5 Flu-Busting Strategies to Keep You Healthy this Fall

sick teddyA recent CBC report stated that last year’s flu vaccine had an effectiveness rate of around 50%, up from “essentially zero” the year before.  Earlier this year, a Canadian study showed that people who were vaccinated consecutively from 2012-2014 appeared to have a higher risk of infection.  The article also states, “Canadians who had received a flu shot in late 2008 were between 1.4 and 2.5 times more likely to contract an H1N1 infection,” compared with those who did not.

Yet every year, the flu vaccine is advertised as the best (& only) prevention strategy.  Is this truly the best we can do?

The flu can be a very serious illness- especially in the very young, the very old and people who have any compromise to their immunity.  However, our current shot in the dark strategy of  vaccine production based on “our best guess” principle falls radically short of offering real protection for Canadians.

The state of your immune system is the strongest predictor of whether or not you will get sick this winter.  The good news is that there are sound yet simple immune-boosting strategies that need not be expensive, require no injections, come with no questionable fillers and actually will improve your resistance to all viruses and bacteria. So try some of these suggestions to keep your immune system supported and strong for a healthy winter season.

  1. Ensure your have adequate levels of Vitamin D.

    As the weather gets colder, we need to ensure adequate vitamin D status.  In one study, children taking just 1,200 IUs of vitamin D3 per day, were 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu.

  2. Eat well. 

    Focus on eating good quality fats (think coconut oil, nuts, avocado), lean protein, vegetables (frozen is the next best to fresh) and whole grains and fruit sparingly (due to their sugar content) for a well-balanced whole foods diet that promotes healthy immune function. Add fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and/or kombucha to provide sources of probiotics, or supplement a good probiotic as well.  One study of 3 to 5 year olds indicated that ingestion of probiotics 1-2x/day resulted in:

  • Reduced fever by 53 percent and 73 percent respectively
  • Decreased coughing by 41 percent and 62 percent
  • Reduced runny noses by 28 percent and 59 percent
  • Reduced antibiotic use by 68 percent and 84 percent (which is a major gain in and of itself because antibiotics are vastly overused in children and also devastate your gut flora)

Adding garlic, onion and honey into your daily foods can help ease symptoms of congestion, sore throat and cough.  Warm foods like soups and stews are always easier to digest in the winter months.

  1. Limit contact.

    Washing your hands frequently is perhaps the simplest measure we can do to stop the spread of the virus.  Just plain soap and water will do.  Take the time to wash thoroughly, between fingers and under nails.  Make a point to limit contact at the office/classroom by staying at home for much needed rest if you do get sick.

  2. Increase your body temperature.

    A warm body temperature is less likely to harbour the virus that causes the flu.  Short, intense bursts of exercise (like running in place as fast as you can for a minute) several times a day are enough to stimulate your metabolism and your immunity. Another option would be to perform warming socks – a wonderful,simple and effective method to use in both prevention and treatment of acute flu/cold.  Or sit in a sauna regularly to enjoy its immune-boosting benefits (and warmth).

  3. Manage stress.

    In a recent cold study, participants who had reported being under stress were twice as likely to get sick. Prolonged stress will, over time, decrease your immune response.  Conversely, skilled relaxation results in a corresponding increase in protective antibody production.  Balance your life between work and play, spend quality time with loved ones, practice deep breathing/yoga/meditation/prayer, exercise, and/or journal to help keep stress in check.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent the flu.  The best approach for staying well this winter is to have a robust and well-functioning immune system.  I hope these tips help you and your families stay well this upcoming season.

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Ward off Germs with Garlic Honey

Garlic honey is super easy to make and ready almost immediately to treat sore throats, colds, the flu, lung congestion, and sinus problems.

Use a small jar (4-8 ounces/125-250ml) with a good lid. Fill it with unpeeled garlic cloves (you can peel and chop the cloves if you prefer), then pour honey over it all, using a chop stick to poke the honey down into the garlic. After screwing on the lid, label the jar with the contents and date.  Overnight, so it seems, the garlic and honey combine to create a divine elixir that may be taken by the spoonful right out of the jar.

As it ages, both the honey and the garlic darken. After a couple of months, the garlic is suffused with honey and is lovely to eat.  Garlic honey keeps indefinitely at room temperature, but should not be given to children less than one year old (as per any honey).

Healthy Food, Fresh & Fast

They say that 80% of our healthcare starts in the kitchen.  Yet, there are many barriers to being able to ensure that there are always healthy options available.  Aside from the cost of healthy foods, there is also the time required, not only to source quality ingredients, but then to prepare them before they spoil in a way that preserves their nutrition. I think it is one area where area, though critically important, continues to challenge people everyday.  I found myself in a similar situation, how do I find the time and energy needed to feed my family in a way that I could feel good about it?

I started researching last fall, looking for a new gadget or appliance that would facilitate my goals.  I was looking for something that would allow me to cook from frozen, should I forget to defrost the night before.  That is when I came across the Instant Pot.

What is the Instant Pot?

Instant Pot is a multi-function small appliance that can replace your slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and warming pot. Since one of my first criteria is that an appliance has to “earn” its countertop real estate, I was intrigued, as now I could replace my beloved slow cooker.  I read the reviews online, and quite honestly, thought it is too good to be true.  The people who wrote about it seemed almost overly fascinated, overly enthusiastic, was it possible that one little appliance could transform one’s life so radically?  Well, I have to admit, I am a convert.

Why do I love my Instant Pot?

The ability to cook meat from frozen was just the tip of the Instant Pot journey for me.  Suddenly, I was able to make enough soups/stews to feed my family for about a month in a matter of hours.  I would use it to make lunch and again supper in the same day.  I think the best part of it is you can cook everything in one pot, with the incredibly handy saute function, add your vegetables and stock, set it and walk away.  And when you return, voila, lunch/dinner is ready to serve, with enough for leftovers for another day.

Other advantages were I no longer threw out vegetables that were past their prime, but instead, trimmed them and froze them for my next batch of soup.  I also quickly learned I no longer had to source out BPA-free canned beans and lentils, as now I had a time effective way to make beans from scratch. I really like the idea of making homemade yogurt, which can be a real health promoting food, when it is not full of sugar, thickener and stabilizers.  For people sensitive to dairy, this feature also offers a much more cost-effective way to make dairy-free yogurt.

People use it for all sorts of things, including making cheesecake (not yet something i have tried).  But having cooked chicken breasts, seasoned, and shredded for wraps, salads and soups on hand was incredibly convenient.  And don’t get me started with how easy it is to make bone broth – rich, satisfying and nourishing bone broth in a matter of an hour.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have no financial incentive to promote this product. Just a zeal for tasty and healthy nutrition.  There is a learning curve in how to use it, but tons of resources online from Facebook Recipe groups, Pinterest, and good old Google, I am sure you will have no trouble.  I hope you find it as useful and as rewarding as I have.  With the arrival of the autumn harvest, it feels time to dust off my Instant Pot (I didn’t use it much in the summer) and get busy.  Yum, yum.

Spicy Curry Lentil Soup

Another fall favourite, hearty and filling.  Freezes well too. Can also be made in a pressure cooker.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Onion, Diced
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Jalapeno/Serrano Pepper, Seeded and Diced (optional), or Madras Curry Paste (also optional)
2 teaspoons ground Turmeric
2 teaspoons ground Cumin
2 cans lentils – green or brown
2 Cups Broth
15 oz Diced Tomatoes
15 oz Full Fat Coconut Milk
5 oz Fresh Baby Spinach or other greens like kale
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Add olive oil to your pot and saute onion, garlic and jalapeno if using with a pinch of salt. Saute until your onion is translucent. Add in the turmeric, cumin and curry paste (if using), stirring cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Add the lentils and broth, stir being sure to scrape the bottom of your pressure cooker. Pour the entire contents of the diced tomatoes on the top and stir.  Cook on medium about 15-20 minutes.

2. Add the coconut milk, baby spinach, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Puree with hand blender for a less chunky, creamier consistency, if desired.  Heat and stir until the greens are wilted.

5 Simple Strategies for Radical Health

5 simple strategies for radical healthThe busyness of the holiday season has come and gone…and many of us find ourselves wanting to make a fresh start for the New Year. It is easy to get lost in all of the confusion, as the newly promoted diet/workout/health strategies all compete for our attention.   However, the basic tenets of good health actually do not change much.  Here are the ones that are tried and true:

  1. Sleep.

    Sleep is the healer of all things, and few of us manage to get regular decent, uninterrupted sleep. Aim to get eight hours for best health.  Studies show that sleep deficits are cumulative and that we often underestimate sleep deficits in our performance.

  2. Eat well.

    A plant-based foods diet is one that will sustain your health long-term. I tend to follow the 80-20 rule – I aim to eat super well 80% of the time, and give myself some leeway for the other 20%.  When in doubt, eat more vegetables – they are truly the diet underdogs, and deliver the most nutrition of any food group.  If you desire weight loss, it doesn’t really matter which “diet plan” you choose.  Just be consistent in making healthy eating choices and reducing processed food intake. Water is also important for optimal health – be sure to drink a minimum of at least eight glasses of good quality (preferably filtered alkalized) water daily.

  3. Move.

    Our bodies were designed to move.It doesn’t have to be CrossFit – you can go for a humble walk, plant a garden, play with a child, or clean the house.  Consistency is key, aim to do something active every day.

  4. Socialize

    We are social creatures and our busy days can make it easy to forget to stop and say hello. Pick up the phone for a long overdue chat with a friend, or find the few minutes it takes to just sit with a cup of tea with your spouse and discuss your day. Chronic loneliness has been shown to reduce longevity by up to eight years. Interpersonal relationships are critical not only in creating longevity, but also happiness.

  5. Be grateful

    An attitude of gratitude seriously impacts both physical and psychological health. As a result, we are happier, more likable, have better career aspirations, and less stress.  One popular strategy is to journal three things or events for which you are grateful on a daily basis.

How do we know these practices work? When we examine “blue zones” (areas in the world noted for their remarkable longevity), these are the practices that stand out as part of their daily lifestyles.  These communities are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Ikaria, Greece
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Loma Linda, California

People in these communities often live well beyond 100 years. Let’s adopt their tried and true wisdom for very, very long purposeful and joyful lives.

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Are you a Toxin Superhero?

detox

With the first signs of spring comes the natural desire to do some spring cleaning – both inside and out.  People talk of doing a “cleanse” or a detox, perhaps not realizing that the body is detoxifying all of the time  If it didn’t, all bodily functions would cease.

Detoxification is the primary function of your body’s liver, which is the largest organ of the body.  Though the liver is a multi-talented organ, not to be taken for granted.   Located just under the right end of your rib cage, the liver performs over 200 vital functions, including fat and cholesterol metabolism, hormone excretion, and bile production (for digestion).

Think of the liver like a filter.  Any filter, over a period of time, can get congested.  For example, in the case of premenstrual symptoms, a truly healthy woman would have no symptoms at all.  As the liver becomes compromised, symptoms may be mild and start the day before, or just before the onset of flow. With time,  symptoms will come on earlier and last longer – why?  Because the liver is having a progressively more difficult time properly eliminating the elevated levels of hormones in the bloodstream.  Therefore, the hormones circulate in the bloodstream longer, causing the discomfort associated with PMS.  This holds true for all hormones (and neurotransmitters), not just those associated with a woman’s monthly cycle.

Another analogy to help picture it is to think of your liver like your own personal dumpster.  Your genetic background will dictate how big your dumpster is.  Some very sensitive people have a very small capacity to handle toxins, and there are others who seem like Toxin Superheroes.  Most of us, fortunately, fall somewhere in between.  As the dumpster gets progressively fuller (with time), there is less space and things start to seep back into general circulation.  The result?  You start to feel like a walking, talking dumpster (and smell like one too.)

Here are some signs that your liver may be struggling – how many of these apply to you?

  1. Cholesterol metabolism.

Most people do not realize that about 80% of cholesterol is actually made by the liver.  If your liver is not working efficiently, it may show up as:

  • Increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol”
  • Lowered high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good cholesterol” which is the precursor for your hormone production
  • High triglycerides
  • Elevated ALT and AST liver enzymes
  • Weight gain
  • Heart disease
  1. Altered Digestion.

One of the primary functions of the liver is to produce bile, which helps to break down dietary fats.  Without adequate bile production, you may experience:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Constipation
  • Inability to digest fatty foods
  • Loss of appetite
  1. Skin issues/allergies

The skin is one of your body’s four exits from the body (the other three are the bowels, the bladder and the lungs).  Your liver filters the blood, and prepare waste products for elimination.  If the liver or any of the exits are compromised, you may experience:

  • Unexplained rashes
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Boils, acne, or moles
  • Itching
  1. Changes in blood sugar levels

Your liver plays an important role in blood sugar regulation.  Blood sugar imbalances symptomatically may manifest as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness or dizziness, better after eating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  1. Hormonal imbalance

Any symptom related to hormone imbalance definitely implicates poor liver function.  The liver is responsible for filtering out hormones and neurotransmitters from the blood.  An inability to do so might manifest as:

  • Poor sleep quality
  • Mental disturbance/confusion and/or depression
  • Sensitivity to chemicals, fragrance, pharmaceuticals
  • Heavy/clotted or irregular periods
  • Cystic breasts, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids
  • Hot flashes, mood swings or any menopausal symptoms
  1. Other symptoms

Someone with impaired liver function may also exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • Intolerance to alcohol or coffee
  • Swollen feet or abdomen
  • Easy bruising
  • Yellowing of the eyes
  • Dark urine and stool
  • Bad breath, body odor
  • Heartburn

The good news is – the liver is capable of regeneration, given the right support.

Here are three easy steps to get improve your liver function and stimulate your metabolism:

  1. Improve your digestion.  Increase your hydrochloric acid (helps your stomach break down protein) production by taking 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar or 1/2 lemon in a glass (8 oz) of water consistently upon rising; wait 30 minutes before eating. Ideally, replace processed foods with a whole, plant-based diet which are easier to break down and place minimal burden on the liver and digestive tract.  At minimum, take periodic breaks from eating highly processed foods (I like to recommend a minimum of a one week commitment as the weather changes from winter to spring, and again from summer to fall).  Supplement with digestive enzymes, or carminative herbs (like peppermint, clove, star anise, papaya, ginger, pineapple) at meals.
  2. Facilitate efficient elimination.  Include a minimum of 2-3 Tbsp of insoluble fibre in your diet daily – preferably in the form of freshly ground flaxseed (helps to excrete environmental estrogens out of the body and heal the GI tract).  If you cannot tolerate flax, you may also use chia seeds or psyllium husk as an alternative.  Be sure to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of quality water daily.
  3. Ensure you have good co-factors!  A good quality Vitamin B complex (remember, you get what you pay for) is key to opening up and facilitating phase two of the detoxification process (added benefits include nervous system support during times of stress, and improved carbohydrate metabolism).  Be sure to choose the methylated forms of folate and B12, to ensure maximum efficacy.  If you have any questions, let me know and I would be happy to make an appropriate recommendation for you.

 

 

 

12 Tips To Enjoy The Holidays

enjoy winter

 

    1. Breathe.

      Focus on taking deep and relaxing breaths all day. Feeling rushed – take a minute or two to breathe deeply and then set about your day.

    2. Simplify.

      Just because you did it last year (and the year before and the year before), it doesn’t mean you have to still do it. Let go of the things that do not bring you joy.

    3. Slow down.

      The pressure is on this time of year, honor yourself and trust that the world won’t end if you ease the pressure.

    4. Take time out.

      Practice just being, whether alone or with your family.

    5. Have funEmbrace your inner child – be silly, let go, and have some fun. You’ll be surprised how good it feels.
    6. Move

      There are so many reasons to exercise. It helps to relieve stress, up your metabolism and energy, and increase your feelings of self worth. Whether is it is a simple walk, a favourite yoga class, or dancing in the living room. Feel like you have too much to do? Get moving – it will give you the perspective you need to get through it all.

    7. Read

      Who doesn’t love a good (e)book? We are all storytellers and listeners at heart.

    8. Be Generous.

      Exercise compassion. Practice patience and kindness. Be purposeful and intentional.

    9. Practice gratitude.

      Remember to express gratitude for everything in life. Practice gratitude throughout the day.

    10. Water.

      Drink a glass or two. Make your favourite tea. Have a relaxing shower or bath.

    11. Eat well.

      Eating balanced meals will help you from overindulging in sugary treats/alcohol, and give you the energy and the mental stamina needed for the extra holiday festivities & activities. Do it all, in moderation, of course.

    12. Connect

      Share thoughts and ideas with each other. Reflect on the events of the year and the goals for the future.  Watch a movie together or better yet, play a game.

 

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Guidelines to Improve Health for You & Your Family

Improve your family’s health by following the guidelines below:

  1. Make sure you get the best nutrition available, i.e., organic, whole foods. Avoid processed foods. By doing this you will prevent an increase of further toxicity with heavy metals, pesticides, flavour enhancers like MSG, color additives, GMOs, preservatives and chemicals.
  2. If you are going to eat bread, choose sourdough bread over yeast bread to prevent the binding of zinc and magnesium to an insoluble complex with phytic acid and to enable the assimilation of nutritional zinc and magnesium. Since whole wheat sourdough bread is often very heavy, it would be better to start with lighter sourdough bread.
  3. Drink pure filtered water without copper or other toxins.
  4. Avoid the use of the microwave for all food and drinks; avoid also as much as possible plastic containers and packages.
  5. Avoid sugar as much as possible, sweets in general and artificial sweeteners. It is poisonous to the intestines and pancreas and several other tissues. Sugar also inhibits the production of EPA and DHA , both omega-3 fatty acids that are of crucial importance to the brain tissue.
  6. Provide a quiet and peaceful environment for you and your family, eliminating excess stimuli such as TV, gaming systems and computers.
  7. Make sure you are well grounded to the earth. Static electricity may give rise to both emotional/mental disorders and physical complaints. Synthetic clothing, insulating shoes (rubber or plastic soles) and synthetic floor coverings should therefore be avoided. Walk barefoot as much as possible. Eliminate all electric appliances in the bedroom such as electric alarm clocks, TV, computers or audio equipment. Turn off Wi-Fi during the night (and day).
  8. Ensure a healthy sleeping environment for you & your family.       A healthy bed should not contain any metal. If possible, have your child sleep facing north or east. A dark room is important for the production of melatonin (sleep hormone).
  9. Avoid antibiotics since they impair intestinal flora and consequently increase underlying problems. In case of infection, opt for naturopathic solutions.

How to Go Gluten Free

gluten free

For many people, part of their health journey requires healing the digestive tract, which can mean avoid gluten for periods of time. Going gluten-free can be a challenge at first…stick to simple choices at the beginning, until you start to navigate the ins & outs of gluten containing food. It is always best to focus on eating whole foods that are found in nature (as opposed to processed foods). Continue reading