Natural Ways to Fight the Flu

frosty winter leafIs it just me, or does the flu always seems to come at the worst times? The illness we call the flu is caused by a number of influenza viruses. This year’s flu  may be especially bad, with lots of high fevers, body aches, and a productive cough. Unfortunately, the flu vaccine that’s currently available appears to only be about 10% effective. Fortunately, there are some natural ways that you can keep you and your family healthy and flu-free this season.

Preventing the Flu, Naturally!

The best strategy for health is always prevention. Here are some easy things you can do to build a strong foundation of health:

  • Get Plenty of Rest!
    • Sleep is your body’s chance to repair and heal and we all need to get plenty of sleep to allow this natural process to happen. Most children need about 12 hours of sleep each night, adolescents need about 9 or 10 hours, and adults need 7 to 8 hours to function optimally.
  • Eat Well!
    • Have you ever heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? For the immune system to function properly we need to give it the building blocks that it needs to do its job. This means getting plenty of protein and fresh fruits and vegetables.
      • Protein is needed to make sufficient antibodies. A good rule of thumb is to base your daily protein needs on your weight. Most healthy people should aim to eat 0.35g of protein per pound that they weigh. For example, someone who weighs 100lb would need 35g of protein and someone who weighs 150lb should eat about 52g of protein every day.
      • Fresh fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep our bodies healthy and functioning properly. A daily goal for most healthy adults is 1 to 2 servings of fresh fruit and 4 to 6 servings of vegetables every day.
      • A healthy diet should also contain good sources of fat and carbohydrates and be low in processed, sugary foods. Examples of some of the healthiest fats include: olives; nuts; seeds; fish; avocados; free-range poultry and eggs; grass-fed beef and lamb; and coconut, olive, or avocado oil. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include: whole grains (i.e. quinoa, oats, millet, whole wheat, spelt, barley) and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squashes.
    • Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
      • Tobacco smoke irritates the cells of the respiratory tract and may make you more susceptible to infections.
    • Hygiene
      • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
      • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water

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Natural Treatments for Flu Season

Sometimes prevention just isn’t enough. If you do get sick this cold and flu season there are many things you can do to soothe your symptoms and shorten their duration, while also giving your body a general immune boost.

  • Vitamin C
    • Regular supplementation of Vitamin C may help to prevent and reduce the severity and duration of cold. This effect seems to be greatest in people undergoing physical stress (i.e. strenuous exercise) and in children. Vitamin C is less effective if it is started after cold symptoms have already begun.
    • Common dosages:
      • Dosages for children 1-3 years old: 250mg
      • Dosages for children 4-13 years old: 500mg
      • Dosages for most adults and children 14 and older: 1000-2000mg per day
    • Caution: Excess Vitamin C can cause digestive upset and diarrhea; do not exceed recommended dosages.
  • Vitamin D3
    • There are receptors for Vitamin D on most cells in our body, making it important for a wide variety of normal functions. Vitamin D is also needed for appropriate T lymphocyte function, a key way that our immune systems protect us from viral illnesses.
    • Although Vitamin D comes in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol), Vitamin D3 is the form of the vitamin that is more easily absorbed.
    • Common dosage ranges:
      • Dosages for children 1-3 years old: 400IU
      • Dosages for children 4-13 years old: 800-1000IU
      • Dosages for most adults and children 14 and older: 1000-2000IU per day
    • Caution: Vitamin D is fat-soluble so it is stored in the body for long periods of time. Because of this, it is important not to take high doses of the vitamin for long periods of time unless recommended by a health care professional due to deficiency. If you haven’t had your Vitamin D levels checked, it’s a good idea to do this at least once a year.
  • Zinc
    • Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for structural integrity (i.e. skin and bones), growth and development, reproduction, and neurological function, and is essential for normal functioning of the immune system.
    • Zinc plays a role in the normal development and function of cells that mediate both innate immune responses (i.e. the immunity we are born with) and adaptive immunity (i.e. acquired immunity to specific targets).
    • Zinc may reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms when started within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms. Zinc should be continued until symptoms have completely resolved.
    • Supplementation with zinc may also reduce the incidence of lower respiratory infections, like pneumonia, which can follow the flu.
    • Common dosage ranges:
      • Dosages for infants 0-6 months: 2 to 4mg/day
      • Dosages for infants 7-12 months: 3 to 5mg/day
      • Dosages for children 1-3 years: 3 to 7mg/day
      • Dosages for children 4-8 years: 5 to 10mg/day
      • Dosages for children 9-13 years: 8 to 20mg/day
      • Dosages for adolescents 14-16 years: 10 to 25mg/day
      • Dosages for adults 19 and over: 10 to 30mg/day
    • Caution: You should avoid long-term supplementation of high doses of zinc (i.e. in excess the recommended doses below), as this can result in a copper deficiency.
  • Echinacea
    • Echinacea is one of our most studied herbs and for good reason. This beautiful native flower has profound effects on the immune system. Extracts of Echinacea were shown to be as effective as the pharmaceutical anti-viral Oseltamivir in treating influenza, and with significantly less side effects.
    • There are many strains of Echinacea available, but the variety that has been shown to have the greatest effect on the immune system is Echinacea angustifolia. Echinacea purpurea has also been studied for its ability to support immune functions. Look for either of these varieties when you are choosing supplements!
  • Black Elderberry
    • Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been traditionally used for centuries to prevent and treat respiratory infections. It is especially useful for preventing and treating viruses and studies have shown that Elderberry extracts may actually block the influenza virus from attaching to the cells of the respiratory tract. Elderberry also helps to boost our immune systems by increasing the activity of certain immune cells and their messaging systems.
  • Probiotics

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

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Paleo Coconut Mango Sorbet

SONY DSCCraving something that’s sweet, creamy, AND healthy? My Coconut Mango Sorbet is a refreshing, tropical treat that’s also nutrient-dense and Paleo-friendly. This delicious sorbet is free of dairy and refined sugars and perfect for a hot summer day.

Makes 1 quart and requires an ice cream maker.

  • 2 cans Coconut Milk (full-fat, not light!)
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/4 cup Raw Honey
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 1/4 cup Mango, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes

In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, salt, honey, and lime juice. Stir in the mango chunks. From here, follow the directions on your ice cream maker. The sorbet will most likely need to sit in your freezer for a few hours to firm up before serving.

Note: If you’ve never cut a mango before, here is a great step-by-step video!

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Do Longer Lives Equal Healthier People?

veggie_heartNot surprisingly, a recent study found that people around the world are generally living longer lives than ever before with less cases of childhood mortality. While this is obviously great news, does this also mean that humans are healthier now than in the past? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. In most countries there have been strides over the last hundred years in better hygiene and living conditions, increased access to vaccinations, and less risk of starvation. While all of this has allowed more humans to live to old age, it doesn’t always equate to greater health status for these people. As an article in the newspaper, the Oregonian points out, “With more children surviving, chronic illnesses and disabilities that strike later in life are taking a bigger toll, the research said. High Blood Pressure has become the leading health risk worldwide, followed by smoking and alcohol.” Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are quickly overtaking infectious disease as the top health priority world-wide.

Luckily, most chronic diseases are considered preventable. There is a great deal that we can do, both as individuals and as a matter of policy, to address and turn around these statistics. There are many organizations working to promote health education, access to fresh fruits and vegetables to poor and urban communities, and safe and fun ways for children and adults to exercise. Here are just a few:

Ending Childhood Obesity Project: Portland, Oregon

Portland Fruit Tree Project: Portland, Oregon

Spiral Gardens Community Food Security: Berkeley, California

Edible School Yard: Berkeley, California

Roasted Cauliflower with Pistachios and Thyme

This recipe is simple and delicious, with a rich nutty flavor. I often serve it in place of rice or couscous when I make a tagine, curry, or stew. Serves 4-6.
  • One headof cauliflower, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp melted coconut oil orothervegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried Thyme

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the chopped cauliflower on a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mixture and then spread it out into one even layer. Bake for about 40 minutes total, stirring once at 20 minutes and adding the pistachios and thyme after 35 minutes of cooking. Cauliflower should be tender and lightly browned. Serve warm.

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Naturopaths Can Fill Shortage in Primary Care

Most people agree, the shortage in primary care doctors is a real problem. Here are some statistics from a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News:

  • Two to 4 million Californians, and 32 million people nationally, will obtain insurance in 2014 under the national health reform law.
  • The nation will need 45,000 additional primary care doctors within 7 years, including 2,000 or more in California.
  • Nearly one-third of all physicians are expected to retire in the next decade, just as more Americans seek care.
  • Only about 20 percent of American medical students go into primary care, according to the Council on Graduate Medical Education.

So, what can we do about this? How about making it possible for a group of licensed doctors, already trained in primary care and excited be in this role, to gain the legal recognition necessary to fulfill this need on a national level. There are perhaps 400-500 naturopaths graduating every year from accredited schools, but most graduates end up moving to one of the 17 states where naturopathic doctors are currently licensed. By creating legal recognition on a nationwide scale, naturopathic doctors would be able to spread out and help meet the need for primary care doctors throughout the nation. If your state does not already license and regulate naturopathic medicine, contact your legislators and let them know you want access to licensed Naturopathic Doctors.

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act states that insurance companies must allow you to choose to receive medical services from any practitioner licensed to provide that care. Many insurance companies are still not following the law. If your insurance company does not cover naturopathic services ask them why they are not following the Affordable Care Act. You can also find out more about legislative advocacy by going to the website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

A Look at Naturopathic Education

I find that many people are surprised that Naturopathic Doctors go through a full four years of medical training. Although there are many differences between Naturopathic and Medical Doctors, our basic education is actually very similar. Naturopathic Doctors go through thousands of hours of basic sciences, medical sciences, and clinical training, along with extra training in nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy, all so that we can provide the best possible care for our patients.

The charts below compare the clinical and basic science educations of various practitioners. number of educational hours students receive at various accredited naturopathic and medical colleges. It also compares the differences in education of Naturopathic Doctors who attend accredited medical schools and unlicensed naturopaths who attend two-year vocational schools. There are currently six accredited naturopathic colleges in the U.S. and two in Canada. In states that do not license and regulate naturopaths, the difference can be quite confusing! If you live in a state that does not currently license naturopathic medicine and you are in doubt, you can always ask your naturopath about their education and credentials.

You can also find listings of licensed Naturopathic Doctors in your area by checking out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. If you would like to see Naturopathic Doctors licensed in your state, write your legislators and let them know this is an important issue to you.

Here’s how the schools measure up:

Comparing Educations Hours and NDs and MDs
This chart compares two accredited Naturopathic colleges (NCNM and Bastyr), three allopathic medical schools (Yale, Jogns Hopkins, Medical College of Wisconsin), and two vocational schools for naturopaths (Trinity and Clayton).
Compare Medical Education Hours
Total Educational Hours by Practitioner Degree

Is There Such a Thing as Too Clean?

It may go against what many parents tell their children, but there is evidence that getting dirty actually helps kids stay healthy. At least that’s what an article on NPR’s health blog states. Trying to raise children in overly sterile conditions may actually do more harm than good because our immune systems need to experience microbial insults in order to develop properly. It is these challenges that allow our bodies to develop natural immunity. Our immune cells need to learn through experience to make distinctions between what is healthy to have inside of our bodies and what warrants bringing the troops in for an attack. The ability to make this distinction comes mostly from experiencing a wide array of situations, foods, and even bacteria and viruses. If we limit what  our body experiences then it may begin to label harmless things as dangerous and studies show that this phenomenon may be responsible for the increasing prevalence of auto-immune disorders, allergies, and asthma.

Food for Thought?

Ever want to know what happens when your body tries to digest different types of food? Media artist, Stefani Bardin and Dr. Braden Kuo, M.D. may have the answer for you. Dr. Kuo is Assistant Physician, Gastroenterology Unit and Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kuo and Ms. Bardin recently collaborated on a video where two patients swallow small cameras and then eat two different meals, one highly processed and one handmade. The results are quite interesting and may have you thinking about food in a new way.

Winter Squash and White Bean Soup

This is a hearty and healthy soup, perfect for cold winter nights. This recipe takes about 90 minutes to prepare, not including soaking times. The beans may be cooked up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Serves 6-8.
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup dried white/navy beans
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups kale, chopped fine
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp thyme
  • 1 Tbsp rubbed sage
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Soak beans 6-8 hours or overnight in a large bowl with enough water to cover by 3 inches. Drain soaked beans and add to a large pot of water. Boil for 30-40 minutes until beans are tender but not soft. Drain beans. Carefully, slice butternut squash in half lengthwise with a large chef’s knife. Scoop out seeds. Remove the skin with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler. Chop the squash into ¾ inch cubes.  Heat oil over medium heat in a large dry stock pot. Add the butternut squash and onion and sautee for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer until onion becomes tender and translucent. Add the broth and bay leaves, cover, and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. After this, add the cooked beans. Continue to simmer 10 minutes longer until squash is tender. Add the chopped kale and seasonings and cook 5 minutes more. Serve warm.

Raw Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Creme and Raspberry Coulis

This is a decadent dessert perfect for special occasions. The filling is made with avocados to give it a thick, velvety smooth texture. It has a rich chocolate flavor that goes perfectly with the sweet vanilla creme and slightly tart raspberry coulis. It is also delicious on its own and can be served like chocolate mousse. This recipe is gluten-free, vegan, and made without refined sugar. It takes approximately one-and-a-half to two hours to prepare.

Serves 8-12

Crust

  • 1 cup dried, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts
  • 4 pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp coconut oil

Filling

  • 2 avocados
  • 6 dates, soaked for one hour in a little water
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup carob powder*
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

*Carob powder can be found at most health food stores in the baking or bulk sections. It has a sweet flavor somewhat similar to chocolate. It is used in this recipe to enhance the flavor of the cocoa powder, which can sometimes be bitter on its own.

Vanilla Crème

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes in a little water
  • 6 pitted dates, soaked for 30 minutes in a little water
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Raspberry Coulis

  • 1 pint raspberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 2-3 Tbsp honey

Start by soaking the dates for the vanilla crème and filling and the cashews for the vanilla crème in separate bowls. Add just enough water to cover the ingredients. Blend the ingredients for the crust in a food processor until they are smooth and can be pressed together into a dough. Press the mixture into a 9″ x 1.125″ tart pan with a removable bottom; making sure it evenly covers the bottom and all sides of the pan. Set the crust aside in the refrigerator.

Retrieve the dates and cashews for the vanilla crème from the soaking water, making sure to reserve the date soaking water. Place all ingredients for the vanilla crème in the food processor and blend, adding 1 Tbsp of the date soaking water at a time until the mixture is the consistency of smooth frosting. Set aside.

Blend all ingredients for the raspberry coulis in a blender or food processor until smooth and then set aside.

Drain the dates for the filling and add to the food processor with the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides occasionally to ensure that everything is well mixed. Spoon the filling into the crust. Starting at the center, push it out to the edges with a rubber spatula so that it forms one even layer. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until it is set (longer is also fine).

Serve the tart chilled, with a dollop of vanilla crème and a drizzle of the raspberry coulis.