Beat Seasonal Depression to the Punch!

It seems like just yesterday I was boogie boarding and swimming in the ocean after my work days, now it is getting dark and cold! The days are getting shorter and the temps are dropping. How do we keep our moods up through the fall and winter in New England?

  • Stay active every day. This can be running after your kids, having your kids run after you, walk with a friend, put on a favorite aerobic workout, do yoga in the living room or at a studio, run the stairs, wake up and do 15 min of exercise. The point is to move your body, 30 min a day for adults and two hours a day for children, yes every day.
  • Get outside. Wear the right clothes and all weather can be lovely. Enjoy the change of seasons by walking, hiking, ice skating, sitting outside by a fire with friends, visiting a park or playground, go to the beach, go sledding, learn how to skate ski, go downhill skiing, or have tea outside in the sunshine. 

  • Get adequate sleep. Go to bed earlier this winter and wake with the sun, it is lovely! For those of you who struggle with sleep, use Melatonin for a week after the time change 1-3mg is usually all you will need to reset your own clock.

  • Eat healthy comfort foods. Roast your veggies instead of munching on them raw, make soup, make healthy meals for yourself every day and then have warm leftovers the next day. Find a new recipe every week to try out.  Spend time making yourself and family a nice breakfast every day: I like overnight oats with walnuts, ground flax, blueberries and almond milk, or eggs, avocado and salsa on a slice of gluten free toast. 

  • Are you taking vitamin D? IF you have not had your levels checked or if you tend to run low, make sure you check levels and are taking enough every day, this will help your mood! Most adults need 5,000IU daily, most kids are deficient so depending on age and weight, remember their vitamin D too.

  • Sunshine and light is important so improve the lighting in your home and let the sunshine in whenever possible. Purchase a daylight-sunlight lamp if you feel you need it, these can be used for 20-30 minutes daily.

  • B vitamins are essential for happy moods. I like a basic methylated B Complex or a stress B complex for us adults and a great quality methylated children’s multi for our kids throughout the darker times of the year.

  • Friends and Family time is important to prevent depression. Keep it positive and plan activities that will help bring you closer, laughing together is even better. I like game night! Start a book club with like minded friends or family- this can be virtual or in person.

Ask for support. There are many natural treatments for seasonal depression and anxiety, we are happy to help you create a plan for your unique needs.

-Dr Quinn

Sleep Deep

Get Regular Exercise:

  • Regular physical exercise is known to improve general wellbeing and promote improvement in sleep quality. Exercise should take place in the morning or early evening, not right before bedtime, and should be of moderate intensity. Usually 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at a heart rate between 60 and 75% of maximum is sufficient.

 

Make Healthy Food Choices: 

  • Especially important to preventing sleep maintenance insomnia is eating a low-glycemic-load diet to reduce blood sugar volatility. 
  • For healthy blood sugar levels:
    • Limit simple carbohydrates – sugar and refined grains. 
    • Balance each meal and snack with a combination of fiber/complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and proteins. 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.
  • Consider eating a small balanced snack before bedtime if you are prone to low blood sugar.

 

Evaluate and protect your sleeping environment:

  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping. A bit of light reading may help you fall asleep, but if it doesn’t, do your reading elsewhere in the house. Don’t watch TV in bed.
  • Be sure your bed is big enough to stretch out comfortably, especially if you have a sleep partner.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. To block out noise, use earplugs, soothing music, or a “white noise” machine. To block out light, use blackout curtains, blinds, or a sleep mask. 

 

Create an evening/bedtime routine:

  • Plan a routine that relaxes you before bed. Take a warm shower or bath, listen to soothing music, or drink a cup of non-caffeinated tea. Great herbs for sleep include California poppy, chamomile, holy basil, lavender, lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian. There are great tea blends for sleep like Cup of Calm or Nighty Night by Traditional Medicinals, or Bedtime or Relaxed Mind by Yogi. 

  • Maintain consistent sleep and wake times. This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired when you wake.

  • Avoid bright light, particularly LED or blue light, for an hour or more before bedtime. Limiting bright light encourages melatonin production.

  • If you cannot fall asleep due to racing thoughts, write down your thoughts in a journal. Getting them out of your head and onto paper may help you fall asleep. 

  • Make a “to do” list of your tasks for the next day if stress about work, etc. keep you up at night. 

 

If you’ve done the above and are still having trouble sleeping, here are some ways to troubleshoot:

  • Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas) during the day, and don’t have any for at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. 

  • Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol decreases sleep latency, increases sleep fragmentation, and suppresses REM sleep. This can cause you to wake up more often during the night and wake feeling groggy and unrested. 

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.

  • Many common medications interfere with sleep. Talk to your doctor about the side effects of your particular medications. 

    • ACE inhibitors – lead to dry cough, which can be worse at night

    • Alpha-blockers – decreased REM, daytime sedation

    • Anti-cholinesterase inhibitors – decreased REM, vivid dreams/nightmares

    • Anti-depressants and steroids – insomnia

    • Beta-blockers – inhibit melatonin production

  • Don’t take naps during the day, especially close to bedtime. If you feel tired in the evening, it is better to go to sleep early than to take a small nap, which will prevent you from falling sleep easily when it is truly time for bedtime.

  • Don’t lie in bed awake for too long. If you can’t fall asleep, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep within 15 minutes or so, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel sleepy.

  • Don’t drink any liquids after 6 p.m. if you wake up often throughout the night because you have to go to the bathroom.
     
  • Consider eating a small balanced snack before bedtime if you are prone to low blood sugar.
  • Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.

  • Get up and do a quiet or boring activity until you feel sleepy.

When you wake up in the morning, expose your eyes to sunlight right away- it helps halt your natural melatonin production and tell your body it’s time to get rolling. 

If you’re still having difficulty getting good rest after trying some of these tips, feel free to reach out for a personalized plan.

Sweet dreams,
Dr. Christoforou

Get Ready For Back to School

Could it really be that our children, teens, young adults and even some of us adults/parents will be headed back to in person learning? I hope so! Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids 2 years old and up return to in person learning for the fall. At this point they are recommending everyone be masked regardless of vaccine status, but stay tuned…
 

How do we prepare our children and ourselves for the return to full week in person learning? I want to take a minute to acknowledge with gratitude my families and all they have accomplished this last year, the good, the not so good and the fantastic! I am proud of all of us. I am a believer in mindfulness and mindset to bring a positive outcome. To start this we begin to dialogue with our children/teens about all that we have to look forward to, new friends, sports, clubs, learning, time at recess, new teachers…
 

Then we move to specifics:

  • How can we improve our general health and immune function?
  • How can we improve our energy?
  • How can we help our kids focus during in person learning?

All three of the above questions can be answered by improving sleep, eating a whole foods based healthy diet and exercising every day.

 

Sleep:

Begin to adjust your sleep schedules the week before going back to school (see tips below from Dr. Christoforou).

Diet:

Eat a healthy, diverse diet every day, even when time is limited. Start coming up with breakfasts, lunches and dinners that incorporate 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruits daily. That means every meal, snack and treat counts: a breakfast with a solid amount of protein, some whole grains, a vegetable or a fruit. Increasing protein, fiber and healthy fats at breakfast will help our kids sustain their brain power and mood while at school. School snacks should be healthy- avoid processed foods and look to apple slices with a cheese stick, or berries and almonds. Excellent nutrition throughout the day will help focus, energy, mood and immune function

Exercise: Stay active, get outside for playtime, stay in a learning, growth mindset every day. Sports are a great way to help your kids stay healthy, happy and engaged. 

Supplementation: 

For children, I recommend a good quality multivitamin daily and with the start of the cold and flu season. 

I like using some elderberry syrup with a powdered vitamin C mixed in water for a breakfast drink. 

I recommend fish oil daily for focus and immune health.

I also recommend vitamin D as they return to the classroom this fall. Vitamin D should be 1000IU/30lb until you reach 5,000IU. I like to cap it there for daily intake from September-June.

I recommend Zinc daily during the school year, 10-15mg. This is often supplied in a multivitamin, but if you’re using one not on this list, check to see if additional zinc is needed.

In addition to exercise, a low sugar & healthy diet, and plenty of sleep, I recommend  L-theanine before school if additional support for focus is needed

Click here for our generic Pediatric protocol on Fullscript

Click here for our generic Teens protocol on Fullscript
 

What about COVID?

We have learned a lot this past year and we recommend kids return to school, get plenty of exercise, fresh air, water and eat with health in mind. Decrease the sugar, the processed foods, and sedentary/screen time. Be sure they take their vitamins, including the list above. If your child or teen gets covid, be in touch. Most children have mild cases that look like a common cold.

           Yours in health, 
           -Dr. Quinn

 

Travel Essentials

It’s that time of year where many of us are packing our bags for summer vacations. While vacations are often fun and relaxing, travel to and from your destination can be stressful and take a toll on your physical and mental health. The added stress of the pandemic is leaving many families wondering what extra steps they should take to ensure wellness while traveling. Below are my top 7 travel essentials.

 

Eye drops and Nasal Spray

The air inside an aircraft is usually very dry, about 10-40 percent less humid than the indoor air you are used to. This dehydrates your skin and dries out the mucus membranes in your eyes and nose. Keeping these mucus membranes lubricated is not just for comfort, but also essential for preventing illness. Look for eye drops that are pH balanced, like Biotrue Hydration Boost Eye Drops by Bausch + Lomb. XLEAR Xylitol and Saline Nasal Spray by Xlear is a great nasal spray with the addition of xylitol that prevents microbes and pollutants from sticking to your nasal passages.

 

Hand Sanitizer

This one should be no surprise! Opt for more eco-friendly and non-toxic sanitizers like ones from Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronners, The Honest Company, or EO Products. 

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that contributes to your immune defenses against microbes and illnesses commonly acquired during travel. 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. You can take vitamin C in capsule form or as an effervescent powder like Emergen-C®.

 

Probiotics

Travel is not just hard on your body, it can be hard on your microbiome too! Probiotics can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea and also keep you regular if you are someone prone to constipation. Opt for shelf stable probiotics that do not need to be refrigerated and are easy to travel with, like Ther-Biotic Synbiotic by Klaire Labs or BioMaintenance Shelf Stable Probiotic by Metabolic Maintenance.

 

Digestive Enzymes

Despite your best efforts to meal prep and pack snacks, travel may upend your dietary routine and impact your digestive function. This is especially true if you have food sensitivities or intolerances that may be difficult to avoid while traveling or on vacation. Digestive enzymes help alleviate gas, bloating, fullness, and discomfort associated with indigestion from consuming unavoidable allergens or indulging in rich foods or treats. They also help with the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients and can help prevent constipation.

 

Melatonin

It often takes our bodies a little while to get adjusted to a new environment. Add in to the equation travel across time zones and our normal sleep/wake cycles that we work so hard to maintain at home get totally out-of-whack. Melatonin can be very helpful in regulating disturbed sleep patterns, mitigating jet lag, or acting as a short-term sleep-aid on an overnight flight. Foundational dosages for adults are between 1-5 mg.

 

Lavender

All aspects of travel can be stressful. Lavender is a wonderful botanical that calms the nervous system and promotes a sense of relaxation during times of temporary stress. It is especially wonderful for people who get a lot of anxiety about flying. It can be taken internally or used externally in the form of essential oil. A great internal preparation is Lavela WS 1265™ by Integrative Therapeutics. Floracopeia has nice essential oil blends with lavender like “Relax” and “Little Angels” that come in roll-ons that are TSA approved and can easily fit in your carry-on.

 

Happy Traveling!

Ahhh, Spring Allergies?

The grass is turning green, the flowers are starting to bloom, the buds on trees are turning to that spring green we all look forward to seeing…. There’s nothing like spring! Even though you might look forward to spring after a cold New England winter, spring allergies can put a damper on your excitement. The good news is, there are some things you can do to help your body handle the allergens and still enjoy the beauty of spring.

 

Make yourself and your home more allergy-friendly:

Allergens are part of the dust makeup of your home, so make a clean home a priority. Remove your shoes at the door, vacuum and dust frequently, and wash your sheets and bedding regularly. A good quality air filter from a company such as Austin Air or Dyson can help filter out allergens and other irritants from your indoor air supply. 

Washing your face and hair before bed can help keep your sheets cleaner for longer and keep allergic triggers away from your nose, ears, eyes, and mouth.

 

Help Your Body clear Congestion:

Try a Neti pot saline rinse- use a ceramic or porcelain pot. Fill the Neti pot with warm, sterile (or previously boiled and cooled) water and dissolve 1/4 tsp non-iodized salt. Run a full Neti pot through each nostril. You can add a few drops of an herbal booster. I like the Neti Salt and Neti Wash Plus by Himalayan Chandra, available on their website or through Amazon. Do this 1-3 times per week during allergy season.

Try a steam inhalation- bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 5 drops of Eucalyptus, Thyme, or Rosemary essential oils. Make a “tent” over the pot by placing a towel over your head and breathe in through the nose to tolerance. Do as needed for nasal and sinus congestion.

Try hot and cold compresses- place a hot compress on your face over your sinuses and let it sit there until it cools. Then apply a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat about 3 times and end with cold.

 

Teas and nutrients that may support your body during allergy season:

Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) tea- Mix 1 tablespoon herb per 1 cup of water. Steep for 15 minutes and strain. You may choose to drink 1 cup twice per day.

These nutrients may support a healthy inflammatory balance and reduce irritation in the sinuses and respiratory system:

  • Vitamin C – an antioxidant, which may stabilize mast cells’ release of histamine 
  • Quercetin – a flavonoid, which may stabilize mast cells’ release of histamine, and support capillaries and blood vessels 
  • Bromelain – a proteolytic enzyme, which may stabilizes mast cells’ release of histamine, and degrade inflammatory proteins 
  • N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine – an antioxidant, which may stabilize mast cells’ release of histamine, and break down mucus 
  • Stinging nettle leaf – a nutrient-rich botanical which may stabilize mast cells’ release of histamine

Products like Aller-Aid, Aller-C, and D-Hist combine some of these nutrients and may be helpful with allergy symptoms.

 

 

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

 

Tick control Strategies:

  • Landscaping: rake leaves, clear brush and debris from grass & gardens, keep grass short, trim shrubs & low branches, create paths in the yard made of wood chips or stone, keep bird feeders at perimeter of property, remove any Japanese barberry shrubs (which create a prime tick habitat), plant deer-resistant plants in the yard (Bee balm, Brunnera, Catmint, Golden Marguerite, Jack in the pulpit, Japanese painted fern, Lily of the valley, Lungwort, Meadow rue, Sea holly, Sweet woodruff, Turtlehead, Virginia bluebells, Wild ginger).
  • Tick tubes: can purchase from farm stores and online (Damminix Tick Tubes® – www.ticktubes.com; Thermacell Tick Control Tubes – www.thermacell.com/products/tick-control-tubes). Mice take the permethrin-treated cotton from the tick tubes back to their nest, where it kills the tick larvae infesting the nest without harming the mice.
  • Pet management: conduct tick checks after time outdoors, limit pets’ presence in sleeping and living areas of the house as much as possible, consider tick repellent collar (Seresto, K9 Advantix II, Vectra 3D) or essential oil spray (Cedarcide Tickshield – www.cedarcide.com).

 

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