Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Leaky Gut---What Is It? Do I Have It?

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN
Integrative Nurse Practitioner

Hippocrates is quoted as saying, "all disease starts in the gut."

How right he was! Getting your gut healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your health; in fact it is the gateway to our health. Your gut wall is home to 70% of our immune system. The gut’s primary function is to protect your body from unhealthy and harmful toxins, which flow through your intestine, from reaching your blood cells.

Foods go from your stomach into your small intestine where there is a membrane that allows nutrients to pass through into your bloodstream. Think of this membrane as a cheesecloth. However, sometimes this barrier gets compromised by ‘toxins’ such as antibiotics, NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen), stress, infections, dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad bacteria in gut), unhealthy diet, and environmental toxins. This causes the ‘cheesecloth’ to develop microscopic holes. Now instead of only nutrients getting through, undigested food particles are leaking through from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Thus, the term ‘leaky gut’.

This loss of integrity may go on to cause inflammation and chronic disease may develop such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) gas, bloating, constipation are most common. Other people experience systemic symptoms, such as, depression, anxiety migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, and brain fog. Others are diagnosed with autoimmune diseases like Celiac, Rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroid, and Type 1 diabetes.

The good news is you can heal your gut by removing the ‘toxins’, whatever that is for you and replacing it with a gut healing protocol. Talking with a functional practitioner and nutritionist are good first steps to begin the healing process.

This may include eating organic, adding more diverse and colorful fruits and vegetables, removing foods that may be causing inflammation, such as gluten and dairy.  Practicing meditation and exercise are also important part of healing.  Healing the gut is about healing the whole person - mind, body, spirit.

Contact me at 732-263-7999 to make an appointment today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Affirmations to Create a Happier, Healthier You


By Sharon Yeskel, BA
Integrative Health Associate

Affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself to help bring about positive changes in your life. They can also help you stop negative self-talk by choosing to state the opposite of what you believe is true. To create an affirmation out of a negative belief, change the thought:
  • I’m not lovable becomes I deserve to love and be loved 
  • I’ll never find an apartment I like becomes I trust that I will find the perfect place to live 
  • I’m always sick and tired becomes I am healthy and filled with energy to do the things I love
Affirmations should create positive images in your mind. Using words like scared, pain, or anxious make you think of those conditions. Make sure to use words like comfortable, safe, supported, and peaceful when writing your phrases:
  • I have no pain becomes I feel comfortable. 
  • I am not scared becomes I feel safe and supported. 
  • I’m not anxious becomes I choose peace in this moment.
Be sure you never start your affirmations with “I hope.” When you say “I hope this happens,” there is an underlying vibration of doubt. Say to yourself, “I hope I get the job and my boss respects me.” Now say, “I have a job that I love. My boss respects me and values my work.” Which phrase makes you feel better? Which phrase makes you feel that having that job is possible? Always chose statements that make you light up inside.

Have you ever thought about what would bring you joy and give you a reason to get up every morning? If you don’t know the answer, try using affirmations to lead you to your life’s purpose. Try these statements and see what shows up for you:

·         I am aligned with my life’s purpose.
·         My life’s purpose is being revealed to me now. I open myself to all possibilities.

When you first start saying affirmations, they may not be true or you may not believe they are true. As you continue to say them once or several times a day, they can change the way you think about yourself and the world. Make a commitment to repeat your affirmations every day for a minimum of 21 days. Keep a list of your affirmations on your night table and read them before you go to sleep at night and when you wake up in the morning.

Overtime, you may find those statements that were once just wishful thinking, are true. Drop some and add others as the statements become a reality. Affirmations can be a powerful tool to help you let go of limiting beliefs and help you create the happier, healthier life you desire.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Your Body is a Garden

By Marissa Winters, MA, RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade” ~ Rudyard Kipling

The body is often described as a machine. We say the heart is a pump; the kidneys and liver are filters. If a part wears out, for example, a knee or a hips, we replace it. The mechanistic point of view sees each of us as made of individual units. Many of us take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, waiting until a health challenge arises before we consider adjusting our diet or activity.
 
This perspective does us a disservice. We are not machines. We are more like gardens.  Gardens are composed of different parts, all with their function, but all contributing to the health of the whole.  If a part of the garden is out of synch, the whole garden is affected. If the soil is missing nutrients, the plants are unable to reach their full beauty. Gardeners know that keeping the components of the garden in balance supports the whole system. Sometimes things must be added; sometimes things must be pruned away. But always, the whole garden is considered.

Gardens also operate within the cycles of nature. There are times to prepare the ground, and times to trim back the bushes. No garden could thrive if it tried to do every part of the cycle at the same time. Being aware of what part of the cycle you are in can help focus your attention and actions to have the best result with the least effort.

The benefits of working with an integrative health practitioner is the broader focus on all critical aspects of your life – mind, body, and spirit. Integrative practitioners help you see what is supporting and what is undermining you, and the team works with you to drill down to the root cause, not just manage symptoms.


Now is the time to start working on the garden that is your life.  How will you nurture yourself? What will you do to care for your garden? Be realistic; be honest with what you are able to implement within the boundaries of your other responsibilities. What things do you want to encourage to take root? What things need to be curtailed? This is your garden, you get to decide what you want to grow. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

May the Forest Be With You

By Paula O’Neill, MS, RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

Recently I was visiting my daughter. Hanging on her wall was a framed print she had recently purchased during her trip to Maine. The print read, “May the Forest Be With You”. Little did she know that this print expressed the essence of forest bathing or shinrin-yoku.

According to www.shinrin-yoku.org, shinrin-yoku is a term that means, "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing." Developed in Japan during the 1980s it has become an important part of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine; and it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

So what are some of the health benefits of shinrin-yoku? Studies have demonstrated that forest bathing can:

• Lower blood pressure and heart rate
• Improve immunity
• Decreases cortisol (stress hormone) levels
• Improve sleep
• Improve mood and sense of well-being
• Increase creativity

There are a few thoughts as to why shinrin-yoku can produce these health benefits:

• Connecting with nature by walking in the forest, away from technology and our stressors, helps us feel relaxed.
• Trees release natural, scented oils called phytoncides. Phytoncides are responsible to protect trees from bacteria, insects and fungi. Dr. Qing Li, a researcher from Japan, found that exposure to phytoncides leads to increased activity and number of natural human killer cells, cells important to a healthy immune system. Phytoncides were also found to decrease stress hormones.
• There is a microbe in the soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, that when inhaled, helps to elevate mood.

Now that you’re ready to forest bath, here are some tips:
• Leave your phone and technology behind. This is your time and you don’t want to be distracted.
• This is neither a hike nor a powerwalk. Slow down…take your time. Use your senses to experience everything around you. As Dr. Li recommends, “Touch the trees, taste the air, breathe in the fragrance of the forest, behold the multitude of colors, listen to the wind blow and the birdsong.” 
• Immerse yourself in the forest!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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

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

“Food is all those substances which, submitted to the action of the stomach, can be assimilated or changed into life by digestion, and can thus repair the losses which the human body suffers through the act of living.” Jean Brillat-Savarin

My last blog post ,“Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are”, focused on food and water and the importance of mindfulness and making meals a sacred part of your day.

But good nutrition isn’t only about taking time for meals and eating healthy foods. There are two critical next steps: digesting and absorbing the food you eat. This *bioavailability* of food depends on that delicate process to “use the food we eat in the body we have.”

You have to use the foods you eat efficiently with the biological needs of your body both in how your body uses foods but also how foods we eat are nutrient-available for the body it enters! In other words, we cannot assume just because we open our mouth to eat a healthy diet that we use all the nutrients present in those foods. Digestion and absorption of nutrients is incredibly complex but is so critical for good health and overall wellbeing.

How do we know if our bodies are *bioavailable* and using food efficiently? The main area where most digestion and absorption of nutrients takes place is the small intestine, so problems in this area of the body puts you at risk for nutrition-related and other health issues. Chronic constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas or frothy stools are a body’s signal that something is going wrong in your gut.

Furthermore, a poor diet lacking fruits, vegetables and variety of whole foods, chronic stress, trauma, and overuse of certain medications can put the gut area at risk for dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the intestinal flora. This leads to increased risk of inflammation in the gut and other health problems.

Here at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we look at a whole body approach, and support a Five Pillar approach (Purpose, Activity, Nutrition, Sleep and Resilience) to improve and optimize your health. We realize that an imbalance in one of these pillars can influence digestion and absorption of nutrients. We address this in our nutrition and health assessments and support you to be the best health shape you can be, one bite at a time!

In Part Two of Bioavailability: Using the Food We Eat in the Body We Have—how preparation of food and combining certain nutrients can influence the bioavailability of that food.

To meet with one of our nutritionists and learn more, call 732-263-7999. We are currently taking appointments in our Jackson and Old Bridge offices.