Browsed by
Month: December 2016

Reducing Inflammation: Lifestyle

Reducing Inflammation: Lifestyle

Addressing inflammation in your body needs to be a whole system’s approach.  Diet is key, but so is your lifestyle.  Just as we discussed that foods have been afflicted with toxins and chemicals, so have our environments.  These days we live fast paced lives getting from one place to the next, fitting in our work and family responsibilities with our social calendar.  We spend a lot of time in transit, be it car, bus, taxi… you name it.  We have new and improved means of living, complete with amazing technological gadgets to accommodate our needs and desires.  We have cell phones outfitted with wifi and social media outlets so we can be in constant contact at all times.  Our homes are updated with central air and heat so we never have to suffer the discomfort of the changing weather.  And thank goodness for the harsh cleaning chemicals so we can get rid of all those pesky germs that we come in to contact with on a daily basis!

Population increases mean more people now inhabit our cities and towns and neighborhoods.  This is wonderful news for our social lives, but it also means increased output of toxins, carbon dioxide, and noise pollution.  More construction to accommodate this increase of people contributes to air pollution.  Businesses follow the growth of neighborhoods, along with even more construction, and our economy flourishes while our health suffers.

There are many amazing upsides to all we have available to us these days, so please don’t misunderstand me.  We have come so far and can accomplish things our ancestors never even thought to dream of!  But, this achievement of lofty goals can get the best of us if we are not cognizant of the fact that our roots are important too.  While we don’t necessarily need to go back to those simpler times, we do need to remember that some of the knowledge from our ancestors is still relevant.  They lived simply.  They lived lives according to the seasons.  While they were forced to live this way, there is still much value to this method.  Eating seasonally has been previously discussed for it’s merits, but consider the idea of living seasonally.  Darkness and cold symbolize times of rest and quiet.  Evenings were spent with family celebrating music and togetherness.  But now, we use our evenings to stretch the day a little further accomplishing just one more task.  What we lose is that time at the end of the day to unwind, to relax, to smile, to enjoy our loved ones and our quiet.  And while it no doubt seems small, it’s actually quite a big loss.

Reducing our stress goes a long way to make us feel happier each day and improve our emotional wellbeing, but it also affects our physiologic processes.  Stress impacts our breathing, our neurologic functions, our hormone and cortisol production, our metabolism processes, and how we function everyday.  If we short our bodies their due measures to recover from arduous work, it will eventually add up.  We can handle it for a little while, but over time the effects become more pronounced.  Remember, if we see something manifest on the outside, it has no doubt been manifesting internally for quite some time.  And it is this imbalance in our bodies that leads to inflammation.  Reducing stress will reduce inflammation, which then will help us feel more content, improve our sleep, our digestion, mental faculties, athletic endeavors, and all of our very important daily functions.

So let’s discuss some easy ways to reduce our stress, and our inflammation.

  • deep breathing
  • mindfulness meditation
  • exercise, from gentle to strenuous
  • walking outside
  • spending time in nature
  • gentle, soothing music
  • art, participating or observing
  • hobbies and pleasures
  • hugs
  • smiling and laughing
  • aromatherapy
  • massage
  • hot baths

 

The list is just a beginning.  Anything that provides enjoyment is beneficial to our individual stress levels.  But don’t stop there.  Respecting our need for fresh air, for peace and quiet… that is important and helpful to us as well.  Many of us have fallen out of touch with nature and quiet.  But it’s not a permanent dislike, teach yourself that it is simply a habit you need to reinstate.  If you find yourself to be one of those who would prefer not to go outside or to not slow down, start with small steps.  Five minutes a day is doable.  Go outside, get some sunshine.  Breathe.  Soon you will find yourself looking forward to this time for yourself.  They say twelve times makes a habit!  So keep doing it until you seek it out on your own.

Try to go out without your technology- no smartphones, wifi gadgets and no music.  Just nature, just fresh air.  Look for places away from traffic.  The greener the better.  Or the bluer- sky, lake, ocean… Find what soothes you and give this little gift to yourself.  And then add to this any of the things on the list above (or, better yet, make your own list!) in your daily or weekly routine.  Watch yourself transform and visibly become happier and healthier as a result.

There is no room for guilt here either.  Taking care of yourself is taking care of the others in your life.  Without you, where will they be?  And you realize you would want this for them, so know that they will want this for you.  You will come back refreshed, calmer, and more prepared for what ever comes your way next.  You will thank yourself, and your family will thank you, for making these small changes.  Because it is these small changes that will make some of the biggest impact on the quality of your life.

Immune Boosting Pumpkin Seeds

Immune Boosting Pumpkin Seeds

img_6135

I thought we could take a break from our inflammation series for a quick recipe share.  With cold and flu season in full swing, I try to incorporate natural approaches to boosting the immune system at every opportunity.  There are so many foods that fit the bill, but a favorite household snack of mine is pumpkin seeds.

I often buy the pumpkin seeds in the shell.  They have a pleasant mild flavor, and eating them with the shell on offers a nice array of vitamins and minerals.  With the shell intact, the seed retains that all important layer of nutrients.  We get more from the food when we eat it.  According to the USDA Nutrient Database, pumpkin seeds offer a good source of zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and even vitamins A, C, B6, folate and riboflavin (2016).

However, I also like to buy the already shelled pumpkin seeds.  I buy them in raw form so that I can prepare them myself.  I choose to follow the traditional method of preparation which involves soaking raw nuts and seeds overnight in clean, filtered water.  This allows the seed bran to soften and open up, also breaking down the phytic acid naturally contained within.  This harsh outer coating on the seed, nut or grain, protects the valuable nutrients stored inside.  It acts as a toxin and deterrent to would be consumers (insects, animals, and people). When we soak, we release these acids and make the nutrition more readily available to our bodies (Nagel, R., 2010).  Generally, a light seed such as a pumpkin seed, only needs to be soaked 6-8 hours.  Heartier seeds and grains may require more time.

Once soaked, I drain my seeds and give them a little time to air dry.  This is a good time to prepare your flavor spices and oils.  I prefer to use a high heat stable oil, such as coconut or avocado oil.  As this particular recipe is savory, I’m going with avocado oil.  To this I add fresh chopped garlic, cayenne pepper, turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, a little raw honey, and possibly some oregano or thyme.  All of these ingredients are natural immune boosting powerhouses.  And they happen to pair well nicely!  Pour this mixture over the seeds, stirring thoroughly to evenly coat the mix.

Spread the seeds in a thin layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Preheat the oven to 175 and place the tray inside.  I let this cook slowly for a longer period of time, sometimes as long as the whole afternoon.  It smells wonderful while it’s cooking, and this time of year the warmth in the kitchen is a welcome feeling.  I have also bumped the temperature up to 350 for a few minutes to give it a last minute crispiness, but watch this carefully.  It goes from nicely toasted to sadly burnt quickly!

Once you are satisfied with the texture of your seeds, allow them to cool and then store in a glass jar with a tightly sealed lid.  They will keep for a long time, though mine tend to disappear rapidly.  Eat them as snacks on their own, add to salads, grind to a paste and eat with cheese and vegetables, or sprinkle on top of hummus.  There are many ways to enjoy these tasty treats, and you will love them so much you won’t even remember you are eating them to keep you healthy and strong!

 

img_6134Immune Boosting Pumpkin Seeds

  • One 16oz. bag of shelled pumpkin seeds, raw
  • 1/8-1/4c. Avocado oil
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4c. local, raw honey
  • Spices, to taste:
  • Sea Salt
    • Turmeric
    • Black Pepper
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Oregano
    • Thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 175.

2. Soak shelled seeds over night in clean, filtered water.

3. Drain and allow to dry slightly.

4. Prepare mix of oil and spices in a small bowl.

5. Place the seeds in a large bowl and pour the spices and oil over the top.  Mix thoroughly.

6.  Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

7. Cook for a few hours, checking every so often and turning them over to roast both sides.

8. Taste occasionally and when satisfied, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

 

 

 

USDA Agricultural Research service https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3695

Nagel, R., (2010).  Living with Phytic Acid. Weston A. Price Foundation. retrieved from :http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/living-with-phytic-acid/