Arnica for bruises, sprains, strains

I generally don’t use topical stuff or supplements. Even when I have a good remedy, I have a bad tendency to forget to use it. Arnica is my big exception. Arnica montana is an herb that has natural anti-inflammatory properties. It makes a terrific topical oil for bruises, sprains, and strains. It’s fantastic for reducing inflammation in the area and speeding up healing.

arnicaoilI have a source for organic, locally-grown, hand-picked, hand-processed Arnica oil. It also contains a little St. Johns Wort for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, and olive oil so it soaks into the skin. I prefer topical application to the pills, because it puts the medication where you need it, rather than spreading it out over the entire body, and because in high doses, taken internally, it can be toxic.

In all my years of martial arts, personal training, and running an acupuncture clinic (not to mention my own boo-boos), this is easily the best preparation I have found. It’s far superior to the multitude of diluted oils, creams and homeopathic pills generally available (most contain only small amounts of arnica), and that’s why it’s the only product I carry. I have bottles for $15 – swing by and pick one up! Use on unbroken skin only, please, and of course discontinue if your skin is irritated.

 

Digestive health (and roasted cauliflower!)

I’ve been seeing an increase in people coming in with digestive problems, and it correlates interestingly with a  little revolution in my personal dietary habits.

Acupuncture for digestive upset – in this case nausea and “grumbling” intestines.

Last month I gave you a recipe for steel cut oats. They are far healthier than regular cereal for breakfast, but ironically, I am longer eating those oats… I’m off grains for the time being. A high-carb/low fat diet is not consistent with our hunter-gatherer evolution, and for some people it causes all sorts of problems, from weight gain to heartburn. I’m reading an amazing book called “Primal Body, Primal Mind.” The author cites a satisfying glut of scientific sources. The information in it resonates strongly with everything I know about physiology, and everything I’ve experienced in my personal struggles with weight. I’ve known for ages that bread is bad for me (very bad for me personally – your metabolism may differ), but it took reading this book to get up the motivation to quit. Working out and eating a “healthy diet” wasn’t doing it… but this seems to be doing the trick. It’s too early to say for sure, but I *am* losing weight and feeling good. My clothes are finally getting looser!

The old-fashioned “food pyramid” (built by lobbyists for Big Food Business) and the emphasis on low-fat, high carb has built a nation of obesity… myself included. It’s time to recognize that science demands a shift in thinking. I want to be clear here that I am not prescribing a ban on grains for everyone. You need to figure out what works for YOUR body. There are a few basic concepts, though, that I think everyone who’s reading the latest research can agree on:

1) Processed food is no substitute for actual, human-made food. If the majority of your meals are coming in bags and boxes, you need to reevaluate.

2) Empty calories (white bread, pasta, and other starches) and sugars lead to chronic inflammation, fat storage, and blood sugar problems. Put down that soda and have some water instead.

3) Fats are not the enemy. We need fats for brain function, neural insulation, and padding for organs, among other things. The trick is to get them from good sources like extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, fish, and grass-fed meats, rather than chemically-altered trans-fats.

Delicious and nutritious! Cauliflower fights cancer and has a surprising amount of Vitamins C and K (important for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function). Of course it’s also a great source of fiber.

So here’s my new “popcorn” – Cut up cauliflower florets (about the size of a quarter or slightly bigger) and spread them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil if you like, but it’s good without, too! Add a little sea salt, and roast at 350 degree for 45 minutes. Seriously – even my red-blooded, dedicated-to-his-American-diet boyfriend loved it. Super yummy. Big thanks to personal trainer extraordinaire Brandie Sylfae. :)

Don’t worry – this isn’t going to turn into a food blog. I’ll be back to more acupuncture-oriented discussions next month! :)

 

 

Anti-inflammatory Diet & Nightshades

If you have osteo-arthritis or an inflammatory disease (Fibromyalgia, IBS, etc), listen up: There are ways to alter your diet that will help decrease your pain! It’s also very helpful when you want to reduce inflammation after an injury.

1) Avoid sugar. This includes soda* and high-glycemic foods that will break down quickly into sugars. White bread, pasta, and starches will all contribute to inflammation.
2) Avoid fried foods. Enough said.
3) Grain-fed red meat is a problem for some people. Grass-fed meat is less inflammatory, since the fat structure is different.
4) You can counteract pain by eating ANTI-inflammatory foods. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach will help a lot. Berries (except for goji and blueberries), turmeric, garlic, celery, pineapple, cocoa, ginger, and foods containing good fats (extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts) are great, too. If you are sensitive to oxalates, however, be careful not to overdose on the dark leafy greens.

5) Foods your body doesn’t like. Some people are sensitive to dairy or wheat, for example. If you know you react badly to something, avoid it when you are in pain.

6) The Nightshade (Solanaceae) plants contain a small amount of an alkaloid toxin called solanine. Some people aren’t bothered by it. Other people, especially those with auto-immune issues & arthritis, tend to be sensitive to this family of plants. Most are unaware of the pain they are causing themselves, because they eat them so often, and because the inflammation & ache are delayed up to 24 hrs.

Tomatoes
Potatoes (Sweet potatoes and yams are ok)
Peppers, including spicy, chili, and bell peppers, and paprika (Black, white, and green pepper is ok- it’s actually a peppercorn. Long pepper is ok, too.)
Eggplant
Tobacco

Although less well known, Goji berries are nightshades, too.

Note: Blueberries, huckleberries, artichokes, and okra are not in the Nightshade family, but they also contain solanine.

The good news: It’s very easy to find out if you are Nightshade sensitive. Simply remove all of them from your diet for two weeks (Note: You’ll have to read labels carefully. “Spices” may contain paprika, and lots of prepared foods like shredded cheese can contain potato flour). Then have a big dose of tomatoes, potatoes, or drink a V8. See how you feel that evening and the next day. If within 24 hrs your pain is worse, you are Nightshade-sensitive. Wherever you have inflammation, that’s where it will show up. If not, congrats – you can go back to all the tomatoes you want.

The alkaloid is degraded by heat. Raw Nightshades are more toxic than cooked, and the extreme heat of deep-frying is even better … but fried foods are inflammatory for other reasons, so don’t get too excited. I will eat a small amount of potato chips on a special occasion because they are fried all the way through, but not french fries, since they are still squishy in the middle.

The combination of Nightshades and sugar is a doozy. I can get away with a small amount of tomato paste, but even a tiny squirt of ketchup will make my hands ache the next day.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet is a relatively simple way to decrease your pain and make a real difference in your quality of life. Some people have inflammatory reactions to dairy or wheat, and that may be worth testing the same way as the Nightshades. You don’t have to be perfect all the time – just pick your battles, okay?

Spicy food junkies: Fear not! You can still enjoy horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, and all the peppercorns, including long pepper.

Here’s a nightshade-free curry recipe and one for NonNightshade Mexican. Substitute either cauliflower or sweet potatoes for regular potatoes. Pizza and pasta are great with pesto sauce. There’s even a “No-Mato” marinara sauce I found online (OMG SO GOOD!!!! I used the higher levels of spice for everything and loved it! If you use all regular beets it’s purple. If you use 50% regular beets and 50% golden beets, you’ll get a red sauce with a less “beety” taste. Freezes well, too!).

Like to eat out? Free restaurant cards are here. 

UPDATE 4/29/16: Now that I’ve been Nightshade-free for a decade, I’ve found that I can get away with cheating once in a while. There seems to be a cumulative effect. By staying away 99% of the time, and preventing a build-up of inflammation, I can enjoy the occasional indiscretion. 

*Diet soda isn’t a good solution. While it doesn’t contain sugar, the artificial sweeteners cause their own problems, including triggering the body to start storing more calories as fat.