Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Capitalize on Adversity

When adversity strikes it can have debilitating effects on a person’s life. It is a force to be reckoned with. It brings negative change that is out of our control. What most people don't realize is that they can control adversity by the way they react to it. You can use it to create positive growth and beauty or you can get stuck in it and wallow in depression and bitterness.

A few years ago I met a woman in the locker room at my exercise club. She was striking in her presence and beauty. I was drawn to her positive energy. After talking with her for a while, I learned that she had been struggling with cancer for many years and was undergoing another surgery in a few weeks. She told me that the doctors had given her months to live a few years ago and she felt blessed to have the gift of life. Although she was initially devastated about her prognosis, she forged forward to help other women who were also fighting for their life. She traveled all over the county as a motivational speaker on how to live with cancer.

That day I had some adversity that I was dealing with, but it was nothing in comparison to her struggle. I never saw her again but never forgot her. She is a classic example of a person who capitalized on adversity.

Over the years I have learned valuable tools that people use to fight adversity. A man told me that adversity is like going to battle. While he is in it, he carries inspirational quotes in his pocket to remind him that others have fought and won. I learned about how red lipstick helped a woman to portray positivity in her darkest moments. Many people told me that prayer gave them strength to overcome.

If you are struggling with adversity try to incorporate these strategies.

1. Take a step back and ask yourself what positivity you can cultivate
2. Pray and or meditate
3. Practice mindfulness
4. Journal
5. Use outcome and process visualization
6. Help others
7. Dress for success
8. Add positive activities into your life
9. Connect with positive people
10. Write gratitude lists

Lastly, the luckiest people in the world said that they found the silver lining in unfortunate events. Perhaps we all have luck if we know how to use it.

To learn more about capitalizing on adversity and Gemma Nastasi, click here.

Call us at 732-263-7999 or visit our website at www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine to find out more.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Please Pass the Deep Breaths

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist


We are in the midst of another busy holiday season.  Stop. Check in with yourself. 

Are you feeling….content? Excited with anticipation? Stressed? Pulled in too many directions? Out of control with your eating or drinking? Tired and run down? Not connected to your loved ones? Reactive?

It’s ok to be experiencing a few of these feelings and others that aren’t listed.  Acknowledge whatever it is you’re feeling with curious observation and without judgement. 

Now, take 10-15 seconds to take a deep breath.  Start inhaling through your nose, allowing the air to fill your belly like a balloon, pause at the top, then slowly exhale through pursed lips, until the “balloon” is deflated.  Take another slow breath, tuning in to either how your nostrils and mouth feel while the air is entering and exiting, or what your belly feels like as the air is entering and exiting.

Take one or two more breaths like this, then allow yourself to return to a natural pace of breathing.

Check in with yourself again.  Notice your body, your thoughts, and your feelings.  Has anything shifted?  You may find a change in body temperature, feelings of warmth or a light tingle in your limbs.  Maybe there was a release, of tension in your shoulders, or jaw, or a slowing down of the thoughts in your head, or a lightening up in the intensity of your feelings.

Don’t underestimate the power of your breath to help turn on your body’s Relaxation Response, even under times of great stress and pressure.  You can become mindful of it at any moment, no matter where you are or what you are doing.  It’s free, always accessible, and by just intentionally focusing on it for a few rounds, you are breaking the negative cycle of stress, tension, and intense emotions.  The more you practice it, the more easily your body will respond, and you will feel less reactive and more in control.

Tip: You can set your watch or phone alarm to go off every hour to signal that it’s time to take a mindful check-in and do a few rounds of deep breathing. 

Best wishes for a joyful holiday season!

Call us at 732-263-7999 or visit our website at www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine to find out more.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Health Tech Savvy at any Age

By Sara Scheller BSN, RN, CCRN, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

Can you easily be health tech savvy, no matter your age? If you are one of the estimated more than 237 million Americans with a smartphone, you already are and you may not even know it! While many tech developers are racing to create apps which are potentially habit-forming and may actually modify your brain in negative ways, there are others who are finding new, creative ways of building technology to help your health. More than likely here in the U.S., your phone operating system is an Android (now owned and developed by Google) or an iOs (owned and operated by Apple). Much of the technology today is intuitive and just by playing around for a few minutes, you may surprise yourself with what you can find. Now let’s explore how you can become health tech savvy. 

If you are using the iOs operating platform such as an Apple iPhone, you are already storing health data without even knowing it. All Apple iPhones with a current operating software have a Health app that looks like this:



When you click on the app, you have 4 options: Today, Health Data, Sources, and Medical ID. As a nurse, I would highly recommend you taking a few minutes to complete your medical ID (that is the option on the bottom of your screen, all the way to the right). Here you can input your name, birthdate, medical conditions, medical notes, allergies & reactions, medications, blood type, weight, height, emergency contacts and your organ donation status. This reference can be used at a visit with a healthcare provider, where you can keep your past medical history and a current, up to date medication list. This is also highly beneficial in case of an emergency as this information from your medical ID can be accessed by a first responder even if you have a passcode set on your phone. Additionally, if you enable and use the Emergency SOS function on your phone, your emergency contacts will be notified and sent to your current location. When you access the “today” function, you can see how many steps you have taken and flights you have climbed. As long as your phone is on your person, it is measuring these things and you probably do not even know! Or, if you have an apple iWatch or other wearable device that syncs with your smart phone, it is measuring these things even more accurately. Take some time to explore the “health data” function, where you can learn more about and track your activity, mindfulness, nutrition and sleep. Many health related apps you may have downloaded automatically sync to these and have additional features where you can manually enter your body measurements, health records, heart, reproductive health, results and vitals. The “sources” function aligns with our Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine care model: The Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being. We believe these pillars -- sleep, activity, purpose, nutrition and resilience -- are essential components to living a life in which you can thrive.

If you are an Android user, you can download the Medical ID (free) ICE Contacts app from the app store. Here you can enter in your medical history and emergency contacts. Also, you phone is probably already tracking your steps and the flights of stairs you climb. Do you have goals to increase your level of activity? If not and you are ready to do so, you can begin to set some.

Most of us know what to do, but we aren’t actually doing it. We have access to plenty of health information but actually using it or practicing it in our lives may be overwhelming. Gaining the support of our integrative health providers, especially through health coaching, can help you find a partner in your health to make changes so you can live your best life. We use an integrative health approach that can support your whole health-body, mind and spirit.

Call us at 732-263-7999 or visit our website at www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine to find out more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

How to Make Food Your “Farmacy” for Optimal Health


By Nina Regevik, M.D., FACP, ABIHM
Co-Director, Division of Integrative Health, Medical Director, Division of HIV Services

Research continues to show how important our food is for the maintenance of our health and for disease prevention. Evidence exists showing that most of the common diseases we face such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and obesity are directly linked to dietary factors. Perhaps even more importantly, life expectancy overall is greater in those who have healthy diets.

There are a couple of easy rules to follow in order to ensure that your diet is healthy. Eat mostly plants, the more colorful, the better, and foods that come from above or below the ground, not from boxes or cans. This includes beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, among others. If animal products are part of your diet, be sure to use pasture raised organics if at all possible. Organic produce is more expensive, but buying less animal products makes the organics more affordable. 

Phytochemicals are found only in plants. They protect both the plant and the person who eats it from disease. Some of the more common phytochemicals are allicin, garlic, anthocyanins (i.e., blueberries, black soybeans, acai, eggplant, red cabbage), and bioflavonoids (i.e., tea, cocoa, banana, citrus fruit, onions, parsley). The list goes on and the names get longer, but fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, and pulses (legumes), are all rich in them. Vitamins and minerals are also found in these foods and are essential to life. Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for optimal health and cannot be made by our bodies. Certain seafood is a great source, including salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as are some plants; flaxseed and beans are a few. 

Nutritional information can seem complex and overwhelming but by following some simple guidelines, you can help prevent disease and stay healthier. If you have questions about your diet, discuss with your health care provider. Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine team members can help answer your nutrition and diet questions.

Click here for more information about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat In the Body We Have (Part Two)

By Mary Brighton, M.S., RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

“It has been shown as proof positive that carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested... that it is above all helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work.” Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin Physiology of Taste, 1825

Welcome to Part Two Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat in the Body We Have – How the Preparation of Food and Combining Nutrients Can Influence the Bioavailability of Food.

Part One is about the importance of digestion and absorption to obtain and use nutrients in the foods we eat - the bioavailability of food (click here to read Part One). In this sense ‘bioavailability’ refers to the degree nutrients are available based on a person’s digestion and absorption mechanisms. But did you know that the nutrients in our meals can also have varying degrees of bioavailability depending on how food is prepared, whether eaten raw or combined with other foods? For example, vitamins and minerals in leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale are more or less bioavailable depending on whether they are eaten cooked or raw. In some instances, cooking ‘transforms’ that food so we obtain more from it. Cooking can also destroy key nutrients, especially when high heat is involved. What is the general rule? As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” And I will add “Food needs to taste good to be enjoyed.” Variety, creativity, freshness and using a combination of different preparation and ingredients can increase the nutrition and pleasure we get from our meals.

If you are not sure what methods are the best, read my top 10 tips on food preparation and ingredient combinations, and then call for an appointment at 732-994-7855. I like to talk about our “Food is Medicine” philosophy and how to get the most nutrition from every bite you eat.

My Top Ten Ways to Get the Most Nutrients from Your Food:

1. Don’t boil or overcook any vegetable. High heat destroys water-soluble vitamins especially those in green vegetables. In general, steaming is the preferred method of cooking vegetables.

2. Eat locally sourced produce. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients when they are separated from their soil or root nutrient source soon after harvest. Buy local, eat quickly.

3. Match vitamin C foods like citrus and tomatoes with iron-rich plant foods like lentils and other legumes. When these ‘friends’ are together in the same meal, iron is better absorbed. This tip is especially important for vegetarians who rely on non-heme plant sources like lentils and other legumes for iron.

4. Soak dried beans before cooking. Beans contain phytic acid which is considered a beneficial anti-nutrient because phytic acids functions both as an antioxidant, but it also limits absorption of key minerals like iron and zinc. My advice: soak beans 12-36 hours in water, rinse them at least once to remove phytic acid. Keep your diet diverse, eat a variety of plants, nuts and grains in a plant forward eating plan. For vegetarians who need iron from legumes, soaking beans is an important step to maintaining adequate iron stores.

5. Store food correctly. Heat, light and oxygen destroy nutrients. Eat produce quickly or store in refrigerator. Keep food away from direct sunlight and enjoy cut fruit as you cut it, as soon as the fruit is exposed to oxygen it starts to lose vitamins.

6. Crushing, cutting or chopping vegetables maximizes nutrient bioavailability and release beneficial compounds. Some micro and phytonutrients are liberated by the physical act of damage to the cell walls of plants. Allium foods like garlic and onion emit protective compounds and help micronutrient bioavailability when they are broken by a knife or mortar. The physical act of chewing food also helps to increase the bioavailability because the food is broken down and is better digested.

7. Cook tomatoes. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a carotenoid and powerful antioxidant that protects against degenerative disease. Cooked tomatoes contain significant more lycopene than raw tomatoes. By adding a healthy fat like olive oil to tomatoes lycopene is even more bioavailable because of pairing ‘like with like’ and better absorption thru the small intestinal barrier.

8. Pairing like with like increases bioavailability. Fat is unique because it is carried differently thru the intestinal wall than proteins or carbohydrates. Fat soluble vitamins and phytonutrients like carotenoids and lycopene, need ‘like with like’ to increase bioavailability. Fat must be present for the fat soluble vitamins and phytonutrients to be absorbed and carried thru the body in the lymph system. As an example, a green salad topped with tomatoes and carrots needs a healthy fat salad dressing to use the phytonutrients present in the salad.

9. Cooking or citric acid denatures proteins. Heat or acid denatures (breaks apart) proteins, rearranging them and allowing them to unfold. The exposed protein chains are more easily digested and bioavailable than raw proteins.

10. Chose frozen vegetables and fruits as an alternate for fresh. In non-growing seasons or just to have on hand for a quick meal, frozen vegetables are a viable go-to meal option because they are frozen quickly after harvest and retain much of their nutrients.

Call Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine at 732-263-7999 or visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine to learn more about us.