Supercharged snacking: Cut cravings and boost your energy

By Jenny Petitti
The good news is Americans are snacking more often; the bad news is that the quality of our snacks may be lacking. Use snack time to fill in the gaps with nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and low fat dairy.
Eating throughout the day and including healthy snacks can help cut cravings, keep energy levels stable, improve your mood, give you brain power and may boost metabolism. Be sure to plan ahead of time by bringing healthy snacks with you or keeping them at your work space.
Components of supercharged snacks include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and heart healthy fats. Eating balanced snacks or "mini-meals" will keep you satisfied longer and increase micronutrient, vitamin and mineral intakes. Try to eat every 2½ to 3 hours to avoid overeating later. Eating more often tends to be the easy part; it's the portion control aspect that is more difficult. If you're not careful, snacking can lead to weight gain if portion control isn't taken into account.
Skip the junk food and help your waistline. Studies show that empty calories found in foods like chips, cookies and soda lead to excess weight gain and cause a quick jolt of energy followed by a crash that leaves you tired and cranky.
Lastly, snacking doesn't give you license to skip meals, and be sure to eat because you're hungry rather than bored, stressed or frustrated. If you aren't hungry and feel the need to eat, drink some water, paint your nails, rake some leaves, go for a walk or chew some sugar-free gum.
Supercharged snack list:
1 banana with 12 whole almonds.
½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup pineapple, 1 tablespoon chopped nuts.
1 boiled egg, 1 slice of whole wheat toast, low sodium V8 juice.
1 tablespoon of peanut butter with 1 medium apple.
1 ounce reduced fat cheese, 15 grapes and 15 whole grain crackers.
½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt, ¾ cup frozen berries, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and water. Blend until smooth.
Jenny Petitti is a registered dietitian associated with the Tamworth Community Nurse Association and the Tamworth Farmers' Market. This program is made possible by a grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Foundation Healthy Food Fund.
  • Category: Health

The unsung hero of health and human performance

By Lindsay Mayock
The information that we are given about health is plentiful nowadays, especially through the internet and social media. And most of what we see and hear boils down to the same message: When it comes to health, it's all about diet and exercise. No argument here! But today, without diminishing the importance of what we eat and how we move, I would like to make a case for the unsung hero of our health — something that we as a society significantly under-value, something that can make us stronger, smarter, more productive and efficient. Sleep.
Sleep ranks among the foundational biological needs of humans, along with food, air, water and shelter. Yet currently, scientists are declaring a national sleep crisis, asserting that Americans are chronically under-rested and over-caffeinated. As a culture, we don't often allow "adequate sleep" to make it on to our to-do lists. In fact as our lists get longer and longer, our resting hours get shorter and shorter. Not only do we under-value sleep, we often (large coffee in hand) boast about the lack of it. We are apt to brag about an all-nighter as if it's a badge of honor, as if it's something to be proud of. We place high value on things like productivity and busy-ness and often think of rest and sleep as nothing more than barriers to our ability to be productive. There is no time for sleep when we feel we must always be accomplishing something.
But the irony is that we must sleep in order to accomplish some of the most important work that our body does. The idea that we "turn off" as we sleep couldn't be further from the truth. As Heraclitus put it, "Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work, helping to make something of the world." While we sleep, the dynamic activities of the waking hours quiet and the constant stimulation and input cease. This allows the capacity for our internal cleaning crew to go to work. As we slumber, our body is clearing our brain of toxins and waste, repairing our muscles and tissues and processing our emotions, all in preparation for another trip around the sun.
  • Category: Health

Has your pain worn out its welcome?

(with mug shot of kate amsden in community)


October is National Physical Therapy Month. Articles by the staff of Mountain Center Physical Therapy will be appearing throughout the month in the Thursday Health section.

By Kate Amsden

Special to The Conway Daily Sun

None of us want to be in pain, and we often strive to soothe, avoid and eradicate our pain the moment we sense it. However, pain is an important mechanism for our bodies to let us know what is happening and how to respond appropriately. The purpose of pain is to protect us from damaging ourselves: It's an alarm system. When you feel pain, your brain is interpreting signals that are warning you of potential danger. For example, your hand hurts when you touch a hot stove so that you pull away before damaging your skin.

The brain continuously organizes and processes information from different body tissues such as bone, skin, muscles and joints. It does this via the body's great communication network, the nervous system. Our nerves send pain input along with other sensations, such as texture, pressure and temperature up to our brains to tell us what is happening to the tissues. We call this collective group of sensations "afferent" signals, meaning they come from our body to tell our brain what's going on. Vision, taste, smell and hearing are other types of afferent signals.

"Efferent" signals, on the other hand, are our brain telling our body what to do: They tell different muscle groups to fire in order to perform an action. In the hot stove example, the "hot" and "painful" input from the burner is carried through afferent pathways from the hand to the brain. The brain processes this alarm and responds by sending an efferent signal to escape the danger: The muscle of the arm and hand pull the hand away from the burner.

Not unlike the hand and the hot burner example, when we experience an injury, we feel pain because our bodies are in danger. Generally, our tissues heal with time and the right interventions, but our nervous system doesn't necessarily follow suit. Sometimes we keep feeling pain even after the original precipitating injury has resolved. This phenomenon can lead to what's known as "chronic pain," or pain that persists long after the initial injury. But why would our bodies allow this to occur?

The explanation can be found in one of the most valuable attributes of the human nervous system: neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the nervous system to adapt to frequent stimuli and strengthen those neuro-pathways. Stimuli to which we are exposed more frequently are more easily transmitted, interpreted and performed. When people talk about "muscle memory," they are referring to a pattern of repeated efferent signals, resulting in a faster transmission of information and an easier, more response. Similarly, if we feel the same afferent signal many times, our nervous system makes that pathway stronger, and our brain interprets that sensation reflexively. This is useful to help us recognize comfortable clothes, familiar faces and foods we like.

However, neuroplasticity can become a problem when pain is the most frequent stimulus. If pain pathways in the nervous system become overactive, pain signals are sent to the brain even in the absence of a potentially dangerous stimulus. The alarm system is activated and our brains perceive pain even though there is nothing threatening our tissues. The result is chronic pain. Now, the important question becomes: What can be done?

It's incredibly hard to know what to do when we experience chronic pain. It can be very frustrating and debilitating to live in a body that continues to sound an alarm even when it is safe and healthy. The good news is that we can utilize the concept of neuroplasticity to dial back the amplification of pain through repeated exposure to a broad range of sensations. In order to do so, we need to intentionally become attuned and exposed to the different types of afferent stimuli, thus training our nervous systems to respond normally to a given stimuli.

The process of developing chronic pain is complex. Often we need support from those who understand what we're feeling and why we're feeling it. There are medical professionals who can help us retrain the our pathways to transmit and organize signals in ways that more accurately represent what is happening in and around our bodies. We don't have to live with chronic pain or depend on a regimented medication schedule to feel normal. Armed with this new knowledge, seek out a trusted health-care provider for some guidance. Ask your questions, and remember that none of us should ever be passive onlookers when it comes to our health.

Kate Amsden, SPT, is attending the Duke University School of Medicine. She is a doctor of physical therapy intern at Mountain Center Physical Therapy, a physical therapy, health and human performance company committed to sharing its knowledge and practice with the people of the Mount Washington Valley.



  • Category: Health

Remedies from the Earth: Health benefits of oregano essential oil

By Deborah Jasien
The health benefits of oregano essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an antiviral, antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic substance.
The essential oil of oregano is extracted through steam distillation of fresh oregano leaves, which bear the scientific name Oreganum Vulgare. It was revered as a symbol of happiness, and it was an ancient tradition to crown brides and grooms with a laurel of oregano. It is a plant native to higher altitudes and normally grows in the mountains, which is how it got the name "Oregano," which means "Delight of the Mountains."
There are over 40 oregano species, but the most therapeutically beneficial is the oil produced from wild oregano, or Origanum vulgare, that's native to Mediterranean regions. Beware, though, as many of the oregano oils sold in grocery stores are not made from this variety, and may have little to no therapeutic value. Opt only for oregano oil made from Origanum vulgare and Thymus capitatus, a variety that grows in Spain.
Along with being respected for its antimicrobial properties, this oil has many other medicinal properties as well. It is traditionally used in one of three ways, either aromatically, which is the most popular since the advent of aromatherapy's widespread use in recent decades. You can also apply it topically onto the skin, or through carrier oil like coconut oil. Finally, you can ingest it in very small quantities as a dietary supplement, usually when diluted in honey or some other non-dairy beverage.
Health benefits of oregano essential oil
Respiratory conditions: Oregano essential oil can act as an expectorant, which will loosen up or help eliminate the uncomfortable buildups of mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tracts and sinuses, but it is also a soothing balm for inflamed lungs and the throat, which often stimulate coughing fits. Therefore, oregano essential oil may both prevent and treat symptoms of respiratory ailments.
Anti-inflammatory: When this oil is applied topically, it can reduce redness and irritation to the applied area, and it can relieve topical pain that might be associated with arthritis or injury. When consumed, it has much the same effect, although it is spread throughout the body, so will not necessarily relieve pain and discomfort as quickly.
Antibacterial: Just as it can protect against viral infections, oregano oil also gives you an added level of protection against most bacterial diseases, such as infections in the colon and urinary tract, as well as typhoid, cholera, sores, skin infections and temporary problems like food poisoning.
Antiviral: Oregano essential oil provides protection against viral infections by strengthening your immunity against colds, mumps, measles, pox and other problems created by viruses. Oregano essential oil stimulates the production and function of white blood cells, the body's main line of defense.
Antioxidant: This property turns out to be one of the most celebrated attributes of oregano essential oil, because it neutralizes the free radicals, while repairing the damage already done. This slows down the aging process and protects against certain cancers, macular degeneration, degeneration of muscle due to aging, wrinkles, and ailments related to premature aging and the effects of free radicals.
Anti-allergenic: Allergies are hyper-reactions of the body toward external stimuli. Oregano oil, being sedative in nature, calms down this hyper-sensitivity and is known to give relief from allergy symptoms. From its anti-inflammatory quality, the severity of an allergic reaction can be reduced.
Oregano essential oil has also been shown to help with psoriasis, eczema, athlete's foot, flu and other infectious ailments. It relieves congestion, and certain studies reveal that it is as powerful a painkiller as the most respected options on the market, with the added benefit that it works without the strong side effects.
 Oregano oil is NOT advisable for infants and children under the age of 6. It can cause irritation of the skin and mucus membrane if used in high concentrations or dosages. Pregnant women should avoid using it, and check with your doctor about allergies. People who are allergic to basil, lavender, marjoram, mint or sage are also commonly allergic to oregano and its essential oil. People with diabetes should use oregano cautiously as it might lower blood sugar levels.
General: As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted, in eyes or mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin, always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier).
Deborah Jasien is the owner of Fields of Ambrosia in North Conway Village. This information is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Call (603) 356-3532 or visit to learn more.
  • Category: Health

Home Care Matters: Continuing the conversation: Whatever happened to natural causes?


Sandy Ruka is executive director of Visting Nurses, Hospice and Home Care in North Conway.

By Sandy Ruka and Sharon Malenfant
Special to The Conway Daily Sun

If the recent large turnout to a screening of Dr. Atul Gawande's "Being Mortal" PBS Frontline documentary is any indication, people are beginning to contemplate what really matters in the end. With that understanding comes the need to have those tough but important conversations with loved ones and our health-care providers.

But it's not just a single "talk" with the elders in the family. Or checking the box that says "Do you have advance directives" at our annual checkups. It has to be a continuing discussion with others about how we want to live each day until the end of our time. Sharing your wishes with family and providers lets them understand what you value. It's a gift they can give you by respecting your choices.
Death and dying in America has changed dramatically in the last 100 years. A century ago, communicable diseases like influenza, tuberculosis and diphtheria were the leading causes of death in the United States. Many deaths occurred at home where families were likely to care for sick and dying relatives. The result was that most people had a fairly personal and direct experience with dying and death.
Since then, death at home in the care of family has been widely replaced. New scientific breakthroughs and medical technologies can now be used to fight illness and death. The personal process of dying is often lost in the attempt to prolong life at all cost.
"Whatever Happened to Natural Causes: Historical Perspectives on Death and Dying," is an upcoming opportunity for the public to learn more about the complex choices being faced by today's generations. On Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. at the Tech Village in Conway, Dr. Marianne Jackson is presenting a free program that looks at end-of-life issues and the importance of advance care discussions.
Jackson is one of a group of trained "Respecting Choices" facilitators in the local Community Health Collaborative. Led by Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice and Memorial Hospital Population Health, the group has several community-based projects underway that focus on advance care planning. In addition to the recent "Being Mortal" film screening and discussion, the collaborative is offering weekly advance care planning assistance, completion of advance care documents and continuing education.
On Wednesday, Oct. 26, a panel of various speakers will discuss options and choices for getting the right care in the right place. The free program starts at 6 p.m. at the Tech Village. Trained facilitators will be available after both the Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 programs to meet with attendees one-on-one and answer questions.
During the past century, America has evolved into a culture that prefers to deny death. It seems we generally are unprepared to accept our mortality, but many are working to change that. As Dr. Gawande reminds us, "Death, of course, is not a failure. Death is normal. Death may be the enemy, but it is also the natural order of things."
For more information, call Visiting Nurses, Hospice & Home Care at (603) 356-7006 or (800) 499-4171, or visit


"Home Care Matters" is a monthly column written by Visiting Nurse, Home Care & Hospice, sharing information on healthy aging and important home health topics. Past columns can be accessed at the agency's website,

  • Category: Health