Natural Healing Omaha Blog
My life coach says I’m ‘up to big things’, which explains why my mind’s been chattering lately with lots of self-talk. Not the happy Oprah kind.
Is your monkey mind distracting you from success?
I’ve learned this is a good time to sit on the floor beside my bed, take a few breaths, and listen to what’s going on between my ears. Instead of calm, peace and universally loving thoughts about my life, the words lately sound more like this:
“I can’t do that”
“I’ve had it hard and that’s why I’ll be a failure”
“I’m not smart enough – so-and-so is better at this than me”
“You’re not successful enough to try”
“People will be watching and you might make a mistake”
“You don’t know enough”
“You’re gonna fail”
“Someday you’ll be good enough to do this, but not right now”
“You’re selfish to even try”
“It’s gonna cost too much money”
It’s like I’m trying to talk myself out of success so I’ll have an excuse when things don’t go like I expect.
This pattern of self-destructive thinking is sometimes called monkey mind. Pretty accurate description, I’d say. That monkey in my head is distracting me, jumping all over the cage, throwing insults and trying to push me off my game. She’s on full blast when I’m getting ready to accomplish something I’ve never done before.
I used to think I was the only person who struggled with this. Other people just got up in the morning, made up their minds to do something and did it. No self-doubt, no ‘poor me’, no excuses. Now I know better.
The most successful people you know hear this same monkey jabbering away when it’s time to face a big task or step out of their comfort zone. Somehow they learn how to tame the monkey and go ahead anyway.
Me? I wrestle with the mind chatter every day. Sometimes the monkey wins, sometimes I do. On the good days, I manage to keep calm and focus on where I’m going and what I love – sharing what I know about holistic healing, herbal medicine, and how it changed my life.
On those other days, when the self-doubt bubbles up and threatens to sabotage my plans, I forgive the monkey, act gently with myself and breathe. Sometimes, I just write a blog.
How do you handle the self-destructive mind chatter? What’s your strategy to keep the monkey mind from holding you back? Do you have a little retreat in your home or office, or a mantra that helps you cope or get beyond the critic in your brain? I’d love to hear your ideas!
“You’re kidding me. It’s only been 2 months.” When my sister told me a benign nodule on her thyroid shrunk from the size of an egg to a peanut in two months, I did a little happy dance. For her and for herbal medicine.
Tummy troubles? Maybe summer heat and humidity are aggravating an old pattern
Every time I turn around lately, someone’s blaming a healthy food for causing indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and probably last week’s summer flu. With all the GMOs, antibiotics, hormones and chemicals in our food, it’s an easy conclusion to draw.
But I have another theory. And Chinese medicine will back me up. People with chronic Heat and Damp imbalances in their constitution often don’t feel good this time of year.
Hot, damp weather can aggravate existing problems in the gut, as well as the skin, urinary tract and not surprisingly, the mind.
Heat and Dampness are two of the six ‘pernicious evils’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]. The theory goes that too much heat outside can aggravate heat inside the body. Same goes for dampness.
Summer is prime time for Heat, with a capital H, to mess with people who already suffer from one or more symptoms like:
- Acid-indigestion or ‘hot burps’
- Persistent acne breakouts, boils or red-toned skin eruptions or rashes
- A tendency to be more irritable, cranky or even talkative in hot weather
- Concentrated, dark urine or burning urinary tract infections
- A tendency to be thirsty, especially for cool or cold fluids
- Dryness and constipation (heat has a tendency to dry things out, right?)
- A red tongue, a fast pulse (more than 20 beats every 15 seconds) and a flushed face
When you add in the dampness that Summer humidity brings, it can complicate a Heat pattern in your body, causing dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and almost a flu-like feeling. We call this Summer Heat in TCM. It’s so nasty it falls into its own special category of ‘evil’.
Even if you’re not taken by the extremes of Summer Heat and Dampness, you can still feel occasional and persistent bloating, nausea, heartburn, acid burping, constipation/diarrhea or any of those uncomfortable digestive symptoms we like to blame on the picnic food or weekend splurges.
What to do about it? It’s not always the food’s fault, but it helps to avoid greasy, fried foods, cheese and alcohol, which contribute to the Heat and Damp imbalances.
Cool watermelon, berries, garden salads and cooling sun teas made from herbs like mint, lemon balm, basil, hibiscus with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of stevia are great Summertime options to balance digestion. And when digestion is working well, everything else tends to fall in line.
5 Tips for digestive health during hot, humid weather:
- Eat until you’re 70% full – not until you’re burping and bloated
- Fill up on green, not grain – think kale, salad greens, cucumber, bell peppers, snap peas, zucchini
- Ditch the drink with dinner – it’s NOT helping an already sluggish digestive system (this includes water, milk, and soda)
- Get up early on the hottest, most humid days to work on outside chores, or save them for another day
- Consider bitters – a few drops of swedish bitters on the tongue 15 minutes before eating will stimulate digestive juices and help break down food. Or enjoy a little dandelion root tea in the evening to smooth things out the next morning
Here’s another idea: visit a trained, professional herbalist.Why feel miserable one more day? Call me at 402.933.6444 and schedule your appointment now. No time? Try my Quick Stop 15-minute visit for $20, plus herbs.
You’d be surprised what women lump into the ‘hormone’ category of health problems. Pretty much anything and everything.
Midlife misery doesn’t always call for the heavy hand of hormone therapy
Girls, it’s time I said it loud and clear, because there is still alot of confusion around this message:
Herbs really DO lessen or completely eliminate many peri-menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, sleeplessness, hair loss, loss of libido, crazy periods, the whole deal.
It works gently. Quickly. Alot of times, permanently.
And safely. Up next to artificial or ‘natural’ hormone and surgical interventions, herbal medicine is so free of side effects and risks that it really doesn’t fall into the same category of healing.
Week after week, I visit with women who share stories of soaking the bedsheets from wicked night sweats, suffering weeks or months of exhausting insomnia, tracking periods that run the gamut from every 2 or 3 months to every 2 or 3 weeks, with flooding and sometimes debilitating pain, migraines and too many other miseries to name here.
They call me days or weeks after starting their custom herb formulas to say thank you for the relief.
My patients find me through a girlfriend or sister who didn’t have luck with conventional medicine and tried something ‘sort of out there’, as one woman referred to my work. I’m not offended.
Women come to herbal and natural medicine for lots of reasons – dissatisfaction with traditional medicine, bad experiences with drug side effects, a reputation for safety, and a desire to explore options to surgery.
For me, it was fear. During chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid to lose my hair, so I went to visit a naturopathic physician my friend was seeing.
I still lost my hair, but the pills and capsules cleared up my lifelong digestion problems and most of my fibromyalgia pain – conditions I’d resigned myself to dealing with forever.
Even if fear or drug side effects point them to herbal solutions, it’s the results that keep my patients coming back and getting more involved in their own healthcare decisions. When they get results, they stop worrying about what their doctor, their mother, or their husband might think.
Google the phrase ‘hot flashes’ and the results are a confusing assortment of 15 million quasi-scientific and product-centered websites. That’s alot of information to sort through, and having a professionally trained herbalist guide you through the quagmire can come in handy.
Taking a problem like night sweats to a professional herbalist might be the LAST thing you consider. It’s not the sort of healthcare option you see splashed across billboards on Dodge Street. Without drug company profit margins, those billboards and expensive advertising campaigns are pretty much out of the question for herbalists.
We rely on word-of-mouth, and let me tell you, women talk. Good results are the main reason my patients are telling their sisters, moms, daughters and co-workers to go see ‘that herb lady’ when they’re a hot mess of hormones.
Take your time and think it over. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you’re ready to explore your options. You’ll get the truth if I think herbal medicine is a less effective choice for your very personal situation.
So, come sit in a comfortable chair and let’s talk this thing through. No judgement, no obligation. Just one woman to another. That’s the most natural thing I can offer.
Keeping the Fire element cool is a Summer challenge worth taking
I think I have Summer-itis. Like senior-itis, except I’m not coming to the end of anything so important as my childhood. But around this time of year, I lose interest in pushing myself to extremes. Over-achieving is so ‘last season’.
Right now, my body says “slow down, it’s Summer”.
Everybody has their season. Summer people are the ones who feel invigorated and energetic right now, you could even say ‘in their element’. Of the 5 elements that Chinese theory uses to explain how human behavior relates to the cycles of nature – water, earth, fire, metal, wood – Fire is most in line with the hot Summer season.
That makes perfect sense just from a simple ‘Fire is hot, Summer is hot’ perspective.
Balanced [healthy] Fire personality types love the heat, get creative and motivated in the Summer, and are fun to be around. The Chinese associate this element with the Heart, so when you meet someone who is especially ‘warm-hearted’ – they give more than they take, feel moved by compassion and empathy toward others, and speak/listen with a gentle kindness – they’re a classic heart-centered person. These are the two ends of the healthy spectrum for Fire types.
Sometimes, Fire gets out of balance, from extremes of hot weather, life events or unhealthy lifestyle practices. The warm-hearted person becomes too empathetic, failing to practice healthy boundaries and taking on too much of everyone else’s stuff. They’ll caregive 24/7 for a sick loved one without reasonable time off, then find themselves in the hospital with chest pains.
The creative, bubbly personality becomes almost manic, starting several projects in a short time but leaving them all half-done. These people are the life-of-the-party, whose loud laughter carries across a crowded room, all red-faced and sweaty. They can be hot-headed with an intensity that practically burns, or ‘air-headed’, ungrounded, with lots of ideas and passion but not much follow-thru.
Think about how Fire ignites in a dry environment with a tiny spark of energy and a puff of air. It doesn’t take much to set off a Fire element person.
The flames of fire glow mostly in a spectrum around the color red, and red is associated with the season of Summer and the Fire element. Facial and skin redness, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine equates with the presence of heat, can point to a predominance of the Fire element. Think sunburn, hot skin eruptions, even a racing pulse, pounding heart, or insomniacs who can’t shut their minds off (we say the mind houses the spirit of the Heart).
If you’re like me, Summer makes you lazy, but happy. I’ve been shivering all year and this is my time to bask in the heat, power down and get rested up. But that’s another element for another blog…
Looking for some cool ways to nurture yourself?
TOP 5 WAYS TO PUT OUT YOUR SUMMER FIRE –
- Get some light exercise in the cool part of the morning
- Load up on watermelon and summer fruits, which keep urinary tract problems under control
- Better get Bitters – the bitter flavor helps cool, detoxify and improve digestion (think lemon, artichoke leaves, coffee in small amounts)
- Go jump in a lake – the Water element nourishes and calms our Summer fire. And it just feels good!
- Siesta! Take a short nap (20 minutes) in the hottest part of the day
Problems that tend to worsen in the Summer like urinary urgency and burning, indigestion, heartburn, and insomnia get quick relief from herbal medicine. Is your Fire burning a little too hot? Put it out with a Quick Stop 15-minute Assessment – only $20 plus herbs.
Call 402-933-6444 or email info@NaturalHealingOmaha.com to schedule an appointment today.
Fresh goodies from your farmer’s market tempt tastebuds
Why don’t more people shop at farmer’s markets? Heck, why don’t I shop there more often?
After last weekend, I’ve concluded that the only possible answer is this: habit. I’m just not in the habit of stopping at more than one place for groceries.
The thing is, the food at these neighborhood markets is so ridiculously cheap and fresh, I almost feel like I’m cheating someone. But really, I’m only cheating myself by not taking advantage of it more often.
Every time I walk into the deep freeze they call a grocery store these days, I wonder why I didn’t start at the market.
White and red radishes for 75 cents a bunch, spinach for $1, huge bundles of turnip and mustard greens for $1 (don’t know what to do with them? Click here for a photo and recipe).
Here’s what I discovered about the farmer’s market this weekend:
7 BEST THINGS ABOUT YOUR LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET:
1- You can find a farmer’s market almost every day of the week somewhere in your city [Omaha peeps, scroll down for a listing].
2- A $20 bill gets you enough veggies and meat protein for two people for at least 3 days.
3- Talk to the guy/girl who grew your food. It’s almost a little humbling to realize how much we depend on these gracious growers.
4- Eat your groceries while you’re still shopping. That’s how we discovered the white radishes are less spicy than the red ones.
5- You find out what’s in season, and discover that seasonal eating is healthier eating. [Here’s a link to a recent blog explaining why]
6- Fresh-picked food (within 2-3 days of market) has SO much more taste/flavor than supermarket food. Hands down.
7- Even if you don’t buy anything, you’ll be entertained. Street musicians, crowds of interesting people and pets, and displays of local crafts made my visit last weekend SWEET!
And now, here’s a listing of Omaha area farmer’s markets. Go get some fresh food today!
- May 18 – September 14, Washington Park on Franklin Street at West 20th Avenue, Bellevue
- May 4 – September 28, Military Avenue at Maple Street
- July 10 — October 2, 2915 Grant Street
- June 2 – September 29, 9102 North 30th Street
- May – September, Corner of 9th Avenue and South Main Street, Council Bluffs
- May 5 — October 20, 67th and Center
- May 4 — October 19, 11th & Jackson Streets
- June 5 – September 18, 1st Street Plaza located off 84th and 1st Street in Downtown Papillion (New Location in 2013!)
- May 1 – September 25, Parking garage next to Wohlner’s at 33rd and Dodge
- May 4 – October 5, 168th & Dodge
Shop, chop and eat green with Farmer’s Market goodies
Ok, so I didn’t follow a recipe; I followed my tastebuds. And my mouth was watering for the taste of cumin, curry and salt. Here’s what I put together for today’s lunch/dinner after my farmer’s market visit yesterday.
8 Cups mixed greens (kale, mustard and turnip are good)
1 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp. cumin seed
1/4 tsp curry powder
2/3 cup chopped tempeh
1/4 tsp garam masala spice mix
1″ sliced and chopped ginger root
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
Herb seasoning to taste
In a large pot, bring water to boil, add and submerge greens and sliced carrots, cooking 7-10 minutes until bright, colorful and tender. Strain and set aside. In a wok or large skillet, add ghee and cumin seed and cook on medium heat until aroma of cumin emerges (about 1-2 mins). Continue to stir, adding tempeh, ginger and remaining spices, until tempeh is golden brown. Add drained, cooked greens and sesame oil to taste, heating through. Serve immediately and season to taste with herb mix. Optional: add black beans or onion while cooking tempeh.
Makes enough for 2 individual meals.
Summer berries eaten in season offer the most health benefits
My guest blogger, Jen Allen, shares what she discovered about herself, and primitive man, when she started eating seasonally. If you’re a fan of summer fruit, her blog will give you even more reason to load up on seasonal delights like strawberries. Now’s the perfect time!
For most of my adult life I knew that eating seasonally was a good idea to save money at the grocery store. It wasn’t until I took a series of classes with a local nutritionist that I learned the real magic of eating seasonally through the lens of Chinese medicine.
Eating seasonally gives the body the right nutrients in one season to help prepare it to be healthy in the next season. It offers the right organs a rest in one season to help prepare those specific organs for the next season. A year of eating seasonally provides whole body health improvements that you may have been struggling with otherwise. That perspective gave me a whole new appreciation for the delightful early summer treat of strawberries.
Strawberries are the first fruit that appear on the landscape in early summer. If you’re eating seasonally, you’ve just come out of a “fruitless” winter and a spring where salad greens and asparagus have dominated your plate. Your first bite of a ripe strawberry tastes like a sweet dessert! And that’s quite a miracle considering that strawberries rank at the bottom when it comes to sugar content.
Anthropologically, the strawberry is meant to be the gateway to a summer of slightly higher sugar content than the other seasons due to the continual supply of seasonal fruit like watermelon and raspberries and ending with apples in the fall. It prepares the body to handle just a few more carbohydrates in preparation for the coming winter. Anthropologists believe this helped the body put on a little extra layer of fat to help paleolithic man get through winter without freezing. Winter was a time of scarcity during which that little extra layer of fat meant the difference between survival and death.
Fortunately, surviving the winter is less of a concern these days, but a healthy body and strong immunity are not. When you take a closer look at the nutrition profile of a strawberry, you’ll find that just 100 grams contains 98% of your recommended amount of vitamin C. Based on serving size, only blackberries and walnuts contain more antioxidents.
Here are my tips for maximizing your strawberry experience:
- Only purchase strawberries when they are in season, which is the month of June in the Midwest. They taste the best and cost the least.
- Purchase organic strawberries when possible because conventional strawberries rank among the highest in pesticide residues.
- Grow a little patch of strawberries in a sunny spot in your yard. They are easy to take care of, and freshly picked strawberries contain the highest levels of nutrients.
- Think twice about U-Pick strawberry farms. Be sure to ask them about the pesticides they use. It’s hard to manage acres of strawberries without them, and gorging on their strawberries can give you a high dose.
What about strawberry recipes, you ask? Nah, just eat the strawberry. Whole. Savor the taste. Appreciate the season. Share a bowl with a loved one that doesn’t mind your company with strawberry juice dripping down your chin. That’s the best strawberry recipe!
Jennifer Allen is a local food rights advocate and food educator. Her passion is helping to connect consumers with farmers. I’ll update you on her new blog when it’s released later this year. In the meantime you can find her at www.meetup.com/realfoodomaha and https://www.facebook.com/omaha-paleo#!/groups/whole30omaha/.
A gentleman brought his 94 year old mother to me asking for help with her 4 months of bowel incontinence, which was making her miserable and exhausted, not to mention the loss of dignity that goes with that sort of thing.
Her doctors had prescribed all sorts of medications, but nothing worked and she was getting weaker every day. In my office, she covered up with her winter coat, looking frail and pale, but I could see the feisty woman she really was underneath the weariness.
A warmer diet for a weakened person can make all the difference
One solution jumped out at me right away, but I questioned whether her caregivers at the nursing home would get on board.
I suggested the staff hold off on serving her fruit juices, cold fruit, iced tea and cottage cheese, all of which are known to contribute to loose stools and digestive problems for those with the TCM pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency.
It’s a clinical term that describes a pattern of disharmony in Traditional Chinese Medicine. People with this pattern have sometimes been weakened by a long period of stress like an illness (my patient had suffered a stroke), or excessive cold, damp foods, or both. In her case, a very long life even by today’s standards, contributed a large degree to her deficiency patterns.
A week later, the patient’s son called to say that even before starting the course of herbs I recommended, she was 50% better. The staff was shocked at how much just a simple diet change, including warmer foods, soups and hot teas, did to improve her quality of living.
Holistic healing isn’t always about taking an herb or supplement. It takes into account everything from lifestyle factors to diet and even spiritual practices. Even a minor adjustment like the temperature of your food can make a big difference in the whole you.
Could there be one simple practice that needs a tiny little turn-of-the-dial in your life or the life of someone close to you?