Changing for the better, one bite and (deep) breath at a time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Surviving Allergy Season

I have lived with seasonal allergies ever since I moved to Arizona. In the beginning, I tried managing it with Claritin or Allegra, but sometimes these drugs would make me not feel myself. I also don't like being on pharmaceuticals over long periods of time and try to support the body with more "natural" solutions. Below are products I found to really work for me when used at different times of the year. I haven't had a sinus infection in over two years because of this routine, which is nothing short of a miracle given my history.

Remember, everyone is different - but this is what has worked for me. Check with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or supplement.

1. Antronex by Standard Process

Antronex acts as a "natural" antihistamine in the body and is the one supplement I take every day. Histamine is released when tissue becomes damaged, inflamed, or is subjected to environmental stressors. Histamine contributes to the overall inflammatory cascade that contributes to disease over time, so it's important to manage your histamine levels as much as possible. Antronex is made up of bovine liver fat extract that has been researched since the 1920s for its liver supportive and blood filtering capabilities that help more quickly process histamines. Thus, it is liver supportive, which most medications are not.

I take 3 Antronex pills every morning during most of the year. The pills are pretty small and very easy to swallow. During the height of allergy season - spring and fall in Arizona - I take an additional 3 before bed. I notice a dramatic difference if I forget the Antronex, and it doesn't have the negative side effects of drowsiness or insomnia that other allergy medications can have.

You can purchase Antronex through a licensed health care provider such as myself or on Amazon.

2. GUNA Sinus Nasal Spray

If pollen and other irritants are really bad, I use GUNA Sinus Nasal Spray, a homeopathic remedy, to help keep the environment of my sinuses and nose healthy. I spray 2 spritzes into each nostril and wait a few minutes before blowing my nose. It seems to really help when used as needed.

3. Neti Pot with Tea Tree Oil

I have used a neti pot on and off for years. A neti pot looks like a small tea pot, and you pour the spout into one nostril to irrigate your sinuses. Periodic neti pot usage can help flush dirt, allergens (read: evil yellow pollen), pollutants, and bacteria-filled mucus from your nasal cavity. Typically, I would use the packets provided with the neti pot to create the flushing solution. (Note: you do not want to pour straight water into your nose because it will irritate the tissue even further if it does not contain salt.) My fantastic chiropractor Mark Force recommended the following neti pot solution that ups the ante a bit:

6 oz clean warm water (distilled or boiled - there are serious risks to using tap or unclean water)
1/4 tsp. Celtic sea salt (find at Whole Foods)
1-3 drops of tea tree oil (Whole Foods - start with one drop and work up)

The tea tree oil adds an additional antiseptic quality that helps flush out bacteria and other microbes that could be hanging out up there. You probably don't want to use the neti pot for months on end, but it's especially helpful during allergy season or when your sinuses are especially troublesome. I always use it after I've been out in a dusty area, like a baseball game or to ride horses. (OK, that was only
once. But I did use a neti pot afterwards.)
4. Source Naturals Wellness Formula

Say you're really struggling with allergies and can start to tell that you're heading toward a sinus infection. You have pressure above or below your eyes, it is becoming harder to breathe, and you're starting to produce some not-so-pleasantly-colored mucus. If you can catch it in time, start taking 2-3 tablets of Wellness Formula right at the beginning of an infection. If it doesn't help you kick it, at least it might help shorten the duration.

I have had some fantastic personal and professional success with this product, which is a mishmash of multiple immune system supporting vitamins and herbs, and I keep it in my purse in case I start to feel "off." You don't want to take it long term, however, because some of the ingredients (e.g. echinacea) lose their effectiveness if taken regularly. Full disclosure: this stuff is chock full of garlic, so it has a pretty strong odor. I'd recommend taking it with a few hefty gulps of water and some food. You can buy it at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other health food stores.

5. Fish Oil

One of the few supplements I recommend to almost everyone is fish oil. It helps reduce general inflammation, making it part of my daily preventive arsenal. Lately I have really been diggin' Nordic Naturals ProDHA 1000. It even tastes like strawberries! Take at least 2 capsules per day with food. If you don't like to take your fish oil as a pill, eat the real deal! Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are the best way to get fish oil. Make sure to eat 3 5-6 oz servings per week of sustainable, low-PCB, low-mercury fish like wild caught salmon.

I hope I gave you a few ideas for preparing for one of the most beautiful - and troublesome! - times of the year, which is fast approaching! What are your allergy remedies? Leave a comment below!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

(Healthy) Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken

A even busier schedule calls for some creativity and serious crock-potting in the kitchen. This recipe, found on "A Year of Slow Cooking", was super simple to make and definitely delicious. Make sure to use organic pasture butter whenever you can. It's high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA's), making it healthier than butter from cows who eat grain.

This recipe is also great prepped ahead of time, refrigerated overnight, and placed on the crockpot the next morning. I hope you e
njoy as much as we did! By the way, if you're cooking for men-folk...this one gets double thumb's up! Our good friend Dave is living with us for a few months as he starts his new career as a pharmacist (he just moved out here from LA). I made this for both him and my husband, and they were both fans.

Don't be afraid of these spices if you've never cooked Indian food before. They're great investments for your pantry and can be used in tons of recipes, plus they smell great and have some wonderful health benefits. Garam masala, a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, and black pepper packs an anti-inflammatory punch, and both curry and ginger may have cancer-preventive properties. I used ground cardamom to taste instead of cardamom pods, and I easily found garam masala at Whole Foods.
They were about $5 or $6 each.

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs - go organic!
1 onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
4 T butter
(organic pasture butter from Whole Foods)
15 cardamom pods (sewn together!)

2 tsp curry

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste

2 T lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt - I used organic plain nonfat Greek

Instructions: Assemble ingredients:

Use a 5 quart or larger crockpot. Carefully sew together the cardamom pods using a needle and thread (if using). You can put them in a little cheese cloth bundle, instead, if you have that in the house.

Put chicken in crockpot, and add onion, garlic, and all of the dry spices.

Plop in the butter and tomato paste.

Add lemon juice and coconut milk. (If you're prepping this the night before, add the lemon juice and coconut just before you put it on the crockpot.) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4. The chicken should shred easily with 2 forks when fully cooked.
Stir in plain yogurt 15 minutes before serving. Discard cardamom pods.

Salt to taste, serve with brown basmati rice, veggies of your liking, and even some lentils cooked with onion and garlic. You can use the extra sauce as a topping for the vegetables.



Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Year, Big Changes

Image courtesy of Karve Studio

Sometimes you can "just tell" what's ahead of you, and I can "just tell" that 2012 will be the year of big changes. The first change starts tomorrow night: I'm going to start Karve teacher training! I have been working with Karve studio as their dietitian for almost three years and now take a class 4-6 days per week. I absolutely adore Karve's safe and extremely effective method that uses a ballet barre and integrates pilates, dance, and basic gym moves. Each class leaves me sore and stretched out, and even though I have been doing it for quite a while, I never get bored (or hit a plateau). It seems like teaching is the next logical step, and with the opening of the new North Scottsdale studio - less than a mile from my office - there is a great need for new instructors. I feel so blessed to be included in this class of training teachers and can't wait to meet new friends and learn how to share the method I love so much with others.

This is me during my most recent nutrition seminar at Karve Scottsdale:

With this new change comes another. Since I will be training every Monday and Wednesday night for 12+ weeks, I will be experimenting less in the kitchen and might not be blogging as often. However, if there's a topic or recipe you're really interested in seeing, please let me know! Adding Karve teacher training to an already full schedule (day job, nutrition consulting business, workout schedule, family and social life) means that something has to give - and God willing it won't be my sanity or free time.

It's important to do what you love and make time for things that are important to you. I believe more each day that happiness and fulfillment are above all else when it comes to my work life. May 2012 bring you clarity, satisfaction, and positive change.