Stress & Mindfulness

Stress & Mindfulness

Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion. In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.

The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.  The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido and other healthy functions.

Stress targets the weakest part of our physiology or character; if you are prone to headaches or eczema, this will flare up.  If you have low levels of patience or tolerance for others, this will be the first area to present under times of stress.

Stress isn’t avoidable but it is manageable. A key action in order to minimize risk is to identify stress-related problems as early as possible, so that action can be taken before serious stress-related illness occurs. (Stress Management Society)

Natural Remedies

  • Exercise: Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins — chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers — and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. About five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
  • Make sure you are getting good sleep
  • Meditation: Mindfulness meditation strengthens a person’s cognitive ability to regulate emotions and thoughts. Brain imaging found that meditation-related anxiety relief was associated with activation of the areas of the brain that are involved with executive function and the control of worrying. Meditation-related activation of these areas was directly linked to anxiety relief.
    • Check out these meditation apps: Headspace, The Mindfulness App, Calm
  • Stay Hydrated
  • Relaxation Exercises: No one can avoid all stress, but you can counteract its detrimental effects by learning how to produce the relaxation response, a state of deep rest that is the polar opposite of the stress response. The relaxation response puts the brakes on stress and brings your body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.
    • Deep breathing: The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.
      • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
      • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
      • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
      • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
    • Progressive muscle relaxation: a two-step process in which you systematically tense and relax different muscle groups in the body. With regular practice, it gives you an intimate familiarity with what tension—as well as complete relaxation—feels like in different parts of the body.
      • Loosen clothing, take off your shoes, and get comfortable.
      • Take a few minutes to breathe in and out in slow, deep breaths.
      • When you’re ready, shift your attention to your right foot. Take a moment to focus on the way it feels.
      • Slowly tense the muscles in your right foot, squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10.
      • Relax your foot. Focus on the tension flowing away and how your foot feels as it becomes limp and loose.
      • Stay in this relaxed state for a moment, breathing deeply and slowly.
      • Shift your attention to your left foot. Follow the same sequence of muscle tension and release.
      • Move slowly up through your body, contracting and relaxing the different muscle groups.
      • It may take some practice at first, but try not to tense muscles other than those intended.
    • Writing: journaling or other forms of writing can help people cope better with anxiety. This can be a thoughtful, in depth experience, or you can write down whatever comes to mind as quickly as you can. Your writing does not need to be legible, just as long as you are getting out all of the thoughts that come to mind.
    • Time Management: Some people feel anxious if they have too many commitments at once. Having a plan in place for the next necessary action can help to keep this anxiety at bay. Effective time management strategies can help people to focus on one task at a time. Book-based planners and online calendars can help, as can resisting the urge to multitask.
      • Learn how to say NO when necessary
    • Aromatherapy: Smelling soothing plant oils can help to ease stress and anxiety. Certain scents work better for some people than others, so consider experimenting with various options. Try lavender, chamomile, rose, orange, sandalwood, ylang-ylang.

 

Foods to Focus on

Certain foods may help lower the severity of symptoms, mostly due to their gut & brain-boosting properties.

  • Salmon: EPA and DHA may help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can have calming and relaxing properties. Additionally, studies show these fatty acids can reduce inflammation and prevent brain cell dysfunction that leads to the development of difficulties like anxiety and depression.
  • Avocado: rich in stress-relieving B vitamins and heart-healthy fat that may help to lessen anxiety.
  • Chamomile: contains high amounts of antioxidants proven to reduce inflammation, which might decrease the risk of anxiety & depression.
  • Turmeric: a spice that contains curcumin, a compound studied for its role in promoting brain health and preventing anxiety disorders. Curcumin also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to prevent damage to brain cells.
  • Dark Chocolate: flavanols (antioxidants in dark chocolate) improve blood flow to the brain and promote its ability to adapt to stressful situations.
  • Probiotics: probiotics promote mental health and brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, which can damage nerve tissue in the brain which can lead to anxiety & depression. Incorporate probiotic-rich foods like full fat yogurt, miso, kimchi and kombucha into your diet.
Skin Health

Skin Health

Your skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ. It has many roles in the maintenance of life and health, but also has many potential problems. There are many layers which make up your skin, the epidermis being the outermost. It takes about 28 days for a layer of skin to work its way up to the outer surface.

The basic day-to-day functions of the skin include:

  • Works as a barrier, protecting against water loss as well as physical and chemical injury
  • Helps fight off bacteria, viruses, allergens, toxins and carcinogens through the parts of or immune system that exist in our skin
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Protects us from UV radiation by producing melanin
  • Gives us the sense of touch
  • Is involved with producing Vitamin D
  • Heals wounds

Like the gut, the skin is home to over a trillion organisms at any given time, including thousands of species of bacteria as well as viruses and fungi. These all serve a purpose and are important for proper balance. Like the gut, when the balance is altered, it can create problems. Generally when there is an outbreak with the skin, there is an underlying internal issue. Oftentimes the skin takes over when the liver is overloaded and cannot detoxify properly.

The skin is under constant assault from environmental agents, harsh cleansers and soaps, deodorants, and even medications and cosmetics. Our obsession with cleanliness may be doing more harm than good for microbiota balance on the skin.

A healthy skin microbiome appears to begin during and shortly after birth with a flurry of immune activity. Unfortunately, many of the modern practices surrounding birth may have a dramatic and unfortunate impact on gut bacteria. The wide use of antibiotics for mom during labor (and for mom and baby after birth) may have some big unintended consequences. This could be a part of the reason we are seeing a rise in skin related disorders.

In conclusion, gut health is extremely important when it comes to skin issues. Almost 90% of our immune system is within the gut. Focusing on healing and nurturing your gut will usually help with certain skin issues.

Eczema
There are different forms of eczema (dermatitis) a person can suffer from, and an individual’s triggers are unique to their body. Some common forms of eczema include:

  • Atopic: the most common form, usually starts in childhood. Typically is accompanied with allergies & asthma.
    • Causes: genetics, dry skin, immune issues, environmental and food triggers
  • Contact: a reaction caused by substances you touch (allergen or irritant)
    • Causes: detergents, bleach, jewelry, latex, nickel, pain, plants, skin products, soaps, perfumes, solvents, smoke
  • Dyshidrotic: small blisters that form on the hands and feet
    • Causes: allergies, damp/sweaty hands and feet, exposure to substances like nickel, cobalt or chromium salt, stress

Eczema symptoms include:

  • Dry scaly patches on skin
  • Small bumps that open and weep when scratched
  • Redness and swelling
  • Burning of skin
  • Thickening of skin
  • Oozing & weeping
  • Gets worse with scratching

The most prescribed treatment is corticosteroids which can be helpful for short term acute conditions, but doctors usually do not recommend natural remedies to try first. Doctors often do not explain how to properly use these potentially harmful medications, leading to over prescription and accidental abuse.

 

Psoriasis

A chronic autoimmune condition that is a symptom of an imbalance in the gut. It causes the rapid buildup of skin cells. This buildup of cells causes scaling on the skin’s surface. Inflammation and redness around the scales is fairly common. Typical psoriatic scales are whitish-silver and develop in thick, red patches. Sometimes, these patches will crack and bleed.

Psoriasis is the result of a sped-up skin production process. Typically, skin cells grow deep in the skin and slowly rise to the surface. Eventually, they fall off. The typical life cycle of a skin cell is one month. In people with psoriasis, this production process may occur in just a few days. Because of this, skin cells don’t have time to fall off. This rapid overproduction leads to the buildup of skin cells.

Most people with psoriasis go through “cycles” of symptoms. The condition may cause severe symptoms for a few days or weeks, and then the symptoms may clear up and be almost unnoticeable. Then, in a few weeks or if made worse by a common psoriasis trigger, the condition may flare up again. Sometimes, symptoms of psoriasis disappear completely.

 

Natural Solutions

It is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, and sometimes what the skin can tolerate will change. “Natural” does not always work with people who have sensitive skin. Helpful natural treatment options include:

  • Avoiding triggers like allergens, soaps, detergents, animals
  • Taking healing baths using Epsom or dead sea salts, apple cider vinegar or garlic
  • Exercising (even gently like yoga or walking) will help the lymphatic system detox
  • Sweating can make rashes worse so be sure to rinse off quickly after exercise
  • Don’t use harsh soaps or antibacterials – when showering/bathing only use soap on your armpits & groin to avoid stripping the body of its natural oils
  • Good moisturizers – coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, castor oil, Eucerin, Aveeno, Avene AD line, Elaj, Waxelene, Aquaphor, BeautyCounter, Moogoo – ALWAYS PATCH TEST – Usually the fewer ingredients the better.
  • Avoid scratching and keep nails trimmed short- use ice packs when itchy
  • Minimize stress with yoga and meditation
  • Avoid fragrances and dyes in detergents, cleansers
  • Get plenty of Vitamin D; UV therapy can be beneficial
  • Stick to an anti-inflammatory diet – known skin triggers include dairy, gluten, sugar, and sometimes nightshades.
  • Sometimes essential oils can help like tea tree, lavender, calendula. Be cautious when using essential oils on the skin and be sure to dilute in a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba
  • Check out EWG.org to find out how harmful or safe your bath & body products are

 

Acne

Acne appears when a pore in the skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. Normally, dead skin cells rise to surface of the pore, and the body sheds the cells. When the body starts to make lots of sebum (see-bum), oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.

Sometimes bacteria that live on our skin, p. acnes, also get inside the clogged pore. Inside the pore, the bacteria have a perfect environment for multiplying very quickly. With loads of bacteria inside, the pore becomes inflamed (red and swollen). If the inflammation goes deep into the skin, an acne cyst or nodule appears.

Natural Solutions

  • Use a gentle cleanser but do NOT over cleanse – apple cider vinegar, honey, coconut oil
  • Use fragrance-free products that do not contain harmful chemicals
  • Use healing masks to hydrate and soothe the skin
  • Exfoliate regularly with natural items like sea salt, brown sugar and oatmeal.
  • Avoid too much sun exposure
  • Eat a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet

 

FACE MASK FUN

  • Always try to get fresh & organic ingredients when applying produce to the skin
  • Honey – always buy organic! Manuka Honey (4x more nutritious than regular honey, get UMF 10+) – helps treat acne. Eczema, MRSA, burns, heal wounds
  • Bentonite clay – helps detoxify pores, reduce acne, clear redness, heal poison ivy, eczema & heal wounds
  • Vitamin E Oil – use sparingly, good for excessive dryness, antioxidant & anti-inflammatory
  • Before applying mask, use a warm washcloth on face to open pores
  • Avoid putting mask over eyes, lips & eyebrows
  • Leave masks on for about 15-20 minutes

 

Dry Skin

Avocado Mask – Mash ½ ripe avocado with 2 tbs honey

Coconut & Honey Mask – 2 tbs virgin coconut oil & ¼ cup honey blended

 

Oily Skin

Fruit Mask – 1 ripe banana, 1 tbs honey, 1 tbs lemon juice

Aloe & Honey Mask – 2 tbs aloe vera, 1 tbs honey

 

Combination

Avocado & Coconut Oil Mask – ½ ripe avocado & 1 tbs coconut oil

Honey & Lemon Mask – 2 tbs honey, 1 tbs lemon juice

 

Acne

Cucumber Mask – Blend ½ cucumber w/ 1tbs honey (1 tsp bentonite clay optional) (sit for 20 min)

ACV, Honey & Clay Mask – 1 tsp ACV, 2 tsp honey, 1 tsp clay

 

AFTERCARE:

After using a facemask, a sea salt spray or 1tsp ACV diluted in 1 cup cool water will work as great toners to lock in effects.

 

Winter Health Talks

Winter Health Talks

Join us for our FREE health talks! Friends & family are welcomed, give us a call to reserve your spot @ 410-717-6610.
*From 6:30-7:15pm on Mondays unless otherwise indicated*

 

 

 

 

 

December 10th: Cholesterol – Myths & Truths

December 17th: Anxiety & Depression

January 7th: Skin Health – eczema, psoriasis, acne, rashes

January 21st: Stress Relief & Mindfulness Techniques

February 4th: Is sugar sabotaging your health?

February 18th: How to have happy & healthy skin

March 4th: Anti-inflammatory cooking tips

March 18th: Stretching & muscle strengthening

April 1st: Healthy household cleaning

April 15th: Women’s health

April 29th: Digestive dysfunction

We Are Women!

We Are Women!

A woman’s body goes through many different changes throughout life. Following a healthy diet, exercise routine & mindfulness practice will help keep your body in balance and at ease for these various & sometimes difficult stages.

Menstrual Madness

Tips to ease cramps:

  • Foods to focus on: Getting enough calcium, magnesium, Vitamin D, good fats & iron are important during your menstrual years.
    • Dark chocolate, yogurt, salmon, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, eggs, nuts, bananas, chamomile tea, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale & bok choy, oats, ginger etc.
  • Drinking lots of water actually prevents your body from retaining water, so even if you’re bloated make sure you are getting enough hydration. Avoid alcohol, carbonated beverages and caffeine.
  • Raw cacao (1 tbs) is a great source of iron and magnesium, two minerals women commonly can be deficient in. So, chocolate is GOOD 😊
  • Raspberry leaf tea helps tone the uterus and pelvic muscles.
  • Focus on gentle & restorative workouts rather than high-intensity like barre, Pilates, yoga, walking & biking.
  • Chiropractic adjustments can help provide pain relief, especially in the lower back and uterus area.

PCOS

PCOS occurs when a woman’s hormones are out of balance, which can lead to problems with fertility and menstrual cycles, weight gain, and cysts on the ovaries.

Natural solutions:

  • Drinking 1-2 tbs of apple cider vinegar (with “the mother”) diluted in water/tea/smoothies every day. This will help improve the body’s natural elimination system while balancing pH levels to help control bacteria, candida and yeast.
  • Eat a 95% whole foods diet focusing on vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and leafy greens.
  • Eliminate processed foods & sugar.
  • Probiotic foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi & miso.
  • Iron-rich food like spinach, kale, goji berries, lentils & chickpeas are great if you have low iron.
  • Focus on gentle & restorative workouts rather than high-intensity like barre, Pilates, yoga, walking & biking.

 

FUN FACT: Women who eat at least 10g of fresh mushrooms each day (about one mushroom per day) have a 64% DECREASED risk of breast cancer & when you add in a daily cup of green tea, there is an 89% DECREASED risk of breast cancer!

 

Pregnancy

  • Raspberry leaf tea helps tone the uterus and pelvic muscles.
  • A nutrient rich, whole food diet will nourish you and your baby. Focus on a good variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, beans and lean meats. If you are craving sugar, eat protein & good fats instead.
  • Drink 2-3 liters of water per day and avoid artificially sweetened drinks and all sodas.
  • Natural magnesium supplements can help with morning sickness, fatigue & constipation.
  • Using an exercise ball as a chair can help keep the pelvis forward and in good alignment.
  • Balance physical activity with rest.

Menopause

  • Supplements: E-manganese, Symplex F, Pituitrophin PMG, Calcium Lactate
  • Foods:
    • Soy (unprocessed) contains high levels of estrogen-like compounds which mimic natural estrogen. It can help decrease hot flash frequency and severity – edamame is a good source for unprocessed soy. Stay away if there is a known breast cancer risk.
    • Black cohosh: can help reduce production of LH (luteinizing hormone – causes hot flashes).
    • Eat regular meals throughout the day.
    • Healthy fats and fatty acids, dairy, eggs, leafy green vegetables, kelp.
    • Full fat foods like walnuts/almonds, flax seed, chia seed, berries, bananas, plain yogurt or coconut yogurt if you’re sensitive to dairy.
    • Avoid hot flash triggering foods like caffeine, alcohol, sugary and spicy foods.
    • Yoga, meditation & other relaxation techniques.

Open & Strengthen Your Hips

Women tend to carry their stress in their hips. Stretching and strengthening the muscles around the hips is a great way to release tension and stress on the spine. Always complete both sides/legs with stretching, and remember that one side may feel different than the other.

Cow Face Pose: For this pose, imagine a really tight “criss-cross” seated position. Bend your right knee to face the front of the mat, and then bend your left knee the same, and stack it right on top of your right knee. The soles of both your feet should ideally be facing up. It’s ok if you cannot come into the full position at first. Sit on a block or blanket for leverage and try again. Make sure both sit bones stay on the ground, or block/blanket, and breathe deeply. Fold forward for an added challenge. Switch after 3 minutes for a great release.

Half Pigeon Pose: For this pose, begin in a downward facing dog position. From there, swing your left (or right) leg through your hands, bending at the knee and facing the sole of your foot up. Lay your knee flat on the mat and to the side just enough so that you are not lying on it as you lean forward. Ideally, your shin is parallel to the front of the mat, but this won’t occur until you are very open in the hips. For now, it is ok for the shin to be slanted. The most important part of this pose is that you first align your hips. Distribute your weight evenly so that you are not leaning to the left or right side. If you cannot align your hips, place a block under your left sit bone – this leverage will help you as you begin to open up tight hips.

 

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Who Do We Help?

Who Do We Help?

Our purpose at the Natural Health Improvement Center is to empower as many people as possible to achieve vibrant and optimum health through education and natural means, without the use of unnecessary drugs and surgery, and to pass the benefits along to future generations.

What kinds of people do we treat? If you can relate to one or more of the following, Dr. Lisa can help!

  • Spring and fall allergies that bring along sneezing, coughing, wheezing etc.
  • Sensitivity to animals & considering giving up a pet due to allergies
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Headaches, migraines, concussions
  • PMS, PCOS, hot flashes, cramps
  • Hormonal issues including thyroid, prostate, adrenal etc.
  • Food sensitivities
  • Digestive problems like acid reflux, IBS etc.
  • Sensitivities to perfumes, soaps, chemicals, hydrocarbons, scented candles, dryer sheets, smoke etc.
  • Past sports injuries
  • Feeling achy all over

We help people who are tired of their medical doctors telling them to take medications when they know the medication just hides the underlying problem.

We help people who know that food is the best medicine to help the body thrive.

We help people who know their body can heal but need a guide on their journey to health.

Upcoming Health Information Talks

Upcoming Health Information Talks

Join us for our next upcoming Health Information Talks @ the Natural Health Improvement Center of Columbia, MD! Give us a call to reserve your spot today 410-717-6610.

Patients who bring guests to any health talk will receive one entry per guest in our raffle to win an Instant Pot!

From 6:30-7:15 on Mondays unless otherwise indicated

October 1st: Immune Essentials

October 15th: ADD/ADHD, Concentration, Memory, Studying etc.

October 29th: Women’s Health, Menopause, PMS, Foggy Brain, Hot-Flashes etc.

November 12th: Digestive Dysfunction, Acid Reflux, Bloating etc.

November 26th: Men’s Health, Prostate etc.

December 10th: Cholesterol – Myths & Truths

December 17th: Anxiety & Depression

January 7th: Skin Health – Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne, Rashes