Health on Vacation

June 9th, 2015

Summer time is here. Families all over are taking vacations. Some families are getting away for weekend excursions. Others are traveling for a week or two at a time. Last year our family is less than a mile from Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida spending a week with my dad. We know keeping everyone fed and happy is an adventure in itself. Here are the tips and strategies we are using to make sure everyone is having a magical adventure.

First is sleep.  Sleep is crucial when the days are full of walking and caloric expenditure. Each adult is getting at least 7 hours and every child is getting a minimum of 8 hours at night. During the hottest part of the day (between 2 and 4 pm),we are leaving the parks or finding an activity in the shade for an afternoon rest. Exhaustion and sunburn can put a damper on the fun quick.

Staying hydrated is the next important tip. Everyone is drinking at least 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning.  Most summer recreation spots will let you bring water. The goal is to consume over half of our body weight in pounds as ounce of water. We are using frozen water bottles to help keep things cold in our cooler and then drinking the ice cold water later in the day after it has melted. We are also packing Emergen-C packets around with us. Without taking up too much space, an Emergen-C packet adds a quick flavor burst while also providing electrolytes and antioxidants. We are limiting each person to 1 soda per day.

The next important tip is to use sunscreen.  When we spend time in the sun, everyone is using an EWG (environmental working group – approved sunblock and reapplying sun protection hourly. Using wide brimmed hats and long sleeve shirts is another great way to protect the face and arms from sunburn. Do not forget to apply sunblock to the feet and the backs of the calves.

On vacation we have a realistic expectation regarding food and nutrition. It is not the same as eating at home, yet it need not be all fast food and junk food either. We start each vacation day with a typical breakfast at our condo – eggs, gluten free granola and yogurt, fruit, and some sauteed veggies. This is a great foundation for the rest of the day.

Packing snacks is the difference between overspending on food that you slows you down for the rest of your day and having the energy to keep up with the “vacation” schedule. Here’s a few of the staples that keep us going:

Homemade trail mix – Use a variety of nuts and unsweetened fruit. Avoid chocolate, avoid a melty mess and portion out into individual servings before heading out for the day.

  • Apples and squeeze peanut or almond butter.
  • Beef Jerky.
  • Gluten Free Almond Butter and Banana sandwich.
  • Cut veggies – cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers are perfect.
  • Snack Bars – We usually take less than 1 per person and share when we eat these. Snack bars are convenient and also often high in calories and sugar. They are perfect when you need a quick snack and can be kept in easily accessible locations for a quick bite.

By keeping health a priority when on vacation we are showing our children that health is an everyday investment. We are also encouraging an easy recovery when we return back to our normal routines at the end of the vacation. Too often when we need a vacation to recover from our vacation, food and drink can be to blame. With a little planning, we need not take a vacation from our health.

~Dr. Swanz

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

Summer Fun In The Sun

May 15th, 2015

Summer is the time of year when individuals and families are playing at the park, cooking out in the backyard, swimming and boating, and just generally soaking up the sun.  The sun, much like food, has the potential to be harmful if not approached with balance and knowledge.  We want to be exposed to enough sunlight for our bodies to make Vitamin D but need to know how to do so safely.

The sun produces two main types of radiation we should be concerned with, UVA and UVB.  UVA radiation penetrates deeply into the skin.  It is less likely to cause a superficial sunburn, while causing premature wrinkles and DNA mutation.  It is the DNA mutation from the UVA radiation that is considered a strong contributing factor for skin cancer development.  UVB radiation from the sun affects the skin more superficially causing tanning (or sunburns) and vitamin D formation.  Vitamin D encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and helps maintain your immune system.

In June 2008 the Archives of Internal Medicine stated that “lower levels of vitamin D increases risk of dying from all causes.”  Regarding cancers, a vitamin D deficiency has been correlated with: breast, colorectal, brain, melanoma, stomach, kidney, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, leukemias, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and esophageal cancers.  Other illness that have been shown to be related to a vitamin D deficiency include: Diabetes, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, developmental delays, osteoporosis, immune function, gum disease & dental health, and cardiovascular disease.  We need to make sure we are getting enough Vitamin D on a regular basis and in the summer the sun can offer this protection.

It was in the late 1980’s that we were advised to limit sun exposure and began to use sunscreens regularly.  Since then cancer incidence has increased, including the prevalence of skin cancers.  The chemicals in most sunscreens are primarily blocking the UVB radiation to prevent sunburns (and hence Vitamin D formation) while doing very little to protect the skin from the UVA radiation.  To help increase vitamin D levels through sun exposure, we only need 15 to 20 minutes of mid-afternoon sun daily.

To protect ourselves and our families from sunburn, wrinkles, and DNA mutation from extended sun exposure use a sunblock that protects from both UVA and UVB radiation.  I recommend a block with zinc or titanium dioxide as the blocking agent.  This creates a physical block that inhibits sun radiation absorption at the skin.  Avoid products that contain: parabens, oxybenzone, and benzophenone-3 because of the potential allergic and hormone concerns from these chemicals.  Spray sunscreens with these ingredients pose a particular risk because of the potential for inhalation when applying them.  For extended periods of sun exposure away from water, tight knit clothing and hats are the ideal way to protect skin from solar radiation.

Also remember the protective benefit of naturally occurring phytonutrients from vegetables and fruits. The same phytonutrients that help to protect the plants from the UVA and UVB radiation will minimize the oxidative, inflammatory, and DNA damage at our cellular level.  So eat lots of fresh and local fruits and veggies this summer and enjoy the sun responsibly.

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

Questioning Your Health

March 20th, 2015

Do you want to FEEL healthy? Or do you want to BE healthy? What is the difference? I believe it is possible to FEEL healthy, to be free of symptoms that would indicate disease or imbalance, and not actually BE healthy. Our conventional medical system that is directed towards alleviating the symptoms has the potential to help an individual to feel more healthy without actually helping the individual become healthier. I do not believe feeling healthy through the absence of symptoms is the same as being healthy through a diet and lifestyle that is in accordance with the needs of our body. I am sharing this distinction again to help demonstrate a concept I believe is vital towards reclaiming our health. In order to truly become healthy, we must begin questioning our health and our choices in order to challenge ourselves and inspire change in the way we are living. Do you want to help motivate your family to make changes in their lifestyle choices so they will both FEEL and BE healthy? If so, you must begin questioning the choices they are currently making.

It is crucial to question in a manner that will encourage discovery for yourself or your family. For example, when talking with our children about nutrition we want to pose questions in an open ended fashion. Do not simply ask your children if they want salad with dinner. If you ask this, they say “yes” or “no”. Instead create a dialogue about nutrition by engaging the children with questions they can not simply blow off with a one word answer. Try something along these lines:

I was thinking about making either a salad or a veggie stir fry to eat with our grass fed steaks tonight. Which do you think would be a healthier and more tasty option for our family? Do you have any suggestions on how to prepare it? Oh, you don’t really want salad or veggie stir fry? What would you suggest we eat instead to be certain we are getting our 9 to 12 veggies servings per day?

By asking open ended questions we draw the other participant into the conversation. This is empowering and allows that individual to help direct and create the desired outcome still within the perimeters of our overall objective – to get the kids to eat some veggies with dinner.

The same technique can be employed regarding exercise. Do not simply ask your partner if they want to go to the gym with you, especially if you know they don’t like working out at the gym. Instead mention that you have been sitting all day at work and your body is really craving some physical activity. You want to spend time with them too. Do they have any suggestions on an activity that would be enjoyable for both while also providing some level of physical exertion.

When we engage our loved ones with open ended questions in discussions about healthy living, and encourage each other to make healthy choices, we can begin to improve our own and their health.  Interacting in a fashion that is more encouraging and supportive can help us chose activities and behaviors that make us both FEEL healthy and BE healthy. Ultimately, this is our goal. Good luck on your journey.

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

A Gift for Mom from Mom

May 23rd, 2013

Mother’s Day is approaching quickly and I think it provides an important opportunity to share my thoughts about a tendency I have observed in my female patients. Very often Moms have a disposition to externalize their needs or wants when they talk to me in my office. And I imagine this practice continues at home. I am sharing this because I believe this common attribute creates an undue amount of emotional stress around the woman’s own needs. I think women, especially mothers, embrace an unspoken agreement that the needs of their families come first in front of their own. This approach is detrimental because with this mentality mom begins to see her own needs and wants as an hinderance to meeting the needs of her family. Mom then either will neglect her own well being, or she must figure out some other way to justify her needs through an action focused around the family. Either way her stress load increases.

I make a point to emphasize to mothers that they must prioritize their needs and own this necessity for themselves and their families. The first step for many of these moms is to begin using “I” statements when talking. This makes it much more difficult to use the family as an excuse for why things are or are not happening. A recent example that pops into my head is the mom I am working with that is having a hard time giving up afternoon sweets as a daily occurrence. Her statement to me was that she “needed to continue to purchase and have these sweet snacks in the house so the kids would have an after school snack that they would eat.” I let her know that it appeared to me that she was continuing to justify her own consumption of poor choice snacks under the guise of doing what is best for her children. The issue isn’t actually the food she is eating. Instead it is the manner in which she is distancing herself from her own want. She wants to have a sweet snack in the afternoon and is not comfortable owning that desire. Being responsible for ourselves and our health requires that we own our wants and desires. I believe when she begins to acknowledge that she wants the sweet snacks and continues to purchase them for herself, she will soon be able to say “I don’t want/need a sweet snack today”.

Owning our wants and needs is not a selfish practice. Shifting focus to the self and including that perspective as part of the whole is vital to creating a healthy collective. If everything remains external from the self, there is no collective. The individual is then non-existent in the family and all focus then must be directed to the family. This does not allow for space for the individual to heal. This self neglect ultimately leads to an imbalance in the health and vitality of the of family collective. It can not be addressed by continual focus on the family, it must be resolved through the individual’s own journey. When the individual’s wants and needs are being addressed sufficiently, now the focus can return back to the family collective. And ultimately that is what mom wanted all along.

So the challenge I want to issue to all the moms out there is to begin using “I” statements for anything that is related to you. Stop directing all of your efforts and activities towards your children or family. Begin to focus on your health, your healing journey, and through this increased balance in your own life see how the health of those dear to you is also transformed. You and your family are worth this effort.

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Posted in Nutritional and Lifestyle Support/Modification |

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