb 6

February 6, 12:00 – 2:00
at The Gathering Place
203 McIntosh Trail, PTC

When we start to think of food as fuel for our bodies, we can really start to use it as such.  One way we can do this is by eating with the season.   Spring cleaning is not just for your home but for your body too.  In this two hour Food As Medicine cooking class, I’ll share some recipes that you can make at home that will help fuel your body for the burst of energy we find in the spring time and to help rid yourself of spring time allergies.

 

Make 2020 The Year You Take Back Your Health

Where do you want to see yourself in 2020? While you are taking some downtime during the holidays, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your accomplishments for this year, and think about your 2020 New Year’s goals. The key is to be realistic, so you don’t give up like most people after just a couple of months (80% of New Year’s resolutions are dropped by February)!

Perhaps you’d like to see yourself in better health, or maybe you want to simply stay well. 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 are still going strong well into the year.

Here are my top three healthy living resolutions for the new year to “take back your health”.

1. Weight Loss – Usually on everyone’s list after the holiday season, I recommend that you simply resolve to make better food choices. 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 your kids favorite cookies, or Dad’s diet soda and opt for healthier options instead. Consider involving your family in planning and cooking healthy meals. When you plan and cook together, the more likely your family members will be to eat well. Maybe you need a little help? Here is a new cookbook that I’ve been testing with my “Food As Medicine Cooking Workshops”. I’ve got copies at my clinic that will make a perfect gift. Continue reading

Are You Really Ready for the Holidays?

Many people look forward to the holiday season and the start of a new year. It often provides an opportunity to spend quality time with family, take a few days off from work, or go on a winter vacation. But if the thought of holiday season gives you visions of stress and chaos, you are not alone.  While the holiday season can be a fun and joyous time, it can also be very stressful. The combined effort of shopping, attending social events, and entertaining guests can quickly become too much to handle.

The body’s reaction to stress is meant to protect us. Our natural reactions to danger or challenge can be positive, but when we feel intense pressure or feel out of control these reactions become negative stress. The “fight or flight” response from the sympathetic nervous system occurs as we react to physical and mental changes in our equilibrium. In Chinese medicine, excessive emotional stimulation or suppression causes imbalance, thereby injuring the body and producing disease. And if you read last month’s newsletter, you know that stress is one of the things that will lower your immune system.

Here are several ways to minimize stress and anxiety so you can thoroughly enjoy this festive time of year and stay well at the same time.

Nix the Sugar

Some call this the “sugar season” which officially begins the day after Halloween and goes through New Years with many occasions to indulge in desserts, festive beverages and the like. If you want to reduce stress, sugar is one of the first things to cut out of your diet. When you’re stressed, your body releases more cortisol, a hormone responsible for helping us manage both stress and blood sugar levels. That’s because when you eat sugary foods, blood sugar levels spike, and the body must release more cortisol to balance blood sugar. The problem is that increased cortisol can also cause sleep issues, decreased immune response, headaches, and unhealthy food cravings. Additionally, rapidly fluctuating blood sugar levels cause feelings that are similar to stress, including anxiousness and fear.  By eliminating foods with added sugars—like pastries, flavored yogurt, and soda—and eating more whole foods, you’ll keep your blood sugar stable, boost your immune system and will have fewer mood swings, reduced stress, and a happier body Continue reading