This article first appeared on Frank Lipman MD.
Inflammation – it’s the starting point for so many life-altering conditions and diseases. It’s also avoidable, yet every day millions of Americans prime themselves for health disasters – like cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many autoimmune diseases – by making choices that unwittingly promote chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is the result of an immune system imbalance. If we can redress that, we can cut the risk for the aforementioned long-term health problems and help ease many of the near-term low-grade ills – like skin disorders, joint pains, digestive problems, migraines, anxiety and mood swings – that many people experience as a result of inflammation.
One of the most common ways is via what we in the wellness community call ‘leaky gut syndrome,” triggered by alcohol, food sensitivities, certain medications, low grade gut infections and even chronic stress. These cause damage to the lining of the gut or the tight links between the cell wall, letting proteins and bits of bacteria into the bloodstream, setting off an inflammatory response throughout the body.
As grim as inflammation may be, there is some good news – which is that you have the power to stop it, and in so doing, protect yourself from a litany of health problems for years to come. Here’s my preventive prescription – 17 simple fixes to help you tame inflammation:
To me, sugar is public health enemy number one, the worst toxin we expose ourselves to daily on the conventional American diet. Ingesting it consistently sets you up for inflammation and lays the groundwork for every flavor of modern distress from cancer, diabetes and heart disease, dementia and depression, to infertility and acne and more.
Read the full article on Frank Lipman MD.
This article first appeared on Agriculture.
Soon, eating healthier foods might be prescribed by doctors to avoid chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
A recent study found that healthy food prescription would improve people’s health, which would be more economical in the long run. In the US, Medicare and Medicaid are covering these models of healthy food prescription. These health insurance groups made use of the data provided by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys for the computer simulation for sample representatives.
There were two scenarios studied. The first was coverage of 30% of fruit and vegetables while the other is covering the same amount but for a wider range of diet: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, seafood, and plant-based oil purchases. Both models were funded by the insurance groups mentioned above.
Read the full article on Agriculture here.
This article first appeared on Mind, Body Green.
Now more than ever, people are exercising for their mental health—which, needless to say, is incredible.
Too often we see exercise as something we do to boost our physical health, but the psychological effects of working out are unparalleled. Exercise can help combat depression, anxiety, stress, and improve nearly every process in our body. In his book Running Is My Therapy, Scott Douglas reflects on his journey as a runner, and details the profound, positive impact running has had on his mental health and psyche. Here, he explains how we too can use running to manage our mental health.
Any run is better than no run when it comes to short-term mood improvement or long-term help with depression and anxiety. But some runs are more effective than others. Here’s some brief guidance on how best to get a post-run boost.
Avoid all-or-nothing thinking—remember, the best run is the one you do.
Most studies find significant mood boosts after 30 minutes of running. Improvements in mood tend to last longer after longer runs. But a 20-minute run is much closer to a 90-minute run than it is to not running. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking about duration and distance, such as that a “real” run has to be at least 5 miles long or it’s not worth doing. The most important step on any day is the first one, the one that gets you out the door. On tough mental days, start your run with a flexible route that you can shorten or lengthen as feels best.
Run at whatever pace you need to.
Research has found the greatest increase in get-happy brain chemicals following moderate-intensity workouts. In running terms, that’s your basic getting-in-the-miles effort at a conversational pace. But there’s more to mood than brain chemical levels. Pushing yourself through a hard workout provides a needed sense of setting and accomplishing a goal. At the other end of the spectrum, give yourself permission to run as slowly as you want on especially tough mental days. Again, the most important thing about any one run is that it happens.
Run outside whenever possible, and pick interesting routes.
People usually report better mood improvement (more tranquillity, greater reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression) when running in natural settings compared with populated human-made environments. Of course, schedules and geography usually get in the way of regularly running through paradise. Choose visually interesting routes with minimal traffic as often as possible. When time allows, make an effort to run in beautiful settings for an above-and-beyond boost.
Have a designated running time that you can stick to.
Plan to run whenever you’re most likely to actually run most of the time. Many runners with depression and anxiety especially value morning runs because they set a positive tone and provide an example of success for the rest of the day.
Think about what you need from your run, and decide to go solo or with a friend.
Assuming you have options on whether to run solo or with others, opt for whichever setup feels right for the day. Running by yourself can work best when you need to think through an issue with the help of that special on-the-run clarity. A solo run before or after a hectic day will probably also be more calming. Run with others when you need a break from your internal monologue or would benefit from talking through things with trusted friends. And if you’re struggling to activate, schedule runs with others to increase the chances of getting out the door.
Regularly mixing up all of the above variables should keep your running more interesting, which will make consistently going for runs more likely, which will mean greater mental health benefits. Having runs of different length, intensity, and setting within each week also helps free you from the common thinking trap that all your days are the same.
Adapted and reprinted from Running Is My Therapy, by Scott Douglas. Running Is My Therapy is available wherever books and e-books are sold.
This article first appeared on Active Beat.
Most everyone likes to celebrate everything their mom does for them on Mother’s Day – so why not include the whole family in the festivities?
Sure, you could send mom off to a spa for some relaxation, but you could also round up the kids for some quality time together – after all, a lot of what moms do is for the love of family, so spending more time together is never a bad thing. Here are seven ideas for family-friendly Mother’s Day activities…
1. Make a Healthy Brunch Together
So maybe mom is still slumbering away on her special day, and that’s okay – you and the kids can take over this task. Health.com has a number of Mother’s Day brunch recipes that mom will surely appreciate, whether she helps prepare it or enjoys it in bed.
Some of the suggestions include cranberry citrus muffins, whole-wheat blueberry pancakes, melon salad, or a spinach and pear salad. There are also a few more “sinful” choices on the list, but you could save those as a dessert for later in the day.
2. Take a ‘Trip,’ and have a Picnic
Parents.com suggests rounding up some croissants and fruits (add more to the menu as you wish) and pretending you’re taking a family trip to Paris (or any city your heart desires).
You could put a checkered tablecloth for the dining room table to create that Parisian mood, or better yet, find a nice, peaceful spot outdoors where your kids can play while you enjoy the fruits of your labors. The source even suggests taking it a step further by teaching your kids a few basic French words and put on some music reminiscent of that country for added authenticity.
3. Plan a Scavenger Hunt
RealSimple.com says you can make Mother’s Day a bit more interesting by leading your mom around her favorite sites with a fun scavenger hunt. Each destination – “a coffee shop, a café for lunch, the spot in the park where she takes a morning run, or even under her pillow at home” – offers a note of appreciation from various family members.
Mom gets to enjoy all of her favorite places in the company of her family, and the kids get involved by writing notes about why they love and appreciate their mom. It’ll be something she can keep and look back on when the kids are older.
4. Make Art Together
What better way to express your feelings for mom than through art? SheKnows.com suggests have a family art party where each family member’s outline is traced onto wide paper (like butcher’s paper), and then everyone gets a chance to decorate them.
“Be creative: give yourself glittery hair, cut up old clothes and use the fabric to dress your portrait, cut images from magazines that represent things you like or admire or want to embody,” suggests the source. Or, you could have each member of the family choose someone to decorate, so you have their version of how they see you.
5. Go for a Hike or Walk Outdoors
Spending time together as family outdoors is special and educational. Getting fresh air, exploring the outdoors and feeling grounded will bring everyone together and is a great way to celebrate Mom.
Pack your bags, grab your walking sticks and make new memories together on your favorite trail – or find a new one and start a tradition.
6. Have a Lip-Synch Competition
Listening to music together as a family is great, but what if you take it to the next level on Mother’s Day – with a lip-synch competition! Have each family member pick his or her song of choice, and then perform it as the original singer would without making a sound.
This can also work for toddlers (mimicking their favorite children’s entertainers), notes Parents.com. You can cheer each other on and rate the performances based on how much each family member nailed the impression of the singer. Mom will end up winning no matter what the score is.
7. Plant a Garden Together
You may give your mom (or wife) flowers on Mother’s Day, but you can also get the kids involved and plant some flowers in the yard that will grow for years to come. Being outside and planting flowers is a great way to get fresh air while kids learn about gardening.
Better Homes & Gardens has some tips about creating a “winning garden” that incorporates elements for all ages (such as adding a sandbox for kids). Whatever you choose to put in your family garden, mom can remember her special day whenever she looks outside and sees the flowers in bloom.
This article first appeared on Wellness Mama.
Oh, seasonal allergies. They truly can make life miserable. The good news is, there are things we can do! Many people unnecessarily suffer from seasonal allergies when a few simple natural remedies can offer a lot of allergy relief.
Studies estimate that over 25% of the population suffers from allergic disorders and climate change theories suggest the problem is growing. Common allergen triggers include pollen from grass and trees, the fecal particles of dust mites, animal dander, certain foods, air pollution, beauty product ingredients, or even insect bites.
As prime allergy season approaches (at least in our area) I’m sharing the natural remedies that I use and work for us when needed. These won’t be as immediately effective as a medication, but over the long-term these methods have lessened my seasonal allergies greatly.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Here’s the deal:
Diet, strong gut health, and health overall can make a big difference when it comes to seasonal allergies because allergic response has everything to do with the immune system.
I like to describe the body as a bathtub. Every time anything enters our bodies — be it from our food, water, air, etc. — our body reacts. This is good and nature’s way of keeping the body in a state of balance (homeostasis).
At a certain point if too much goes into the bathtub, it’s going to overflow. Overloaded and overstimulated, the immune system responds to normally harmless substances as if against a harmful foreign invader.
How Allergy Symptoms Start
The conception that antibodies, which should protect against disease, are also responsible for disease, sounds at first absurd.
Clemens von Pirquet (1906)
Scientists have learned a lot about allergies since Clemens von Pirquet first coined the term.
Defined as “an abnormal adaptive immune response,” allergic disorders occur when the body responds to a usually harmless substance with an increase in IgE attached to mast cells in the body and Type 1 T helper cells (Th1). Reactions such as constriction of the bronchial tubes, mucus secretion, and increased vascular permeability may occur within minutes.
If the exposure exceeds the body’s first immune response, this reaction begins to trigger further activation of leukocytes and Type 2 T helper cells (Th2). This is a stronger immune response the body mounts to things like parasites and physical invaders. This manifests in different ways depending on the person’s genetics and where the body perceives the invasion. Symptoms may include:
- fatigue (sometimes extreme)
- hay fever (runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion)
- nasal drip
- digestive upset and nausea
- even anaphylaxis
When Allergies Become Chronic
With repeated exposure the inflammatory response becomes chronic. A 2008 journal article on the development of allergic inflammation explains this systemic allergic response as:
Persistent inflammation induced by prolonged or repetitive exposure to specific allergens, typically characterized not only by the presence of large numbers of innate and adaptive immune cells (in the form of leukocytes) at the affected site but also by substantial changes in the extracellular matrix and alterations in the number, phenotype and function of structural cells in the affected tissues.
In other words, the misery allergy sufferers feel is very real and more than a case of the sniffles!
Allergy testing may be helpful to determine triggers but typical treatment usually involves routinely taking an antihistimine or corticosteriod which can have undesirable side effects. There are two main ways to help stop allergies naturally:
- Limit exposure to possible allergens (like putting less in the bathtub)
- Support a strong healthy immune system (like increasing the size of our bathtub)
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies and Get Relief Naturally
We don’t suffer from many allergies anymore after our time on the GAPS diet, but I still occasionally get hit with an allergy attack from dust after cleaning though (a reason not to clean? I think yes!) and my hubby occasionally reacts to grass or pollen.
These simple natural remedies have been very effective for allergy relief in our family. Different people seem to benefit from different remedies depending on certain genetic factors and which allergens you are reacting to, so it might be worth trying more than one of these to see which works best for you.
I’ll start with simple suggestions and work up to solutions for more serious allergy problems.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an age old remedy that is often recommended for a variety of health conditions. I’ve personally used it for allergy relief (and heartburn relief) with great success. The theory is that its ability to reduce mucous production and cleanse the lymphatic system makes it useful for allergies. It is also said to help digestion, weight loss, and more so it is worth a try!
What I did: When allergies hit, I mixed a teaspoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with “The Mother” (that part is important) into a glass of water and drank this three times a day. “The Mother” is simply a colony of beneficial bacteria present in some organic and unfiltered ACV brands. Check the label, it should list if it contains it.
I use this brand but it is also quite simple to make your own. Apple cider vinegar helped me with relief of acute allergy symptoms and seemed to help avoid allergy attacks as well when I do it daily, so if you suffer from allergies at a certain time of year start well before.
2. Wash Your Nostrils
This remedy works by preventing the offending allergen (or at least as much of it) from entering your airways.
Shockingly the Neti Pot is one natural remedy I haven’t personally tried because I’m a big scaredy cat about pouring things in my nose. I have friends who swear by it and many health experts I trust tout its benefits. The basic theory is that you use a Neti Pot filled with a sterile saline solution to flush out the sinuses of allergens and irritations.
Surprisingly, I’ve heard this recommended by conventional and alternative doctors, and it seems that it doesn’t really have a downside. It is recommended to use previously boiled or distilled water, not water straight from the tap (because, parasites … I don’t really like to think about it!)
To use: Either use a pre-made saline rinse or make your own by dissolving 1 teaspoon of Himalayan or just plain sea salt in a quart of boiled distilled water. Cool completely. Put in the Neti Pot and pour through one nostril and let it drain out the other.
An option for Neti Pot sissies like me: I like this natural saline spray with xylitol for extra help with soothing inflammation and opening airways. We use it for one of our kids with large tonsils as well to help keep post-nasal drip and sore throats away.
To use: Spray saline into nostrils a few times a week or even daily for routine maintenance (whether or not you have symptoms).
Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid that is said to help stabilize mast cells to keep them from releasing histamine. It is also a potent antioxidant that is said to help reduce inflammation. It is best used as a long term remedy and many people start taking it about 4-6 weeks before allergy season to help prevent allergy symptoms.
As with any herb, you should check with your doctor before using, especially if you have a liver problem, are pregnant, or are on hormonal contraceptives.
To use: Though quercetin is naturally found in foods like citrus and broccoli, it is very difficult to get the amount needed to relive allergies from food alone. A supplemental dose from a quality source can be helpful for preventing allergies or helping acute symptoms. Start 4-6 weeks before allergy season for best results.
4. Nettle Leaf
Nettle leaf is another natural antihistamine that can be very effective as it naturally blocks the body’s ability to produce histamine. It grows in many places and can be made in to a tincture or tea, but for allergy relief, capsules made from dried nettle leaves are the easiest and most effective option.
Nettle leaf can also be used in combination with other herbs to make a soothing herbal tea for allergy relief. It is often mixed with peppermint leaf and sometimes red raspberry leaf to make a refreshing allergy relief tea. Mommypotamus also has some great info about how nettle tea is one of the most effective and easy to nourish the liver and reduce histamine response.
What I do: I often include nettle in homemade herbal tea during allergy season (recipe at the bottom of this post) and use capsules for acute relief of allergy symptoms.
Allergies are the result of an imbalance in the immune system that causes the body to react too strongly to a stimuli. Many studies link the presence of beneficial bacteria in the gut with reduced incidence of allergies.
Evidence is even emerging that a mother’s gut bacteria during pregnancy and nursing can impact a child’s likelihood of getting allergies throughout life, as can exposure to overly sterile environments.
While we can’t do much about our mothers’ diets while they were pregnant, balancing gut bacteria now and consuming enough beneficial bacteria can have a positive effect on allergies now.
What I do: I make sure we consume a varied diet that includes plenty of fermented foods and drinks which can help boost gut bacteria. We also take a high quality probiotic capsule.
6. Local Honey
There isn’t much scientific evidence to back this one, but there seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence from people who have tried it. (Even Mark Sisson weighed in on the subject here). The theory is that consuming local honey from where you live will help your body adapt to the allergens in the environment there. This is supposed to work like a natural allergy “shot” and doesn’t seem to have a downside.
What I do: Consume a teaspoon or more of raw, unprocessed local honey from as close to where you actually live as possible. Do this one or more times a day to help relieve symptoms. It is often suggested to start this a month or so before allergy season.
7. Anti-inflammatory Foods
Foods, teas, and spices with known anti-inflammatory benefits may play a role in reducing unpleasant allergy symptoms. A 2016 study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that ginger given orally to mice reduced sneezing and congestion as well as lowered mast cell response. Green tea shows similar effects.
What I do: Serve plenty of herbs and spices with meals, as well as green and herbal teas. Also combine three of these tips in one by making this Ginger Switchel drink.
8. Diet Changes
If all else fails, sometimes dietary changes can be the answer to allergy problems. Lots of healing bone broth and conducting an elimination diet are good places to start.
After our experience, I’d definitely encourage this as an option, especially for severe allergies or those in need of gut healing/rebalancing.
What we did: We followed the GAPS diet for several months and had success improving our seasonal allergies and even healing some rather severe food allergies in one of our children.
9. Gut Testing
If you truly suffer with allergies and suspect a comprised gut at the bottom of it, consider getting testing to get clear picture of what is going on in your gut and how to fix it.
Yes, this literally means mailing poop to a lab but I learned so much from this test and still continue to benefit from knowing specific ways to improve my individual gut. Advances in at-home testing mean you don’t need to go to a doctor or a lab.
What I use: Viome is the company I use and trust. See the results of my gut health test here.
- Furrie E. Probiotics and allergy. Proc Nutr Soc. 2005;64(4):465-9.
- Galli, S. J., Tsai, M., & Piliponsky, A. M. (2008). The development of allergic inflammation. Nature, 454(7203), 445–454, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573758/
- Kawamoto Y, Ueno Y, Nakahashi E, et al. Prevention of allergic rhinitis by ginger and the molecular basis of immunosuppression by 6-gingerol through T cell inactivation. J Nutr Biochem. 2016;27:112-22.
- Tyurin YA, Lissovskaya SA, Fassahov RS, et al. Cytokine Profile of Patients with Allergic Rhinitis Caused by Pollen, Mite, and Microbial Allergen Sensitization. J Immunol Res. 2017;2017:3054217.
- Wallace DV, Dykewicz MS, Oppenheimer J, Portnoy JM, Lang DM. Pharmacologic Treatment of Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis: Synopsis of Guidance From the 2017 Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters. Ann Intern Med. 2017;167(12):876-881.
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