Tag Archives: wellness

Cold and Flu Season are almost here: How to eat to boost your immune system: Part 1

Ah, October: one of the loveliest months with its fall colors and crisp days: I just love this time of year. I have my Halloween lights up, an orange berry wreath on the front door and candles lit throughout the house, making staying inside cozy and inviting.

Brilliant fall colors on my morning walk: breathtakingly beautiful

Brilliant fall colors on my morning walk: breathtakingly beautiful

But as we all know, fall is also known for an increased incidence of cold and flu viruses. Some of my friends have already been sniffling and coughing so it is time to think about the ways we can boost our immune systems.

As we have talked about in past blogposts, how and what we eat has a significant impact on how our bodies fight infections. Every magazine that I have opened lately has spent some time discussing this so obviously this is an important and timely topic. So what are some of the best foods that we can include in our diet?

Garlic and onions: these odorific foods are members of the lily family and they contain sulfur-containing compounds. One of the most important of these is called allicin, which has both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties,which can help fight off many types of infections. It is so easy to include these foods in many of the recipes that you make every day: add them to soups, salad dressings, sauces, casseroles for extra flavor and immune boosting power.

Sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squashes and pumpkins are all rich in beta-carotene, which help your body fight off respiratory infections.  Try these in soups, breads, salads or serve them on their own. They are delicious and full of nutrients.

Pumpkin heaven: full of nutrition and wonderful to look at

Pumpkin heaven: full of nutrition and wonderful to look at

Mushrooms are considered to be powerhouses of the immune system and there are so many varieties to try: shitake, maitake, chantrelles, oyster, portobello, lobster, you name it, along with the familiar brown and white button mushrooms.  They help your body fight infections by boosting the activity of your natural killer cells and they are also rich in the mineral selenium, which helps you fight flu viruses. Try sauteeing them in olive oil and season with herbs, add them to soups, salads, omelettes and casseroles.

Yogurt has long been considered a ‘health food’ but often times it has been sold as over-processed and over sugared, a distant cousin from the really healthy kind. Look for yogurt in its natural unprocessed form: it should say that it contains live active cultures, such as S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus and Bifidus and try to buy types that are higher in protein(like Greek yogurt) and low in added sugars. These beneficial bacteria are known as ‘pro-biotics’, which help to restore healthy bacteria to your intestines(back to gut health, once again), which in turn help your body to fight the onslaught of infections that arrive in the fall and winter months.

Part 2 will review some more important foods to include in your daily diet but before I sign off, I want to share one of my favorite and SIMPLE recipes that combines a few of today’s ‘super foods’ : it is full of flavor, protein, immune boosters and easy on your waist.

Kyle’s recipe for Tsatsiki:

2 cups of high quality, high protein yogurt( I prefer Greek style, normal fat content)

1 cucumber: peeled and grated: squeeze out all of the excess liquid

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Stir all of these ingredients together in a bowl.  Cover, chill and let the flavors blend for at least a few hours . Serve with whole grain pita chips or crusty whole grain bread.  Yum! great for watching football games or your favorite latest TV series. Enjoy!

Back again with more foods and recipes. As always, we love to hear from YOU and how you incorporate nutritious foods into your daily lives.

Salud and bon appétit.

Don't forget to enjoy the wonders of fall's beauty each day, as soon the leaves will fall and only the memories will linger

Don’t forget to enjoy the wonders of fall’s beauty each day, as soon the leaves will fall and only the memories will linger

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

Exercise is NOT a dirty word(Just ask my Portland to Coast team!)

I love my work. I get to spend time with thousands of women every year in my role as a health care provider and as a result, I meet some amazing individuals. My office is in ‘the Pearl’ in NW Portland, which is an area similar to Soho in NYC:  shops, restaurants, bookstores(Powells Books is the largest bookstore in the U.S.and is a mere 3 blocks from my office), businesses and high density living quarters.  It is a vibrant neighborhood filled with pedestrians, cyclists, dogs on leashes, people hustling back and forth: for work, to shop, or to meet a friend over coffee or happy hour.

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

Our beautiful city of Portland: this is one vibrant town

I hear many stories everyday and some common threads that emerge are all too often frustration with weight(too much, especially that dreaded ‘muffin top’), stress and feeling tired/overwhelmed. In my role as a provider, I try to elicit details of a person’s diet, stress management techniques and exercise routine. Most importantly, I have learned NOT to make assumptions: many people still don’t know how to eat ‘cleanly’ or how to incorporate exercise into daily living. Not surprisingly, women who eat well and exercise regularly tend to look and feel better/younger and handle life’s stressors with more grace.

So often I hear “I don’t have time to exercise” “I get bored” “I have bad knees” ” I just hate how I look: I can’t imagine putting on a bathing suit/workout clothes”. But then again, these are often the same women who are at their wit’s end with weight and fatigue issues.

The solution is obvious: Exercise! but the path back can be difficult for many.  But I love this kind of challenge: helping people find what works for them to get them back to feeling good, balanced, energized, alive…So many people hear the word ‘exercise’ and they want to run, but not outside, but to the couch. It can be a bit daunting for someone who has never been very active or for others who have adopted a sedentary lifestyle.

But it doesn’t have to be insurmountable. Start small. Set some goals. Let me give you some REALISTIC suggestions:

~Get a fitness app for your smart phone: there are some great ones out there. One that I use all the time is ‘endomondo’: this is a sports tracker with a GPS that makes fitness fun, helping you to measure your progress over time: I used it to train for Portland to Coast and it helped me to walk my fastest mile ever! Some others are ‘adidas-mi coach’, ‘couch to 5 k'(one of my co-workers is using that one: helping her to walk/jog and get moving!), ‘nike-fit’ …the choice is endless. Pick something that works for your lifestyle: they really make exercise fun!

~Find a group or a friend and start working towards a goal together. Last year I formed our PTC team and some of the women had NEVER participated in any kind of formal exercise or events. Guess what? they loved it and came back this year stronger and fitter than ever.

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

The morning after PTC with 3 of my amazing teammates: feeling strong, healthy and proud

~Try something new or revisit something you loved as a child. Take a dance class, try stand up paddling, yoga, pilates, barre work, sea kayaking: there are no limits to the opportunities out there.

Trust me: exercise is the one thing that if you do it with any sort of regularity and dedication, it will give back to you in many ways: You will feel stronger, calmer, more flexible, confident, fit, leaner, and happy. And your memory will improve, as well as your cardiovascular health and hormonal balance.

So what’s stopping you? As always, we would love to hear what you are doing as part of your personal balance plan.

Happy trails…..

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Cruising to the end of my second leg of 7.78 miles: what a gorgeous route and fun time we had

Oh and P.S.: last year was our first year as a walking team and we came in at around the top 40% , which we felt pretty good about. THIS year we finished in the top 28% overall…not bad for a bunch of women walking and having a fantastic time while doing it!

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Filed under Essentials, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Ready, set , go(!) back to cleaner eating

I spent the last week traveling to NYC to attend my third IFM(Institute of Functional Medicine) Integrative Health Care symposium. The focus this year was on how our lifestyle can have a far-reaching effect on our health, particularly what and how we eat, how active we are and how we manage our stress.

What a perfect segue to our next ‘cleanse’! And as always after this type of conference, I walk away with a renewed awareness of and commitment to eating a cleaner, more nutritionally balanced and life-sustaining diet. I will be sharing with you many of the ‘pearls’ that I gleaned from attending this symposium so do stay tuned.

In case you don’t know what functional medicine is, briefly it is a shift in how we view the body. Often in Western medicine, we focus on the symptoms an individual presents with, which usually occur in a constellation of sorts, leading us to a particular diagnosis of pathology or disease. Functional medicine goes beneath the symptoms and tries to understand what mechanisms are ‘broken’ or altered so that the focus of treatment is more on correcting the imbalances and  the changes , and by supporting the various components of the immune system.  One of the main distinctions of functional medicine is a comprehensive evaluation of the individual’s lifestyle and careful attention is aimed at improving this. Studies have shown over and over again that many of the diseases that are prevalent in our western culture are directly linked to poor and inadequate nutrition(whether it be due to overeating of processed foods or simply not getting the correct balance of micro-nutrients).  Chronic stress is linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, mood disorders, and many others.

Poor diet, chronic stress and lack of exercise are also associated with hormonal imbalances, which we have talked about in many of our previous blog posts.  Whenever I meet with my patients who is obviously struggling with symptoms of hormonal imbalances, I always stress that along with testing and treating the obvious indicators, we will also devote quite a bit of time addressing dietary, activity(or lack thereof!) and life quality factors. Otherwise, hormonal treatment will only work for awhile and soon the patient will be back to square one.

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener

By embarking on a mini-cleanse like this, you are doing your body a favor on so many levels. Remember to eliminate alcohol, caffeine(green tea is okay, as it has so many health benefits), sugar(other than stevia, small amounts of honey/agave or coconut sugar) and whites: pasta, rice, flour and potatoes. I will be on this starting Monday, March 4th , going through Friday March 8th and then I will resume on Monday, March 18th through Friday March 22nd. Please join in for the 10 days of your choice and as always, join in the conversation by posting a comment on the blog or on the Facebook page of Pearl Women’s Center. For more suggestions and information on how to do the cleanse, please refer back to my previous posts.

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best 'dessert' of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Eat a wide variety of fruits: the best ‘dessert’ of all, full of life-sustaining nutrients

Kudos to all of you who are joining me!

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Filed under Hormone Imbalance, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness