If you are within 20 feet of another person, you probably don’t feel comfortable sneezing right now, even if it is from allergies. The good news is there are many natural allergy interventions that also support the immune system.
Differences between Allergy symptoms and COVID-19?
Are you analyzing every sneeze and cough right now?
A sniffle might cause someone to worry that they are showing symptoms of Coronavirus infection, but fortunately there are many difference between that and allergy symptoms.
The most common symptoms for COVID-19 are:
Shortness of breath
The most common allergy symptoms are:
runny or stuffy nose
watery and itchy eyes
itchy sinuses, throat, or ear canals
Immune support for Allergy Season
Did you know that many of our favorite immune products can also reduce allergy season misery?
Supplements like these modulate our immune responses to help us react less to allergens. They don’t work particularly quickly so we often need to add faster acting substances to help ease symptoms.
Some top recommendations for allergies:
Nettle Leaf- appears to work through anti-inflammatory pathways including reducing histamine release from mast cells.
Quercetin- a popular choice during allergy season, probably due to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) – helps break up mucus and is used by the body to make one of its most important antioxidants called glutathione.
Plus, Quercetin and NAC are being reviewed for their benefits during viral infections. Mechanistic studies (not actual trials with people) show that it may inhibit infection from various strains of influenza. NAC was shown to reduce the severity of flu symptoms in a study with 262 participates.
Give yourself some piece of mind. Support your immune health for seasonal allergies and general wellness.
Patient questions made me realize it was time to repost this blog. If you end up getting creative and designing your own blend, let me know what herbs you use!
Yes, you can use herbs and essential oils to help kill bacteria and fight off wintertime infections. Many companies make blends of essential oils known as thieves oil or its numerous other names . These are probably not the original formula the thieves used during the plague as that probably included garlic. I am would much rather smell like eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, cloves, or any of the other antimicrobial essential oils.
So how did this name thieves oil come about? In Europe during the plague known as the Black Death, a group of thieves made an herbal vinegar concoction to douse themselves in and successfully robbed houses and bodies without coming down with the plague. This vinegar concoction was thought to contain garlic and rosemary and a variety of other herbs that no one seems to agree upon. It possibly had thyme, sage and lavender, but there are so many herbs with antimicrobial properties that could have been used depending on what was available to them for each batch.
To protect yourself and your family from wintertime germs, there are a lot of options to choices from. If you like to make stuff at home, there are great recipes out there for Four Thieves Vinegar, which can be used as a surface disinfectant or taken internally as an immune booster. You can also make your own thieves oil blend from common essential oils. And you can support one of our local businesses by checking out Essential Arts Well Being oil. It is in a base of grapeseed oil so it ready to be rubbed into the soles of the feet or used as a chest rub for colds and coughs. This just scratches the surface of all of the amazing way herbs and essential oils can be used to help us be healthy in the winter. So remember you can stay well and smell great doing it (if you leave the garlic out).
My letter about the Coronavirus was printed on the opinion page of a newspaper in my region. I was concerned, as was the author of the article I cited, that people were making unsubstantiated promises about how natural remedies could cure Coronavirus.
Of course, if those I care for are affected by this new Coronavirus, I am going to extrapolate from my natural medicine experience with other viral illness. But I will be upfront about this approach, and I will also strongly encourage everyone to seek treatment with their primary care doctor so that all tools can be employed.
Here are some of the natural interventions I will consider for prevention:
Research has shown that some herbs can help prevent flu including licorice root, American ginseng, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic.
Likewise, nutritional supplements can help insure optimal immune system function. These include: zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and probiotics.
Test your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D might boost immune health for disease prevention and improve disease outcomes.
And don’t forget these very important basics to help prevent this or any other seasonal illnesses:
Have a healthy lifestyle: get enough sleep, minimize stress, eat plenty of veggies and fruits, and avoid sugar and junk foods.
Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.
If you cannot avoid such places, consider using a properly fitted mask.
Prioritize handwashing, more often, with soap and water for twenty seconds, especially before eating.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Use hand sanitizers, when handwashing is not possible.
Avoid people who are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.
Please stay home if you are sick!
Here is the letter I sent to the newspaper. Even though I might consider silver as part of my protocol, we cannot believe in any supposed miracle cure for Coronavirus or any illness:
I read your article about the silver solution product promoted by Jim Baker, and I want to address my concerns about their product claims as a professional naturopathic doctor with a degree from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash., and a person who works daily helping craft natural medicines and supplements.
True, silver compounds have been used for many years to reduce or eliminate many pathogens, but most of the studies are done in test tubes. Outcomes in the human body are often very different from those in test tubes. There is zero professional research that shows silver solution products cure coronavirus infections. In fact, it is dangerous to offer people false hope during this critical time with an international epidemic.
In short, it is dangerous and potentially life threatening to suggest that silver solution products can cure the coronavirus infection. It would be dangerous and even deadly for people who may have contracted the illness to rely on untested, undocumented remedies. Such patients could not only endanger their own lives by delaying critical treatment by taking the silver solution instead of seeking professional medical care, but those patients could infect others while believing the silver solution had cured the coronavirus infection.
Naturopathic medicine is my career and I’ve helped many people with serious health problems, and have even taken a form of silver for other illnesses myself. However, no serious naturopathic practitioner who cares about patients or public health would suggest without documented, peer-reviewed research that silver solution products would cure a deadly pathogen like coronavirus.
Such unfounded claims not only endanger the public during an international epidemic, but also create unnecessary doubts about the good work of clinically-trained naturopathic doctors, like myself.
As a naturopathic doctor, I urge everyone who may be exposed to coronavirus to seek help from appropriate health professionals, and not just rely on unproven silver solutions sold by those hoping to capitalize on public fears.
Do you know anyone with Autism or Asperger’s that needs a new perspective? There are natural interventions that can help them be their best.
Check out my recent interview on Mother’s Guide Through Autism podcast to learn more. I discuss how genetics, environment, gut health, hidden infections, and many different factors may be contributing to the disorder. And provide some simple interventions to consider.
Do your New Year’s resolutions or health goals include?
Having more energy
Helping your brain stay sharper
Having clearer skin
Getting better sleep
Not getting diabetes like your grandmother
Well, maybe your resolution wasn’t as specific as this last one, but these are just some of the potential health benefits from minimizing your sugar consumption.
Health risks of sugar and carbohydrates
A study in The Lancet showed there was a correlation between a high carbohydrate diet and total mortality risk. This massive study with over 100,000 participants from 18 countries didn’t show the same health risk with consumption of dietary fats. This is just one of many studies that are helping us rethink our dietary recommendations.
How sugar is toxic
Insulin resistance, the cause of most diabetes, is partially caused by cells trying to protect themselves from the damage caused by excess sugar.
Cell-damaging reactive oxygen species are a natural byproduct of cellular energy production from sugar.
Increased sugar consumption leads to more of these reactive oxygen species in your cells.
Reactive oxygen species contribute to insulin resistance because cells reduce their insulin receptors to protect themselves against this damage from excess sugar.
Then the body starts producing excess insulin to try to force the cells to take up sugar.
This excess insulin is the beginning of other health problems like pre-diabetes and obesity.
Other toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides amplify this oxidative stress and these problems.
So basically, if we eat too much sugar or carbohydrates, our cells try to protect themselves by ignoring insulin’s message to remove sugar from the bloodstream. But this either leads to elevated insulin levels or high blood sugar. If you cut down on the sugar and carbs, you can help stop this cycle of damage.
Tips for Cutting out Sugar
Go cold turkey. We often crave sugar less after avoiding it for a week.
Eat fruit. The fiber and antioxidants in fruit protect us from oxidative stress and diabetes.
Use natural alternative sweeteners. I use stevia, monk fruit, and occasionally xylitol.
Ditch soda. Try flavored sparkling water or tea.
Don’t keep high sugar treats in the house.
Eat more protein and fat. These can help reduce hunger.
Add stress reduction activities, such as mindfulness exercises. Stress can spur sugar craving.
When it is time for a sweet treat, have one that includes antioxidants, such as those in dark chocolate or cinnamon.
Sugary temptations are everywhere these days, and it can be easy to give into them. But remind yourself of your health goals. My grandmother had diabetes so I know my risk might be greater. If I find myself tempted in the grocery store, I remind myself that too much sugar is a toxin. Yes, most of us can handle some amount of sugar in the diet. But with all the other toxic stresses in our lives, let’s minimize this one to support our health goals.
Any time of year is a good time to think about doing a detoxification protocol, but spring especially so. Winter can be a time when we accumulate more toxins due to being less active and sweating less. A comprehensive detoxification plan includes diet, exercise, herbs, and dietary supplements. Now, we also understand how homeopathic remedies can enhance this detoxification plan.
Homeopathy is the use of a highly diluted version of a substance that in its undiluted form causes symptoms similar to what the individual is experiencing. A classic example is the use of homeopathic dilutions of onion to help eye irritation and tearing during allergy season. We also sometimes use the homeopathic dilution of the exact substance that is causing the problem. These homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they don’t pose any harm to the body but are enough to help stimulate its defenses.
Currently, I am concerned about the toxin arsenic. The most common sources of arsenic exposure are things we consume regularly: water, rice, and chicken. This low level chronic exposure may be contributing to health issues such as fatigue, headaches, anxiety, neurological issues, and increased risk of diabetes and cancer. While this is not the only toxic metal in our environment and food supply that concerns me, arsenic has some interesting research that might help us understand how to use homeopathic remedies in our detox plans.
In a study where E. coli bacteria were exposed to a form of arsenic, clear toxic effects were noticed such as DNA changes and disrupted growth. When identical E. Coli exposed to arsenic were also given homeopathic arsenic (Arsenicum Album 30C), these negative effects were reduced. The new theory on homeopathy is that these highly dilute substances are stimulating cellular defense mechanisms, such as increasing the production of enzymes used during detoxification, without causing any harm from the remedy itself.
After reviewing studies such as this one, I have begun including homeopathic preparations in the detox protocols for people that I suspect have heavy metal exposure. I don’t rely on the homeopathic remedies alone. I include healthy diet changes, exercise, herbs, and other nutrients such as N-Acetyl Cysteine that the enzymes involved in detoxification use. It was always thought that homeopathy stimulates the body’s natural healing processes, and now with this better idea of how, we can further harness the potential of the unique form of medicine to help unburden our bodies from toxins.
Wintertime strikes me as a very challenging time to keep some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. With the shorter amount of daylight and cold weather, I am not feeling very ambitious.
If I had made a resolution to write a new blog every week, I might not succeed.
Now if I had made a resolution to go to bed earlier, that might end up working out.
But I haven’t made any resolutions. I have decided to switch to Spring Resolutions.
Anytime can be the right time to commit to restoring health or renewing your life. I know the seasons affect me in meaningful ways, and I will use that knowledge to make more satisfying goals for myself. To let the rising energy I feel during the spring to remind me to commit to my health. So I will see you in 3 months for a spring cleanse.
Warmer days are here so it is an important time to make sure we are drinking enough water. It is extremely important that we stay hydrated all year round. Adequate water helps flush toxins out of our body and keeps our skin and joints healthy. During the summer, dehydration can contribute to heat exhaustion and other serious issues.
Getting adequate electrolytes can be just as important as drinking water. Electrolytes are the minerals that our bodies need for proper nerve and muscle function. My husband works a lot outside, and in the past, he would start feeling nauseous on very hot days. Now he adds ElectroMix, an electrolyte blend without sugar, to his water and hasn’t had a problem since.
I started using the ElectroMix too on the days I work in the garden and find it feels more refreshing than regular water. I have found this to be true with some other enhanced waters too. I don’t drink very much coconut water because I don’t want to add the extra sugar to my diet, but I do feel better hydrated when I drink it.
Electrolytes and minerals are what these two beverages have in common. So I started experimenting with other minerals in my water. I found I like adding ¼ of a serving of Pure Essence’s Magnesium Plus powder to my water in the evening. This diluted mixture is still flavorful enough and sweet from stevia, lo han fruit, and FOS, a prebiotic. I don’t know if it is the sweet flavor or the extra minerals and nutrients, but this drink is reducing my evening sugar cravings.
Don’t get me wrong. I love plain water and drink lots of it, always purified. Sometimes I just want something else. A sparkling mineral water might help satisfy the desire for a soda. I just tried a new blackberry pomegranate flavored one from Mountain Valley out of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Other great ideas are iced herbal teas, adding lemon to your water or even trying a diluted version of my 2 Minute Detox Drink .
So stay hydrated, and tell me which other healthy beverages your body says YES to.
Theobroma cacao is scientific name of the plant that produces cocoa or cacao beans, and therefore chocolate. Any product made from it could be called cacao. Usually, the term cacao is used to differentiate the raw forms of chocolate, while cocoa mostly refers to the powder made from roasted cocoa beans with the cocoa butter removed.
These cacao pods are full of heart healthy cacao beans
Generally, the more we process a food, the more nutrients are lost. So no matter whether it is called chocolate or cacao, the raw versions of chocolate will have higher antioxidants and nutrients than roasted ones. There are also differences among cocoas. The most common cocoas are Dutch or alkali processed. This process removes many of the brain and heart protective compounds in chocolate. So non-alkalized cocoa is healthier than the Dutch cocoa. There are some differences in the acidity of these different products so if you want to use raw cacao or non-alkalized cocoa in baking, do some reading to find the right approach. This may be as simple as using baking soda instead of baking powder.
As long as we are choosing a form of chocolate that still has a lot of the antioxidants intact, chocolate is an enjoyable brain and heart helper. Chocolate can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as drop your blood pressure a few points. Chocolate may improve your lipid profile and lessen inflammation. It is notably a nerve protector, which could help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Chocolate can also improve digestion by supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Most of studies were done with cocoa, usually non-alkalized, or chocolate bars that have a high percentage of cacao solids. I don’t know of any that have been done using raw cacao, but we can assume the benefits would be even greater due to the higher percentage of protective antioxidants.
Chocolate is also high in minerals. Just one ounce of chocolate that is 70% cacao solids has 63 mg of magnesium as well as other minerals including 25% of your daily copper and manganese. It has some of the same antioxidants as green tea making it a potential cancer fighter. Chocolate is also well known for being a mood booster and may even modulate your production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
We all know that sugar goes really well with chocolate, but sugar causes many of the health problems we are trying to fight with chocolate. I like eating cocoa nibs and raw cacao beans. They taste much more like black coffee than the chocolate bars you might be used to, but they can help satisfy the chocolate craving in a healthy way. For a high antioxidant snack, try mixing the cacao nibs or beans with goji berries or other dried fruit. So join the healthy chocolate revolution and cacao your heart out.
Don’t waste your time on worthless supplements. I have warned many of my patients away from the low quality supplements sold at some large discount retailers that I will not name here. A recent investigation in New York indicates that my warnings were right. They found that only 1 out of 5 herbal supplements from these store’s house brands really contained the herb named on the label.
So, let me tell you how the supplement industry works. A vitamin company, whether high or low quality, buys their vitamins and herbs from a supplier and then blends and encapsulates those ingredients. One of the main differences between a good company and a poor one is where they get those raw materials.
I am particularly concerned about the quality of herbal supplements, which were examined in the recent investigation. In addition to the possibility of the herbs being adulterated with random junky ingredients, it matters how the herbs are grown. An herb has to be grown under the right conditions and harvested at the proper time to ensure adequate potency. This is why I particularly want to get my herbal supplements from companies that really care about quality. They often show this concern by testing each batch for the proper chemical markers and/or standardizing the herbal extract to contain a specified amount of the active ingredient. I particularly support companies like Gaia Herbs, which actually grows many of their herbs on their own farm in North Carolina.
Another wonderful company specializing in vitamins is Biotech, located right here in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I have toured Biotech’s facilities and saw their commitment to quality at every step in their process. Biotech again consistently buys their ingredients from high quality suppliers. They do test every shipment they receive to make sure of the strength and purity, but they rarely have to reject a shipment because they are working with suppliers that care about the products as much as they do.
Other supplements are of concern too. It is hard to mess up a basic vitamin C, but some companies don’t put the amount in capsules that the label claims. I have also encountered rancid fish and flax oil from some of the big box store brands. When oils go rancid, they can develop toxic compounds that damage our DNA and may even contribute to heart disease. If one of my patients brings in fish oil from one of these questionable brands, I actually bite into the capsule and taste the oil. A bitter or excessively fishy taste usually indicates it is rancid and should be tossed. One person that I had shared this advice with found her fish oil to be rancid and tried giving it to her dog. Her dog was too smart and refused to take it. She bought a high quality brand like Nordic Naturals, and her dog approved of that one.
Not all supplement companies are alike. Some take steps to guarantee quality at every step of the manufacturing process and others are just trying to get the cheapest possible pill on the shelf. If you aren’t seeing the benefits you expect from your supplements, switch to a company that really cares.
Laurell Matthews, ND is a naturopathic doctor with a passion for helping people understand how to be healthier using dietary and lifestyle changes along with other natural medicine modalities like botanical medicine.