Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Do You Know Your Own Strength?

By Suzannah Sabin, RN, BSN, NC-BC
Integrative Health Coach

If you are like most people who come to a health coach, your primary thought is on what you would like to change about your health. Naturally, this is most often the case, because the role of the health coach is to facilitate and partner with you to create positive change.

But it is important to take some time to uncover the strengths that you already possess, and find out how to apply them to the achievement of your health goal. 

I have found over and over, that many people don’t know their own strengths. When asked, many clients have a difficult time identifying their innate strengths, capacities and positive qualities. Finding these is important because these developed traits can be an important key to creating change.

Being in touch with what we do well underpins the readiness to change,” says David Cooperrider, the co-founder of Appreciative Inquiry. This means that focusing on our already developed character strengths can be empowering and transformative. We can learn to apply the strengths that have served us well, to the new area to be developed.

Here are some ways to begin to identify your strengths:

1. Take stock of your past successes and make a list of your personal attributes that contributed to the success. Some examples may be: Persistence, Courage, Detail-oriented.

2. Ask friends or family members to share the ‘stand-out’ traits that they see in you.

3. Explore the VIA Institute: www.viacharacter.org, an organization dedicated to helping you find your character strengths.

When we proceed from what we already have, our specific strengths, and align our actions with the deliberate changes we want to make, the results are sure to follow!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Patient Perspective, Virginia Stanley

By Virginia Stanley 
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine Patient

For four years, I searched for a solution to my health problem: an overabundance of mucus production, causing me to wake daily at 4:00 a.m. with nausea and vomiting. This resulted in dramatic weight loss, sleep deprivation, significant hair loss, and depression. I always felt I was dragging around a huge amount of dead weight, making any activity difficult and unappealing. My life was nothing like “me.” My condition took away my joy and took a physical and emotional toll on me and my husband, who picked up the slack when I no longer had the energy to run our household.

Prior to this happening, I loved my life. Although I have scoliosis, which limits some activities, I was a willing, active, happy participant in life. While researching acupuncturists to try a new approach, my husband discovered Judson Chaney, N.D., L.Ac. at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine.  Without reservation, I can say that he was the first doctor to look at me and the whole picture. It was extraordinarily clear to me that he not only listened, he seemed to understand and promised to do whatever he can to try to get to the bottom of it and alleviate my suffering. Something that he said impacted me greatly; somewhere along the road, he saw the point where I went from "survival mode" to "living." Before him, I had countless doctors and associated repeated tests, with no diagnoses or plan for addressing the problem. “All good,” as far as their expertise went.

I subsequently met with Emma Stafford, RN, Nurse Practitioner, who is taking the lead in my quest. I immediately felt like I was meeting a kindred soul. Her knowledge, combined with her warmth and compassion have given me a confidence for a brighter future. I also met with Suzannah Sabin, RN, BSN, Health Coach, who has been instrumental in teaching me the importance of breathing techniques and tools to use under duress; and finally, Nicole Cerillo, Nutritionist, who has also been extremely informative (I thought I knew a lot…I was wrong!) and is working with me to get on a better, “cleaner” diet that can have huge impacts on mucus production. I am committed to the plan.

I am 70 years old and have had enough medical experiences to know the very good, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and cannot stress enough how, for the first time in my life (maybe good timing?), I feel I have landed in a place that is staffed with professionals obviously focusing on healing the whole person. I didn't even know a facility like this existed. The office is beautiful, but more importantly, it's warm and welcoming. A peaceful feeling of well-being enveloped me from my first visit on.

I have made huge strides. First and foremost, the mucus is dissipating, which it did not while taking three prescription allergy pills daily for the past four years. I am doing so much more, every day, whether it be housekeeping or socially. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found Acupuncturist Judson Chaney, but also to be a patient at the Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine facility. I look forward to getting better, stronger and more informed, thanks to them. This is a strong contrast compared to the many doctors I went to (who offered no advice), all the tests, and all the prescriptions I have taken (which gave me no relief) over the last few years. I could not be more thankful for the Integrative team at Hackensack Meridian Health.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dean's Grocery Store Tour

By Nicole Cerillo, RD, LDN
Integrative Medicine Nutritionist

Many of my patients share with me that grocery shopping is often too time consuming and a chore for them. As I shared with the group at Dean’s Natural Market last week, my hope was that the tour would spark a new passion and joy for grocery shopping and that it would become something you will eventually look forward to. Once we nourish our body with healthy and nutrient-dense foods—your excitement for shopping for those foods will flourish! For those of you who were there last week (or for those of you who missed it) I went through the store and identified over 40 different foods that I would definitely put in my cart while I grocery shop. Here are just a few of these items and my top 10 items I would highly recommend you try and add to your own grocery cart the next time you shop at Dean’s.

1. Dean’s Organic Non-GMO Produce 
This is definitely the most important area to load up on. During our tour I discussed conventional vs. organic produce. Dean’s produce is all organic and non- GMO, which means that there are no chemicals, hormones, and genetic engineering involved. Aim for 6 servings of colorful vegetables per day for micronutrients and 2-3 servings of colorful fruits per day to increase antioxidants. Try to eat seasonal as much as possible when on a budget and don’t be afraid to experiment with vegetables! You can add cauliflower to your smoothie or as a base for a pizza crust. You can try to spiralize zucchini or sweet potatoes into noodles or make homemade kale chips to snack on. Vary your cooking methods and alternate between eating vegetables raw and lightly cooked or steamed to vary nutrient quality in different fruits and vegetables.

2. Nut Milk 
Nut milks provide a great way to experiment with a dairy-free plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk. Many people need to avoid dairy due to food intolerance/sensitivities, as part of an autoimmune dietary protocol, or to reduce inflammation in the body. Many of these nut milks actually include the same (or sometimes even more) amount of calcium as regular cow’s milk. Try varying nut milk and look for brands with the least amount of added gums and preservatives. Plenty of options are available such as coconut, almond, macadamia, cashew, hemp, and flax milk. My personal favorite is unsweetened vanilla cashew milk due to its creamy and light consistency.

3. Redhill Farms Goat Milk Yogurt 
Most milk, cheese, and yogurt contains A1 casein, which is the protein that is difficult for many people to digest and breakdown. This is also the component to dairy that makes it inflammatory for many individuals. The unique properties of goat milk make it an amazing swap for cow’s milk dairy products because it is lactose free and also contains a unique anti-inflammatory casein that is in the A2 form. This means that those who cannot tolerate dairy can tolerate goat milk products very well and it is also extremely beneficial for gut health as it repopulates and balances healthy gut microbiome and flora. Many goat milk products exist such as cheeses, milk, yogurt, and kefir. If you are new to goat milk I would suggest starting with goat milk yogurt first and experimenting with the flavor and consistency by adding your own fruit, nuts, and a small amount of honey or maple syrup to sweeten.

4. Organic Valley Ghee Butter 
Ghee has been used for centuries and as a healing and functional food remedy in India as part of Ayurveda medicine. Ghee is clarified butter from a cow where all milk solids are removed and strained after heating. Ghee is shelf-stable, lactose and casein-free, and can be used as a high-heat cooking method that will not degrade and turn rancid in the body from the heat. Being high in medium chain triglycerides, it can improve metabolism and mental clarity, increase energy, and can act as an anti-inflammatory in the body.

5. Farmhouse Culture Sauerkraut 
The gut is considered the brain and nucleus of our body. If our gut is healthy and balanced, our bodies are also balanced and working at its best. Sauerkraut is great for the gut because it balances gut flora and contains natural fermented probiotics that improves immunity, eliminates toxins from the GI tract, reduces inflammation, and helps in the absorption of other foods. I suggest adding it to your egg scramble, on an organic turkey burger, or just plain right out of the bag.

6. Dean’s Guacamole with Sprouted Mary’s Gone Crackers 
If you haven’t gotten around to trying Dean’s guacamole, I highly suggest you run (not walk) to your nearest location to give this a try! The fresh avocados are high in folate and healthy fats the body needs to function at its best. I love pairing the guacamole with baby carrots, a coconut or avocado oil chip with minimal ingredients, or with Mary’s Gone Crackers. They are gluten-free and nutrient dense with a great combination of sprouted seeds and whole grains.

7. Rebbl Elixir Drinks 
These premade non-dairy bottled drinks are not only delicious, but they are made with concentrated superfoods and adaptogens that are healing and energizing for the body. Some varieties include Matcha which is great for healthy energy and metabolism, Reishi which is a mushroom that promotes healing and boosts the immune system, Ashwaganda which is an adaptogen herb that helps our body cope with stress and strengthens the adrenal glands, Maca blend which combines high antioxidants and promotes hormone balance, and my personal favorite is the “Golden Milk” blend which is made with activated turmeric combined with black pepper which is one of nature’s strongest anti-inflammatory remedies.

8. Simple Mills Baking Mixes 
If you are looking for a paleo, Whole 30, clean, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free baking mix look no further! Simple Mills keeps it as simple as possible with their ingredients and are so easy to make into delicious cakes or cupcakes, almond flour cookies, coconut flour pizza crusts, and banana/pumpkin muffins or loafs. This brand is great when you want to indulge in a little treat but still stay away from processed foods and refined sugar.

9. Dark Chocolate 
Yes, you heard correctly—dark chocolate is in my cart! Studies prove that 1oz of dark chocolate per day is extremely beneficial. It can reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure, promotes healthy weight management and even supports weight loss, increases antioxidants and improves cardiovascular health, improves cognitive function and boosts mood, is high in minerals, and the list can go on and on. The key is to first make sure you do not have a chocolate sensitivity or intolerance and then always choose a dark chocolate that is around 80-85% cocoa content with the rest of the ingredients being very pure and minimal. Dean’s has a great selection of many of these brands and options available.

10. Local or Raw Manuka Honey
Honey is nature’s best (and oldest) sweetener. The healing properties of honey are tremendous and local honey can even help you improve your seasonal allergies if you start taking a few teaspoons each day starting in the winter. This will build your immune system with the allergens that are in your local area and you should be able to manage your seasonal allergies much easier in the spring and summer when allergen season ramps up.

Missed this event or interested in doing a tour? Dean’s will be hosting another night full of grocery shopping and food facts on Wednesday April 5th at 6:00 p.m in Ocean. This event is free but registration is required. Please call 1800-DOCTORS® to register. We look forward to shopping with you!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Seeking Out The Winter Sun

By Judson Chaney, N.D., L.Ac.
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

My last post was on creating healing rhythms in the New Year. Living in the Northeast, one rhythm I have become more and more aware of is the seasonal change of falling into winter. The days grow shorter, and darker, and the weather can turn from sunny to overcast. Even on clear days, the intensity of the sunlight we experience is diminished in comparison to summer. Many of us can feel the effects of this change in various ways that range from changes in mood, lowering of energy levels, and changes in sleeping and eating patterns.

Our bodies have an important biological rhythm known as the “circadian rhythm,” also known as our “biological clock.” The circadian rhythm keeps our body’s metabolism and sleep wake cycle tuned and connected with our location on the earth. Our circadian rhythm is largely set by the influence of sunlight through our eyes on our brain. Each day when we wake up and go about our day, the sunlight we experience triggers a cascade of hormones that helps to regulate and assist our daily biological functions. Anyone who has experienced jet-lag knows the acute effects of a disruption in the biological clock. We feel lagged, grumpy, sluggish, fatigued, etc. We tend to crave sugary fatty foods…Sound familiar? This effect is similar to what happens gradually to many of us during the seasonal shift in winter. In some ways, we are experiencing a form of “seasonal jet lag.”

So what can we do to help with this change (other than move to Hawaii)? I suggest that you set your intent on a simple daily exercise: each morning seek out as much direct sunshine as you can find. A southern window or exposure is a nice place to start. After you find a comfortable, sunny spot, simply close your eyes and face towards the sun for a minute or two. Allow the sunlight to warm the skin of your face and eyelids, and notice the sunlight as it filters through your eyelids into your field of vision. Take this moment to allow yourself a few deep breaths to focus on the present moment, and when you are ready, let your eyes open and begin your day with your new solar charged perspective.

I hope you find this simple, daily exercise to be helpful as you experience winter this year, and I wish you many sunny winter days to enjoy until spring.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Staying Healthy During the Winter

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

The winter is a festive time, but it also is a time when many of us get sick. What causes winter coughs and sniffles? The misconception is that cold temperatures cause illness. Dry air and cold temperatures can constrict nasal blood vessels and cause mucosal dryness, providing easy entry for viruses and bacteria. But this is not the main cause of winter ailments. Our behavior is mainly responsible. We travel in big groups in trains or planes with poor air quality. We attend large gatherings where we shake hands, hug and kiss. We stay indoors, often in close contact with others who are sick, with stale and recycled air. These factors along with stress, poor nutrition from food high in sugar, and decreased physical exercise causes our immune system to become taxed and it is easier to catch colds. But there are things you can do to prevent illness.

1. Get fresh air. Our homes and offices are well insulated against drafts. This is good for our heating bills but not for our air quality. Opening the windows and doors, even for a few brief moments helps to disperse germs. Go out to breathe fresh air at lunchtime, during breaks and after work. This is good for the lungs and the soul.
2. Continue to exercise. We tend to become less active with cold weather. But physical activity is important for our bodies and souls. It improves our sleep, brain function and releases anti-inflammatory hormones that help us fight illness.
3. Get enough sleep. An occasional late night of partying is not harmful. But staying up late night after night shopping, planning, and drinking can wreak havoc on our normal sleep cycle.
4. Practice stress reduction techniques. Get into the habit of meditating daily. A good way to start is by practicing the relaxation response for 5 minutes in the AM and PM. Click here to view Dr. Herbert Benson. Or learn some simple breathing techniques that help active the relaxation response. Look at Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 relaxation breathing technique.
5. Wash your hands often. Anything you touch contains viruses and bacteria. After shaking hands, touch anything in public use (think door knobs, light switches) use simple soap and water to wash away the germs. And keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
6. Eat healthy food and drink enough water. Stay away from sugar, eat lots of vegetables and fruit and stay well hydrated. Whole food is good medicine!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sugar Blues

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC
Nurse Practitioner
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

If your New Year’s resolution included creating a healthier life by losing weight and reducing sugar in your diet, then read on…this blog is intended for you. Removing toxins and adding whole, fresh foods is how you start. So, if you are already adding whole, fresh foods to your diet, now we have to get rid of the toxins. The first toxin to go is sugar and artificial sweeteners have no place in this healthy lifestyle either. I know this is hard to hear but sugar addictions wreak havoc on our body similar to alcohol, tobacco or drugs. If your vision is for a happy, vital, disease-free life then you have to break up your love affair with sugar.

Many recent studies have shown the deleterious effect of sugar on our bodies. Their findings are conclusive: Sugar is the leading cause of obesity, diabetes and cancer. Sugars have no nutritional benefit, rob our body of essential nutrients and make us eat more!

Many Names of Sugar: Sugar has many names and is hidden in our food, especially processed foods. One of the easiest ways to find hidden sugars is to check out the ingredient list and look for words ending in –ose. For example sucrose, maltose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, glucose. However, there are other names that sugar will masquerade as, such as cane juice, dextrin, barley malt, sorghum syrup, golden syrup, buttered syrup and ethyl maltol.

Here are three ways to start your wean: 
  1. Eliminate sugary drinks…these can spike your insulin levels and leave you craving for more. Substitute with flavored water, seltzer, or herbal teas.
  2. Eliminate sugary processed foods…cakes, cookies, and granola bars. Substitute with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds.
  3. Eliminate simple carbs…bread, pasta, and crackers. Sounds daunting, but really it is possible. Substitute pasta with ‘zoodles’… spiralized zucchini is a great option and our family favorite now!
It is important to note that there is no need for added sugar in our diet. According to the American Heart Association the maximum amount of sugar you should eat in a day is six teaspoons of sugar a day for women and nine teaspoons a day for men. Be aware that one teaspoon equals four grams of sugar. So, that yogurt you are having for breakfast may contain 24 grams of sugar or six teaspoons…that is a woman’s maximum daily intake. The less sugar you eat, the healthier you will be!

Substitute afternoon cravings with sweet fresh fruit or instead of the chocolate bar, try a small serving of 70% dark chocolate. Dessert should be the exception rather than the rule. Remember that sugar is an addictive and as you reduce the amount of sugar in your life and add more wholesome, nutrient dense foods, you will lose your cravings for sweets. This is, for sure, the first step to a healthier 2017.

Don’t believe it or need help? Join the Integrative Health & Medicine team in our upcoming cleanse. Check out the website for dates (www.MeridianIntegrativeMedicine.com).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Heart Disease in Women

By Vivian A. Kominos, M.D., FACC
Integrative Medicine Physician
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

The number one killer of women is heart disease. Yet when I talk to women, many cite breast cancer as their chief health concern. Here are the statistics: breast cancer kills 1 out of 36 women; heart disease kills 1 in 3. In fact, heart disease kills more women than all cancers put together. We need to increase awareness of heart disease as a major threat and promote research specifically for women’s heart disease.

When it comes to the heart, women are not just small men. Our hearts are different than men’s hearts in many ways. Men’s heart disease often presents with the “classic” heart attack: grabbing or severe pain in the center of the chest. Women also often feel chest discomfort if they are having a heart attack; however, they often get other symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or palpitations. In addition, a woman’s arteries may look different than a man’s. Women, more often than men, have a diffuse or mild blockage in the heart’s arteries. Therefore, on angiograms, a woman’s arteries may look normal. Yet, the arteries may still be diseased and not dilate properly to allow oxygen-rich blood to enter the healthy muscle cells.

Many women with chest discomfort are told that their symptoms are not from heart disease. Yet, studies researching women’s hearts from the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation reveal that when a woman has chest pain and mild or no blockage, her chance of dying from heart disease doubles and quadruples compared to a woman with no chest pain.

So what is the good news? We know from research that MOST HEART DISEASE CAN BE PREVENTED with a healthy lifestyle!

If you smoke, stop! A woman who smokes has six times the risk, twice that of a male smoker, of dying from heart disease compared to a non-smoker. You can get help to quit: check out NJ QUITS or try the app “Craving to Quit.”
Eat mostly a plant-based diet. Stop all soda, decrease added sugar and processed foods. Attend one of our nutrition lectures that are given throughout the year.
Increase your exercise. Sitting time is dangerous. A recent study of at least one million people found that those who sit more than three hours a day have a higher chance of dying from heart disease. The connections between the mind and heart are very powerful.
Reduce your stress. Be optimistic, surround yourself with good people, go out in nature, and learn to meditate. Find what brings you joy.
Get adequate sleep. Insomnia increases your risk for heart disease, obesity, arthritis.

Check out our website (www.MeridianIntegrativeMedicine.com) for more information on how you can get help with improving your health. And most importantly, know your body. If you think that something feels wrong, get help.