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Pumpkin

Get Your Fill of Pumpkin

Who doesn’t love a piping hot pumpkin pie after a big Thanksgiving meal? Even better is a cold slice for breakfast the next morning (if there is any left over, that is). I wish I could tell you that this desert is incredibly nutritious and that you can eat it as much as you want, but that buttery crust full of refined sugars is never going to be a healthy choice. However, that comforting, delicious filling is a wonderful source of nutrients and fiber! And isn’t that the best part of the pie anyway?

Whether you roast your own little sweet pumpkin or reach for unsweetened canned version, the filling is a surprisingly healthy and tasty addition to your diet during the holidays and all year. The flesh of this festive squash supports your body by supplying many vital nutrients:

  1. Vitamin A: pumpkins are supercharged with this essential vitamin that keeps your eyesight sharp and your immune system on point
  2. Beta-Carotene: this orange anti-oxidant helps fight aging and possibly cancer
  3. Potassium: pumpkins have more potassium than bananas, which is good news for tired muscles
  4. Plant Sterols & High Fiber: natural cholesterol lowering compounds and a high fiber content with few calories can help aid weight loss and blood sugar regulation
  5. Vitamin C: immune support right in the middle of flu season

Spice up your pumpkin for even more flavor and health benefits. Traditional pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves. For more information on the health benefits of cinnamon and ginger, see my previous post on spices. For this Thanksgiving and beyond, dress up your spiced pumpkin puree in new ways to get all the benefits without wrapping it in a package of empty calories. Here are some tasty ideas for incorporating pumpkin into your diet:

  1. Pumpkin Ice Cream: Combine 4 to 6 frozen ripe bananas with ½ cup puree in a blender. Add pumpkin spice. Add natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup to taste. Eat immediately or freeze for later.
  2. Pumpkin Cookies: check out this easy-peasy recipe from Plaid and Paleo: Protein-Rich, No-Bake Cookies
  3. Pumpkin Smoothie: add puree and pumpkin spice to your favorite smoothie ingredients (i.e. banana, almond butter, flax seeds, coconut milk, etc.)
  4. Pumpkin Oatmeal: just fold some puree and spices into your morning oatmeal for a delicious boost to an already healthy breakfast
  5. P-Spice Latte: adding puree and spices to coffee along with a milk of your choice (whole fat milk or unsweetened nondairy is best) and a small amount of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey

And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are also nutrient dense treats to add to salads, cereals, smoothies, or just on their own. They are quite versatile and can be consumed in different ways. If you are roasting your own little pumpkin for the flesh to make a puree, don’t throw those seeds away. Roast them and save them. If you are stocking up on the unsweetened canned variety, then stop by the bulk food section and get some roasted pumpkin seeds. Since the seeds are packed with fiber and protein, they can help make you feel full and satisfied on very few calories. And adding these little dietary powerhouses to your diet is a simple, savory way of adding these nutrients:

  1. Vitamin K
  2. Phosphorus
  3. Manganese
  4. Magnesium
  5. Zinc
  6. Copper
  7. Iron
  8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  9. Antioxidants
  10. Potassium
  11. Vitamin B2
  12. Folate

So, let’s give thanks for the mighty pumpkin and all it offers. Have fun searching for healthy recipes — the internet is brimming with them this time of year and the possibilities are endless. Pumpkin chili, curry and butter; have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Just watch the intake of refined sugars and white flours to get the best of what this seasonal fruit has to offer. Enjoy!

This information and more is available to patients in the Functional Nutrition Program overseen by Austin Preferred’s Holistic Medical Provider. Contact us at (512) 442-2727 if you’re interested in scheduling a consultation at our South Austin, Texas location.

By: Nicole Griffis

Healthy Spices

Healthy Spices Add More Than Flavor

Following a meal plan of whole foods without processed ingredients makes shopping simpler, once you become accustomed to making healthy choices. You can skip most of the grocery aisles that are crammed with processed foods like snack bars, heavy sauces and boxed dinners. Just make sure you don’t skip the spice aisle on your next trip. As you expand your palate for cooking with whole foods, try different mixtures of herbs and spices in your recipes. If you roast chicken and vegetables on a weekly basis because it is easy and nutritious, you can make the dish taste completely different each week by changing your herb and spice selection. Many spices have beneficial properties for health and metabolism, without the additional calories and chemicals. Here are the top spices to use from a health perspective:

Healthy Spices:

  1. Turmeric: This spice is most often used in Indian curries and has a bold flavor and color. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has become famous as a medicinal ingredient. More on Turmeric below.
  2. Dulse: These red seaweed flakes are savory and salty. Seaweed contains iodine which is essential for thyroid function and this particular variety is believe to support kidney and hormone function.
  3. Ginger: Many people know that delicious ginger is soothing for an upset stomach and enhances digestion. It is also an anti-inflammatory and a natural detoxifier.
  4. Rosemary: This common herb contains iron and calcium. As an ingredient, it can decrease carcinogens of cooked beef. If that isn’t enough it may ease allergy symptoms, manage type 2 diabetes, and help relieve stress.
  5. Cayenne: Capsaicin is the active ingredient in this hot spice that is used externally for pain relief in arthritis. It has been associated with decreased appetite and increased metabolism when taken orally.
  6. Cinnamon: This fragrant spice also has anti-inflammatory properties and has shown to stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics, enhance carbohydrate metabolism, and lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  7. Sage: Along with parsley, this herb is also rich in Vitamin K, which is important for blood and bone health.
  8. Oregano: This herb is rich in Omega-3-Fatty-Acids that are good for your brain and heart.

 

This article provides a glimpse into the type of information available to patients into the Functional Nutrition Program at Austin Preferred, created by Holistic Nurse Practitioner Nicole Griffis. Furthermore, you can contact us today you are interested in scheduling a consultation to enroll in the program.

Turmeric

Is Turmeric Worthy of the Hype?

By: Nicole Griffis, HNP, APRN-BC

Turmeric is a beautiful, fragrant spice used in many Indian dishes. It has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Thanks to attention from modern researchers, it has been spicing up health headlines with increasing frequency over the last decade. But what is it about turmeric that is so beneficial, and should we believe all the hype?

Curcumin is the active compound in Turmeric that gives it its signature color and many health benefits. Science has singled Curcumin out as a promising substance for an array of conditions. Some of the evidence has been overstated in the press. There is a debate as to whether Curcumin is the miracle substance it has been made out to be. And yet, I recommend Curcumin supplementation for all my patients and take it myself because the cumulative evidence is encouraging. But before I lay out all the potential benefits of Curcumin for you, there are some points I’d like you to keep in mind as you consider adding this wonder spice to your supplement regimen:

Curcumin Facts:

  1. Curcumin is very poorly absorbed by the body, so you need to take a lot of it. Just using the Turmeric spice alone is not enough Curcumin for your body to utilize. Therefore, a Curcumin extract supplement is the most effective delivery system.
  2. Black Pepper, aka Piperine or Bioperine, increases the body’s absorption of Curcumin by an estimated 2000%. So, any Curcumin supplement you take should have Black Pepper (or Piperine or Bioperine) listed as an ingredient along with Curcumin extract. Or you can swallow some whole black peppercorns with your supplement.
  3. Curcumin is fat soluble. So, you may enhance absorption by taking it with a meal containing healthy fats.
  4. It has been established that Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, so researchers are starting to examine its effects on the brain.
  5. Most research study participants were treated with at least 1 gram of Curcumin daily.
  6. Many research studies examining Curcumin benefits have a weak design or were sponsored by supplement companies, which brings their validity into question.
  7. Any claim that Curcumin cures and prevents a disease or a disease process is false.

Ok, now that we have put some perspective around the buzz of Curcumin as a health supplement, let’s look at some of the possible benefits and reasons it has withstood the test of time as a traditional medicinal herb:

Curcumin Benefits:

  1. Curcumin has been observed to interfere with the molecular level inflammatory process in the laboratory. This could be encouraging news for the chronic inflammation that contributes to chronic disease if it is confirmed in human subjects.
  2. Curcumin shows anti-oxidant properties and could possibly enhance the body’s own anti-oxidant pathways. Oxidation is the main driver of the aging process. So, the anti-oxidant properties of Curcumin could help diminish some effects of oxidation and aging over time.
  3. Curcumin enhances certain protective factors found in the brain in the laboratory. If Curcumin has the same effect in the human body, it could protect the brain from the aging process. This is why it is often touted to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, though this claim is far-fetched based on what we know so far.
  4. Curcumin may enhance endothelial function- this is the mechanism activated by the linings of arteries to regulate blood pressure, clotting, etc. If this is true, Curcumin could play a role in preventing heart disease.
  5. Curcumin has shown cancer fighting properties in the laboratory. There is a study that claims Curcumin prevents colon cancer. These studies were not conducted in humans and have many flaws. However, the results have caught the attention of cancer researchers and we should see more in this area over time.
  6. Curcumin appears to decrease pain in arthritis patients in several small, weakly designed studies.
  7. There is evidence from one small study that Curcumin may help decrease symptoms of depression, especially if used along with an antidepressant.

 

The bottom line is that much more research is needed for us to understand how Curcumin affects the body. And yet, we know that it is entirely safe when taken in recommended doses. With so many wonderful possibilities and virtually no harmful side effects, Curcumin is a valuable addition to any health supplementation regimen. As more research is conducted, we will hopefully find out how to enhance the many benefits seen in the lab within the confines of the human body. So, in the meantime, keep taking your Turmeric supplement with a healthy dose of optimism and perspective.

As a Holistic Nurse Practitioner, I am always looking for ways that my patients can enhance their health through simple, natural means. Modern medicine is effective at addressing acute injuries, chronic disease, and severe imbalances. Naturopathic medicine is effective at supporting the immune system, restoring balance, and creating harmony within and among body systems. My aim is to integrate these approaches to offer patients the best approach to not only prevent and treat disease, but to also enhance health and wellness. I will use this blog to promote methods everyone can use to optimize their health. To tackle any concerns specific to your body and lifestyle, make an appointment with me today!

Stress Relief

Five-Minute Stress Relievers

As you observe your own life’s stress and how it affects you, also observe what brings relief to you. What makes you feel lighter, looser, and more clear-minded? Exercise, fresh air, hugs from family or friends, and laughter are all accessible, healthy sources of joy and stress relief. Deep belly breathing is something we all have access to that has an immediate effect on our nervous systems and stress hormones. The beneficial effect of deep breathing meditation is dose dependent — the longer the meditation session, the more calming results seen in brain function according to multiple studies. However, five minutes of deep belly breathing is enough to initiate these changes, so take time to relieve yourself of the effects of stress. Here are a few other ideas for quick stress relievers:

 

  1. Deep Breathing: breathe into your belly for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out slowly for four seconds. Repeat for five minutes. Over time you may increase to five, six, or seven-second breaths. The benefits of this exercise cannot be overemphasized.
  2. Shake it off: get up and shake every part of yourself! Your head, arms, legs, fingers, toes, hips, and knees. Set a timer and go wild! End with a few stretches with your arms over head. Then simply stand and notice the difference in how you feel all over.
  3. Energy Burst: if you have the right footwear and are in good health, then exert yourself to the fullest for five full minutes. Run as fast as you can, jump as high as you can, whatever exercise you have access to. This exertion will burn up stress hormones quickly and efficiently.
  4. Visualization: lie down and go on vacation. Immerse yourself by imagining a peaceful place close to your heart, imagine it with all your senses. Try to stay still and breathe deeply and slowly to enhance the effect.
  5. Progressive Relaxation: lie down and start tensing your muscle groups one by one starting with your feet and moving up your body until you reach your face. Clench each area for about three seconds and then release them wholeheartedly. By the time you reach your head your whole body should be noticeably more relaxed.

 

This is merely a glimpse into the type of helpful information available to patients in Austin Preferred’s Functional Nutrition Program. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with the Nurse Practitioner, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Curtailing Cravings

Curtailing Cravings

By eliminating all sugars from your diet, you are taking a huge step in the fight against unhealthy cravings. A healthy diet maintains a steady blood sugar level which, in turn, should curb your perceived needs for sweets and empty calories. Nonetheless, cravings can be psychological or emotional in their origin and will take some work your part to fully address. This is especially true in Austin, Texas, given the amount of temptation in the city’s food industry. Here are some more tips to tackle those unwanted hungers:

Dos and Don’ts:

  1. Make sure your breakfast is rich in protein.
  2. Drink plenty of water or caffeine-free herbal tea throughout the day.
  3. Consider a fiber supplement to enhance fullness, if you are still feeling hungry with three meals and two snacks a day.
  4. Consider supplements that can help minimize cravings: Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D3, L-glutamine, chromium, alpha lipoic acid, among others. Ask Nicole about adding these to your regimen if you haven’t already.
  5. Get regular exercise – it is proven to reduce cravings!
  6. Get regular and quality sleep – also proven to reduce cravings!
  7. Identify the stressors that precede your craving: write down the time of day, situation, feelings, etc. You may see a pattern emerge.
  8. Be prepared – if you have a voice telling you it’s time for a treat at these stressful times, be prepared with an answer for that voice. For example: “Eating candy will only distract me from my stress for a few minutes but it will leave me feeling worse for the rest of the day.” OR “I have the ability to choose a healthy snack AND deal with this stress right now, the stress is temporary and I won’t let it derail my health.”
  9. Take a time out to reduce your stress with simple deep belly breathing for 3 to 5 minutes. Try this when cravings are the most intense or when you feel stress mounting. Also do it when you are feeling calm. You cannot overdose on stress relief techniques!

This information illustrates the type of guidance patients receive in Austin Preferred’s Functional Nutrition program. Furthermore, if you are interested in meeting with the Nurse Practitioner about improving your wellness, please contact us to schedule an evaluation.

Train Your Brain for a Healthy Lifestyle

Train Your Brain for a Healthy Lifestyle

Getting healthier is all in your head! Our relationship to food and to eating has everything to do with the stories we tell ourselves about food and eating. These stories are made up of beliefs we have held for many years, creating cyclical thought patterns that keep us in a rut of unhealthy habits. You must train your brain for a healthy lifestyle in order to counteract these erroneous thoughts. Any of the following sound familiar?

“I can eat sweets today because I will work out harder this weekend.”

“What I eat today doesn’t matter; I’ll just skip dinner tonight.”

“It’s okay if I eat fried foods; my grandpa ate like that and he lived to be 90!”

What is the story you have been telling yourself about food? Try to observe the thoughts you are having when you are struggling with unhealthy habits. Then come up with true statements that counteract this reasoning, put them on notecards and stick them on your mirror, in your car, at your desk. Repeat them out loud at least three times a day. It may feel silly at first, but it will help to create new cognitive patterns that can help you beat your cravings! Here are some examples based on the thoughts mentioned above:

“I can eat sweets whenever I want or I can get healthy and lose weight. But I can’t do both.”

“I will eat healthy at every meal and enjoy each bite because I am getting healthier every day.”

“I am eating healthy so I can be my best self, how other people eat does not change my body.”

Don’t be shy, give it a try!

This is just a small glimpse into the guidance patients will receive when enrolled in Austin Preferred’s Functional Nutrition Program. Anyone interested in working with our Nurse Practitioner to achieve their wellness goals should contact us today for an evaluation.

Wellness Tips for Dining Out

Wellness Tips for Dining Out

Eating out is America’s real favorite past time, isn’t it? Having a good meal out with friends or family can be emotionally nourishing, but not always nutritious or healthy. During your detox phase, it’s probably just easier to not eat out – but if you find yourself at a restaurant, here are some wellness tips for dining out:

 

  1. Pick a good place. Austin has many wonderful restaurants with fresh, local ingredients that will fit your meal plan.
  2. Look at the menu ahead of time. Menus online can allow you to determine what you can eat and how you can modify it if needed. It will be less stressful to know what you are getting into.
  3. Tell the waiter you have a food allergy. This way the importance of avoiding gluten, grains, and dairy will be clear. If they must go ask the chef about ingredients, that’s ok. You are not being rude or demanding, you are caring for your body’s needs now.
  4. Ask the waiter to skip the bread or chip basket.
  5. Drink a full glass or two of water while waiting for the food to come.
  6. Ask for side of olive oil and vinegar or lemon slices instead of getting salad dressing or sauce.
  7. Ask if vegetables can be prepared steamed or sautéed in olive oil.
  8. Get extra veggies instead of potatoes, rice, or bread on the side.
  9. Eat slowly, stop when you are feeling full.
  10. Get plain berries for dessert, if possible. There are plenty of good gluten and dairy free desserts out there, but they are still full of sugar and empty calories. Best to keep it simple.
  11. Savor your company, conversation, and ambiance!

 

More helpful tips like these are available through Austin Preferred’s new Functional Nutrition Program. Anyone interested in working with our Nurse Practitioner to achieve their wellness goals should contact us today for an evaluation.

Dry Needling at Austin Preferred

Pinpointing Pain Sources with Dry Needling

Dry Needling at Austin Preferred is a treatment technique offered in two variations through Physical Therapists Alicia Poche and Kristin Jarrett. During this invasive modality, needles are inserted into the skin and muscles at myofascial trigger points to target contraction knots. Contraction knots, which are sometimes difficult to pinpoint, are a key part of perpetuating the pain cycle if not addressed.

Dry Needling is used to  increase patients’ range of motion while decreasing muscle pain and tension in the affected areas. It has successfully been used to address many common injuries:

Common Injuries Dry Needling Treats:

  • Back, Neck, Hip & Shoulder Pain
  • Tennis/Golfer’s Elbow
  • Headaches
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Strains & Sprains
  • Tendonitis

This technique is generally recommended in conjunction with other Physical Therapy exercises, Chiropractic Care or Medical Services. Because Dry Needling is still relatively new compared to other methods, the full scope of physical and psychological benefits has yet to be determined. Furthermore, this modality is a cash service at Austin Preferred, meaning even those without health insurance are candidates for treatment.

We welcome those interested in Dry Needling to schedule an initial evaluation with our medical providers. Because this technique is not recommended for every case, you can reference our Services and Conditions pages for more information about our practice.

Blood Testing at Austin Preferred

Blood Testing at Austin Preferred

Providers at Austin Preferred Integrative Medicine strive to provide patients with a comprehensive array of options for diagnosing and treating ailments. Blood Testing at Austin Preferred can assess the body’s natural processes and scan for specific conditions. Patients may request a complete wellness panel or individual panels for concentrating on one area. Available panels at our clinic include:

Blood Testing At Austin Preferred

  • Hematology panel for evaluating conditions including anemia, infection and platelet disorders
  • Metabolic panel to examine electrolyte levels as well as liver and kidney function
  • Cardiovascular risk assessment panel including cholesterol and diabetes
  • Hormone panel to help identify thyroid and other possible endocrine disorders
  • Food and environmental allergy panels
  • Additional tests including Celiac, H. Pylori and Autoimmune panels

Different panels can provide insights for patients looking to assess specific bodily processes. You may contact us if you are unsure which type of blood testing can provide you with the particulars you desire. For more information on Chiropractic Care, Physical Therapy and Medical Services offered at our clinic, please see our Services page.

Migraine Headaches Be Gone

Twenty-Four million people in the United States alone suffer from migraines.  A migraine is typically a throbbing or pulsing headache, often focused on one-side of the head, and associated with nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, as well as certain smells.  Attacks are typically recurring, and can be less severe as the migraine sufferer ages.

Migraines can occur at any age, but typically begin between the ages of 10 and 40.  While some people experience several migraines a month, a select few only have a few migraines throughout their lifetime.  Nearly 75% of migraine sufferers are women.  Though migraines can happen at any time, some women experience migraines just prior to or during menstruation.  These migraines, called menstrual migraines, are related to hormonal changes and often do not occur during pregnancy.  Meanwhile, some women only develop migraines for the first time during pregnancy, or even after menopause.

The actual cause of a migraine is unknown.  It is believed, however, that the condition results from a series of reactions in the central nervous system, usually caused by changes in the body or in the environment.  Migraines often appear to be inherited, as there is often a family history of the condition.  These migraine sufferers may inherit the sensitivity to triggers that produce inflammation in blood vessels and nerves around the brain, which cause pain.

The signs and symptoms of migraine pain are often intense and severe, described by throbbing or pulsating pain that only gets intensified by routine physical activity, coughing, straining, or even moving the head.  These headaches can often get so severe that they interfere with the day-to-day activity of a person.  Sleeping migraine sufferers can be awakened by the attack, which can also cause a numbing sensation in hands and lips, as well as interfere with eyesight and vision for the duration of the attack.  Migraines can be so debilitating – causing sufferers to feel tired and weak even long after the migraine has passed.

Migraines typically begin in a specific area, usually on one side of the head, and can spread and build in intensity over a course of a few hours, then gradually subside.  They can last an entire day, or in some extremely severe cases, several days.

The problem with migraine symptoms is that they are as varied as the individual sufferer.  The strange sensations, such as tingling or the feeling of numbness, are known as auras, and can start anywhere from ten to thirty minutes before the migraine pain actually sets in.

Migraine treatment is possible.  Knowing what triggers your migraines and avoiding them is one of the best ways to avoid a migraine.  Treating acute attacks as they appear is crucial.
Our center offers an innovative treatment which has been very successful with hundreds of patients. Ask our doctors about our Headache and Migraine Program.

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