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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Weight-Bearing Exercise Without a Gym

You don't need a gym to strengthen bones and muscles. Here are some simple resistance exercises you can do at home or at the park because they don’t require weights or equipment. Together, they will target all major areas of your body: arms, legs, chest, abdomen and back.

For individuals who have regular access to resistance machines and weight training equipment, these exercises can substitute for your regular workout whenever you are away from the gym.

Note: Always get your doctor's permission before beginning a new exercise program or intensifying an existing one.

Push-Ups

Lay face down on the floor with your palms next to your shoulders. Keeping your back and legs straight (or your back straight and your knees resting on the ground) and your abdominal muscles tight to support your lower back, slowly push your shoulders up off the ground and straighten your arms until they are only slightly bent (do not lock joints). Pause, then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor. Repeat.

To increase intensity and resistance, wear a backpack containing books while you perform this exercise, but make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your back straight.

Abdominal Crunches

Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands behind your head, fingers laced together, to support your neck. Contract your abdominal muscles, pulling your belly button in toward your spine, flattening your lower back against the floor, and raising your shoulder blades off the floor (not your whole back). Pause in the highest position, then slowly lower your shoulder blades to the floor. Repeat.

To increase intensity and resistance, place a book on your chest and fold your arms over it to keep it in place, instead of placing your hands behind your neck.

Calf Raises

Steady yourself by hanging onto a solid object next to a raised surface. Stand up straight and position the balls of your feet at the edge of the raised surface, allowing your heels to hang off. Contract your calf muscles as slowly you raise your body up. Pause in the highest position, then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat.

To increase intensity, resistance, and balance, hold hand weights of equal amounts (or cans of tomatoes) while you do this exercise, but only if you can maintain your balance without hanging onto a steady object.

Squats

Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Flex your arms in front of you or place your hands on your hips. Keep your back and neck straight as you bend at the hips and knees, like you were going to sit in a chair. Keep your knees in line with your ankles and do not allow them farther forward than your toes. Pause in the lowest position, then slowly stand up to return to the starting position. Repeat.

To increase intensity and resistance, hold hand weights of equal amounts (or cans of tomatoes) while you perform this exercise.

Other Activities

Remember that other activities can help keep your skeleton strong too, as long as they place force on your bones: climbing stairs, brisk walking, jogging, jumping rope, hiking, dancing, bowling, gardening, step aerobics, yoga, tennis, squash, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, football, volleyball, gymnastics, skiing, skating, karate, tai chi and qi gong.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Shopper's Guide to Pesticides

To minimize your exposure to pesticides, take some help from the Environmental Working Group.

EWG is a non-profit organization that researches health and the environment. They analyzed more than sixty thousand samples of forty-five popular fruits and vegetables that were tested for contamination by the U.S.D.A. and the F.D.A. the way they’re usually eaten (washed or peeled).

Researchers found that certain fruits and vegetables contained significantly higher levels of pesticides than others. They named the least contaminated ones the Clean Fifteen and the most contaminated ones the Dirty Dozen Plus, which includes the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest concentrations of pesticides plus two more that were commonly contaminated with highly toxic organophosphate insecticides.

In descending order (apples are the most toxic), the Dirty Dozen Plus most contaminated fruits are vegetables are:

1.    Apples
2.    Celery
3.    Sweet bell peppers
4.    Peaches
5.    Strawberries
6.    Nectarines (imported)
7.    Grapes
8.    Spinach
9.    Lettuce
10.   Cucumbers
11.   Blueberries (domestic)
12.   Potatoes
13.   Green beans
14.   Leafy greens including kale and collard greens


Avoid these foods if they’re not organic.

In ascending order (onions are the least toxic), the Clean 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables are:

1.    Onions
2.    Sweet corn
3.    Pineapple
4.    Avocado
5.    Asparagus
6.    Sweet peas
7.    Mangoes
8.    Eggplant
9.    Cantaloupe (domestic)
10.   Kiwi
11.   Cabbage
12.   Watermelon
13.   Sweet potatoes
14.   Grapefruit
15.   Mushrooms

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Midwifery Modernization Act

The recent closure of St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan has put certified professional midwives (CPMs) in a difficult position. New York State law requires CPMs assisting women giving birth at home to have written practice agreements with physicians. Doctors at St. Vincent's Hospital acted as emergency back-up for CPMs and so far they have been unable to negotiate new sponsorships with hospitals and obstetricians in the area, putting their practices and licenses at risk.

Research studies show for that women with healthy, uncomplicated pregnancies, giving birth at home with CPMs is just as safe as, or safer than, hospital birth. The largest study of home births attended by certified professional midwives so far, published in 2005 in the British Medical Journal, followed
5,418 women from the United States (98 percent) and Canada
(2 percent). All the women planned to give birth at home.
12.1 percent were transferred to a hospital and intervention rates were very low: only 4.7 percent of women had an epidural,
2.1 percent had an episiotomy, and 3.7 percent gave birth by cesarean section. The infant mortality rate was 0.175 percent and the maternal mortality rate was zero.

Researchers concluded that "planned home birth for low risk women in North America using certified professional midwives was associated with lower rates of medical intervention but similar intrapartum and neonatal mortality to that of low risk hospital births in the United States."

The Midwifery Modernization Act, an amendment to the current Midwifery Practice Act, Article 140 of the Education law, would remove the requirement that CPMs maintain a written practice agreement with a physician and allow them to practice independently within the scope of their license.

Urge the New York State Legislature to support the Midwifery Modernization Act by signing the petition sponsored by Choices in Childbirth, a non-profit organization that educates women about their choices and rights regarding childbirth. Having access to home birth is a reproductive right that women can't afford to lose.

Reference:
Johnson KC and Daviss BA. Outcomes of planned home births with certified professional midwives: large prospective study in North America. British Medical Journal, 330(7505):1416, 18 June 2005.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Girl 2 Woman

Pathfinder International is a non-profit organization working to increase access to reproductive health care through the creation of sustainable community-based programs.

For more than 50 years, in more than 120 countries, they have collaborated with governments, non-governmental organizations, community groups and faith-based organizations to make contraception available, provide services necessary for safe childbirth and healthy families, prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and treat infected individuals, and advocate for sound reproductive policies in the United States and abroad.

Help Pathfinder International raise 1 million dollars to improve the lives of girls and women around the world by viewing the video Girl2Woman and sharing it with your friends and family. It doesn't cost you anything. Every time the video is shared, a generous donor will contribute a dollar to this remarkable organization. (Email addresses are never collected or used for solicitation purposes.)

$20 keeps a girl in school for one month in Ethiopia. $50 supplies 100 Bangladeshi women with a month of oral contraceptive. $100 trains one community health worker in India to provide basic family planning services. $250 provides training for 10 skilled birth attendants in Tanzania. And 90 cents of every dollar donated to Pathfinder International goes directly to programs.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spring Cleanse

Spring is a natural time for cleansing. We deep clean our home, so why not deep clean our bodies?

Annual or seasonal detoxification gives the body a tune-up. A spring cleanse can be part of a protocol to improve health or a component of overall wellness.

Why is detoxification important?

Every day we are exposed to toxins in air, water, food and our environment, from new carpet and old upholstery to cleaning products and air pollution. For most people, small doses cause cumulative damage rather than immediate symptoms. Continued exposure and/or reduced liver function can compromise natural detoxification systems, causing the body to store toxins rather than eliminate them.

Accumulation of toxins in the body can lead to general malaise or specific health problems, including fatigue, hormone imbalance, decreased mental acuity, skin and digestive conditions, food and chemical sensitivities, joint and muscle pain. Clearing toxins from the body often relieves symptoms and renews wellness and vitality.

The liver is the primary organ responsible for changing toxic chemicals into compounds that the body can excrete through the bowels and kidneys. An ideal detoxification program optimizes liver function, reduces exposure to toxins and enhances elimination pathways.

One component of the detox program I developed for my patients is a hypoallergenic diet designed to reduce exposure to irritating foods. It can be challenging to follow a restrictive diet but meals don't have to be boring and bland.

To demonstrate how easy and delicious detox-friendly meals can be, and to support my patients participating in a spring cleanse, I am posting hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory recipes on my food blog, The Naturopathic Gourmet. Every week for 4 weeks, I will post a new recipe. Together, they will create a four-course detox-friendly menu that is simple and satisfying, nutritious and delicious.

Spring Cleanse Menu 

Portabella Paté
Leek Pea Soup
Salad of Young Dandelion Greens with Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Coconut Quinoa with Cherries

Find these recipes on The Naturopathic Gourmet.