Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Colds & Flu

August 31, 2015

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There are about 1 billion colds in the US every year, with every child catching it 6-10 times a year, resulting in 22 million school days being lost every year!

When it comes to cold and flu season, prevention really is the first line of defense. To keep your body’s defense system–the immune system–in peak condition, follow our immunity-boosting tips to help your body fight off the bugs looking for a host. And, for times when you are feeling ill, the second set of tips can help ease your symptoms and support a quick recovery.

Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

Your immune system is at work 24/7! The best approach to supporting immune function is a healthy lifestyle that includes stress management, exercise, whole foods, nutritional supplementation, and the use of plant-based medicines. On a daily basis, you can take the following steps to help your immune system keep you healthy:

  • Wash your hands regularly to help prevent transfer of bacteria.
  • Stay clear of people sneezing or coughing. Avoid shaking hands or other close contact with anyone whom you know to be sick.
  • Make sure your home and work space are well-ventilated. Even on a cold day, open a window for a few minutes to clear out stale air.
  • Follow a consistent sleep/wake schedule so the immune system can repair and recover.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of organic (when possible) fruits and veggies, which contain antioxidants that help the body neutralize cellular damage.
    Healing Tips
  • Rest. Sometimes the body’s only way of getting your attention is to force you to slow down by getting sick. Don’t push through fatigue. Honor your body and sleep/rest as needed to promote healing. Reduce activity at home and at work as much as possible.
  • Increase fluid intake to include water, diluted vegetable juices, soups, and herbal and green teas.
  • Eat light meals and eat more soup. Whether you choose a vegetarian broth or a heartier bone-broth, soups for healing should be loaded with a variety of herbs and veggies.
  • Manage stress. Even just 10 minutes of meditation a day has positive effects on the immune system and promotes a positive mindset.
  • Laugh–it truly is good medicine. Patch Adams was onto something when he brought humor to his patients’ bedsides. Read a funny book. Watch stand-up comedy. Share jokes with a friend or your kids. Laughter lowers the stress hormones and elevates your mood–both are good for healing.

Vitamin, Mineral, and Botanical Support for the Immune System

There’s no panacea, but a growing body of research has shown that certain vitamins, minerals, and plant-based supplements can help prevent/curtail the symptoms of colds and flu. Some that you may want to include are listed below.

These are best tailored to your specific needs and health status, with guidance from your doctor.

  • Multivitamin and mineral formula
  • Vitamin C
  • Bioflavonoids, 1000 mg/day
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D, 2000 IU/day
  • Zinc, 30 mg/day
  • Echinacea, elderberry, and astragalus (tea, capsule, or liquid extract) help prevent common cold and viral infections. Physicians and scientists continue to study the immune-enhancing effects of these and other botanical remedies.

Food for Thought. . .
“He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he that prevents it is the safest physician.”
– Thomas Fuller

In health,

Dr. Gina


The Healthiest Kids on the Block

July 31, 2015

bigstock-Kids-Superhero-67023205Did you know that 40% of daily calories of US children and adolescents aged 2-18 years come from added sugar and solid fats? Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.

Raising healthy kids sounds pretty simple: Provide good nutrition, 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and create a joyful and safe home environment. Do that, and you’ll reduce your child’s risk for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disease. But you’re up against a host of unhealthy temptations including advertising, peer pressure, and an abundance of junk food in shiny packaging.

The first and most important step you have to take for your child’s health is modeling healthy habits in front of them. Make a healthy lifestyle a family affair. Keep things simple. And don’t give up when kids get picky. The tips and resources provided below will keep you on track.

Keep Kids in Motion. Once kids return to school, they are sedentary for the better part of the day. Outside of school, make sure your kids have opportunities to stretch, strengthen, and build endurance for 60 minutes daily. Make time for creative play at the park where children can engage all the major muscle groups. Provide opportunities for trying new sports or creative movement classes. Get the whole family involved with obstacle courses, biking, or hiking. When the weather outside is too hot or cold, visit an indoor pool, playscape, climbing gym, or bounce-house facility. Create a joyful atmosphere at home, check stress at the door (which is easier to do if you are exercising), and encourage playtime.

Limit Screen Time. With more schools incorporating digital devices into curricula, it’s important to monitor your child’s free time on the screen. For younger children, set a daily limit of 60 minutes, and for older children, set a limit of 120 minutes for all media–TV, movies, and games.

Consider having a “digital-free zone” in your home: one room designated just for reading, games, and music sans the headphones. Also, make one day a week (e.g., Sunday) a “device-free day” for all family members. Play games or get physically active, together.

A Balanced Diet, Not a Food Fight. No matter their age, kids can be picky eaters. Offer your child choices at meals that are acceptable to you, health promoting, and palatable. Model the healthy eating habits you want your child to have whether they are at home or out with friends.

When it comes to getting kids to try new foods, get creative: Blend veggies into homemade smoothies. Serve raw veggies with hummus. Make zucchini-based brownies. Incorporate blended or finely chopped veggies into pasta sauce for use on pizza and spaghetti. Try healthier ice cream options like Bliss (raw, vegan, organic and tastes great) or Arctic Zero.  Involve your kids in creating a beautiful fruit salad. Kids’ palates change as they age; what they like/don’t like at age 3 is likely to be different at 13 and even 23!

Introduce and reintroduce healthy selections at all meal and snack times. And don’t fight about food…that only creates a lousy mood for everyone at mealtimes. Sometimes, it really is okay to skip the asparagus and still have dessert.

Tame the Sweet Tooth. Sugar intake for children is recommended to 3-4 teaspoons a day. Cutting back on soda, candy, and cookies is only the first step. Read labels to identify added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and food dyes that can be hidden in foods including bread, condiments such as ketchup, crackers, cookies, candy and canned and frozen foods. Make your own frozen treats from fresh fruit, and cut down on packaged foods.

Sleep Well. During sleep, children’s bodies generate hormones important to healthy growth and development. A good night of rest allows children to wake energized for the following day. Research has shown that sleep plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting a positive mood. Try to keep kids to a daily sleep-wake routine, especially during the school week.

Healthy diet and exercise make a huge difference in the health and demeanor of children. If challenged with a behavioral and/or physical health issue you can take it a step further. At HealthBridge Medical Center we will often run lab tests to determine if a child has specific food allergies, or a particularly high demand for certain nutrients like zinc, magnesium or essential fatty acids for example.  Getting specific with nutrient supplementation and adjusting the diet accordingly makes for much happier and healthier children. It is always worth the time and effort involved.

In health,

Dr. Gina


New Recommendations for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women, and Children

June 12, 2014

pregnant_womanFederal officials on Tuesday announced major changes in advice to pregnant and breastfeeding women by recommending consumption of at least 8 ounces of low-mercury fish per week.

It is the first time that the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have issued recommendations on the minimum amount of fish that pregnant women and children should eat. The previous advisory, issued in 2004, included only maximum amounts to protect their fetuses and young children from mercury, which can harm developing brains and reduce IQs. Click here to read more.

That is a good step in the right direction.  Now we need to be made aware of the levels of radioactive chemicals showing up in the fish as that is equally if not more concerning to human health.

Dr. Gina


Ten Nutrition Changes Could Save 1 Million Children

June 25, 2013

istock_000005618515smallThis is a timely publication…the Lancet offers excellent guidelines on preventing disease in children with proper nutrition to the mother and to the baby.

AANP via The Lancet – Ten Nutrition Changes Could Save Lives Of A Million Children- (Monday, June 10, 2013)


Nearly 15 percent of all deaths in children under age five (a total of over 900,000) can be prevented, and over a fifth of all cases of growth stunting averted, if 10 nutrition interventions are scaled up to cover 90 percent of the population in the 34 countries most affected by malnutrition, according to a new study on maternal and childhood malnutrition.

More than half of this cost would be accounted for by India and Indonesia, both countries with sufficient financial resources to make a substantial contribution to the cost of stepping up the fight against malnutrition. The scientists estimate that prevalence of stunting in children under age 5 would be reduced by 20 percent.

The ten interventions include providing folic acid, calcium, and balanced energy protein and micronutrient supplements to pregnant women; promoting breastfeeding and delivering appropriate complementary feeding to infants; providing vitamin A and zinc supplements to children up to the age of five; and using proven treatment strategies to manage moderate and severe malnutrition in children. This study was released June 6, 2013 by The Lancet.

—In health,

Dr. Gina


The Most Pesticide-Heavy Fruits and Vegetables

April 29, 2013

Seattle Farmers MarketThe non-profit Environmental Working Group recently released their 2013 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists.  Apples and celery were at the top of the list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables, while asparagus and avocados were at the top of the list of the least contaminated fruits and vegetables. Click here for more.

Pesticide residues are an important contributor to the increased incidence of chronic illnesses worldwide, including obesity, estrogen sensitive cancers, neurological disorders, depression and anxiety.

In an effort to protect the body from harm (especially children whose detoxification mechanisms are not fully developed, and older adults whose detoxification systems are less efficient), do your best to stick with organic when consuming the Dirty Dozen.

In health,

Dr. Gina

 


Warning for Parents: Toxic Lead Levels in Imported Rice

April 16, 2013

BoywithRiceCakeA new press release from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians reveals that rice not manufactured in the US has high levels of lead that are causing toxic reactions in children.

US companies must maintain strict quality control measures when importing foods and herbs from other countries. The study cited was just presented at the American Chemical Society’s meeting and is extremely concerning, especially because of the gluten free trend in children’s foods. Manufacturers are turning to rice based products as an alternative for wheat.

There was concern over high arsenic levels in rice in late 2012. For now, to be on the safe side, I recommend avoiding rice-based infant and children products altogether.  There are other options for grains if desired, that promote balanced nutritional health, such as quinoa.

In health,

Dr. Gina

TOXIC LEVELS OF LEAD COMMON IN IMPORTED RICE, RICE FLOUR: A new study has found that the rice imported into North America from Asia, Europe and South America contains very high levels of lead that represents serious health risks, particularly for infants and children, who are especially sensitive to its effects, and adults of Asian heritage who consume larger amounts of rice. (Rice and rice flour imports to the US have tripled since 1999 and rice is the staple food for 3 billion people worldwide. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys. It causes potentially permanent learning and behavior disorders in children.) The researchers found that for children, the daily exposure levels from eating the rice products imported from these countries would be 30 to 60 times higher than the FDA provisional total tolerable intake (PTTI) levels; for adults, the daily exposure levels were 20 to 40 times higher than the PTTI levels. This study was presented in New Orleans at the meeting of the American Chemical Society. The full report will be available when it is published in a journal at a later time.


DHA Produces Healthier Babies

March 5, 2013

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A new double-blind study that was published on line in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that pregnant women who consumed DHA (an omega 3 essential fatty acid) had larger babies, a longer gestation, and fewer preterm births.

In the study, 154 healthy women were randomly assigned to consume 600 mg of DHA per day during the second half of pregnancy and 147 women were assigned a placebo.

After the researchers adjusted for maternal education, socioeconomic status, prior pregnancy, smoking and other risk factors they discovered that the babies of the DHA mothers weighed nearly a half a pound more, were longer and had slightly larger head circumferences.  And in the group of mothers on placebo, 5% gave birth at 34 weeks or less, whereas among the DHA group, only 0.6% gave birth early. The lead author, Susan E. Carlson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Kansas, says that is a dramatic reduction in preterm labor as compared to the general population.

There were no side effects reported.

Most Americans consume too much of the other essential fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 9) and not enough of the omega 3 (which DHA is classified as). So balance here is key.  DHA is rich in sea foods and meat however I do not advise pregnant women to consume these foods in order to get DHA, as they also contain high levels of toxins (heavy metals and other environmental toxins that get stored in the animal fat).

I will often recommend the vegetarian source of DHA available on the market today, that is derived from algae. One easy way for a pregnant woman to be sure she has the right balance of essential fatty acids, including DHA is by consuming 1-2 tablespoons per day of Udo’s DHA Oil Blend while avoiding vegetable based cooking oils and packaged foods that contain oil, like chips and crackers.  Just be sure to keep the Udo’s DHA Oil Blend refrigerated and do not cook with it. Always keep it cold as the fatty acids are vulnerable to heat sources.

In health,

Dr. Gina


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