Showing posts with label Emma Stafford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emma Stafford. Show all posts

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, June 12, 2018

Tea and Your Health

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

I was admiring my tea cup collection this week and offering gratitude for all the wonderful and healing cups of tea that they have given me. I would like to share with you some of the known health benefits of some of my favorite teas.

All tea, in general, is refreshing and contains no sodium, fat, carbonation or calories. More than that, it adds to your daily hydration requirement (half your body weight in ounces of water daily). In addition, tea contains flavonoids, naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant powers that may provide important health benefits. Typically, caffeine levels for tea are less than half of those for coffee, ranging from 20-90 mg per eight ounces compared to 50-120 mg in coffee.

Studies have shown decreased incidence of heart attack  in those drinking black tea, whereas green tea was associated with lowering total cholesterol, LDL (the lousy cholesterol), triglycerides and increasing HDL levels (the healthy cholesterol). This benefit is due to the antioxidant effects in tea.

A study published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that the main antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), helps kill cancer cells through the destruction of the cells’ mitochondria.

According to research presented at the 2007 Scientific Symposium on Tea and Health, theanine, an amino acid that is for the most part uniquely found in tea (green and black), may help prevent age-related memory decline.

Besides black and green teas, I also enjoy herbal teas, although the studies on these teas have not been as robust. A study on Hibiscus tea showed that three cups daily lowered blood pressure in people with slightly elevated levels. Chamomile tea acts as an anti-spasmodic and can help those with irritable bowel and ginger tea benefits those with nausea (and much healthier than ginger-ale).

Consider the quality, savoring every sip, and mindfully enjoying the taste, the smell, as well as sharing the company of those you are drinking it with. I l use high quality, loose leaf, organic tea that is brewed at just the right temperature for the type of tea I am drinking. Boiling water can damage the delicate leaves of green and white teas. Tea in front of the fire in winter or on the porch on a summer’s night conjures up all kinds of warm memories. I enjoy drinking from different cups from bone china cups to my favorite ‘gratitude’ mug. But perhaps my favorite tea time is with my grandchildren using a tiny porcelain tea set that sits in my china cabinet and is reserved just for our tea parties! They delight in smelling the different flavors, picking their favorite one, and watching it brew in the clear glass teapot. Ahhh, so healing!

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

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. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Toxic Emotions

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

We've all had bad days. Think of a time when you experienced a bad day and try to name the emotion you were feeling. Was it helplessness, apathy, depression, fear, guilt, or rejection? Perhaps, it was more like jealousy, anger, hatred, blame, or resentment. These can all be labeled toxic emotions…toxic because these emotions can be harmful to our health.

Within the first 60 seconds of us encountering a negative emotion, our reaction to it will either determine whether we are going to handle it positively or negatively. Research shows that chronic negative thinking that goes on day-after-day creates stress that can damage the body and mind, resulting in disease. The good news is we have the power to change our thoughts and impact our health.

Try these 5 simple steps to release toxic emotions:
  1. Notice when you are having a negative thought. 
  2. Ask yourself if this thought is serving your higher good. 
  3. If the thought is moving you away from who you want to be and how you want to live, then let the thought go. 
  4. Acknowledge that a thought is just a thought and you have the power to change your thoughts. 
  5. Take time to breathe…breathe in compassion and breathe out the negative thought you want to release. Take another deep breath. Now, notice how you feel. 
Our thoughts are very powerful, they become part of our cells, our tissues, our organs…they become who we are. Do not think that your mind is in charge of your thoughts…it is you who is in control of your thoughts. Choose positive thoughts that nourish and support us and create a more balanced life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Got Stress?

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

Got stress? We all do. The real question is, how well do you handle your stress?

Did you know that 60-90% of visits to primary care doctors are for stress-related conditions?

Research has shown that the safest and most effective way to reduce stress is through mind-body medicine. The field of mind-body medicine is based on the recognition that our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships can have a profound effect on the body.

Stress management can help you to either remove or change the source of stress, alter the way you view a stressful event, lower the impact that stress might have on your body, and teach you alternative ways of coping. Using the relaxation response turns off genes associated with stress and disease vulnerability.

Coming in 2018, Integrative Health and Medicine will be presenting the SMART program:

The Stress Management And Resiliency Training (SMART) program teaches self-care practices that help buffer daily stress, making you less vulnerable to it. You will learn to regain control and build resiliency through a variety of mind-body principles and self-care interventions.

Stress management is helpful to everyone and will especially benefit those with:
  • Anxiety-related symptoms 
  • Insomnia or fatigue 
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Mild depression 
  • Skin problems 
  • Auto-Immune disorders 
  • Asthma and allergies 
  • Chronic pain or TMJ 
The program will help participants:
  • Understand the connection between stress and physical/emotional problems
  • Learn a variety of techniques to elicit the relaxation response
  • Appreciate the role of positive thoughts and beliefs
  • Discover the importance of healthy eating, restorative sleep, and physical activity
The SMART program includes four individual appointments, which are reimbursed by most insurers, and eight weekly two-hour group sessions, which are self-pay.

For optimal health, just like brushing and flossing, stress management needs to be a daily practice. Having multiple tools and techniques will change how you handle your stress and ultimately change your life!

Join Lisa Sussman, PsyD, Health Psychologist and Emma Stafford, Nurse Practitioner at Hackensack Meridian Health Village for this comprehensive training from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. For their complete bios, click here.

For more information and to make a mind-body consultation appointment, call Hackensack Meridian Health Integrative Health & Medicine at 732-994-7855.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Blue Zones - Where People Live Longer and Better

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

I have just re-read the book The Blue Zones and highly recommend it to those who want to live longer and better. Our bodies are meant to live to a healthy 90 years old…in reality we are living to age 78, most with many chronic diseases. Some of us believe longevity and overall health is determined by our genes, but science is proving that environment and lifestyle are responsible for 80% of our health. The “Blue Zones” are areas in the world where a higher percentage of the population live longer. Residents of these areas are able to retain health and vitality well into their 80’s, 90’s and even into their 100’s. Brothers Dan and Tony Buettner identified these areas as Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. Their book, The Blue Zones outlines nine lessons that are associated with health and longevity:

1) Move naturally - Be active without thinking about it. Walk, bike, garden. Do not sit for more than 20 minutes. 
2) “Hara Hacha Bu” - In Okinawa, you will hear them chant this before meals. It is a reminder to stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. 
3) Plant Slant - Avoid meat and processed foods. Eat a plant-based diet with beans and meat in small and limited portions. Strict Adventists in Loma Linda, California take their dietary cues from the Bible. Genesis 1:29 “Then God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed: it shall be food for you.”
4) Grapes of Life - Drink red wine in moderation and always with friends or family. Three quarters of a glass for women and two glasses for men daily (no saving up for the weekend binge ).
5) Purpose Now - Take time to see the big picture. Have a strong sense of purpose and be able to articulate it – it is why you wake up in the morning. This helps reduce stress and reduces the chance of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke. 
6) Down Shift - Take time to relieve stress. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to stress and chronic inflammation promotes age related chronic diseases. Adopt a daily stress management program and be amazed at the changes it will make in your life.
7) Belong - Participate in a spiritual community. Studies have shown that attending religious services—even as infrequently as once a month—may make a difference in how long a person lives. 
8) Loved Ones First - Make family a priority. Invest time and energy in your children, your spouse, and your parents. Play with your children, nurture your marriage, and honor your parents in whatever way you can. 
9) Right Tribe - Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone values. 

Small changes can make a big difference in your health—the choice is ours. Commit to changing one health behavior as outlined above and start your journey toward a longer life.

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 (

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

By The Numbers

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

January is the month we review our finances and set our financial goals for the coming year. We look at the numbers and come up with a healthy economic plan. It is also a good time to do a health review and see how we are measuring up.

The Meridian Integrative Health and Medicine model of care is based on 5 Pillars of Health and Wellness: Nutrition, Activity, Sleep, Resilience, and Purpose. These pillars are at the core of your optimal health and well-being. Let’s look at these pillars and some easy ways for you to start improving your overall health.


• Eat three meals a day at basically the same time with a small snack in between.
• Cut your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water every day.

ACTIVITY: Endorphins are released when you exercise and bring about a feeling of euphoria and general well-being.

• Strive for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. These can include walking, gardening, housework, building, and dancing.
• Strength training with weights 3 times a week is best.

RESILIENCE: Resilience is the body’s ability to bounce back from adversity. Stress management techniques will elicit the relaxation response and allow you to more effectively cope with stress. Some call the relaxation response the shortcut to healing!

• 20 minutes a day of a meditation practice is the goal. Too hard or just starting out? Try deep diaphragmatic breathing two times a day. Here’s how: With one hand on your heart and one on your belly, inhale through your nose feeling your diaphragm and abdomen rise as your stomach moves outward. Slowly exhale pushing every breath of air from your lungs. Do 3-5 rounds of deep breaths.

SLEEP: A good night’s sleep may clear your mind. Scientists showed that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours.

• Everyone’s needs are different, average time is 7-9 hours a night.

PURPOSE: There is a place deep inside you that is yearning to believe that you were born for something. Purpose is your reason for getting up in the morning.

• Name three things that bring you joy -- things that you enjoy so much that worries disappear. Herein may lie your purpose. Unlocking your life’s purpose can be an enjoyable process. It can change emptiness to fulfillment and boredom into passion.

Want to know what your next step is? We are here to help you reach your greatest potential in all these areas. Book an appointment today by calling 732.994.7855 with our nurse practitioner for a one-hour comprehensive assessment where we can discuss your goals and areas for improvement based on our 5 Pillars of Health and Wellness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Attitude of Gratitude

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

“Gratitude can turn common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” -- William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to spend time with family and friends to offer gratitude for all the blessings we have received. Taking a day to pause and remember those who have touched us and whom we have touched is very powerful. Take a deep breath and breathe in gratitude for all the good in your life and radiate that joy out to all beings.

Gratitude is an attitude that feels good and has many health benefits. Research has shown that cultivating a habit of gratitude contributes to our overall sense of well-being. Benefits of a daily gratitude practice are well-documented and include lower blood pressure, improved sleep, improved overall mental health, and stronger interpersonal relationships.

Cultivating a daily gratitude practice is a way to open our hearts and recognize, appreciate, and feel thankful for our simple blessings.

Some suggestions for cultivating a daily gratitude practice:
  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, pause to reflect on 3 things you are thankful for. Perhaps you are thinking about the roof over your head, the bed you sleep in, the people you love.Vary them each day and besides just reciting a list, try to feel the emotion. For example, if you are thankful for the sunshine, feel the warmth of the sun on your face, or the joy its light brings you.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and record ordinary moments that bring you joy, such as things your children say that warm your heart or simple gestures your partner does that bring you happiness. It helps to read these on the 'not so good days.'
  • Find gratitude in negative events and be thankful for the personal growth of these challenging situations. You may say, "This too may shall pass." Let the gratitude flow through you with each breathe and with each beat of your heart.
  • Remember someone in your life, a parent, a relative, a teacher, a mentor, whose wisdom and guidance may have changed the trajectory of your life. Let them know how they made a difference in your life or write them a letter. Try to dig deep and find the meaning they brought to your life and how much you appreciate them.
  • Give back in a way that is meaningful, such as volunteering, saying thank you in a meaningful way, simple acts of kindness, and 'paying it forward.'
If we look around, we can find many things to be thankful for -- Things that we take for granted and blessings we don’t even regularly recognize. Whatever you decide to do, make it an ongoing habit and know for sure that that attitude of gratitude will bring you much happiness in your life.