Kitchen cures for what ails you

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I invite you to share your story about some remedies your mother may have taken from the kitchen to soothe your miseries as a child. Many of these were stout, traditional applications surviving from the pre-scientific era. Their evidence was their effectiveness, economy and safety. Often given out of hope, history, and even the hysteria of not knowing what else to do, home remedies are truly the first line of primary care.

Think back to your childhood: a skinned knee, an insect bite, a cold sore, a cough, sore throat, toothache, fever. Likely there was a home cure for all of these.

I grew up in a family that today would be considered the working poor. My dad was an auto and heavy equipment mechanic working on commission. My mom was a stay-at-home ‘50s housewife. I never remember going to the emergency room as a child, nor did my three siblings though we had vaguely heard of Blue Cross/Blue Shield. It helped, I guess, when three of us had our tonsillectomies the same day.

When we got sick, I remember going to the doctor but only sometimes. This was usually for shots. Ouch! I also remember many more times when kitchen cures were applied and seemed to do the trick. I guess they had to since we couldn’t afford a doctor visit for every minor complaint. Continue reading

Move On

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

A recent ode to the benefits of tennis by a 74-year-old writer caught my eye. Citing various classical authors, philosophers, and the gradual improvement of his game since his 20s, the author championed the power of vigorous sport on his writing and his mind. Riffing off a Robert Frost poem that ended “Here are your waters and your watering place. Drink and be whole again beyond confusion,” the author concluded: “The tennis court is my watering place where I drink and am whole again beyond confusion — at least for a couple of hours.”

As an aging tennis player myself, I found his essay in The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page uplifting as he described “tennis as a refuge from the racket of everyday life.” We all need some kind of healthy activity and discipline to allow us to shut down the grinding gears of our minds for brief periods and refresh it with the drink of stillness and the water of life.

The Physical Activity Council recently reported 28 percent of Americans over 6 get no physical activity meaning they are totally sedentary in the past year. This report is also included a sharp increase in inactivity for those over 65. These are unhealthy trends. Continue reading

A body in motion

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

In high school physics class, I learned from Sir Isaac Newton that a body in motion will stay in motion. The opposite is true and it is called inertia. The other day in clinic, I went in to see Dylan, a 12 year old. He didn’t look up or say hi to me as I came into the room as he was intently working his thumbs on a handheld device. His mother told him to be polite and say hello. He raised his head briefly, said, “Hi,” then back to the gaming thing. She shrugged apologetically and helplessly. I won’t dwell on how we should socialize the digital generation to learn polite human interaction, though it is quite relevant to bodies in motion.

Dylan’s complaint was a minor one and he basically came in needing a school excuse. It could have been a 5 to 10 minute visit but I noticed he was a bit chunky. In fact, his BMI at 29 was close to the obese range. At mom’s request, we ran a urine and blood test to make sure he wasn’t diabetic. He wasn’t, fortunately, at least not yet.

I asked Dylan what kinds of sports or other activities he liked to do. Mom motioned to me with both thumbs moving rapidly to mime the reality of his activity. Continue reading

Celebrate the virtues of olive oil

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

As a child, I had a generally negative experience with olive oil. My mom, who mostly cooked with Crisco, lard, bacon fat, and butter had a tiny pyramid-shaped bottle of cheap Pompei olive oil in her pantry.

I don’t know what she used it for in the usual spectrum of Polish cooking like maybe frying kielbasa in it, but I know I tasted it straight a few times and found it atrocious. Olive Oyle was also cartoon character as Popeye’s less than attractive, scrawny, screechy girlfriend. Over the years, though, I have developed a love relationship with the health benefits of Olive Oil. Not Popeye’s girl lest I get socked in the eye by the spinach-fortified sailor!

I am not alone as the American public has turned on to olive oil using 10 times the amount we used just 30 years ago. A 9 percent increase in use was reported just in the past year. This growth has come largely as a replacement for margarine. Still, the average Italian or Spaniard downs 10 times the amount of olive oil in a year than the average American. They consume 8-9 liters annually compared to our measly 0.4-0.8 liters annually. The Greeks, despite the constant news of financial crisis, are guzzling almost 15 liters a person per year. Continue reading

Both sides now

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Some of you may remember the old ballad by Judy Collins:

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from win and lose and still somehow, it’s clouds illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.”

This is a metaphor for life. Clouds often symbolize sadness and depression but can be bright, fluffy, and filled with water and rainbows.

Perhaps you got up one morning recently to look out at a cloudy sky. Gloom, depression, irritation, getting soaked, and your newly washed car getting spotted. Dang. The day is off to a bad start. That is unless you are from California where skies are decidedly not cloudy all day but they haven’t had but a smidgen of rain in nearly four years. North and West Texas are suffering from some of the same. Here on the wet Gulf Coast, we have gotten plenty of good soaking rain this year. Let’s be grateful.

On the other side of clouds is always the possibility for positive or negative imagery.

Try to imagine those clouds as big bellies pregnant with rain and giving birth to spring plants, flowers, and flourishing trees and later raising wonderful summer children of vegetables, fruits, green grass and roses. Continue reading

What is a health & wellness coach?

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Are you having trouble making changes in your lifestyle? Have you tried time and again to improve your diet, your exercise, your fitness, or sustain your motivation to change only to fall short? If so, you may benefit from a Health and Wellness Coach.

According to a recent expert panel consensus:
“Health and Wellness Coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.”

That’s a long definition and you might be asking why would I need a health coach and what can they do for me? Continue reading

More Smoothies

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Smoothies are a great way to start your day and start your way toward getting the recommended 5 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables (shoot for 30 percent fruits, 70 percent vegetables) we ought to consume daily for optimal health. So many of my patients and even our medical students eat less than that. It isn’t always convenient to have fresh fruits or vegetables around. Frozen produce works well though and keeping blueberries, spinach, mixed berries, tropical fruit mix, peaches, and the like in the freezer is a good way to ensure you always have plenty of superfoods around.

Here is one recipe, though you can play around with variations if you wish:

  1. Rinse a bunch of kale, about as much as you can grasp in one hand and put it in the blender or food processor
  2. Add some fresh spinach if you wish
  3. Put in one or two fresh avocados
  4. Squeeze in the juice of one or two lemons
  5. Add a couple scoops of whey or soy protein powder
  6. For extra flavor add some slices of turmeric root, ginger root, and/or a couple of garlic cloves
  7. Pour in sufficient organic apple juice to bring everything into a solution
  8. Blend and watch the amazing healthful Kelly Green colors arrive.

A cup of this is like 3 servings of veggies and fruit to start your day. In other words, a salad in a smoothie! Enjoy.

Here’s a fruit smoothie I have shared before but is back by popular demand:

  • 1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup of cut mango, nectarine, peach, berries, or any fruit of your choice
  • 1 scoop of whey protein powder or soy protein powder
  • 1 scoop of ground flaxseed
  • High pulp orange juice
  • Blend to consistency desired

For a few more easy ways to get your daily fruits and veggies in, try any of the following: Continue reading

More information about acupressure and its effects

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

After last week’s column about tapping on your acupressure points to bring energy and balance to sports and other performance, I received an unusually large number of enthusiastic comments. So, I thought I’d follow up with a more general coverage of acupressure.

I also wanted to offer a clarification that some of my readers brought to my attention this week. Tapping is done bilaterally over the paired meridians on the face and body points except when the point is in the midline, above and below mouth, and on the sternum. The index and middle finger are used to tap firmly a half dozen times or more over each point. The diagram last week showed only one point per side on the face so I have brought a revised one this week, and also one of the hand points. Tapping can be done on either or both hand points less obtrusively. Again, if tapping isn’t your thing, you can apply pressure over the points while taking a deep breath or two for the same benefits. For those of you that missed the article, you can look back on the GDN website or get a detailed overview by getting a copy of Coach Greg Warburton’s easy to read paperback, Winning System from Amazon. Continue reading

The secret behind the appropriately offered hug

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

A longtime motto of the American Holistic Medical Association is “Hugs Heal.” Sounds kind of corny right?

Well, this group of unabashed huggers has discovered that nothing makes a connection better and faster with a hurting person than an appropriately offered hug. By the way, hug “heart to heart” by putting your head over the left rather than right shoulder. The electricity of the heart to heart makes for a different kind of warmth in a hug.

A study of foundling babies in Great Britain during the early 1900s showed an amazing tale of the importance of touch. Orphaned babies left in a crib with adequate food and diaper changes rarely survived. However, in one story, an old nurse used to cuddle, rock, and hold the babies in her charge. They gained more weight, were brighter, and more socially interactive than those left alone. Important brain connections do not form in the absence of touch. Continue reading

Magic of the neti pot

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

I want to tell you about the Aladdin’s lamp of nasal health, the neti pot. Shaped like a little lamp or teapot, it is a simple and perfectly designed way of delivering salt water into irritated nasal passages. You put a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, more or less, in the neti pot, dissolve it with warm, clean water, then with your head over the sink and turned to the side, simply pour the solution into each nostril. This flushes out mucus, debris, pollen, and inflammatory cells and molecules.

The sinuses are like little side closets off the nasal passages, with tiny openings called ostia.This little door into a bigger room can easily be blocked by inflammation, swelling and infection. The nasal saline wash can help open these portals and facilitate drainage from the sinuses. A buildup in the sinus of mucus, fluid, and pus can lead to the excruciating pain and facial pressure of sinusitis. While antibiotics can occasionally be useful in this condition, establishing drainage is a first principle. Continue reading