1. FOOD AS MEDICINE: Garlic and onions are the absolute best foods to load up on for immune support. Allicin is the anti-microbial chemical produced when these foods are chopped, chewed, or bruised. Add lots of garlic and onions to every meal including eggs, green leafy vegetables, soups, casseroles, etc. Other foods to incorporate every day for a healthy immune system include: local honey, coconut (oil, milk and flesh), cold water fish (and a quality fish oil supplement), mushrooms, spices like turmeric, ginger, and cayenne.
2. HYDROTHERAPY is one of the greatest tools you can use in your home for nearly any illness. Contrasting hot and cold water applications stimulates circulation and lymphatic movement, ultimately promoting a healthy immune response. Always follow up hot applications with a cool application. End every shower with a cool water spray, starting with the extremities and finishing with the low back for 15-30 seconds. This returns blood flow to your internal organs.
3. BONE BROTHS are incredibly rich in nutrients – particularly minerals and amino acids. Bone broth inhibits neutrophil migration, helping mitigate the side effects of colds, flus and upper respiratory infections. The glucosamine and chondroitin are more easily absorbed from bone broths than from a supplement, aiding musculoskeletal injuries and arthritic conditions. Soak cooked bones (leaving some meat on is fine) for 1 hour in slow cooker filled with water and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Bring down to simmer for 1 hour then keep on low for 24 hours to leach the vital nutrients from the bones. Drink 1-3 cups per day for prevention and even more as treatment of nearly any condition.
4. CASTOR OIL PACKS improve immunity by increasing white blood cell production, moving the lymph to facilitate the movement of toxins out of the body, and decreasing inflammation. When applied topically, the oil is absorbed into the lymphatic circulation to provide a soothing, cleansing, and nutritive treatment. This treatment also helps to tonify and cleanse the liver, gall bladder and digestive tract. Drop 1/8 c of oil onto a square flannel (it should not be dripping with oil). Apply to entire abdomen and cover with an old towel. Careful, the oil stains fabrics. Apply heat with a hot water bottle. Castor oil packs should be done nightly for 45-60 minutes in a relaxed state. Store the flannel in a large zip-lock bag, adding a tablespoon to the flannel each time for the first week or so, eventually only needing to add more oil 1-2 times per week.
5. ELDERBERRY SYRUP: Make your home-made immune aid and cough soothing syrup! Elderberry is an anti-viral herb high in flavonoids and antioxidants, excellent for preventing and treating colds, flus and coughs. Take 1/2 cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup frozen/fresh berries), 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger, 5 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cups of water to boil. Bring down to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes. Strain into bowl and add 1 cup of local honey. Pour into jar and let cool, keep in refrigerator. Take 1 Tbsp every day as prevention or 1Tbsp every hour or two as treatment of cold and flu.
6. VITAMIN D: Vitamin D is an important nutrient and hormone for the immune system. Studies have shown that a deficiency of Vitamin D (25-OH= <50 ng/mL) is associated with increased autoimmune activity (MS, Lupus, etc) as well as increased susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D has extensive research showing its effectiveness in preventing cancer. Get your levels checked. You may want to start with taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily. Talk with your doctor about a therapeutic dose.
Questions? Contact Dr. Alicia Birr at Origins Natural Medicine to see how you can optimize your immune health and stay healthy this winter!
In order to address inflammation and chronic disease, we must remove obstacles to cure. For some, that may be food sensitivities or stress. But health is not simply about removing or avoiding things; it is about nurturing and optimizing the processes of elimination. The body’s main organs of elimination (“emunctories”) often become congested, toxic, and function less efficiently. We need to keep these routes of detoxification “open” and cleansed for proper function and prevention of dis-ease.
1. Gastrointestinal Tract (digestion)
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Fiber and beneficial bacteria are necessary to restore and repair the gut lining. Do this by eating as much of the following: ground seeds, oats, root and leaf vegetables, figs, apples, and fermented foods such as tempeh, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut. When increasing your fiber, drink more water to help bind and move things through efficiently.
b. Apple cider vinegar encourages an adequate amount of stomach acids as well as proper enzyme release for digestion. Take 1-3 tsps in water 15 minutes before meals every day. This allows for optimal absorption of vitamins and minerals.
c. Eat in a calm, quiet atmosphere. Look at your food, smell it, prepare it yourself.
2. Liver (major organ for generalized detoxification)
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Eat foods that love the liver such as dandelions, beets, beet greens, lemons, artichokes and root vegetables.
b. Castor Oil Packs over entire abdomen for 45-60 minutes daily.
c. Alterative teas with herbs such as taraxacum (dandelion root), rumex (yellow dock), arctium (burdock), andberberis (Oregon grape) are some of my favorites.
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Eat or drink cranberries (juice) but watch out for added sugars. Also load up on
cilantro, parsley, celery, asparagus and watermelon.
b. Hydrotherapy. Contrasting hot then cold water applications encourage cleansing circulation.
c. Drink half your weight in ounces of water every day!
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Eat lots of cold water fish and oils! Skin health is a manifestation of liver and digestive health so load up on foods herbs listed above.
b. Dry Skin Brushing before bed moves lymph and circulation stimulating detoxification.
c. Sweat! Exercise for 30 minutes daily and use saunas to encourage elimination. Don't mess with deoderants if you don't have to. Think about it, the body is trying to rid itself of wastes, don't inhibit the natural process! If you must, go for natural deoderants that don't have toxic heavy metals added to them (aluminum!).
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Eat lots of garlic, ginger, onions, and radishes.
b. Take 100 deep belly breaths into and out of your nose every day.
c. Steam inhalations over a pot of boiling water removed from stove. Add a few drops of thyme or eucalyptus essential oil for added antimicrobial benefit.
a. FOOD AS MEDICINE. Omega-3 oils benefit the nervous system and brain (fish, seeds).
b. Talk Therapy or Journaling. Negative thoughts and emotions become toxic to the body if not processed and eliminated efficiently.
c. Exercise! Cross-crawl movements have shown to be effective for processing emotions through the brain.
Questions? Contact Dr. Alicia Birr at Origins Natural Medicine for more ideas and to see how you can support your organs of elimination for optimal wellness!
According to the CDC, insufficient sleep is a growing public health epidemic. Fatigue due to lack of restful sleep can be the cause of an array of health problems from memory lapses, sleep apnea, hypertension, depression, or hormonal issues. Not only are we sleeping less than we should, but we are sleeping less efficiently. Many people find themselves having difficulties falling asleep, waking throughout the night, tossing and turning, needing to use the restroom, or waking unrested. This does not have to be the norm, and it really shouldn’t be accepted for optimal wellness.
The pineal gland is a major player in the sleep-wake cycle. Found in the middle of the brain, it secretes melatonin, a hormone that encourages fatigue and sleep. As we age, this gland tends to calcify and become less functional. The pineal gland is highly affected by rhythms and light, and it modulates all other endocrine systems of the body including the adrenals, thyroid, and reproductive organs. This in turn affects mental-emotional stability as well as energy, focus, libido, fertility, immunity, metabolism and cardiovascular health.
So how do we support the pineal gland for healthy sleep?
1. Sleep in TOTAL DARKNESS. Total darkness means no street lights, no night lights, and no alarm clock lights. The only time of the month that a small light is encouraged is during the full moon. The moon cycles just as we do; hormones and rhythms are deeply regulated by these patterns.
2. Expose yourself to sunshine (light) immediately upon waking. “Awake lights” or “Dawn Stimulators” are helpful for those of us in the Pacific Northwest, or for those who must wake before the sun rises. Ideally, this light would gradually brighten over 30 minutes just as the sun does. Light shuts down the production of melatonin. If the body continues to produce melatonin during the day, fatigue will linger as well.
3. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and morning, weekends included. Those two days can
throw off your entire rhythm, even if you feel you need to catch up on sleep. Routine is the most important treatment for nearly every ailment of the body. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep every night.
4. Your bedroom should be for one (or two) things only. Sleep (and intimacy). No reading, no television, and absolutely no work. If your office desk is in your room, rearrange the house. If reading helps you unwind, do it on the couch.
5. Avoid eating within 3 hours of going to bed. If you must eat, have a small protein snack like almonds or popcorn. Sugar and carbohydrates interfere with insulin, a hormone you don’t want creeping up when you are sleeping.
6. Avoid alcohol for your body must detoxify it as you sleep. Wonder why you’re waking at 2-3am every night? That is “liver” time, a sign you may need some naturopathic liver support.
7. Avoid nicotine and caffeine in the evening for they stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, or “fight or flight” response. It is difficult for the body to rest in parasympathetic state when it innately thinks it needs to be prepared for survival.
8. Get outside and move your body every day for a minimum of 30 minutes!
9. Manage your stress: talk it out, work it out, process it effectively. Talk to Dr. Birr about how to support your moods and nervous system. Stress is a big word for so many of us to fall back on. Do not let it be the cause of restless sleep and chronic disease!
10. Call your naturopathic doctor for a more individualized approach to restful sleep and a better tomorrow.
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.