Checking in: 5 habits to reconsider

Woman using her mobile smartphone. She chatting with friend on mobile phoneWhile most people know that a steady of potato chips and running on four hours of sleep a night consistently are unsustainable habits, many other sneaky bad habits can also creep into our routines and wreck havoc on our bodies.

Some of these habits can be hard to recognize, especially if we seem to do them on autopilot. You may not notice any deleterious effects right away, but over time they can really get in the way of our success. That said, here are a few practices to rethink and replace with healthier ones:

1. Using Self-Criticism

Constantly beating yourself up and putting yourself down only leads to poor self-image and possibly depression. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is correlated with greater psychological health and resilience. It takes work but curating a kinder inner dialogue can pay dividends.

2. Mindlessly Scrolling Through Social Media

It’s called Doom Scrolling for a reason. Studies show that the more time people spend on social media sites, the more feelings of isolation they reported. And social isolation can spell trouble for mental and physical well-being. Too much time spent online can result in fear of missing out (FOMO) and jealousy.

At the same time, some people are afraid to deactivate their accounts because they want to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. You can get the same payoff from investing your time and energy in in-person interactions. For example, schedule lunch with a friend, host a party or even volunteer to feed off people’s energies.

3. Watching TV

You probably already know that an hours-long Netflix binge isn’t great for your body, but research shows watching too much TV is also bad for your brain.

A 2016 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that high television consumption and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worsen mental acuity and speed later in life. In other words, our bad habits can catch up with us even years later.

Swapping TV time for physical activity could be key to brain health. So rather than zoning out in front of the TV after work, try to go for a brisk walk or even hit the gym. You’ll feel better and your mind and body will thank you.

4. Eating When You’re Not Hungry

Do you find yourself reaching for a snack or a second portion when you’re not actually hungry? You’re not alone. Emotional eating, nighttime eating, or societal pressure are reasons why you might over-indulge.

Such a habit will catch up with you sooner than later — consuming extra calories may cause you to become overweight. And carrying a few extra pounds increases the risk of a variety of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and even cardiovascular diseases.

To keep your weight in check, it’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods that fill you up, instead of “empty” calories associated with processed foods. It’s also a good idea to really check in with yourself when you’re tempted to eat when you’re not actually hungry.

Just like limiting TV time might be hard at first, it’s not impossible to trade unhealthy habits for ones that serve you and your waistline. For instance, practicing yoga can help you better cope with uncomfortable feelings and be grounding so you’re not reaching for a candy bar every time something upsets you. In the long term reducing caloric intake can mean a longer lifespan and improved quality of life.

5. Sitting Too Much

If you have an office job there’s a good chance you spend a lot of time sitting. They say sitting is the new smoking, so lack of activity will catch up with you sooner than later. Sedentary behaviors have been associated with an increased risk of the same physical health issues associated with overeating.

But there’s more to it than the physical. Spending too much time ideal can spell trouble for your mental health, too. Studies show people who sit too much are at a higher risk of depression.

The good news is that committing to an hour of vigorous activity each day can help offset the negative effects of modern office culture. A standing desk is a great alternative to a traditional workstation. It’s also important to get up for a few minutes every 30 minutes to stretch your legs. And if your boss and team are open-minded, you might even consider walking meetings.

Good health is the sum of our daily habits. If you have concerns about a specific facet of health, we’re here for you. Integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances. If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers (maybe not found online), that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003 to make an appointment.

What can you do for your health in only seven minutes?

Asian women exercise indoor at home she is acted "push up"Have you heard of the Scientific 7-Minute Workout? It is a high-intensity workout that was first published in the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal in 2013. Backed by science, this workout combines 12 exercises “into a single exercise bout lasting approximately 7 minutes. Participants can repeat the 7-minute bout 2 to 3 times, depending on the amount of time they have. As body weight provides the only form of resistance, the program can be done anywhere.”

If you haven’t tried it, you may be missing out on a vital way to increase your overall level of health and wellness.

One of the main problems people have with regular exercise is a lack of understanding on what is effective and efficient. Efficiency is important because in our day to day lives, it can be hard to carve out a significant chunk of time to focus on regular exercise. Fortunately, there is a solution. The exercises in the Scientific 7-Minute Workout use a chair and a wall. You don’t need a weight set or other equipment. The only tool you need to complete these high-intensity workouts is your body.

What does this mean for you? A quick way to maximize the benefits of a long run and some time in the weight room, all in 7 minutes or less.

Research has proven that high intensity workouts are not only good for your body, but good for your mind. A few minutes of high intensity training close to your body’s maximum capacity induces molecular changes within muscles that can be comparable to several hours of running or riding a bicycle.

The exercises include:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Wall sits
  • Push-ups
  • Abdominal crunches
  • Step-ups onto chair
  • Squats
  • Triceps dips on chair
  • Planks
  • High knees running in place
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups and rotations
  • Side planks

The exercises are meant to be completed in rapid succession, with each taking about 30 seconds to complete, followed by 10 second rest periods in between. Keep in mind, this workout is designed to be intense and not entirely pleasant, but just tell yourself, “you can do anything for just seven minutes!”

Before you try it, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, this is an intense workout. So if you are just getting into an exercise routine, this is not where you should begin. Also, you have a greater chance of injury with high-intensity workouts, so you want to make sure you are ready for this level. Finally, it is important that you are doing the exercises correctly to get the most benefit and to avoid injury.

Whether you are a beginner looking to get in shape or you are in great shape but need a fast workout, good for you for taking care of your health! The most important thing is to get up and get moving.

Six natural ways to balance your hormones

Mature group of people doing breathing exerciseHormones are the chemical messengers of your body. They travel through your bloodstream, instructing different organs and tissues on what to do. From reproduction to metabolism regulation, your hormones control all of your body’s major processes.

Just as a tiny hormonal imbalance can have negative effects, including diabetics, weight gain, infertility, depression and many more. A good parallel is to consider what happens when you add too much salt to your food. You ruin it! Your hormones are like ingredients that need to be properly balanced.

Hormonal injections and supplements are two common ways people combat hormonal imbalances. However, in this post, we take your attention to six ways you can balance your hormones naturally.

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep is arguably the most important factor affecting hormonal balance. Nothing can save you from hormonal imbalance when you don’t get enough restorative sleep – not even nutrition or exercise! Poor sleep has been linked to imbalances in hormones like cortisol, insulin, ghrelin and leptin. A study found that sleeping for four hours per night reduced insulin sensitivity in men by 20%.

Based on a study by the International Journal of Endocrinology, getting improper sleep can result in diabetes, obesity and problems with appetite.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily, but it’s important to note that quality also matters. Going through the five stages of each sleep cycle is important for the release of growth hormones.

2. Exercise regularly

The right kind and amount of exercise will positively impact your body’s hormones. A major benefit of exercise is its ability to increase insulin sensitivity and decrease insulin levels.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone that allows our body cells to take sugar from the bloodstream and use it as energy. Low levels of insulin result in constant fatigue, anxiety, irritability and pale skin. On the other hand, high insulin levels have been linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Many types of physical activities, however, have been found to modify hormone levels. Performing aerobics, strength training, walking and other exercises will help lower your risk of many diseases.

3. Manage stress

We live in an insanely fast-paced world, where no one ever seems to take a break. This high level of stress affects two main hormones – cortisol and adrenaline.

Cortisol is the stress hormone that helps us cope with long-term stress. Adrenaline is responsible for our fight-flight mechanism, which helps us to react instinctively to danger. While these hormones fluctuate depending on the current condition, they are supposed to get regulated.

However, in high-stress environments, cortisol levels remain high. This saps an immense amount of energy, which causes you to eat more, putting you at the risk of obesity. If your adrenaline levels remain elevated, it can result in high blood pressure and anxiety. That’s why you need to effectively manage your stress level.

4. Avoid sugar and refined carbs

Sugar and refined carbs have been found to play a role in issues such as insulin resistance and metabolic disease. Fructose, in particular, increases insulin levels, especially in overweight people with prediabetes or diabetes. Common sources of fructose include honey, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and refined table sugar. A diet high in refined carbs like pretzels and white bread may promote insulin resistance.

That’s why it’s advisable to eliminate sugar from your diet. In particular, stay away from sugary beverages. Eating a low- or moderate- carb diet instead of refined carb may help overweight people reduce their insulin levels.

5. Consume healthy fats

While fat is important for the proper functioning of the body, unhealthy fats like trans fats have been found to cause insulin resistance and increase belly fat storage. That’s why it’s good to take only high-quality natural fats.

Coconut oil, pure MCT oil and palm oil contain medium-chain triglycerides, which help to provide the liver with energy. MCTs are also known to reduce insulin resistance.

Dairy fats and monounsaturated fat in olive oil and nuts can help increase your insulin sensitivity. It also helps balance the hormone responsible for appetite regulation and the digestion of protein and fat.

6. Eat enough protein

Consuming enough protein is very important because it provides the body with amino acids, which the body can’t make on its own. Amino acids assist in the creation and growth of muscles, connective tissue and skin. They aid in healing and repair, as well as digestion.

To maintain your hormonal balance, eating protein is non-negotiable. Consuming protein decreases ghrelin (which is our hunger hormone) while stimulating the production of other hormones that make you feel full.

Common sources of protein include lean meat and poultry, fish and eggs, among many others. Asides from being a good source of protein, fatty fish also contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that help decrease insulin levels while increasing insulin sensitivity.

Wrap Up

Other natural tips worth mentioning include:

  • Eating a high-fiber diet
  • Drinking green tea
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Stopping smoking

Your hormones influence both your physical and emotional well-being. Adopting these practices into your lifestyle will help you enjoy better overall health.

Contact us today for more information!

Protect yourself this summer

Sun’s out, fun’s out! Now that summer is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking of all the fun things you are going to do…all the trips to the lake, laps around the pool, BBQs with friends, etc. It is exciting just talking about it! 13406329_M

However, what is not so exciting is talking about the downer…summer safety. While summer is a fun season with warm temps and outside gatherings, it can also wreak havoc on your health.

First and foremost, one of the major dangers of summer is the sun itself. Without proper protection, your skin has no shield from its blinding rays. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, most adults do not wear sunscreen on a regular basis.

Adding a simple step to your morning routine and applying an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen can greatly reduce your odds of being a walking target to the sun. You can also wear protective clothing such as hats, long sleeve shirts, or SPF clothing. Don’t forget to keep those eyes covered, too! Be prepared when you go out, and make sure your bag has all the protective gear!

Your outer body is protected does not mean that you are clear to frolic about in the sun’s rays! One of the most important safety tips for the summer is HYDRATION. This cannot be emphasized enough….your body cannot have too much water. Hydrate before you go out, during your outing, and after to ensure dehydration does not set in.

Know the symptoms of dehydration so you can take action immediately. While water is the best source, you can also find proper hydration through sports drinks, tea, or flavored waters. A great rule of thumb is to drink even when not thirsty!

Another important safety tip for the sun is to avoid heat exhaustion. Keep track of the amount of time you have been in the sun! While you may not feel tired or sick, or it may feel like normal reactions to working (heavy sweating/high pulse), your body may be telling you that you are in danger. Listen to your body and take cooling breaks often. In extreme temps, move your activities indoors, or schedule them for early morning/late evening to avoid extended exposure.

Remember, the sun can also interfere with your medicines! It can interrupt how they are processed in your body and also cause severe burns/blistering. Talk to your doctor before going into the sun for long periods.

The sun is not a bad thing! It is just something you need to be prepared for. It does a body good to take in some Vitamin D, and it does your soul even better.

Six reasons to love caffeine

Young woman using smart phone and laptop with cup of coffee in cafeDo you enjoy a cup of joe every morning? Who doesn’t, right? Turns out caffeine is more than an elixir of energy found in most American households. There are many health benefits to caffeine that go beyond waking you up. Here’s a look at a few of them, according to experts and the findings of research:

1. Aids in focus and mental clarity.
There’s a reason you feel more alert after a few sips and it’s because of a hormonal surge. That’s because caffeine activates the pituitary gland to make adrenaline, also known as the “fight or flight” chemical.

There’s also a feel-good component to it. Caffeine indirectly stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and GABA which are known to help attention and focus, making it easier to tackle your to-do list. Huzzah!

2. Boosts immunity.
Caffeine’s properties help enhance our antioxidant defenses, which in turn, promote whole-body health. There’s even evidence that suggests that caffeine can give the skin a pick-me-up and delay signs of aging.

3. Promotes optimal brain health.
Could your morning cup be good for your noggin? Caffeine reduces neural pathways and protects neurons, ultimately giving your brain a boost.

Caffeine packs a mean punch when it comes to brain benefits. It has a natural ability to sustain attention, improve alertness, help you find creative solutions, foster mental alertness and even boost mood.

4. Enhances exercise performance.
Whether you’re going for a morning run or trying to get amped before lifting, caffeine is an invigorating substance that can elevate your routine, elicit physical energy and optimize performance.

Again, you can thank science for surpassing personal records at the gym. Caffeine activates neural pathways and by proxy, the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is a powerful drug when trying to hit a new level of physical performance.

We mentioned coffee but other beverages and foods contain this health-promoting substance, too. That’s good news for people who can’t stand the acid in coffee or just enjoy the variety of tea.

There are other factors at play, too, that can influence how much caffeine is in your cup. Preparation technique and brewing time are two. As it relates to coffee, the caffeine content depends on how long the beans have been roasted. Light roasts have more caffeine than dark ones. Similarly, the longer black tea leaves are steeped, the more caffeine your tea will have.

5. Can help promote a healthy weight.
Could your morning routine help you enjoy a smaller waist? According to some research, coffee could help in the way of decreasing fat storage and supporting gut health, both of which may be beneficial for weight management. There’s also evidence that caffeine can result in lower body fat in both men and women. Good news for people looking to get into their skinny jeans.

6. Extends lifespan.
Recent studies found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from some of the leading causes of death in women: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

Caffeine is not relegated to the coffee or tea aisle either. Do you enjoy some dark chocolate as an after-dinner treat? What about java-flavored ice cream? Chocolate-covered espresso beans? Those can perk you up as well.

If you’re curious about the caffeine contents of other foods and drinks, here’s a breakdown:

  • Brewed coffee (8 ounces): 96 milligrams
  • Instant coffee (8 ounces): 62 milligrams
  • Espresso (1 ounce): 64 milligrams
  • Brewed black tea (8 ounces): 47 milligrams
  • Brewed green tea (8 ounces): 28 milligrams
  • Dark chocolate (1 ounce): 23 milligrams
  • Semisweet chocolate chips (1 ounce, or 60 pieces): 18 milligrams

It should be mentioned that you can consume caffeine in supplements, either on their own or combined with other ingredients. But a word of caution: Just like with the food and beverage sources of caffeine listed above, it’s also important to carefully consider your caffeine quota when ingested this way. You don’t want to overdo it or else you might risk-averse side effects like jitters, sleep issues, upset stomach and other counterindications. In other words, it’s important to know your limits. Some people are more tolerant of caffeine than others. Pregnant women will need to limit their intake.

As you learned above, caffeine certainly has a place at the table but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking for some guidance on boosting energy naturally or concerned that you’re depending too much on caffeine to get through the day, we can help. Integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances.

If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers, that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003and breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re closer to living a fuller life.

An inside look at chiropractic care and how it can help

Chiropractic care is a drug-free iteration of healthcare that can help you reach your highest level of wellness. While the treatment method is more accessible than it once was, many aren’t clear on the true benefits that you can enjoy when you work with a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Close up Male neurologist doctor examines cervical vertebrae of female patient spinal column in medical clinic. Neurological physical examination. Osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy.

Chiropractic care adopts a total-body approach to healing, allowing you to have a more comprehensive healing process for your health journey — working to address the underlying ailments disrupting your day-to-day life. In this blog, we provide a little more insight into what chiropractic care is and how it can help.

What is chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care is a safe and effective method of care that relies on spinal manipulation and other related techniques to address neuromusculoskeletal complaints. Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are trained to address the root cause of the health problem and rely on a more “whole” approach to your wellbeing. Rather than treat the symptoms, you can expect a more comprehensive care experience as they work to assess the state of your health.

What can doctors of chiropractic do?

Doctors of chiropractic (DC) are physicians. They specialize in the treatment and management of neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Your doctor of chiropractic (DC) has gone through a minimum of seven years of higher education and can successfully navigate your medical care no matter how complex it may be. Chiropractic care involves manipulation techniques while keeping the end goal in mind ⁠— total health and wellness.

What conditions can chiropractic care assist with?

There are two main categories of conditions that chiropractic care can address ⁠— acute and chronic.

Acute conditions can represent an initial injury, such as a car accident or trauma. It can also apply to a sudden onset of symptom presentation, even if there was no trauma to precipitate the disruption. Chronic conditions are ongoing conditions that may be attested to chronic illness. In either case, your doctor of chiropractic can assist you in creating a comprehensive care plan that addresses your symptoms, diagnosis and future health.

Adding chiropractic care can help with many aliments. It’s not a substitute for total care but is a great supplemental option. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about how it could benefit you.

What chronic stress does to the body

designer argue with contractor on cellphoneStress. Just hearing the word might be enough to make your jaw clench up. But stress in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

You might be surprised to learn that stress has been the force behind much of human advancement. But when stress becomes a frequent occurrence, our lives can suffer. That’s because stress can put a damper on our moods and our ability to think clearly. It can also weaken our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness. And being sick can only add to the pressure.

Let’s look at this phenomenon and explore some ways to manage stress:

Stress and immunity
Chronic stress means the nutrients needed to meet the demands of stress— for example, B vitamins— may become depleted. High cortisol levels may also reduce the presence of immune cells that limit the spread of certain viruses and tumors.

Stress and cardiovascular health
The stress hormone cortisol can wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system. Studies show that chronically high cortisol levels of certain markers can increase your risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

Stress and the gastrointestinal system
Chronic stress may also adversely affect your gastrointestinal system by either delaying or speeding up digestive processes. To that end, you might experience heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or belly pain. Even worse, chronic stress can trigger gastrointestinal inflammation and may be linked to conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Stress and diabetes
Stress can cause flare-ups of a pre-existing medical condition. For instance, people with diabetes are significantly affected by stress. That’s because physical or psychological stressors can inhibit insulin production, leading to complications. Unmanaged diabetes can be life-threatening so it’s something you don’t want to minimize.

Stress and inflammation
Do you feel like your allergies get worse when you’re frazzled? It’s not all in your head. Those suffering from asthma and allergies may also be more susceptible to attacks following a trigger. What’s more, researchers have found a link between stress and atopic dermatitis (an inflammatory skin condition), nasal congestion and asthma.

Stress and reproductive system
Chronic stress can mean missed or late periods, infertility and a drop in sexual desire. Some women find that their PMS or menopause symptoms are worse when they’re dealing with bouts of high stress. Excess amounts of cortisol in men can affect the normal biochemical functioning of their reproductive systems.

Managing stress
Stress is a part of life, but too much can wear on you and mean illness and disease if left unchecked. That’s why it’s important to have coping mechanisms in place to manage stress.

That said, the following strategies may be helpful for reducing stress levels:

Here are a few proven techniques to feel more grounded:

1) Breathwork: Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself falling into negative thought patterns. There’s a lot to be said for learning how to work with your breathing to settle your nervous system.

2) Massage: Science tells us that the state of the mind and nervous system is reflected in the state of the body. That’s why bodywork is one means to help the body reset. Some kinds of massage are more relaxing than others. For instance, a medical massage usually involves therapeutic techniques. It’s often used to manage pain, reduce inflammation, improve circulation, relieve nerve compression, improve digestion, increase flexibility or address other chronic concerns.

3) Visualization and guided imagery: Visualization and guided imagery work because they have you concentrate on images held in your mind and work with the connection between the brain and the physical body. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and picture yourself in a situation that brings you joy. Try to make the image bright and clear in your mind’s eye and recall the sights, sounds, smells and feelings associated with that encounter. How long you focus on it is less important than how regularly you do it. A few minutes every day practicing your visualization will serve you better than devoting a few hours on occasion.

4) Meditation: Researchers have come to the conclusion that controlling blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rate, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response. If you want to give meditation a shot, look for a type that feels natural – one that suits you and your lifestyle. Keep in mind that all forms of meditation require regular, daily practice over a long period of time before you notice considerable results. Try to meditate every day for 20 to 30 minutes to get into the habit.

These are just a few ideas. You might find that integrating some or all of these into your daily routine might bear fruit. Speak with your integrative healthcare practitioner if you’re feeling like you need some help in addressing chronic stress and its effects.

Not all supplements are created equal

For many of us, supplements are part of our daily routine. Many of us are regular takers of vitamins, minerals, and other types of supplements. Vitamins and minerals are essential to developing and maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle. Most individuals get the majority of their vitamins from healthy eating, but certain vitamin deficiencies can be common and that’s when a little extra boost is helpful. Taking daily supplements can provide your body with this support. 47895081_M

But not all supplements are created equal. Rather than go all-in on a supplement, it is important to do the proper research to determine if the supplement is even good for you.

There are also literally thousands of supplements available on the market, from multivitamins to omega fats, minerals, and nutrient supplements of a nearly countless variety. So what should you look for when deciding on a supplement?

Here’s a quick guide on picking the best options.

Biochemistry

Your biochemistry plays a critical role in whether a supplement is necessary. Supplements are designed to provide something that might be lacking, or even to double down on a standard amount you already take. Take B vitamins, for example. If your body has a problem with methylation, there might be a need to take activated B vitamins.

So the first step is to know what your body is lacking. There are some common vitamins that people tend to have a deficiency in. These include vitamin B, D and iron. But everybody is different.

Functional medicine practitioners can help with genetic tests to determine if you have any vitamin deficiencies and if your body has any problems processing specific nutrients.

Quality

The old ethos of quality over quantity holds true in supplements. You can swallow a handful of supplements every day, but if you are taking poorly made, unproven supplements, not designed to work with your biochemistry, you’re running in place. With so many supplements on the market, it can be confusing trying to figure out what is right for you.

And supplements aren’t regulated in the same way that medicines are. That’s why it’s essential to find a brand that does independent testing and is trusted by industry professionals.

Supercharge your diet with superfoods

27910796_MSuperfoods have been a darling of the nutritional community for several years now, but what exactly about them makes them special, and which foods make the list?

According to functional medicine experts, this class of foods is embraced for its myriad of health benefits. The term is fairly broad but refers to the nutritional value of certain whole foods.

Superfoods are a diverse group of nutrient-rich natural foods, which can have a positive effect on your body. They’re favored because they contain a large percentage of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and antioxidants to fuel your body with extra energy and healing. Superfoods don’t need to be exotic and can be relatively affordable.

For instance, berries, leafy greens, olive oil, nuts, yogurt and whole grains make the list of benevolent edibles. But don’t be afraid to break out of the box — and your comfort zone at the same time to nourish your body with these powerhouse foods.

Where to begin? Try combining cacao and stevia into a chocolate smoothie or give your skin a boost by making a drink with acai or spirulina to aid your body in releasing toxins. Consider adding chia seeds or flax seeds to oatmeal, or bread to get more omega 3’s and fiber.

Other superfoods you might consider adding to your shopping list include:

Berries: These are quite the rock star of the fruit world. High in fiber, rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants, they may help stave off diseases like dementia.

Nuts and seeds: Need an easy and healthy snack? They have protein and fiber, and can make you feel full. Walnuts, flax meal and chia seeds all contain ALA omega-3 fats, which are converted to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Regular intake of omega-3 fats will help protect your brain, in particular.

Beans and legumes: Beans help reduce cholesterol. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber and protein and they’re low-calorie.” They’re also rich in iron, potassium and magnesium. Look for dry beans or low-sodium canned versions so you’re not getting overloaded that way.

Dark leafy greens: These pack a mean punch when it comes to folate, zinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and fiber. They’re also known to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds known as carotenoids, which may protect against certain types of cancer. You might consider adding kale, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and spinach.

Green tea: Green tea has constituents known for strong anti-inflammatory effects. One of the most prevalent antioxidants in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This compound is likely what gives green tea its apparent ability to protect against chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Research also indicates that the combination of catechins and caffeine in green tea may make boost weight loss efforts.

Eggs: They call it the incredible, edible egg for good reason. Whole eggs are rich in many nutrients including B vitamins, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron and phosphorus. They’re also loaded with high-quality protein and contain antioxidants known to protect vision and eye health.

Garlic: Though more of an ingredient than a main event, garlic offers a good source of manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, selenium and fiber. Research indicates that garlic may be effective in reducing cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as supporting immune function. What’s more, sulfur-containing compounds in garlic may even play a role in cancer prevention.
Olive oil: A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil should be in everyone’s pantry. That’s because it can reduce inflammation and your risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. It also contains antioxidants such as vitamins E and K, which can protect against cellular damage from oxidative stress.

Just as it’s important to be intentional in your food selection, where you shop matters, too. You can’t beat the freshness of items sourced from local farmers markets and food hubs. (By the time produce is shipped to most grocery stores from halfway around the world or country, it’s not as fresh and has lost some flavor and nutrition.) You can find a directory of farmers markets here. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide customers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.

And whether superfood or not, research shows that eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can reduce risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Here’s to super-charging your health with superfoods!

If you have specific questions or concerns about superfoods, please feel free to contact us at (703) 822-5003. We’re here to walk alongside your health journey however we can. Here’s to your health!

Has traditional medicine let you down?

Doctor with stethoscope checking patient heart beatWe see it every day. Many of my patients come to us suffering from conditions or even grappling with the symptoms undiagnosed ones– sometimes for many years – that have not been relieved with conventional medicine. Why does traditional medicine fail to help some patients?

If you ask two different integrative practitioners the same question you might get two different answers. We believe it has to do with the approach to medical problems. In the traditional model, general practitioners are trained to analyze symptoms, come to a diagnosis, and prescribe medication to resolve the issue at hand. These providers often focus on diagnoses for specific areas of the body, often without considering their relationship to the whole.

We see this played out in specialties in western medicine. For instance, the gastroenterologist specializes in intestines; the cardiologist in the cardiovascular system; and the neurologist focuses on the nervous system. Each practitioner tends to stay in their respective lane, which can be detrimental to the patient’s overall health.

At the same time, consumers of health services themselves have adopted this compartmentalized approach. The patient acts as if their body is a motor vehicle and expects the doctor to fix, add, remove, replace, tighten, loosen, adjust or recharge whatever piece needs work so that the machine operates at optimal performance.

We probably don’t have to tell you that a human being is not a machine. We’re an integrated and complete living organism. It’s rare, except in the case of an accident, that a health problem is truly localized. In most cases, the most prominent symptoms may be localized, but it’s generally the entire individual that’s suffering.

This view is problematic and doesn’t serve the patient in the end. That’s because symptoms are not the disease. They’re the body’s way of telling us that something is amiss. Naming those symptoms with a diagnosis and taking medication to relieve them does not heal a person. Conversely, the only way to resolve ongoing health issues is to look at the whole body as a system – not isolated parts of it – and identify the underlying cause(s) of those symptoms.

This is precisely what practitioners of functional medicine are trained to do. Such medical professionals learn how all the organs and systems in our bodies are interconnected. Armed with this training and insight, they can then determine the root cause of a patient’s symptoms. In other words, they focus less on pinning a diagnosis on a patient and more on identifying what the body needs to heal. What’s more, their objective is not just to help their patients heal from specific ailments, but to enjoy an overall healthier lifestyle.

In contrast, modern medicine is reactive and tends to place a focus on managing sickness. Today, if a patient exhibits hypertension, he or she will generally be prescribed a drug to lower it. Similarly, a patient with high cholesterol will be prescribed statins. A type 2 diabetic would be advised to take Metformin or the like. Unfortunately, most modern providers don’t have the foresight to ask: “Why is this patient exhibiting this symptom now?” or “What has changed to cause these symptoms to develop?” What results is often a localized intervention that does little or nothing to address the deep-rooted cause of the illness.

Finally, one of the biggest shortfalls of traditional medicine is that the patient is not really at the center of their care. They need to feel some agency. For instance, a doctor may talk to them about a healthy diet or getting enough exercise, but this advice is so generalized and so vague the patient likely won’t make any lifestyle modifications. Even in situations where diet and exercise can really move the needle, few doctors offer specific dietary recommendations and even fewer will refer the patient to a nutritionist. At best, some providers may advise their patients to modify their diet and exercise regularly before going the pharmaceutical route, but they are few and far between. Therefore, the patient is not given the responsibility for taking the situation into their own hands.

On that note, we’re flipping the script here at Proactive Wellness Centers with integrative medicine. This is medical care that puts the patient at the center of treatment. It’s an approach that tries to consider and address the full range of physical, social, emotional, environmental, and even spiritual reasons for illness. In short, integrative medicine tries to recognize that each individual is unique and is facing unique circumstances that may be impacting their health and wellness. We believe that promoting the health of the body takes a complete approach to lifestyle, nutrition, addressing physical activity levels and sleep quality, and looking for any allergies or intolerances.

If you’re fed up with traditional medicine and want answers, that’s exactly what we offer. Give us a call at (703) 822-5003and breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’re closer to living a fuller life.