Showing posts with label fitness and wellness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fitness and wellness. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Acupuncture and Headaches

By Judson Chaney, ND, LAc

The changing of the seasons from winter to spring can be a wonderful time of year. The days grow longer, warmer, and life outside begins to wake from the slumber of winter. Recently, I was enjoying time working in my garden, and I reflected on how fortunate I am to practice acupuncture. I feel this way because of the many wonderful changes and benefits I see this gentle therapy can have for patients. In my experience over the years, I have found that it works better for some conditions more than others.

One condition in particular I have seen positive and consistent benefits are in the treatment of headaches. Spring is a wonderful time, however its bounty and beauty can have a hidden effect on the observer. The unfurling of leaves, and budding of flowers can trigger allergies, and inflammation in many of us. In some, that allergy and inflammation can contribute to sinus pain, headaches, and even migraines. I have used acupuncture in my practice to effectively benefit both migraine and tension headaches, for people with short term episodes, as well as individuals who have been suffering chronically for years. I am not alone in this observation, as recent studies are indicating more and more that acupuncture can be beneficial for people suffering from chronic headaches.

One of my favorite aspects about the therapeutic use of acupuncture is that it is a drug-free, gentle, and safe approach. If you, or someone you know suffers from headaches I would encourage you to consider trying acupuncture as part of your therapeutic treatment plan. Whether the headache is from stress, tension, or just all the beautiful flowers outside, acupuncture may help ease the discomfort so you can get back to life, or in my case, back to the garden…

Please call 732.994.7855 to schedule your treatment. 

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, April 4, 2017

Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Medicine Be Thy Food

By Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Administrative Director
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates

Food is the body’s information. You could think of it this way, if your car is fueled by unleaded gas, you would not dream of putting leaded gas in the tank and expect your car to run. Well, that’s essentially true of how food sustains our body and mind. Food provides the chemical basis, the fuel, for our physical body to run properly. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Could you imagine your physician giving you a prescription to be filled at the ‘FARMacy’ where you would be given the required fresh vegetables and fruits to address your current health situation?

Physicians, unfortunately, receive little to no education and training in food science and its relationship to health, illness, and disease. But that is beginning to change. Harvard’s T.S. Chan School of Public Health and The Culinary Institute of America have partnered to create a program for healthcare professionals with an emphasis on training physicians. This program is titled Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives.

Recently, Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, through the generosity of the Women’s Heart Fund, sponsored 12 healthcare professional to attend the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives training at The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California. Included were eight physicians representing cardiology, oncology, surgery, primary care, psychiatry, physical medicine & rehabilitation, internal medicine, and integrative medicine. The training provided lectures on the science of food by some of the leading scientists in the field such as Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr. P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Attendees also participated in hands-on cooking skills with The Culinary Institute of America’s award winning chefs. 

As one of the physician attendee’s exclaimed, “This changes everything about my practice!” Maybe we will see a new specialty sprout, Culinary Medicine! Bon App├ętit!

The Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine team and several Hackensack Meridian Health physicians had a great time at the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Conference in Napa Valley last month.
Pictured here: David Eisenberg, M.D., Director of Culinary Nutrition and Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC, Administrative Director; Aviad Haramati, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University, who spoke about #mindfulness and #mindful #nutrition at the conference; Jennifer DiNapoli; Nicole Cerillo, RD, LDN; David Leopold, M.D.; Vivian Kominos, M.D.; Elizabeth Maiorana; Ronald Matteotti, M.D.; Sylvia Takvorian, M.D. and Jorge Corzo, M.D. (Not pictured - Mark Krasna, M.D. and Nina Regevick, M.D.)

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:, 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!

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 (

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 ( 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.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cultivating a New Response

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

When I ask people the first question of health coaching, What change would you like to make?, most people have some ideas of what they are hoping to create as their new health outcome, but they often  don’t know how to get there. In order to create new behaviors that will help you reach your health goals, it is important to come up with a new plan for dealing with the triggers that activate the old, unwanted behavior. This is an important step, because, as Marshall Goldsmith states in his book, Triggers, “our environment is a nonstop triggering mechanism whose impact on our behavior is too significant to be ignored.”

Triggers can be found in a person’s internal and external environment either as emotional responses to situations or as triggers in the environment. Since one’s daily life is often full of triggers, there are two helpful ways to cultivate change.

Our first step in a coaching session is to raise awareness and begin to notice the specific triggers that start the behavior. For example, we will work together to understand what it is that creates the behaviors and choices you are now engaging in.

Another key to behavior change is to develop flexible thinking for how to respond to the triggers that you have identified. This is how you cultivate a new response and gain mastery over your triggers.

Through conversations with the health coach, it becomes easier to identify and understand the impact of the various triggers in one’s life. Together, we can come up with new ways to approach the trigger so that you are able to have mastery in your response. Some of these approaches may include mindfulness, self-regulation, self-compassion, creativity and problem solving.

Over time, and through the process of cultivating new responses to triggers, sustainable behavior change is possible.

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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Patient Perspective

By Christina Lebron
System Analyst, Hackensack Meridian Health
Patient, Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

As a Systems Analyst for Hackensack Meridian Health, the first time I walked through the doors of Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, I had the privilege of implementing their practice on Electronic Medical Records (EMR).  The EMR was such an important part of their success because it was taking all the ways they care for their patients and translating that into a system that would electronically do what the paper chart does.
Throughout the next couple of weeks I was able to learn and gather information from each of the staff to help them be successful for their grand opening in July. Although this started as a just another project at work I soon realized the genuine dedication for the overall care of their patients’ health. “There was something different about this place”, I said.

At the time, my son was going through a very difficult time nutritionally and we couldn’t figure out why he was getting so sick. The staff at Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine took the time to speak to me about ways I could begin to implement change in our eating habits, eliminating certain foods and changing our lifestyle as a whole. I was so touched that I decided to become a patient myself.

From the moment you walk in the door, you get a real sense of how your visit will be. Emma Stafford, the Nurse Practitioner, was so thorough in getting to the bottom of the issues I was dealing with in my health and spent time making sure she didn’t miss a beat. Her concern for me was touching and warm in so many ways. Suzannah Sabin, the Health Coach, was such an important part of my journey because I was able to tap into some of the underlying issues that I didn’t know were affecting me. We set goals which I can say helped me take a big step in the right direction. I discovered a lot about myself during our sessions. I then journeyed on to meet with Nicole Cerillo, the Nutritionist. Nicole has a special calling for what she does as she recognizes that eating habits and nutrition isn’t just about the food but rather the overall well-being of the person both physically and spiritually. In fact, Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine is committed to focusing on 5 pillars: Nutrition, Purpose, Resilience, Sleep and Activity. The entire staff implements this care model to every patient they see. I can certainly say they all left a big imprint on me.

It was an honor to work with Lori Knutson, the Administrative Director, and the entire staff. They are truly dedicated and passionate clinicians. I always make sure I refer all my friends and family so they too can experience the life-changing care model that I believe is the future. I am still on my journey to becoming the best me I can be, but you can bet I will make sure Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine will a part of that journey. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Finding the Answers Within Us

By Suzannah Sabin R.N., BSN, NC-BC
Integrative Health Coach

I became a health coach because I care deeply about helping others navigate the process of personal growth and change. Many times, we know we need a change, or we know we want to change, but the process is hard, so we let it go and fall back into familiar habits and patterns.

What I have learned over many years of working to create change is that oftentimes the answer to the question, “What is my next step?” lies within us. A key part of growth is learning to ask the questions and to listen deeply to the intuition and guidance from our deepest wisest center. We can learn how to do this. We can practice asking questions and finding answers.

This is not a process that our modern culture necessarily supports or facilitates. It is not a process that many of us know how to even begin to approach. It is a process that takes space, time and often periods of silence. I have learned personally that developing a ‘listening attitude’ is key.

When I work with individuals on creating change, an important part of the work is to find what they deeply value. We create change from this place. When we are aligned with our deepest values, we become energized, motivated, and activated for change. Then we can work to explore and practice new behaviors and cultivate new attitudes to support the desired changes.
Another key discovery in my own process of making personal change was learning to embrace my feelings of ambivalence. In every effective behavior change that I have made, there has been a part of me that has wanted to make a change AND a part of me that has not wanted to change. As I learned to identify this part of me that didn’t want to change, and the reasons that the behavior served this part of me, it became easier to create the desired changes. I had a new ability to work with that aspect, instead of trying to use willpower or might to push through. I have often found that when I allow this part of me to ‘be there’ and I listen to the messages it is sending, it changes effortlessly.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yoga and the Heart

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

I started practicing yoga over 20 years ago while training for my first long distance race, a half marathon. I noticed that I was becoming stiff after my runs. I thought that yoga would help me regain flexibility. I quickly realized that yoga’s benefits exceeded the physical: yoga made me calmer and less anxious. My muscles became stronger and my mind became tranquil. Soon I was craving my yoga practice as much as my runs. 

Yoga originated in ancient India for physical and spiritual fitness. Yoga incorporates movement poses known as asanas, breathing exercises or pranayama and meditation or dhyana. Recent studies found that yoga reduces many of the risk factors for heart disease: it improves glucose, reduces blood pressure, decreases weight and even increases lung capacity. Even more important may be the relaxation that results: yoga reduces stress, one of the most potent risk factors for heart disease. 

Yoga has become very popular in the United States and the number and types of classes available can be confusing. The important thing to remember is that yoga is not a competition and that you do not have to twist like a pretzel for it to be effective. Anyone can practice yoga regardless of fitness or flexibility. Look for a class suited to you. This may be a therapeutic class where you may be sitting on a chair or it may be an energetic power flow with advanced poses. All good yoga classes begin with the teacher asking if there are any injuries or problems. The class starts with breath work and meditation followed by poses and movements that gently stretch and strengthen the muscles. The ending incorporates a closing meditation called savasana

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a good resource to learn more about the benefits of yoga: And remember, anything that is good for the heart is good for the entire body, mind and spirit. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.  
Health Psychologist 
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

We start seeing and hearing it after Halloween. The holidays are coming! And according to the songs we hear, what we see in stores, on television and social media, we are supposed to embrace the holiday season with open arms. We think there’s something wrong if we feel overwhelmed, stressed, sad or anxious around the holidays. Things are supposed to be perfect: happy people, happy families, and happy holiday celebrations. Let’s face it…while the holidays can be fun and uplifting, there is also a big element of stress and pressure involved. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America™ study, stress levels have risen, with more than 1/3 of adults surveyed reporting that their stress has increased over the last year. And the top 3 sources of stress are money, work, and family responsibilities. We struggle with financial stress, work stress, and relationship stress throughout the entire year. If we are not adequately practicing stress-management, or even if we are, adding the pressure of upcoming holidays to the mix can exacerbate all this stress, or at least topple our balance. As the holidays approach, we need to be aware that we are vulnerable to feeling "less than jolly," and then we can be proactive to increase our stress-busting lifestyle and self-care practices. 

Let’s briefly look at the 5 Pillars of Health and what we can do to strengthen each one during the holiday season.

Sleep: Feeling that we don’t have enough time to get everything done, we may skimp on sleep during the holiday season. Sleep deprivation can make us sluggish, irritable, lead to poor decision making, as well as increase our risk of getting sick. That’s the last thing we want for our holiday. Practice good sleep hygiene such as moving away from activating things like the nightly news and social media, the blue light from our phones, and eating food with sugar and caffeine a few hours before lights out. Also, adding calming activities as part of the bedtime ritual can help us wind down and prepare us for a restful sleep. Some examples include chamomile tea, lavender essential oil, a guided meditation, slowing down & counting your breaths, and reviewing what went well in the day.

Activity: With less daylight and being crunched on time with holiday related activities, we may let go of our precious exercise time. Please reconsider doing this! Physical activity helps to boost metabolism and mood, decrease anxiety, increase brain power, and improve sleep. This self-care practice is so important in maintaining our balance around the holidays. We can get creative with how we get this activity: accumulate it with shorter periods of physical activity or stretching throughout the day, combine socializing with a friend during a walk (bundle up!), try a new class at the gym, or get on your treadmill with some great music or follow an exercise/yoga DVD. You will feel energized, your mind and body will thank you, and you’ll be better equipped to handle the increased holiday stress.

Purpose: Sometimes we think, "Why am I getting caught up in all of this? The meaning of my holiday is buried under shopping and extra obligations." As we approach the holidays, we can take a few minutes to quiet down and reconnect with what is important to us about the holidays. We can ask, how can I make the holidays more meaningful and special this year? Listen carefully to the answer, and then cultivate that activity or mindset. It may be spending time connecting with others, volunteering or making that special DIY gift for someone. Whatever it is will fuel the soul and provide that extra feel-good energy to manage it all.

Nutrition: While we all know how important it is to eat healthy and mindfully, the holiday season can be a double whammy because we may eat reactively due to stress, and there is an abundance of unhealthy food taunting us, and we find our willpower diminished. We can counteract this by being prepared and boosting our awareness around eating. Examples include: bringing healthy food to the party, using smaller plates, and being extra careful with what we eat before we go out, knowing that we may be indulging later. If we take the “food as medicine” perspective, being extra mindful of what we eat around the holiday season can help boost our energy levels, mood, and physical health.

Resilience: Resilience is the ability to actively manage everything that is on our plates throughout the holiday season. It’s an ongoing process which entails both being grounded and flexible. Think of a healthy tree that is strongly rooted in the ground, yet can withstand all kinds of weather and sway with the winds. To build up our resilience, we can do things like find humor in our situation, ask for help when needed, take breaks throughout the day, do mini-relaxations, say kind things to yourself as you would talk to a good friend, keep a gratitude journal and cultivate feelings of gratitude, joy, and love, and practice mindfulness. 

This holiday season, try focusing on a pillar or two, and see how we can expand our holiday spirit!

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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Acupuncture and Relaxation

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

In the busy world we live in, it can be a challenge to relax. When going from screen to screen, task to task, stress to stress, the juggling required to keep up with the demands of the modern world can overwhelm our bodies’ ability to adapt and perform optimally. Acupuncture can be a great benefit for anyone seeking assistance in relaxing, and moderating the effects of stress on our bodies. 

Acupuncture is rooted in an understanding and wisdom cultivated by over 2,000 continuous years of practice, but increasingly, modern research methods are beginning to illuminate some of the biological mechanisms for its actions and applications. Researchers are showing that acupuncture interacts with our bodies’ nervous and endocrine systems. This interplay of the nervous system and endocrine system is pivotal in our bodies’ response, and adaptation to life stressors. These systems can become overwhelmed, and dysregulated with chronic stress. Our ability to effectively respond to the challenges life provides can greatly influence our ability to perform, and avoid unwanted loss of function and illness.

By tapping into this deeper level of function inherent within our bodies, acupuncture can play a central role in helping to support our ability to restore, regulate, and respond to the challenges of living in the modern era. As a result, patients’ frequently report that an acupuncture session is relaxing and restorative, and many patients fall asleep during their treatment session. It may seem surprising to some that we could fall asleep during an acupuncture session, but as one of my mentors said, “acupuncture helps to connect the body and mind, and most of our bodies are very tired…”. So, if you are looking for a new way to help you relax that works with your body in a natural, gentle, and effective way, consider trying acupuncture.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

An Introduction to Integrative Health & Medicine

By Lori Knutson, RN, BSN, HNB-BC
Administrative Director
Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine

Over 30 years ago I became a nurse. Why? Because I believed in the power of medicine and healthcare when people are sick, injured, or living with a terminal illness and I wanted to play a part in this profound service to humanity. What I have come to learn over these many years of working in healthcare and experiencing my own episodes of health challenges is that conventional medicine alone may not have all the answers—especially when we are looking to maintain or increase a sense of health and well-being.

We have embraced the idea of bringing together all evidence-based care and treatments to optimize the health and well-being of those we serve. This year we launched Meridian Integrative Health and Medicine which brings together the science and technology of traditional medical care with a broad spectrum of integrative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, nutrition counseling, health coaching, health psychology, integrative medicine consultations with a physician or nurse practitioner; along with many workshops and classes that inform and empower people to be the boss of their health and well-being.

The integrative therapies and classes are some of what we do with individuals but it’s our care model that is uniquely different. Our Five Pillars of Health and Wellness are the foundation of everything we do: Purpose, Resilience, Nutrition, Activity, and Sleep. We know that if these five areas of life are optimal, then one’s mind, body, and spirit will thrive. We are so thrilled to be at this amazing juncture in healthcare and we hope you will be compelled to learn more.