The Questionable Contents of IV Fluids

IV bagPart of Wooden Spoon Wellness’s “What’s In Your Food?” series

Intravenous fluids (fluids that are transferred directly into your veins, also called IV fluids) are used in a variety of medical situations. IV solutions are used in cases of dehydration, malnourishment or specific nutritional deficiencies. The contents of IV bags vary according to the condition being treated but most include as their base a saline solution, which is a mixture of salt water and other things that enables quick transport of liquids, nutrients, or medication directly into the bloodstream.

 

Just about every hospital and clinic in the world as well as some doctor offices use them. According to a 2015 article in Fortune magazine, “There are few drugs as useful and as widely used in healthcare as normal saline [salt water]… According to Baxter, one of the country’s leading producers of the solution, 740 units of normal saline and other sterile solutions are used each minute across the U.S. Baxter ships more than a million units per day.” It is so widely used in fact that there is currently a national shortage because the demand outweighs the supply. [1]

 

There is no question that many lives would be lost if it were not for IV fluids but their contents can sometimes have harmful effects. Closer inspection of some of the most frequently used IV fluids reveals that many of these commonly-used solutions contain dextrose. [2]

 

As I mentioned in, “Salt Packets,” my opening blog post in the “What’s In Your Food?” series, dextrose is a processed sugar derived from corn. It is very quickly absorbed into the bloodstream thus making it a helpful carrier for medication and nutrients. However, 89% of corn in the United States is genetically-engineered (GE) according to the United States Department of Agriculture. [3] It is therefore highly likely that the dextrose in IV fluids comes from genetically-engineered corn.
I could not find studies that assess the presence of GE cells in dextrose (please give a shout if you can!!) however studies abound that show the negative affects, such as cancer and birth defects, when GE food is consumed by humans. [4] It is important to note that many studies contradict the anti-GE movement and show that GE products do not have an effect on humans. These research labs are funded by big agricultural GE food producers however. It is in these labs’ interest to show that GE products are safe: the data they produce is financially motivated and highly suspect. I do not believe it is helpful to live from a place of sensationalism or fear but Simon Hogan, an independent researcher on GEs and an expert on the literature, finds enough evidence to give him pause. He states, “because you don’t know definitely what these [GE] proteins could do…that’s sufficient for me to say ‘halt’ until we know more.” [5]
It is difficult to conclude definitively that the inclusion of GE corn dextrose in IV bags has a significant negative affect on someone who needs these fluids, particularly if they receive an IV bag once (unless you have a corn allergy which is discussed below) but this becomes a bigger consideration for those who rely on IV fluids for longer periods of time– people who cannot consume food through their mouths, for example, or require monthly or weekly infusions of something-or-other where dextrose is used as a carrier for it. What impact does this have on them?
As mentioned above, it is important to consider as well that some people are allergic to corn and the body treats ingestion of corn as an invader, signaling stress responses. Allergic responses vary according to the person. Most people with corn allergies experience joint inflammation, digestion problems and/or skin eruptions. In her article, “Corn in My Veins: Dextrose in IV Solutions,” Dr. Pamela Reilly, for example, describes the severe joint pain, nausea, and congestion she experienced when dextrose-filled IV fluid was administered to her during an emergency situation. Reilly knew that she had a corn allergy and, once she realized that she had been exposed to corn through her IV bag, she was able to communicate the issue to her healthcare practitioner. More extreme and rare reactions include an inability to breathe, loss of consciousness, or a decreased heart rate. [6] 
Corn allergies can be difficult to diagnose according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and many people do not know that they have corn allergy. Writer Caitlin Shetterly, for example, visited multiple health practitioners for her intense nausea, bodily pain, and chronic exhaustion: “After I maxed out the available rheumatologists, endocrinologists, nutritionists, gastroenterologists, Lyme disease specialists, acupuncturists, and alternative-medicine practitioners in the Portland metropolitan area, I was sent to neurologists in Boston. All of my tests came back normal.” Shetterly finally saw an allergist specialist who suggested a possible allergy to corn. Corn allergy is currently not on the radar of most mainstream doctors, nurses, or EMTs. [7]

Some might read this blog and think: The jury is out on GE products. The allergic reactions to IV bags are rare and in most cases minor when, to put it simply, a corn derivative saved Dr. Reilly’s life. So how big of a deal is this really? Well, in my humble opinion, if we can avoid suffering of any kind, we should. In addition, I don’t believe that we have enough information to use products SO widely when there is a strong possibility that is harmful. GE corn is in our table salt, it is in our IV bags, it is many restaurant and prepared foods through corn oil, cornstarch, and corn syrup. 89% of corn in American is genetically-engineered. We are being exposed to it at astounding levels. I can do my best to avoid or limit GE foods until change happens but the issue becomes even more ethically challenging when it comes to medicine. I want to know if anything other than 100% nature-produced materials is being injected directly into my bloodstream. We have a right to know.
So what can be done? Here are a few possibilities:

  1. Research studies are needed to test GE levels in corn derivatives such as dextrose.
    Biomedical supply producers need to create alternatives to dextrose IV solutions. They could use non-GE corn and/or alternatives to corn.
  2. At the very least, healthcare practitioners should ask mentally alert patients if they have a corn allergy and if so, they should have alternative solutions on hand. (Dr. Reilly proposes one such solution.)
  3. Food regulators need to create and enforce more regulations on GE products. People need to know the contents of the products they buy and consume. While I am not aware of campaigns that highlight IV fluids in particular, we must start a culture of accountability around the things we consume. The Center for Food Safety is a leader in this effort. You can check out and join their political and educational efforts here and here. Please sign and spread widely.

—————–

[1]  Erika Fry. “There’s a national shortage of saline solution…” Fortune. February 5, 2015; “Dextrose 5% Injection Large Volume Bags.” American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. October 30, 2015.

[2]  ATI Nursing Education. “Intravenous Solutions.”

[3]  United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. “Recent Trends in GE Adoption.”

[4]  Arjun Walia. “Ten Scientific Studies Prove that Genetically Modified Food Can Be Harmful to Human Health.” Global Research. April 8, 2014.

[5]  Caitlin Shetterly. “The Bad Seed: The Health Risks of Genetically Modified Corn.” Elle magazine. July 24, 2013.

[6]  “Corn Allergy.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; Dr. Pamela Reilly. “Corn in My Veins: Dextrose in IV Solutions.” September 28, 2011.

[7]  “Corn Allergy.”; Shetterly.

My 108-Day Meditation Challenge: Tales from My Head

meditation space

On March 11th, 2015, I made a commitment to meditate everyday for 108 days. I fulfilled this commitment on June 26 without skipping a day. It was not easy and there were days when I almost broke this vow to myself but I did it. So what led an anti-meditator to change course? How did such a busy-bee minded person sit in complete stillness each day? And why 108 days?

I decided to start meditating because last fall, when I wasn’t meeting with clients or colleagues, or traveling, or managing my household, or health, or personal relationships, the time spent by myself was occupied entirely by technology. I bounced between three email addresses (one personal and two business accounts), two Facebook accounts (one personal and one business), and text messages. I put a lot of energy into the world and toward other people and I didn’t have much left for myself. I had laser-like focus when people were in front of me but then, once on my own, my attention span was about 2 minutes long and I was driven by my technological devices. I struggled at times to tap into my intuition.

Some of you might be surprised to read this because this is precisely the lifestyle support I offer clients. Well, we health coaches sometimes struggle and practicing what I preach is not always easy. (So when I tell you that I get what you’re going through, I REALLY mean it.) In addition, those of you who know me know that, while intense, I am a pretty chill person. I’ve intentionally cultivated mindfulness and awareness in my life since 2002, engaging in a variety of healing modalities to become more present in each moment: yoga, talk therapy, traditional Chinese medicine, Tantra, physical therapy, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais… I love guided meditations and incorporate them in my health coaching and yoga teaching.

Straight meditation, where you focus on your breath and cultivate your ability to rest your thoughts always seemed like torture to me though. I am blessed to lead a relaxed lifestyle but I go a bit batty when I sit still for long periods of time. (In Yiddish, we call this having shpilkes which is akin to ‘ants in my pants’.) By the winter of last year, it was clear that I needed a radical shift and the tools I already had in my tool belt were not cutting it. It seemed worthwhile to at least try meditation. It was not easy but here is some of what I learned and some tips if you’re interested in developing a meditation practice as well:

1. I realized I could not do it on my own, at least not at the beginning.

I found a few teachers to study with in New York and in Hawaii and learned through trial and error that, given my challenges, it was really helpful to be with a group of people and cultivate a daily meditation routine together. I sat with them each day for 24-minutes at the same time each day. Once I got into the groove with others, I felt like I could do it on my own. This was what ultimately inspired me (and gave me the confidence) to do a 108-day challenge. I also publicized that I was doing a 108-day challenge on Facebook in order to create accountability and motivate myself to have a daily practice at home.

Practicing with other people everyday may seem unrealistic for some of you. There are a variety of expensive, less expensive, and free ways to do this but all require carving out time. Attending a retreat or immersion at a meditation center are perhaps the easiest ways to find community and accountability because you are only surrounded by like-minded, committed folks and someone else is dictating your schedule. If you do a retreat or immersion, I recommend going for at least 7 days so that you really develop a routine and experience the benefits of the practice.

If a getaway is not an option, there may be meditation groups in your area or you and a roommate, partner or friend can practice together. Alternatively, while I felt the need to distance myself from technology, technology may be helpful for some of you. Consider using video Skype with someone else who is also developing a practice or already has one. A variety of apps also exist. See this recent article on the “Best Meditation iPhone and Android Apps of 2015.

2. As a newbie, identifying and creating the ‘right’ physical space made a difference for me (and I aspire to let go of it)

While I aspired to be able to meditate anywhere, I needed a default, dedicated space where I could meditate each day. I made a concerted effort to identify what I needed for my go-to space. As I mentioned above, my intention behind the meditation was to create some distance from technology so I could not have the spot close to my computer. Living in a 4-room apartment in New York City, that left three rooms open: bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. Bedroom it was!

I was very clear that I needed a connection to nature so my spot needed to be by a window. My bedroom has two windows: one that is two yards from the window to my neighbor’s kitchen and one that faces my other neighbors’ yards. I opted for the second window.

My bedroom is rectangular and the bed occupies most of the space but I felt the need to create distinction between sleep space and meditation space so that I did not associate sleep with meditation. I didn’t want to physically block the meditation area all of the time because that would limit sunlight during non-meditation time so I created a daily ritual to convert the vibe of the room: I intentionally did not leave meditation-related things in place all the time. Rather, before each sit, I put the pillows on the floor and, on the sill of the window I face, I put a crystal that reminds me of the ocean, a relaxing-scented candle, and a little figurine of Ganesh, the Hindu god who represents the removal of obstacles. (While I don’t believe in Hindu gods, the little Ganesh regularly reminds me to identify and remove the things that may impede my ability to create space for myself.)

All of this is to say, get creative about creating your meditation space. If connecting to nature is important to you but that is not an option in your home space, print a photo from a place you find calming and put it in front of you while you meditate. Maybe the space doesn’t matter for you. Maybe you’re able to find stillness anywhere. If so, rock on!

Ultimately, there is only so much control we have other these things anyway. If you live in an apartment, you might have loud neighbors. If you have a child or children, it can be challenging to find a physical space where your kid/s and their sound do not penetrate. Kids raise a different issue however than rock n’ rolling neighbors. As a parent, you have been trained to have what one of my client’s calls “Mama Ears”. You necessarily put their voices above your own because you are responsible for their well-being. Be gentle with yourself on this front. Perhaps, at least in the early days of your practice while you’re getting into your grove, meditate while they are out of the house or, if possible, have your child/children be under someone else’s safe care and out of auditory range.

3. I had to find a balance between discipline (to maintain a daily practice) and flexibility (with my time and environment)

Changing any behavior requires discipline. I historically have associated discipline with punishment and negative consequences. My aim with meditation however was to nourish myself so in theory meditating everyday should 1. feel like a choice everyday and not something I was forcing myself to do and 2. should feel like a positive decision. As you’ll see from my journal, at times I craved my meditation space and felt like I was truly doing my body, mind, and spirit good. At other times, it was REALLY difficult to truly believe that sitting down to meditate was an exciting, loving thing to do for myself.

I believe one of the keys to maintaining my commitment to meditate everyday was the measure of flexibility I allowed myself: the time of day when I meditated and the amount of time I would sit for could vary and move with my schedule. I was thus making choices related to my meditation practice. It was not a given.

My baseline was to sit for 24 minutes but, as one of my teachers taught us, there are benefits to be gained from 12 minutes of meditation or even 6 minutes if necessary. In addition, when I wasn’t able to sit first thing in the morning in my bedroom, I would try to meditate somewhere else at a different time. I most often did not get a satisfying, juicy meditation outside of my cozy bedroom setup but that sometimes made me more disciplined to create the space for that the next day.

Maybe for you it will be different but don’t judge yourself if you give yourself a longer rope one day and it proves really difficult. That’s where you are that day.

4. Journaling immediately after my meditation helped me to focus on my breath during my meditation

Journaling gave me a place to put the thoughts that arose during my meditation. This helped my meditation because I could just say to myself, “I will deal with this thought later, when I journal.” I didn’t need to hold these thoughts in my head thus freeing me to focus on my breath during my sit.

Here are a few musings from my journal to illustrate some of the ideas above (or at the very least to entertain you):

3/11/15 At this time of day, if I sit just to the right of center of the window, I can see the moon from my meditation seat.

3/12/15 Today I sit down to meditate with the moon and will rise from my meditation with the sun. That’s cool. Inhale. Exhale. No, I’m not supposed to say that. Inhale nourishment. Exhale toxins. No, that doesn’t work. My inhalations and exhalations are shorter than that. Am I doing this right? Am I forcing my breath? Now I’m judging myself… Inhale, nourish. Exhale, cleanse. That works better… I should be nicer to myself.

 3/17/15 I started looking for the pain in my hip that I’d been feeling for the last few weeks but it wasn’t there… I wanted to sit for longer today. The timer went off after 24 minutes but I would have been fine sitting for longer. Score!

 3/20/15 As my teacher suggested, I started classifying thoughts as they entered into my meditation. Today, when I started thinking about how I would write about this, I named the thought: “I care what people think. I care how I am perceived. That is fear. Hi fear. I need to focus on my breath now. Bye!!!” And I banished her into the cosmos.

 3/25/15 There are about 7 bright blue blue jays in the backyard. We have blue jays? How have I never noticed this before????

 4/1/15 I resisted sitting today. I wanted to get things done around the apartment and clean. I forced myself to mediate but I didn’t feel present in my body. Feeling frustrated.

 4/3/15 Traveling for the first time during my 108 days and staying with family. I didn’t want to sit. I wanted to dive into the morning energy of the house and play with my adorable 2-year old nephew. I resisted though and created the space for myself instead. It can be so easy to lose myself in my family and their needs but I feel so connected to my needs now. Do I do this in my life in other ways? Is connecting with others sometimes a distraction from my other commitments? I originally thought I would post regular updates about my 108-day challenge on Facebook but I’m finding that, during my sit, I start to think about the pieces I will share. I ask myself, “What am I learning now? What can I share that others will benefit from hearing?” I need this time for me. No more Facebook updates.

4/6/15 Coming into my breath tonight was really good. I noticed I was gripping in my abdomen. Do I do this often over the course of the day? How does this affect my health?

 4/9/15 The thoughts that popped into my meditation related to past relationships. I think I need some extra love today. Calling my girls in 4, 3, 2…

 4/19/15 (technically 4/20) Sometimes I wonder who or what I’m doing this for. Am I doing this just so that I can say I did it?

 4/21/15 The 12-minute sit was too short but I don’t have time to do more. I am craving more time being quiet and connecting with myself though. This is good information. I will give myself more space today and will move slowly. I will practice my “No.”

 5/9/15 Sometimes I am so tired that I start to pass out while I’m sitting. Sometimes I am so tired that I forget I’m meditating and let my mind wander. I wonder if it’s worth it to even try to sit on those days. What’s the point?

 5/19/15 Big, creative ideas are entering my head during meditation– new ideas for my businesses, my home, the way I want to decorate the corner of the living room now that I got rid of the furniture that was there… I’m supposed to be meditating but I haven’t had this level of creativity in a while. It’s so great! Should I stifle these ideas?

 6/1/15 Tried to meditate on the train from NYC to NJ. Sitting quietly is not the same as meditating.

 6/3/15 Tried meditating while waiting for friends at a concert in the park. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that but I am SOOOO not there. At least not today.

 6/5/15 I largely focused on my breath today. The only other thoughts that popped into my head related to a client and how I might support her. I gently brought my attention back to myself—this is my time, she has her time. This meditation space is the place where I nourish myself, I nourish others in other spaces.

 6/19/15 Really enjoying this time by myself. So luscious!

 6/25/15 Tried lying down for meditation. Totally not successful. Too much space to fidget. I put my hand in the air so I wouldn’t fall asleep—that was really annoying. Lesson learned. Only sitting.

So why 108? 108 is a number that has significance in Hinduism and Buddhism as well as other religions. There are 108 beads, for example, on a string of mala beads that practitioners use similar to the ways Catholics use rosary beads, to count chants and mantras. Both traditions believe that the body has 108 channels to the heart and activating each through 108 repetitions of mantras creates harmony and balance.

I chose 108 as the number of days for my challenge in case this whole energy channel thing was legit but also because, at the very least, I thought that a 3½ month daily routine would feel pretty ingrained by the end.

And goodness, was it ever!

In the stillness and in the discipline, I found spaciousness. Each day I had room to check-in with myself and my body. I could identify imbalances and adjust my day accordingly (like the day when I realized some extra love so I reached out to my closest ladies). At a certain point, I sometimes started to crave my meditation practice, like a crisp glass of water when you are really thirsty.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, my intention in developing a daily meditation practice was to cultivate stillness in my head. Perhaps the biggest thing that I learned and continue to re-learn over and over again is that my meditation practice is not about my head. It is about my breath. It is not about my head. It is about my breath. It is not about my head. It is about my breath…

Meditation is nothing but enjoying your beautiful aloneness. Celebrating yourself; that’s what meditation is all about. – Osho

Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to become a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes. – Pema Chodron

What’s in Your Food? Salt Packets

I have had several moments in the last few months where I have been surprised to learn about some of items in the foods we consume so I am creating a new blog series called, What’s in Your Food? I will highlight a variety of foods whose contents may just blow your mind (and not in a good way.)

This month, we are diving into the ingredients in commonly-used salt packets. Yes, you read that correctly: salt packets often contain ingredients, plural.

My first realization about this happened in a place that also surprised me: Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods does some great things for small farmers as well as the health of Americans (albeit expensively) and makes the following claim on their website:

“We don’t sell just anything. The products we sell must meet our rigorous standards. From basic ingredients to farm animal welfare, seafood sustainability, body care, cleaning products and more, trust us to do the research so you can shop with peace of mind.” [1] 

I appreciate these standards and hold similar values so, when given the choice, I would rather support them than a restaurant that will also charge me $10 for a similar salad but provide lower quality food that has been sitting out for who knows how long. So, when in the city last month and grabbing my fresh-salad-that-I-can-feel-better-about, I also picked up a few salt packets to supplement my plain olive oil dressing. I have been trying to not be on my cell phone checking my email whenever I am by myself or have downtime (see meditation blog) so I turned over the salt packet and noticed this list of ingredients: salt, sodium silicoaluminate, dextrose and potassium iodide. My mouth dropped. Firstly, I expect better from Whole Foods. Secondly, why does salt have multiple, yet alone four, ingredients? Thirdly, what are those things mixed in my salt? I’ve never heard of them so I did some research.

salt packet

Here is what I learned about each of the substances:

Sodium silicoaluminate– Frequently found in powdered foods as an anti-caking agent, sodium silicoaluminate is a synthetic combination of silicon, sodium, aluminum and oxygen. According to an article in Livestrong, sodium silicoaluminate “[I]s generally recognized as safe in foods, but limited in certain standardized foods.” [2] With regard to this product, BeFoodSmart.com advises: “The association of aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease remains inconclusive.” [3]

The Chinese government in 2014 accordingly banned the use of sodium silicoaluminate in all food products produced in the People’s Republic of China. [4]

Dextrose– Dextrose is a processed form of sugar derived from plant-based starches such as corn. Dextrose has a high glycemic index which means that it quickly enters the bloodstream however, according to Morton Salt, one of the largest and oldest salt companies in the United States, the dextrose in one salt packet is ‘dietetically insignificant’. [5]

In fact, Morton Salt was the first to add dextrose to its salt:

“In 1924 Morton became the first company to produce iodized salt for the table in order to reduce the incidence of simple goiter. Dextrose is added to stabilize the iodide. Iodine is vital to the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and the prevention of goiter.”

Thus, dextrose is a preservative and is used to ensure that the iodide does not oxidize (i.e. start to evaporate and create a sulfurous smell). Non-iodized salt is unlikely to contain dextrose.

The corn that dextrose is derived from is very likely to be genetically modified (GMO) given the prevalence of the use of GMO’s in mass-produced processed foods in the United States. While one may consume a very small amount in one salt packet (0.04%), the amount of GMOs you consume adds up if you are eating many other GMO foods: adding iodized salt to every meal, snacking on iodized-salted corn chips, eating takeout every night from a Thai restaurant that cooks their food in GMO soybean oil… [6]

Potassium iodide- As mentioned above, iodide began to be added to salt in the 1920s to ensure people had enough iodine in their diets. Iodine deficiency continues to be a global issue, according to a 2007 statement from UNICEF. [7] Iodine is necessary for thyroid function and, in addition to goiter, it can cause a variety of problems during pregnancy including miscarriage, stillbirth, or mental retardation in infants. [8] The World’s Healthiest Foods, one of my favorite websites, states that most of us do not achieve the daily requirement of 150 micrograms of iodine and few food sources can provide the amount we need. [9] A 2008 study however, showed that most of the iodized salt in the US does not meet USFDA standards of iodide content. [10]

 So what can we do?

  1. Read your salt label!
  2. Buy a little container, fill it with pure sea salt, and carry it around in your bag.
  3. Substitute salt for other condiments such as gomasio (seaweed mixed with sesame seeds), chutney, etc. or replace with salty foods, like olives or pickled vegetables.
  4. To get enough iodine, regularly eat seaweed, salmon, good quality yogurt, organic raw cow’s cheese, or eggs. Those of you who are vegetarians or vegans can get enough iodine from seaweeds and some fruits and vegetables but you will need to eat quite a bit each day or take a multivitamin with iodine in it. [11]

 

—–

[1] Whole Foods Market Quality Standards Statement.

[2] Norma DeVault, “What Is the Use of Sodium Aluminum Silicate in Food?,” Livestrong.com, January 28, 2015.

[3] BeFoodSmart.com. “Sodium silicoaluminate.

[4] National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China. “Notice on aluminum-containing food additives use adjustment by the NHFPC and four other departments. July 25, 2014.

[5] Morton Salt FAQs.

[6] For the risks associated with the consumption of GMOs, see Jeffrey M. Smith, “Doctors Warn: Avoid Eating Genetically Modified Food,Mercola.com, March 25, 2010.

[7] The Salt Institute. Iodized Salt, July 13, 2013.

[8] American Thyroid Association. Iodine Deficiency. June 4, 2012.

[9] The World’s Healthiest Foods. Iodine.

[10] Pernendu K. Dasgupta, et al. “Iodine Nutrition: Iodine Content of Iodized Salt in the United States. Environmental Science Technology. 2008. 42 (4): pp. 1315-1323.

[11] For more ways to get your iodine-intake, see The World’s Healthiest Foods article on iodine.

Office Tips to Bring the Sun to You

Young businesswoman at the beach

Craving the sun but stuck inside? Wish you could be outside but feel like you can’t leave your office? Here are a few office tips to bring the sun to you and get you through the work day while everyone else plays hookie and enjoys their vacation:

  1. Sip a Pineapple Juice Spritzer at your desk by mixing 6 oz. pineapple juice with a few splashes of seltzer. To give your day a little extra kick, grate a big piece of ginger into it.
    2. Close your office door and stream your favorite beach mix on Spotify or Soundcloud while you enter data into that spreadsheet.
    3. Be creative in what you wear under your work clothes to jazz up your day. Wear your bikini top or a sexy halter underneath your work clothes.
    4. Ping your ladies to gather at 5pm for some shenanigans. If there’s warm sunshine outside, make the most of the remaining time with the sun and reward yourself for making it through the day. If it’s cold outside, find a spot that will transport you to the climate you need– visit the tropical room at the Botanical Garden, watch a movie set in a beach-y climate, or go to a Tiki Bar-themed restaurant.

 

Preparing for an Internal Cleanse

Closeup of Fresh Red Beet Juice

There are many cleanses out there— juice cleanses, raw food cleanses, a Candida diet…. The radical shift your body experiences can be intense and challenging though.

Set yourself up for success by answering these questions before you start your cleanse program:

  1. What are your intentions for this time period? How will this cleanse enhance your life? How do you want to feel the day after you finish?
  2. How frequently should you plan to go to the market for ingredients?
  3. If you are working, what will you need each day at the office?
  4. What do you have going on during those several days? Where can you create flexibility to accommodate potential needs, such as tiredness?
  5. What will you need in place if you start to waver from your plan—i.e. someone to hold you accountable, written intentions to remind you of your course?

And if you’d like to do a seasonal cleanse but are not sure which is right for you or you need some help addressing these questions, let me know.

Bone Broth for Building Energy and More

Bouillon, broth, clear soup

One of the latest nutrition trends hitting American cities and diets is bone broth. The New York Times recently published an article about it and New Yorkers can now snag a shot of mineral-rich goodness on their way out for the night. [1] While bone broth may be a recent discovery for hip restaurateurs and 21st century popular diet-makers, bone broth has long been used in various cultures around the world as a staple health elixir, particularly to support women’s health.

So what it is? Bone broth is made from animal bones boiled in water on their own or with select vegetables or herbs. Vinegar and salt are often added to help break down the bones and heat is applied for long periods of time, generally 6-48 hours, so the nutrients can leech into the liquid. Unlike a boxed or canned stock that you might find in a grocery store, bone broth is generally made with more bones than vegetables or meat. [2]

In some parts of China bone broth is called “longevity soup” and is taken for ailments of the digestive tract, to address weakness, and to reduce joint inflammation. Bone broth is part of postpartum recovery regimens in Hong Kong and “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” is a South American proverb according to Dr. Joseph Mercola. [3]

The widespread use of bone broth speaks to its many healing properties. Rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, B vitamins, and many other trace minerals, bone broth nourishes the blood and is ideal for building energy and vitality in people who have just had surgery, are menstruating or about to menstruate, or who have just had a baby. Many natural and holistic healers also use bone broth to help boost fertility. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine for example, the marrow from the bones is said to build the kidney energy which must be strong if conception is to take place. [4]

The luscious gelatin that the bone broth contains has also been shown to help re/build joints and sooth connective tissues, including the lining of the stomach and intestines so whether you have a torn ligament or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bone broth may just help. How does it work? The jiggly gelatin that bone broth becomes when it cools essentially is made of all of the proteins, collagen, and goodness contained within the animals’ marrow and ligaments so the animals’ parts are essentially helping to rebuild your similar parts. Many people turn to supplements for these nutrients but bone broth provides a more bioavailable and digestable form. [5]

Before I share a recipe to make your own bone broth, I need to underscore how incredibly easy it is to make this. I demonstrate how to make bone broth in some of my cooking class workshops and people are overwhelmingly surprised at how simple this is and how little time it takes to make. In addition, it freezes well and is delicious on its own, as a warming drink on its own, or as the basis for soups or stews. Bone broth and stock can generally be used in recipes interchangeably but the amount of bone broth you use depends on how concentrated it is. If you’ve made a particularly rich and gelatinous broth, use a smaller amount, approximately 3/4 to 7/8’s the amount of liquid called for in the recipe, and dilute it with water.

Bone Broth Recipe

I actually base my chicken bone broth recipe on Weston A. Price Foundation’s recipe. I make a few tweaks but to learn those, you will need to attend one of my workshops. 🙂

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[1]Julia Moskin. “Bones, Broth, Bliss: Bone Broth Evolves from Prehistoric Food to Paleo Drink.” The New York Times, January 6, 2015.

[2]  Sally Fallon Morell. “Broth is Beautiful.” January 1, 2000.

[3]  Paul Pitchford. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd edition. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2002, p. 296; Aviva Jill Romm. Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2002, p. 179; Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Bone Broth—One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples.” December 16, 2013.

[4]  See for example: Aimee Raupp, “Using Homemade Bone Broth for the Treatment of Infertility.” Acupuncture Today. October, 2012, Vol. 13, Issue 10; Margarita Alcantara, “Traditional Chicken Bone Broth: A Recipe to Build Qi and Blood for Immune Building, Fertility, and Postpartum.” May 6, 2013.

[5]  RW Moskowitz. “Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease.” Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism. October 30, 2000(2): 87-99; Mercola “Bone Broth.“; Dr. Josh Axe. “Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite.”

Turmeric: An Anti-cancer, Anti-inflammatory & Blood-building Powerhouse

Fresh turmeric

To me, turmeric is the golden nugget of medicinal foods. Its healing properties abound and it has been used in its native South Asia for thousands of years to address a variety of ailments from common colds to cancer, as well as heart and circulation issues, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, chronic joint pain, and as a poultice on cuts and scrapes.

Most people in North America know turmeric in its dried form, as a key ingredient in yellow curry powder, but turmeric is also increasingly available in its original root form. Like its cousin ginger, it grows in knobs underground and it looks a lot like ginger on the outside but the inside is a deep rich orange. Turmeric is generally more bitter than its yellow relative but it is also less spicy.

It is precisely this rich color that signals its powerful healing properties. Like other brightly-colored vegetables such as blueberries, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes, turmeric is loaded with antioxidants. Studies have recently begun to proliferate about turmeric’s anti-cancer properties and in fact, it purportedly contains more cancer-prevention compounds than other antioxidant-rich vegetable or roots according to a study published on Pharmacology Online. [1] It uses these compounds not only to starve certain types of cancers of the genes they need to grow but it also incites some cancer cells to kill themselves. [2]

Powerhouse almost seems too tame a word for the superhero that is turmeric. It also can help you feel like a superhero because of its anti-inflammatory properties. A key component of turmeric, curcumin, blocks some of the proteins that build up and cause pain. It thus makes a great addition to a post-workout smoothie, and is increasingly being used to prevent and treat chronic joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. [3]

Turmeric is also used to address PMS, calm uterine cramping, and help bring on menstruation by stimulating blood flow and balancing hormones. Its support for the circulatory system has been previously mentioned in my blog about treatments for varicose veins but turmeric is also used by herbalists to address ectopic pregnancies and as part of treatments to shrink fibroids. This is in part due to turmeric’s rich Vitamin B6 content which tones and fortifies blood vessels. [4]

Before diving into recipes and ways to integrate this amazing food into your diet… A warning: Turmeric’s rich color can stain sometimes temporarily but sometimes permanently. If using the root, be careful with porous surfaces that you care about (like wood, ceramic and certain knives). A bit of salt or baking soda usually remove its rich tannins but this type of abrasion may scratch the surface. In addition, it may take a while for the stain to come out and sometimes repeated use alone will ultimately remove the stain.

And now for the fun part….

Turmeric Root Tea
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2-inch piece of turmeric
  2. 1-inch piece of grated ginger
  3. 1 cinnamon stick
  4. black pepper
  5. raw honey
Instructions
  1. Grate turmeric into 10 oz of water.
  2. Bring to a boil with grated ginger, cinnamon stick, and a pinch or two of black pepper.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, strain and add a few drops of raw honey.
Notes
  1. This becomes a rich-treat when made with your favorite milk instead of water. (I like almond, hemp, or coconut milk beverage.) Just be sure to warm it on a lower heat and do not allow the mixture to come to a full boil.
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Turmeric Powder in Indian Dal

Dal is a classic, warming Indian dish made from lentils or mung beans. It always contains a mixture of spices but turmeric is definitely the star. Check out this interesting article with a recipe at the bottom: Felicity Cloake. “How to Make the Best Dal.” The Guardian. 2 June 2011. [FYI, 400 grams of mung beans = a little bit less than 1 cup.]

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[1]  Sheel Sharma, et al. “Fortification of Traditional Recipes with Antioxidant Abundant Food Stuffs and Their Acceptability Evaluation.” Pharmacologyonline 3: 1374-1383 (2011) p. 1377.

[2]  Robin Rose Bennett. The Gift of Healing Herbs: Plant Medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2014, p. 453; Dr. Claudia Welch. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2011, p. 185; World’s Healthiest Foods. Turmeric.

[3]  Dr. Joseph Mercola. “Curcumin: The Spice That is Better Than Drugs for Rheumatoid Arthritis.” June 16, 2012.

[4]  Susun S. Weed. Down There: Sexual and Reproductive Health The Wise Woman Way. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 2011, p. 271; Dr. Robert E. Svoboda. Ayurveda for Women: A Guide to Vitality and Health. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2000, p. 83; Lisa Gallant, “Turmeric: The Golden Goddess.” California College of Ayurevda.

Postpartum Exercise: Running Tips from a Breastfeeding Mom*

Crossing the Finish Line.RealGuest blog by: Stephanie Harad

I’ve always hated running and I’ve never thought of myself as athletic but after becoming a mom I decided to train for and run a half marathon. Becoming a mom was a huge identity shift for me and I lost my focus on pretty much everything else. After a while I felt like I needed to re-ground myself a little bit.

I began jogging with the stroller once or twice a week when my daughter was about 3 months old. I found that leaning on the stroller actually helped with the discomfort of running with heavy, milk-full breasts because it minimized the bouncing up and down motion. I also hiked a lot as long as my baby was willing to sleep in a carrier. As time went on she became less and less interested in being in a carrier for more than a few minutes and I simultaneously felt more and more healed from the birth and wanted to exercise a little more vigorously, so I started to increase my running. Though it was difficult, I found that I really cherished those times that I was really in my body, using it to get fit and take care of myself after spending the rest of my time dedicated to my baby’s needs.

So why running? It seemed like a realistic form of exercise for me as a nursing mom. I love the bicycle but it took way too long to get a good workout on a bicycle and my toddler will not happily sit in a bicycle seat for hours. Swimming or going to the gym was out of the question for me because driving took an impossible amount of time. Running is something I could do with a stroller if necessary and I could do it right out of my front door. I could have used exercise machines and DVD’s at home of course but leaving the house was a very important mental health component of my exercise choice.

Eventually, I needed a goal that was going to be hard to achieve but possible, that was completely about me and something I’ve always kind of wanted to be able to do but never thought I could. I happened to hear that there was going to be a half marathon in my town in the fall and it felt like the perfect thing to try. There were many things that appealed to me about racing (though I had never done it before) but the social component was a huge factor. Being a new mom has been such an intense experience for me, figuring out so much on my own because no other baby is exactly the same as mine– it can be isolating. Running a race, however is an incredible feeling because there are hundreds or thousands of you all undertaking the same challenge in the same way and so many people cheering for you and supporting you along the way and after. And if you’re lucky you can even find a buddy to train with, though I did not regularly train with anyone because I wanted to make sure I was going to go slowly enough to avoid injury – more on that below.

When I started training, I was still breastfeeding on demand around the clock, about 6-8 times in a 24-hour period. I was concerned about the impact that increasing mileage would have on my body because I still hadn’t gotten my period so I wasn’t sure if I was already lacking something nutritionally and was going to further tax my body and thus deplete my milk supply. I was unable to find professionals to consult about this but I did know another breastfeeding mom who ran a great deal more than I would be running and I figured I would just try it and listen to my body. In terms of finding information about how to train for a run and what to do when injured, etc., I just used my social networks. I posted questions on Facebook and found that I had a lot of acquaintances who are experienced runners. I found them to be much more helpful resources than the local doctors I visited. For example, there are a lot of training plans out there and, after consulting my runner friends, I decided on the Hal Hidgon Novice program even though it is not geared specifically for mothers but it was the most reasonable for me.

Training for a distance race felt pretty rigorous as an inexperienced runner. Most training plans require you to run 4x a week and cross-train another day. If you are a nursing mom, that kind of time commitment can be really difficult to pull off but I also felt like it provided a very real and compelling reason for me to take a break from all my mom-related duties almost every day. I felt I couldn’t miss too many workouts or I wouldn’t be ready for the race so I was very motivated to carve out that time for myself in a way that I wasn’t when I was just running for fitness a few times a week.

Of course a nursing mom may not be the running-focused, shockingly unencumbered, fit and resilient male athlete who is the intended audience of running books and blogs. A nursing mom is full of bone- and ligament-softening hormones and is often getting very little sleep, not to mention giving most of her calcium and vitamin D away all day. So we are much, much more prone to injury and have to be a LOT more careful than most people. Running injuries are ubiquitous anyway and can be serious, sidelining athletes for 3-6 months or longer, which is also devastating on a mental health level. I sustained some minor injuries to my feet and knee always after running faster than I should have. Again my runner friends were incredibly helpful with advice on how to take care of myself when injured. While seeking professional help can be important, people who have a lot of experience running have usually dealt with a lot of injuries and can share what works and what doesn’t.

When you start training you will start to see how incredibly addictive running can become even if you used to hate it, even if you still hate it. The race itself was a party the whole time with people playing music and cheering all along the way. And that feeling when I crossed that finish line, achieving my goal is something I will remember forever. I’m grinning as I type this. I felt unstoppable, even as I choked on the watermelon Gatorade that I foolishly drank at mile 12.5. And my baby saw all of this. She saw that I worked so hard to do something that I used to dismiss as impossible. (Also, babies and toddlers really like race packets. My daughter still asks me regularly if we can go get a race packet.) Now I’m thinking of training for a full marathon next year. My breast milk supply was not affected and I’m still breastfeeding on demand. I am so glad I took on this life-changing challenge and was able to model this for my baby. I highly recommend it or something like it!

And if this is something you are considering, here is some advice to help you stay healthy:

  1. Don’t let the time commitment to train scare you off! You can totally adjust as needed! I went on vacation towards the end of my training and didn’t run for a week and I didn’t lose my fitness. An important thing that I was advised though, is that when you do miss workouts don’t try to make up the miles because that may lead to injury. Just skip it if you skip it.
  1. If you nurse right before running, wait until the fuzzy, gooey, gummy-boned feeling goes away before you run or stretch too much. That feeling happens as a result of a hormone surge and it increases your likelihood of injury because the hormones are softening your ligaments and tissues and bones. For me, it takes about 45 min to go away but it’s different for everyone. To protect those bones and ligaments and muscles further, I was advised to take calcium and Vitamin D supplements if you are not already.
  1. Go slow and don’t do speed work. Most of us with little time want to get the biggest bang for our buck when we exercise and are used to working out very hard. Training for long races is all about learning how to hold yourself back. It is hard in the beginning but so important to minimize the risk of injury and hopefully help you learn to run negative splits (not burning yourself out in the beginning of the race so you can run the second half of the race faster than the first half) . If this is your first long distance race a great goal is just to finish so you don’t have to worry about speed. Even if you do have a time goal remember that you generally go faster on race day than you do in training, especially in long distance races, so you don’t have to worry too much about speed in your training My race was mostly downhill but I ran about 2 minutes per mile faster in the race than when I trained.
  1. Hydrate! Breastfeeding mothers need a ton of hydration so hydrate more than you think you do. I’m all about sports drinks when running even though I know they’re gross.
  1. Always stretch after each run. Use a foam roller as often as possible at night before bed. I know as soon as you walk in the door you’re on baby duty and it’s very hard to stretch but some stretches you can do while nursing. Or stretch outside in front of your house before you walk in even if you feel ridiculous.
  1. And finally, make sure to eat healthy fats and carbs. Runners need increased amounts of fats and carbs and breastfeeding runners even more so. Pregnancy and the first year and a half or two after giving birth are such a special and intense time regarding your relationship with your body and the way that it changes. I know for me I was carrying around more weight than I ever had when I began running, and when I did introduce running I felt a not-even-totally-conscious desire to try to get my body back to my ideal of a totally fit/athletic body. But this really isn’t the time to do that and I had to work very hard to resist it. Your body is working so hard to provide fuel for you to breastfeed, to function on no sleep, and to do all this running. You need the carbs and fats that you are craving in order to stay healthy and keep making milk. (Wooden Spoon Wellness’s Pre- or Post-Workout Muscle-Builder Smoothie, for example, satisfies a lot of these needs, FYI.) Back in the thousands of years ago times, we used to live in tribes where there would be lots of lactating women who could feed each others’ babies in a pinch so evolutionarily your body is wired to keep your vitamins and minerals for yourself and stop producing milk if need be. You have to make sure your body feels like it has enough to go around. The positive side to this unique period of closeness with your body is that you are able to hear loud and clear what your body needs and it’s easier to listen to it.

Stephanie Harad is a social worker, mother to a very enthusiastic nurser, and an addicted runner. She lives in Santa Fe, NM with her wife and daughter and sometimes blogs at Dispatches from the Motherland.

*Health coach’s disclaimer: This post is not meant to provide medical advice. If you are considering taking up long-distance running, even if you ran at one point in your life, first check with a licensed medical professional to ensure that it is safe for your body. Once cleared, rock on with your bad self!

Touch… for Your Health

As the weather begins to cool, it becomes easy to retreat into our caves. Hibernation syndrome starts to kick in (particularly amongst those of us who live in pedestrian or bike culture), we crave more sleep as the sun sets earlier and earlier, or we start to feel that change of season cold and stay inside to rest. While listening to our bodies is important, various medical practices believe that going the route of the hermit may not always serve us, especially if we are not feeling well or if we are low energy. In fact, safe touch with another human being in sexual or non-sexual ways can heal various physical and mental ailments.

A recent articleHolding hands on wooden background in Women’s Health magazine, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” discusses new studies about the many ways non-sexual touch can help cure physical and emotional ailments. [1] Massage, for example, has been shown to trigger immune-building cells. In addition, it stimulates the brain to release hormones that relieve stress, reduce pain, create a sense of peace, and sometimes even happiness. [2] Even a soft touch on the arm or back when you’re not feeling well… Perhaps it depends on who is doing the touching but in situations that feel safe, how do you feel when someone you trust makes even that small gesture? If you’re not sure, notice your body’s response the next time someone touches you in a platonic way.

Safe sexual touch can trigger similar responses according to many schools of thought. As my acupuncturist said to me the other day (and as if we need another reason), Marvin Gaye had it right: sex can be healing. This is a core tenant of ancient Indian Tantric philosophy as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tantric beliefs posit that deep healing can result from sexual acts that stem from spiritual connection (as opposed to ego, pleasure-driven motivations). See for example, Dr. Rafe Biggs’ writings about the ways Tantric practices have enabled him to heal parts of his body and sexuality following a severe accident that left him quadriplegic. [3] Even WebMD asserts that doing the deed can cure the sneezes and a recent story published on CNN’s website claims that kissing can HELP migraines and cramps. (There goes the ol’, “I have a headache excuse…”) [4]

Whether we are in the mood to connect with other humans or not, platonically or sexually, if the opportunity arises and you are considering it, or you are craving connection, know that this can be a gift that you give to yourself. Ya know, for your health…

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[1]  Sushma Subramanian, “The Amazing, Beautiful Power of Touch,” Women’s Health magazine, March 7, 2014. See also Norine Dworkin-McDaniel. “Touching Makes Your Happier,” CNN Health.com, January 5, 2011.

[2]  See Ironson, G., Field, T.M., Scafidi, F., Hashimoto, M., Kumar, M., Kumar, A., Price, A., Goncalves, A., Burman, I. , Tetenman, C., Patarca, R. & Fletcher, M.A. (1996). “Massage therapy is associated with enhancement of the immune system’s cytotoxic capacity.” International Journal of Neuroscience, 84, 205-217; Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2008 May; 42(5):414-22. “Pilot study evaluating the effect of massage therapy on stress, anxiety and aggression in a young adult psychiatric inpatient unit.” Garner B1, Phillips LJ, Schmidt HM, Markulev C, O’Connor J, Wood SJ, Berger GE, Burnett P, McGorry PD.

[3] Dr. Rafe Biggs, “Tantra as a Healing Modality.” AwakeningBody.com, August 2008.

[4] Kara Meyer Robinson, “10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex.” WedMD; Valerie Reiss, “8 Health Benefits of Kissing.” CNN Health, February 7, 2014.

Moving through Varicose Veins: An Overview of Eastern and Western Paths for Smoother Transit

Stop light, the red traffic lightAccording to a 2014 report from the Chicago Vein Institute, women are 10% more likely to develop varicose veins than men but women who have at least one parent with varicose veins are 35% more likely than men to develop them. [1] Why do these tricky veins affect more women than men and what are the various treatment options to encourage smoother blood flow?

Varicose veins are veins that are twisted and close to the surface of your skin and most often occur on legs and ankles, i.e. the places furthest from the heart and the places that bear the most weight. They swell and act like a really long stop light for the blood: Instead of the blood flowing down the body and back up to the heart smoothly, the blood builds up in the windy veins like bad traffic and becomes delayed in its return north. [2]

Externally they create blue-ish bumps on the skin and even mild cases of varicose veins can make some of us self conscious enough to keep our legs covered at all times. More severe cases of varicose veins can contribute to serious body image issues because they do not meet the dominant perception in Western cultures that sexy legs are smooth legs. Varicose veins emerge sometimes for reasons that are outside of our control though.

In addition to the genetic susceptibility mentioned above, varicose veins can be caused or affected by numerous factors. If you are susceptible to varicose veins, various things can aggravate your condition such as constipation and hemorrhoids, smoking and being overweight or obese. Women may be more affected by varicose veins because of unsupportive footwear, such as high heels. In addition, estrogen and progesterone stimulate blood vessels to dilate so if you are low in either of these which happens during menstruation, pregnancy, and during menopause veins may have a more difficulty opening and closing. In addition, pregnancy increases the volume of blood flowing through the body, adds extra weight, and puts more strain on vascular walls. [3]

Chemical birth control methods that hormonally regulate your menstrual cycle (what I call CBCMs) may also worsen varicose veins according to the Office on Women’s Health. [4] Chemical birth control methods act like traffic lights for your blood flow on top of an already existing air traffic control system. Imagine the air traffic control tower saying that the plan can land and go to Gate 44. The plane lands and then the CBCMs act like a stoplight on the runway telling the plane when to go or slow down or stop altogether. Your blood flow throughout your body is one system and their intervention into your menstrual cycle can assure a reliable schedule but it can inhibit the flow of blood in other places and cause delays.

As I’ve discussed in my other blog about chemical birth control methods, CBCMs help a lot of women but it is important to understand the risks on the rest of your body. Obviously, one way to potentially address varicose veins if you are on CBCMs is to stop taking them but this has other implications and may not be a realistic option for many women.

Eastern and Western medicine have treatment options as well as methods for easing symptoms. A (not-so-comprehensive) comparison is available on Natural Health Magazine’s website and includes suggestions from a yoga therapist, a naturopath and a dermatologist. In addition to putting your legs up the wall each day as mentioned by the yoga therapist and the supplements recommended by the naturopath, alternative treatments include acupuncture, massage, and low impact movement which can be very helpful in stimulating the circulatory system to move. [5]

Western health practitioners advocate for wearing supportive footwear and compression stockings, among other things. Surgery may be recommended for acute cases as well. This surgery used to be quite intensive and risky from what I understand. It involved a catheter through the groin and something called ‘vein stripping’ but according to WebMD, new, less invasive interventions have emerged. [6]

Many Eastern and Western trained health practitioners advocate for strong digestion that enables nutrients to nourish your connective tissues, strengthen veins, and help your body generally flow well without undue strain. Fiber in the form of ground flaxseeds, whole grains, vegetables and fruits can help with digestion. Fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles without vinegar, yogurt, and probiotics introduce healthy bacteria to the gut to help break down your food. In addition, bioflavanoids which are compounds found in berries, dark leafy greens, and onions, Vitamin C which is found in citrus fruits, and anti-inflammatory foods such as green tea, cayenne, and turmeric are all believed to support vein health. [7]

Regardless of the path you choose, there may be emotional components to your varicose veins as well. Generally speaking, are there other places in your life where you are experiencing a pooling of some sort—of toxic people, of non-nourishing thoughts that have lived in the back of your mind for some time, or an aversion to change or growth? Are there metaphoric red traffic lights that are stalling you and if so, what will it take to remove them from your path?

Here’s to a smooth journey.

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[1] Chicago Vein Institute. “Varicose Vein Statistics.” May 5, 2014.

[2] National Institutes of Health. “What Are Varicose Veins”.

[3] ibid.; Dr. John McDougall. “Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Varicose Veins.”; MotherNature.com. “Varicose Veins.”; A. Mashiah, et al, “Estrogen and progesterone receptors in normal and varicose saphenous veins,” Cardiovascular Surgery, 1999 April 7(3): 327-31.

[4] http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.html; See also Jamie Hergenrader, “The Dangerous Side of Birth Control,” Huffington Post, 7/31/13.

[5] Check out “Varicose Veins? Natural Secrets for Restoring Beauty,” by Maoshing Ni for more information on traditional Chinese medical approaches.

[6] WebMD. “New Treatments for Varicose Veins.”

[7] University of Maryland Medical Center, “Varicose Veins.”; Hamilton Vein Center, “Eat This, Drink That for Healthier, Stronger Veins.” February 12, 2013; “Health Advice: Varicose Veins.” The Telegraph.18 January 2010.