Category Archives: Kids

The Medicinal Uses of Honey

Over the past two years, our family has embarked on an adventure into the world of beekeeping–and an adventure it has been! We have all enjoyed suiting up and walking out to the field to tend the hives. Between observing their behavior, learning how to care for bees and beehives,, collecting swarms, and processing honey we have learned and enjoyed so much about having these amazing and beneficial creatures in our backyard.

While honey has been used for thousands of years for its healing properties, there are many scientific studies that have recently established its utility for a number of issues. It is anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, antimicrobial, and promotes healing. In my mind, honey is best used to heal the skin and membranes of the mouth and nasal cavity from wounds and infections. Honey promotes wound healing by killing bacteria, reducing the size of the wound, improving the growth of healthy new cells, and decreasing scarring. It is postulated that antioxidant properties of honey improve wound healing by decreasing free radical damage.

There have been many studies that have shown the ability of honey to kill infectious bacteria, primarily because of the presence of hydrogen peroxide in the honey. When tested against mupirocin (a common topical antibacterial), honey worked equally well to kill meticillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) that was growing in the nasal cavity. Some types of honey, such as manuka honey, also contain a chemical called methylglyoxyl, which is not as easily deactivated by enzymes in human blood. This gives these types of honey even greater antibacterial activity.

My favorite use of honey is for assisting in the healing from upper respiratory infections. It soothes the mouth and throat, decreases the cough response, and decreases any bacteria that could be aggravating the infection. Most people are familiar with the old time remedy of honey and lemon in water to soothe a sore throat and decrease a cough. Multiple studies have shown the ability of honey to decrease coughing, particularly at night. When tested against dextromethorphan (robitussin), diphenhydramine (benadryl), levidroproprazine (an antitussive more common in Europe) salbutamol (albuterol) and placebo, honey worked as well or better than all of these except dextromethorphan for decreasing cough and helping to sleep without being woken by that cough. Given the potential for side effects of all of the above medications and the efficacy of honey, it a no-brainer to try this first for treating that cough that’s keeping you up at night.

With this in mind, I use honey as the base for my cough and cold syrup that I make for my patients and my family during the cold and flu season. I make an herbal extract with a combination of herbs, including licorice root and yerba mansa to assist in healing the lining of the mouth, throat, and nose, osha to clear out mucus, wild cherry bark to decrease the compulsion to cough, and elderberry to stimulate the immune system. This mixture is combined with local honey and turned into a tasty and effective syrup that I call “Dr. Kaycie’s Slime Buster”. It is safe and effective for kids over the age of 12 months as well as adults. Feel free to let me know if you want to know more about it!

Molan P1, Rhodes T2.Honey: A Biologic Wound Dressing.Wounds. 2015 Jun;27(6):141-51.
Morroni G1, Alvarez-Suarez JM2,3, Brenciani A1 et al. Comparison of the Antimicrobial Activities of Four Honeys From Three Countries (New Zealand, Cuba, and Kenya).Front Microbiol. 2018 Jun 25;9:1378.
Willix DJ1, Molan PC, Harfoot CG. A comparison of the sensitivity of wound-infecting species of bacteria to the antibacterial activity of manuka honey and other honey.J Appl Bacteriol. 1992 Nov;73(5):388-94.

Abd Jalil MA1, Kasmuri AR, Hadi H. Stingless Bee Honey, the Natural Wound Healer: A Review.Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(2):66-75.
Oryan A1, Alemzadeh E2, Moshiri A3.Biological properties and therapeutic activities of honey in wound healing: A narrative review and meta-analysis.J Tissue Viability. 2016 May;25(2):98-118.
Poovelikunnel TT1, Gethin G2, Solanki D3, et al. Randomized controlled trial of honey versus mupirocin to decolonize patients with nasal colonization of meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. J Hosp Infect. 2018 Feb;98(2):141-148.
Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;(3):
Miceli Sopo S1, Greco M2, Monaco S2 et al. Effect of multiple honey doses on non-specific acute cough in children. An open randomised study and literature review.Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2015 Sep-Oct;43(5):449-55.
Oduwole O1, Meremikwu MM, Oyo-Ita A, Udoh EE. Honey for acute cough in children. Evid Based Child Health. 2014 Jun;9(2):401-44.

Oduwole O1, Udoh EE, Oyo-Ita A, Meremikwu MM.:Honey for acute cough in children.Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Apr 10;4

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In honor of Food Day, Chef Lilly Steirer and I have been talking about some of the great ways to incorporate more nourishing foods into our diets. One of the things she asked me was to comment on some strategies for helping our kids to eat well. Kids, mine included, can be very picky eaters, so here are some of my strategies for helping them to make nutritious choices:

Repetition–Often, just having a healthy option on the table, and asking the kids to eat just a little of it, will pay off over time as they become accustomed to it.

“Deconstructed” meals–One thing that has been helpful for getting my kids to eat well is recognizing that, while the whole meal may not look appealing, the individual components of the meal often are. I often serve “deconstructed” meals. For instance, if you make a chicken curry, you can reserve some of the plain cooked chicken, veggies, and rice and allow the kids to use the sauce as they please.

Healthy alternatives–Have fruits, veggies, nuts, and healthy crackers available when they reach for a snack. At dinner time, make sure there is a protein, a healthy starch such as brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain pasta, and a vegetable available.

Ownership–letting your kids choose from an array of healthy options helps them be more excited about eating. My kids always eat more of their lunches when they make their own or we talk about what they want to eat when I pack it.

Gardening– Gardening has also been a great way to get my kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables because they have seen them from seed to table and they feel a sense of ownership and pride with the produce we have produced.

Good Attitude–If your kids see you being picky about food, they are more likely to be less adventurous.

Moderation–Treat treats like treats, not habits. A small bite of good quality dark chocolate is not the same as an entire Hershey bar. Instead of soaking pancakes in syrup, my kids love a small pool to dip in. Life and eating should be fun, just keep things in check.

BPA: Minimize Exposure to Optimize Reproductive Health

I was recently reading a New York Times article entitled “In Plastics and Cans, a Threat to Women,” (1) which talked about some of the more recent research that has been showing the reproductive effects of Bisphenol A, or BPA. The studies quoted in this article show that BPA restricts development of healthy eggs in animal models. Exposure to BPA at any time of life: in the womb, in childhood, and in adulthood all will have a negative effect on female fertility. In a study conducted on discarded eggs from an IVF clinic, they found “Higher levels of BPA were linked to stunted human oocytes, as well as indications of chromosomal damage.” Higher serum levels of BPA have also been linked to greater risk of miscarriage.(2) Studies have also found BPA to have a negative impact on male reproductive function, most profoundly when exposure occurs in utero. Effects on male fetuses included, among other issues, feminization and testicular atrophe. (3)

Although reproductive problems are only one of the ways in which BPA can affect human health (it has also been associated with diabetes, heart disease, thyroid problems and weight gain), this issue is particularly alarming because of the profound impact it can have on our and our children’s quality of life. Infertility is a huge issue in the United States, and it is important for us to look to the future to protect the reproductive health of our children. The choices we make for our children during pregnancy and in their early years can profoundly influence their overall health and reproductive capability in the future. So how can we minimize exposure to and negative effects from BPA?

BPA is an extremely common compound; 5-6 billion tons are produced annually worldwide. The CDC estimates that 93% of people in this country have detectable levels of BPA in their bloodstream, so most of us are coming into contact with it on a regular basis. It can be found in:
Protective layers of canned food containers
wine vat linings
lining water pipes
plastic food storage containers
epoxy resin based paints
floorings
dental composites and sealants
CDs
automobile parts
baby bottles
plastic dinnerware
eyeglass lenses
toys
thermal receipts
impact resistant safety equipment
Some PVC plastics (4)
A recent study found that people who had extensive contact with BPA-coated receipts (such as grocery store checkers) did not have significant elevation in their blood levels of BPA. (5) So coming into skin contact with BPA is probably of less concern to most of us. For most people, the primary route of entry into the body is by ingesting food that has been in contact with BPA. For this reason, the primary way to avoid BPA exposure is to be conscientious about how your food is stored.

The good news is that many companies have switched to BPA-free plastics for food storage. Most baby bottles, water bottles, and many storage containers produced in the past 2-3 years will now be BPA free. In general, it is a good idea to avoid any food or water containers made of plastic with a number 7 on the bottom. This is not a guarantee that the plastic contains BPA, but it could. Rubbermaid has switched their storage containers to be BPA-free as well. However, even plastics that are BPA-free may contain other less-studied substances that can also influence the function of the endocrine (hormone) systems, so moving towards glass and ceramic storage containers is generally a good idea.

Another way to avoid BPA is to eat more fresh, homemade foods. There are many companies that have started switching the lining of their cans to be BPA-free (here’s a nice list of these companies)(6), but in addition to all the other health promoting reasons it is a good idea to make your food yourself, you will be minimizing the risk of exposure from BPA-lined cans.

While minimizing exposure to BPA is obviously a primary goal, it is clear that most of us will come into contact with it in our daily lives. Assuming that most of us have BPA in our system, the final question is how we can mitigate its effects. While there is less research so far in this area, one thing we know is that at least some of its negative effects result from oxidative damage to cells or DNA. It stands to reason then to look to some of our natural antioxidants to counteract the oxidative effects of BPA. In one in vitro study, oxidative damage to red blood cells was reversed using green tea.(7) Another study showed that the effects of oxidation by BPA were reduced in young women by consumption of wheat sprout juice. (8)

BPA is an extremely common substance: most of us come into contact with it on a daily basis, and almost all of us have it in our bodies. While we must live in our world and not spend our time worrying about every detail, it makes sense to minimize exposure to BPA, especially during pregnancy and childhood. The best way to do this is to focus on eating fresh, home-prepared foods, store our foods in glass and ceramic containers, and eat plant foods that are rich in antioxidants. This will help us to maintain good health and preserve the reproductive health of our children.
1.http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/28/in-plastics-and-cans-a-threat-to-women/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=health&_r=1
2. Lathi RB1, Liebert CA2, Brookfield KF3, et al. Conjugated bisphenol A in maternal serum in relation to miscarriage risk.Fertil Steril. 2014 Jul;102(1):123-8.
3.Manfo FP1, Jubendradass R, Nantia EA et al. Adverse effects of bisphenol A on male reproductive function.Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2014;228:57-82. ,
4. http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/BisphenolA_BiomonitoringSummary.html
5. Porras SP1, Heinälä M2, Santonen T2. Bisphenol A exposure via thermal paper receipts.Toxicol Lett. 2014 Aug 28. pii: S0378-4274(14)01310-1.
6. http://www.inspirationgreen.com/bpa-lined-cans.html
7.Suthar H, Verma RJ, Patel S, Jasrai YT. Green tea potentially ameliorates bisphenol a-induced oxidative stress: an in vitro and in silico study. Biochem Res Int. 2014;2014:259763. Epub 2014 Aug 10.
8.Yi B1, Kasai H, Lee HS, et al.Inhibition by wheat sprout (Triticum aestivum) juice of bisphenol A-induced oxidative stress in young women. Mutat Res. 2011 Sep 18;724(1-2):64-8.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)

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Apple-Cranberry Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)
We had some old friends over for dinner the other night to catch up and let the kids run around together.  We had this for dessert and the recipe was requested, so here it is!
Baked fruit desserts are my go-to standby for company because they are simple, easy to make ahead, relatively healthy, and great the next morning with yogurt for breakfast.  This is a gluten free, vegan winter version that utilizes what’s in season now.
(serves 6-8)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
5 small apples, peeled and cut into chunks
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
2 Tbsp corn starch
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup oil (I used avocado, but any mild oil or butter is fine)
In a medium bowl, mix apples, cranberries, corn starch, and 1/3 cup maple syrup. Transfer to an 8X11 baking dish.  Using the same bowl, mix oats, flours, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, and the other 1/3 cup maple syrup until it forms a crumb texture.  Sprinkle over the fruit, making sure all fruit is covered. Bake 45 minutes to an hour until the fruit bubbles and the topping is brown.

Happy Solstice! Tips for easy home gardening and what to do now!

photo (27)

Hooray for March!  My favorite bipolar season.  In the past week we’ve had powder days at the ski resorts, hot days of rock climbing in shorts and a t-shirt, rain, sleet, and a foot of snow in my front yard.  We have been lucky and mother nature has been giving us some moisture in the past couple of months, so the garden is starting to awaken.  After the snow melted away this weekend, we discovered the garlic I planted in November is starting to poke out some green shoots.  This means it’s time to start thinking about planting.

I almost don’t need to even mention the health benefits of gardening.  Aside from getting the freshest, most nutrient packed foods that are grown exactly to your standards, gardening deepens our awareness of what’s in season (and consequently what foods are best for our bodies).  Having the kids help also encourages them to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and teaches them about where our food comes from.

If you haven’t done a lot of gardening, you live in a place with limited space, or you don’t have a lot of free time to spend in the dirt, here’s a quick list of things to try to optimize your production this year, plus a reminder of what you should be doing right now:

Plants with the best effort/output ratio:

Cherry tomatoes–these can be successful from indoor sprouting, buying a plant from the store, or direct seeding to a pot or garden.  Sun Golds are our family favorite for flavor and abundance.

radishes–Very satisfying for the impatient gardener.  Generally you can go from seed to salad in about 3 weeks

zucchini–if you have some room in the garden and a good water supply, zucchini wins for easy to grow and maximum poundage.

peas–if you have a place to trellis, peas are my kids’ favorite for direct snacking from the garden.

kale–One or two kale plants usually keeps my family eating greens (and kale chips!) from late may to late November.

Plants that are best for limited space:

potherbs: Plant a large pot on the back deck with oregano, basil, cilantro and thyme for added flavor to summer dinners.  Lavender and chives are also wonderful in pots because they come back year after year.

Cherry tomatoes–Especially if you get a “bush” variety, these are a great choice for pots.

strawberries–You can buy a hanging strawberry garden that will provide treats right from the patio.

baby greens–Many seed companies make a “garden mix” seed packet that you can harvest as they grow, or replant throughout the warm months for salads all season long.

 

Fun perennials that will come back each year:  These are all nice because with a bit of effort at the outset, you will have garden treats for years to come.

Rhubarb

Strawberries

Asparagus

Horseradish

Grapes

raspberries

mint

And here’s what you should be thinking about for your garden in March:

What to plant outdoors now:

Potatoes

onions

chives

carrots

radishes

kale

peas

spinach

lettuce

What to sprout now:

tomatoes

eggplant

cucumbers

peppers

 

Happy Solstice!  Enjoy!

Healthy Snacking

I have been thinking about snacks quite a bit lately. From the days of my pregnancies where I seemed to need some food what seemed like hourly, to my current days of trying to find something yummy and healthy that a 2-year old and 9-month old will be excited to munch on, I am always on the lookout for something convenient, portable, low-sugar, high-nutrition, and relatively allergen-free. In the past, common wisdom said that snacking between meals was unhealthy and promoted weight gain. However, healthy snacks can help to balance blood sugar and mood and can promote restful sleep; it also helps the body to use your calories properly and not store them as fat. So, with this in mind, and a bit of inspiration from The Shoshoni Cookbook, I came up with this recipe for a “cookie” that gets the toddler as well as an adult thumbs-up:
Oatmeal Banana Raisin Cookies
Makes about 6 dozen–you can halve this recipe!
2 cups bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 eggs (can substitute 2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp warm water if egg sensitive or vegan)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup raisins
Optional: 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds, or chopped walnuts (for added healthy fats and protein)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix banana, oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey in a medium sized bowl. In another bowl, mix oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then mix in raisins and coconut, seeds, or nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet–they don’t spread much, so you can put them close together on the sheet. bake 14 minutes until lightly browned.

Garlic to Prevent and Treat Colds and Flu

This Year’s Harvest

It’s garlic planting season again.  It catches me by surprise every year because I’m just simply not in planting mode in mid-October.  Which means that every year in February I’m out there trying to hack a hole in the frozen ground to plant some garlic, realize that’s a dumb idea, and then go back to it in late March.  This year I added to the dumbness by trying to mulch my garlic (embedded in half frozen ground) with hay rather than straw (in case you don’t know the difference, hay has seeds in it, straw does not) which meant I spent the entire spring and summer pulling grass out of my garlic patch.  And then when I pull the garlic up in October as I did last week it’s very nice but not as large as I was hoping for.  So this year I’m making a Halloween resolution to plant garlic this month, and perhaps scare away some vampires for good measure.

Why do we love garlic? Let me count the ways.  Garlic has been researched for its health promoting properties to regulate blood sugar, blood lipids, and even treat cancer, in addition to being an indispensable addition to almost everything I cook.  Today, however, I am going to focus on its role in preventing and treating infections.

As I’ve mentioned before, a primary health focus for the autumn months is immunity, and this year colds, flus, tonsillitis and all their buddies all seem to be starting up earlier than ever.  When fighting viruses such as cold and flu, garlic has been shown to help prevent these illnesses.  When taken internally (aka eaten), garlic activates immune cells called T cells and NK cells to help the body fight off viruses before we get sick.  The primary active constituents that help garlic be such a powerful immune booster are called alliin and allicin; these are also the source of garlic’s pungent and wonderful scent.  Alliin is enzymatically converted to allicin when garlic is crushed or chopped so swallowing whole cloves won’t do you as much good.

Garlic has also been shown to kill bacteria and fungi, which can be useful for strep and other forms of tonsillitis.  In open wounds, garlic helps to prevent the formation of what are called biofilms.  Biofilms are a handy little trick that bacteria have of banding together to make a wall around themselves and prevent our immune cells or antimicrobial agents from getting in–sort of like bacterial armor. Because it can prevent this, garlic applied topically can prevent a wound from getting infected.

In Chinese medicine, garlic is seen as a very hot herb; it gets your circulation moving and boosts your temperature to more effectively fight and get rid of bugs.  Generally in this tradition garlic is not recommended for kids to eat every day because they are so warm to begin with.  However, garlic is seen as a wonderful medicine for children with colds and flu.  In his book Healing with Whole Foods Paul Pitchford recommends making a sandwich out of thin slices of apple with a slice of garlic between to help prevent and treat colds for kids.

Because of this quality of heating the body and helping to move illness out of the system, garlic can also be used to treat coughs, particularly those that have settled in and been hanging around for too long.  One of my mentors Bill Mitchell, ND specifically used it for  “excessive, irritating, and persistant coughs.” His prescription in this case is to chop 2 cloves and swallow them in a slug of water four times per day for an adult.  This would be sure to exorcise any cough, demon, or vampire without fail.

With this in mind, get out there and celebrate at your local garlic festival, make a batch of pesto, or roast a head to spread on some crackers with brie.  Your immune system will thank you for it.  As for me, I will be in the garden digging and planning for next year’s harvest.

An Apple a Day?

In honor of the birth of each of my girls we planted an apple tree.  My older daughter, who will be 4 this week, has a braeburn and my 2 ½ year old a macintosh.  Due to a combination of an incredibly good growing season for fruit and since these trees have finally spent a few years in the ground and have established themselves, we have our very first apple harvest this year.  Hooray!  I know that there are many folks out there who have old apple trees in their yard that produce beautiful apples every year without a moment of attention, and I cringe as I walk by the yards where those apples fall to the ground and go to waste.  In our yard, however, we have a steep pitch and difficult soil, so these trees have been tended lovingly and consistently for 3 or 4 seasons now.  If we can beat the magpies, earwigs, moths and squirrels to it, we plan on enjoying every bite.

My husband harvested the macintosh tree yesterday, and due to our friends mentioned above, we ended up with about half perfect and half slightly munched apples.  The intact apples went into cold storage for eating in the weeks to come.  The imperfects go bad quickly so I had to come up with a plan for about 45 apples by this morning, and I decided upon apple butter.  With apples in particular I love having fresh and cooked options as they are both so delicious and beneficial in their own ways..

Apples are a wonderful food to support the body as we transition from summer into autumn.  They are somewhat cooling in nature which is nice in these still warm days, but are supportive to the systems that work the hardest during this time of year.  One of the primary issues I see emerging during September is many colds start to pop up, especially in school aged kids.  The combination of added stress and close proximity means everyone tends to end up with the sniffles.  In Chinese medicine, fresh apples have historically been used to moisten and cool hot, inflamed lungs. Apple peels have also been shown to be high in antioxidants which helps the body recover from stress and generally support the immune system.

Another thing I see manifesting at the beginning of the school year is digestive issues in kids.  New schedules and stress seem to really affect those with a natural tendency towards constipation.  Apples are particularly high in a type of soluble fiber called pectin.  Pectins are able to bulk and soften the stool and allow it to pass more easily.  Baking apples helps to release those pectins and makes the apples more warming and supportive to digestive function.  1-2 baked apples per day depending on the size of the apple (and the person eating them) is one of the best and least invasive ways to relieve constipation.  On another note, pectins are also helpful for decreasing cholesterol levels and stabilizing blood sugar.

After 8 hours of peeling, chopping, cooking, pureeing, and reducing, I am thrilled to finally be putting my apple butter in jars.  It will be a wonderful reminder of these bright fall days in the colder months to come.  For now, though, enjoy the apples straight from the tree or bake them into a warm treat for breakfast or dessert; they are fantastic now when they are fresh and so good for you. Put one on your teacher’s desk, and save one for yourself!

Fluid and Electrolyte Balance for Athletes

 


I learned my lesson this year when it comes to hydration.  As I wrote about last month, we did our first long bike tour this summer: The Courage Classic.  The first day of the classic this year we started in Leadville, looped around Turquoise lake then rode up to Fremont pass before descending to Copper Mountain resort. The first 15 miles or so around the lake were beautiful and exciting with steep, winding ascents and descents.  The next 18 miles up to the pass was a steady climb with a steep finish.  I knew as I started the final climb up to the pass that I was feeling slower and slower, and when I finally reached the pass I was ready for a snack.  Over the past 3 ½ hours I had drained my large bike water bottle, perhaps 25 oz or so, plus 4 or 5 oz at one of the aid stations.

At the aid station atop Fremont pass, I got off my bike and found a snack–a crustless pre-manufactured white bread pb&j in a plastic wrapper. Under the circumstances, absolutely delicious!  I took a couple sips of water then went to chat for a moment with someone from my team.  We gave high fives, said good job, I smiled and turned away.  As I turned, I noticed that all the muscles in my face had frozen into place.  It occurred to me at that moment that perhaps I had not properly prepared with water and electrolytes for the race.  I forced my cheeks out of their joker-mask configuration and got back on the bike.

The rest of the day was good, I had a fun screaming fast ride down into Copper Mountain and all was well; but I paid for it with a doozy of a headache for the rest of the day. I also know my performance and fatigue was seriously affected by my dehydration.  The next day I doubled the water consumption, rode faster, and wasn’t tired at the end of a similar ride.

So how much water do we need when we exercise?  A good rule of thumb is that if we are sweating at a maximal rate, we lose about 1 oz/minute.  This means that if you are going full-tilt, you will lose almost 1 liter for every ½ hour of exercise.  Most endurance sports will cause a 1.5 liter/hour fluid loss, and in high heat you can lose up to 2.5 L/hour.  Water weighs about 2 pounds per liter, so we can assume a loss of 3-5 pounds per hour for endurance sports such as biking, running, soccer, etc.

Research has shown that “sweating beyond 2% of body weight can cause significant impairment of endurance through deficiencies in thermoregulatory and circulatory function.”  This means two things: First, when we lose too much water through sweat, the body stops sweating and our body temperature rises too high and can make us more prone to fatigue and cramping and can even become dangerous to health.  Secondly, when we lose blood volume, the heart is not able to circulate blood as efficiently so we get less ideal oxygen supply to the muscles and brain which also impairs performance. This means, that for a 150 pound person, 1 hour of exercise without replacing the water lost will result in worse performance. If you are going to be out for several hours, working towards 1 liter/hour would help to keep up with fluid loss enough to meet the body’s needs for an extended event.

So what about performance and electrolyte drinks?  In most electrolyte drinks, there are three primary components:  water, carbohydrate, and electrolytes.  Research has shown that for the first hour of exercise, energy primarily comes from glycogen which is stored in the muscles.  After this, as the glycogen is used up, the body will rely more and more upon glucose in the blood.  For extended exercise, it is recommended to ingest 1 gram/minute, or 240 calories/hour.  Generally, it is better to start this before fatigue sets in so the body has time to absorb the calories.

The primary electrolytes that are lost during exercise are sodium and chloride, so again, for prolonged exercise it is worthwhile to supplement with salt; this can minimize muscle cramping and fatigue.  While these are the primary electrolytes in the fluid surrounding the body’s cells, the most common electrolyte found in the cells is potassium.  Potassium containing foods such as avocados, bananas, and potatoes can be a good follow up to exercise, and coconut water has a very high amount of potassium and is excellent for hydration.

Sports drinks can be useful before, during, and after a workout to keep blood sugar, water, and electrolytes, but you don’t necessarily have to get too fancy.  One study compared plain water, sports drink, coconut water, and a sodium enriched coconut water for rehydration after exercise.  The sports drink and sodium enriched coconut water were the most successful at rehydrating people, but the coconut water variety was the best tolerated in terms of volume.  Another thing to consider for kids following a big event is good old potato chips and a glass of water–they will get carbohydrates, potassium, and salt from the chips which will help with rehydration and prevent muscle cramping.

Sources:
Ismail I, Singh R, Sirisinghe RG. Rehydration with sodium-enriched coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration. Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2007 Jul;38(4):769-85.

Coggan AR, Coyle EF.Carbohydrate ingestion during prolonged exercise: effects on metabolism and performance.Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1991;19:1-40

Groff, Gropper.  Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 3rd ed. 2000.

picking peaches

Oh how I love summer vacation.  We just returned from a week at the “beach”–in Colorado, this means a chilly, snowmelt-fed reservoir at 8000 feet with a rocky shore, but it still qualified to fulfill my dream of a leisurely week of swimsuits and barbeques with my family.  On the way home, we decided to take a detour to the land of peach orchards in Paonia, Colorado.  It took a bit longer than I expected, when my Google map told me 200 miles, I thought “great, 3 hours” without remembering to take into account high mountain passes with winding descents, torrential rain, hail, and small children who need to do things like pee and have lunch.  So, pulling into town at 5pm on Friday seeing farm stands boarded up for the night, I wasn’t hopeful that my peach picking fantasy would come to fruition.

Fortunately, the nice folks at Austin Farm picked up the phone when we called and told us to come by. When we arrived, we got to hop on the back of a golf cart and take a tour of the farm:  apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, chickens, blackberries, cows, and bees, with detailed descriptions of natural farming techniques and grafting to develop new fruit varieties.  The orchards were beautiful and the kids loved getting to pick their own fruit, feed the calf, and watch the magic trick of breaking an apple exactly in half with your bare hands.

I’m not writing about peaches today because I love peaches.  I do love peaches of course, especially right from the tree; a soft, juicy, fragrant peach is really unparalleled in the world of fruit.  However, from a health perspective what is so much more important than the peaches is the experience of going to meet them where they grow.  What is the difference between a peach you picked yourself and one you picked off the pile at the grocery store?  There are the obvious things:  a peach at the store had to be picked a bit early so it would ship well, not squish when it’s stacked in a pile, and not mold within a day of the store receiving it.  A tree ripened peach won’t do any of those things, but the flavor and texture will be far superior.  Also, the peaches sent to the store will all look perfect; the best peach I ate at the farm had a large hole in it because it had grown so large and soft it punctured itself on the branch.  Beyond this, however, is the understanding of where the food comes from and the gratitude for the food that comes from this awareness that is also a fundamental factor in eating to be healthy.

In this culture, the things that make us sick are wildly different from any society in the past.  While we still have infectious diseases and malnutrition, by and large our illnesses are chronic and based on lifestyle.  That is, we don’t nourish ourselves properly and we don’t move enough.  I say we don’t nourish ourselves properly because the problem is more than just eating too much.  In my practice, I also see many people who eat too little or just eat in a way that does not support health.  I see the issue not as as a lack of willpower or gluttony, it’s more just being disconnected from our food.  Eating isn’t just something we do out of habit, because our stomachs rumble, for comfort or to be social, it is (or should be) an act of nourishing the body.

Eating to be healthy is so much more than counting calories and analyzing nutrient content.  It’s even more than getting the freshest, most responsibly raised seasonal foods.  Healthy eating is about recognizing how the earth provides the energy to sustain us and help us grow.  To truly appreciate what we eat, we must get closer to our food sources so we can appreciate the miraculous event that occurs when water, sunlight and dirt work together.  When we don’t understand where our food comes from and how it is produced, it is easy to lose track of the fact that it is (or was) a living thing; when we eat something we use its energy to fuel our own bodies.  When we frame the act of eating in this way, it is so much easier to remember to eat intentionally. Just sitting down to eat and remembering to be thankful for our food helps us digest and utilize food more efficiently and make better choices.  This can be done regardless of if you’re eating the world’s most divine peach right from the tree or a snickers bar from the gas station.

Though I would highly recommend the peach.