Spring Cleaning: Detox your Body!

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Spring is here!  We’ve seen the sun, flowers are blooming and the hope for warmer, sunnier days is within reach.  But before we rush into thoughts of summer bliss, it’s important to focus on the renewal and revival that comes along with the season that is Spring.  

Spring is the season of detox.  A time to tune-up your body after a long winter of hibernation.  An opportunity to clean house from the inside out!  A chance to eliminate toxins, awaken the liver, and kick those detox organs into high gear.

A detox diet is great way to do this and will be helpful at reducing inflammation and toxic burden, and repairing intestinal permeability (aka ‘leaky gut’) by providing phytonutrients to promote healing. Here are some basic guidelines for a detox. 

Foods to Remove:

  • Corn
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Gluten
  • Refined Sugar
  • Shellfish 
  • Soy
  • Beef 
  • Pork
  • Processed Meats
  • Coffee, Tea and Chocolate

Food To Eat: 

  • Fruits
  • Healthy Oils (for example: olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil)
  • Lean Meats
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Vegetables
  • Non-gluten Whole Grains (brown rice, quinoa)

Check out our RECIPES page for healthy, nutritious ideas to help guide you through this detox. 

Warmly, 

Sarah Silverman, ND

How to Curb the Stress Response

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Know your Outlets:

  • Identifying our outlets for relieving stress are crucial to combating both acute and chronic stress. Outlets can include meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, and massages. Incorporate restorative activities into your daily routine so they are not forgotten.  

  • Guided nightly meditations and use of essential oils can be helpful in support of adequate sleep hygiene. Sleep in a cool environment and avoid screens for 2-3 hours before bedtime including TV, laptop, and smartphones. They have a blue light frequency that turns our brains into awake mode.

  • Products like HeartMath and breathing exercises are efficient ways to easily incorporate stress outlets into our busy days. 

Replenish Nutrients: 

  • Appropriate supplementation during acute periods of stress, and for chronic stress management, can be quite helpful.  
  • B vitamin complexes are useful as they nourish the nervous system, will replenish levels of B vitamins that are depleted during stressful times, and are essential for production of our stress hormones.  
  • Magnesium supports muscle relaxation, combating tense muscles that develop under stress.  Oral nightly supplementation with magnesium or epsom salt baths lend to a zen state before bed.  
  • Several adaptogenic herbs are also great options for curbing both high and low cortisol responses, including Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Astragalus, and Ginseng. Talk with your healthcare provider about the safest and most effective herbs for your stress management. 

Don't Let your Diet Drag you Down: 

  • With increased stress and food cravings, we’re more likely to make poor foods choices. 
  • Pack your diet with adequate protein, fiber and fat to avoid reaching for sugar in times of low energy. Plan for regular meals to avoid a dramatic drop in blood sugar that can further lead to poor food choices led by convenience. 
  • Carry healthy snacks and be prepared. Nuts and seeds, Epic Protein Bars, and vegetables with hummus are simple and filling options.

Warmly, 

Sarah Silverman, ND

Stress: The Impact on Your Body

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Stress is powerful! Acute stress leads to increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, lost appetite, and on a more primitive note: increased sight and boosted energy, via release of the hormone cortisol. This hormone is released in the presence of stressful stimuli as the classic ‘fight or flee’ response. While acute stress and increased cortisol secretion is a necessary and useful hormone function, do you ever wonder what exactly is going on when your body reacts to stress?

Check out a brief synopsis of how cortisol impacts each of the following organs.

  • Brain: Cortisol impairs serotonin transmission (one of our ‘feel good’ brain hormones) in the brain, and can lead to depression.
  • Heart: Cortisol increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate, acutely, and chronic exposure can increase heart disease risk.
  • Pancreas: Stress increases food cravings, and we’re more likely to make poor food choices. Also, cortisol increases insulin resistance (making our insulin less effective at binding and managing our blood sugar), which can increase risk for diabetes. 
  • Immune System: Cortisol decreases the immune response - this is actually a protective mechanism, but chronic stress suppresses immune response and makes us more susceptible to infections.
  • Thyroid: Stress leads to an inflammatory response that suppresses communication of the brain and thyroid gland, and decreases conversion to the active thyroid hormones. 
  • Stomach: Cortisol suppresses our ‘rest and digest’ function, leading to difficulty digesting food. Stress is also a factor in conditions of the gut, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 
  • Reproductive System: High cortisol can block progesterone from binding and can contribute to PMS or infertility.   

Stay tuned as our next article will include information on the most supportive supplements and lifestyle modifications for curbing your stress response!

Sarah Silverman, ND 

Breaking Out Of A Negative Cycle

All of us get stuck in negative cycles. Sometimes it's a food cycle where we find ourselves eating foods that wouldn't be our first choice for health. Sometimes we get into a string of bad luck where things are breaking, our family has a tragedy or work becomes unpleasant. It's easy to sit back and think, "Look at all of this stuff happening to me. When is it going to stop?"

 

But honestly, there is only one way to make it stop. It's to change our own mindset, our own habits and our own view of what's happening. This funny thing happens: when we feel bad we emanate an air of grumpiness or anger or sadness. And the people around us can sense it. And we ourselves can sense it. It sets us up to continue to make choices that perpetuate our mood - like a donut instead of a salad. Once we do that we feel bad about our choice and the cycle continues. The people around us feel it and may become defensive or avoidant - meaning they have more trouble supporting you the way you need.

 

So, the real question is, how do you break free from such a cycle?

 

The number one answer is gratitude. When we practice gratitude, in the right way, we actual reset our brain, reset our emotions which resets a series of biochemical chain reactions in the body that affect health, mood and the way that we interact with others. I do this every morning, even on the days that I drop my iPhone in the toilet, wake up with a crick in my neck or get some bad news at work. In fact, I do it especially on those days.

 

The Best Way To Do A Gratitude Journal

I actually started writing a gratitude journal back in 2006. I did what I was told. I wrote down 3 things every day that I felt thankful for. And I had a lot to be thankful for. I was a young doctor, had met my future husband, living in the fantastic city of Portland. But, I wasn't getting the full benefit from the journal. To get the full benefit from the journal you have take a moment to feel the positive emotion associated with the thing that you're grateful for.

 

For example, sometimes I'm just thankful that I have a really comfortable bed, and I imagine myself there, relaxing, laying down, letting the tension release from my body and I smile. 

Sometimes I'm thankful that my husband built our amazing clinic. I look around the clinic (or imagine myself looking around the clinic) and notice details and the sense of peace, inspiration and motivation that I feel when I'm there.

Sometimes I'm thankful for a ridiculous joke that my son told me the day before. I allow myself to laugh and giggle and the things that a 6 year old finds funny.

 

Taking the time to feel the emotions in your gratitude will change your mindset, change your thought patterns and reset your emotions. If you're someone who struggles with mood or having a critical or pessimistic outlook, this will take time to have big lasting effects, but it is absolutely worth it, and you will still have positive effects each and every day you do it. 

 

Resetting your brain with gratitude also reduces stress, gives our adrenal glands a break which in turn takes pressure off of our entire hormone and immune system. This is a crucial part of what we teach in our program, because if we treat your adrenals, but they continue to get attacked by your brain, we can't ever fully resolve the issue.

 

So, give it a try, resetting your brain with gratitude. Break the negative feedback loop that your brain sometimes traps you in. You'll see benefit for your mind, your body and everyone around you.

Next week join us again to check out our detox bath recipe for another way to reduce stress and break the cycle of negativity.

Christina Bergstrom MD

Banishing Bloating - Healing the Gut

Abdominal bloating is a common, yet non-specific and nondescript symptom of gut dysfunction.  Bloating can be associated with disease processes yet can simply be due to overeating.  When bloating becomes a regular occurrence, the search for the cause and treatment of this nuisance begins.  The question then becomes - how do we solve unexplained gut symptoms?  Particularly when our search for answers comes to a halt, or we are labelled with a diagnosis without answers. 

 

Here are three ways to dig deeper and banish bloating:

 

  1. Understanding the Power of your Microbiome: the microbiome environment within our gut houses the beneficial bacteria that are responsible for helping us produce vitamins and absorb nutrients, eliminate toxins, and maintain regular bowel function. The diversity and abundance of the these beneficial bacteria is crucial in healing the gut.  Probiotics is one of the many ways that we address this.  Prebiotic foods - such as leeks, garlic, onions, and artichokes - are also necessary to support maintenance of healthy flora

 

  1. Identifying the Cause:  Stool testing can provide valuable information on digestion and absorption markers, search for the presence of hidden infections or problematic bacteria, and identify the presence of inflammation in the gut.  Talk with your healthcare provider about the right stool test for you!  Food sensitivity may also identify the culprit of your bloating! 

 

  1. Treating the Cause: Use of a thorough history and individualized testing, you can address the cause of bloating that is specific to you!  This likely includes removing food triggers or sensitivities, balancing the good and bad bacteria, treating underlying infections if present and adding in the nutraceuticals designed to heal your gut lining. 

 

Fermented foods are also helpful at keeping the good bacteria in balance - check out a recipe for water-based Kefir in our recipe tab! 

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Sarah Silverman 

Hitting Reset: Kicking off 2017 Feeling Happy & Healthy

Kicking off the New Year is always an optimistic opportunity.  It’s a chance for new beginnings, positive changes and self improvement!  Hitting the reset button is often helpful at squashing any pesky habits that crept back in during the holidays.  Use these tips to get back to the basics. Because after all, feeling good is what will give us the motivation and energy to make our New Year resolutions shift from an idea into a lasting and purposeful habit!

 

Happy New Year - cheers to a mindful, meaningful and uplifting 2017!

 

  1. Start your Day with Lemon Water: Drinking a glass of lemon water in the morning can stimulate digestive juices before eating and improve pH balance.  A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can also be used in place of lemon juice. 

 

  1. Love your Liver: We have already talked about liver-loving foods but here’s a friendly reminder following any holiday indulgences.  Pack your diet with cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage),  turmeric, garlic, leafy greens (spinach, mustard greens, arugula), and citrus fruits to boost liver function, aid in clearance of toxins and provide helpful antioxidants. 

 

  1. Kick Nasty Habits: Eliminate consumption of alcohol, sugar, fried foods and processed foods.  If possible, aim to purchase organic produce, drink filtered water and add bone broth to the diet.  Minimize consumption of gluten and dairy as these foods have be known to negatively impact gut health and increase inflammation, respectively. 

 

  1. Get Active:  Daily exercise is of great importance for increasing blood flow, decreasing cardiovascular risk and improving moods.  Outdoor exercise is encouraged whenever possible as the connection with nature can also be a great stress reducer.  For those with limited time or access, walking is always a great option. 

 

  1. Manage Stress & Sleep: Find your outlets for proper stress management and take action!  Meditation, yoga, exercise, and journaling are great options. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.  Sleep is vital in our ability to fully rest and feel rejuvenated when we wake. 

 

Check out the recipe tab for a greens smoothie that will help you hit the reset button! 

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Sarah Silverman 

Winter Wake Up Call For Your Skin

With recent snowfall and temperatures dipping below freezing, it’s safe to stay that our skin is at the mercy of these weather changes!  Our skin is our biggest organ - it’s protective yet highly permeable.  My skincare routine changes during the winter months, and I’m going to share tips to keep your skin glowing despite harsh weather.  We also must keep in mind that our skin is an external reflection of the internal environment; our diet, our hormones, and our inflammation levels all affect our skin, and having clear skin is not just about our external skin care routine!

 

  1. Exfoliate: Baking soda is a great exfoliant.  It’s gentle, cheap and easy to use!  Add approximately 1/2 teaspoon into your palm, add a small amount of water water and mix into a paste.  Massage the paste onto your face for 1-2 minutes, then rinse.  Keep baking soda handy in a mason jar in your bathroom, and use as needed.  Since this exfoliant is so gentle and mild, it can be used daily!

 

  1. Cleanse: Consider using a natural soap that is free of harsh chemical additives and perfumes - both of which contribute to drying out the skin!  My personal favorite is Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Bar Soaps.  These vegan soaps are gentle, have a coconut oil base and use essential oils in place of harsh fragrances.  

 

  1. Moisturize: Coconut oil topically can be a great option for moisturizing during colder, dryer months.  Use a small amount to start and see how your skin does.  A small amount goes far.  If your skin is oily or acne-prone, it is still important to moisturize.  Consider using a natural astringent like apple cider vinegar (1 part apple cider vinegar to 4 parts water) on oily areas or breakouts before moisturizing.  Also, a more-light weight product might suit your needs more than coconut oil; Andalou products are great!

 

  1. Hydration: Ensuring that you’re adequately hydrated will also keep skin looking brighter.  Drinking half of your body weight (lbs) in ounces every day with ensure adequate hydration.  Remember that alcohol and caffeine will negatively affect your hydration status! 

 

  1. Bonus Tips: Omega 3 essential fatty acids are a great way to also keep the skin healthy due to the anti-inflammatory effect.  Increase healthy fats in your diet or consider an omega 3 supplement.  Keeping a humidifier handy could be helpful at home if you’re environment is dry. 

 

Check out our ‘Recipe’ tab for DIY Face Mask recipes to help replenish moisture and exfoliate for healthy and happy skin this winter!  

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Sarah Silverman 

Eliminate Heartburn in 3 Easy Steps

During the holidays it can tempting to overeat and make poor foods choices.  Heartburn can be a result of this indulgence.  Heartburn is medically known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, GERD, which is directly a result of an increase in intra-abdominal pressure that causes stomach bloating.  This bloating will force acidic contents of the stomach into the esophagus via the lower esophageal sphincter, resulting in discomfort and a burning sensation. 

 

Over the counter ant-acid medication is a common solution.  It is important to consider the side effects of the medication and how to treat the underlying cause of this disease. Long term use of these medications are expensive, and negatively impact our ability to fully absorb all nutrients from our food as acid production is inhibited! 

 

With that said, let’s get down to the root of heartburn: 

 

  1. Remove Triggers (and Identify Cause): While we work on identifying the cause, we need to remove the common trigger foods.  The top trigger foods include spicy and fried foods, coffee, tomatoes, citrus fruit, and soda.  Once you have successfully identified and treated the cause, there should no longer be an issue with these foods (although, most of these foods are unhealthy anyhow and should be consumed minimally, if ever).  Identifying the root cause is the key to success!  Working with your functional medicine provider to assess for production levels of stomach acid, presence of harmful bacteria, or physical obstructions like a hiatal hernia or belly fat is the path to full resolution! 

 

  1. Ramp Up Digestion: Contrary to popular thought, LOW stomach acid is often a cause of heartburn!  Adequate stomach acid is SO important for digesting and absorbing nutrients from our food.  Digestive enzymes are great for breaking down our fats, proteins and carbohydrates for optimal nutrient uptake.  A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar before meals can also be a mild, yet effective, digestive aid.

 

  1. Replenish Good Bacteria: Healing the gut and ensuring the presence of adequate beneficial bacteria is crucial for absorbing our nutrients once they move from the stomach into the intestines.  Several factors contribute to low beneficial bacteria, such as recent infection or antibiotic prescription, low fiber diet and high sugar intake.  Replenishing beneficial bacteria with a high-quality, multi-strain probiotic is the solution! 

 

So, what will you do - continue to mask the problem with a band-aid solution OR treat the problem once and for all?

 

Warmly,

 

Northwest Functional Medicine Team

 

Book Review: The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook

When you receive the news that you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, it can feel both overwhelming and relieving. You finally know why you don’t feel like yourself, yet, now it’s hard to know what to do next. You spend hours researching your condition on the internet, but there’s so much conflicting information! Should I eat this, or that? At times, it may feel restricting and feels like you can’t eat anything.

 

We love Mickey Trescott’s The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, because it is an amazing resource to support our patients through this difficult journey.

 

Here are the top 5 reasons we love it!

 

  1. Delicious Recipes  - who says healthy has to be boring and bland?! Mickey provides delicious, mouth watering main dishes, sides, drinks and desserts (Yes, I said desserts!).

  2. Time saving tips - we know healthy eating can be burdensome at times, especially if you’re already not feeling well or have a crazy schedule. That’s why Mickey has put in some time saving tips to help you make delicious, healing food with minimal effort!

  3. Easy to follow guide - Intricate Pinterest recipes that end as fails are a thing of a past with this cookbook! Few ingredients and recipes with easy-to-follow instructions make this a must-have!

  4. Classics with a twist - Missing those comfort foods such as clam chowder, cheesecake or spaghetti & meatballs? Well you’re in luck! There are plenty of classics with a twist to make them fit your diet!

  5. Variations - With almost every recipe there’s a suggestion for variation so no boredom occurs! The sky's the limit so you don’t get stuck in the rut of eating the same thing, week after week

 

These are just a few reasons we love this book and even if you don’t have an autoimmune disorder, this is a great book to find soul warming recipes! Since The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook was such a big hit, Mickey’s co-authored another great book called The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. Check it out! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and be entered to win a free copy of her new book in the month of November!

 

 

15 Ways to Avoid Feeling Miserable After Holiday Meals

With the holidays quickly approaching, we wanted to share tips for eating well during this time!  Finding a balanced approach to holiday eating is a must!  The goal is to have a happy, healthy celebration with loved ones, sharing in delicious meals, while avoiding that sluggish post-meal burnout that can lead to belly aches, headaches, and even weight gain!

 

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast, and lunch, before the holiday dinner - ensuring adequate intake of vegetables!
  2. Don’t show up hungry! Eat a snack before you go so that you aren’t tempted by unwanted food. 
  3. Bring a dish you would eat to the holiday party! A guaranteed way to have a healthy and delicious option. 
  4. Learn how to be comfortable saying “No, thanks!”.  
  5. Prior to happy hour, make sure to hydrate! Drink plenty of water (1/2 of your body weight in ounces). 
  6. Choose liquor instead of wine or beer. The clearer the liquid the better! (vodka, tequila, gin). 
  7. Choose cocktails without added sugar! Ask for water, soda water or on the rocks opposed to diet coke or fruit juice for a mixer. 
  8. Choose appetizers that are fresh or baked instead of fried foods. 
  9. Keep your distance from the snack table before the meal.  Consider a mint or chewing gum to avoid mindlessly reaching for the chips while chatting.
  10. Eat mindfully: Actively choose the foods that you want to eat and avoid putting ‘a little of everything’ on your plate.  Savor your food, focusing on enjoying the smell, taste and texture of each bite. 
  11. If you plan on eating turkey, choose the white meat over the dark meat.  
  12. Trim the trimmings: avoid cream sauces, gravy, pie crust, dressing.  Focus on turkey, roasted vegetables, nuts, fruit. 
  13. Graciously decline bringing home leftovers. 
  14. Recover from your holiday party by drinking a bone broth protein shake for breakfast, and re-hydrate with plenty of water. 
  15. Remember to stay active!  Include a walk with family members during the festivities, or exercise on your own before attending the party. 

 

Keeping these tips in mind, here’s an idea of what a healthy and tasty holiday plate can look like!

 

  • 2-3 slices of white meat turkey
  • 1 scoop of mashed sweet potatoes (see Recipe tab)
  • 1 scoop of pureed parsnips (see Recipe tab)
  • 1 scoop of brussels sprouts with crispy bacon (see Recipe tab)
  • Heaping portion of greens salad (consider oil and vinegar dressing if the salad is undressed)
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Paleo Bars with Whipped Coconut Cream (see Recipe tab)

 

Head over the Recipes tab to gather ideas for delicious and healthy holiday eats!  Remember to scroll down and check out the previous recipe post on Pumpkin Paleo Bars for dessert, and consider adding the Whipped Coconut Cream to top it off!

 

From the staff at Northwest Functional Medicine, we wish you a safe, joyous and healthy holiday season!  

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Silverman 

4 Daily Activities to Avoid Energy Slumps This Season

The days are shortening as each one passes, with less sunlight and usually more rain.  We often experience an overall slump in energy during this time of the year.  This drop in energy still seems to occur despite healthy eating habits, adequate hydration, and regular exercise.  So, what gives?

 

Our moods can largely be affected by the decreased exposure to sunlight during the fall and winter months.  Our brain will link our circadian rhythm (the internal clock) with the length of the day and exposure to sunlight, to keep track of the seasons.  So, it’s not uncommon to feel less energetic as our bodies adjust to the new season.  

 

Here are a few ways to combat sluggish energy this season: 

 

1. Ensure Exposure to Sunlight:

Appropriate exposure to the sun and UV light can enhance mood and energy through the release of endorphins.  Take advantage of the daylight hours and spend 15 minutes outside during the day.  A brief and brisk walk will be energizing to get blood flowing and increase mental alertness.

 

2. Decrease Screen Time:

As the weather shifts, we tend to spend more time inside.  Try to find ways to stay active despite being inside.  Also, try to avoid too much screen time.  Keep your computer screen at an arm’s length distance from your face to avoid easily tiring your eyes.  Computer applications like f.lux software are great for warming up your computer screen contrast to match indoor lighting, which also decreases strain on the eyes that can precipitate fatigue. 

 

3. Energize with Essential Oils: 

Essential oils can be great at improving alertness and offer an immediate, yet gentle stimulation of senses.  Lemon and lavender essential oils are great for reducing stress, while peppermint and grapefruit are energizing. Consider rubbing 2 drops directly on the wrists or temples, avoiding the eyes. 

 

4. Consume Seasonal Fall Foods: 

Focus on foods that are in season during the fall - think apples, pumpkin, squash, beets, and Brussel sprouts.  Warming foods, and drinks, will also best serve your digestion this season. 

 

Speaking of warming, yet energizing foods - head over the recipe tab and check out the recipe for a healthy Pumpkin Spice Steamer! 

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Sarah Silverman 

The 5 Foods that you NEED to Eat for your Liver!

Fall and spring seasons are the most common time of the year for a ‘detox’.  The term detox takes on a variety of meanings depending on who you ask.  There are ways to enhance the body’s ability to detoxify including use of diet, exercise and supplements.  While a medically supervised detox is helpful - through the use of herbs, vitamins and minerals, diet and exercise -  let’s talk about how to support our liver’s natural ability to detoxify EVERY DAY!

 

The liver is an organ that is most well-known for it’s ability to detoxify and rid the body of toxins.  It has many other important roles in the body including production of bile (necessary for breakdown of fats), synthesis of proteins and cholesterol, and storage of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin K, iron and copper. 

 

Now that we know how awesome the liver is, let’s talk about how we can support it! 

 

1. Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprout are among the most common vegetables eaten in this family.  These vegetables increase function of liver enzymes, contain a compound called glucosinolates (which is currently being researched for possible anti-cancer properties), and are high in vitamin C and soluble fiber. 

 

2. Garlic: High in two liver-boosting compounds, allicin and selenium, these compounds are powerful antioxidants, helping the liver to keep toxic waste from reaching other areas of the body. 

 

3. Leafy Greens: Spinach, mustard greens, arugula are helpful at increasing production and output of bile. 

 

4. Turmeric: This may be the healthiest spice out there!  Curcumin, an active compound from turmeric, can help the enzymes that are responsible for clearing out known dietary carcinogens, preventing liver damage and helping to regenerate weakened liver cells. 

 

5. Citrus Fruits: High in vitamin C and antioxidants, these fruits will not only boost the liver, but also help support healthy immune function.  Drinking a glass of lemon water in the morning can stimulate digestive juices before eating. 

 

Keep in mind that it is equally as important to avoid foods that obstruct the liver, such as alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, and processed foods.

 

Head over to the ‘Recipes’ tab and check out the recipe for Curried Chicken Salad - which contains ALL FIVE of these liver-loving foods!

 

Warmly,

 

Dr. Silverman 

The Power of Pumpkin

One of the most identifiable items of the fall season is a pumpkin.  We head to the pumpkin patch and pick pumpkins, we carve pumpkins before Halloween, and we gush over pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes.  We get it, pumpkin is pretty awesome!  But do you know why?  Pumpkin is nutrient-dense, immune-boosting AND hormone-balancing.  

 

Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene. 

Beta-carotene is the natural pigment compound in pumpkin (and many other fruits and vegetables) that gives pumpkin its orange color.  Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body, making it a powerful antioxidant and immune booster, and particularly useful in maintaining our visual health.  Pumpkin also includes: lutein (important for visual health), 

vitamin E (another powerful antioxidant), and unsaturated fatty acids (i.e. oleic acid, linoleic acid).

 

Pumpkin is a great source of fiber. 

Two types of fiber exist: soluble and insoluble.  These two types of fiber refer to its ability to dissolve in water - soluble fiber will dissolve in water, whereas as insoluble does not.  Pumpkin is high in soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber attracts water, slows digestion mildly and leaves you feeling fuller.  This is helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.  Soluble fiber can also aid in lowering cholesterol and help stabilize blood sugar levels. 

 

Pumpkin seeds are great for hormone health. 

Pumpkin seeds, particularly their oil, are phytoestrogens - meaning plant-based estrogen.  Phytoestrogens have the ability to weakly bind to our estrogen receptors, and can stimulate a response when needed.  For example, pumpkin seeds can be used during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (the first two weeks of the cycle), a time when estrogen is typically dominant, to aid in regulating cycles.  

 

Pumpkin seeds have also been used for men to benefit prostate health when the prostate is benignly enlarged.  Pumpkin is suspected to work as a diuretic and increase fluid output, therefore reducing the urinary urgency associated with an enlarged prostate.  

 

 

Now that you know WHY pumpkin is so great - head over to the ‘Recipes’ tab and check out HOW to bake with it using the recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Bars!  Keep this recipe handy when holiday season rolls around to replace pumpkin pie!

Warmly,

Dr. Silverman 

5 Tips for Preparing Your Immune System for Cold and Flu Season

The cool, crisp morning air has arrived, and despite the sun’s ability to warm our September days, an impending seasonal change is detectable.  As the leaves start to fall and rainy days roll in, cold and flu season quickly approaches.  It’s difficult to definitively say why we, as individuals, are more susceptible to becoming ill during this time of year.  Perhaps the cooler temperatures keep us inside more hours of the day - increasing our exposure to germs while in closer proximity to others, or perhaps we’re exercising less with the inclement weather. 

 

Regardless of the ‘why’, our goal is to embrace the seasonal change without getting sick!  You may recall a previous article written on ‘The Pillars of Health’ - if not, check it out!  Ultimately, these pillars will support our body and immune system, and decrease the likelihood of becoming sick.  We must remember that the body is an integral system of moving parts, and we need to support each part to achieve optimal health.  

 

With that said, let’s specify a few tips for immune support:

 

1. Diet: 7-10 servings of fruit & vegetables daily is important for our nutrition.  Focus on only 2-3 servings of fruit due to the sugar content, and the remainder as vegetables.  Drink plenty of filtered water - aim for 1/2 of your body weight (lbs) in ounces.  Avoid highly processed and fried foods - focus on a whole food diet as much as possible.

 

2. Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours each night.  Sleep is vital in our ability to fully rest and feel rejuvenated when we wake.  Being ‘run down’ usually precedes catching the flu!  If you’re someone with difficulty sleeping through the night, find ways to rest as much as possible during the day and at night - over-exertion is also part of being ‘run down’. 

 

3. Supplements: Vitamin D is crucial for immune support - particularly since we live in the PNW and vitamin D levels diminish as the sun exposure declines during fall and winter months.  Adequate supplementation of vitamin D is important for moods as well.  Zinc, among other micronutrients, are important based on your individual deficiencies which can be determined through micronutrient testing.  

 

4. Reduce Obstructions: Reduce or remove consumption of alcohol and sugar.  Decrease exposure to germs by washing hands often.  If possible, aim to purchase organic produce and drink filtered water. 

 

5. Manage Stress: Find your outlets for proper stress management and take action!  Meditation, yoga, exercise, and journaling are great options.

 

Head over to the ‘Recipe’ tab and check out the flu-fighting smoothie.  Cheers to a happy and healthy fall! 

 

Warmly, 

 

Dr. Silverman 

Back to School - Packing Health Lunches

 

It’s that time of year once again!  Summer adventures come to a close as school is back in session.  Most of us are sad to see the summer go as it brings sunshine, family outings and vacations, and plenty of outdoor activities.  However, there is something positive about the routine that the school year brings.  As many of us are creatures of habit, the structure of scheduled days and evenings are comfortable, and breed predictability for children and parents alike.  

 

Nutrition is a key part of supporting our immune system through this seasonal transition into fall.  Children are often more susceptible to the common cold and flu as their exposure is greater during time at school.  Packing healthy lunches can be a great way to boost your child’s immune system through providing healthy food choices - after all, food is medicine!  

 

For those of us without children, there are still certain notions that come along with the arrival of September - such as the innate change in eating and exercise habits as the weather shifts, and preparing the immune system for the coming months.  Packing healthy lunches can also be a great way to enhance nutrition, boost the immune system, and avoid the afternoon slump that typically follows a highly processed, fast food lunch. 

 

Healthy Lunch Ideas (Choose 1 Main Dish (Protein) + 2 Vegetables + 1 Fruit) 

 

Main Dish (Protein-Rich Options):

  1. Meat Sticks: think chicken, beef, or lamb kabobs on a bamboo stick, with or without veggies, and side of mustard for dipping
  2. Quinoa Salad: get creative with cooked quinoa by adding vegetables and legumes, and dress with oil & vinegar and salt & pepper
  3. Rice Paper Rolls: using rice paper wraps as the base, add any combination of sliced vegetables, meat, organic tofu and vermicelli noodles - crunchy peanut butter is great for dipping if nut-containing foods are packable
  4. Hummus Platter: served with vegetable sides and sliced pita bread for dipping
  5. Hard Boiled Eggs: 1-2 eggs boiled and sliced in half, served with a full leaf of kale or romaine lettuce and 1/4 sliced avocado for a ‘build your own’ egg salad sandwich 

 

Vegetables (Consider a side of hummus for dipping!):

  1. Snap Peas: 1 handful
  2. Baby Carrots: 10-15
  3. Sliced Celery: 2 ribs
  4. Sliced Cucumber: 1/2 full cucumber
  5. Cherry Tomatoes: 1 handful

 

Fruit (Consider a side of plain Greek yogurt or dairy-free alternative for dipping!):

  1. Berries: 1 cup or less
  2. Grapes: 1 handful
  3. Melon: 1 cup or less
  4. Sliced Apple: sprinkled with cinnamon
  5. Sliced Pear: sprinted with cinnamon and a pinch of ground ginger

 

Reminder:  Salads are also a great option for lunch!  But remember, consuming high amounts of raw vegetables can be difficult on digestion.  Also, lightly steamed and warming foods are supportive of digestion as we enter into fall. 

 

Happy packing!  Stay tuned for upcoming articles regarding supplements that will boost the immune system and help fight off cold and flu season! 

 

Warmly,

Dr. Sarah Silverman

Introducing Melanie Burton: Health Coach

If you have spent any time with us here at Northwest Functional Medicine then you have probably been lucky enough to meet one of our health coaches Melanie Burton.  For many of our patients Melanie provides one on one guidance and support. 

Melanie grew up in Colorado and from a very early age knew that she really enjoyed living a healthy lifestyle.  As a child she enjoyed helping her parents out in the garden.  She was a busy child, participating in year round sports.  That love of an active lifestyle has followed Melanie into adulthood where she loves getting out on weekend backpacking trips.

Meltravel

Melanie studied to be a pharmacist her first year in college.  The whole concept of "magic pill thinking" did not settle right with Melanie.  The idea that health came through a pill rather than natural choices just did not resonate her and so she changed programs.  Melanie changed programs to Health and Human Performance with an emphasis in Community Health Education and Psychology. Through this course of study she was able to pursue her passion about health prevention/education and the study of human behavior. 

 

During college Melanie volunteered with several health programs focusing on health prevention and education.  She was a Certified Peer Health Educator for the campus health center.  Melanie educated peers on healthy lifestyles through campus wide health awareness campaigns and individualized health coaching and lifestyle wellness programs.  This experience with the campus health center really started Melanie on her path to Northwest Functional Medicine.   Melanie also had the incredible opportunity to travel to a rural community in Uganda.  She combined two of her passions health and travel. During her time in Uganda she initiated and maintained several health prevention initiatives to improve local’s lives.  

Melanie now combines her experiences building comprehensive health programs and her training with the Institute of Functional Medicine to help guide our patients on the path to a full and healthy lifestyle.  Melanie is a vast resource I can only hope you get the opportunity to work with soon.

 

 

The Real Spring Cleaning: Detox

Day after day we are bombarded with toxins found in our air, water, food, beauty products, household cleaners, teflon plans, plastics...you name it. Our bodies are systems that when at high functioning capacity can deal with these toxins. However, over time our body’s detox pathways start to get “clogged” and “overloaded” so they don’t function properly. Overloaded bodies can then become unbalanced because we are taking in more toxins than our bodies can process. Eventually we experience a toxic overload. The result ultimately being that we have opened the path for illness and disease. Detoxing periodically can help our bodies process the extra toxins and get us closer to equilibrium.

 

During the detoxification process, we often feel worse before getting better. You may experience detox symptoms such as skin breakouts, body aches, brain fog, fatigue, irritability, and cravings. This is due to the toxins leaving our fat cells and entering the bloodstream. Stick with it, and after detoxing is over with, you may feel a renewed sense of self and energy. Detoxes are best done when you won’t have any commitments that involve eating out.  That can be especially hard this time of year as our social commitments get busier.  There are more bbq’s, cook outs, and picnics that ultimately will make any attempt at detoxing harder. It also helps to detox when you have a lower stress load. I know that is asking a lot but really you want to give yourself the best chance at getting through your detox as comfortably as possibly.  One thing we also really suggest to our clients is doing your detox early in the week. After the weekend is usually best as you will have a day or two before hand to prep.  

 

When you are experiencing those undesirable effects of detox, one important behavior to adapt is to focus on the positives. You make the choice where you place your attention. The phrase “What we focus on increases,” really speaks to us.  This is an important concept to experiment with as we are making positive changes during and after the detox. It is advantageous to take time to focus and revel in every good and beneficial choice, action and thought that we have - they will multiply and soon there simply will not be space for those actions and thoughts that are not moving us forward toward our health and happiness goals. 

 

If you are looking for more information on a successful detox join us at our Portland Juice Company event where we will be tasting Portland Juice Company's detox juices while receiving a more comprehensive guide to detoxing from our clinic.  Also we have some great detox resources on our site, like this great Bone Broth Recipe that is sure to please.

A Breakfast Challenge

We get a lot of questions about what to eat for breakfast. When we start cutting out sugars and empty carbohydrates, people often wonder what to eat. Our next few recipes will be focusing on healthy, simple, tasty breakfasts...things that my children will eat, and things that are quick and easy to make on busy work/school mornings.

I realized in my early 20s that when I had a "normal" breakfast of pancakes, waffles, cereal or other sweet treats and grains I didn't feel so good. I felt immediately sluggish and had trouble focusing and getting things done. So, I transitioned to savory (salty) breakfasts rather than sweet ones to start and that made a big difference. It's a great place to start.

If you're ready to go beyond that, the next step is to reduce sugars AND grains in your breakfast foods. In fact, I encourage you to do this test at home:

Try this At Home Challenge

  1. For 3 days eat your usual breakfast. Write down the time that you eat breakfast and the time that you start to feel hungry after your breakfast. Write down how your energy level, focus and concentration are as well as any other physical symptoms.
  2. Once you've completed the journaling with your regular breakfast try eating a breakfast of protein and vegetables such as an omelet for 3 days. Check out this recipe for one super simple protein/vegetable breakfast. Write down the same things: the time of breakfast, the time you start to feel hungry, notes about focus and concentration and other physical symptoms. 

You may be amazed by the results of this short test at home. Most people find that they are hungry much earlier when they eat a carbohydrate loaded breakfast than when they eat one with protein and vegetables. Also, energy and concentration decline with sugary foods. Try it and see how it works for you!

During the detox phase of our program we cut out eggs temporarily, since they are a fairly common allergen. But they are an easy transition food for easy protein-oriented breakfasts, so to help you with this Try this at Home, my first recipe has eggs.

Please, post in the comments how this worked for you and what kind of results you had. We want to hear from you!

The Pillars of Health

In the functional medicine approach, we look at illness differently than I did when I was a conventional medical doctor. In my conventional medical training I was taught to wait until people were sick, give them a diagnosis and then give them a medication to treat that diagnosis. We didn't ask the question "Why did they get this disease in the first place?" or "How can we prevent this from getting worse?"

Now that I've spent years practicing functional medicine I have a better understanding of what the real causes of disease are. I love being able to help people reverse illness, come off of medications and feel better than they ever have before when we remove those disease triggers.

Stress and inflammation are what trigger disease, so when we are looking for those causes we are really looking at what causes stress and inflammation for each individual. So, how do we treat the causes of stress and inflammation? We call the solution the Pillars of Health.

The Pillars of Health

  1. Detox
  2. Nutrition
  3. Gut Healing
  4. Fitness
  5. Mind-Body Connection

Let's look at each of these in more depth.

Detox

Detox can mean a lot of different things. When we do our detox we first identify which foods might be creating stress and inflammation in the body by eliminating the most common triggers. We help people walk through nutrition changes to identify those triggers.

It also means getting the toxic chemicals that we are all inadvertently exposed to every day. Supporting our gut and our liver with nutrition helps us to get those toxins out. 

The last thing is learning how to avoid "retoxing". What good is a detox if you continue to have toxins and irritants flooding back into your body. We love teaching people how to love a lifestyle that prevents retoxing.

Nutrition

If detox is about removing the bad stuff in our body, then nutrition is about replacing the good stuff. Of course that means healthy foods, fruits -- vegetables, proteins, healthy fats. It also may mean making sure that you have enough vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants for your cells to functional optimally. We love to help people learn how to achieve optimal nutrition status.

Gut Healing

This may be the most important piece of the stress and inflammation puzzle, because it connects to all of the other pieces on the list. 60% of our immune system tissue is located around the gut. So anything that irritates the gut can flare up our entire immune system. Autoimmune disease, allergies, diabetes, heart disease can all be affected by our gut health! Plus, if our gut isn't working well then we can't absorb nutrients, so we can't get good nutrition--piece number two above doesn't work. If our gut isn't working we can't get toxins out of our body, so we don't detox correctly--pillar number one doesn't work effectively. So, remember that gut health is often the key to health overall!

Fitness

Yes, we all know that moving our body is an important part of health. It decreases inflammation, builds muscle, increases metabolism, increases mood-boosting neurotransmitters in our brain and reduces stress.

The good news is that we don't have to run marathons. In fact, the information that we got in the 70s and 80s about more cardio always being better isn't actually true! We need to do the right kind of fitness and when we incorporate the right kind of strength training we can get the same results in 30 minutes or less that we could with hours of cardio. 

Mind-Body Connection

Don't be fooled that I have listed this last. This is an extremely important component of health, and one that is all too often ignored in the medical setting. When you have undue mental, emotional or physical stress it affects your immune system, neurotransmitters, hormones and immune system setting everything out of control. 

The good news is that there are now simple, short exercises that we can do in a few minutes a day that are research proven to decrease heart attacks, decrease strokes, improve mood, reduce depression and help people live longer. We love teaching people how to do these exercises!

The interesting thing about functional medicine is that the same causes of stress and inflammation--toxins, poor nutrition, wrong fitness, poor gut health and mental stress--can cause any number of symptoms from chronic fatigue and depression to diabetes and heart disease. This is why we all need to focus on the same root causes and the same treatments. Please contact us if you're interested in learning how to heal your body from the inside out, and we can teach you how to engage each of these pillars in your life.

The Truth About Health

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dr. Sara DeFrancesco of Thriving Force Radio. In this podcast she interviews me about the compelling reasons that caused me to change my practice from a conventional family medicine physician to a functional medicine specialist....the moments that taught me the truth about real health. What I do is backed by incredible research, science and the best understanding that we have of the human body, and I feel thrilled to be bringing that to my patients. Listen to the interview here.