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Your May Issue of Natural Alternatives
May 01, 2023
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“The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” ~Hippocrates
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVE, COMPLEMENTARY AND INTEGRATIVE HEALTH APPROCHES
2) ALL ABOUT NUTS: EIGHT HEALTHIEST VARIETIES
3) SOOTHE YOUR ALERGY SYMPTOMS WITH THESE NATURAL REMEDIES
4) UPCOMING NO COST ONLINE EVENTS: CHECK OUT THE LATEST EXCITING OFFERINGS
And if you’ve ever attended a yoga class, taken a breath to destress, or received a massage, you can count yourself as someone who’s tested out this approach. Here’s a look at what these terms mean, their potential benefits, and how to find the right practitioner for you.
Alternative and Complementary vs. Integrative Health Approaches
The terms “alternative,” “complementary,” and “integrative health” are often conflated, but they have different meanings. “Alternative therapies are used to describe health and medical treatments that rely on the body’s innate healing power,” says Tabatha Parker, ND, the director of education at the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine in La Jolla, California. “Such therapies, which are rooted in global healing traditions, are designed to promote health, prevent illness, and raise awareness of disease conditions without the use of conventional medications and interventions.”
Though there are many therapies that fit into this category when used in isolation from conventional medicine, a few examples are acupuncture with a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, traditionally and culturally used herbs and supplements, and energy practices like reiki.
As for how alternative and complementary therapies differ, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) notes that if one of these nonmainstream therapies is used together with conventional Western medicine, it’s complementary.
If used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered alternative.
Previously, the common terminology was “complementary and alternative medicine,” and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other academic groups have shifted toward the use of “integrative” and “complementary health” approaches and therapies instead.
Parker considers “integrative health” a more modern terminology. “[It’s] inclusive of all providers and healing traditions that integrate science with holistic approaches,” she says. Integrative medicine focuses on treating the whole person with coordinated care across various conventional and complementary medicine providers.
Generally, yes, when they are provided by a trained practitioner, but it’s critical to see a licensed and certified professional. These qualifications vary by state and type of practitioner.
Before making an appointment with a provider, the NCCIH recommends understanding what your state requires in terms of certifications or licensing and using that as a guide when speaking to a professional about their education, training, and qualifications. They should also be willing to work with your primary care provider.
That said, there is a difference in safety depending on what therapy you’re using, says Susan Gaylord, PhD, a research associate professor and the director of the Program on Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill. For instance, it’s unlikely you can harm yourself by practicing mindfulness, but other approaches, such as taking supplements or herbs, could be harmful if not done under the guidance of a licensed practitioner. Some, like trying a detox or cleanse, can be dangerous.
“To be safe, it’s best if you can coordinate your care with a doctor who is trained in conventional medicine techniques and is also very knowledgeable about other therapies, or works with someone who is,” Dr. Gaylord says. It’s important to have a primary care provider or internal medicine doctor who can aid in diagnosis and watch for things like side effects and medication interactions. Remember that “natural” doesn’t always equal safe or free of harm, which is why it’s so important to see someone who carries the required certifications or licenses in your state.
Whether you’re looking to massage or mindfulness, chiropractic or herbals, a range of complementary and alternative therapies may be supportive of your health goals, depending on the healing approach you’re interested in and what your doctor recommends. According to the NIH’s government data, the most popular complementary therapies are yoga, meditation, and chiropractic care.
Women are also more likely to seek out these treatments compared with men.
Practitioners generally break the relatively large category of complementary and alternative health approaches into four types:
* Nutritional Herbs and supplements, therapeutic diets, prebiotics, and probiotics
*Psychological Meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery, and relaxation therapies, such as breathing exercises
*Physical Acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, reflexology, and Pilates
*Combinations Also known as mind-body therapies, such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, dance, music and art therapy, mindful eating, and mindfulness-based stress reduction
There are also alternative medicine or healing systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathic medicine, which are “systems and beliefs that evolved over time in different cultures and parts of the world,” notes the National Cancer Institute. These approaches use various therapies that can fall under and are used in both conventional and complementary and alternative ways.
Some therapies, such as acupuncture, have a body of research behind them and are becoming more a part of conventional medicine. Others do not.
“Many of these practices don’t have the standard of research that we often come to expect from conventional medicine,” says Mary Guerrera, MD, a professor and the director of integrative medicine in the department of family medicine at the University Connecticut School of Medicine in Mansfield.
Some of this is due to funding, she says. Other reasons, according to research, include a lack of well-qualified complementary and alternative medicine researchers, negative bias about this type of research, and reluctance from those in the complementary and alternative space to conduct mainstream research.
However, that doesn’t mean they’re not effective.
Each therapy has its own set of potential benefits versus risks, like every conventional therapy and medicine. For example, according to Parker, “meditation or acupuncture can help patients better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life by reducing fatigue, pain, and anxiety.” By using therapies that “support the body’s healing,” she says, people may have fewer side effects.
If you’re interested in complementary and alternative health approaches, speak with your primary care physician about your goals for treatment or general well-being, and the therapies that you’d like to incorporate into your care. They can talk to you about the benefits (or help you research these) or refer you to someone who can (like a board-certified integrative medicine practitioner).
To ensure the safety of whatever therapy you choose to pursue, make sure to consult your primary care physician first. Then find certified and licensed practitioners in the treatment you choose.
You may find that an integrative approach tailored to your health needs and challenges can help you stay well and help treat existing conditions. “Integrative health brings together conventional and complementary medicine. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Dr. Guerrera.
The word to remember with integrative health approaches is “inclusive,” says Guerrera. Traditionally, we may have thought about medicine as only the practice of seeing your doctor. However, an integrative approach brings together doctors, nurses, pharmacists, as well as complementary and alternative medicine practitioners in their various specialties to collaborate on the approaches to health and healing that might be right for an individual patient, she says.
Incorporating conventional and holistically informed integrative approaches have been found to improve symptoms, cope with a disease, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and increase involvement in one’s care.
In addition, patients report that they’re more satisfied with this whole-body approach.
People who have chronic or complex medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, infertility, joint pain, multiple sclerosis, anxiety or depression, and insomnia, among others, may benefit most from an integrative medicine approach.
Finding a CAM or Integrative Health Practitioner
Thanks to a growing interest in CAM and integrative health, led first by The Bravewell Collaborative in the early 2000s, more hospitals have opened up integrative or complementary medicine centers. That’s great news for you: “This means the hospital has done the work of vetting the credentials of the practitioners who are there,” says Guerrera.
Another option is asking your primary care provider for a referral, though they may not be able to confidently recommend someone if it’s an area in which they have limited knowledge or experience. Sometimes, your health insurance may cover some of these providers and services, so be sure to check.
Outside of a hospital setting, many practitioners have independent practices, and there are also integrative medicine clinics. This will require investigation on your part, as the term “integrative” is often used loosely and not necessarily referring to the type of evidence-informed integrative healthcare philosophies referred to in this article. You can find those clinics in your area with an internet search, but you’ll also want to look into their credentials on your own. The NCCIH recommends inquiring about practitoners' education, training, licensing, and certifications. When inquiring about an initial appointment, ask if they are willing to work with your primary care provider in coordinating your care, suggests Guerrera.
Parker notes that a good resource is the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine’s Find a Provider tool. The University of Arizona’s Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine also has a directory to find trained integrative healthcare practitioners who have gone through its programs, as well as another directory to find a certified integrative health or wellness coach.
Research shows that people using complementary medicine may be reluctant to tell their conventional medicine doctor, fearing a negative response or that the disclosure will threaten their relationship.
However, as the authors of that study point out, not being upfront with your doctor about the therapies you’re using could be harmful for your health. (For instance, perhaps you’re using an herb or supplement that would interact with your medication.)
“Having a dialogue with your doctor about this is key,” says Guerrera. “Research shows that patients want their doctor to talk to them about this, but it’s not easy to move this movement of holistic, integrative, whole-person care into mainstream medicine.” All that is to say: You may have to bring it up on your own. Guerrera suggests opening the conversation with something like “I’m curious: What do you think about XYZ treatment?” Or “I’m interested in XYZ because of this reason. What can you tell me about it or do you know anyone who practices it?”
Resources We Love on CAM and Integrative Health
Favorite Orgs for Essential Integrative Health Info National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Interested in learning more about chiropractic care, evening primrose oil, massage, omega 3 fatty acids, and a whole lot more? Check out this A to Z guide, which covers a range of health conditions and alternative treatments.
National Center for Integrative Primary Healthcare Download free patient education materials — available in English and Spanish — on a number of conditions, including diabetes, constipation, back pain, menopause, and more, and learn about the lifestyle changes and integrative therapies that may be appropriate. This site also includes patient handouts on some of the more common complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and aromatherapy, and their potential benefits and side effects.
Hosts Andrew Weil and Victoria Maizes, both from the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, do deep dives into the latest evidence behind a variety of integrative therapies with experts in their field, including the use of psychedelics in mental health, mind-body approaches to chronic pain, a low FODMAP diet, medical cannabis, and more.
Integrative Medicine: Author David Rakel, MD, is the chair of the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. His book is a go-to for physicians who are interested in learning about the safety and efficacy of specific integrative medicine approaches, says Guerrera. While it gets into the nitty-gritty and is designed for clinicians, the good news is that you can use it, too.
The Integrative Guide to Good Health
For a more consumer-friendly and less clinical book, The Integrative Guide to Good Health published by the Mayo Clinic features home remedies and alternative therapies that you can safely use at home to manage and prevent illness.
Townsend Letter: Parker recommends this monthly publication, which is fully focused on alternative medicine news, so you can stay up to date on the latest. Digital and print subscriptions are available.
My Wellness Coach.
Another resource from the
Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, this app uses an integrative whole-health model that encompasses mind, body, and spirit; helps you set health goals; gives you actionable steps to get there; and incorporates integrative health information into your care.
2) ALL ABOUT NUTS: EIGHT HEALTHIEST VARIETIES
If you are interested in maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, nuts are, quite simply, a food group you need in your life. Compact and convenient, in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and flavor profiles, nuts are an easy way to boost nutrition and energy levels without any preparation required.
Besides being portable and easy to consume, eating nuts has been shown to improve heart health and reduce mortality from cardiovascular disease. Consumption of tree nuts and even peanuts (technically a legume, but nutritionally similar) has been significantly associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers[ii] and a reduced risk of all-cause mortality. These nutritional powerhouses are so potent, eating just a handful of nuts per day has been associated with a 20% reduced risk of death.
In this overview, we explore eight of the healthiest varieties of nuts on the planet. And unlike some exotic superfoods, these exemplars of nutritional potency are generally affordable and available anywhere food is sold. So, read on and discover the many reasons nuts are a great snack choice for keeping you well-fueled and satisfied throughout your busy days.
Eight Healthiest Varieties of Nuts
Walnuts not only look like bihemispheric "brains" in miniature, they have been scientifically linked to better brain health. Walnuts are a significant source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid, a nutritional requirement for optimal neurological functioning. Moreover, walnuts contain well-known neuroprotective compounds, such as gallic acid, vitamin E isomers, melatonin, folate and polyphenols. Another benefit of adding walnuts to your diet is better heart health. Walnuts have been shown to improve vascular endothelial function, which aids blood clotting, immune function and platelet adhesion.
Other benefits of walnuts include beneficial microbiome enhancement, which has been linked to improved overall immunity and resistance to disease. There is even evidence that eating walnuts preserves youthful telomere strands, a key element in anti-aging. If you need more convincing, here are 13 reasons to eat more walnuts.
Hazelnuts, also known as filberts, are believed to have originated over 5,000 years ago in China. Today, nearly 100% of the U.S. crop is grown in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. While not as common a snack as many other nut varieties, hazelnuts pack serious nutritional punch and a light, sweet flavor that should not be overlooked.
According to Nuts.com, "Hazelnuts have one of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scores of any nut," signifying high levels of antioxidants. They also contain the highest proanthocyanidins concentration of any tree nut, with antioxidant capabilities that are 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times more than vitamin E. As further testament to the antioxidant power of this tiny tree nut, a hazelnut-enriched diet modulates oxidative stress and inflammation gene expression without weight gain. And dietary supplementation with hazelnut oil has been shown to reduce serum hyperlipidemia and slow the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Almonds are a high-protein staple of many athletes and fitness buffs, and for good reason. Clinical studies have shown that almond supplementation two hours before exercise can improve performance in endurance exercise in trained subjects.
Fitness enthusiasts and others who are intent on reducing fat in their diet need not shy away from indulging in a healthy handful of these little wonders. Almond supplementation in combination with a low-calorie diet has been shown to improve a preponderance of abnormalities associated with metabolic syndrome, while reducing hyperlipidemia, the presence of high levels of fat in the blood.
Besides being good for your blood and your physical fitness, almond consumption may even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, one of the best things you may be able to do for yourself is to simply eat 15 almonds per day. But don't conflate almonds with almond milk, which can contain a measly 2% almonds but a lot of carrageenan, which has been linked to inflammation and colon disease.
Macadamia nuts are one of the more precious nut varieties on our list, depending on where you live and shop. Large, velvety and exotic, macadamias are rich and flavorful with U.S. suppliers based almost exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands. Studies on the health benefits of macadamia nuts once again show that eating fat from healthy sources like nuts will not make you fat, nor will it create problems with cholesterol. Quite the opposite; a macadamia nut-rich diet reduces total and LDL cholesterol in men and women with slightly elevated cholesterol.
Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fat. When combined with a moderately low-fat diet, macadamias have produced beneficial effects on cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels when compared with a typical American diet. So ditch the chips and cookies; when you're ready for a snack, fortify yourself with a handful of delicious macadamia nuts instead.
Like most nut varieties, pecans are a great source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Flaky and sweet, pecans are a favorite among Southerners (Georgia is one of the top-producing states in the U.S.) who use them in decadent desserts like pecan pie. While skipping the corn syrup and added sugar is best for your health, don't skip on pecans. If their delicious taste and inviting texture were not reason enough, studies on pecans have demonstrated a significantly positive effect on cardiometabolic risk, thus reducing the likelihood of developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular (CV) disease and diabetes mellitus.
Pecans have significant antioxidant activity, possibly due to their high vitamin E content, a powerful antioxidant that protects against cell damage. They have also been shown in clinical studies on mice to support brain health by slowing down the progression of motor-neuron degeneration.
6. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are large tree nuts native to the Amazon rainforest. Besides their satisfying taste and texture (did I mention size?) brazil nuts are one of the best sources of the vital nutrient selenium.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is only found in certain foods. Low levels of selenium have been linked to fatigue and brain fog, as well as more serious deficiencies such as thyroid problems, immune system dysfunction, infertility and cognitive decline.
Increasing selenium levels via Brazil nut supplementation has been associated in clinical trials with improvement in thyroid hormone levels, as well as significantly improving blood levels of selenium and glutathione peroxidase in kidney patients undergoing dialysis.
Eating Brazil nuts can also improve your mood. Results of a clinical trial of adults suffering from anxiety showed that the group that was supplemented with 100 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per day for five weeks had less anxiety than the placebo group. According to the report, the lower the level of selenium in the diet, the higher the levels of anxiety, depression and tiredness among patients, all of which decreased following five weeks of selenium therapy.
The recommended RDA for adults is at least 55 mcg of selenium each day. Eating just a few Brazil nuts each day will keep your selenium tank filled up and make sure you have the benefits of good mood and sufficient energy to tackle your day.
Cashews are easily one of America's favorite nuts. This is one snack food fad that actually works. Incorporation of cashews into typical American diets could decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Cashews have the honorable distinction of also being anti-cancer: cashews contain an anticancer catechol, which has demonstrated activity against drug-resistant cancer cell lines.
Cashews may even be able to help the body in utero. In a 2017 animal study, pregnant mice who were fed a cashew supplement produced offspring with more highly matured reflexes and better memory than mice not fed cashews.
Essential fatty acids are indispensable during pregnancy, lactation and infancy, and researchers believe that this nutritional boost positively influenced the transmission of nerve impulses and brain function to the offspring. Whether you're pregnant or not, eating cashews can be a satisfying way to get the essential fatty acids and dietary fiber that you need each day to enjoy optimal health.
Pistachio nuts may come in a shell, but they are worth the effort. These small, flavorful nuts are actually the seeds of the Pistacia vera tree, and they are packed with enough nutrients to make them worth the bit of work required.
Pistachios are a potent source of essential B vitamins, including B6, which is vital to a healthy central nervous system. Pistachios also promote heart-healthy blood lipid levels thanks to their fatty acid content that helps maintain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body.
Studies have shown that a pistachio-enriched and walnut-enriched diet could lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, adding to the heart-centric benefits of this delicious snack.
Don't worry about overdoing it; 1 ounce of pistachios has less than 160 calories and is actually quite a robust serving of 49 to 50 nuts. So, go ahead and indulge in a handful (or two). Your heart will thank you for it.
3) SOOTHE YOUR ALERGY SYMPTOMS WITH THESE NATURAL REMEDIES
According to the AARP, as you age, immunity naturally begins to wane and some people who have suffered for years find that they can breathe more easily when spring rolls around. But occasionally, some people develop an allergy later in life. More than 50 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thankfully, there are natural ways to soothe your allergies.
Seasonal allergies, sometimes referred to as “hay fever,” result from exposure to spores or pollen released into the atmosphere by fungi, grasses, trees, and other plants. Plant pollen is at its highest levels between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Delay your outdoor activities to the late afternoons or after a heavy rain when pollen levels are lower. At Plum Landing, you can participate in afternoon exercises if allergies are flaring up or enjoy an evening walk along the Fox River, which is easily accessible from our community.
“One thing I’ve noticed in my 21 years of managing Plum Landing is that those residents who exercise regularly tend to do the best.” Stated Alex Haughee, Plum Landing Executive Director.
Stay hydrated. When the respiratory system is dehydrated, the immune system will cause a rebound effect leading to nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and/or coughing. If you do feel stuffy, drink more fluids to thin the mucus in your nasal passages. Hot tea, broth and soup will also help provide relief from allergy symptoms.
Keep your sinuses clear with a nasal rinse. Nasal rinses such as neti pots can clear pollen out of your nose before your symptoms begin. You can ease your allergy symptoms by thinning mucus and cutting down on postnasal drip with a nasal rinse.
Citrus fruits, especially lemons, are extremely good for boosting immune response and preventing the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Apple cider vinegar is known to boost the immune system, help break up mucus, and support lymphatic drainage. Experts recommend mixing one to two tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a glass of water and lemon juice three times a day to relieve allergy symptoms.
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This newsletter is for educational purposes only. It is your right to educate yourself in health and medical knowledge, to seek helpful information and make use of it for your own benefit, and for that of your family. You are the one responsible for your health. You must educate yourself in order to make decisions in all health matters. My views and advises are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medicine, but simply a help you to make educated changes in order to help your body heal itself. If you have a medical condition or concern you should consult your physician.
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