9 Foods With Amazing Healing Benefits

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Dealing with a minor illness? Before heading to the medicine cabinet, I recommend considering remedies in your kitchen cabinet first.

There are many safe and effective natural cures hiding in plain sight in your spice rack and among your baking supplies. Of course, these aren’t meant to replace necessary prescription medications. Always consult your physician first to make sure these treatments are right for you and your family.

As an integrative physician, I researched natural therapies for my book,Treatment Alternatives for Children. As I discovered, food-based remedies generally have fewer potential adverse effects than conventional over-the-counter medications — and they can be just as effective. Here’s a list of nine of my favorites, and how they can help you heal:

1. Apple cider vinegar

Traditionally, apple cider vinegar has been used to help alleviate constipation and indigestion. Research also suggests it can balance blood sugar and lipid levels. Most people who use it in this way drink 1 tablespoon daily, diluted in water.

2. Baking soda

Baking soda can have a soothing effect on irritated skin, relieving itching and irritation from insect bites and stings. Apply a small amount mixed in any natural moisturizing cream or ointment as needed.

It can also help clean teeth and eradicate bad breath when mixed with water — simply rinse as you regularly would and spit out.

3. Cinnamon

Research shows this spice can help improve cognitive skills like memory. Cinnamon may also assist in regulating blood sugar and cholesterol. Use it liberally in cooking or baking, or sprinkle onto your morning coffee.

4. Coconut oil

Coconut oil moisturizes the skin and helps heal inflamed skin conditions like eczema. I also recommend it as a great topical treatment for babies with cradle cap. Coconut oil has both antibacterial and antifungalproperties.

5. Ginger

Ginger is one of my favorite anti-nausea and anti-motion-sickness remedies. You can find it in chewable form, or simply dice fresh ginger and mix it in hot water as a tea to sip. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties, so people sometimes use it to help with arthritis.

6. Honey

Honey is truly magical, with research showing it’s an effective cough remedy. It also has antimicrobial properties – especially New Zealand’s Manuka variant – and is useful as a topical agent to combat minor skin infections. Finally, locally cultivated honey has been proven useful to prevent seasonal allergies if ingested in small amounts prior to developing symptoms.

7. Turmeric

Turmeric, a spice often used in Indian dishes, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Often combined with other spices like ginger, it can help relieve joint pain from inflammation.

8. Olive oil

Olive oil is a key ingredient in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, so use it as much as you can while cooking. It also happens to be useful as atopical oil, with anti-inflammatory properties to help address skin conditions like eczema, seborrhea, and psoriasis.

9. Sea salt

Sea salt is not only a healthy alternative while cooking, but it can also be mixed with distilled water to make a DIY saline solution to relieve nasal congestion. When added to warm water, sea salt can also help soothe aching feet at the end of a long day.

 

(originally posted for MindBodyGreen)

Food Allergies: Why They’re So Common Today + What You Can Do

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Growing up, I don’t remember my friends and classmates having food allergies. In fact, there was one kid in my entire elementary school with a peanut allergy — it was so unusual we all knew who he was.

Today? The prevalence of food allergies has skyrocketed, and it’s estimated that 8% of children and adolescents 18 and under have been diagnosed. Amazingly, 30% of these kids have multiple allergies. Equally concerning is that the severity of reactions has worsened over time.

What’s going on and what can you do about it? Here are answers to five questions many people have about food allergies.

(Continue reading at MindBodyGreen)

Stress Coping Skills For Teens

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A 17 year old so stressed by college applications and SATs that she isn’t eating and has lost ten pounds this month.  A 15 year old increasingly distracted and irritable because he is falling further and further behind in math and gets home at 10pm each night after soccer practice.  A 13 year old consumed by the social pressures in 8th grade and what her friends are posting online keeping her tossing and turning until 1 AM. Sadly, these are only some of the kids I’ve seen in my practice this month deeply affected by feelings of overwhelming stress in their lives. As a doctor and as a parent, I want nothing more than to reduce the pressure they are experiencing.  Yet I have come to realize that the most helpful thing I can teach them is not avoidance but ways to better cope with stress.

There are many potentially effective practices to build stress-coping competency.   The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society has developed a wonderful graphic depicting a Tree of Contemplative Practices to consider, ranging from more active and creative to more restive and reflective.  The best of these actively engage teens and can become life-long self-care skills.  At the Whole Child Center, we’ve found an integrative approach combining lifestyle counseling (including discussion about nutrition, fitness and sleep/rest) with mind-body skill coaching (typically yoga and meditation) to be ideal.   Research is beginning to support our observations.  One recent study found that, compared to a control group of “PE-as-usual” students, teens participating in a yoga program of physical postures, breathing exercises, relaxation, and meditation 2 to 3 times a week for 10 weeks reported improved mood and reduced anxiety.  With rising numbers of adolescents being prescribed psychoactive medications and reporting significant adverse effects and questionable efficacy, it is crucial we continue to examine holistic programs that create optimal health in mind, body and spirit.  Yes, these innovative integrative solutions take time and financial resources to implement, but I would argue the they are quite cost-effective in comparison to the price we are paying for the deterioration of our children’s mental and physical health.

(Originally written for the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center)

Why Yoga is Good Medicine

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Yoga is so much more than your typical medical “intervention.” Still, as is the case with many health-associated modalities from diverse traditions (e.g., Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine), yoga is being increasingly integrated and evaluated as a tool to address specific physical and emotional concerns within our conventional healthcare system. Therapeutic yoga programs are now in place in hospitals and health centers across the world, and both practitioners and patients are reaping the benefits. Yogis and medical centers are navigating this dance of integration, both trying to maintain the integrity of their practices. Some wonder if one can prescribe yoga as mind-body medicine without diminishing the spiritual aspects. I would argue that it is precisely this mind-body-spirit holistic framework that modern medicine needs most at a time when so many patients are in need of healing rather than conventional one ill – one pill solutions.

One of the greatest challenges within contemporary health systems is bringing yoga to those in greatest need yet unable to afford or access it. Bridging the gap are an increasing number of nonprofit yoga service organizations like Kula for Karma, providing yoga in collaboration with hospitals at no cost to those most vulnerable. I am deeply honored to serve on Kula’s Board of Directors and witness the good that groups like this do. Examples of populations served include children and adults with cancer, children with autism and other special needs, caregivers, military veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, victims of domestic violence, older adults with cognitive and medical impairments, and adolescents and adults in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. While it may seem apparent, it is important to do the research to support our intuitive senses that yoga can be of great value for all in need. To this end, I wanted to share with you a sampling of the growing evidence base for yoga as a therapeutic intervention. It is through a better understanding of who and how yoga helps heal that we may one day see it fully integrated into our health care system.

1. Adults with cancer: The greatest number of hospital-based yoga programs and yoga research citations are related to the well being of adults with cancer. One of the most recently published studies (Yoga’s Impact on Inflammation, Mood, and Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial) examined both clinical and immunological outcomes in 200 breast cancer survivors. Researchers at the Ohio State University’s Stress and Health Lab found that women in the active treatment group (12 weeks of 90-minute twice weekly hatha yoga classes) reported significantly less fatigue and more vitality at the end of the 3-month program compared with those in the control group (on a wait-list). Also, of great interest, the group that participated in yoga classes has significantly lower immune system markers associated with inflammation. The authors conclude, “Chronic inflammation may fuel declines in physical function leading to frailty and disability. If yoga dampens or limits both fatigue and inflammation, then regular practice could have substantial health benefits.”

2. Children with autism: With the rising number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, parents are constantly looking for evidence-based strategies to help with challenging behaviors at school and at home. Several innovative yoga programs have been developed specifically for autistic children, and one was the subject of a promising controlled study (Efficacy of the Get Ready to Learn yoga program among children with autism spectrum disorders: a pretest-posttest control group design) published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 24 autistic elementary school students participated in a daily yoga program for 16 weeks and were compared to a control group of 22 students maintaining their usual morning routines. Researchers at the NYU Department of OT found that students in the GRTL yoga program showed significant decreases in teacher ratings of maladaptive behaviors compared with the control participants.

3. Caregivers: The needs of those who care for medically- and emotionally-challenged patients are often overlooked. Yoga can be a tremendous support for those caregivers. One study published last year in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry (Effect of yoga therapy on anxiety and depressive symptoms and quality-of-life among caregivers of in-patients with neurological disorders at a tertiary care center in India: A randomized controlled trial) examined the impact of yoga on the caregivers of patients with severe neurological disorders. 43 subjects were randomized to a treatment group (a yoga program including asanas, praṇayama, and chanting) or a control group. After one month, the intervention group experienced a significant decrease in anxiety and depression as well as improved quality-of-life compared with the control group.

4. Military veterans with PTSD: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).   Yoga is one of the newer and more popular integrative therapies being studied to see how effective it can be for PTSD symptoms like anxiety, depression and sleep disruption. A recent feasibility study published by researchers from the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Heath Care System in New Orleans (A yoga program for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans) followed 12 Veterans with military-related PTSD who participated in a twice-weekly yoga program for six weeks. Although not a randomized, controlled study, it did find significant improvements in hyperarousal symptoms and sleep quality. This promising pilot trial demonstrated that yoga is in fact a feasible and potentially effective adjunctive therapy for PTSD symptoms in military Veterans and should pave the way toward larger, controlled studies.

5. Victims of domestic violence: Yoga has been proposed as a potentially effective complementary therapy for victims of domestic violence who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. While anecdotal reports suggest yoga can be helpful for these individuals, very little research has been published regarding this population. An interesting study (A preliminary investigation of the effects of giving testimony and learning yogic breathing techniques on battered women’s feelings of depression) from the Department of Psychology at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina examined the impact of yogic breathing techniques on feelings of depression in African American and European American abused women. Theoretically, researchers postulated that teaching these women how to calm their minds by focusing on yogic breathing might help them regain control over their bodies and their lives. In this study, yogic breathing was studied as an intervention alone and in combination with a technique known as “giving testimony” about experiences of intimate partner violence. Results indicated that learning yogic breathing techniques alone and combined with giving testimony significantly reduced feelings of depression for the women in this trial.

6. Older adults with cognitive impairments: Baby boomers are growing older and are at increasing risk for dementia and other cognitive impairments. While researchers are always looking for a magic pill to reverse these declines, perhaps yoga can provide not a safer and more effective route to do so. One controlled study (Randomized clinical trial of yoga-based intervention in residents from elderly homes: Effects on cognitive function) did evaluate the impact of yoga on cognitive function in residents of elderly homes in India. This randomized controlled study included an intervention yoga group of 44 seniors and a control waitlist group of 43 seniors who completed the study period of 6 months. Those in the intervention group received daily yoga sessions for one month, weekly until the third month and then encouraged to continue unsupervised until 6 months. Compared with the control group, the yoga group showed significant improvement in areas of memory, attention, executive function and processing speed. Though not yet studied, it may be that practicing yoga can in fact prevent cognitive impairments from developing or progressing.

7. Adults with substance abuse/addiction: A number of complementary therapies have been evaluated in the treatment of those with substance abuse/addiction, including acupuncture and yoga. One of the most recent trials (Yoga effects on mood and quality of life in Chinese women undergoing heroin detoxification: a randomized controlled trial) examined the effect of yoga on mood and quality of life in 75 Chinese women (aged 20-37 years) undergoing detoxification for heroin dependence. The women were randomized to a six month yoga intervention group or a routine hospital care control group. Measures of mood and quality of life were completed for both groups at study entry and following three and six months of treatment. Over this time period, the intervention group demonstrated a significant improvement in mood and quality of life compared with those in the control group.

 (Note: An edited version of this post first appeared in MindBodyGreen)

Rx LOVE: Why You Need To Let People Know You Love Them

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February marks our national “Heart Month,” with Valentine’s Day smack in the middle as a reminder to love and be loved.  Of course, it just plain feels good to both give and receive, but it turns out a number of research studies have demonstrated that love is also good for your health. How so? There is a neurobiological connection between the emotional state of love and various neurohormones (e.g., oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine) associated with the following health benefits…

(Continue reading at MINDBODYGREEN)

Honey: Nature’s Magical Medical Cure

Winnie-the-Pooh had it figured out—it’s all about the honey. People over many centuries have gathered this tasty, sticky delight to treat everything from coughs to sore throats to skin infections. Honey may, in fact, be nature’s safest over-the-counter cough and cold treatment and its most potent antibiotic—all without the potentially dangerous side effects of conventional medications. Here are some of my favorite medical uses for honey:

Cough

Coughing is the body’s way of clearing irritated airways to help your child breathe more comfortably. However, persistent coughing may only irritate the airways and throat further. All that hacking prevents a restful night’s sleep, something parents everywhere want for their little ones. With continuous coughing, it’s no wonder parents reach for whatever can ease the symptoms. However, the AAP and CDC have warned that codeine and dextromethorphan, two common cough medicine ingredients, offer little help and potential for great harm for young children. Complications such as drowsiness or hyperactivity are possible, and more serious adverse effects, like respiratory depression, can happen with overdosing. Many parents ask me about natural alternatives for persistent coughs that interfere with sleep or activities. I turn to honey, demonstrated to be safe and effective for pediatric coughs. You can mix one teaspoon in some water/herbal tea or give it straight up every 2-4 hours. You can also use a blend of honey and homeopathic medicines like Boiron’s Chestal cough syrup. Do not use honey in babies under a year, as they are at risk for botulism.

Sore throat 

I’ve always found honey to be particularly soothing and appealing for kids (and adults) with sore throats. It can be given the same way as noted above for coughs. One study showed how effective Malaysian Tualang honey was for pain and healing after tonsillectomy. If you’ve ever had your tonsils out, you’ll agree that if honey worked for this condition, it will likely do the job for any run-of-the-mill viral pharyngitis. While some evidence suggests certain types of honey may have anti-strep activity, I don’t recommend honey alone as a treatment for streptococcal sore throats. I do, however, recommend it as a complement to antibiotics.

Seasonal allergies

The theory is fascinating. Eating a small amount of honey made by bees pollinating local flowers may prevent seasonal allergies due those same pollens. The idea has to do with immune system tolerance, or the concept that exposure to a small amount of an offending substance can lead to tolerance of large amounts of the same substance. But does it work? In some cases, yes. A recent study looked at response of those with birch pollen allergies to preventive birch pollen honey (BPH). During the allergy season, patients who ingested incremental amounts of BPH preventively reported significantly fewer symptoms and used 50% less antihistamines. You first have to find a farm or market that sells locally pollinated honey (or become a beekeeper) and then give your child a small amount—even a ½ tsp daily should suffice—daily for at least a month before the allergy season begins. Watch for signs of allergies (runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, cough) when you start and stop the honey if those symptoms worsen with ingestion.

Impetigo

One of the most common skin infections in children, impetigo usually presents as crusty, weepy yellowish-brown lesions in and around the nose and mouth. Bacteria typically present include staphylococcal and streptococcal species. While these bacteria can peacefully coexist on healthy skin, any time there’s a scrape or cut leading to skin breakdown, these pesky germs can wreak havoc. Conventionally, topical or systemic antibiotics are prescribed, but more and more studies are proving that honey, nature’s antibiotic, may be a safer and equally effective choice. Certain types, like New Zealand’s Manuka honey, have been shown to be very effective when applied topically to infected wounds. Turns out that the most common bacterial infections are quite sensitive to antibacterial compounds in the Manuka honey. Look for brands like Manuka Health New Zealand Ltd’s “Active MGO 400+” and apply three or four times a day to the infected skin area.

This material is adapted from Dr. Rosen’s book, Treatment Alternatives for Children.

Treatment Alternatives for Children

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Big news this month.  August marks the publication of my first book, Treatment Alternatives for Children (TAfC), with co-author Jeff Cohen.  In some ways, I feel like the very proud papa of my 3rd child.  Nearly 20 years of pediatric practice have informed the book, a guide for parents looking for natural treatment alternatives for approximately 100 of the most common pediatric conditions.  Yes, I think the content of the book is compelling – more on that later – but one of the most rewarding aspects of writing this book is that it’s a true partnership between Jeff and me.  Jeff and his wife Carol, devoted, holistic parents of two delightful kids in my practice, approached me one day with the idea that became TAfC.  I had considered for some time writing a book based on my unique integrative practice, but it took Jeff and Carol to convince me that we could really do this now.  It’s hard enough running a busy primary care pediatric practice, but Jeff made the book writing process a pleasure.   I love that this book represents the shared work of a pediatrician and a parent.  It mirrors what I do every day, working together with parents to keep their children healthy.  Parents and their children should play the major role in their family’s health care, and I am a guide to help them navigate the path.  We work as a team, just as Jeff and I have done to create TAfC.

What will you find in this revolutionary book?  Organized into 13 chapters each devoted to a specific health concerns, TAfC offers practical natural health solutions for conditions ranging from relatively mundane (acne) to extremely serious (autism).  We list the causes and symptoms of nearly 100 childhood ailments, the most common conventional treatment for each ailment (including recommended dosage, active ingredients, and possible side effects), a natural alternative to the conventional treatment, and a few additional natural treatments to consider beyond the one highlighted for each condition.  It’s worth noting that our natural alternative recommendations include not only nutritional and herbal (biological) remedies, but we draw as well from the rich traditions of holistic healing, including mind-body medicine, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine, just to name a few.  TAfC is truly an integrative guide.

Here’s a sneak peak at our Table of Contents:

1 Baby Matters

2 Watch Your Mouth 

3 Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling

4 Take Your Breath Away 

5 Temperature Rising

6 Tummy Troubles

7 Eating and Energy

8 Midsection Maladies

9 Dermatological Dilemmas

10 First Aid for Bumps, Burns, Bruises, and Bites

11 Aches and Pains 

12 Nervous System Worries

13 Behavioral and Developmental Difficulties

Throughout the chapters, there are numerous sidebars with interesting facts and helpful additional tips.  “Parental Guidance” features actual quotes from actual parents who have effectively used various treatment alternatives to improve their children’s conditions.  “Good to Know” reveals “fun facts” and statistics related to the conditions covered throughout the chapter, adding scope to the information presented.  “Science Says,” a crucial component of TAfC, provides the scientific rationale for each of the treatment alternatives cited, adding credibility to our recommendations.

At the end of each chapter, we’ve included a “Spotlight On” section to profile in depth a holistic practice (e.g., Yoga, Infant Massage) that has specific relevance for the given chapter.  We also have included almost a whole separate book’s worth of information in our appendices.  One, “Toxic Troubles,” covers the most common environmental health threats to our children and offers practical, evidence-based guidance on how to minimize and ameliorate exposure.  Another, “Top Ten Treatment Lists,” covers a greatest-hits of healing herbs, spices, foods, oils, mind-body therapies and homeopathic remedies, among other categories.  Finally, we provide scientific references for all of our natural solutions because we believe that you should understand how and why something works.

A few final notes on what makes the book so special.  Deirdre Imus has written a rousing forward, capturing the essence of TAfC:

“In this book, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to treating common ailments in your infant, toddler, child, or teen using natural methods, like oils and herbs and supplements. There are lists of salves for problems at each age, along with detailed lists of likely and unlikely allergic reactions to remedies both conventional and homeopathic. You’ll even hear directly from parents like Jeff about specific remedies that have helped their own kids. Treatment Alternatives for Children is really all you could ever want or need in an alternative treatments guide.”

We do include numerous snippets of advice from real-life parents (as noted above) along side nuggets of wisdom from many of my holistic professional colleagues.  The health care practitioners we feature truly represent the wonderful breadth of integrative practices to which families have access.  How many health guides include commentary from naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists and yogis, alongside medical doctors?  A key component of integrative medicine is respecting various traditions of healing and working together for the health and wellbeing of the families we serve.  I think TAfC honors that philosophy.

For a sneak preview of “Treatment Alternatives for Children,” check out this month’s issue of Kiwi.  And for more information on the book and on the exciting field of integrative medicine, please visit me at LawrenceRosenMD.com.

March 2011 Kiwi post: “A Small World”

It is a small world, after all

How many millions of families have virtually journeyed around the world courtesy of Disney, serenaded by the memorable melody of “It’s a Small World”? I know that prior to these past two weeks, it’s the closest I’ve been to the wondrous lands of Southeast Asia. I write this to you from the air, on my way home from visiting Cambodia, a long journey back, but one full of memories that will linger much, much longer…

(Read more)

New “The Whole Child” Post on the Kiwilog: December 2010

The Circle of Life

 “All I am I owe to my Mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.” –George Washington

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”    –Abraham Lincoln

Turns out that both Washington and Lincoln were more right than they knew. Our two most celebrated presidents were referring to the effect their mothers had on them after birth, of course, but recent scientific discoveries have shed light on how important a baby’s first environment—the womb—truly is.

New “The Whole Child” Post on the KiwiLog – October, 2010

"Children First" is now posted on the KiwiLog.  Also, check out "The Green Pediatrician" on Kiwi's site.