Immune Support For Winter
This is the time of year that I start getting questions about immune system support for colds and flu season. It goes without saying that staying well in winter means minimizing stressful foods (sugar, white flour, alcohol, refined/processed/junk) and maximizing vegetables, fruits, and healthy protein and fat. Ditto on being reasonably active and taking periods of physical and emotional rest every day. Have a nice walk, and then go put your feet up and think
sweet thoughts for a bit. Now THAT's preventive medicine! Some additional thoughts:
If you do get sick, please do not go to work. The world will get by without you! It's just silly and nasty to expose your innocent colleagues to contagion. You do not get a gold star for being so dedicated to your job that you show up miserable; plus you'll be an underperformer. Just check out for a little while and get over it. (This is a pet peeve of mine, can you tell?)
Wash your hands frequently. Not possible to overdo this!
Vitamin D: There is an interesting hypothesis out there that flu season is less about viruses attacking us and more about reduced immune response from low Vitamin D levels. If we have not yet checked yours (via a simple blood test) let's get that handled soon – like, now.
Vitamin C: Lots of controversy right now over just how much Vitamin C we need. Depends, I think, on how you define "need" and under what circumstances. Many of us up our Vitamin C intake when we feel "something coming on." But don't be chugging orange juice to get there – the sugar load of OJ will suppress your immune system beyond the point that the Vitamin C can rescue you. Eat whole oranges or, even better, try kiwi, broccoli, or parsley for extra C. If you use a supplement, 500 mg up to 4 times a day for a short period is reasonable unless it gives you loose stools, then take less (duh).
Astragalus root: I am reading more and more impressive stuff about the immune-boosting power of this plant. Use preventatively in the form of a decoction (very strong tea) or take acutely as tincture or capsule. I like Gaia brand botanicals since they are well-made and standardized.
Therapeutic use of soup: My friend Robin was a big fan of this soup, which she claimed would nip a cold in the bud every time. There's a lot of information out now about the whole pH balance thing -- gotta say, I think the bottom line for achieving optimal acid-base balance is our old friend "eat more vegetables and less crap." But still – this is yummy, and if you're not going to work you might as well cook.
SUPER ALKALIZING NO-COLD SOUP
(Using organic vegetables, please!)
2 carrots with their greens
3 stalks celery including the leaves
2 cups beet or other greens
2 quarts clean water
2 cups red skinned potato peels
1 small zucchini
1 medium onion (and a clove of minced garlic if you like it)
Parsley – handful fresh or 2 teaspoons dry
Thyme – 3 sprigs fresh or 1 teaspoon dry
Chop all vegetables and greens into very fine pieces.
Place them in the water and bring to a boil with the lid on. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or more. Add sea salt to taste, strain and drink the broth. This soup gets better the longer you simmer it, and will accommodate other veggies (or beans) you might have on hand and want to toss in. Will keep for several days in the fridge, and can also be frozen for emergency use or giving to sick friends.
Probiotics: It's easy to forget that the largest portion of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. (I saw a bumper sticker that said "The road to health is paved with good intestines.") Keep yours happily populated with the beneficial bacteria that do the bulk of the work in there by taking a good quality probiotic supplement every day. My favorite is Metagenics' UltraFlora Plus, 2 capsules a day.
First Line Therapy® Update
Over 80 people have enrolled in the First Line Therapy® program at True North. I have to say, this is the most fun I've had as a clinician for quite a while. Delivering babies was the absolute best, but this is a close second. It is a complete thrill for me to support people of all shapes and sizes and inclinations to make powerful healthy lifestyle improvements. Seriously – it brings tears to my eyes sometimes.
In case you have not heard about it First Line Therapy® is a 12 week science-based program
for helping you develop better nutrition, activity, and relaxation habits. I've offered this program for two years now, and am in the process of compiling data on how participants have fared as a group, to complement the very powerful individual stories I can tell.
Most people lose weight on the program – but First Line Therapy® is really about getting healthy and letting any issues around weight take care of themselves. That said, if you have tried every diet on the planet and your weight has not budged, if you are tired or having hormone imbalance issues, if you have family health risk factors you'd like to modify or if you already have issues with insulin resistance/pre-diabetes, high cholesterol, or inflammation –
please, seriously consider this program and learn how to help yourself stay healthy for a lifetime. Your body knows exactly what to do if you give it the right building blocks.
There's a lot of information on our website, or call anytime and set up a free 15 minute appointment so we can talk. You can start anytime – whenever you feel ready. Kick off the New Year zestfully -- or maybe even give the program as a gift of love to someone special.
Great Books: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
I love good food and I love to read, so lately I am feeling deeply attracted to books about food, food production, food culture, and our food economy. When I heard that one of my favorite authors had written a book describing her family's experiment of eating only food that they grew themselves or obtained near their home FOR A WHOLE YEAR, I had to check it out. This book was a family project (passages are contributed by Kingsolver's husband and daughter) and
is completely fascinating. Made me really appreciate the wanton abundance of my local market – and also think twice about those items that traveled halfway around the globe to my kitchen. Nifty recipes, too.
I'm in the midst of an experiment that I expect will become standard procedure – offering you the option to communicate with me by email instead of by phone. There's a consent form to sign about what NOT to email about – so please no messages until you've done that. Be aware: I'm the only practitioner doing this so far. Next time you're in, expect to be invited to participate.
The Switch Hasn't Fired Me Yet!
I hope by now you've seen my monthly column about nutrition topics in The Maine Switch. Paper issues are available all over town and virtual ones are available online at www.themaineswitch.com. My column appears the fourth Thursday of the month.
Previous topics have included Vitamin D, Nutrition for PMS, What to Do with Tofu, What's Gluten and Why you Should Care, Magic of Mushrooms, Low-Glycemic Living, Artificial Sweeteners, and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Let me
know if you'd like copies of any of these. I'm having a ton of fun!
Gifts For Your Pregnant Friends!
The Pocket Midwife: Affirmations for Healthy Pregnancy and Normal Birthing (2003) $15.00
The Pocket Midwife is a hand-crafted spiral-bound book of 70 affirmations for pregnant women, devised to stand open on a table top for ready viewing. Now in its second printing, The Pocket Midwife has been endorsed by women's health expert Christiane Northrup MD, and also by Barbara Harper, author of the classic "Gentle Birth Choices." It's available in the True North Store and online at www.pocketmidwife.com.
Nurturing Baby and Me During Pregnancy (co-authored with Arlene Matthews (2006) $19.95
This is another book I'd like to get into the hands of every pregnant woman! It's a week-by-week guide for bonding with your baby and practicing relaxation for an entire pregnancy. It comes along with an excellent guided visualization CD. Purchase it online at www.bondingwithbaby.com, or through the American College of Nurse-Midwives (www.midwife.org.)
Be well, be happy, and enjoy the simple things that are so particularly precious at this time of year. Please be in touch if there's anything I can do to help you take good care of yourself – you're SO worth it!
To your best health,
Susan Fekety RN, MSN, CNM
Women's Health, Lifestyle Counseling