Essential Oils- Some of My Favorites

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Essential oils can be a powerful health tool, and they are known for their subtle and gentle effects.  I love essential oils and have used the extensively in my life and in my clinical practice, but I do not proclaim myself as an expert in essential oils.  Many of my colleagues and teachers are more knowledgeable than I am in this area.   That being said, here are some of my favorites!

Notes:

*This information is from my personal experience and from my education in naturopathic medical school.  I don’t have any references for this material, it is mostly been verbally passed down from the experts.

*Essential oils are generally safe to try for people of all ages and most health concerns, but it is best to speak with a holistic medical provider before using.

* If you know that you have an allergy to any of these plants, then DO NOT use the essential oil.

*Also, essential oils are generally safe when used externally, and most should be diluted before applying to the skin (best diluents include almond oil, jojoba oil, your lotion/moisturizer, olive oil). With very limited exceptions, it is usually not recommended to take essential oils internally unless properly diluted.

Lavender- the good-for-everything oil.  Great for mental health, helps with nervousness, anxiety and depression.  It can either bring up the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) or bring down the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), it is very balancing.  Apply it to the inner wrist or bottom of the feet for relief.  Can be applied directly to minor skin burns, as it helps decrease the sensation of pain and heat and can prevent blistering.  It can relieve migraines when combined with peppermint.

German Chamomile- great for bug bites, skin injuries like scrapes/rugburn, hives and eczema.  It is a powerful anti-inflammatory, so it is great for any skin condition with redness.  Mix with calendula oil for a powerful healing oil, or mix a few drops into your moisturizer.

Tea Tree- a potent antimicrobial.  This works well for skin and nail fungus, but can be too strong for the skin if not diluted.  This is a great addition to liquid hand soap or shampoo.  It can also be used in a diffuser to clean the air in a room, although some people do not enjoy the smell of this oil.  Interestingly, manuka honey is honey from bees pollinating the tea tree, and has many healing properties.

Peppermint- Great digestion tonic, helps to stimulates digestion by increasing saliva and bile production. It can also relieve gas and nausea. For these uses one drop followed by a glass of water is sufficient.  Topically it is good for hot flashes because it gives the skin a cool sensation. This is also great in a diffuser to clean the air in a room.  Almost everyone likes this smell.

Eucalyptus- This is great for respiratory infections and allergies.  It has antiviral activity, and is cooling to swollen, irritated tissues.  Add a few drops to a pot of hot water to breathe in the steam when you’re sick.  You can also apply one drop to the bottom of your nose when allergy season hits to keep your sinuses clear.

Rose Geranium- Great for women’s health conditions.  You can rub a few drops on your lower abdomen for menstrual cramps.  It may be able to balance the female hormones if used regularly, and it is one of those “feel good” smells which may be related to increasing the parasympathetic nervous system.  Good for those who crave sugar during their menses.

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

New Workshops Coming Up!

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Book now as space is limited!  Dr. Ward-Selinger and Dr. Herman are teaming up to present on these exciting topics.  Please reserve your space at www.sellwoodyoga.com

April Workshop:
Intro to Cleansing, $10 to reserve your space
In this workshop we will discuss the benefits of cleanses and and outline different protocols, as well as how to choose a program that’s right for you.  Dr. Kai and Dr. Lauren will provide tips for a safe and effective cleanse program, as well as ways to incorporate these healthy habits into your every day life.  Attendees will also receive a discount to use towards the group cleanse scheduled at Elixia Wellness Group in May 2014.
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May Workshop:
Conquering Allergies, $10 to reserve your space
The incidence of food and skin allergies is steadily increasing. In this workshop we will discuss the causes and prevalence of environmental and dietary allergies.  Dr. Kai and Dr. Lauren will discuss how to limit your exposure to allergens and will discuss effective, natural allergy treatments that provide long term allergy control.

Sweeteners: the good, the bad and the ugly

Sugar

 

Let’s talk about sweeteners.  First of all, it deserves mentioning that the average American consumes 60-100 pounds of sugar per year (numbers vary according to the source).  This is a drastic increase over the past 200 years, from approximately 18 pounds per year. Obviously, humans like the taste of sugar.  It doesn’t take much extrapolation to associate the increase in sugar consumption with the increase in obesity and diabetes, among other health problems.  It’s also easy to assume that the increase in available processed foods and drinks have made this easier to attain.

Of course, no sweeteners are good for you in large quantities, but let’s minimize the harm.  I hope you already know that natural sweeteners are the only way to go.  Honey and maple syrup are the best, because they don’t need to be processed to be good.  They are naturally sweet and don’t require chemical modification.  They can be used in almost any recipe that calls for sugar (you may need to adapt the other liquid ingredients).  Other great sweeteners include fruit purees, dates and other dried fruits or juices.

Here’s a breakdown of the bad stuff:

White sugar is a highly processed product from sugar cane.  Brown sugar is just slightly less processed, containing more of the natural molasses.  Molasses is just what comes out of processing sugar cane to make white sugar (molasses actually has some nutritional benefits, unlike white and brown sugar which have miniscule to NO nutrition).  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a chemical experiment that is 40-55% fructose (fruit is naturally 0-20% fructose).  It is known to be a major contributor to obesity- do not consume it.  Agave nectar is just as processed and bad for you as high fructose corn syrup.  It actually has more fructose than HFCS, at a whopping 55-90%!  If you own it, throw it away.

Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutraSweet, and Equal are chemicals that trick your taste buds into thinking that there is something useful like sugar coming down the tube. Therefore, your body gets all excited for it but then nothing comes of it.  Your gut and liver have to break down these strange chemicals and they don’t know what to do with them.  There have been many studies linking bladder cancer to these sweeteners.  Do NOT use them.

Stevia is a “natural” sweetener, but is rather processed to be in form that is useful.  Have you ever tasted it and noticed the strange aftertaste?  It’s the best out of the other processed sugars, but… Why?  Just use fruit, honey or maple syrup for those times that you want something sweet.

If you have ever tried to completely avoid sugar, you know how hard it is.  It is in products that you would never expect.  Also, taking it away creates a strong desire for it, just like an addiction.  Although it’s not easy to give up, once you do you will realize that you do not need it. You will also notice how excessively sweet everything is! You will be all the better for it.

 

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}

How to get better sleep

Sleep is the arguably the most important part of the day, and it is also a huge struggle for so many people.  It has been shown that during sleep our bodies take time to repair damaged tissues and combat inflammation, as well as have a much needed break from digesting new food.  Without proper sleep, your body won’t have proper time to heal and repair.  People suffering with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, alzheimer’s, diabetes and other conditions would benefit greatly from this optimal time of healing.  It is also essential for athletes, whose activities could cause minor injuries or aches and pains.  It is in your best interest to do all that you can to control your sleep cycle.  Feeling rested with energy is such a fabulous way to start the day!

Here are some tips for how to get that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug, fulfilling sleep:

–   Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.  This is optimal, and occasionally unattainable.  Do your best.

–   Sleep in a completely dark room (no cracks under the door, no glowing alarm clock, use light-blocking curtains)

–   Save the bedroom for sleeping and intimate activities only (no working or homework). On that note, do your best to make your room a sanctuary for sleep.  Make it clutter free, relaxing colors and sounds, comfortable temperature, etc.

–   No use of glowing electronics for 1 hour before bed (phone, tv, tablet, computer). The blue light stimulates your pineal gland, which tricks your body into thinking that it is not nighttime.

–   No eating within an hour of bedtime, and no caffeine after 12pm.  As stated above, sleep is  a time of digestive rest.  Unless you have a medical condition that requires otherwise, try to go to bed with a slight sensation of hunger (*weight loss tip!).

–   Avoid the excessive alcohol intake, especially before bedtime.  Alcohol raises your cortisol, which will keep you up at night.  If you do fall asleep, it will be less restful than if you didn’t have alcohol in your system.

–   Exercise or get some vigorous movement going within an hour of waking in the morning.  This gets your cortisol pumping, which is what should spike in the morning to get you out of bed.  By having a regular morning workout routine, you will encourage the cortisol burst to occur on its own before you even get up.  (*also a weight loss tip!)

–   If you cannot fall asleep after 30 minutes, get out of bed and read or do something relaxing for 30 minutes (don’t turn on the TV or computer!). Then try again.

If these tips do not help set your circadian rhythm within a few weeks, you may need a little help from our botanical, nutritional or pharmaceutical friends.  Commonly recommended supplements include melatonin, phosphatidyserine, chamomile, valerian, passionflower, kava kava, and hops.  These are all great and have their roles, but chronic use of some of these could have side effects.  Please consult a physician if you need help with choosing a sleep aid and the proper dosages.  Also, if you have an opposite sleep schedule (working nights and sleeping days), you are also a special situation and should seek a physician’s advice.  Did you know that working a swing/graveyard shift puts you at greater risk of many diseases?  It’s best to only work these hours for a limited time if possible.

Please contact me with any questions or comments. Happy sleeping!

4 Steps for Mindfulness

This time of year many of us are caught in the rush.  It is often a combination of the holiday celebrations, preparing for the year end at work, or tackling the never ending to-do list.  The holidays can also bring up a lot of emotional and financial stress.  To help get through these exciting, stressful and sometimes exhausting days, I recommend bringing a mindfulness practice into your daily routine.  Here are some steps on how to start.

BE GRATEFUL:

It sounds so simple, and it is.  Take 5 minutes every day to think about what you are grateful for in your life. This can be done as formal meditation, during your shower, during your bus ride, lying in bed, etc.  Close your eyes and think about the roof over your head, the warm fuzzy animal in your house, the clothes in your closet, the food in your pantry, the fact that you have to get up and go to your job (because you have a job).  Most importantly, take a moment to think about the important people in your life.  No one is perfect and it is easy to focus on someone’s flaws, but without them you wouldn’t be who you are and where you are.  I truly believe that people feel positive energy when you send it towards them.  So go ahead, send them some mental and energetic love.  Maybe they will send it back to you!

SLOW DOWN:

We live in a society of instant-everything.  All of the answers are at the touch of a screen, food can be ready in 1 minute, and our cars take us across town in an instant.  Although I’m thankful for this technology and it has greatly benefited my life, I think it has led us into a trap of less satisfaction.  Take a moment to put down your electronic device and talk to a stranger at the coffee shop or the lady at the checkout counter.  Walk or bike to work to see the neighborhood in a new dimension.  Cook dinner with a friend and don’t worry about how long it takes. You will likely find pleasure and satisfaction from these activities.

LET GO:

So often we hold onto things that do not serve us.  It doesn’t serve anyone to carry around a load of grief, grudges and disappointments.  Things happen in our lives that hurt or leave us with a burden.  I can’t explain why these things happen, but I know that the sooner you can come to terms with them, accept them for what they are, and move forward, the better off you will be.  You are alive to greet another day, so don’t let something that went wrong hold you down.  By greeting the day with the wisdom from your experiences and by setting clear intentions for the future, you will be successful.  Seek assistance if you need help letting go- counseling, psychiatry, energy work and body work can be very powerful.  Remember, every ending is also a beginning.

FIND A MANTRA:

A mantra is like your spiritual theme song.  It is something you can play in your head when you need a little motivation or are faced with a challenge.  Historically, mantras have been used for thousands of years in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions and are often incorporated into yoga practices.  I am not an expert in these traditions but I have found this to be extremely powerful in my life.  It doesn’t have to be anything formal or fancy, just something that resonates with you and allows you to refocus.  Finding a mantra may help you to incorporate the other three steps above into your life.

Here are some examples:

I will greet everyone with love
Patience and compassion with all people
I choose to be healthy
I am good
I will get through this
Breathe
Slow down and smile
Today is going to be a great day
I will be successful

In Naturopathic Medicine it is important to support the mind, body and soul.  I hope you’ve found these tips helpful and allow you to face the end of the year with more grace, gratitude and compassion.

5 Tips for Staying Healthy During the Holidays

1.   Keep to a healthy diet, but don’t obsess
-Don’t go to parties hungry! This will result in way too many appetizers and overfilling of the plate.  Have a healthy snack or smoothie before you go.
-Every meal should consist of half a plate of vegetables. This will keep your digestion moving and lower your calorie count.
-Indulge a little bit.  The holidays are about celebration, so go ahead and have a piece of grandma’s pumpkin pie.  But just one.  Consider prepping yourself with digestive enzymes or taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before meals.

2.   Move your body EVERY DAY
-Keep to your exercise routine as much as possible.  The holidays are a time for exceptions, but don’t make this one of them.
-Get your family moving!  How about proposing a family walk after dinner? Or a touch football game in the park?  Or joining in on that local 5K run?
-If you can’t get anyone else to join you and you can’t get to the gym, do yourself a favor and do some fun exercises for 20 minutes in your home: burpees, situps, plank holds, jumping jacks, karate kicks, running the stairs, whatever you can think of!

3.       Solid sleep schedule
-Try to maintain a schedule of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.  Optimally, this is from 10pm to 7am.  There will be blips, but make a conscious effort to make this happen!
-Too amped to sleep?  Limit caffeine to 1-2 cups BEFORE noon.  Don’t over-indulge on alcohol, and don’t drink later than an hour before bedtime.
-Exhausted in the morning? Get your cortisol pumping right away by getting in your daily movement!

4.       Mental health time
-This is very important.  Take time for yourself during the craziness.  Spend at least 15 minutes a day on yourself, whether that is meditating, taking a bath, praying, napping or simply walking.
-Take a moment to be thankful for all that you have, every day.  The holidays are a special time for reconnecting with friends and family, family traditions, letting go of grudges, and acknowledging the passing time.

5.       Natural immunity boosters
-Have an arsenal on hand.  Most people could benefit from taking a daily probiotic, vitamin D, and a multivitamin/mineral.  Brands I like: Integrative Therapeutics Probiotic Pearls, Genestra D-Mulsion 1000, and Innate Response One Daily Cap. {I have no financial affiliation with any of those products}.
-Contrast hydrotherapy: alternate hot and cold water in the shower (ex: 1 min hot, 10 sec cold, repeat 3 times).  Always end on cold.  This stimulates your circulation and causes your immune system to fire up.
-Wash your hands! Use soap and water to wash your hands several times per day, especially after being in public spaces and before eating.  No need for antimicrobial soaps, just regular soap is the best!

{Disclaimer: this is not considered personal medical advice, and you should speak with a physician before making diet and lifestyle changes. I’m happy to be that physician; all you need to do is schedule an appointment with me}