Monthly Archives: September 2015

Flu & Cold Season~part 2 Home Remedies




Growing up in the 1950’s with a stay at home mother who loved to cook, bake, & garden, taught me to use what I have at hand. She didn’t drive so she couldn’t run to the drugstore when we had a sore throat, cough or a high fever. The phrase that comes to mind from those times is, “think simple”. Simple is cheaper & usually better.

There are many homemade remedies to treat the symptoms from a cold or flu. In this post I will share the ones that I use & that I know work. Each year more over the counter cold & flu remedies are pulled off the shelf by the FDA due to ingredients that are harmful to both adults & children. Sometimes over the counter cold & flu remedies make you feel worse because of the side-effects & the cost ūüôā

If you don’t grow your own herbs then you can purchase fresh herbs like sage, thyme & rosemary in the produce section of the market. Fresh works the best, but you can use dried. Simply buy them in the spice aisle. There are many sage’s. The one to use medicinally is the culinary sage. At the end of this post is a list of resources. They are my well used & loved herbal reference books & websites.

Sore throats can be bacterial or viral infections. The majority of them are due to viral infections heralding the start of a common cold. Throat inflammation is an immune response to the virus & usually accompanies a runny nose & cough. The following simple remedies will relieve the soreness & calm the inflammation in the throat.

  • Gargle with warm salt water. Water should be warm to the touch but not hot.

1 cup of water & 1/4 tsp salt. Swish & spit.

  • Sore Throat Gargle by the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. This one has a bit of Zip to it. Rosemary says that she is the first to admit that it isn’t her tastiest recipe but it works for both sore throats & laryngitis.

1 cup of apple cider vinegar ~I use Bragg’s~

1 cup of strong (triple strength) sage tea ~I use 3 tablespoons of fresh sage or you can use 3 teaspoons dried sage, bring 1 cup of water to boil, add sage & steep for 15 minutes~

2-3 teaspoons of salt

Pinch of Cayenne

Combine all of the ingredients. Gargle frequently as needed throughout the day. Don’t swallow, swish & spit.

  • Sage Gargle.¬†This is an old family recipe that Dr. Low Dog recommends for a sore throat. It works quickly.

1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried sage 

1/4 teaspoon salt  

1 cup of water

Bring the water to a boil, add sage, cover & let steep for 10 minutes. Strain, pour into a tea mug, add the salt & stir.

Gargle every 1-2 hours, or as needed. Don’t swallow, swish & spit.

Dr. Low Dog notes that this gargle can be used along with antibiotics for strep throat.

Strep throat symptoms By Mayo Clinic Staff  In general, signs and symptoms of strep throat include: (Click on the link & read the entire article for when to see the doctor etc.)

  • Throat pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Tiny red spots on the soft or hard palate ‚ÄĒ the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
  • Swollen, tender lymph glands (nodes) in your neck
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Stomachache and sometimes vomiting, especially in younger children
  • Fatigue

***Strep throat is bacterial & different than a cold because it never has the stuffy nose & cough. Strep throat is highly contagious so it is important to be treated immediately with a course of antibiotics. 

Cough. This is your bodies way of telling you that you have too much mucous, gastric acid or you have been breathing in smoke. It varies from a small irritating tickle in the back of your throat to a full blown wet cough. Coughs that accompany colds last about 3 weeks. If they last longer than that or continue to get worse you should consult your health care team.

  • Honey has been used for coughs forever! Researchers have studied different types of honey & found that all of them work as well as any over the counter cough syrup. It is especially effective for children over the age of 12 months to relieve a nighttime cough. 1-2 teaspoons before bed. Works for adults too ūüôā It is a great soother for throat cancer patients with sores or thrush in the mouth & throat.¬†

***Honey should never be given, even a tiny taste, to children under the age of 12 months. Wild honey can be contaminated with bacteria Clostridium Botulinum & may cause poisoning in infants and young children. However, this is not a danger for older children and adults.

  • Thyme Cough Syrup by Dr. Low Dog. This is her go-to cough syrup because it works quickly, is safe, taste great & costs very little to make. Thyme relieves coughs & congestion.

4 tablespoons fresh Thyme or 4 teaspoons dried Thyme ~culinary, common garden thyme~

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup of water

1/4 cup honey, preferably raw & local or 1/4 cup maple syrup if using it for a child under 12 months of age.

Pour near-boiling water over thyme & steep, covered, for 15 minutes. strain. Add honey & lemon juice. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Children 12 months or older: 1-2 teaspoons every 2-3 hours as needed.

Teens & Adults: 1-2 tablespoons every 2-3 hours as needed.

Congestion. This is usually an excessive amount of mucus or secretions in your respiratory track. It causes difficulty breathing thru the nose or sometimes even the mouth. If the congestion becomes worse & you have difficulty breathing then it indicates that it has moved lower into the lungs. You should seek medical advice.

  • Warm water with lemon & honey helps loosen congestion, and prevents dehydration.¬†
  • My recipe for colds & upper respiratory congestion. I don’t know where the original recipe came from but I have tweaked it over the years enough to call it mine ūüôā It works well.

1 cup of water  

1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar~I use Bragg’s~

Juice of 1 fresh lime

Honey to taste

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root 

1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder ~ don’t use less, even if you don’t like cayenne~

Bring the water to a boil & then add the rest of the ingredients. Let sit overnight before using. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. I prefer to use it warm. Take 1-2 tablespoons as needed. For children over the age of 4, 1 teaspoon as needed. It is quite spicy! 

  • Fire Cider.¬†There are many versions of fire cider. I use Rosemary Gladstar’s.¬†This is an immune enhancer, can be used for digestive problems, sinus infection & congestion!

3-4 Tablespoons fresh horse radish root grated

1 medium onion chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic coursley chopped

3-4 tablespoons freshly grated gingerroot

Honey to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

unfiltered apple cider vinegar~I use Bragg’s~

Combine the onion, garlic, ginger & horseradish in a wide mouthed glass quart jar. Add enough warmed vinegar to cover them. Place it in a warm spot & let it sit for 3-4 weeks. Strain, & add the honey & cayenne. It should taste lively, hot, pungent & sweet.

Take 1-2 teaspoons at the first sign of a cold & repeat every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside. 

Cold Remedies. Fire Cider ~above~ & Honey-Onion Syrup are to fight off a cold. You can use either of them at the first sign of a cold or if you are already suffering from one.

  • Honey-Onion¬†Syrup for Colds.¬†Rosemary Gladstar shared this old fashioned recipe for sore throats & colds.¬†

2-4 large onions sliced into thin half-moons & place in a deep pan. Just barely cover the onion slices with honey.

Warm on the stove over a very low heat until the onions are soft & somewhat mushy & the honey tastes strongly of onion.

You can add chopped garlic if you want for an even stronger syrup: stronger medicinally & tasting!

At the first sign of a cold take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon every hour or two until you feel better. If you already have a cold then take 1 teaspoon 3-4 times a day to speed your recovery.

  • Chicken Soup: Studies of homemade¬†chicken soup to cure or limit a cold have shown that it acts as an anti-inflammatory. It also speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose. This can relieve congestion & prevent dehydration. Homemade is the best but if you buy an organic canned soup then check the list of ingredients. Here are two websites with both vegetarian & non-vegetarian immune boosting soups.

Super Soups: Vegetarian Times¬†“Nearly every culture turns to soup to heal, nourish, and soothe. Whether you‚Äôre battling a bad cold or the stomach flu, the food that can always comfort and nourish is soup. ‚ÄúSoups are warm and easy to take,‚ÄĚ says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the University of Arizona‚Äôs Integrative Medicine Program. ‚ÄúThey‚Äôre an excellent way to get nutrients, and they provide good associations for people.‚ÄĚ Research confirms the health-giving properties of these home remedies and their active ingredients. Try these healing soup recipes from all over the world to ward off illness or just warm up a chilly weeknight supper.”

Fever. If you have a fever of¬†103 or higher & it lasts more than 3 days you should consult your health team. A fever means a healthy immune system. It is telling your body to raise the heat to defend itself. You don’t need to treat the fever. You need to treat whatever is causing the fever. Support the body during the time you have the fever by doing the following.

  • Hydrate.¬†It is easy to become dehydrated when you have a fever.¬†Water, juice, & healthy broths. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated drinks. Chamomile & or Lemon Balm tea are calming & hydrating.
  • Rest.¬†Sleep does wonders when you are ill.
  • Nourishment. Healthy broths & soups ~see chicken soup above~
  • Cool down.¬†Wear light clothes. Taking a tepid, not cold, bath can help as long as you wrap up in a towel after the bath to avoid being too chilled.


If you have any questions or you have a family remedy you would like to share, email me! I would love to collect some old family herbal remedies.

A follow-up note for breast cancer patients suffering from hot flashes &/or night sweats….our fellow NUT, Terrie, shared this article in Cure with me. Acupuncture Could Cool Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors¬†Thank you Terrie!


*** If your sore throat or cough is severe, persists for more than 2 days, is accompanied or followed by fever (103 or higher & lasts more than 3 days), headache, rash, swelling, nausea, or vomiting, call your health care team. This may be more than a cold or a mild case of the flu.

Flu & Cold Season~part 1

Tea 1 (2)


The flu & cold season is upon us. What can you safely use for cold & flu symptoms before, during & after chemotherapy, radiation or surgery? There are literally thousands of over the counter remedies to choose from. I will talk about remedies that are natural & easy to find. I will also note if there are any drug interactions that you should be aware of.

Lets begin with ways to help stimulate the immune system to fight off colds & flu. Here are the obvious ones.

  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Think Mediterranean ūüôā
  • Eliminate added sugar & processed foods.
  • Alleviate stress with mindfulness programs or meditation.
  • Exercise

There are also products that I have found useful. My husband is a substitute teacher for elementary grades. He is exposed to a lot of germs from those little people. Starting at the end of August I recommend that he takes the following…

  • Vitamin C:¬† 1000 mgm each morning. This is an anti-oxidant & you should check with your health care team if you are taking chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Elderberry Syrup:¬†Black elderberries are anti-viral & will relieve flu symptoms. They are also protective if taken every morning during the flu season. Sambucus Syrup by Nature’s Way is a good, safe brand to use. Gaia Black Elderberry Syrup is another good, safe brand.¬† This is an anti-oxidant & you should check with your health care team if you are taking chemotherapy or radiation.¬†

Herbal Teas are wonderful to help with cold & flu symptoms. Taken in tea form two or three times a day they will not interact with medications. Check with your health care team when in treatment. Here are 2 safe brands of herbal medicinal teas I use & recommend. I have also included a few that you should know about for other problems ūüôā

Traditional Medicinals Seasonal Teas: These are the teas that I have personal experience with. Traditional Medicinals are organic teas. Herbal teas should be steeped for 10 minutes. Follow the directions on the package.

  • Gypsy Cold Care:¬†I use this tea when exposed to a cold or when I start with the runny nose & itchy eyes. I drink an 8 ounce cup three times a day for 2 to 3 days.¬†“Elder, yarrow and peppermint‚ÄĒthe foundation of this tea‚ÄĒare a classic European blend of herbs used for centuries. We love the aroma of the pungent, minty steam that rises off this tea. Sip slowly and let your weary body be comforted by its warming properties. Fragrant and soothing, it‚Äôs one of those teas that just seems to say, ‚Äúdon‚Äôt worry, everything‚Äôs going to be all right.‚ÄĚ
  • Throat Coat:¬†The herbal ingredients in this tea soothe a raw throat. I have also used it for GERD or acid reflux. Works well for both.¬†“Slippery elm or Ulmus rubra (Latin for ‚Äúred elm,‚ÄĚ so called for its lovely reddish bark) is a beautiful, native North American elm tree. It‚Äôs the inner bark of this tree that is actually called ‚Äúslippery elm‚ÄĚ due to its, yes, slippery, smooth, and slimy-in-a-good-way properties. Combined with licorice and marshmallow root, we think this tea blend is like taking your voice to the spa‚ÄĒbecause we all need a little comfort sometimes so we can get back to being our best.”
  • Breathe Easy:¬†Love this tea! It opens up those¬†bronchial. When my grandsons were babies & had a bad cold where they weren’t able to lie down because of respiratory congestion, I gave them a tablespoon or two of prepared tea. Within a few minutes they were asleep. I also use it for other types of respiratory congestion such as asthma.¬†“One of our original formulas, Breathe Easy tea has been supporting people for nearly four decades. This enduring classic combines the best of Western herbalism with ancient Traditional Chinese wisdom resulting in a unique blend that warms and engages the senses. Eucalyptus, fennel and licorice are combined with Bi Yan Pian extract, a traditional Chinese formula of 12 different herbs. We love this aromatic and fragrant blend that soothes with its warm and spicy taste.”
  • Echinacea Plus:¬†Echinacea is a good immune stimulant. This tea or Echinacea ¬†with lemon &/or elder is very good. ¬†“Echinacea‚ÄĒor purple coneflower‚ÄĒwas used by a number of Native American tribes for hundreds of years before it was introduced into Western herbal traditions in the late 1800s. Today, it is one of the most studied herbs. We love how this pleasant-tasting herbal blend supports a healthy immune system response.”
  • You should also know about their other teas that I recommend: Smoothe Move for constipation, even when chemotherapy induced. Ginger Aid for all nausea & Nighty Night tea for those sleepless nights.¬†
  • Cooling Sage:¬†I am adding this one for those of you with Menopausal symptoms. Sage is an amazing herb that I grow to use medicinally. ¬†Relieves excess sweating and the night sweats associated with menopausal hot flashes.¬†Reason to Love:¬†While we won‚Äôt say the sage in this tea has mystical properties, we do know that the Latin name for sage (Salvia) means ‚Äúto be saved.‚ÄĚ When menopause brings on those hot flashes and excess sweating ‚Äď being saved is exactly what you might need! We love this traditional blend of sage and motherwort for its ability to help relieve hot flashes associated with menopause and soothe the body and spirit.”

Yogi Cold Weather Season Teas: This brand is as good as Traditional Medicinals. It is a fantastic company & uses Organic herbs. Herbal teas should be steeped for 10 minutes. Follow the directions on the package.

  • Breathe Deep:¬†Similar to¬†Breathe Easy. I prefer the herbs used in¬†Breathe Easy, but both work the same. See which one works best for you.¬†“Relax and breathe in the enchanting aroma of a steaming cup of Yogi Breathe Deep tea. This all organic blend of herbs is purposefully formulated to support respiratory health. Traditionally used to support free breathing, we include Thyme and soothing, aromatic Eucalyptus. Warming spices Cinnamon, Cardamom and Ginger, combine with Licorice for a naturally spicy-sweet blend. Enjoy this tea plain or with a little honey, and experience delight with every steaming cup of Breathe Deep tea.”
  • Honey Lemon Throat Comfort¬†& Throat Comfort: “The perfect way to help soothe your throat is with a cup of our certified organic Honey Lemon Throat Comfort¬ģ tea. This traditional herbal formula, flavored with Honey and Lemon, includes Slippery Elm Bark, prized by Western herbalists for its usefulness in relieving minor throat irritation. Wild Cherry Bark, traditionally used by native North Americans for its soothing effects, lends a naturally sweet cherry flavor. We augment this recipe with Echinacea Root and a burst of Peppermint for cooling refreshment. Enjoy our Honey Lemon Throat Comfort tea as a naturally tasty treat or when you need a gentle and comforting blend to soothe your throat.”¬†Both teas are excellent to soothe the throat. Throat Comfort would be the one to use for GERD or gastric reflux. The lemon in the other one may irritate the gastric lining in this case.
  • Cold Season Tea:¬†A good “protective” tea for the cold season. Like the other tea, I use it when I know I have been exposed to a cold or I begin to have the runny nose & itchy eyes.¬†“Cold Season is a soothing all organic herbal tea specifically formulated for use during the cold weather season. We start with the warming herbs traditionally used in Ayurveda‚ÄďGinger, Cardamom, Cinnamon and Clove‚Äďknown as heating herbs that can help to support respiratory and bronchial function. The blend is complemented with Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Basil, herbs traditionally used for their warming and invigorating properties. So when the cold weather season arrives, relax and sip a steaming cup of Cold Season tea to help keep your internal fire blazing.”
  • Echinacea Immune Support:¬†Good tea to support immune function.¬†Health practitioners for centuries have respected the powers of Echinacea. Traditionally used for centuries, our exclusive combination combines three varieties of Echinacea root, an herb that is believed by herbalists to support the immune system. We complement this blend with Elder Berry Extract and soothing Organic Mullein Leaf, herbs traditionally used to help support respiratory function. Hints of spice combine with lively Peppermint, Lemongrass, Rose Hip and sweet Licorice for an intriguingly delicious blend. This blend is sure to become an all-season favorite as well as when your immune system needs support.”
  • Other Yogi teas that I recommend: Get Regular¬† for constipation, even when chemotherapy induced. Ginger¬†for all nausea &¬†Bedtime¬†for those sleepless nights!

Lozenges for colds, coughs & sore throats: Cough suppressants prevent or stop a cough. An expectorant is a medication that helps bring up the mucus in the lungs.

I saw 2 interesting questions on line about cough drops; How many calories are there in one cough drop? & How many cough drops would be an overdose? I don’t think calories should be a concern when you are coughing your lungs up ūüôā & you should not be eating these like candy. Most packages say the “serving size” is one lozenge & should be taken as needed up to 5 lozenges per DAY.¬†

  • Organic Sambucus Lozenges by Nature’s Way:¬†These lozenges shorten my cold symptoms & reduce the severity. They contain Elderberry, Vitamin C & Zinc. I also use them as a cough suppressant.¬†“Made with unique, full-spectrum black elderberry extract. Each lozenge provides 12.5 mg of Black Elderberry Extract, plus 5 mg of Zinc~should never exceed 10mg~ and 60 mg Vitamin C.”
  • Ricola Original Natural Herb Cough Drop:¬†My husband prefers these. They are cough suppressants & work¬†every time¬†he uses them. Ricola original herb cough drops contain the goodness of mountain herbs. This classic Ricola product has a distinctive cube shape and fine herb flavor. Original Ricola natural herb cough drops are made today just as they were in the 1940‚Äôs using the highest quality natural herbs cultivated in Swiss alpine areas using natural farming methods without chemical pesticides to ensure optimum taste and effectiveness.”¬†Their sugar-free cough drops with green tea & echinacea contain Aspartame. Unless you have a medical reason to use a sugar-free cough drop, I would not use these.
  • Smith Brothers & Halls: Both have ingredients & dyes that I would not recommend. Check out their websites & see what you think.

Aromatherapy essential Oils for congestion & cough: Use these in a diffuser or humidifier~ using the manufacturers instructions~ in the “sick” room. Do not use directly on the skin or internally.¬†

  • Eucalyptus essential oil: Congestion & cough. Anti-microbial.
  • Camphor essential oil: Congestion. Can be combined with eucalyptus for use in diffuser/humidifier. Add equal drops.
  • Peppermint essential oil: Congestion & headache. Anti-bacterial.
  • Thyme essential oil: Congestion & cough.
  • Tea Tree essential oil: Clears sick room; anti-viral. Congestion & cough.
  • Oregano: Proven antibacterial. Fights sinus infections.
  • Orange essential oil: Stimulates appetite. Add a drop to your place-mat or napkin ūüôā

Umcka Cold Care: Umcka Original¬†Drops are made by Nature’s Way. One of my daughter’s favorite cold care remedies for my grandsons. This product is Homeopathic which means it will not¬†interact¬†with any medications.¬†“Umcka goes beyond symptom relief and actually helps you recover faster ‚Äď which means you can get back to life faster, too. In fact, studies show that adults with acute bronchial irritations were able to return to work nearly two days earlier with EPs 7630. You can feel confident knowing that the EPs 7630 found within Umcka has been widely studied by various clinical organizations in the treatment of the common cold, bronchial irritations and other upper respiratory concerns.”¬†

Olbas Oil:¬†¬†Place a drop or two on a cotton ball or a handkerchief. Place it on or under your pillow when napping or before bed time. It will act as a decongestant.¬†Olbas Oil originated in Basel, Switzerland over 100 years ago, and continues to be a European and worldwide favorite. The natural essential oils in Olbas are extracted from six medicinal herbs, which have been the basis of healing in cultures around the world for centuries. These oils are carefully blended by Swiss herbalists, making the Olbas formula truly unique. The synergistic combination of these six essential oils provides amazing sensations to your body at multiple levels.”

*** If your sore throat or cough is severe, persists for more than 2 days, is accompanied or followed by fever, headache, rash, swelling, nausea, or vomiting, call your health care team. This may be more than a cold or a mild case of the flu.

Dispose Of Expired Medications Properly, Turn Them In On National Drug Take Back Day This is happening on September 26th nationally. Read the article to see what they will take back. It also tells you how to dispose of these unwanted medications & over the counter drugs at home. Wonderful public service.

Next week in Flu & Cold Season~part 2, I will share home remedies for flu & cold symptoms that are easy to make. For example an easy sore throat gargle & cough syrup….Happy Equinox!….Mary


Powdered caffeine??? & other news.

Coffee me 2


My love of coffee is well known. I love the smell of the coffee beans when I open the canister. Making a cup of coffee is a morning ritual for me: grind the beans, set the water to just before boiling, lovingly put the grounds in a French Press, add the water & mindfully ūüôā wait for the 4 minutes brewing time. First sip is pure bliss! I drink coffee for its flavor first & as a “wake me up” secondly. By the way, unbeknownst to most of you, I feel the same way about tea. Again, the process of making a pot of tea or coffee is a beautiful ritual not to be missed.

7 Healthy Perks of Coffee¬†“Your morning just got better: Drinking coffee can dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease, according to a report recently presented at the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation’s 2015 meeting.”¬†When you read this article I want you to read the whole thing. When you get to the weight loss section take note of what the author has written.¬†“Researchers can‚Äôt seem to agree on coffee and caffeine‚Äôs effects on weight loss; while compounds such as chlorogenic acid and quinides in coffee may potentially aid in weight loss, excessive intake has been linked with weight gain. Either way, if you don‚Äôt load your coffee with cream and sugar, coffee can be a healthy part of a calorie-controlled diet, Koullias says. After all, an 8-ounce cup of black coffee contains a single calorie.” ¬†So, more is not better! Enjoy one or two cups a day. More than that can contribute to health problems. Moderation ūüôā

I have had emails asking about the safety of using caffeine laden drinks to boost energy; which leads me to the headline I saw last week; FDA issues new warnings to distributors of powdered caffeine, calling products ‚Äėdangerous‚Äô¬†“The FDA noted in its letters that a single teaspoon of pure, powdered caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee. It noted that consuming as little as a teaspoon¬†of the stimulant has been associated with nausea, vomiting, anxiety and heart palpitations, while consuming a tablespoon can result in more serious problems, such as chest pains, irregular heartbeat, seizures and, in some cases, death.”¬†This is another example of marketing a single “property” of a whole food. In this case it is marketed to those who want the caffeine high. One tablespoon of this powder could be lethal. It is sold in large quantities! In another article,¬†F.D.A. Warns 5 Producers of Powdered Caffeine, it states that a 100 gram package, 3.5 ounces, is equal to 400 tall cups of Starbucks coffee, 1,250 cans of Red Bull, or 3000 cans of Coke. Last year 2 healthy young men died from this product.¬†

Stick to the coffee/tea ritual once or twice a day. Boosting energy can be accomplished by eating a healthy diet & exercising. Don’t rely on external stimuli in the form of caffeine to keep you moving.

“Dr. An¬†emphasized the need for people to consider everything they consume when trying to make healthier life choices. You aren’t just what you eat; you’re what you drink, too.” from an article in the Washington Post,¬†Drinking diet beverages? You‚Äôre probably making terrible food choices.¬†“Adults who drink¬†diet beverages tend to compensate by eating more unhealthy, nutrient-poor¬†foods, according to a study published Friday in the¬†Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.¬†I think we can all relate to this. I had to take a hard look at what I was eating with my coffee! Before work I would have coffee & a croissant with my daughter. As soon as I cut out the croissant I lost weight ūüôā Now, my morning coffee is part of my breakfast. When I go out for coffee with friends I try to be aware of what I am eating with it.¬†“The coffee association¬†might be because people tend to drink java with a snack, and that snack may more often than not fall into the bad discretionary category, An said.¬†Overall, people consumed an average of 482 calories from discretionary foods daily, according to the study, and obese adults drinking diet beverages consumed more calories from unhealthy foods than their “normal weight” counterparts.¬†And the habit is pretty self-defeating.”¬†Another reason to not drink diet drinks & to make healthier, more¬†mindful food choices to go along with our beverages.¬†

Which leads us to another interesting article this week:¬†Vitamin C ‘as effective as exercise’ for obesity vascular health¬†“The researchers found that daily supplementation of vitamin C at a time-release dose of 500 mg daily reduced endothelin-1-mediated vessel constriction as much as walking did.”¬†¬†I was happy to hear this because I take vitamin C daily. But I was disappointed in the statement:¬†The researchers explain that exercise has been shown to reduce endothelin-1 activity, but including it in a daily routine can be challenging.”¬† Vitamin C may be helpful but walking has the added¬†benefits¬†of¬†stress reduction, muscle strengthening, stimulating the immune system, and much more. Don’t be fooled into thinking that rather than walking, yoga or Zumba with Alessandra, you can lay around and just pop Vitamin C. Nothing is ever that simple ūüôā Here is an article I saw this morning………

Doctor ditches white coat for walking shoes¬†Westerville, Ohio (CNN)Cardiologist¬†Dr. David Sabgir thought he was doing everything he could¬†to help¬†his patients.¬†He spent¬†extra time during appointments, listening to¬†their¬†issues and giving¬†advice¬†on¬†how to live a healthier life.¬†“But in the end, I just wasn’t successful at encouraging them to get out there and get physically active,” said Sabgir, who has been in practice for 12 years.”¬†I love this doctor! He invited his patients on walks with him & his family. Watch the video to see the patient response. Starting your own walking group is an amazing way to become healthier. Look at all the¬†benefits¬†of walking that Dr. David Sabgir lists in the article.

Olive Oil-Rich Mediterranean Diet Linked To Reduced Breast Cancer Risk¬†I had to add this article from¬†Forbes! ¬†“In a small new study in Spain, women who consumed a hefty dose¬†of extra-virgin olive oil as part of a Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop breast cancer over the next five years than women eating a low-fat diet.”¬†If you read the study it actually says “extra amounts of extra-virgin olive oil”, not a “hefty dose”. We know that healthy fats are good for you & that olive oil is one of the best choices you can make. This was a small but significant study. The rise in breast cancer among men has also been making news. Until proven otherwise, I would go with the idea that a¬†Mediterranean¬†diet with¬†extra-virgin olive oil would be¬†beneficial¬†to men as well¬†as women. One more to read……

Diet heavy on olive oil cuts breast cancer risk by 62%, study says:¬†Even so, women would have nothing to lose ‚Äď and potential much to gain ‚Äď by eating more like the people in the Mediterranean, according to Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.¬†The Mediterranean diet ‚Äúis known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and is safe. It may also prevent breast cancer,‚ÄĚ he wrote in an¬†editor’s note that accompanied the study. ‚ÄúWe hope to see more emphasis on Mediterranean diet to reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease and improve health and well-being.‚ÄĚ This is such a simple change to make in one’s eating habits!¬†

I have written about gluten intolerance or sensitivity before. I am still not sure what is causing more and more people to become sensitive to gluten. Sometimes I think it is the genetically modified wheat, the pesticides used on them or maybe wheat is just more¬†prevalent¬†in foods. I would¬†like to share this article from the New York Times with you. It is a must read. The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten. The author, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, may have nailed it! “Maybe we should stop asking what is wrong with wheat, and begin asking what is wrong with us. ”¬†He points out in the article that no matter what the answer is, we should be looking at why “the modern immune system has gone on the fritz”.¬†He is right, this is worrisome. Why are auto-immune diseases on the rise? What is causing the immune system to fail us? I don’t have the answers but I do believe that avoiding prepackaged foods & pesticides, moving towards a balanced, plant centered diet & exercise will¬†definitely improve the immune system.

Our NUT Elf, Deborah, sent me this link to a wonderful new website. Of course, I immediately hit the Healthy Eating tab.¬† Healthy Eating¬†“The newly launched¬†website encourages, engages, and inspires women of all ages to make smart, everyday lifestyle choices, because the choices you make today can make a big difference tomorrow.” ¬†Take a look & see what you think. Always good to have another research based resource in your toolbox.

For those of you who are interested, here is the followup I promised you regarding Cocoa Cola funding “scientific” research looking at lack of exercise being the problem with obesity; not sugar laden drinks.¬†Global Energy Balance Network Response¬†¬†

I am going to end with an awesome recipe from¬†Scripps.¬†Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles¬†Going to try these for my weekly treat day. I will probably have to share ūüôĀ

See you here next week! …….Mary

Losing weight safely.

In my last post we discussed the direct link between obesity & cancer. Now you know the health risks of being obese & even overweight. If you are a cancer survivor or a person interested in decreasing the risk of cancer here are some questions you should be asking. How do you SAFELY lose weight? How do you MAINTAIN your weight loss or your present healthy weight?

A recent headline, from NYC Today, caught my eye.¬†PHYSICIAN ADVICE COULD HELP OBESE PATIENTS LOSE MORE WEIGHT:¬†Findings of researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, suggest that people who participate in weight-loss programs under supervision of certified physicians have better chances of losing weight than those who follow their own program.¬†Having a good relationship with your healthcare team has been shown to have a positive effect on the outcome of your illness. Having that healthcare team be the driving force behind a weight loss program only makes sense. This is what¬†Integrative¬†or Functional¬†Medicine is all about. Treating the entire patient including¬†his lifestyle & diet choices. Unfortunately there are not many weight-loss programs with a physician at the helm. There are not many physicians whose strong point is nutrition ūüôā

Most¬†commercial¬†weight-loss¬†programs do not include a physician.¬†US News & World Report listed the best diet programs of 2015.¬†Best Weight-Loss Diets: ¬†The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. HMR Diet,¬†Biggest Loser¬†and¬†Jenny Craig¬†came in close behind. Other diets performed as well or better in enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.”¬†Take a look at the list. I won’t go over all of them but I would like to comment on Weight Watchers.

The article¬†summarizes¬†the Weight Watchers Program:¬†“This popular points-counting diet helps dieters drop pounds and keep them off. In experts‚Äô ratings, Weight Watchers bested all other ranked diets for both short-term and long-term weight loss. That doesn‚Äôt guarantee it will work for everyone, of course. Its average rating of ‚Äúmoderately effective‚ÄĚ for long-term weight loss reflects the difficulty dieters have in staying on the wagon, even when using the best weight-loss diet available. Counting points rather than calories, learning portion control and being given choices of foods to eat, is why this program is popular & easy to follow. Weight Watchers does sell processed, &, frozen meals, that you may use. But this is a choice. I have used this program with great success & it is my fall back program when I am “stress eating” again ūüôā I like its versatility. I choose only those foods that are organic & fit into my¬†vegan/vegetarian¬†lifestyle. The leaders of the meetings have always been supportive & there are booklets to help vegetarians navigate the program. When you are finished with the program & see a few pounds creeping back it is an easy program to do on your own. I use this app: Pro Tracker¬†It is not from Weight Watcher but it is cheap & easy. It has the points for every food you can imagine & it allows you to add your own individual food or create a recipe & the points are automatically counted. If you¬†are a Weight Watcher participant or have been then take a look at this app.

Programs such as Jenny Craig¬†are set up around their pre-packaged foods that you eat while on the program. The problem with these types of programs is weaning you off their products & back to your own regular diet. Even though they provide¬†counseling¬†people find it difficult to return¬†to the “real world”. These types of programs are quite expensive.

Other programs that are available to you are at the major Hospitals. For example at UCSD, Moore’s Cancer Center: Healthy Eating Program¬†&¬†Scripps Weight Management Program.¬†Take advantage of these programs, they are set up for cancer patients, diabetics, heart disease & more.

What we learn from all these programs are that people lose weight & maintain that loss when it includes all of the following:

  • Food diary. Keeping a simple food diary leads to a healthy weight loss program. Grab a notebook & write down what you eat. The main tip to a steady weight loss is portion control. Writing it down will help you with that. There are so many apps online! This is just one example:¬†Food Diary and Calorie Tracker.
  • Support system & feedback. This can be from your friends, family or a program.
  • Slow & steady.¬†Losing 1/2 to 2 pounds a week at the most. Rapid weight loss can cause serious health problems.
  • Sustainable program. A healthy food plan consisting of real, familiar food & eating enough of it! Using a restrictive program ends in failure as it is not sustainable over the long haul.
  • Realistic goal.¬†The goal should be a lifetime change to improve your health not to lose weight for a wedding, swim suit season etc. If the goal is not a lifetime change then you set yourself up for failure. You may lose that weight for the wedding but then you gain it back plus more because you didn’t learn anything.
  • Exercise. 15-30 minutes a day not only helps you to maintain a healthy weight but it lowers blood pressure, & stress. It can be as simple as walking to get the mail or going to the gym. Yoga, Zumba, Tai Chi, Dance, are all considered exercises! ¬†Take a look at the¬†SDCRI Resource page. Scroll down for free exercise programs.
  • Sleep. 8 hours of sleep is the minimum recommended. The healthier your diet, & having an exercise program will contribute to a better sleep pattern.

This is a great resource when deciding what type of weight-loss program you should try. It goes over the questions you should ask about the program & what you should expect from it. National Institute of Health: Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-loss Program 

How do you lose the weight safely on your own & maintain the weight loss? Pull out all the information we have discussed about a plant based diet. Reread earlier posts & check the Topic tab. Eating a plant based diet based on the foods you like, you will see a natural, slow, healthy weight loss. It may be as little as 1/2 pound a week. This is the type of weight loss that is sustainable. The reason for this is not only what you are choosing to eat but most importantly what you have chosen not to eat. Consider the following.-

  • Limiting/excluding processed, prepackaged foods.
  • Limiting/excluding dairy products.
  • Continue to use healthy oils/fats in moderation.
  • Use a salad size plate if your dinner plate is the new “normal” size of 11-12″ in diameter. According to:¬†How Big Are Your Dinner Plates ‚ÄĒ And Why It Matters¬†Prior to 1960 the average American dinner plate was 7-9″. In Europe it is still 9″ on average. Some restaurants in the US use 13″ plates! The article says that switching to a smaller plate can reduce your intake by 22%! That means you can lose weight simply by using a smaller plate.
  • Serving: A measured amount of food or drink. Read the labels for what a serving size is and eat just one serving.
  • Portions: ¬†The amount of food you choose to eat. Remember the plate? Portion your food according to the plate & do¬†Choose my Platenot go back for seconds.





Not only have our plates increased in size! Here is an interesting article from the National Institute of Health: Portion Distortion:¬†“Average portion sizes have grown so much over the past 20 years that sometimes the plate arrives and there’s enough food for two or even three people on it. Growing portion sizes are changing what Americans think of as a “normal” portion at home too. We call it portion distortion.”¬†

Check out these examples of how larger portions lead to increased calories:

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
1 cup sauce
3 small
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
1.5 ounces 210 5 ounces 500

My favorite downloadable chart to understand portion size is the one from WebMD. I have the frig size. Here is the link:¬†WebMD’s wallet sized:¬†Portion Control and Size Guide¬†Food portion sizes today are far bigger than they were in the past, which means we’re taking in far more calories than we realize. Understanding healthy and correct portion sizes is critical to long-term weight management. This printable wallet-size portion control guide will help to keep you on track even when you‚Äôre on the go, and be sure to check out the fridge-size portion control guide, too!”

With the above information & resources you should be able to craft a simple, easy, lifetime healthy eating program that is sustainable. Using familiar foods & portion control is the trick. 

Additional resources: 

  • Shelf Life Advice:¬†¬†Wondering about how long those eggs will last? How about those veggies you have had for two days? This site is really nice to find out the shelf life for specific items.
  • StillTastey:¬†¬†Another good site to find the shelf life of frozen & fresh foods.

See you here next week!…………….Mary