Seasonal Allergy Relief

Proactive and integrative approaches to lessening allergy symptoms

SPRING is an anticipated time of renewal, but beautiful blooming flowers and trees produce airborne pollen and, consequently, sniffing and sneezing. While roughly 35 million Americans live with seasonal allergies, there are various proactive and integrative approaches to lessening symptoms and, ultimately, appreciating spring’s splendor.

Seasonal Allergy Relief


  • Eat as clean as possible and avoid processed foods.
  • Embrace an anti-inflammatory diet that is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, cold water fish, fish oils and leukotriene inhibitors.
  • Eat foods rich in natural bioflavonoids and antioxidants, most notably Vitamin C, which can be found in citrus fruits, berries, dark green leafy vegetables and red/yellow bell peppers.
  • Consider an elimination diet, a trial of removing foods, such as dairy. Seek the advice of a physician prior to implementing this regimen, however.
  • Drink green tea, as it contains catechins, which serve as natural antihistamines.


If possible, it is best to begin taking herbal remedies and supplements before allergy symptoms are present.


  • Best used for prevention, prior to allergy season. Superior to medication in inhibiting cytokine release from human mast cells.
  • 500mg, 1 -3 times daily


Nettle Leaf (Stinging Nettle)

  • Eclectic Institute or Planetary Herbals. Freeze-dried nettle preparation is essential, as this preparation offers the benefits of antihistamine and mast cell stabilization. Safe in pregnancy.
  • 300-350mg of freeze dried extract, 1-3 times daily.




  • Provides effective and safe relief of hay fever and is now a first-line recommendation for prevention of allergy-triggered migraines. As effective as Zyrtec, and with fewer side effects.
  • 50-100mg twice daily.


Neti Pot for Nasal Irrigation

Using a Neti Pot can improve nasal symptoms and reduce the need for medication.


  • Salt, non-iodized
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled (or boiled) water
  • Clean jar to store solution
  • Neti Pot (these are inexpensive and found at most drug stores)


Pour 8 ounces of distilled water (or water that has been boiled for 10 minutes) over 1/4 teaspoon non-iodized salt and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda. Stir well until salt and soda have dissolved. Solution can be stored for up to 24 hours in a clean jar. Following the instructions included with your Neti Pot, use 1-4 times daily.



Seo et al Allergy Asthma Immunol Res 2013 Mar 5 (2) 81-7

Kelly GS Altern Med Rev 2011; 16(2) 172-94

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Am J Rhinol Allergy 2012 Sep-Oct 26(5) e119-e125

Wu M et al

Roschek B et al Phytoher Res 2009 23(7) 920-6

Mittman P Plant Med 1990

(Hemelingmeirer KE et al American Journal Rhinol Allergy 2012: 26(5) 119-25


Good Morning, Sunshine

So, what exactly is a dawn simulator? Simply put, it’s a natural alarm clock that involves timing lights in the bedroom to come on gradually, over a period of between 30 minutes and two hours before your preferred time of awakening.

Mornings. While some anticipate a superb sunrise, for others it’s the dreaded dawn.

Well, here’s a rousing thought: Your performance and attitude may, in part, be attributed to your method of awakening. But no need to hide under the covers, as even though that harsh alarm and the resulting wide-awake jolt may set the tone for the day, there’s a simple solution, known as dawn simulation.

Mornings. While some anticipate a superb sunrise, for others it’s the dreaded dawn. Well, here’s a rousing thought: Your performance and attitude may, in part, be attributed to your method of awakening. But no need to hide under the covers, as even though that harsh alarm and the resulting wide-awake jolt may set the tone for the day, there’s a simple solution, known as dawn simulation.

So, what exactly is a dawn simulator?

Simply put, it’s a natural alarm clock that involves timing lights in the bedroom to come on gradually, over a period of between 30 minutes and two hours before your preferred time of awakening. The concept was first patented in the late 1800s, with the realization that light enters through the eyelids, triggering the body to begin its wake-up cycle, including the release of cortisol, a hormone that regulates immune response, so that by the time the light is at full brightness, sleepers wake up on their own, without the need for a traditional alarm.

Your performance and attitude may, in part, be attributed to your method of awakening.

Research shows that, when compared with waking in dim light, the 30-minute sunrise not only left subjects feeling more refreshed and alert upon waking, but reflected an increase in agility, cognitive performance, response time and improved mood. In addition, cortisol levels were reported as significantly elevated, resulting in better overall hormone balance throughout the day.

The treatment is complete prior to awakening.

Dawn simulators, also known as wake-up lights or natural light alarm clocks that gradually transition you from a state of slumber, differ from other light therapies, as the treatment is complete prior to awakening, making it a convenient alternative to post-awakening bright therapy. The process is a lower intensity, and not considered a therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but can certainly be used in addition to treatment.

In my house, we’ve fully embraced waking to a gradual dawn rather than the jolt of an alarm, especially living in Rochester, NY, where 83% of our days are cloudy—a tad lower than Seattle’s 84%. I hope that you, too, will give dawn simulators a try and reap the benefits of this truly bright idea for rising and shining.

Light Therapy Reviews





The Conscious Kitchen

Nutritional Layering

Healthy cooking is an important part of my daily routine, and recently I have challenged myself to prepare dishes that include as many good-for-me components as possible, with the goal of utilizing only meaningful ingredients.  I have coined this way of cooking “Nutritional Layering.”

Nutritional Layering

Being mindful of Nutritional Layering has added an exciting element to cooking.  When I research recipes, for example, I find myself immediately editing the ingredient list to include those that pack a powerful punch of vitamins and nutrients.  For instance, I tend to make broths and stocks at home because I can add a multitude of quality nutrients by simply adding elements such as dried mushrooms, which contain immune supportive properties, Kombu, which is similar to seaweed and contains high levels of iodine and fiber, fermented miso, which contains a dense concentration of nutrients, and even a simple bay leaf, as it includes healthy compounds, folic acid and vitamins.

Add Nutrients and Complexity to Cooking

Another of my favorite dishes to prepare and enjoy is an easy Confetti Slaw, which contains cabbage, bell peppers, garlic, onions, high-quality olive oil and plenty of citrus, herbs and spices.  Not only is the slaw beautiful to behold and delicious, but the ingredients offer an abundance of phytonutrients, which are beneficial to health and are believed to help prevent various diseases.  Layer upon layer, these ingredients add necessary nutrients and complexity to cooking.

Cooking-Conscious Crops

My interest in Nutritional Layering has extended to my beloved garden as well, where my cooking-conscious crops include medicinal herbs, trees and plants that make for a lovely yard while ultimately producing a healthy, edible harvest.  Indoors, I have even enriched my water intake by adding citrus, such as lemon and orange slices, and herbs, mainly mint and tarragon, into the pitcher that is a constant in my refrigerator.

And so, the next time you’re in the kitchen, perhaps you could make the most of your meal by layering healthy, quality ingredients.  Knowing that you’re consuming the best possible components will boost your mood, help your health and, naturally, make for a superb supper.

Is sugar worth your memory?

Is sugar worth your memory?

Is sugar worth your memory?Cake, cookies, soda, donuts, are you someone with a sweet tooth?

Indulging once in a while and letting yourself have one of these treats is okay, but if it is part of your diet consistently, it can be a burden on your brain. Making a lifestyle change can be difficult but not making that change could lead to a chronic disease called diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic disease that the body cannot produce any or enough insulin, which causes elevated glucose levels in the blood. I know that changing things in your diet can be hard, but also having diabetes is hard.

Our body wants to be at homeostasis, but things we ingest and do, can get our body out of rhythm. When we are constantly overwhelming our body with sugar, our body gets stressed and  overwhelmed, similar to the feeling you have when you have a million things to get done. We have an enzyme called endopeptidase which is our pilot enzyme for controlling blood sugar and our glucose levels. If we did not have this enzyme our glucose levels would be terrifyingly high, and even if we have low levels of this enzyme, it could be damaging and not powerful enough to tell our pancreas to release insulin.  This enzyme is a messenger and tells our neurons in the brain to be wary of glucose. This hormone is crucial in preventing diabetes. Even though our bodies are magical in all the daily functions it can do, it is not iron proof. Our job is to take care of our bodies.

High blood sugar can also affect our brain, especially when it comes to our memory. “Elevated blood sugar levels damage small and large vessels in the brain, leading to decreased blood and nutrient flow to brain cells,” explains Agnes Floel. Our hippocampus is the part of the brain directly linked to memory. The hippocampus does require a good amount of glucose to function, but there is a fine line. If the blood sugar levels are too high, it can be threatening to the hippocampus. These deficiencies can inhibit the flow of nutrition from our blood to our brain. Think of if like a big accident on the high way, it effects the entire flow of traffic. Glucose can be that kind of barrier. Glucose is needed to get through the blood brain barrier to the hippocampus. Also important to note, letting our blood sugar levels get too low can lead to another problem, hypoglycemia.

Sometimes we all need to take a step back and look at the big picture; [bctt tweet=”Your memory is affected by what you are putting into your body.”] Small steps can be taken by nourishing your body in the right way and can lead to making you feel better. Our body works hard enough, don’t make it work even harder. Eating a diet with a variety of healthy and nutritious foods is key. That doesn’t mean you can’t splurge and have your favorite treat, every now and then.

Guest Post: Kelsey Julien, Dr. James’ Intern with a passion for nutrition and a freshman studying to be a Registered Dietician at D’Youville College.


Glucose ‘control switch’ in the brain key to both types of diabetes

Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory

Healthy Soil, Healthy Food, Healthy You

FieldEffectChances are, you have a physician, a dentist and a handful of specialists.  But have you ever considered your area’s local farmers as an integral part of your health care team?

As a lifelong gardener, I have come to recognize the value of healthy soil and the role that soil ecosystems play in the growth and vibrancy of the plants in my yard.  Fellow integrative physician Daphne Miller (author of Farmacology) has taken this concept a step further, making a concrete connection between healthy soil and our own health, bringing us beyond the concept of food as medicine and educating us on the idea that although buying organic produce is essential, the farm where the food is grown offers the real remedy.

Here’s where we dig into Biodynamic Farming, a method of agriculture that was born almost 100 years ago, linking soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care.  Biodynamic Farms are organic farms that surpass the simple practice of producing food without chemicals by focusing on composting, crop rotation and cover cropping. Not only are these extensive preparations utilized to nourish the farm and its soil, but farmers employ cosmic rhythms when carrying out daily activities on the farm, relying on the effects of the sun, moon, planets and stars and how the rhythm of each contributes to the life, growth and formation of plants and aids in ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting.

And so, the seed I’d like to plant is this:

While we continue to do our bodies good by questioning if our fare is chemical-free, it may be equally as important to research farming practices, soil management and the quality of our produce.  Something to chew on.

FoodGuide2014_COVER-350pxH_0There are plenty of folks working to make our food the best it can be and expediting delivery to consumers.  You can find some of these by visiting resources I enjoy, such as, a guide to organic and sustainable farms and producers, sites committed to CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, which connects consumers directly to local farmers,, a year-round program that provides access to the area’s local, sustainable food, and additional sites that will direct you to your area’s farmers’ markets, such as

Hungry for more?  Check out a few of my favorite New York farms.

Firefly Farm in Canandaigua
Bedient Farms in Potter
Browder’s Birds Organic Farm in Mattituck
Northland Sheep Dairy in Marathon
Fellenz Family Farm in Phelps

The Healing Power of Nature

Autumn-LeafI go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

– John Burroughs

I confess I am a nature-lover/tree-hugger/environmentalist – whatever you want to call someone who loves to be in nature. Nature is healing for me, as it has been for so many others throughout time. Now there is research that validates this, and raises questions whether the lack of exposure to nature could aggravate or even cause certain conditions such as ADHD. Do we need nature for our bodies as well as our souls?

Nature Heals and Restores

In 1984, Science magazine published a landmark article by Roger Ulrich showing strong evidence that nature promotes healing. Patients hospitalized in rooms with a view of nature had shorter hospital stays and used less pain medication.

For people with chronic conditions who reside in restricted environments, simple exposure to a garden dramatically decreases anxiety, agitation, and social withdrawal. For patients who can enter into natural spaces and gardens, the amount of psychiatric drugs decreases. According to Clare Cooper Marcus, (UC Berkeley), being in nature puts the mind in a meditative state: we stop obsessing and worrying and start living in the present moment, which in turn decreases stress, improves hypertension, and increases immune function.

We are influenced by our environment in more ways than we are aware. Research from Richard Ryan at the University of Rochester shows that paying attention to nature can affect social values and actions — exposure to a natural environment leads people to value community and close relationships.

When in nature, you may experience these benefits, too:

  • Exposure to Vitamin D (via sunshine) which is necessary for optimum bone, brain, and immunity health).
  • Increased activity: you tend to move around more when outside and you get more benefits from outdoor exercise.
  • Natural light during the day and darkness at night helps to maintain our natural circadian rhythms. Lack of natural light and dark interferes with sleep, energy, and moods.
  • Vision: Our ancestors who looked often at the horizon lacked the deficits we have today so more of us need corrective lenses.
  • Hearing: Our ears were once used to detect changes in the complex acoustical patterns of nature, such as forests, running water, rain, and wind. Noise pollution negatively affects our emotions, nervous system, and physiology.


Ecopsychology is a new field of study that asks, “If exposure to nature is beneficial, what happens when we withdraw from it?”

Richard Louv identified Nature Deficit Disorder in his popular book Last Child in the Woods, asserting that children are spending less time outdoors which results in a wide range of behavioral problems. Nancy Wells found that being close to nature improves a child’s attention span, and research by University of Illinois shows that children in a greener setting experience more relief from ADHD symptoms.

To improve your and your family’s exposure to nature:

  • Set up study areas in rooms with a view of nature.
  • Encourage outdoor play in green spaces and advocate for green school yards. Outdoor play at recess renews concentration.
  • Plant or take care of trees and vegetation in your area.

By losing connection to nature we lose ability to restore ourselves.

The loss of natural space is becoming a public health issue, yet we are less aware of the disappearance of green spaces around us. To improve the “nature” of your life:

  • Incorporate green spaces in the design of your home, workspace, and school.
  • Prescribe “Green Time” as a self-therapy.
  • Create a habit to go outside every day.
  • Learn to recognize your local wildlife.
  • Create access to green spaces for those around you, especially for the very young and for seniors.
  • Brighten the day by placing a plant in any room that lacks a view.

Nature’s Rhythms

For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted. God has made everything beautiful in its time.

– Ecclesiastes

For thousands of years, we have honored nature’s rhythms. We planted our crops according to the seasons and the phases of the moon. We ate and slept with the rising and setting of the sun. But modern life with its conveniences has severed this connection. We now use artificial light to work late and an alarm to wake us up on schedule. Our bodies lose the natural cycles of fasting, purification, and restoration. We eat the same foods year round so we no longer know the peak season for fruits and vegetables.

Chronobiology is the study of patterns and rhythms that repeat themselves. Until recently, medicine paid very little attention to the seasonality or rhythm of disease. Timing is now becoming important in the overall maintenance of health, and especially so in the detection, treatment, and prevention of disease.

The Wall Street Journal recently featured ways in which biorhythms are being studied in the diagnosis of autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and dementia. In autistic children, researchers were able to differentiate characteristic brain wave patterns in the language centers with 90% accuracy.

The body’s physiologic rhythms work on different time scales and often interact with each other. A rhythm gone awry can indicate disease. One body rhythm out of sync can impact another, creating pervasive illness. Consider these types of rhythms:

  • Cellular rhythms: Biochemical rhythms that oscillate throughout the day, prompting electrically excitable cells in neurons to activate and rest.
  • Ultra-rhythms: Our cycles that repeat throughout a day, such as heartbeat, breathing, and our hormonal system. Heart attacks occur more often in the early morning when there is a peak in stress hormones. Asthma is most common at night when the stress hormone cortisol decreases.
  • Circadian rhythms: Our sleeping and waking cycle. The body’s 24-hour cycle affects sleep, body weight, and fertility.
  • Ciralunar cycles: Our monthly cycles. A women’s immunity is lowest during menses and highest during ovulation.
  • Cirannual cycles: The seasonal influence on our human experience. Testicular cancer is more common in the winter as is breast cancer in women with low melatonin due to increased darkness.

Over a thousand biological rhythms control the human body. Each biological timer dictates a specific rhythm to a group of cells, organ, or endocrine gland. Our individual body clocks may be linked to a common master clock that is in turn controlled by the sun and movements of earth. When kept in total darkness, animals and plants are able to maintain this rhythm for a period of time but then gradually shift out of sync.

Chronotherapy considers how the body’s rhythms impact its ability to process medications. Every drug has an optimal time when it is the least toxic and most effective. According to Franz Halberg, chronobiologist, “One of the big mistakes that’s made is to believe that we can treat by clock hours. We have to treat by body times.”

For cancer treatment, these should be consideration: the drug being administered, the timing when the patient’s cancer cells divide the most (and are the most vulnerable), when the healthy cells divide the least, and the patient’s rest and activity cycles. Chemotherapy is more effective when taking all factors into consideration.

Most living creatures have adapted to the temporal order of their environment so they carry out bodily functions at the best time. Although humans also evolved with this natural music, we fool ourselves in believing we can move beyond our biology. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine honor these transitions. In western medicine, understanding that the seasons and geography impact health help physicians tailor prevention and treatment so patients can live in sync with their biology and environment.

The Bitter Truth

We have all heard that too much sugar is bad for us. While sugar is clearly a villain, the lack of bitter in our diet also impacts our health.

Instinctively we don’t like the taste of bitter. During experiments in which sweet and bitter tastes were introduced to infants in utero, babies instinctively sucked the sugar stimulus but puckered up at a bitter one. This response exists because poisonous plants are often bitter so when infants or toddlers put them into their mouths, they instinctively spit them out.

The human response to less severely bitter food is more varied. In the US, about 25% of the population enjoy and seek out bitter food, 50% can tolerate it, and 25% find the flavor unpleasant. Those who are highly sensitive to bitter are more likely to dislike green tea, soy, white grapefruit, and coffee (or drink it with sugar). The response to bitter flavors is influenced by many factors, such as culture, genetics, and childhood diet. In general, Americans are more adverse to bitter flavors than other cultures.

Bitter is present in nearly all plants. It signals our bodies to eat less and it activates our detoxification systems — in this way bitters act as a daily workout for our livers. There are over 20 different subtypes of bitter taste receptors which detect over 100 unrelated compounds. These bitter taste receptors are not just confined to the tongue and mouth but are also found in the lungs and brain. To make the most of bitters, we need to taste them as well as smell them.

The diversity of plants we eat has dropped with industrialization and urbanization. Where once we more connected to the land and harvesting our own wild bitters — dandelion greens, chicory, wild arugula – we have now replaced them with an extra serving of carbohydrates.

The aversion to bitter has led us to select the sweetest fruits and vegetables in order to make them more palatable. Our cultivated fruits and vegetables are very different from their wild ancestors which were much bitterer and packed many more nutrients. By removing bitterness, we have greatly reduced the amount of beneficial phytonutrients in foods. Bitter greens, such as dandelion and chicory, have significantly more phytonutrients and calcium than romaine or iceberg lettuce.

We blame so many of our current health concerns on the rise of sugar that we miss that we have eliminated much of what was bitter and wild in our food. Part of improving our health is hiding in unwanted plants – bitter, weedy roots, and greens. We need to reactivate our bitter taste receptors.

Here’s how:

  • Eat digestive bitters.
  • Include bitter greens and foods in your diet.
  • Reduce sweet and starchy foods.

Herbalists, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine often use bitters in their remedies. You may recognize the vestiges of old practices today in cocktails such as Compari and Angostura. Many aperitifs, such as Fernet Branca and Averna, are bitters.

Work more bitters into your diet. It just may be that a spoonful of bitter helps the sugar go down!

Want more information? Robert Lustig’s Sugar: The Bitter Truth