Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Colds & Flu

August 31, 2015

Feature_Flu

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


A Quality Naturopathic Infant Formula

November 18, 2008

When it comes to feeding a newborn, few will argue that breast milk is best.  However, there are times when this is not possible or not indicated.  There are also higher levels of toxic chemicals in breast milk, and the impact of these toxic chemicals on the development of a breast-fed child is unknown.  Chemicals such as the organochlorine pesticide DDT, dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzfurans, and polychlorinated biphenyls all accumulate in breast milk. Mothers can limit exposure of these chemicals to their nursing baby by avoiding dry cleaners and not wearing clothes that are dry cleaned,  and limiting their intake of red meat, dairy (such as yogurt, cow’s milk and cheese), and fish, and eating a diet rich in organic fresh fruits and vegetables and safer proteins like tempeh, turkey and organic chicken and eggs.

Following is a naturopathic infant formula recipe that I use with my patients, particularly those that are currently formula fed and are presenting with digestive and skin-related conditions. Simply switching to this formula oftentimes resolves colic and skin rashes of unknown origin.

In the spirit of providing change for our children’s lives,

Dr. Gistock_000003158746small

***LTP Natural Medical Center’s Infant Goats Milk Formula using MEYENBERG Instant POWDERED GOAT MILK***
6 Scoops Powdered Goat Milk (84 grams)
36 oz Water
6.5 Tbs. Rice Syrup
1 capsule of LTP Probiotic Blend
1 tablespoon of Coconut Milk Powder

As baby matures during its first year, gradually increase goat milk powder to 8 scoops. Discontinue adding rice syrup (carbohydrates).

***Supplement with ChildLife Essential’s Liquid Multi Vitamin Mineral Supplement (or another high quality infant liquid multivitamin mineral supplement with vitamin D3).

Dosage Schedule:

  • Up to 6 months of age: ½ teaspoon per day
  • Up to 1 year of age: 1 teaspoon per day
  • Ages 1 to 4 years: 1-2 teaspoons per day
  • Ages 4 to 12 years: 2-3 teaspoons per day

Copyright 2008. Dr. Gina L. Nick. All rights reserved.


Healthy Meals Equal Better Grades in School

August 28, 2008

One of the most important components to children functioning at their best in school and on the playground is proper nutrition.  The Washington Post just reported on this subject, offering valuable tips and resources  to ensure that your child gets the nutrition he/she needs. Children who eat healthy, satisfying dinners sleep better, and are more alert the following morning. And children who eat a balanced nourishing breakfast and lunch have better neurotransmitter activity and improved concentration during the day.  Supplementation is also an important option to consider in children who are not getting the nutrition their brain and body need, particularly if they are challenged with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In health,

Dr. Gina


Affordable, Healthy Foods

August 5, 2008

As food prices climb, and the health of our nation, and our nation’s children, disintegrates, we have the opportunity to return to a simpler, more healthful diet. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started:

1. Oats
High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap—a dollar will buy you more than a week’s worth of hearty breakfasts.

2. Organic Eggs
You can get about a half dozen of eggs for a dollar, and organic eggs for a dollar fifty, making them one of the cheapest and most versatile sources of protein. They are also a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may ward off age-related eye problems.

3. Kale
This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch.

4. Potatoes
Because we often see potatoes at their unhealthiest—as fries or chips—we don’t think of them as nutritious, but they definitely are. Eaten with the skin on, potatoes contain almost half a day’s worth of Vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. If you opt for sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll also get a good wallop of beta carotene. Plus, they’re dirt cheap and have almost endless culinary possibilities.

5. Nuts
Though nuts have a high fat content, they’re packed with the good-for-you fats—unsaturated and monounsaturated. They’re also good sources of essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, and protein. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, you only need to eat a little to get the nutritional benefits. Although some nuts, like pecans and macadamias, can be costly, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, especially when bought in the shell, are low in cost.

6. Bananas
At a local Trader Joe’s, I found bananas for about 19¢ apiece; a dollar gets you a banana a day for the workweek. High in potassium and fiber (9 grams for one), bananas are a no-brainer when it comes to eating your five a day quotient of fruits and veggies.

7. Garbanzo Beans
With beans, you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but ’bonzos are also high in fiber, iron, folate, and manganese, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And if you don’t like one type, try another—black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless. Though they require soaking and cooking, the most inexpensive way to purchase these beans is in dried form; a precooked can will still only run you around a buck.

8. Broccoli
Broccoli contains tons of nice nutrients—calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. As if that isn’t enough, broccoli is also packed with phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Plus, it’s low in calories and cost.

9. Pumpkin Seeds
When it’s time to carve your pumpkin this October, don’t shovel those seeds into the trash—they’re a goldmine of magnesium, protein, and trace minerals. Plus, they come free with the purchase of a pumpkin.

10. Butternut Squash
This beautiful gourd swings both ways: sometimes savory, sometimes sweet. However you prepare the butternut, it will not only add color and texture, but also five grams of fiber per half cup and chunks and chunks of Vitamin A and C. When in season, butternut squash and related gourds are usually less than a dollar a pound.

Adapted from this original post on Divine Caroline

-Dr. Gina


Study Finds that 89 Percent of Children’s Food Products Cause Harm to their Health

July 17, 2008

Nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. We eat at least three times per day-making nutrition one of the most important parts of our lifestyle. If you have a poor diet, it impacts your entire day and night. And if you have a healthy diet it also impacts your entire day and night.  It is a sorry state of affairs when analysis of foods for children reveals that 70 percent of children’s food products are too high in sugar- one of the most damaging ingredients to the human body, and 23 percent are high in fat.  Given that the incidence of obesity and heart disease is on the rise in the younger generation, it is time that parents wake up and take action.  When you feed your children unhealthy foods, high in sugar and fat, and don’t find ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their diet, you are impacting the quality of their entire life.  The nutritional status of a child affects his/her immune function, mental function and overall health and well-being throughout life.  And while children may not show any symptoms of ill-health while eating a poor diet, significant harm is occurring internally, which, over time, will manifest as disease.  The sickest adults I treat in my practice inevitably grew up with a poor diet. And the healthiest grew up with a parent or parents that ensured that they had the proper levels of nutrients in their diet and low levels of harmful ingredients like refined sugar and fried foods.

Ignoring the nutrient needs of a child is a form of abuse with the consequences showing up much later in life.  And providing proper nutrition does not have to be a financial burden.  Here are some basic tips:

-Do not buy foods that have refined sugar or any hydrogenated fats.  Save money by staying away from packaged cereals, crackers and chips that are marketed to children. You are paying for the packaging and marketing while the quality of the foods inside is usually poor.

-Stay away from fast food.

-Make nutrition a priority in your household.

-Start an organic garden and get your children involved in the process. They will be more likely to eat and enjoy the produce that they had a hand in creating!

The reward for this effort? Calmer, more peaceful and healthier children.

Dr. Gina

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2008) — Most kids’ foods provide poor nutritional quality, but packaging claims and healthy images could be misleading parents, according to a Canadian study. Professor Charlene Elliott used US guidelines to review 367 products. 70 percent of the products had higher than recommended sugar levels, 23 percent had high fat levels and 17 percent had high salt levels.
Nine out of ten regular food items aimed specifically at children have a poor nutritional content — because of high levels of sugar, fat or sodium – according to a detailed study of 367 products published in the July issue of the UK-based journal Obesity Reviews.

Just under 70 per cent of the products studied – which specifically excluded confectionery, soft drinks and bakery items – derived a high proportion of calories from sugar. Approximately one in five (23 per cent) had high fat levels and 17 per cent had high sodium levels. Despite this, 62 per cent of the foods with poor nutritional quality (PNQ) made positive claims about their nutritional value on the front of the packet.

“Children’s foods can now be found in virtually every section of the supermarket and are available for every eating experience” says Professor Charlene Elliott from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a Trustee of the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition.

“Parents may have questions about which packaged foods are good for their children. Yet certain nutritional claims may add to the confusion, as they can mislead people into thinking the whole product is nutritious.”

Only 11 per cent of the products Professor Elliott and her colleagues evaluated provided good nutritional value in line with the criteria laid down by the US-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a non-profit agency that received the Food and Drug Administration’s highest honour in 2007.

The CSPI nutritional standards state that healthy food should not derive more than 35 per cent of its calories from fat (excluding nuts and seed and nut butters) and should have no more than 35 per cent added sugar by weight. They also provide guidance on sodium levels, ranging from 230mg per portion for snacks through to 770mg per portion for pre-prepared meals.
CSPI’s standards are adapted from those developed by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, a coalition of some 300 health and nutrition organisations in the USA. The organisation states that its standards represent a compromise approach. They allow for the marketing of products that may not be nutritionally ideal, but that provide some positive nutritional benefits that could help children meet the US Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The 367 products included in the study were bought from a national supermarket chain stocking 50,000 food and non-food items in December 2005. Each had to meet very specific criteria.

“We included food products and packaging that were presented in such a way that children were the clear target audience” explains Professor Elliott, whose research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “They included products that promoted fun and play, had a cartoon image on the front of the box or were linked to children’s films, TV programmes and merchandise.”

Each product was subjected to a 36-point analysis that included the nutritional content and how the packaging was designed to appeal to children and their parents.

Key findings included:

  • 63 per cent of all the products surveyed made some sort of nutritional claim, including 62 per of the products that could be classed as poorly nutritious, due to high levels of sugar or fat or sodium. A low percentage (eight per cent) carried some kind of nutrition mark or seal. Other claims included that products were low fat, a source of calcium, contained no artificial flavours or colours or provided a number of essential nutrients.
  • Products with high sugar levels accounted for 70 per cent of the goods with PNQ. Despite this, 68 per cent included some sort of nutritional claim on the package, such as a source of whole grains, source of iron or low in fat. Cereals and fruit snacks were particularly likely to make nutritional claims and have high levels of sugar.
  • Just under 23 per cent of the products had PNQ because of their high fat content. Yet 37 per cent had some sort of nutritional claim on the package. For example peanut butter mixed with chocolate claimed to be a “source of six essential nutrients” and a pizza product claimed to be a “source of calcium”.
  • High sodium levels meant that 17 per cent of the products analysed were classified as being of PNQ. Despite this, almost 34 per cent made some sort of nutritional claim on the package. Crackers and pizza products were among the worst offenders.
  • A fifth of the products featured a cartoon image engaged in some sort of healthy physical activity on the front and a quarter showed these on the back or side of the box. Activities included skateboarding, basketball and biking.

“Assessing the levels of sugar in the selected food products was a methodological challenge, because milk sugars and fruit sugars occur naturally in foods” says Professor Elliott. “The Nutrition Facts label only displays total sugars and the quantity of added sugars is not always provided by the manufacturer.

“This means that the percentage of foods categorised as poorly nutritious due to high levels of sugar is higher than it would have been if information on naturally occurring sugars had been available.”

The problem of accurately separating figures for quantities of natural and added sugars in manufactured products has also been encountered by other researchers and acknowledged as an issue by CSPI, so it is not unique to this study.
“Despite this, the findings still give us cause for concern” says Professor Elliott. “While caregivers are likely to purchase products that they hope their children will like, it clearly can result in a less nutritious diet than they may realise. Having a healthy diet is especially important given the current rates of childhood obesity.”

Excess body weight affects up to 35 per cent of children across Canada, the United States a
nd Europe and is linked to a range of health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer. Overweight children can also suffer from psychological and social consequences because of their weight.

Professor Elliott believes that policy attention needs to be directed towards the nutritional claims made by products aimed at children and the images they use to sell the products.

“If a parent sees a product that makes specific nutritional claims, they may assume that the whole product is nutritious and our study has shown that that is definitely not true in the vast majority of cases” concludes Professor Elliott. “Using cartoon characters engaged in sport can also create the illusion of a healthy product.”


Journal reference:
  1. Elliott et al. Assessing ‘fun foods’: nutritional content and analysis of supermarket foods targeted at children. Obesity Reviews, 2008; 9 (4): 368 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2007.00418.x

Taking a Summer Break from ADHD Meds

July 16, 2008

Summer is a perfect time for kids to take a break from their ADHD meds. Some experts feel that taking a medication vacation when your child is heading off to summer camp can be problematic. This is because with psychotropic medications like ADHD drugs and antidepressants, symptoms can get worse when you stop the medication-even worse then they were when you first started the treatment.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  If you start working with a qualified and licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor experienced in treating ADHD without psychotropic medications, then you can start naturopathic  treatment before taking your child off the medication, making the transition to a medication-free holiday a smooth one.

Some of the foundational natural medicines I use in practice when helping children get off of their prescription medications include:

  • Digestion and Absorption of Nutrients
  • Immune Support
  • Full Spectrum Antioxidant, Alkalizing, Daily Detoxification
    • ½-1 scoop of ITI Greens Formula in juice or water. *Note- can mix with Coconut Milk Powder if desired to improve taste
  • Multivitamin-Mineral
    • 1 scoop of Spectrum Awakening, three times daily, away from protein food. Can be mixed with juice or applesauce.
  • Neurological Support
  • Learn more about ADHD and how to treat the underlying cause of this condition by clicking on the links below:

    Whole Food Nutrition for ADHD

    Nutritional Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: The Hype and the Hope -A Review of Current Research

    Dr. Gina


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