Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Successful Change

By Marissa Winters, MA, RDN
Integrative Nutritionist

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”-Socrates.  

Did you know that less than 10% of people successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions?  According to one study, about 80% of resolutions fail by the second week in February. So…. how are you doing with your resolutions? Or did you not even make any this year, because, why bother?  

Change is challenging because it is uncomfortable. It forces us to practice new behaviors, and a part of us resists this because we don’t like feeling the discomfort that comes with a different approach. The brain prefers the known to the new. Successful change depends on being very clear about what the change will bring to your life. What is the underlying value you anticipate? So often, we don’t take the time to address this.  For example, you may want to lose weight because you know you “should”. But the pivotal issue is, how will making this change affect your life? Losing weight because you “should” is not as powerful a motivator as is losing weight so you can feel more confident in your clothes, or be more energetic so you can play with your kids or grandkids, or experience more ease when you move. Being clear on the values supported by your intentioned change gives the framework to measure your behaviors. The feeling you are after becomes your guidepost. Does each action you are choosing bring you closer to the things you value and want to have in your life? 

Focusing on the values brings clarity about how you want to feel in your new life. How does You 2.0 feel when you wake up? What does You 2.0 feel when you eat lunch? When you run your end of the day errands? When you get home? When you get in bed?  How do you want to feel?   
Once you get clear on the feelings you are working towards, put it in writing.  No, really - it needs to be expressed, not just kept in your head.  Make a vision board (on your phone, on Pinterest, or on paper) or write a description of your perfect day. Look at this tool often to keep yourself focused on where you are heading.  People who write things down have a 50% greater success rate than those who carry it in their head. (This includes diet journals.) 

By focusing on the feelings you want to generate, you get better at recognizing when your actions are out of alignment with your goals. It is akin to turning a large cruise ship. It takes persistence and a consistent tugging on the wheel to move through the prevailing current. When you notice yourself slipping, keep turning the wheel. Take one minute to step back and remind yourself of your desired goal and the feelings it brings. In a few weeks, you’ll realize that the “old” way of doing things becomes uncomfortable. When that happens, you’re on your way. Congratulations!  

Learn more about nutritional counseling at Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Green Your Cleaners This Spring

By Deirdre Imus
President, Founder, The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center

The doldrums of winter can feel endless, and though many of us remain mired in winter’s grip, spring is sooner than you think. With just under one week until the official start of the next season, it’s time to start thinking about spring cleaning. Whether this means cleaning out clogged closets or scrubbing the tub and tiles until they can shine no more, clearing your home of clutter and debris is beneficial to both physical and psychological well-being.

It all depends, however, on how exactly you choose to clean your home. I’ve written and spoken tirelessly on the dangers of toxic cleaning agents, which contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to respiratory damage; nose, eye, skin and throat irritation; birth defects; asthma attacks; cancer; chemical burns; poisonings; and allergic reactions, to name a few. These products typically contain ingredients such as triclosan, ammonia, chlorine, phthalates, enzymes, bleach, and artificial fragrances, again to name just a few.

As if there isn’t already enough reason to avoid these products, a new study has found that women who clean at home or at work experienced a greater decline in lung function over time, compared to women who do not clean. The women in the study were followed for more than 20 years, and the research sought to evaluate the long-term impact of exposure to cleaning sprays and other cleaning products.

We’ve been promoting the concept of green cleaning for nearly two decades at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center, at Hackensack University Medical Center, where we developed our Greening The Cleaning product line. Green cleaning products are formulated with plant and mineral-based ingredients that have not been linked to cancer, do not cause reproductive problems, and are safe for the environment. Truly green cleaners also do not test on animals, or contain any animal-derived ingredients. And while it’s encouraging that many retailers and consumers have followed suit and caught on to the benefits of using green cleaning products, studies like this recent one out of Norway indicate there is work to be done.

Rather than worry about the health risks of decades of exposure to harmful chemicals, read carefully the labels of the cleaning products you buy. Look for third party product certifications such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Safer Choice” label, which was designed to give consumers the opportunity to purchase products with safer ingredients. Every ingredient in every cleaning product that bears the Safer Choice logo is evaluated by the EPA for safety. 

Another helpful resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, where you can search by specific product and decode confusing labels. In a recent study conducted by EWG, more than 20 cleaning products were selected and tested individually by a leading laboratory that specializes in studying air pollution released by cleaning products. Results showed that third party-certified green cleaning products released half as many air contaminants as conventional products, and contained one-third the chemicals with known health concerns.

We encounter so many toxic exposures over the course of each day, whether we like it or not. You can control what comes into your home, and how these products affect the health of everybody who lives there. Start your spring cleaning early by ridding your home of all toxic cleaning products, and I guarantee you’ll feel better before the first flower blooms.

To learn more, visit http://www.imusenvironmentalhealth.org/.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring Renewal

By Pamela Jansky, RN-BC, CDE, AAACN

Spring is just around the corner! Signs of life are blooming all around us as the crocuses begin to emerge from the snow. Days are getting longer, temperatures are rising and the air is fresh and clean. Our excitement begins to build as we anticipate the annual renewal of life, symbolizing new beginnings and growth. We begin to think about the areas in our personal lives that may need a breath of fresh air. Our homes await their spring cleaning and our yards need to be tidied and prepared for spring planting. All in preparation for the summer when we will enjoy the fruits of our labor.

So too, we think of our internal housekeeping and renewal. Many of us wholeheartedly committed to our New Year’s Resolutions as we began the annual celebration of a new year, full of promise. We start off with great zeal but as the coldest days of winter descend upon us, we may fall back into hibernation mode. Such are the cycles of life. But what is the key to sustained change that brings about the results that we can enjoy in our renewed health and vitality?

What are the areas that you are looking to take to the next level or even find yourself struggling in? At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we are committed to supporting people in their quest for health and wellness through many different modalities such as acupuncture, nutritional counseling, health coaching, health psychology, massage therapy and more. Integrative health and medicine focuses on the health and well-being of the whole person—mind, body and spirit. Our approach is based on the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being which are Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition and Resilience. Every person is a unique individual with needs that change throughout the different seasons of life.

Our diversified team offers the support we all need to strengthen these five pillars that help us to form the habits needed for sustained health and vitality. This of course is what we all desire. Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. Our summer gardens continue to need our time and attention if they are to continue to be vibrant and fruitful. An Integrative Nurse Health Coach can partner with you to help you identify the areas where you are blocked and strategies to overcome any obstacles or barriers you may face. They will work alongside you in setting personalized, realistic, sustainable goals that can become new healthy habits so that you too may remain vibrant and fruitful. Click here to learn more about health coaching or call 732-994-7855 to make an appointment with someone on our team.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Five Ways Your Daily Routine Could Be Causing Your Lower Back Pain

By Amy Grutzmacher
Licensed Massage Therapist

Ah, low back pain. It’s so common. About 31 million Americans suffer from pain in their lower backs at any given time.

We know the importance of maintaining a healthy weight to prevent pain. But what if you’re a healthy, active adult and that backache still won’t go away?

Though your lower back pain may feel permanent, there’s a good chance your pain is likely a symptom of something else going on in your body. If you can find the underlying cause of the pain, you might be able to stop it for good.

Examine your daily routine to see if one of these five habits is contributing to your back pain and learn how you can fix it.

1. You Work From Home. 
Working from home can definitely be great! The problems arise when working from home really means working from the couch or worse yet, from bed. Both provide little support for your neck and back. It can be tempting to work on the sofa or lying in bed but this could be doing damage to your back muscles. By making a few simple improvements to your work station, you’ll be able to embrace the benefits of flexible working without the risk of back and neck problems.

Fix it: The key is to sit at a table, on a chair. Take regular breaks, walk around while on the phone and use your home to your advantage by adding in stretches whenever you can. Set the alarm on your cell phone and every hour, get up and do some quick shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulders back to counteract the forward shoulder position from sitting and looking at the computer.

2. You Sit Too Much. 
Our bodies are not meant to be continually hunched over and in a seated position. For any muscle to work effectively, it needs to contract and expand. Sitting too much leaves us in one forward motion, resulting in our back muscles arched forward. That’s where the lower back pain comes in.

Fix it: Counteract the motion of sitting by lying with your back on an exercise ball with your arms stretched out wide or stretch over a pile of pillows. Do this on your lunch break or at home after a long day. You can also try using an exercise ball as your desk chair. There are special frames for purchase that turn your ball into a chair. This can improve the strength of your core and in turn, improve your posture.

3. You’re Using the Wrong Pillow or No Pillow At All. 
To prevent back pain, you want your head and neck to relax. The ideal pillow position is when your head is lower than your neck. A 2016 study found that pillow height elevation significantly increased pressure on the head and neck and influenced the contracture of back muscles leading to pain and poor sleep.

Fix it: If you typically sleep on your back, place a pillow underneath your knees to help recreate the normal curvature of your back. Side sleepers, draw your legs up toward your chest and place a pillow between your knees to level out the hips. Avoid sleeping on your stomach if possible. By sleeping on your stomach, you’re increasing the arch to your lower back and the strain on this region.

4. You’re Skipping Exercise. 
You don’t have to engage in high-intensity training to help your back. A simple brisk walk can do great things! Exercise may reduce your risk of prolonged back pain. Studies have found that exercise can reduce back pain intensity by 10 to 50%.

Fix it: Go for a walk. Also try incorporating back and core strengthening exercises into your routine. A strong core assists the low back with the work of supporting the body. Start with crunches, planks, and side planks starting with 10 reps of each three times a week.

5. You’re Stressed Out. 
Stress is one of the top contenders that could contribute to back pain. Many studies have looked at the effect emotions have on pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction can effectively improve back pain symptoms.

Fix it: Evaluate your stress level and start incorporating relaxation into your daily life. One way to do so this is through gentle yoga which can increase relaxation and decrease tension through meditation and gentle stretching.

To learn more about optimizing your health & well-being, visit our website at HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or give us a call to schedule a massage or appointment with one of our other practitioners at 732-994-7855.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Gluten Free - Healthy or Hype??

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN

It seems that ‘Gluten Free’ is the new bandwagon everyone is jumping on and you may be wondering why. The short answer is some people feel better eliminating wheat, rye, and barley from their diet. If you lived through the Fat Free, Sugar Free craze of the 80’s, you may be a little skeptical. Let’s dig deeper. 

Gluten-related disorders are conditions caused by an adverse reaction to gluten or wheat, including allergic (wheat allergy), auto-immune (celiac disease), and immune response (gluten sensitivity). It is important to find out where you are on the spectrum of gluten-related disorders. 

Wheat allergy has typical food allergy which can include respiratory and skin reactions immediately after ingesting wheat. People allergic to wheat must avoid all wheat and watch for hidden sources. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that produces symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, rye, barley (oats remain controversial). In the past, the ‘classic’ symptoms have included chronic diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal distention. More recent manifestations of Celiac disease are anemia, osteoporosis, joint pain, skin rash, neurological symptoms, behavioral changes, miscarriage and infertility. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, eating gluten-free for life is the answer. No cheat days, no holidays, no missteps. In this group of people, gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that can impact digestion and absorption of food. 

Gluten sensitivity can present as gas, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, ‘brain fog’, depression, joint pain, and anemia. Basically, if symptoms are triggered by exposure to gluten and relieved by eliminating gluten-containing grains from your diet, then it is gluten sensitivity.  

To quote Alessio Fasano, the nation’s leading expert on Celiac disease and gluten related disorders,

“Currently, the only treatment for gluten related disorders is a gluten-free diet. People with Celiac Disease must eliminate gluten for life. Depending on their symptoms, individuals with either gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy might not have to adhere as strictly or as permanently to a gluten-free diet.”

Having to go gluten-free is not the worst thing in the world. It should be done under the guidance of your healthcare provider and a nutritionist. It is manageable, symptoms will greatly improve, and the benefits will include your best health possible.  

At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we are able to determine where you may fall on the spectrum of gluten related disorders through specialized, affordable testing. To learn more, make an appointment with me or one of our integrative nutritionists by calling 732.263.7999.