Stay Healthy This Winter: Tips from Local Wellness Experts: Integrative Medicine, Homeopathy and Ayurveda wisdom from Westchester, NY professionalsJan 04, 2012 10:52PM ● By Kazaray Taylor
Keeping colds and flu at bay during the winter season is always a challenge. We asked three local practitioners how to prevent and shorten this winter tradition that most of us would be happy to give up!
Integrative Medicine Physician: Minerva Santos, MD
A board-certified internist who has practiced in the Yorktown Heights area for more than 20 years, Dr. Minerva Santos specializes in integrative medicine, treating the whole patient—body, mind and spirit. So it’s not surprising that first weapon in her arsenal against seasonal illness is something generations of people have turned to in the winter to warm their body and feed their spirit: soup.
Santos recommends a healthy, delicious soup whose ingredients have nutritional properties that enhance the body’s natural ability to fight off infection.
“I have an immunity-boosting soup that I tell my patients to make,” she says. “Just add cabbage, fresh ginger, carrots, garlic, onion, oregano, shiitake mushrooms and squash to chicken or veggie stock, simmer it for 30 minutes—and then enjoy,” she says. “All the ingredients boost your immunity.”
Her second stay-healthy recommendation also helps boost immunity, albeit in a more straightforward way. The “thymus thump” is an exercise where you use your closed hand to thump the area over your thymus, located under your breastbone where your collarbones meet. The thymus produces a special kind of white blood cell that protects you from infection, so Santos recommends thumping the area 25 times, once a day, to stimulate this critical organ.
Homeopathic Physician: Susanne Saltzman, MD
Dr. Susanne Saltzman has 20 years’ experience treating acute and chronic illness, with an emphasis on homeopathic and nutritional medicine.
“I have found that the best way to strengthen the immune system is by giving someone the correct constitutional homeopathic remedy,” she says. “Parents often say that after their child has received a homeopathic remedy from me, that child will be the only one in the household that did not get sick when the rest of the family was afflicted with the flu.”
From a nutritional standpoint, Saltzman recommends minimizing consumption of sugar, flours (breads, pastas, crackers, etc.) and grains—all of which raise blood sugar, creating inflammation that compromises the immune system. Instead, she says, eat good proteins and lots of vegetables “with a rainbow of colors.”
She also recommends supplementing the diet with vitamin D3, high-quality fish oil and probiotics.
“Have your blood levels checked every few months to keep vitamin D levels close to 50 ng/ml,” she says. “Levels above 32 ng/ml will usually protect you from the flu, and studies show that levels between 60 and 80 help protect against autoimmune diseases and cancer.” Most children need 1,000 to 2,000 IUs of vitamin D daily; adults need anywhere from 3,000 to 7000. “The only way to know the correct dose is to have those levels checked,” she says.
The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils are great immune-boosters, she says, adding that children generally tolerate Carlson’s lemon-flavored cod liver oil, which has a mild taste, or Nordic Naturals products. (Fish oil can also boost brain health in children with ADD or ADHD, she says.)
Probiotics help kill unwanted germs in the gastrointestinal tract, which contains 70 percent of the body’s immune system, Saltzman says, and they also support the body’s immune response as well as decrease systemic inflammation.
Her final recommendation? “Get a good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours for adults. That’s key to a healthy immune system. And don’t forget to exercise. A walk or run in the morning sun is very good for your mood and can help keep your spirits high during the long, cold winter.”
Ayurveda: Ambika Nair
Ayurveda, a system of traditional Indian medicine, stresses diet as a critical component in health. So Ambika Nair, senior holistic consultant at Santhigram Ayurvedic Wellness, suggests turning your kitchen into a pharmacy stocked with natural items like garlic, fenugreek, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and basil leaves. “Adding these items to your food in various proportions will help improve the immune system,” she says.
In general, a balanced diet with lots of leafy green vegetables is ideal, Nair says—but she notes that how you eat is as important as what you eat. “Be sure that your previous meal has been digested before starting another meal. Avoid under-eating as well as over-eating,” she says.
To ward off a winter cold, Nair offers two simple additions to your morning routine: First, boil 8 ounces of water, adding 10 grams of raw ginger; when the water cools to lukewarm, add 1 tablespoon of honey and then drink it. (Alternatively, add a pinch of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of honey to lukewarm water, stir and enjoy.) Second, practice a breathing exercise like Pranayama for at least five minutes every morning.
She also recommends regular use of Ayurvedic preventive therapies like Panchakarma, a detoxification therapy; Abhyangam, a full-body massage using a specific blend of warmed oils intended to feed the skin and body; and Swedana, a herbal steam bath that boosts immunity. “Done regularly, these therapies help you maintain physical and mental balance, lead a stress-free life, and maintain good health,” she says.
Ambika Nair, Holistic Practitioner
Santhigram Ayurvedic Wellness
1305 Mamaroneck Ave.
White Plains, NY
Minerva Santos, MD
48 Route 6
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Susanne Saltzman, MD
250 E. Hartsdale Ave. St. 22
252 Old Nyack Turnpike
Spring Valley, NY