Get Serious about Laughing: Giggling is Good for You!

Thursday, August 14, 2014 8:38 AM comments (0)

Laughter-YogaRemember the last time you had a good laugh? How about that feeling of amusement you get when you anticipate witnessing something funny? Mirth—otherwise known as merriment and glee—has been the recent subject of research. While still in its infancy, some of the studies’ early results might surprise you.

John Chamness, a licensed massage therapist at NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program lists some of the recent findings behind mirth.  After watching funny movies, participants experienced the following health benefits:

  • Significantly lowered risk of a second heart attack in men who combined watching 30 minutes a day with standard cardio rehab
  • Increased beneficial blood vessel relaxation
  • Influenced the expression of genes, including turning on genes related to immune function
  • Reduced water loss from skin in elderly men with atopic dermatitis (dry skin)
  • Short-term improvement of erectile dysfunction

Are these the effects of the state of mirth, or the laughter that is often a result? Regardless, you don't have to wait for something funny to enjoy a laugh; laughter can be prolonged as a deliberate behavior.

In Laughter Yoga—a social movement that began in India and is catching on here—participants alternate 45 – 60 seconds of deliberate, sustained laughter with deep breathing and brief stretching for a total of 30 minutes. After seven sessions over three weeks, Laughter Yoga participants had significantly lowered their blood pressure.

During sustained laughter (through Laughter Yoga or not), the diaphragm increases from working an average of 12 times per minute during regular breathing to 300 forceful times per minute. Over 20 minutes of sustained laughter accounts for 6,000 contractions. That’s quite a workout!

So, what’s the key take away? Be serious in your pursuit of health, but don't always pursue health with seriousness.

What makes you laugh? Have you ever participated in a Laughter Yoga session?


Delicious and Nutritious: Maximize Your Garden

Friday, June 21, 2013 2:28 PM comments (0)

Summer has arrived. Ice cold glasses of lemonade and cookouts are among the many perks of the warmer weather. But don’t forget to add the delicious fruits, vegetables and herbs in season during the summer to that list. Sure, it’s easy to find produce at your local grocery store, but when you grow it yourself, you reap both the nutritional and physical benefits of your harvest.

Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, Integrative and Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of the benefits gardening can have on your overall health:

  • Pesticide and preservative free. Homegrown produce and herbs mean you know exactly what went into the growth and harvesting of your food. You can rest assured that there are no unnecessary preservatives and/or pesticides.
  • Encourages healthy eating habits. Knowing that the food on your table is a direct result of your hard work can help you make smarter food choices. It might also encourage you to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. You may end up growing some varieties of veggies and fruits that you have never tried before.
  • Saves some green. Keeping an edible garden reduces the amount of produce you have to buy at the grocery store.
  • Brightens your mood. Spending time outside can help improve your mental outlook and reduce stress. Getting your hands dirty, smelling the soil and connecting with the cycles of life can be meditative activities.
  • Slims your waistline. Not only does gardening provide you with deliciously healthy food, it’s also a great way to get some exercise. Weeding, trimming and harvesting can be hard work if you keep at it for 30 minutes or more.
  • Connects you to your family. Getting your family out in the garden is a great way to spend some quality time together, creating something that will benefit all of you. 
  • Provides vitamins and minerals. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are filled with nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of the vitamins and minerals found in common produce items:
  1. Tomatoes are full of fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium and vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as the antioxidant lycopene.
  2. Red bell peppers are rich in potassium, riboflavin, vitamins A, B6 and C. 
  3. Broccoli is high in calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A, B6 and C.
  4. Zucchini is a good source of niacin, pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins A, B6 and C, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  5. Cilantro is an excellent source of thiamin and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C,  E (Alpha Tocopherol) and K, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.
  6. Basil is a good source of vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), riboflavin and niacin. It is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, C  and K, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
  7. Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins C and K, manganese and rich in antioxidants.
  8. Kale packs a high iron punch and it’s also high in vitamins A, C and K.
  9. Dill adds flavor and texture to a dinner salad but it also brings vitamins A and C, and lots of iron to the table.

What is your favorite fruit, vegetable or herb to grow in the summertime?

To see more on the health benefits of gardening, check out this video from Lake County's recent community gardening event, Dig Day


Choosing Herbal Remedies to Ease Illness

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 8:10 AM comments (0)

Herbal-remediesNot all health conditions need to be treated with prescription or over-the-counter medications. In fact, in some cases, herbal remedies and supplements can help relieve symptoms and improve health.

While there is no “magic” supplement or “quick fix,” it is important to discuss any new treatment method (herbal or not) with your physician. This will ensure that no unwanted side effects or drug interactions will occur. To learn more about herbs and supplements, visit

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program, offers the following herbal alternatives:

  • Allergies – An alternative to allergy medications may include nettles or D-Hist. This remedy includes four ingredients—quercetin, stinging nettle leaf, bromelain and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). You can either purchase these supplements separately or combined as D-Hist. Before combining these supplements with an existing treatment or medication, you should consult with your physician to confirm there won’t be any potential drug interactions.
  • Basic Health – A healthy diet is best for maintaining basic health. Many individuals can also benefit from taking Vitamin D, Omega-3  fatty acid and probiotic supplements.
  • Sleep – Having trouble sleeping? L-theanine, melatonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) or SAM-e can all help aid sleep. It’s important to note that these herbs might not solve the problem immediately—sometimes it can take a few months before the full effects can be noticed.
  • Menopause—For many women, taking hormones or pain medication throughout menopause is not preferred. Black cohosh and eating organic whole food soy (edamame, tofu, miso, soy nuts) may help ease and improve symptoms.

Do you use herbal remedies to help relieve common health concerns? What works for you?


Relax, Unwind – Health Benefits of Massage

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 7:58 AM comments (0)

Massage-BenefitsDim lighting, soothing music and invigorating scents can all be recipes for relaxation. And, in our busy lives, it’s often nice to have some downtime to focus on relaxation and rejuvenation of both the mind and body.

Massage therapy has been around for centuries and can be used for various wellness purposes. Massage therapy comes in many forms – including shiatsu, contemporary western massage, Swedish massage and tissue release.

Charlotte Walker, a massage therapist in NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program, identifies some of the potential health benefits of massage therapy:

  • Enhance circulation and reduce blood pressure
  • Relieve muscle tension and stiffness
  • Cleanse the system
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Stimulate nerves and relax the body
  • Restore the body’s flow of energy
  • Decrease anxiety

As is the case with any alternative treatment option you may be undergoing, it is important to inform your physician about this treatment, especially if you are being treated for any specific health conditions.

Have you ever gotten a massage? How often do you go?


Fertility and Acupuncture

Thursday, June 28, 2012 8:48 AM comments (0)

Fertility AcupunctureConception difficulties and infertility aren't as uncommon as one might think; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 10 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant.

There are many fertility treatment options available, including conventional biomedical treatments, such as fertility medications, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, and traditional methods, like Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. Many couples have found great results with a combination of treatments.

Ultimately, the right choice is the one that works. While there is no preferred method for everyone, in many cases, the age-old treatment of acupuncture has been shown to help enhance fertility and increase a woman’s chances of conceiving.

Nicole Hohmann, Acupuncturist with NorthShore's Integrative Medicine Program, shares some of the health benefits of fertility acupuncture treatments:

  • Regular periods. Menstrual cycles and ovulation often regulate with acupuncture treatment. Studies have shown that when menstrual cycles are predictably regular a woman has a much higher chance of conceiving.
  • Fertility Improvement. Acupunture has been shown to increase fertile cervical mucous, which can help predict ovulation and the best time periods for conception.
  • Better health. Overall signs of enhanced health may be experienced throughout acupuncture treatment, including reduced premenstrual symptoms, increased energy and an improvement in sleep patterns.
  • Herbs tailored to your cycle. Acupuncture might be combined with Chinese herbal medicines as well. Different herbal formulas may be given at different points in a woman's cycle to help support follicle development, ovulation and uterine lining, and implantation.
  • Benefits for men, too. Acupuncture also treats low sperm count and poor morphology in men.
  • Stress reduction. Fertility challenges can increase stress. Acupuncture can enhance one's sense of well-being and reduce stress, which are essential when trying to conceive.

Has acupuncture worked for you or someone you know? 


Arthritis Pain – Methods for Treatment

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 9:03 AM comments (0)

Arthritis PainThere are many supplements on the market to help treat arthritis pain—some more widely accepted and used than others. One of the more common supplements, glucosamine, has become a popular treatment option, but has also been under some debate about its effectiveness.

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, Director of the Integrative Medicine program, says that clinically she has seen that glucosamine and chondroitin with MSM has been helpful for treating arthritic pain. However, she also recommends that if you have concerns you can go off of it. If your arthritis pain comes back and you haven’t done anything differently, you can always go back on it.  It can have interactions with medications like the blood thinner, warfarin, so be sure to check with your doctor whether you may safely take this supplement.

She also provides some tips and recommendations for alternative treatment methods of mild-to- moderate arthritis:

  • Use herbs like turmeric and ginger regularly in your cooking. Turmeric can be made into a thick paste with sea salt and water, and applied to the outside of the joint for at least 10 minutes as needed or daily.  This acts as a cool compress to reduce an inflamed or achy joint.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil or ground flaxseeds) have an anti-inflammatory effect and are excellent for heart health.  
  • Vitamin D is very important for bone density and can help with body pain when replaced in deficient individuals. Note that it is possible to overdose on Vitamin D, so you should consult with your physician for advice on vitamin D dosing.
  • Try drinking sour cherry juice daily because it can take the edge off of arthritis pain. Flavor the tart beverage with a small amount of sweetener like Stevia or other fruit juice if necessary. Tart cherry juice is available in grocery and health food stores. 
  • Reduce your refined sugar intake.  
  • Keep your weight in check and exercise regularly.  
  • Pain is often associated with your mind – body connection. Be sure that you are sleeping well and managing stress in a healthy way.

What methods do you employ to reduce pain? Have you seen a connection between your lifestyle (diet, sleep and stress levels) with your pain?

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