Friday, December 31, 2010

Hangover Helper

    By Mary Oleksowicz, M.S.T.O.M. , L.Ac.

  Of course the best cure for a hangover , is not to consume more alcohol then your body can digest. Factors that can influence your ability to process alcohol includes body structure, tolerance levels and the type of alcohol consumed. Many people do not realize that the liver can only process one alcoholic beverage per hour . This would mean that ideally your body can process one twelve ounce can of beer, one 6 ounce glass of wine or one shot of hard liquor per hour. However, during the course of a party it is often difficult to keep track of the amount of alcohol consumed. The brain tends to become less inhibited as we consume alcohol and in a social atmosphere it can become easy to have " just one more " if our inhibitions are already lowered. Additionally , fruity mixed drinks can contain several shots of liquor at a time and thus a single drink may contain enough alcohol for three to four hours of safe alcohol consumption . Alternating alcoholic drinks with non alcoholic beverages such as water or seltzer can help reduce some of the effects of alcohol consumption .

     Many of the negative effects associated with hangovers can alo be reduced. Headaches which are one of the primary signs of a hangover are often caused by dehydration . This dehydration is a two-tiered side effect. The body works rapidly to excrete alcohol as it is seen as toxic. Water from the cells is used to dilute the alcohol and increase urination so that the "poison" is excreted. Dehydration also occurs during alcohol consumption due to the lack of water intake. The replacement of water with alcoholic beverages decreases the available water for re-hydration thus leading to headaches. Alternating alcoholic beverages with water can help limit this side effect.
By-products of  alcoholic fermentation also called congeners, exaggerate many of the hangover symptoms; this probably accounts for the reduction  of hangover symptoms when distilled alcohol, particularly vodka, is consumed instead. A 2009 study provided evidence that darker-coloured liquors, such as bourbon, cause worse hangovers than lighter-coloured liquors, such as vodka. The higher amount of congeners found in darker liquors compared to lighter ones was indicated as the cause. A solution to this reaction is to restrict intake of darker liquors.

     While there are many precautions that we can take to prevent hangovers, the reality is that many people have to look for a remedy. Water is still a wonderful option and ending the evening with a tall glass of water can be helpful for re-hydrating. Use of ibuprofen based pain relievers rather then acetaminophen based products such as Tylenol is recommended. Acetaminophen is metabolized by the liver and thus avoiding use when the liver is already taxed from detoxifying the body is recommended. Fluids that contain electrolytes should also be encouraged. Electrolytes can be lost due to excess urination or vomiting. Products such as Gatorade may contain large amounts of sugar, so I recommend using an effervescent Vitamin C powder . Products such as Emergen-C contain not only water soluble vitamins that may have been lost but also electrolytes to re-balance the system. Avoid additional alcohol as the "hair of the dog ", will only further exacerbate symptoms. Also avoiding foods with high sodium content is recommended as more water will be leached from the body. As with any medical recommendations, please consult your physician before using any of the above solutions.

In conclusion , moderation or abstinence as prevention is best. I wish you a happy, healthy and safe start to the New Year !


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Halcyon Days

By Mary Oleksowicz, M. S.T. O. M., L.Ac.

      Halcyon days is a term that usually indicates a time of nostalgia and serenity. While liberally used during the course of the  year , reviewing the origin of the word, we can see that the term is most accurately used during the winter holiday season. The roots of the term are found within a lesser known Greek myth.

     The lovely Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind. When her husband, Ceyx died in a shipwreck, Alcyone threw herself into the sea in devastation.Seeing Alcyone’s devotion,  the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds also known as kingfishers.When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves threatened to destroy it. Aeolus restrained his winds and made the waves calm during seven days before and  after the winter solstice  each year, so Alcyone could lay her eggs. These days became known as the "halcyon days",  a time of year when storms never occur.

      During the course of the recent post Christmas blizzard that doused nearly two feet of snow  on my home, I laughed at this traditional thought of a storm less seven day period post-winter solstice.Obviously, Mother Nature missed a memo or ole’  Aeolus was miffed at his daughter.

     The year preceding the holidays always has it’s share of storms to be weathered, from sick children to impending deadlines, there is always something on the horizon. I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as my “down time”. We obviously can not control the weather ,  the blizzard proved this. However, I did want to find a way to create a sedate and even nostalgic home environment amidst the holiday chaos. The children and I have spent time with the grandparents sharing stories of time past as well as creating new memories. Last night, even the older children squished in the master bed in order to watch a family classic in our “jamas” right before going to sleep.

      Developing personal “Halcyon” time has been a bit of a challenge. However, I have found time to enjoy a leisurely morning, drinking  tea while watching woodpeckers from my kitchen window. Later this week , I will read a few chapters from my new book while preparing a New Year’s feast. While not extravagant , the joy of being able to be home in a house filled with people and giggles truly is serenity.

     I wish you all respite from the storms, warm memories and personal serenity in these remaining halcyon days.
Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in China

By Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor, Health and Wellness Program,
School of Health Sciences, Kaplan University

(I teach HW210 - Complementary and Alternative Medicine,
which includes Chinese Medicine and holistic health and wellness philosophies and practices)

 Christmas decorations at the Guangzhou Holiday Inn
Note that the decorations were throughout the hotel, and also found in 
all other hotels with Western guests in several cities across China

 Christmas in a Guangzhou, China shopping district

Odd as it may seem, Christmas is a HUGE holiday in China.  I saw every bit as many Christmas decorations as in the US.  And this is not just in tourist areas.  There may be even more Christmas music heard at restaurants, hotels, malls and shops compared to the US.  Indeed, most of our US Christmas decorations are made in China, but it was amazing to see how many of them remain there!  The experience was the same in various parts of China (I visited Beijing, Guangzhou and Dalian), so I know that it is not just a localized phenomenon.  Many restaurants, especially upscale restaurants and those in tourist areas, are resplendent in Christmas decorations and the wait staff often wears red elf costumes, including hats.  Of course, the hats are may be more popular because restaurants are often more drafty in China than in the US.

But what does Christmas mean in China?  Christmas is primarily a commercial winter holiday.  Red being a most auspicious color in Chinese culture probably helped this tradition to be imported in the People's Republic of China.  It also helps that all things American, European and English are treated with interest in China.  English is literally a second language there, with street signs, building markers and advertisements generally provided with English translations.

Walking down the street in Guangzhou, I encountered two Chinese young adults handing out pamphlets promoting a business that helps Chinese students learn English.  It said "English perfects you.  The better your English, the better your life."  Indeed, English skills are promoted at all grade levels, often on a mandatory basis in China.  There are more and more college programs where the content courses are taught in English.  So, Christmas seems to fit right in, although not as a religious holiday (is it still considered a religious holiday in the US?)

China was not in need of a family holiday during the winter.  They already have their "Spring Festival" which includes the Chinese New Year in February.  During Spring Festival, people return to their families, generally with gifts.  Migrant workers in cities flock home to the countryside by the tens of millions, perhaps the largest calendar-driven migration on this planet.  But, entrepreneurs are always in need of more business, so the commercial aspects of Christmas are dominant in China, as well as the US.

One particular aspect of marketing Christmas in China has romantic overtones, something like our Valentine's Day, I've been told.  Romantic meals at a restaurant and treatments at spas are popular themes. The theme of "Red" may be particularly attractive to Chinese, who favor the color but tend to dress quite modestly both in tone and exposure.  Perhaps the red Santa hats are also fun to wear!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Observations on Health and Wellness In China

By Earon Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor, Health and Wellness Program
School of Health Sciences, Kaplan Univertity

Photo of Martha Foster and Earon Davis at a new Buddhist Temple in China
Photo by Li Rujian in Dalian, China

As the China Southern Airlines plane was preparing to land in Guangzhou, the "short film" was not what one might expect in the West.  It was an instructional in self-care, specifically self massage and stretching to help prepare the body and mind after the flight.  The tone was mellow and slightly spiritual, reflecting the culture of China, the deeply engrained connections to Chinese Medicine which may be more apparent to a westerner than to the average Chinese person.

Indeed, during my earlier 13 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing, I had noticed two people who appeared to be Chinese unobtrusively performing some typical Chinese stretches and tapping their kidney areas.  During my stays in China, I have been quite impressed by the Taoist modesty of the Chinese people as well as the Confucian sense of organization, values for working towards the common good, and tolerance for bureaucracy.  I have been constantly aware of the connections between food and health, from the absence of cold water for drinking and the presence of the freshest of food ingredients and of specific foods prepared for their health and wellness propeties for a given location and weather.  In a previous trip, we had enjoyed Goji Berries prepared in local dishes, fresh, of course.

It almost seems axiomatic in the US that Communism has destroyed Chinese culture and replaced it with a robot-like race of government-directed automatons exhibiting politically correct beliefs and robot-like conformity.  Well, to this traveler, nothing could be further from the truth.  Chinese culture has maintained Chinese Medicine, herbs, tui-na and even Chi Gong.  It has preserved the focus on fresh foods and their medicinal properties.  And, what I found most surprising, perhaps, is that Buddhism continues to be a vital and vibrant practice in China.  In my opinion, individualism very strong in China.  Each person has their own tastes and style, just like the US.  The stereotypic images of the Cultural Revolution long ago lost relevance for today's China, although they seem to linger in the poorly-informed US.  Now, the Chinese government and people must find balance as the very forces of greed and gridlocked oligarchy (sound familiar?) that inspired the toppling of the ancient dynasties and the 1949 revolution have been unleashed by the gradual economic and political reforms that have catapulted China to a leadership position in the global economy.

It is difficult to know where all of these changes will lead, and where the government of the People's Republic of China will draw "lines in the sand" and where it will continue with its philosophy of "bend but do not break."  Is it anti-American to think that the Communist Party in China seems to operate in a classically Chinese manner that honors the flow of yin and yang energies?  China is a vast laboratory of change at this time.  The "one child" policy has been fine-tuned to allow couples who were both "only children" to have two children.  It has for many years allowed rural and minority couples to have two children.  Yet, what we hear in the West tends to be the worst about China.  We hear about government repression and lack of democracy, while ignoring the changes that have brought China growth and prosperity.

As China develops and prospers, it is at risk for leaving behind the old ways.  This may be good regarding economic and political freedom, but the West has not fared well in the realms of spirituality, mental health/happiness and health and wellness.  China has a stronger tradition of balance and wisdom.  Hopefully, it will not embrace the high-stress, poor nutrition lifestyles of the West.  Hopefully, capitalism will not destroy what communism could not.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Health and Wellness Observations About China

From Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCBTMB
Adjunct Professor, Health and Wellness Program
School of Health Sciences, Kaplan University

Martha Foster and Earon Davis at the Great Wall of China

Hello!  I'm Earon Davis and this blog entry is immediately upon my return from 3 weeks in China with my fiancee, Martha Foster.  Martha led a delegation for the American Documentary Showcase on a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and organized through our Embassy in China.  This was my second trip to China, and Martha's 6th.  I traveled to the cities of Guangzhou, Beijing and Dalian, and Martha traveled to Nanjing, in addition.  One of the highlights of our trip was getting to experience The Great Wall of China.

So, what can I say about health and wellness in China?  Obviously, China is changing rapidly and it is difficult to make generalizations about anything.  However, the traditional culture of China, in my opinion, is far deeper than most Americans realize.  In China, food and food preparation are taken far more seriously than in the US.  The highest value in China is for food to be prepared fresh and whole.  Foods are seen as medicine, both in general terms and with specific herbs used very consciously.  Minimal processing of food, here, although MSG is seen simply as a flavoring agent rather than a health hazard.

Cigarette smoking, unfortunately, continues to be far more common than in the US, although definitely on the decline in the cities.  Generally, it is the men who smoke, and it may be more common in the North of China, and rural areas although I really don't have statistics.  There are, in the more "western" hotels, non-smoking areas and non-smoking rooms.  This sign appears in the Beijing Airport, and many public buildings in China.  There may be a general law against smoking in buildings, but I'm not sure.  In China, one sees "policy" rather than "law."  This may be related to old values from Confucian and Taoist teachings that too many laws create disobedience and thus undermine the smooth functioning of the social order.  Something to think about, perhaps.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Tuesday the 21st is the Winter Solstice.  More specifically, at 6:38 pm EST. This moment, where the earth is farthest away from the sun is a turning point, to midwinter and the gradual lengthening of days as we begin the journey back towards the sun.

Celebrations of Winter Solstice have been traced back thousands of years, and linked to many different cultures.  While somewhere along the way we seem to have lost the connection of celebrating seasonal change, more and more people are seeing the value of including this day in their holiday rituals.  There is something so unifying in observing a day that is celebrated all over the world, no matter what country, culture, or religion you identify with.

There are many simple ways to observe this day.  For my family, Solstice means eating dinner by candlelight to appreciate this shortest night of the year,  then lighting a fire to symbolize the light that we are returning to.  I love throwing some evergreen herbs such as fir, pine, rosemary, and thyme into the fire to fill the house with delicious scents as well. One added bonus this year is that Winter Solstice falls on a total lunar eclipse!

For my yoga students, it means doing a whole lot of sun salutations!  Yogis traditionally go through 108 sun salutations at both summer and winter solstice.  The purpose is to simply create awareness and celebrate the natural cycles of the earth that each of us rely so heavily upon.  And nothing brings awareness (even exhausted awareness) like 108 sun salutations!  Sort of a meditation in motion.  Of course, any amount of sun salutations will do, as long as the intention is there.

How do you celebrate this season (whether it's Solstice or just the Winter season)?

Rituals and traditions are building blocks for strong and happy families; instilling values and creating a sense of family identity.  So no matter what traditions you choose to celebrate this season I wish you much health, wellness, and happiness in the coming year.


Kristin Henningsen, MS, RYT
Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Stress Busters

If you are anything like me, you've been busy checking off lists the past few weeks.  Workshop prepped?  Check.  Holiday Cards? Check.  Cookies made?  Check.  Gifts made?  Well….Let's just say I'm still working  on that one!

Let's face it; the holidays can lead to well…unholiday-like behavior.  Instead of that joyous feeling of community and giving, this time of year is especially stressful and full of responsibility.  This increased stress can lead to sickness, bad eating habits, and just plain Grinch-like behavior.  I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me fight holiday stress, and I thought I'd share them with you here.

1. Breathe!
    Simply put there is no better way to reduce stress and bring yourself into the
            present moment.  When you feel anxiety arise, try this exercise to calm your
    -Begin by exhaling completely.  The, inhale to a count of 4.
    -Hold for a moment
    -Then, exhale to a count of six.  Repeat cycle as needed. (Especially helpful when waiting in line). :)

2.  Exercise
    While it may seem like you don't have a moment to spare, taking the time to
    nourish your body with some movement can really help in the long run.  If  you're a runner, go for   
   a run.  If you like to swim laps, make sure to make space for that in your day.  Exercise often leads 
   to  more awareness of what is happening in our bodies, so you may be less inclined to go for             
   second helpings of Aunt Trudy's Chocolate Peppermint Cake.

    If you like a more gentle practice, try some restorative yoga postures to help release tense muscles. 
    Here's one that can take as little or as long as you would like.

 -Basic Relaxation Pose
       1. Lie back on a yoga mat or soft surface, arms at your side, palms facing the sky.  Let your
            feet roll outward.
       2. Close your eyes
       3. Inhale deeply, then exhale completely
       4. Let your body softly sink into the earth
       5. Slowly go through your body, noticing tension present from your head
            all the way to your toes. 
       6.  Breathe into any tension present, then let it go with exhalation
       7. Stay here as log as you like and enjoy!

3. Supplement
    Stress can tax the body and invite sickness.  It also depletes your stores of
    Vitamin C.  Consider supplementing with this important Vitamin to boost
    immunity and increase energy levels.

    Herbal supplements are also a great option.  Echinacea Root, a well known
    immune booster, can be found in pill, tincture, or whole herb form.  Check out your nearest health
   food store or pharmacy and see what they carry.  It could save you from needing to add "Beat a
   cold" from your list of things to do. 

And remember, we often choose just how crazy our holidays are going to be.  Try to simplify (less parties, less gifts) and you will be in for a much more relaxing, enjoyable holiday.

Keep Breathing!
Kristin Henningsen, MS, CH, RYT


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Handmade Holidays

This past weekend I hosted an herbal holiday gift making workshop.  A bit complicated  to say, but simple in concept.  Over herbal tea and scones, participants learned how to make soap, create tea blends, and make bath salts.  Then armed with recipes and supplies, they created herbal gifts for others (or themselves!).  Peppermint, lavender, and laughter flowed freely.

More and more people are turning to handmade gifts this holiday season.  Whether it is from the current economic climate, a greener conscience, or a brilliant burst of creativity, the trend is certainly catching on.  Handmade gifts are a great way to show simple appreciation for the ones you love.  And I'll tell you a secret, it doesn't have to be time consuming! 

I've shared a few herbal recipes below that make quick and easy gifts. 
  • Muscle Ease Bath Salt
    1/2 cup Sea Salt                  1/2 cup Baking Soda
    1/2 cup Epsom Salt             20 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
    15 drops Lavender Essential Oil
    5 drops Rosemary Essential Oil

    ~Mix all ingredients well.  Add to bath by tablespoons to desired strength.

  •      Dreamy Bath Salt Blend
    1/2 cup Sea Salt              1/2 cup Baking Soda
    1/2 cup Epsom Salt         5 drops each of Rose, Chamomile,  Lavender, and Jasmine Essential Oil

    ~Mix all ingredients well.  Add to bath by tablespoons to desired strength.

  •    FairyTale Tea
        1/2 cup Raspberry Leaf                             1/2 cup Lemon Balm
                      1/2 cup Chamomile                     1/4 cup Peppermint
                      1/4 cup Spearmint                        1/4 cup Rose hips
                      1/4 cup Lavender   

            ~Blend all ingredients together for a delicious and fragrant tea  blend
              *yields 20 oz.

  •     Minty Magic Tea
    2 cups Peppermint        1 cup Spearmint
    1/4 cup Lemon Balm

    ~Blend ingredients together for an uplifting and refreshing tea blend
    *Yields 20 oz.

You can store Bath Salts and Tea in simple Ball Mason Jars (or any interesting jar you find!).  Hot glue pretty paper onto the jar for a label, tie a ribbon around the top, and you have a beautiful homemade gift for your family or friends. 

Make sure to make one for yourself as well! :)

Have fun!
Kristin Henningsen M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mediterranean Diet

For some reason, the word has not gotten out. Research has shown that the Mediterranean diet is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, reduced incidence of cancer, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Books have been written, articles posted, in fact, the Harvard School for Public Health announced via a press release in 2003 that the Mediterranean diet promotes longevity, and yet for some reason when-ever I mention the Mediterranean diet—no-one knows what I am talking about!

Let me explain…

In the late 1990’s, researcher Ancel keys and a group of scientists set out to examine diet and disease patterns around the world. The end result of their studies: The traditional diet of the people in the Mediterranean is a major factor in their good health, longevity, and general lack of chronic disease. In short, it is one of the most healthful diets in the world.

Hopefully, you are asking yourself what do they eat?! The Mediterranean diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains—but one of the biggest differences between the American diet and the Mediterranean is this: types of fat consumed. Americans tend to eat a fair amount of saturated fat from meat and dairy, for the people of the Mediterranean—olive oil is the primary fat consumed.

Take a look at these images to compare the differences…

Mediterranean diet pyramid:

USDA Food Pyramid:

As you can see, the biggest differences are the addition of olive oil (it gets its own section!), red meats have been pushed up to the “use sparingly” tip in the Mediterranean pyramid, and legumes and nuts get their own section as well.

Not sure what to do? Confused about which food pyramid to follow? In this case, try the Harvard School of Public Health "Healthy Eating Pyramid":

Can you see the similarities between it and the Mediterranean diet pyramid? Here’s an excerpt and link about Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid:

“We can’t look at a pyramid these days without thinking of food and healthy eating. There was the U.S. government’s Food Guide Pyramid, followed by its replacement, My Pyramid, which was basically the same thing, just pitched on its side. The problem was that these efforts, while generally well intentioned, have been quite flawed at actually showing people what makes up a healthy diet. Why? Their recommendations have often been based on out-of-date science and influenced by people with business interests in their messages. But, there’s a better alternative: the Healthy Eating Pyramid, built by the faculty in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.”

Read more about how to follow the Healthy Eating Pyramid:

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Sunday, December 12, 2010

Supplements versus whole foods

I was at a friend’s house several years ago, we had just finished eating burritos form the local taqueria, and I was watching him take his daily regime of vitamins. As he was swallowing them, he asked me if taking vitamins was a decent replacement for eating veggies. Why eat vegetables if one can simply take the nutrients they offer in a capsule or pill form? At the time, I was stumped. On a gut level I felt that vegetables must have an advantage over supplements, yet I was still a student at the time and didn’t have an answer. Now that many years have passed, I have compiled plenty of reasons why one should go for the veggies over the supps. Here are a couple of important things one could miss out on…


Fiber plays a crucial role in health due to its ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels. It also aids in the prevention of colon cancer, constipation and obesity.

Soluble fiber forms a gel within the gut allowing for delayed stomach emptying. This is beneficial as it results in the sensation of fullness and decreased appetite. Delayed stomach emptying also slows the absorption of carbohydrates, reducing after meal blood sugar spikes and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber also lowers cholesterol. Fiber binds with cholesterol-containing bile acids. Fiber isn't absorbed and exits the body with the bile acids, dramatically lowering cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber also plays an important role as it not only prevents constipation, but also aids in the prevention of colon cancer, diverticulosis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The average American consumes less than 15 grams of fiber a day. The ideal consumption of fiber is at least 25 grams a day. Consider this interesting tidbit: Our Paleolithic ancestors consumed an average of 100-150 grams of fiber a day!


Phytochemicals is a term used to describe a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. They are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and other plants.

Many thousands of phytochemicals have been identified (there are 10,000 different kinds in tomatoes alone), however, only a few have been studied closely. We have yet to identify the full range of benefits we obtain form them, but it is known that some phytochemicals have antioxidant actions while others have hormone-like actions. Here is an excerpt and link for the USDA’s National Agricultural library website describing phytochemicals:

“Known phytochemicals have a broad range of protective benefits -- from reducing inflammation, to speeding healing, to preventing infection, to curbing cancer. Phytochemicals are not essential to humans -- i.e. not required by the body to sustain life -- but they are essential to plants, such as fruit and vegetables. Phytochemicals are plants' self-protection program: they help shield young buds and sprouts from predators, pollution, the elements, etc. When we eat fruit and vegetables containing phytochemicals, they pass along to us many of these evolved protective benefits.

Some phytochemicals are plant pigments, lending their vivid hues -- red, orange, blue, purple -- to various fruit and vegetables. Many phytochemicals are antioxidants with lycopene, quercetin and beta-carotene being some of the better-known examples. Phytochemicals also include plant enzymes (such as pineapple's bromelain), phytoestrogens - which mimic human hormones (such as soy isoflavones) and glucosinolates which activate our own detoxifying enzymes (such as sulforaphane in cabbage).”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that supplements don’t have their place—what I am saying is look to whole foods first. You don’t want to miss out on the additional benefits found in whole foods :).

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Kaplan School of Health Sciences
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My favorite home remedies for the common cold

I have to admit I’m a bit of a germ freak. Public outings are a dreaded task during the cold and flu season. Shopping can be particularly frightening. In my mind’s eye every item I pick up to place in my cart is covered in cold germs. As I wheel my cart down those isles and I hear my fellow shoppers cough, sneeze, and blow their noses—I cringe and wish for a germless escape. Needless to say, I wash my hands as soon as I make it through the door of my home. I realize that all of this may sound a bit over the top—but simply put, I hate being sick. Due to this aversion to the common cold, I have made it my hobby to find what tricks work best when fighting a cold. Here are my favorites:
First, the basics…
Build your immune system. The best way to fight colds is to be well-prepared before contact with cold germs. The key to a strong immune system is to eat nutritiously. Vitamins such as A, C and the B-vits, and minerals such as iron, zinc, and selenium are crucial components of many immune cell reactions. For this reason, one must eat a diet plentiful in veggies and fruits year-round. One more dietary rule: Simple sugars impair immune function—avoid them like the plague.
Rest. Our immune systems work best when we are in a relaxed state (under the influence of the parasympathetic nervous system). In fact, our immune systems are working in their greatest capacity when we sleep. Make rest a priority.
Liquids.  Our bodies are about 60% water. Water transports molecules, cells, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the tissues of our bodies. Give the nutrients you ingested and your immune cells a chance to circulate! Drink plenty of water, brothy soups, and herb teas.
A few tricks up my sleeve…
Garlic. Garlic is an excellent remedy for viruses such as the common cold as it has been shown to have antiviral activity, decrease recovery time and symptoms, and enhance the immune system’s ability to fight off a cold. Crush or chop a clove of garlic and place it in a cup of warm water. Let steep for 5 minutes before consuming.
Shitake mushrooms. Besides having immune enhancing properties, shitake mushrooms have anti-viral action as well. Add them to your diet—they are great in omelets and salads.
One last important tip…
 Avoid exposure. Wash your hands frequently!

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

Don't be a Debbie Downer... How to Stay Happy!

Don't be a Debbie Downer... How to Stay Happy!
by Dr. Nina La, D.C., L.Ac.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Allied staff, Tri-City Regional Medical Center, Integrated Wellness Centers
This is my last post for the year... weeeee!!! ... until next year! =)  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the Kaplan Health and Wellness blog, and I hope to continue to contribute for a long time to come!

With that said, as we are approaching the end of the year, we tend to sit back and think about our resolutions.  Why is it that we have to have new resolutions every year?  That's a thought to ponder =).  For me, my yearly resolution involves (at the top of my list), to become (or remain) happy.  What is it that I see on the Hellcats the television show trailer every now and then--"positive outcome only!"  I know, I'm a bit annoyed at myself for remembering such a silly phrase, too, but when time goes downhill (everybody has a bad day sometimes!), a positive attitude is what keeps me going!  And I would like to share a few tips on how you can stay positive too! =)

First Tip:  Smile!  If I haven't stressed that enough in my previous posts, now you know my true number 1 secret for staying happy, healthy and young (not to say that I am--haha! just kidding! =) ).  When I was in the sixth grade (millenium ago!), I faintly remember a teacher telling me that if I stretch my face into a smile-like position, then I will be happy.  Honestly, it works!  Our body is conditioned so well, by observations and by many many years of experience, that stretching the corners of your mouth by contracting mainly the risorius muscles, it is a pleasurable stimulus which calls for a positive reaction--feeling happier!  So when there are days when I am extremely stressed out, and when I feel like I cannot go through the day, I just hold my head high and contract those risorius muscles!  Try it!  It works!

Second Tip: Reward yourself!  To keep for over-exhausting your body mentally and physically, remember to reward yourself!  Did a good deed?  Reward yourself!  Passed a test?  Reward yourself!  Just landed a job?  Definitely reward yourself!  Overslept in bed and missed your class? ... maybe not.  But you get the idea =).  You will definitely condition yourself toward striving to always do better and better yet, be better.  A lot of people define success as having different things--more money, more houses, more cars, more wives (hehe)--but I personally find that happiness is the biggest success in my life.  How you will achieve that?  Try to smile.  If that doesn't work, I can't help you there =).

Third Tip: Have a sense of humor!  I have a pretty dry sense of humor, but I'm always striving to learn to be more relaxed and take things less seriously.  With that said, I need to learn from this advice as much or perhaps more than you do =).  But I would like to share my tip anyway.  I always respect those who can laugh at themselves and have a positive outlook in life.  That, to me, is success.  And even though I'm giving you tips here, I'm not a know-it-all and am definitely not perfect, but sharing is caring, so why not share my piece of my wisdom to you, right?

And so I end my post with a quote from Robert Frost.  He states, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."  Well said, Robert Frost! =)

Dr. Nina La is an acupuncturist on staff at Tri-City Regional Medical Center (Hospital). She is also a chiropractic physician and herbalist. She currently practices at Seal Beach and Hawaiian Gardens in Southern California. You can contact her at, or visit her website at
Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Secrets to Gym-less Exercises: Guide to Great Abs!

Holiday Secrets to Gym-less Exercises:
Guide to Great Abs!

by Dr. Nina La, D.C., L.Ac.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Allied staff, Tri-City Regional Medical Center, Integrated Wellness Centers
So I am feeling very generous recently, and now I am about to reveal to our readers my very own holiday secrets to 3 gym-less exercises to great abs that I teach my patients =). This will be my Christmas present to you, and hopefully  you will share it with your loved ones... it's the gift that keeps on giving! =)
Keep in mind that these are mostly isometric exercises ("same-length" exercises) that require you to contract the appropriate muscles, but without physically moving them through a distance (or at least moving them at a very discreet distance).
Secret Exercise #1: "The Shimmy" (aka "The Butt Squeeze"!)
Remember how your jaw dropped when you saw those amazing belly dancers shake their tootsies? That is called a shimmy, and trust me, it requires a lot of skill! But... (drum roll)... here's the secret: you can do it, too! Start by squeezing your gluteal muscles one side at a time, at first slowly, then, when you get used to it, you may squeeze them faster and faster. Eventually, you will surprise yourself... what you're doing is actually a shimmy! This exercise tones your hamstrings and tighten your gluts. You can shimmy your way while waiting at a bus stop or sitting in a restaurant! Nobody will know, but your toned gluts sure will thank you! =)

Secret Exercise #2: "Kegeling"
Talk about an exercise that nobody knows you're doing it! It's pretty simple to do and has great benefits! Remember that feeling that you want to go to the bathroom so badly, but there's a huge line waiting? What do you do? You squeeze and lift up your pelvic muscles, thus forcefully contracting the voluntary urethral opening. Yes, that is called a Kegel! Having a strong pelvic floor prevents incontinence down the line, and also tones your lower abs! So next time, when your friends comment on how nice  your lower abs looks, give them a sly look and show them how to Kegel! =)

Secret Exercise #3: The "Pelvic Tilt"
This is a modified pelvic tilt exercise that chiropractic physicians and physical therapists love to show their patients. All you have to do is imagine there's a finger poking right in the middle of your low back, and you want to poke back using only your low back. So contract your abs and push your low back backward to push that imaginary finger away. In fact, I usually encourage this exercise by actually tapping my finger on the patient's low back so they know exactly where to push! This is a great mobilization technique to tone your core muscles that will eventually lessen the stress on your low back. So what do you end up with? Great abs and a functioning and painless low back! =)

The Grand Slam: Put all 3 exercises together! You will be amazed that yes, you can do all those exercises at once, and yes, all those muscles can work at the same time! No, you won't look too silly doing it! =) If you start feeling sore in your abs, gluts or hamstrings while performing these exercises, you will know that it's working! So next time, when you happen to cross by someone on the street who gives you a sly smile--who knows, maybe that person has read this post and is performing Dr. La's grand slam exercises as we speak! (hee hee)

Lastly, I leave you with Oogway's wise words (from Kungfu Panda): "Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, (and) that is why it is called the 'present.'" Feel the inspiration! Be the inspiration! And most importantly, don't forget to smile! =)

Dr. Nina La is an acupuncturist on staff at Tri-City Regional Medical Center (Hospital). She is also a chiropractic physician and herbalist. She currently practices at Seal Beach and Hawaiian Gardens in Southern California. You can contact her at, or visit her website at
Saturday, December 4, 2010

THE PRICE OF BEAUTY... 3 inexpensive secrets you wish you had known for the holidays!

THE PRICE OF BEAUTY... 3 inexpensive secrets you wish you had known for the holidays!
by Dr. Nina La, D.C., L.Ac.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Allied staff, Tri-City Regional Medical Center, Integrated Wellness Centers

As Christmas is just around the corner, everybody wants to find the most cost-effective way to look beautiful. Nowadays, photoshoped images are emerging by the millions, which have been misleading women all over the world of what is considered beauty. How costly is the price of beauty? Let's explore 3 inexpensive secrets to beauty that you wish you had known, while saving you some greens! =)

Secret #1: Cosmetic Acupuncture

Instead of paying your dermatologists $1,500 for shots of Restylane and Botox, the NY Times recommends cosmetic acupuncture, which was popularized by the 2005 Academy Awards. For 10 sessions in five weeks (roughly $1,000) with monthly maintenance at about $105 a session, this seems to be a better and more natural deal for most. The theory behind this is that people carry a lot of tension in their faces due to stress, and by relaxing those muscles with acupuncture, the skin will be smoother with less wrinkles as a result. Not to be biased, but I actually do this in my practice, so I can attest that this works! =)

Secret #2: Facial Exercises

How would you feel if you walk into a class with a teacher making these types of facial expressions? Funny, isn't it? The above is actually an instructor of the newest hype of beauty "treatment" called Revita-Yoga. As reported by the NY Times, this six-session series help to stimulate 57 muscles in the face "to combat frown lines, wrinkles and sagging," costing at around $250 a class. The NY Times claimed that this is a bargin compared to the laser peel, which is about $600 per treatment. Does this work? You betcha! Try making funny faces and massaging your face every morning in the mirror! You will notice how great you feel for the rest of the day! =)

Secret #3: Smile!

Now if you don't have any greens to pamper yourself with cosmetic acupuncture treatment, or don't want to look silly in the streets making faces at passerbys, the most inexpensive beauty tip is... to smile! And smile a lot! The AZTeen Magazine suggests that smiling improves the immune system, relieves stress, and is inspiring to others! Let's face it, "it takes 26 muscles to smile and 62 muscles to frown." No wonder smiling feels so good, and smiley people live longer! =)

So if you ever feel down, just remember the wise William Shakespeare's saying, "a smile cures the wounding of a frown." Let's start feeling beautiful inside and out! Smile your heart out, and you'll look grrrrrreat (naturally!) without the pain of plasty surgery or botox! =)

P.S. You can click on the corresponding pictures to go straight to the original article from the NY Times or the AZTeen Magazine regarding these beauty tips.


Dr. Nina La is an acupuncturist on staff at Tri-City Regional Medical Center (Hospital). She is also a chiropractic physician and herbalist. She currently practices at Seal Beach and Hawaiian Gardens in Southern California. You can contact her at, or visit her website at
Friday, December 3, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Redone

Thanksgiving is over and depending on your level of indulgence you may already be worrying about holiday weight gain. You may also be feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list and looking for some smart ways to stay on track this season. Before the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, take stock of your current nutrition and exercise habits and get a plan. I have this quote on one of my computers that says “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint Exupery). So this post is going to be about getting a plan and a realistic one too. Although as side note I really wanted to do a version of the 12 days of Christmas but I wasn’t getting any brainstorms on that – maybe for next year.

So let’s talk strategies – simple things that can be done in terms of nutrition, physical activity, and behavior modification. Easy stuff you can start today. And in fact it would be great if you could incorporate one or two of these each week during the month of December so that by January you will have incorporated several new habits into your current lifestyle. It takes about 30 days to form a new habit which means you could end the year singing Auld Lange Syne celebrating your successes instead of saying things like: I plan to lose weight this year, join a gym, eat more vegetables, give up fast food, etc., etc. Why not resolve to make it to January 1 without any regrets and perhaps even a bit healthier than you are right now?

Here are my 12 strategies:
1. Use your Nog-gin
Beverages add a lot of calories this time of year. Did you know that a serving of egg nog is just ½ cup and about 170 calories? And who drinks just a half cup? A more typical serving is 8-10 ounces which will set you back about 4-5 miles of walking at a 3-4 mph pace. So save calories and drink more water!

2. Sit when you eat
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Sit when you eat. But I mean every time you eat so no noshing at the sink, while cooking, while going through the drive through, or while shopping. Sit at the table, light a candle, put the phone down, and simply eat.

3. Add an extra 30 minutes of physical activity to your day
If you aren’t active now then adding 30 minutes of activity a day is a great goal. If you are already active make an effort to add an extra walk to the beginning or the end of your day. If you walk at a 3-4 mph pace you could burn up to 1400 calories a week. Remember there are 3500 calories in a pound.

4. Go “halvies”
You could do nothing else on this list but simply cut all of your usual portions in half and you could lose weight. Of course you want those portions to be of healthy foods and not cheeseburgers and fries, but trust me this will work. You could also use this strategy for including your favorite holiday treats: just eat half your usual portion and since you will be walking an extra 30 minutes a day you can avoid the guilt.

5. Eat breakfast and pack your lunch
It’s true, it’s true. Eating a balanced breakfast has been proven over and over again in research to be one of the most effective strategies to maintaining your weight. Make it balanced with a portion of protein, a serving of fruit, and a serving of whole grain. And while you wait for your breakfast to cook, go ahead and pack your lunch and include one of the following: 1 serving of protein (1 string cheese; hard-boiled egg; 1 oz turkey; ½ cup beans, etc), 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of vegetable, and 1 serving of whole grain. All of this should add up to about 400-500 calories.

6. Rethink TV time
While I won’t be so bold as to suggest you give up TV entirely, I will suggest that you use it to try out that new exercise DVD you got Black Friday. There are thousands of fitness DVD’s available on just about every exercise imaginable. Why not trade in three 30 minute shows a week for three 30 minute sessions of a workout DVD?

7. Say cheese!
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that cheese is our top source of saturated fat in the diet. Consider reducing your intake, switching to low fat varieties, a soy or rice based cheese (no cholesterol or sat fat), or eliminating it all together.

8. “My dog ate my running shoes” and other excuses to ditch
Dump the barriers to active living and focus on solutions instead. You’ve heard it before and I will say it again: make yourself and your fitness a priority. Schedule your workout in your day planner and stick to your commitment as if it were an appointment and canceling would incur a service charge.

9. Bake savvy
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that grain based desserts are the single largest contributor to total calories in the American diet. If you have read any of my other posts then you know I love to bake – particularly muffins. But I make healthy ones so when you bake this season opt for whole wheat flour, applesauce or pureed plums or mashed banana instead of oil, egg whites instead of eggs, yogurt instead of sour cream, and less sugar. You can reduce the sugar in most recipes by up to 1/3 without any negative effects.

10. Buyer beware
Please don’t fall prey to the latest fad diet, weight loss supplement, or goofy exercise machine you saw on an infomercial. There are no tricks to a healthy lifestyle: moderation, balance, variety. Before you spend $20 on a bottle of diet pills send me an email.

11. Don’t take comfort in too much comfort food
Do you need to eat more when it is cold? While a tempting rationalization I am afraid that the answer is “no” if your daily routine doesn’t change. It is true that you burn extra calories to stay warm but only if you are shivering to do so. Now don’t go turning off the heat so you can burn a few extra calories, instead warm up with some homemade chili, herbal tea, or homemade soup.

12. Eat from the rainbow
Make it a goal to eat 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day. If you do that you can be certain that you will be getting an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals all of which are beneficial to long term health.

There are many more tips I could share but I think these should cover the bases and if implemented shouldn’t be too overwhelming and provide some great rewards. Let me know how it goes too!

By: Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty
School of Health Sciences

Pumpkin Muffins – Yum!

I have certainly been getting adequate vitamin A this fall since I have gotten back into baking. My mom sent me an easy pumpkin recipe a couple of weeks ago and I have already made 3 versions, each one turning out to be very tasty! Making muffins is one of my favorite things to do when it comes to cooking. But I can’t seem to make a recipe without modifying it to put my personal spin on it and then testing out several versions. So that is what I have been doing with this pumpkin recipe. All of the ingredients I have been using except for the baking soda, powder, and Splenda® are organic. I found organic canned pumpkin at Trader Joe’s for the reasonable price of just $1.99 for a 15 oz can which is just a few cents more than the cost of conventional canned pumpkin. The organic flour and fruit can also be found at any health food store. The version I am posting is made with the addition of a chopped Braeburn apple. The other versions I have made so far include substituting fresh organic cranberries for the apple and one where I added some organic tahini. I really think the sky is the limit in terms of making modifications as long as you keep the wet to dry ratio fairly similar. In general this recipe makes a lot of batter so I have gone back and forth between making mini muffins and making regular size muffins. I also always add a scoop of organic soy protein powder because I like eating the mini muffins as a post-run or post-gym snack but you can leave that out or use non-fat skim milk powder to boost the protein content.

Have fun with this recipe and enjoy eating them as they are super nutritious and super low calorie and of course super tasty!

2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup Splenda®
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
15 oz canned organic pumpkin
1 medium chopped organic Braeburn apple
28 gm vanilla soy protein powder (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour, Splenda, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add pumpkin, ½ cup of water and stir until just mixed. Spoon batter into oil-sprayed muffins cups filling to just below tops. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until tops bounce back lightly when pressed or when knife inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes to cool. Store in tightly sealed container or freeze.

This particular version made 11 good size muffins.
Calories: 90 (about 80 without the protein powder), carbs: 18 gm, fiber: 3 gm, protein: 5 gm

By: Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty School of Health Sciences
Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Little Engine That Could?

by Carmin Iadonisi, N.D, E.P.
                                                   Adjunct Professor, School of Health Sciences

Remember the old story about the "The Little Engine That Could"? His mantra was, "I think I can.", "I think I can."  This story reminded me of a conversation I recently had.   I was talking to one of my students and he told me about how he was able to lose almost 100 pounds by himself in high school.   This was an impressive feat for anyone let alone a high school student.  That was a few years ago and now the student is again overweight.  We talked about losing weight and he looked at me and said, "I know I can lose the weight, because I have done it before."  Although he had gained most of the weight back, I knew he could again lose weight because he had strong "Self-efficacy" in regards to losing weight.

What is self-efficacy?  Besides being one of my favorite concepts to teach in Health and Wellness, it is the belief in oneself that you can accomplish a specific goal or achieve a certain outcome. Despite all the media coverage about the challenges of weight loss and the statistics that say that over 66% of the country is overweight or obese, my student has a belief and confidence in himself that will help him to succeed in his weight loss goals.   Why do I know he has a great chance of being successful? His past mastery of his experience has given him a confidence that will greatly increase his chances of  success.  In a nutshell, he has done it before and he will do it again. But don't take it from just me, research confirms that those individuals with the highest self-efficacy are normally the most successful in achieving their goals.

So how do you gain self-efficacy in something you have never had success in? What if you have never been able to lose weight? You can still gain self-efficacy if you can think of any other change in your life  you have been successful accomplishing. Maybe you have never lost weight, but you have been able reorganize your life. You can use the same steps you used to change that aspect of your life and apply it towards your new goals. The point is success builds success. If that does not help, then modeling people with similar situations who have accomplished the goals you want is another way to build self-efficacy.  Pick someone you relate to and follow the steps they took to help you reach your goals.  My take home message is that everyone has the ability to increase their self-efficacy, so either look to your past or find someone to inspire you - just do something and you could start seeing positive changes now. 
Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Weight Gain Takes a HITT

by Carmin Iadonisi, N.D, E.P.
Adjunct Professor, School of Health Sciences 
I don't think anyone can argue that most people gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Years.  It used to be assumed that the average holiday weight gain was between 5-10 pounds. This estimate was a little high as newer research has found that the amount of weight gained is probably closer to 1- 2 pounds.  Either way, I want to talk about an exercise technique that involves exercising "less" to help you lose more.  

The technique I am talking about is called High Intensity Interval Training or "HITT" for short.  It involves high intensity intervals of cardiovascular exercise interspersed between sets of moderate intensity rest periods. Why change your cardio workout in the first place?  Go to any gym and you will see most people doing the same steady state cardiovascular workouts week after week.  An example of steady state training is when someone does the same intensity or heart rate percentage for example 4.0 mph on a treadmill for a set time such as 30 minutes with no change in speed or incline. 

The benefit to this type of training is that it burns calories while you are working out and it improves heart health. (It also feels good to do any type of sustained movement.)  The calorie burn is actually smaller than most people guess for the amount of time and work put into it.  For example, walking for 30 minutes can burn a miniscule 150 calories depending on your body weight. (To give you an idea what 150 calories equates to in food- one large bagel is almost 350 calories.)  So why do HITT training?
HITT training involves training at  a much higher intensity for a shorter duration.  A sample HITT workout may include  a 5 minute warm-up followed by eight 30 second intervals at 90-95% of your max heart rate with rest intervals between each interval where you train at approximately 50% of max heart rate. This is followed by a 5 minute cool-down. Total workout time is 18 minutes. So is there a major difference in the amount of calories burned when you do HITT training vs steady state training?   Interestingly, because HITT training is of shorter duration, the answer is "not really".  You may burn 200-250 calories depending on the intensity levels, so you have to ask yourself is 100 calories really worth the increaed workload?  Well, the story gets a little more complicated...
It turns out that HITT training creates something called EPOC which stands for Excess Post Exercise Consumption which basically means that you burn extra calories for up to 24 hours post HITT training. This is a major difference between the two types of training. When you stop steady state training- you stop burning calories. HITT creates this afterburn effect and it has been found to increase VO2 max, which means it makes your body more efficient at using oxygen.  (Another great benefit- since it builds a better athlete.) Finally, studies have found that  HITT training helps the body burn fat better than steady state training.  So if you only have limited time and you want to fight that holiday weight gain- why not give HITT training a try?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Thankful Beyond Thanksgiving

by Carmin Iadonisi, N.D, E.P.
Adjunct Professor, School of Health Sciences

It is Thanksgiving morning and the turkey is stuffed and in the oven, the pies have been made and the smell of homemade cranberry orange bread is wafting through our home. To top it off, we woke up early enough to see the sun rise.  I could not be happier at this moment.  On this day, where many will spend it with their loved ones, I want to elaborate a little more on the power of gratefulness.

Recent research on the psychology of happiness has found that 50% of our happiness is due to genetics, while 40% of our happiness is determined by the way we think.  Surprisingly, only 10% of our happiness is linked to  life circumstances such as socioeconomic status, jobs, living circumstances or our appearance.   Does this surprise you?

Initially it surprised me, but then I thought about all the people I have met, the students, patients, coworkers, friends and family.  I have seen students get "A's" on exams and barely muster a smile, while other students will celebrate triumphantly barely passing an exam with a "C-".   We live in a society, where many believe that money buys happiness, yet glance at any tabloid and see another story of some celebrity's life going down in flames. I once lived in one of the most affluent cities in New England and what I will remember most about this place was that it had some of the most miserable people I have ever met.  

So how do we change our brains?  How do we affect that that 40% that we can change? It all starts with being grateful.  Take a moment today and everyday to be grateful for what you have.  Create a journal and everyday write 5 different things you are grateful for.  Research has found that just spending time every day focusing on things that make you happy can actually change your brain in as little as two weeks. A happier brain is truly something to be thankful for. : ) .

Five things I am grateful for at this moment:

I am fortunate to enough to be a teacher and share my knowledge everyday.
I am grateful to have this special day to spend with those I love.
I am grateful that I am always open to learning new experiences.
I am grateful for my two dogs that lie at my feet.
I am grateful that I love to eat and this is a good day to eat! 
Monday, November 22, 2010

The Newest Holiday Tradition

Everyone has their unique family traditions during the holiday season . From the use of a special pie recipe to using the family china , the holidays are a wonderful time for families to bond . Each family makes the time their own through special activities and events . I have found that the holidays are a wonderful time for the family to “ get active “ together and avoid those extra holiday pounds. With a diversity of ages and activity levels in my household, I needed to come across some activities that everyone could participate in . Here are two of the most popular activities that we enjoy as a family .
The easiest group activity is  the post-feast stroll. Younger children can be wheeled in a wagon if they become tired along the way. Older children may want to ride their bikes or scooters. Bringing along the family pet can help make sure that even Fido is part of the activity. Post –Thanksgiving ,this is a wonderful opportunity  to see how people’s homes have been decorated , or a chance to perhaps bump into neighbors who may have been out of touch or away at college.
With a little planning , these walks can become a scavenger hunt , with younger children looking for items based on color and older children solving riddles or clues  to complete their checklist . Pairing older and younger children together can help to foster a sense of responsibility between family members. One year, I took the initiative to research our neighborhood and turned the family walk into a tour. Even Nana partook of the scavenger hunt , trying to guess which local buildings were once the site of a grist mill or Colonial burial ground.
Depending on location and weather, a post-feast walk may not be feasible. A great group activity could be a wonderful game of freeze dance . Either using CDs you already own or the music channels available for free on many cable networks, you can get the young and old up and “ grooving “ . The key here is to assort the music selection and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to “cut loose”. For those with physical disabilities , you can encourage them to move around by using a tambourine , or letting them use their feet to tap  out a rhythm on a squeaky pet toy . I have found that plugging the video camera up to the TV during the activity not only provides giggles as the family sees themselves on TV , but also can provide a video record of the fun that was had during the holiday.
Some other great family activities that incite movement and laughter are hula hoop contests and (of course) ,  hide and seek ! With a reminder that the emphasis is not on winning , even the most reluctant family member is likely to join in . In addition to the family time together, I have seen these new and active holiday traditions to be a wonderful way to give less healthy  family members a way to see exercise as more fun than dreadful .
Do you have any fun family activities that gets the family moving ? I would love for you to share !
Friday, November 19, 2010

Socially Thankful

Mary Oleksowicz , M. S. , L.Ac.

The holidays are inevitably upon us. The candles are barely extinguished in the jack-o-lanterns when Christmas carols are playing in the stores. For me and many others this is frustrating. I have jokingly pondered if global warming has caused us to lose our sense of holiday timing. Is the declining distinction between seasons part of the reason why it has become acceptable to hang snowflakes before the clocks have even had a chance to “fall back" ? Sadly, the truth is that consumerism has become the driving force of the holidays. “Sale it, and they will buy", was a phrase that I often heard as a teenager working retail.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I have mulled over ways to not give into the inevitable grasp of consumerism. Even charitable acts such as creating food baskets for the less fortunate have been preyed upon by major retailers. Bouncy castles and inflated prices for soon to be donated cranberry sauce met me at a local Thanksgiving fundraiser. My stomach was more nauseated by this then an extra slice of pecan pie. For myself, Thanksgiving was inevitably becoming another reason to spend large quantities of money all in the name of a holiday.

That was until the other day. A Facebook friend had posted that she was also sick of the current expectations of Thanksgiving. Over-consumption, Black Friday ads, and inflated gas prices during the biggest travel week of the year had also “cooked her goose" (pun intended)! She was going to take a stand against what Thanksgiving has become, a singular day of the year to pronounce your gratefulness amongst family and friends. Instead, she suggested that we pronounce our thanks, daily in our Facebook status. The rules are simple. Select two things that you are grateful for, big or small, without repeats and state that you are thankful for them.

I found this to be a wonderful exercise. Some friends are grateful for similar experiences and these comments have allowed me to get to know them better. Who would have known that my former first grade teacher was also grateful that her cat greets her in the morning purring despite his recent bout with cancer? Others may be experiencing more difficult times. When things are not as hopeful for them, they have let me know. My cousin had not even told his wife that he had lost his job, when he responded to my post praising my boss. Admittedly, without my post, he would have told no one. While sad, these responses increase my appreciation. Not only for my own blessings but also for the strength and wit of all those I have called friends.

It amazes me that somehow technology has even invaded my indebtedness. I presume as a “techie”, it was unavoidable. However, despite all of the advancements, electronics has brought me back to the roots of this holiday. I think that it is this equilibrium of tradition and innovation, a modern day balance of yin and yang that has allowed me to become socially thankful.
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pumpkins: A nutrition powerhouse

Pumpkins are here! I am most likely in the minority as I have never cared for pumpkin pie, but I do love a nice warm pumpkin muffin on a cool fall morning or a creamy pumpkin smoothie. Pumpkins are a nutritional powerhouse and are high in carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all of which are antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals. This fruit, yes it is technically a fruit, is also a very good source of beta carotene/vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. One cup of mashed pumpkin has just 50 calories, zero fat, 12g of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of protein. Wow!

Eating pumpkin pie is probably not the best way to include more pumpkin in your diet since it is traditionally made by combing pumpkin with heavy cream and whole eggs. When cooked in a “standard” pie crust, a slice gets ~50% of calories from fat. Healthier ways to add pumpkin into your diet are easy to do by utilizing canned pumpkin and it is actually one of the only canned foods that has no added salt or sugar. If you have the time to cook a whole pumpkin simply peel off the outer skin, cut it into pieces and boil. The seeds can be scooped out and roasted in the oven with a bit of oil for 30 minutes or even eaten raw.

Some easy ways to eat more pumpkin include: adding canned pumpkin to ready-to-eat butternut squash soup, stirring canned pumpkin into oatmeal, spreading pumpkin butter on bread and muffins, and snacking on pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are high in copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are also high in phytosterols which are thought to strengthen the immune system. The seeds can be added to salads, hot or cold cereals, cookies, even homemade veggie burgers.

Pumpkin also makes a great, creamy smoothie and nutritious breakfast or post-workout recovery shake. There are endless variations on this smoothie recipe so have fun experimenting with other ingredients like yogurt, frozen bananas, etc. Pair this shake with some whole grain toast with peanut butter and you have a perfectly balanced breakfast/recovery meal chock full of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.

Pumpkin Recovery Smoothie
6 ice cubes
1 cup light vanilla Silk soymilk (or rice, hemp, almond, cow)
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or substitute nutmeg and cinnamon)
½-1 Tbsp honey (or substitute stevia or splenda)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop vanilla soy protein (or whey, rice)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Nutrition analysis:
236 calories, 3 g fat, 24 g CHO, 3 g fiber, 30 g protein
The versatility of this fruit makes it a great addition to your diet, adding powerful antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber without a lot of calories.

Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
Full time faculty
Health and Wellness
Sunday, November 14, 2010

When Mainstream Medicine Was CAM

When Mainstream Medicine was CAM

by Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor, School of Health Sciences

There was a time, not so long ago, when American Medicine was a blend of folk medicines, home remedies and observational science supported by the scientific theories of the day.  One of the prominent treatments of the 1800's was to drain blood from a patient.  From these beginnings, tracing back to western medicine traditions thousand of years old, science has continued to evolve.  Whereas most of what was accepted as the science of the day was eventually proved wrong, the process continued and improvements were gradually made.  This process continues today; most of what we know as "science" today will be seen as primitive and woefully inadequate in 50 years.

It is natural for the child to criticize the parent, often ridiculing their elders' connections with the technologies and disproven scientific "truths" of their day.  Adolescents in the 1930's were just as bemused by their parents' use of a horse and buggy as today's adolescents are bemused by their parents writing a letter and "mailing" it.  This transition takes place within every generation, as "advances" are tested and those that hold up move into the future with pride, only to be replaced themselves by the next generation or the one after that.  Of course, many of these "advances" are later disfavored because of unintended consequences (e.g., they cause too many illnesses, disabilities or deaths).  
Thus, the supposed duality of Mainstream Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine is culturally determined, as one generation's experiment is judged by the next.  It is not absolute, but rather a reflection of where one is at a given point in time. From a systems perspective, there is no "mainstream" or "alternative" medicine - just medical ideas, diagnoses and treatments that are held in favor or not.  In fact, the most advanced theories and technologies from our most gifted scientists remain unproven, "alternative" and non-mainstream for years - waiting to be accepted by the powers that decide whether a procedure will be taught in medical schools and/or be reimbursed by insurance companies.  The same negotiating process goes on within our medical community deciding whether to accept a new infertility treatment - regardless of whether it is a high-tech, ultra-scientific breakthrough or an ancient remedy from Chinese Medicine or Shamanic Herbalism.  Until it is accepted, everything is CAM.  Once accepted, it simply becomes a medical option.

In an important way, it seems that the battle against "Alternative Medicine" has always combined scientific enlightenment with cult-ish ignorance and self-interest.  Human nature applies to all of us.  This is nowhere more apparent than the astounding refusal of mainstream medicine to put acupuncture to the test on their chronic pain patients for the past 100 years.  How many patients have become addicted to painkillers and cost how much pain and grief to their families?  How many billions of lost productivity have been caused by the ignorant proliferation of dangerous narcotics when safer alternatives were available - but would have risked acknowledging that the mainstream scientific establishment simply did not know everything.

The mind-body effect (also known in the pejorative as "pacebo effect") was scientifically proven by the 1940's.  The powerful healing effects of meditation and prayer have likewise been proven for decades.  What, aside from arrogance, could support the stigmatization of these important medicines by the medical community?  To be sure, they would have been referred to as "experimental," but rejected as "voodoo" and "quackery?"

With the growing popularity of Complementary Medicine and Integrative Medicine models, new generations of physicians are open to the challenge of using ALL appropriate, safe and efficacious medicines.  This only enhances their ability to help their patients.  They are not fighting the old battles of their predecessors - obsessed with eliminating superstition and adhering only to an ill-defined, but rigid concept of grandfathered-in "science."  They understand that the purging of ancient practices sometimes threw the baby out with the bathwater, sometimes perhaps motivated more by unconscious cultural factors such as racism, jingoism and bigotry than by science.  And these physicians are also working to unshackle science from the vested interests that have dominated it for generations.  
Yes, the culture of medicine is changing.  In addition to being open to the latest patented medicines from big pharma, the new culture is taking a look at the riches that may be sitting in plain view, unpatentable and lower-cost, - no longer rejected as "alternative" and completely "off-limits," but seen instead as medicines that may just work.  There's an old saying that "There's no saint like a reformed sinner."  In the history of medicine, each generation has been proven, over time, to have been primitive and to see how their bad science had failed to help their patients - yet how the future may be better.  This is one of the "dark sides" to being a physician, one of the most challenging and worthwhile of all human endeavors. 
So, physicians are pushed along by science, forced to give up their old patterns and practices as scientific method is applied to test them.  Some cling to the old, just as others push for improvements.  Some of the visionaries of medicine may be too quick to put forth their improvements, perhaps because of the profit motive, perhaps because they are eager to ease suffering.  Sometimes, the cures are worse than the illnesses they are treating.  Sometimes the drugs that are pushed through the approval process prove to be terrible mistakes.  And sometimes the old practices, the low-tech cures that have been around for centuries are proven to have been rejected too quickly.

Professor Davis teaches Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Kaplan University's School of Health Sciences, in the B.S. Degree program in Health and Wellness.  He is a former lawyer with a Master's of Public Health and is a CAM practitioner, performing Integrative Bodywork at NorthShore University HealthSystems, a major hospital network in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

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