Currents is published monthly by Windhorse Integrative Mental Health of Northampton, 211 North St., Suite 1, Northampton, MA 01060. Executive Director is Victoria Yoshen. For questions, concerns, and suggestions about Currents, contact us at email@example.com.
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Recently, Connie Packard, a Windhorse Northampton Founder and Donor, underwrote three clinicians taking the third year of the Open Dialogue training led by Mary Olson. The dialogic practices taught benefit all clinicians, and this will allow these three to do both in-house and wider community trainings. It helped me to think about what other specific projects we might have where the outcomes are measurable and the values might coincide with different donors. Eric, who keeps an oar in development, and Jeremy, our Education Director, plan to meet to put to paper ideas they have. If you have an idea of something you want to see us move into, please feel free to let me know.
Board Meeting Summary from February 26, 2019
Written by Victoria Yoshen, Executive Director of Windhorse IMH Northampton.
The Board met at the end of February. (Why do I bother to let the community know about the Board? Because they are part of our community AND our community is where Board members often come from. I want them to be recognized and heard.) It was the usual checking in with the sites about finances, human resources matters, and staff well-being. This meeting the Board thought ahead about each site recruiting a Board member for the next year. Ideally there would be two Board members for each site. Also, the Board appreciated the way the three sites, with three executive directors, have figured out how to work together.
Giving Your Immune System a Boost
Written by Jonathan Langmuir, Wellness Nurse at Windhorse IMH Northampton.
Our modern lifestyles tend to take a toll on our immune systems. Understanding that approximately 70% of our body’s immune system is related in some way to our digestive gut health, gives us some clues about how important gut health is, and how we can give our immunity a boost. More and more research is clarifying this connection, what it means, and what we can do about it, though there is still much we do not know.
What We Do Know
Gut microorganisms, or microbiota, are essential for health, wellness, and quality of life. Gut imbalance is linked to all kinds of health concerns. These include: increased risk of cancers, not just colon cancer; disorders of the gut such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colitis; increases in incidence of some inflammatory disorders, basically causing or worsening them; nutrient deficiencies; greater difficulty fighting off infections in and on the body; lung diseases such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia, and lung cancer; type 1 and 2 diabetes; age related chronic inflammation, which is implicated in arthritis, stroke, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and dementia; depression; anxiety; and autism. The relationship between gut microflora and autism spectrum disorders is not fully understood yet, though we do know that fecal therapy has improved symptoms of it, suggesting the link between gut health and autism, and highlighting the need for more research.
Wow! That’s a scary list. Let’s take a brief look at what can cause this kind of imbalance.
- Modern/industrial farming practices that use pesticides and herbicides, leaving toxins on food that destroy gut bacteria. These chemicals also kill off healthy bacteria and other microorganisms in the soil and on the raw foods we eat, creating “dead food”. We need healthy living foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables and fermented foods, to maintain a healthy gut.
- Diets high in refined or concentrated simple carbohydrates (sugar), which tend to feed the “bad” gut microorganisms.
- Diets high in artificial flavorings and thickeners, some of which interfere with maintaining healthy microbiota.
- Diets high in processed foods, especially those foods stored in plastic, and most especially those that are heated in plastic.
- Diets low in fiber: Fiber helps foodstuffs move through our gut at a rate that supports gut health. Not enough fiber and foods move too slowly through our gut. Fiber is also food for some of the healthy microbes we need. Some of these microbes produce essential B vitamins for us right in our gut.
- Oral antibiotics.
- Increased heavy metals in our digestive tracts and bodies.
- Stress and anxiety: Actually increases inflammation that contribute to feedback loops reinforcing unhealthy gut balance.
- Sedentary lifestyles: Among other body mechanisms, movement and exercise increase the motility of our entire digestive tract (peristalsis), moving foodstuffs at a rate that supports gut health. Less motility means slower digestion, which can encourage subtle changes in Ph, and unhealthy fermentation of foodstuffs in the gut, leading to changes in what microbes colonize where, disrupting the healthy balance of microbiota.
The list goes on.
What can you do?
Doing anything on the next list is great. Because these changes are lifestyle changes, it is generally easier to integrate smaller more incremental changes into our lives and sustain those changes than trying to integrate big changes all at once. Here is a short list of possibilities:
- Eat organically grown foods
- Add some raw foods to your daily intake, especially sprouted vegetables.
- Add fermented foods to your diet that have not been pasteurized. Yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi are examples.
- Reduce or eliminate concentrated sweets, especially soda and fruit juice, as well as carbohydrate focused snacks like potato or corn chips. We did not evolve with these foods, so our bodies are not designed to function when consuming them. For example, over the last 100 plus years, the fruit we eat has been bred to contain increasingly higher amounts of sugar. What we perceive as a normal thing to eat now, is not normal for our bodies from an evolutionary perspective. 150 years ago we ate a small fraction of the sugar we consume today.
- Engage in moderate exercise, such as going on daily walks. The exercise does not need to happen all at the same time. For example, walking a half hour per day can be broken up into 3 ten minute walks for similar benefit. Experiment, and find a form of exercise you enjoy doing.
- Do an activity you enjoy. This lowers stress, and supports continuing to do the activity. Doing activities we don’t enjoy tends to increase stress, and are hard to sustain over time. This includes all activities, not just exercise.
- Engage in practices that are proven to lower stress and anxiety, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation.
For additional information see the links to articles below:
- Blum, Susan, MD, MPH. (no date). What Healing Your Gut Can Do For Your Immune System. Mindbodygreen.com/articles/arthritis-and-your-immune-system
- Fields, Helen. (2015). The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet. Hopkinsmedicine.org/research/advancements-in-research/fundamentals/in-depth/the-gut-where-bacteria-and-immune-system-meet
- Frontiers. (November 2, 2017). New Link Found Between Gut Bacteria and Age-Related Conditions. Medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-link-gut-bacteria-age-related-conditions.html
- ScienceNordic. (March 29, 2018). Why Gut Bacteria Are Essential for a Healthy Immune System. Medicalxpress.com/news/2018-03-gut-bacteria-essential-healthy-immune.html
A Poem and a Song for the Season
Click here to read April Rain Song by Langston Hughes. We’d also like to share with you this video of a musical interpretation of the poem, performed by The Bright Wings Chorus in November of last year.
And if you’re interested in more springtime-themed poetry, we think you’ll enjoy checking out this site.
Recipes: Teas and Tisanes to Try
Teas and tisanes (herbal infusions) may be the most popular beverage in the Windhorse office. We keep as many as a dozen different types of tea on hand, both to enjoy ourselves and to offer to our visitors. Whether you’re looking for something energizing, immune boosting, soothing, invigorating, comforting, or anything else, chances are the Windhorse office has a tea to fit the bill. But we know that the love of tea reaches far beyond the confines of our office. It’s enjoyed in one form or another in just about every corner of the world, and given the many health benefits of tea, it’s easy to see why that is the case.
In honor of Windhorse’s love of tea, we thought we’d share some tea-related resources with you. Click on the links below to find out about the health benefits of tea, some homemade tea recipes, and places to enjoy a lovely cup o’ tea in the area.
- As far as the health benefits of teas and tisanes, there are articles all over the internet (and in many well-respected books too, no doubt) to which you could turn. Here are but a few that we stumbled upon: 86 Different Kinds of Herbal Teas (and their surprising health benefits!) from TheHeartySoul.com; 19 Types of Herbal Teas and Their Health Benefits from The FitIndian.com; 9 Surprising Health Benefits of Drinking Tea from MindBodyGreen.com.
- If you’re interested in making your own herbal tea blends, then you might like to take a look at the following resources, which offer tips, tricks, and recipes: Make Your Own Herbal Tea Blends from EatingWell.com; Turn Kitchen Scraps and Leftover Spices Into Delicious Herbal Tea from Saveur.com; DIY Tea Blends – 5 Ways from CountryCleaver.com.
- Two spots come to mind when we think of tea in the Pioneer Valley. Dobra Tea in downtown Northampton is a small cafe offering a vast assortment of teas and tisanes, plus light fare, tea tastings, and specialty drinks. Another pleasant spot for tea is Esselon Cafe in Hadley. While they may not offer the variety of Dobra, their selection of loose tea is admirable, and best of all they bring it to you on a bamboo tray, fully steeped in its only little pot, and accompanied by a mug, small spoon, tiny metal pitcher of milk (if you desire), and dish on which to rest your diffuser.
- If you’re willing to go a little further afield, then there are another two tea spots you could try. Boxes of the Tea Guys tea can be found in stores all over the Valley, but it seems they also have tasting room and factory store at their headquarters in Whately, MA. The Tea Guys are known for their quality teas and tisanes, and they offer both traditional and unique flavor combinations (coconut truffle black tea, anyone?). And lastly, Crepes Tea House Restaurant & Creperie in West Springfield boasts over one hundred types of tea on hand, plus the added benefit of some really scrumptious food. Who could turn down a delicious cup of tea paired with a warm honey crepe?
- Lastly, we’d like a make a plug for Full Kettle Farm teas. Full Kettle Farm is located about 20 minutes north of our office and it’s owned and run by Greg Disterhoft, an extraordinary person who also happened to be a Windhorse Team Counselor some time ago. Greg grows herbs by hand and uses them to create fantastic herbal tea blends, which are served in area restaurants as well as available for purchase online and at the Tuesday Northampton Farmers’ Market.
- Erica has joined the staff as a new Housemate.
- Kyla, a former Windhorse intern, has joined the staff as a new Team Leader.