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.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Public Health, Obesity and the Free Market

Public Health, Obesity and the Free Market:
Using systems thinking to address the root causes of society's problems rather than simply treating the symptoms.

Earon S. Davis, J.D., M.P.H., NCTMB

Frederick Zimmerman, Ph.D. is an economics professor at UCLA's School of Public Health. I believe that he is carrying forth research in the true Public Health tradition of seeking truth, no holds barred and the heck with the special interests. (I'm biased, here, because I have Masters of Public Health from UCLA.:-) Public Health emerged historically with a dual focus that combined scientific reductionism with systems thinking and pragmatism. Rather than assuming that science is always the answer, the traditions of Public Health include the wise observation and investigation of health and behavioral phenomenon, exemplified by the John Snow's discovery of the causes of an 1854 cholera epidemic in England.

To quote from a recent UCLA announcement of a webinar with Dr. Zimmerman, " His research studies economic influences on population health, with a particular focus on media use and child health and has caught the attention of the popular press, including NPR, the BBC, Good Morning America, the Today Show, The New York Times, and many other media outlets. The large increase in obesity in the past 30 years has often been explained in rational choice terms, for example, that a decline in food prices has engendered greater food consumption, or that the changing work environment has inhibited physical activity on the job. On closer examination, these explanations do not fit the facts. Dr. Zimmerman will discuss how an unprecedented expansion in the scope, power, and ubiquity of food marketing has vastly altered the culture of food and eating, and it is this cultural change that has led to our current obesity pandemic."

So, perhaps we do not need to blame the victims of obesity for their own plight! Of course, that has been the "American Way," but caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) is not working to keep the public's health from disastrous consequences - just to increase profits for businesses exploiting our genetically pre-determined cravings for fat, sugar and salt - and others who then exploit our genetically pre-determined urges to look healthy and attractive - and media advertisers and ad agencies then rake in profits of their own. Looking at the growth of the processed food industry and its massive advertising (and lobbying) budgets over the past 50 years, the choice between profits and the public's health is a theme that has become emblematic of this nation's abdication of its responsibilities to future generations.

It is one thing to blame adult alcoholics or heroin addicts for their addictions, but quite another thing to blame 5-year olds for their obesity, asthma and diabetes. If one is seriously trying to reverse the pandemic of obesity in the US and most of the rest of the world, one must observe the systems that are feeding it. The fabrication and marketing of processed foods that are virtually toxic and addictive in the amounts of fat, salt and sugar they contain is likely a major factor in our growing obesity.

Do we do something about it? Not if we are loathe to restrict businesses' rights to create and market unhealthy foods that are irresistible! There currently seems to be a right for businesses to have their profit-creating activities presumed to be safe unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Is this the way things are supposed to work?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is Massage Medicine?

Hello, my name is Earon Davis. I'm an adjunct professor in the Health and Wellness Program of Kaplan University's School of Health Sciences. My careers have included being an environmental policy analyst and lawyer, an advocate for consumer health, a nonprofit consultant and manager and an officer for a nonprofit involved with international documentary films. Currently, I am also a massage therapist, Reiki Master and Integrative Bodywork Practitioner for a major hospital system in the Chicago suburbs.

Let's get started with something controversial :)

I'd like to explore the question of whether massage is just a "fou-fou" relaxation indulgence or a full Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) modality just as important and powerful as the others. In fact, massage is already part of numerous other CAM modalities, such as Chiropractic, Osteopathic, Chinese Medicine (Tui-Na), and Ayurvedic! But the image of massage lags behind, whether for cultural or political reasons, as does the ability of massage therapists to earn a living wage.

Which of the following factors do you think are most important in explaining the lower status of massage and massage therapist than other CAM practitioners?:

- Massage therapists are not yet licensed in all States, and many States have developed licensing only in the past few years.

- Massage therapist training is less extensive than other CAM practices, with massage school not even requiring a college degree.

- Massage has been attacked for centuries, like other CAM professions and their predecessors, by organized religion and organized medicine.

- Touch is at the core of massage, and has raised discomfort and outright opposition from Protestant and Catholic institutions. Massage seems to have been relegated to sexworkers and seen as not "wholesome" or "respectable."

- In many ways, massage (like touch) is sexualized in our culture. The mass media have long played into the stereotypic "masseuse" as a "bimbo" and basically willing to engage in sexual behavior with their clients. This may be sexist, since around 85% of massage therapists are female. Airline Stewardesses of the 1970's actually had to change the name of their profession and become "flight attendants" to overcome the stereotype of promiscuity.

- Massage, given the lack of clothing, is just too intimate for many people. The act of removing one's clothes to receive relaxation and pain relief from a practitioner is just too suggestive. Today, even doctors rarely touch their patients, and it is typical for a physician examining a patient of the opposite sex to require a staff member of the opposite sex to be present.

- Culturally, Americans are often far too self-conscious and ashamed of their bodies to be comfortable with massage.

- Massage reminds us that we are animals, and we don't like to be reminded to take better care of our bodies. Many of us are touch-deprived and lonely, so massage actually can make us think about things that are dissonant for us. Although massage is probably the oldest healing modality known to humans, we like to think of ourselves as advanced beings somehow no longer needing to be touched and physically nurtured in a non-sexual way.

Of course, there are many factors in the late emergence of massage as a medicine. Recent studies have confirmed significant biochemical benefits for massage, including reduction of stress hormones and improved immune functioning. When these effects are provided by taking a pill, we call it a medicine. When provided by a massage, which is less risky and improves self-esteem and outlook in addition, we tend to dismiss it as somehow less useful.

Well, let's get some discussion going here - whether or not you agree with me. I'm a professor, not a politician :)

As one of my teachers has said, "May all good medicine be yours!"

Earon S. Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor
School of Health Sciences
Kaplan University
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tea Tutorial

Lately I’ve been finding myself digging out the sweaters, pulling on my warm boots, and bundling up in scarves. Those sunny Fall days are quickly turning cold! Perhaps a little too quickly. Our house primarily uses our wood burning stove for heat, and unfortunately we haven’t gotten our cord of wood delivered yet. I’ll admit I’m a bit stubborn, and I just can’t bring myself to turn on the heat!

Instead I’ve been seeking other ways to warm up. The kids and dogs will only cuddle with me for so long, so I have been drinking a lot of hot tea these days. Herbal teas are a great way to stay warm and healthy in colder weather. And I’ll tell you a secret; they are really easy to make yourself. You can check your local health food store for bulk dried herbs, or purchase herbs online. One great online resource for herbs is www.mountainroseherbs.com. Herbs have a multitude of healing properties, so be sure to research each one you choose to make sure it is right for you. You can create blends to ease colds, anxiety, assist sleep, aid digestion, rejuvenate you, or create ones that simply taste good. The possibilities are endless! So have fun with your research and warm up with some good tea.

I’ve shared my favorite cold season recipe with you below in a short tutorial. Hope it does the trick for your colds this season!

Cold Season Tea

-1/2 cup Nettle leaf
-1/2 cup Echinacea root
-1/4 cup Peppermint leaf
-1/4 cup Rosehips
-1/4 cup Slippery Elm Bark
-1/4 cup Mullein Leaf
-1/4 cup Rosemary Leaf
*Measurements are based on dried herbs

To Make:

1. Measure out each herb

2. Mix

3. Store in jars or airtight containers in a cool, dark place

4. Place 1-2 teaspoons in a tea ball and steep in hot water for 10 minutes. Sweeten if desired and enjoy! Yum!

Told you it was easy! :)

In Health,

Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T,
Friday, November 5, 2010

Experience Joy

As a yoga instructor I am constantly searching for inspiration, to share with my students and myself. Although I strive to find the deeper truths within ancient yoga texts and hip yoga media (yes it does exist!), I often find that the most powerful inspiration comes from my connections to other people.

My most recent inspiration came from (of all things!) Halloween. While I usually approach this holiday with I admit a bit of disdain for the candy, the commercialism, the marketing to kids, THE CANDY, I was taken aback by the unexpected joy that I was confronted with. Let me clarify.

My kids were bursting out of their alien and white droid seams with joy. Pure, unadulterated, joy. First to dress up, then to play their respective roles, to see their friends all dressed up, and then of course for the candy. While I’m sure sugar played a role in all of this joy, there is a real ability of kids to take delight in something so simple. It’s powerful. It’s like they have this key to access and express joy when it strikes them.

We as adults are often so much more closed and protected. We hide or fail to recognize experiences that could be joyful simply because we have fears. While this has many personal manifestations in our relationships, physical effects often translate to chest tightness, heartburn, even asthma. Part of yoga is learning to access those places of joy and open up to our own experiences.

So tonight I advised my students to be open to experience their joy. As John Friend, founder of the Anusara Yoga movement states, “Look for the good vs. what is wrong” both in class and off the mat. Throughout the class, I noticed my students that usually push to the extreme soften and internalize their practice, and those who are already gentler with themselves hone in on specific postures that they struggle with.

I think we can all challenge ourselves to be more open to joy. Whether you practice yoga or not, each of us can take the time to appreciate ourselves. Simple acknowledgment and gratitude for everything that makes us, well…..us (yes even those parts that we may not be completely satisfied with). We can only truly experience joy for others when we have seen the good in ourselves.

While I’m sure I will struggle with being open to my own joy; one thing is for certain, I have certainly seen the good in Halloween.

Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Official: The Cold and Flu Season is Here

My family has an unfortunate tradition. As soon as the seasons change, one or all of us comes down with something. We never know if it’s going to be a minor cold, sinus infection, or lay-you-out-on-the-bathroom-floor flu. So while I eagerly anticipated the blessed relief from the smothering heat and humidity of the Southeast in summer (can you tell I’m not native to the area?), I also felt a bit of trepidation with each cooler evening.

Last week our number came up. My hubby and I both came down with a minor flu, luckily not too debilitating, but just bad enough to make daily life a challenge. And while I’m glad that my kids dodged the bullet, there were points when I wished that there was a little less of that 3 and 5 year old energy around the house.

With kids going back to school and cooler weather driving us indoors for more time each day, most people will come down with the cold or flu during the fall and winter seasons. We can work preventatively by eating nutritious foods, getting enough exercise and sleep, but sometimes it’s just not enough.

Our plan of attack is always about the same. Tea until we can’t even look at tea anymore, tinctures until we have maxed our dosage, herbal steams, soups, Vitamin C, you name it. Our nasty flu hung on for about a week, and finally it hit me that I hadn’t made my Elderberry Elixir! This concentrated syrup made from elder berries has worked miracles for my family, and I wasn’t disappointed this time either. Within a couple of days, I was healed and able to deal with all the energy that comes with two little ones, two dogs, two snakes, and a big tank full of fish!

Here’s the Recipe:

Elderberry Elixir

-4 oz Elderberries (about ½ cup)
-1 Cinnamon Stick
-1 tblspn Ginger
-3-4 sticks of Astragalus
-2 cups Water
- 1 cup Honey


1. Mix ingredients (minus the honey) in a small saucepan
2. Bring to low boil. Then, simmer covered until reduced by half (about 20 minutes).
3. Strain through mesh strainer or cheesecloth
4. Add Honey
5. Enjoy!
***Store in glass jars refrigerated for up to 2 weeks

As always, be sure to consult your health care practitioner, and do your own research on any herb or supplement you plan on putting into your body.

I’ve had friends tell me it makes them feel like Mary Poppins giving out meds it’s so delicious! So take a spoonful and stay healthy this season!

~Kristin Henningsen, M.S., C.H., R.Y.T.
Adjunct Professor
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why eat organic?

I’d like to tackle another popular food topic today: Why eat organically grown food? I’m going to hop right into this one…

Reduce toxic chemical exposure. On average the human body contains at least 700 contaminants. This is a result of breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water, and eating contaminated foods. Do we really want to ingest more chemicals? At least 400 different pesticides are routinely used on conventionally grown produce. In general, pesticides are not harmless--many have been linked to cancer.

Increased nutrients. Studies have shown that organically grown produce is higher in anti-oxidants and other nutrients as compared to conventionally grown produce. I think most of us have trouble meeting the USDA guidelines of 5-9 servings of vegetables and fruits a day. Do we really want to rob ourselves of more nutrients by not eating organic?

Organic farming fights global warming: I’d like to share an excerpt about a Rodale Institute research trial I came across:

“The Rodale Institute's groundbreaking Farming Systems Trial, the
world's longest running study of organic farming, has documented that
organic soils actually scrub the atmosphere of global warming gases by capturing
atmospheric carbon dioxide and converting it into soil material. This is the
first study to document that organic farming techniques create robust carbon

"Organic farming is a powerful new tool in the global warming
arsenal," said Anthony Rodale, chairman of the The Rodale Institute. "It puts
agriculture into a lead role in regenerating the environment."

Through a process called carbon sequestration, plants and soils act
as "sinks" for atmospheric carbon dioxide. Carbon "sequestered" in vegetation
and soil is not readily released as carbon dioxide, providing a significant
boost in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. While carbon helps
stimulate plant growth, scientists estimate carbon dioxide may be responsible for more than 80 percent of global warming.

Although it's not a "silver bullet," carbon sequestration can become
a powerful component of a multi-pronged approach to managing the issue of
global warming. Since 1981, The Rodale Institute has monitored soil carbon
and nitrogen levels in scientifically controlled test fields using organic as
well as a wide range of other farming methods. In the organic systems, soil
carbon increased 15 to 28 percent.

These results are the extension of findings first published in the
journal Nature in 1999 and have undergone additional peer review.”


There are many more reasons to eat organically grown foods, but I think I’ll stop here for today. In closure, I say good for us—good for the environment—what more could we want? Go organic! :)

If you would like to explore more information on organic food—try the Organic Consumer Association’s website:


Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, School of Health Sciences

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