Diet and Nutrition

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Good friend of the nest, and writer, Eric Hawxby is our featured guest blogger. A big thank you to Eric!

As we emerge from the longest, coldest Winter since The Ice Age; consider the Spring season is traditionally known as one of rebirth. It is at this time of year that our natural inclination is to lay to rest our sedentary wintry lives and begin a new existence refreshed and renewed.  Spring-cleaning is performed, dust-bunnies are shooed with a sweep of the broom, ushering in the bunnies of Easter (Spring). While binge-cleaning our homes is a great way to clear the air and freshen the psyche, it’s also an ideal time to treat our bodies to a gentle Spring-cleaning of its own.

Generally speaking, Winter is the season of rich and heavy comfort foods, not only during the holidays but during those bitterly cold nights hunkered down on the couch, armed against Arctic Blasts with our favorite take-out food. Traditional Chinese medicine correlates Spring-time with the liver—our body’s vigilant and dedicated house-keeper. It rids our bodies of dangerous toxins helping it to stay healthy and balanced. In this modern era we are assaulted with toxins which we absorb into our systems every time we breathe, eat, and drink. Toxins are even absorbed through the body’s largest and most vulnerable organ—our skin. At The Nest, in order to honor this Spring, we are celebrating the liver and all that it does to keep us living healthy, productive, and joyful lives.

There are many ways to gently assist the detoxification of our bodies. By cleansing ourselves of built-up toxins we can help boost and sustain our energy levels, enjoy a glowing complexion, and restore balance to our natural bio-rhythms. It’s important to remember that when approaching a cleanse or detox regimen that your goal isn’t to shock your system with an abrupt and drastic fasting or by over-doing it with supplements designed to flush your system; these practices can cause serious short and long term problems for you. Instead, start simply by first reducing the toxins you ingest through the foods and beverages you consume. Cut out or reduce your intake of sugary, chemically-sweetened sodas, alcohol, carbonated drinks, and coffee. Instead, moderately consume organic fruit juices, unsweetened teas and make a concerted effort to drink 8 glasses of  purified drinking water. Avoid drinking out of plastic containers. There are free smart-phone apps that can monitor and encourage your intake of water. Adding fresh lemon and cucumber to your glass of water aids the detox process and is palatable and refreshing. Organic green-tea will help cleanse the body of free-radicals whose only goal is to accelerate the body’s aging process. While growing older is an inevitable and beautiful part of our life-cycle, we don’t need free-radicals pushing us towards the grave. Catechins, found in green-tea, will help you fight off these fun-haters. On the go, order a green-juice drink from the neighborhood health-food joint, or make your own incorporating watercress, spinach, ginger, broccoli, add some fresh mint for taste.

Your Spring detox plan should also include eating smaller meals made with as many whole, fresh, organic ingredients as possible. Mom may know best, but Mother Nature knows even better. Make a point to eat natural foods that come into harvest during the season of the region in which you live; in addition to seasonal produce from other areas. Some healthy Springtime bounties include: artichokes, nettles, lettuces, asparagus, New Potatoes, and Spring carrots. Add some of that fresh mint to your smoothie or iced tea or eat a few leaves as-is. Morels, peas, radishes, rhubarb, green garlic, fiddleheads, fennel, naval oranges and lemons are at their best during the Spring season. Incorporate them into your favorite recipes.

Another effective way to cleanse and rejuvenate the body is by taking a dry sauna or steam bath to open pores and sweat out the accumulated toxins inside our bodies. Obviously, exercise is a great way to induce sweating and should be incorporated into any lifestyle regardless of the season. Detoxing should be a gentle and healthy component of your health regimen. Over-exercising or too much time in the sauna will dehydrate your system and stress the body’s ability to regulate temperature and will purge your body of necessary electrolytes. Treat your body with care and respect and you will be rewarded with the gift of health.

Chinese Medicine modalities can also help facilitate the cleansing and detoxing of our bodies. Cupping and Scaling are gentle and effective ways to increase circulation and draw out harmful radicals traveling through the blood-stream and residing in our muscles. Chinese foot-plasters can also be beneficial in expelling toxins via the many acupuncture points of our feet and are worn while sleeping. Your health practitioner at The Nest can advise you on these treatments and determine if they would be necessary and of benefit to you. Chinese herbal supplements to aid in detox can be specifically designed for the individual needs of our clients. It is always wise to consult a health-care professional before making drastic changes to your diet and exercise regimens. In our modern times we tend to take aggressive approaches to exercise and fad ‘diets;’ while it’s important exchange the harmful habits for healthier ones. The rabbit may be Spring’s icon, but heed the tortoise for slow and steady always wins the race.

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Energy has its fluctuations and rhythms in the natural world. To cultivate life and maintain the greatest health, Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us to live in harmony with the cycles of the seasons. A teaching in the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine), reads “..sages cultivate their life by following the climatic changes in the four seasons and that is why they can avoid attack by pathogenic factors and live a long life.”

In nature, winter is a time of hibernation and dormancy as much of plant life goes underground. All of that vitality isn’t lost — it is storing up for new growth in Spring. Similarly, if we slow down and take time for extra rest and contemplation, we can nourish our Qi in preparation of new growth. This is why the New Year is such a good time for reflection and planning intentions or resolutions. Thinking is the first step in doing. We can plant seeds in stillness for our growth all year.

There are many ways you can approach this time of reflection. You can set goals, create affirmations or follow other practices you know work for you. If you want to follow a guide, the following are some options.

One simple technique is to think of a word that embodies your intention for the year. It could be service, whimsy, success, focus, vitality, freedom, dance, etc. Just pick a word that resonates with you. Write down some ideas of actions you can take to make this word a presence in your life. Write the word down and put it somewhere you can see it, or use this word in your meditation throughout the year.

If you want to do some deeper thinking about the past year and what you want to keep, get rid of, and bring about, writer Susannah Conway (http://www.susannahconway.com) has an excellent free workbook to do just that!

Click here to get Susannah Conway’s workbook. Image:  Susannah Conway

 

Print it out, sit down with a cup of tea, and in about an hour you may feel grounded, fortified and ready to bring all your intentions to life.

To have an especially nourishing experience, get a pot of soup cooking before you start your workbook. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is important to eat warming foods. Try this gently detoxing winter soup, Healing Quinoa Cabbage Soup to continue to ease out of holiday excesses, back to optimal health.

Click here to get the recipe from Whole Life Nutrition.

We like to spend the first part of the year writing posts about every day things you can do to improve your health and life in the coming year, so stay tuned as we move from the imaginative to the practical.

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Did you know that many prescription and over the counter medications contain allergens like gluten and dairy?

Allergy medicines like Zyrtec, Benadryl, and Prednisone all contain dairy — the most common food allergen in America.One in five Americans suffer from allergies and many of them have multiple allergies. It is slightly less common to experience multiple categories of allergies like seasonal together with food, but we do know that 27% of children who have a food allergy also have a skin allergy, like eczema, for instance, which could be treated with a drug like prednisone.

It is understandable to assume that your doctor would not prescribe something that contains one of your allergies as an ingredient. However, pharmaceutical companies are not required to publish the ingredients of the medications they produce. This is in direct contrast to food and nutritional/herbal supplement labeling. Most food items have common allergens labeled on the packaging. It is usually easy to find allergy information in the FAQ section of food company websites or by calling their customer service. Most nutritional and herbal supplement companies make purchases especially convenient by confirming the lack of allergens right on the label. If you are accustomed to this you may assume that pharmaceutical companies would act similarly.

 

What is the best way to protect yourself from allergens in your medication?

If you are highly sensitive you will need to verify the ingredients of every prescription or over-the-counter drug you take. First, ask your doctor. They may be familiar with the allergy information for your particular dosage. If they do not know, you will need to contact the pharmaceutical company directly or ask your pharmacist to do this for you. It might save time to do it yourself.

Contact pharmaceutical companies

As an experiment, I chose two of the top five most prescribed drugs in America, Hydrocodone (pain relief) and Synthroid (synthetic thyroid) and tried to find out if they contained derivatives of gluten and dairy. After a couple of minutes online and six minutes on the phone with two different pharmaceutical companies, I found out that Hydrocodone does not contain gluten or dairy. It was more difficult to find a phone number for  Synthroid but after making one call I was able to get a direct number to the company’s lab. Within a few minutes I found out that Synthroid does not contain gluten but it does contain a dairy ingredient, lactose manohydrate. I learned that there can be different recipes for the same drug so it helps to know know your exact dosage when calling. 

Fill your prescription at a compounding pharmacist

If you find out your medication contains an allergen, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative formulation of the same medication. Or, you can have your prescription filled at a compounding pharmacy where a pharmacist will mix your medication specifically to your needs. I spoke with a compounding pharmacist in Chicago who uses bicarb as an excipient but other ingredients like tapioca are possible. Excipients are bindings, coatings, or other inactive ingredients in medication. The pharmacist said that if pure, whole ingredients are available to compound, he would know the exact ingredients but occasionally, one of the main components is a mix of proprietary ingredients that do not have to be listed. In that case, the pharmacist will have to call the company to find out if allergens are present. The benefits of using a compounding pharmacist is they are accustomed to working with customers who have allergies and you will be able to get medications free of unnecessary ingredients like dyes, etc. It is more expensive but it is possible for your doctor to confirm it is a medical necessity so that your insurance will cover the extra cost.

 

You can find a list of common excipient ingredients here:

Excipient list

This list may help your purchases of over the counter drugs which often list their inactive ingredients on the package.

 

Having allergies can make anyone feel like an investigative reporter but the extra work can prevent painful reactions and harmful inflammation. If you’re interested in minimizing your intake of pharmaceuticals, Prevention magazine came up with a list of science based alternatives for the most prescribed medications in America. We’re happy to see acupuncture listed as an effective replacement for pain relief. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctors before making any changes. 


Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics

http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics.aspx

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