The Heart - Our Second Brain

The Heart - Our Second Brain

By Dr. LuLu Shimek

The heart and cardiovascular system are key players and protectors of our physical and emotional health. I like to think of the heart as the actual brain behind our amazing and beautiful bodies, ruling with a sea of deep, rich, red blood. By knowing how and why systems work in our body, we can embrace our powerful, inner healer. There are easy tools to  connect with this intricate system and reduce the risk of cardiac disease.

Each year there are new drugs introduced to cure heart problems. Yet, these are not helping to discover the root cause of cardiovascular problems and cardiac death rates continue to rise. Cardiovascular health is possible and heart disease is even reversible! Alternative medicine can help even the most dire of health conditions, once we get to the root of the problem.

What makes your heart tick?

Once you understand the anatomy and physiology of the heart, it’s easier to make informed decisions, and chose which alternative treatments can guide you to improve your cardiovascular health. Your cardiovascular system is a network of systems and organs running throughout the body transporting blood and nutrients in order to keep everything in balance. This system is made up of blood, blood vessels and your heart. It’s one of the strongest working systems in the body, and if it pauses to take a break even for a second, it can lead to catastrophic consequences. Cardiovascular issues are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and the CDC states “about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths” 1  These conditions include: high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, peripheral arterial disease and stroke. All of these disorders are related to high inflammation in the body and by reducing inflammation, you are able to provide a favorable environment for healing.

What Causes Cardiovascular Disease?

There are many factors that can affect the function and health of the cardiovascular system. The most common factors we hear about are nutrition, exercise, and stress, but there are many other aspects that come into play, including our genes, gender, age, tobacco consumption, toxic environment and emotional toxicity. In addition, we are now discovering that overall systemic inflammation, free radical damage, Omega-6 fatty acid imbalance and high homocysteine levels also play fundamental roles in the onset of heart disease.

What are the Signs of an Unhealthy Cardiovascular System?

First off, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your primary care physician for a check up.

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue - especially in women

  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness

  • Sudden and severe anxiety, including a sense of “impending doom”

  • Irregular or rapid pulse

  • Pain in your legs, while exercising or walking

The Intelligence of the Heart

The heart is the ruler or brain of all the organs in the body. This means that all the other organs will sacrifice for the heart, and they will always give their energy to help keep the cardiovascular system in balance. This innate heart intelligence is in balance when you have understanding, intuition and awareness. Your mind and emotions create a meaningful alignment with the heart. As you bring this intention to your heart and can sense the cardiovascular system guiding you, the greater your ability to tap into this intelligence more frequently.  What does this mean at a cellular level? The cells of the cardiovascular system communicate at a deeper level and create a more cohesive healing and functioning environment for the whole body.

Today, we have a deeper understanding of the intelligence of the heart:

  • The heart sends intuitive and emotional signs to help govern the body.

  • The heart has its own independent nervous system known as “the brain in the heart.”

  • The heart is able to make many of its own decisions but also has a two way communication system with the brain

  • The cardiovascular system aligns the other systems in the body to create a harmonious environment.

Natural Solutions to Cardiac Problems

There are many natural treatments including nutritional support and supplement. These help heal the cardiovascular system both physiologically and emotionally - it’s all connected, right! Always be sure to check with your naturopathic doctor or primary care physician before taking new supplements for heart conditions.

  • The use of Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in reversing and preventing further heart damage. 2

  • Magnesium supplementation can improve the shape and condition of heart valves. 3

  • B vitamins can help rebuild the cardiomyocytes, the cells of the heart.

  • 100 mg of CoQ10 per day has been particularly effective in significantly reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 4

  • Proteolytic enzymes can provide nutritional support for your body as it works to clean out the coronary arteries and repair damage to epicardial tissue surrounding the heart.

  • Using heavy metal chelators such as cilantro and chlorella can reduce the risk of an acute coronary event. (I usually recommend a hair analysis in with my patients who are having cardiovascular symptoms to detect any possible heavy metal toxicity.)

  • Using a tincture containing Hawthorn berry and cayenne pepper can rebuild the strength of the heart.

  • Using regular immune support can decrease the risk of severe inflammatory cardiac disease related to bacterial and viral infections.

  • Ginkgo is a circulatory tonic that may reduce arrhythmias and improve blood flow.  

Tuning in to the Beat

Take a moment, take a deep breath in, close your eyes, and tune in to the beat of your heart. How often are you connecting to this fabulous heart and listening to it? Do you take time out of your day to appreciate this system and the work being done second after second? Start making changes in the way you view and communicate with the hardest working system in your body. By taking simple steps, you can prevent and even reverse cardiovascular disease.

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

  1. CDC, NCHS. Underlying Cause of Death 1999-2013 on CDC WONDER Online Database, released 2015. Data are from the Multiple Cause of Death Files, 1999-2013, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Accessed Feb. 3, 2015.

  2. Association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk of major cardiovascular disease events: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012 Sep 12;308(10):1024-33.

  3. Clinical symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are related to hypomagnesemia and attenuated by magnesium supplementation. Am J Cardiol. 1997 Mar 15;79(6):768-72.

  4. Treatment of essential hypertension with coenzyme Q10. Mol Aspects Med. 1994;15 Suppl:S265-72.



Staying Healthy through the Holidays - 10 tips from Dr. LuLu

Staying Healthy through the Holidays

By Dr. LuLu Shimek, ND

The holidays are by far my favorite time of year. The smell of pumpkin pie in the air, drinking hot cocoa by the fireplace, caroling with friends (I can’t carry a tune but who cares) and decorating the Christmas tree with my family. But with all the holiday season fun the dreaded cold and flu season can dampen the cheer.  I have 10 easy tips to stay healthy during the holidays by boosting the immune system.

Why do we get the cold or flu?

There are numerous reasons why we get a seasonal cold or the flu. One, it’s cold outside and we are snuggling up with friends and family with the doors and windows closed - easy to spread an airborne virus. Secondly, a virus can survive on non-porous surfaces for hours - yuck! If for instance, you open a door that was recently touched by a person infected with a virus, and then touch your nose or mouth, you have infected yourself. This is why it is so important to wash your hands especially during the flu and cold season. Thirdly, the nasty “ bugs” we call viruses that cause respiratory infections are always mutating, and our immune systems have problems taking care of these continually changing and evolving germs. These pesky viruses produce sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and sore throats. Even though the symptoms of a cold are usually milder than the flu, and gone within a week, they still cause many children to miss school and adults to miss time from work. The influenza virus comes in two forms, A and B, and is not as common as the cold. Flu symptoms will knock you out with a sudden onset of:  fever, body ache, cough, headache, dry or sore throat and other respiratory symptoms.

10 Tips to Prevent Colds and Flu

  1. Stay hydrated

When you contract a cold or the flu, the respiratory system works overtime to drive out the viruses by creating more mucus. To speed up the healing action, it’s much better to use natural treatments to expel the mucus by thinning it rather than drying it up with antihistamines. There are several great ways to thin mucus secretions. The best way is to drink broths, hot herbal teas, and other warm liquids (without dairy and sugar). You can also take a steam shower and add a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. If you don’t have a steam shower, bring a quart-size pot of water to a boil, remove it from the stove and place your face a comfortable distance from the steam, then cover your head with a towel. Inhale through your nose if you’re stuffy, or through your mouth for chest congestion. You can strengthen the power of steam by adding 1-3 drops of antimicrobial essential oil to the boiled water - such as  Thyme, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lavender, Rosemary and Peppermint.

2. Limit your sugar intake and eat intuitively

Instead of grabbing a sugar cookie your co-worker brought in, have a healthy snack: a handful of walnuts, celery sticks and almond butter, carrots and hummus or sliced apples sprinkled with holidays spices are my go to snacks. Eating too much sugar reduces your white blood cell count for hours which decreases the ability to fight off and kill bacteria and viruses. Rather than overeating, try practicing eating intuitively by honoring your feelings instead of comforting yourself with food. The holidays can bring up anxiety, loneliness, boredom and even anger. Eating your favorite comfort foods my satiate your feelings in the short term, numb the pain, or distract from reality but food is not the solution.

3. Boost your immune system with nutrient dense whole foods

A great way to support your immune system throughout the winter is to eat a whole foods diet. Eating foods that are high in vitamin C will help keep your immune system strong, so include fruit and vegies such as lemons, kiwifruit, cayenne pepper and broccoli in your weekly shopping list. Ensure your diet also includes plenty of lean meats, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy,  legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and use lots of herbs and spices. If you're struggling to get the recommended servings of of fruit veggies each day, try juicing them or making a green smoothie. A blend of green apple, celery, lemon, and ginger with a pinch of cayenne is an excellent immune boosting shot.

4. Make an immune boosting soup.

Here is a recipe for my favorite Immune Boosting Soup created by Dr. Bill Mitchell, who was a renowned Naturopathic Doctor in Seattle, Washington.

Ingredients

  • 1 Small Yellow Onion, Chopped

  • 1-5 Cloves garlic, chopped or crushed (to taste)

  • 1 tsp-3 Tbsp grated fresh ginger root (to taste)

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • ½ cup sliced Shiitake mushrooms

  • 1 Quart miso broth, chicken broth, or mushroom broth

  • 3 Tbsp fresh minced parsley

  • 1 grated carrot

Directions: Combine the broth, onion, ginger, garlic, mushrooms, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, carrot and parsley. Put cover on pan and steam for 5 minutes. Eat 1-4 times a day.

5. Rest up and get your Zzzzzz

It’s so important to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night particularly during the holidays. A lack of sleep can have a serious effect on your immune system, making you more vulnerable to catching colds. You're not being a “bah humbug” by skipping a party when you feel worn-down, instead you are practicing prevention. Practice correct sleep hygiene by creating a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to soft music or soaking in a warm bath.  Limit your use of electronic devices by turning off the tv, computer, ipad and cell phone one hour before bed.

6. Stock your wellness cabinet with key vitamins & minerals

  • Vitamin D

  • Vitamin C

  • Zinc

7. Elevate your mood with fresh air and sunshine by exercising at least 30 minutes per day

8. Do one thing each day you enjoy to help you deal with the stress of the holidays.

Continual stress makes us susceptible to illness because the brain sends defense signals to the endocrine and immune system, which then releases a variety of hormones that readies us for emergency situations but depresses our immunity at the same time. So it’s important to be aware of the simple daily stressors in our lives. There are several mind-body therapies that help reverse the stress response.

    • Relaxation exercises such as yoga, tai chi, chanting and meditation

    • Positive thinking such as affirmations

    • Biofeedback

    • Art, music or dance

9. Herbs to Help Remedy Cold and Flu

  • Elderberry

  • GInger

  • Yarrow

  • Astragalus

  • Echinacea

10. Magic Socks

Yes, I did say magic socks - it’s the holidays no less! The magic sock or warming sock treatment increases body temperature to allow your immune system to catch up with the infection. It works great with kids and adults, though adults typically need to do it for more nights in a row. It sounds unpleasant, but really isn’t bad and is quite helpful. If fever is high, do not take a warm bath first.

Supplies

1 pair white cotton socks
1 pair thick wool socks
Towel
Warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions

  1. Warm your feet first. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective. Warming can be accomplished by soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5—10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5—10 minutes.

  2. Dry your feet with a dry towel.

  3. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them in ice cold water for a couple of minutes.

  4. Wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.

  5. Place cold wet socks on feet. Cover with thick wool socks. Go directly to bed. Avoid getting chilled.

  6. Keep both pairs of socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

When to contact your doctor

  • If a child has a fever of 102˚ or higher or an adult has a fever or 101˚ or higher, this does NOT mean it’s time to use Tylenol or fever supportive drugs, it’s time to make sure your doctor is aware you are sick and ask for advice.

  • If you are experiencing lethargy, especially with a HIGH fever

  • If you are having difficulty breathing or a chronic cough that is keeping you up at night and is getting worse.

The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.



Paleo Mexican Chocolate Cookies

Paleo Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 12 Minutes Yield: 12 Servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup coconut flour

  • ¼ cup raw cacao powder

  • ¼  cup coconut sugar or ½ tsp powdered stevia

  • 2 TBSP Swerve Confectioners Sugar

  • 2 tsp ground ginger

  • 1 tbsp chopped crystalized ginger

  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

  • ½ tsp sea salt

  • ½ tsp baking soda

  • 1-½ cups natural, unsalted almond butter

  • ¼ cup ground flax seeds mixed with ½ cup hot water (let sit until it sets)

  • 2 TBSP coconut oil, melted

  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • ¼  cup cacao nibs

  • ¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to  350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cacao powder, coconut sugar, Swerve,  ginger, crystalized ginger, cayenne, salts, and baking soda.

  3. In a separate large bowl, combine the almond butter, flax mixture, coconut oil and vanilla. Stir until fully combined. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until a dough forms.

  4. Fold in the cacao nibs and chocolate chips. Scoop 12 mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Press lightly with the palm of your hand to flatten slightly. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Keto Peppermint Brownies

Keto Peppermint Brownies

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 40 MInutes Yield: 16 Servings

Serve these warm and moist as is or top with with Keto Whipped cream  or a scoop of coconut ice cream.

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup blanched almond flour

  • ½ cup Swerve confectioners style sweetener

  • ¼ cup raw cacao powder

  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon of salt

  • 3 oz of cream cheese, softened

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract or 10 drops of peppermint essential oil

  • ⅓ cup chocolate chips

  • Confectioner’s style Swerve sweetener, for dusting (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to blend.

  3. Add the cream cheese, melted butter, eggs, and peppermint extract or oil. Mix until well blended. Fold in the chocolate chips.

  4. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

  5. Dust with sweetener, if desired, then cut in 2-inch squares.

Time to Support Your Lungs and Large Intestine by Briana Sabaj L.Ac

Ancient Chinese Medicine diagnoses people's conditions using the natural occurrences and rhythms of life; we look at the patterns deep within nature and apply them within. Our body, mind, and spirit are not separate from nature, we are nature. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. In other words, what happens outside of us, happens within us. 

Read More

Trust your Gut! How probiotics can boost your Immune System

Most of our Immunity Comes from our Gastrointestinal Tract

Our immune system is not confined to one particular organ but over 80% of the immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract as receptor cells. Because of this location, what happens in your gut has a dynamic influence on the immune function. When your gut is healthy, your thriving population of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, supports the immune system receptor cells. They provide a protective barrier within your colon and intestines. Optimizing and supporting the beneficial bacteria in your gut is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health and well being, including your immune health.

The Health Benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics influence many functions in the body. In addition to your immune health, researchers have found they affect your body weight, energy and nutrition, and your brain, both psychologically and neurologically. Your microflora impacts the expression of your genes, too, which can have a powerful effect on your health

Your good bacteria play a vital role in the development and maintenance of this mucosal immune system in your gut. They compete with the less-friendly microbes for both food and attachment sites on the receptor cells. As long as you have a healthy amount of good microbes, they’re usually able to prevail.

Probiotics also support your normal healthy response to allergens. Beneficial bacteria train your immune system to distinguish between non-harmful antigens and undesirable antigens, and to respond in a normal, appropriate way.

Probiotics and Weight Management

Increasingly, research confirms that probiotics play a key role in weight management. One human study showed how obese individuals reduced their abdominal fat by consuming a probiotic-rich fermented beverage for a 12-week period.

If you’re struggling to manage your weight, I suggest you take full advantage of the potential benefits of probiotics!

Your body needs beneficial gut bacteria to absorb certain undigested starches, fiber, and sugars in foods. When you have a good balance of bacteria, you can efficiently convert these carbohydrates into valuable sources of nutrients and energy.

Another important benefit of probiotics is for your body’s production of vitamin K and B vitamins. Probiotics also promote mineral absorption from the foods you eat. Equally valuable is their ability to help metabolize and break down body wastes.

The Gut & Brain Connection

Many people are also surprised to learn that their guts are essentially their second brains. Proof of this can be found in the fact that your gut produces more of the mood-influencing neurotransmitter serotonin than your brain does.

Studies show probiotics can benefit the communications within your gut-brain axis. You have two nervous systems, one in your brain and spinal cord, and another in your gastrointestinal tract. Made from the same type of tissue, they are connected to each other via your vagus nerve, which is the primary route for information sharing between your gut and your brain. Your diet is indeed linked to your mental health!

Probiotics and Healthy Skin

Probiotics benefit your skin health and especially the skin of children. Skin issues, particularly those commonly seen in infants, are thought to be due to a delay in the development of immune function. Adding in probiotics to your child's nutrition program can help boost their immune system and get through the school year healthy.

How to get Probiotics form your Diet? 

Clearly, probiotics benefit your health from head to toe in many ways. They are so essential for a multitude of bodily functions that research suggests taking a probiotic supplement may be even more important than taking a daily multivitamin. Keep in mind that many of the nutrients you find in a multivitamin supplement, especially B vitamins, are made by beneficial bacteria in your gut.

The most ideal way to get the probiotics you need each day is to eat fermented veggies that you make at home or to consume other traditionally fermented foods rich in probiotic bacteria. Here are some sources. 

  • Miso
  • Fermented Dairy: Yogurt & Kefir
  • Cultured Coconut Milk Yogurt.
  • Tempeh
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented Vegetables: Pickles, Sauerkraut, & Kimchi