It’s Tick Season! Tips for Preventing and Responding to Tick Bites

With warmer weather comes… tick season! Knowing how to prevent tick bites and respond to one if it happens is key to enjoying spring weather without fear. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as the old saying goes, so let’s go over some quick ways to avoid tick bites, and then how to respond if prevention measures fail.

Following these suggestions may prevent tick bites:

  • Wear long pants and tuck them into socks when outdoors
  • Wear light colored clothing to be able to spot ticks easily and quickly
  • Wear tick repellant spray or pre-treat clothes and gear with permethrin
  • Apply essential oils including geranium, grapefruit, yellow cypress, Texas cedarwood, and lemongrass to exposed skin before going outdoors (add some citronella and mosquitoes will avoid you too!)
  • Avoid tall grass and brush when possible
  • Perform head-to-toe tick checks when you come in from outdoors, paying special attention to any areas with skins folds (behind ears, armpits, groin, etc)
  • Designate an area of the house to take clothes off when coming in from outside to avoid ticks falling off in other places in the house
  • Put clothes just worn outside in the dryer on high heat for 6-10 minutes

 

So you took all the prevention steps and still got a tick bite… now what?

  • Remove the tick immediately, being careful not to squeeze the tick body
  • Clean the bite site 
  • Send the tick in for testing so you know if/what that tick was carrying
  • If available, you may choose to start taking Ledum 30c immediately, 5 pellets 3x a day for 4 days
  • Call our office to schedule an Acute Tick Bite visit, a 20-30 minute telehealth visit with one of our doctors to customize a tick bite response plan for your unique needs and health history
  • Addressing a tick bite sooner rather than later is always the best course of action

 

Don’t let fear of ticks stop you from enjoying the beautiful New England spring!

 

What are your minimum daily requirements (MDRs)?

We’re all familiar with the concept of “daily requirements” when it comes to food. Whether we’re tracking macros on an app, or just paying attention to how many vegetables we ate today, there are things in the food world that we know we need to be healthy and function at our best.

 

But what about the rest of life? Holistic health is about much more than food. Chances are, there are times in your life you remember feeling like the best version of yourself. Think back: what were you doing or not doing that made you feel that way? Most likely, you were applying the concept of “minimum daily requirements” without even knowing it. There are five key areas that we all should be paying attention to:

 

Sleep.

After a particularly bad night of sleep, making sleep a priority the next night might come easy for us. But what would happen if we prioritized getting the recommended 7-10 hours of sleep per night, consistently, every night? The cumulative effect of not sleeping can add up, but so can the cumulative effect of getting enough rest. You’ll reap the benefits of being well-rested in your ability to focus at work or school and in your relationships with family and friends.

Consider: set a consistent bedtime and wake time, allowing for a minimum of 7 hours per night (or more!) and commit to stick with it for a minimum of 30 days. See what positive changes you notice at the end of the month.

For me, this looks like a 9pm bedtime and 6am wake time. On occasion I’ll have a social event in the evenings that means I’m in bed later than my scheduled time, but after reaping the benefits of consistent sleep, I keep them to a minimum (read: avoid them like the plague and am the resident party pooper).

 

 

Exercise.

Raise your hand if you start a workout routine, stick with it for a week, miss a day or two, give up, and then suddenly now it’s been three months since you last exercised. We’ve all been there! Like sleep, exercise is something that if it’s not prioritized, it won’t happen. Exercise doesn’t have to be miserable, either. Pick something that you like and that works for your lifestyle. Join the gym around the corner from you. Commit to a unique gym like Crossfit or Orange Theory. Find an at-home workout plan that you enjoy. Commit to daily walks or runs. Whatever it is, have a plan and make it a priority. The laundry will still be there when you’re done (sadly).

Consider: think about what types of movement you enjoy and feel best doing. Then create a plan, and like sleep, make it a priority. If you miss a day, get right back on track the next day, don’t wait weeks or months.

For me, this looks like doing a Pilates workout from The Balanced Life 3-4 times a week, and then taking a walk (20-40 minutes) 3-4 times a week. I prioritize walks over pilates on sunny days because getting enough sunshine has its own set of benefits.

 

 

Food preparation.

Planning for what you will eat is, in my opinion, the most important part of the food process. Not planning usually results in eating whatever is available. And usually… what’s available after not grocery shopping for a while isn’t much. Planning what meals you will make when and going to the store once for all the needed ingredients is much more time efficient and convenient than figuring out what’s for dinner each day when you get home at 5pm. For some people, this may look like batch cooking 2-3 big meals on the weekends and then reheating for lunches and dinners the rest of the week. Others may cook 3-4 nights a week, making lots of leftovers. Still others may cook every night, but have set meals that they have planned out based on how much time they will have for food preparation that day. There are many different ways this can be done, it’s about finding what works best for you so that you can be consistent.

Consider: figure out what system will work best for you. Trial and error is ok! Consistency is what matters (notice a theme emerging?).

For me, this looks like planning four main dinners and grocery shopping once per week. Currently I’m using the Mealime app to choose four simple dinners, increase the servings per meal to account for lots of leftovers, add eggs, cheese, fruit, and nuts to the list the app creates and voila- meals planned for the week!

 

 

Connecting with loved ones.

For many, this has been challenging and looked very different over the past year, but perhaps it’s also highlighted the need for quality time with the people we love and who love us. It’s easy to be together if you live in the same house, but quality time is a different thing entirely than just being in the same room with someone. Technology has done wonders at keeping us connected with people outside of our bubbles this year, but it might be keeping us more disconnected from the people we live with.

Consider: how can you have more quality time with the people you love and care about? This doesn’t necessarily have to be “another thing to do”. Could you go on a walk with a friend, or join a specialty gym with your teenager and go together (exercise!)? Could you cook dinners as a family (food prep!)? Have a phone free night and play games instead?

For me, this looks like prioritizing date night with my husband every week. Rarely do we do anything fancy- our favorite thing is to make tea, eat dark chocolate, and play Rummy, Farkle or Qwirkle while we chat. I usually go from a walk with my mom once a week, and I also have nephews in the area, and try to see them often- they grow up so fast! As a person who loves to plan, I have a hard time being spontaneous. But I’ve made an effort to capitalize on spontaneous times with family and it’s those times that have produced some of the best memories.

 

 

White space.

This is my favorite- and hardest- MDR. White space is unplanned, unspoken for time. Time to do whatever sounds the most lifegiving to you. Time to read a book. Or sit in the yard with a cup of tea. Or sit at the beach by yourself for a few minutes, watching the waves and seagulls. Being quiet is a hard practice as we are bombarded by technology, an overwhelming to-do list, people needing things, and on and on. The need to be busy and keep our brains busy is almost an addiction. But when we make some space to be quiet and recharge, it gives us space and time to think, feel, process, and be creative.

Consider: how can you clear out time for white space? Scheduling it may or may not work for you, but make it a priority. Then decide what to do with it. Doing anything phone-free is a great place to start!

For me, this looks like setting aside a few hours one day a week that I can think, pray, and journal. Like the spontaneity I’m learning to embrace in my relationships with others, I’m learning to do that for myself, too, taking advantage of spare moments to sit still by the ocean or take a quick walk around the yard.

 

 

Your MDRs will be different from mine- as it should be! But take a few minutes to think through these five areas and write down your MDRs for each one. Then, make it a priority to do them! Evaluate them briefly every week, making adjustments as you need to. They should be serving you, not the other way around. 

 

-Moriah, front desk staff

Beat the winter blues with Exercise

 

Get your body moving every day to beat the winter blues!

 

Higher Energy option: 

When temperatures are low outside, warm up your body from within by getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat! High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is great for this. In as little as 15 to 20 minutes, you can do a full-body work out right from your home with no equipment necessary. HIIT incorporates short intervals of intense exercise (when your heart rate can reach about 80% of its maximum capacity) with periods of rest or active recovery.

Here are some examples of exercises you can include in your HIIT workouts: burpees, mountain climbers, plank jacks, squat jumps, Russian twists, and bicycle crunches. There are many great HIIT resources, guides, and videos out there that you can customize to your fitness level and schedule. Try HIIT this winter, ideally in the morning within an hour of waking, and get your heart pumping, blood moving, metabolism firing, and energy going! 

 

Lower Energy option:

Get outside! Sunshine (when we can get it), fresh air, and movement can go a long way to boosting your mood and relieving stress, even if it’s cold out. Bundle up and try one of these ideas:

-Keep it simple- take a lap around your neighborhood.

-If there’s no snow (or if there is snow and you have the right gear), try a local trail like Mt Agamenticus, Stratham Hill Park, Urban Forestry Center or the Great Bay Wildlife Refuge.

-Put on an extra layer and go to the beach! Winter is a great time to find treasures washed ashore by stormy seas.

-Walk around your neighborhood during a snowstorm- the quiet stillness is so peaceful. 

 

Boost your Immune System with Fire Cider

Fire cider is a time-honored herbal remedy that has its roots in ancient and folk medicine. Although it has seen many variations over the years, the basic recipe calls for apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, turmeric, lemon, honey, hot pepper, and aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage. The result of this combination of powerful botanicals is a warming and stimulating tonic that promotes vigor and overall well-being. It aids digestion, increases energy, raises body temperature, and – most importantly – boosts immunity. 

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients to better understand the immune-boosting benefits of Fire Cider!

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is high in minerals, especially potassium, which makes it a good regulator of acid/alkaline balance in the body. In general, it is harder for disease to exist when the body is in an alkaline state, so promoting alkalinity has direct benefits for the immune system. Its main constituent, acetic acid, is primarily excreted by the lungs, kidneys, and skin, so apple cider vinegar will also act as a mild expectorant, diuretic, and diaphoretic. Lastly, apple cider vinegar is antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory (it decreases the pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IL-6, the same molecules released during the “cytokine storm” of SARS-CoV2 infection!). 

 

Garlic and Onion

Garlic and onion have similar medicinal properties since both are in the Allium family of vegetables. The medicinal properties are largely attributed to the sulfur-containing compound allicin, a powerful antimicrobial effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Allicin has an affinity for the lungs and digestive tract so it is useful in the prevention and treatment of respiratory infections like colds, flus, sinusitis, and bronchitis and digestive infections that involve unwanted microorganisms. Garlic and, to a lesser extent, onion also reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, so they can be effective for preventing some of the cardiometabolic diseases that predispose individuals to more severe or more frequent infections (including more severe SARS-CoV2 infection).

 

Horseradish

Horseradish is a powerful antimicrobial plant that also stimulates expectoration and thins phlegm and sticky mucus. It has a high affinity for the upper respiratory tract and is very effective at preventing or treating sinusitis and other upper respiratory conditions characterized by stagnation and congestion. Lastly, it stimulates circulation and promotes sweating, which augments the immune system and helps the body cope with fevers.

 

Ginger

Ginger is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial. Although it is typically associated with the digestive system, its heating quality and ability to stimulate blood flow to tissues make it good at dispelling diseases associated with cold, like upper and lower respiratory tract congestion and inflammation.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is by far one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant botanicals there is. With its additional antimicrobial action, turmeric is a go-to for quenching the inflammation associated with acute and chronic infections and injuries to tissues like the muscle, joints, brain, liver, intestines, kidney, heart, and blood vessels. Turmeric can also lower cholesterol and prevent the oxidation of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol involved in plaque formation), making it effective at preventing some of the cardiometabolic diseases that predispose individuals to poor immune function.  

 

Lemon

Lemon pulp and juice are high in vitamin C, an immune-boosting rockstar. Vitamin C contributes to immune defenses by supporting mucosal barrier function against pathogens in our digestive, respiratory, and genitourinary tracts; aiding in microbial killing; and exerting high antioxidant activity. Lemon, like apple cider vinegar, promotes alkalinity, thus warding off disease. It’s very useful in treating fevers, sore throats, colds, flus, bronchitis and any other respiratory condition characterized by excessive phlegm.

 

Honey

Honey is more than just a tasty treat! It has medicinal properties that add to the healing power of any herbal preparation. It is antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, and soothing. Honey is also highly nutritious. It contains proteins and carbohydrates, minerals like iron and manganese, and vitamins like vitamin B2 and B6. Raw honey confers an additional advantage because it contains vital enzymes, nutrients, and traces of pollen that are destroyed in the pasteurization process, making it far more nutrient rich. All these factors make it a great immune system support. 

 

Cayenne Hot Pepper

Cayenne’s medicinal properties are largely attributed to the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin is antimicrobial and antioxidant. As a circulatory stimulant and diaphoretic, it enhances blood flow and increases body temperature to aid in expelling infections and cleansing the body. Enhanced blood flow means immune cells can be better distributed to peripheral tissues to do their important jobs of surveillance and defense!

 

Aromatic Herbs- Rosemary, thyme, sage

Rosemary, thyme, and sage all contain volatile oils that have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Commonly used in steam inhalations to thin and expel mucus from the upper and lower respiratory tracts, these aromatic herbs are staples for combatting respiratory infections and inflammation

 

Although it’s sold in stores, the great thing about Fire Cider – besides all its health benefits, of course – is that it can easily be made at home from common kitchen ingredients. So go ahead and make a big batch from scratch to carry you through COVID-19 season and beyond! (You can find a recipe, inspired by master herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, here). 

Take Fire Cider by the spoonful or add it to salad dressings, marinades, stir-fries, juices, or teas and cheers to your health!

Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou

 

Sources: 

Yagnik D, Serafin V, J Shah A. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. Published 2018 Jan 29. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x

Immune System Support

It’s that time of year again when many of us tend to get the sniffles, fevers, coughs, sore throats and feel down-and-out for a few weeks. The best way to protect yourself against the common bugs of the fall and winter seasons is to strengthen your defenses. Here are some lifestyle factors and nutrients that will help keep your immune system strong all season long!

 

Immune Supporting Factors 

  1. Diet: Avoid dietary factors that depress the immune system, like refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, food allergens, and alcohol. Emphasize a whole food, plant-based diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats.
  2. Sleep: Get adequate, restful sleep every night. For adults, this means 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool; create a relaxing bedtime routine; and avoid bright light, particularly LED or blue light, for an hour or more before bedtime to encourage melatonin production and restful sleep.
  3. Stress management: Chronic stress dampens your immune response. Engage in daily activities to calm your nervous system and lower stress – diaphragmatic breathing, warm Epsom salts baths, soothing music, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, prayer, time in nature, and other activities that bring you joy.
  4. Healthy microbiome: About 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. It even has a special name – the Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). The health of your gut directly impacts the health of your other mucosal tissues (i.e. your respiratory tract). By feeding and supporting the good bacteria in your gut, you are directly benefitting your immune system and protecting your respiratory tract! Include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, tempeh, natto, kefir, and yogurt in your daily meal plans. Also include adequate amounts of dietary fiber, which will feed your gut bacteria and promote a diverse microbiome. Supplementation with probiotics, specifically Bifidobacterium and Bacillus strains, can also be very beneficial when your microbiome and immune system need an extra boost.

 

Immune Boosting Nutrients

  1. Zinc: Zinc is crucial for the function of your natural killer cells that are responsible for killing virally infected cells. Oysters have the highest zinc content of any food, but meat, dairy products, beans, whole grains, and nuts are also good sources. Additional supplementation with 25-40 mg of zinc daily may be beneficial for some people.  
  2. Selenium: Selenium is another nutrient that your immune system relies on for proper function. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. Aim for 200 mcg of selenium daily, which is about 3 Brazil nuts per day.
  3. Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to your immune defenses and aids in microbial killing. Infection is a major cause of inflammation in the body that in turn leads to free-radical damage and oxidative stress. Vitamin C helps mitigate much of this inflammation. Foundational dosages for adults are between 1,000-3,000 mg per day in divided doses, but can be increased during times of acute illness. 
  4. Vitamin D3: Vitamin D3 is an immune system regulator. Deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to infections and even autoimmunity. Supplementing with Vitamin D3 daily in the darker months of the year can be beneficial. Make sure you have your levels tested to determine the dose that’s most appropriate for you. 
  5. Antioxidants: Other antioxidants like glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, and alpha lipoic acid are also beneficial nutrients that help your immune system stay strong in the face of inflammation and oxidative stress caused by infections. 
  6. Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms like reishi, cordyceps, turkey tail, chaga, shiitake, maitake, and agaricus are powerful immune system modulators that can help your body be resilient in the face of viral infections. Using these mushrooms in culinary or supplemental form will offer you a broad spectrum of immune support.

Supplementation should always be done under the supervision of a doctor. Give us a call to find out ways we can help you create a personalized plan to support your immune system and overall health!

 

Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou

 

10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays are often synonymous with overeating and overindulging, especially now during the pandemic where most of us are working from home with the refrigerator and pantry just an arm’s length away. But this doesn’t have to be the case! Here are ten tips for preventing holiday weight gain and ensuring optimal health as you enter the new year.

 

  1. Snack wisely – Opt for crudités with hummus or bean dip over traditional chips and dairy-based dips, and nuts & seeds over crackers & cheese. Always carry a snack with you when running errands to prevent temptations from fast food joints and convenience processed, packaged foods. Great snacks to keep on hand are: piece of fruit like banana or apple with nut butter, nuts and seeds, avocado, hard-boiled egg, raw chopped vegetables with hummus or bean dip, sliced deli meat (organic, nitrite-free whenever possible), protein bar. 
  2. Watch portions sizes & food quantity – Fill your plate primarily with non-starchy vegetables (~50-70% of plate – variety of colors, raw and cooked, at least one leafy green with every meal) and eat those first. Wait about 20 minutes before going for seconds to let your brain catch up with your stomach and recognize how full you really are. 
  3. Eat nutritionally balanced meals with a combination of complex carbohydrates/fiber, healthy fats, and protein. These provide a “time-released” source of sugar, allowing sugar to be absorbed slowly and steadily to prevent the peaks and valleys of poor blood sugar regulation.
  4. Mindful eating – Chew slowly, savor food flavors, indulge your senses, minimize distractions, and enjoy the company of others. 
  5. Limit & watch alcohol intake – Alcoholic drinks are big sources of calories from sugar with no nutritional value. The calories add up quickly and it’s easy to lose track of just how much sugar you’re consuming. Biggest offenders are holiday cocktails that are mixed with sodas or juices, but beer and wine can be problematic too. When trying to prevent weight gain, it’s best to watch liquid caloric intake. 
  6. Limit desserts and sweets – Opt for one of your favorites instead of trying one of everything. A lot of traditional dessert recipes can be made “healthier” by using whole grain, gluten-free, or nut flours; nut and seed butters; and honey and maple syrup as sweeteners, where a little goes a long way. In general, stay away from desserts made of simple carbohydrates, including sugars and refined grains that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients.
  7. “Health-ify” your cooking techniques – Instead of frying, opt for cooking methods like baking, roasting, grilling, or steaming. Instead of butter and salt, use spices and herbs to create great flavors in your meals. Most spices and herbs have additional health promoting benefits, from decreasing inflammation to stimulating your metabolism, making them the easiest way to use food as medicine!
  8. Sharing – Bring an appetizer, dessert, or dish to share at dinner parties, one that you know is healthy and that you can eat without feelings of anxiety or guilt. This is especially important if you have food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances. This way you won’t find yourself tempted by other dishes or going hungry. 
  9. Incorporate physical activity with family and friends – Quality time around the holidays is not just lying around on the couch, watching TV. Take group walks/hikes or play football and other games in your backyard.
  10. Don’t neglect your other determinants of health like adequate sleep, regular exercise, and stress management. Stick to your normal, non-holiday routine and make holiday indulgences the exception, not the norm.

 

Written by Dr. Alyssa Christoforou