Month: August 2012

Healthy Shopping Tips

I just returned from the weekly shopping trip and was reminded about just how difficult it is to eat healthily consistently.  The grocery store is packed with processed, heavily sugared and salted, packaged “foods” that provide little to no nutritional value.  Shopping healthy means eating healthy for the rest of the week, so here are a few tips to navigate the dietary danger zone that is the grocery store:


  1. Stick to the perimeter – produce, meat, fish, frozen veggies and fruit are all located around the perimeter of the grocery store.  The aisles are loaded with the packaged and processed junk.
  2. Don’t go hungry!  Make sure you are shopping on a full stomach to avoid temptation.
  3. Have a list and try to stick to it.
  4. Make most of your shopping purchase fruits and vegetables.  They provide the greatest nutritional punch for your money.

Here’s what was in my grocery bags today:

Large field greens

2 bunches of parsley

Organic baby carrots

Organic celery

Organic romaine lettuce



Organic bananas

Soy milk

Frozen mango chunks

Frozen california mix vegetables

Trail mix

and that’s all folks!  Combined with all the frozen naturally raised meat I have in the freezer that will do us for the week.

That’s a Bummer!

Am I the last one to find this out?  It turns out that the “celery extract” used in some of the new “natural” processed meats is actually laden with nitrites, the very thing those of us who eschew processed meats are trying to avoid!  Here I thought the food companies actually cared about the health of their consumers and were trying to produce healthier products when in fact at best they’re trying to put a positive spin on the same old thing and worst they’re trying to dupe us. 


In addition, this past week the US Congress, bowing to pressure from Big Food, decided that pizza could be considered a vegetable for the purpose of children getting healthy food in school cafeterias.  For the Saturday Night Live take, check out the video clip here


Shame on them!

Natural Medicine Research – Cold and Flu

  1. Influenza patients receiving 15 ml of elderberry four times a day for 5 days, experienced relief of symptoms 4 days earlier compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40
  2. Vitamin D supplementation (1200 IU/day) in school-aged children reduces incidence of Influenza A Ann Intern Med. 2011 Aug 16;155(4):217-25.
  3. Daily dietary probiotic supplementation for 6 months was a safe, effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea, and cough incidence, duration and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness, for children 3 to 5 years of age. Pediatrics. 2009 Aug;124(2):e172-9.
  4. A single 45 minute session of Swedish Massage Therapy produces measurable biologic effects on the function of the immune system. Source: The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. October 2010, 16(10): 1079-1088.

Lab Test Tips

  1. Keep your own records.  If you have diagnostic testing done, ask your medical doctor for a copy, you are entitled to it. That way it can be readily shared with other health care providers if needed.
  2. Look back.  Sometimes blood work from previous years can be compared to current tests to spot a trend that may indicate a health problem.  For example, if cholesterol in 2010 was 4.25, then in 2011 it went to 4.95 there may be an upward trend that you want to correct before cholesterol goes outside the normal range.  Your MD probably won’t take time to look through previous years’ results to spot that kind of trend.
  3. Be your own advocate.  Doctors aren’t perfect, sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they make judgements based on limited information.  If you feel you need further investigation into a problem, diplomatically request that your doctor look into it further.
  4. Take a look at your own numbers/results.  Doctors can also be somewhat black and white when it comes it test results, i.e. it is either inside the normal range or not.  However if your test result is inside the normal range but very close to being out, that’s helpful to know because that’s where naturopathic intervention can turn things around before you become abnormal.
  5. Be Proactive. When blood work comes back slightly off, doctors often take a “wait and see” approach, retesting again in say 6 months.  In many instances the test result is not going to turn itself around, but you can be proactive about addressing the underlying cause and improving the result on the next test, avoiding medical interventions like drugs or surgery.   
  6. Be Prepared.Make sure you know if there is preparation that you need to do before your test such as fasting.
  7. Don’t badger the lab or ultrasound technologists for test results.  They are legally not allowed to disclose this information, only your doctor can.

Insider Info on Lab Values

Having spent 20 years working in a hospital lab there are a few things that I can tell you as an insider about lab values:


  1. They aren’t always accurate.  Expensive equipment used to process blood samples is only as good as the person operating it and the lab technologists are only human.  Factor in to that that there is no lab test that is 100% accurate and 100% precise. If a result seems particularly abnormal or unexpected it needs to be repeated.
  2. The range for what is considered normal can be exceptionally broad, which means almost everyone is “normal” even when exhibiting symptoms of imbalance or disease.  A prime example is thyroid testing.  TSH is a hormone that stimulates the thyroid, the value will rise when the thyroid is under functioning in an attempt to increase thyroid function.  The “normal” range is 0.35 – 5.00, that doesn’t sound so bad, but if you made those numbers into whole numbers (35-500) the range looks far more broad. Many endocrinologists are saying that the cut off should be 2.50 for TSH and many patients exhibit hypothyroid symptoms when their TSH is greater than 3.00. 
  3. A lab test is only ever intended to confirm a suspected diagnosis.  That is, lab tests are not supposed to be a fishing expedition.  The doctor should have a diagnosis in mind based on all of the patient’s symptoms and use selected tests to confirm or rule out certain conditions.