Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Leave a comment

Art of Healing exhibits this spring


Illustration by Nancy Carlson

Art is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

You can view the following exhibits on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus this May:

  • The paintings and drawings of Ken Moylan are on display at the Penny George Institute’s outpatient clinic – Abbott Northwestern. Moylan combines many traditional and historical styles, materials and techniques of painting, sculpture and architecture within his finely crafted images and objects. His work has been published by Landmark Editions of Minneapolis, and his art has been exhibited extensively across the United States in galleries, museums and art fairs.
  • The illustrations of Nancy Carlson are on display in the Wasie Building lower level gallery, outside the Livewell Fitness Center. She is the author and illustrator of more than 60 children’s books. She believes that life should be fun for everyone, especially for children. This optimistic message permeates her picture books which help kids learn to cope with different challenges.

The displays are part of the Penny George Institute’s Art of Healing Program, which provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.

Leave a comment

Responding to health headlines on the value of multivitamins and supplements

Vitamins.162362665An editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month suggested that multivitamins and supplements are a “waste of money.” The editorial bases its opinion on the results from three recent studies on the effects of these supplements.

The editorial was quickly picked up by national news organizations with headlines varying from “Studies say multivitamins don’t prevent disease” to “Research shows multivitamins provide some benefits.” Practitioners from the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing regularly recommend supplements to their patients and wanted to weigh in on the issue.

Two practitioners offered their opinions:

Bell_Debra_2013Debra Bell, MD, offers an integrative medicine, or holistic approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition.

Bell questioned whether the original editorial really reflected the studies. Each study report cautioned against broad conclusions, while the editorial ended by stating the case was closed and that multivitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention.

Bell says: “I believe it is the summary of the editorial that generated the media buzz. This final sentence is a reflection of an important issue – the frustration of the medical community with the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry.  The large majority of supplements are poorly manufactured with the primary intent of generating revenue.  This irresponsible behavior undermines the dedicated work of professionals researching and developing good quality supplements.”

She added, “The various articles ignore that there is a respected group of professionals in Integrative Medicine who apply the large database of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of many natural supplements and vitamins.  Most Integrative Medicine specialists would agree that the best way to obtain nutrients is from diet, but sometimes multivitamins or supplements are necessary or helpful.”

Blair_JenniferJennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, is an integrative, holistic provider with clinical specialties in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy and integrative health coaching. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine.

Blair agrees with Bell that the presence of poor quality supplements in the marketplace degrades a valuable asset to the health and well-being of patients.  “Appropriate nutritional supplementation, individualized to a patient’s unique needs and provided by companies who focus on quality, safety, efficacy and optimal absorption can benefit health and address nutritional deficiencies that contribute to diseased states and inhibit the body’s natural regenerative abilities. We miss the whole picture when we allow media sound bites to guide our beliefs and decisions.”

Additionally, Blair points out that multiple factors contribute to sub-optimal nutrition that may lead to the need for quality supplements.  These may include some industrialized agriculture practices, poor soil quality and over-processed foods. “Combine these factors with inhibited digestive function due to inflammation or an imbalance of intestinal flora, and it can be difficult to absorb the proper nutrition from food alone,” she said.

Debra Bell, MD, and Jennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, see patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern outpatient clinic.

Leave a comment

A walk a day helps keep the doctor away

Walking shoeBy Nathan Kreps

Opportunities to get “well” are all around us. They are shouted from billboards advertising gyms, hidden in community education catalogues, and “sold in a store near you.” It’s exhausting.

In my role at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I manage a group of wellness programs called the Healthy Communities Partnership. Every day, I hear many, many messages about wellness, and I’m constantly working with my team to come up with messages and strategies to help people find the information they need.

But maybe we’re overthinking this. Is it possible that there is a simple answer? A recent video by Dr. Mike Evans promotes a single therapy that has been clinically proven to:

  • reduce depression and anxiety
  • reduce progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes
  • reduce hip fractures in post-menopausal women
  • reduce overall risk of death
  • reduce fatigue
  • increase quality of life.

What is this miracle drug? Walking. Walking 30 minutes during the day has been proven to accomplish all of those things.

I like this idea because almost anyone can do it without spending a lot of money or dramatically changing their lifestyles. The problem with most of the wellness strategies I hear about is that they just don’t fit my life. I can do anything for a few weeks, but I’ve got a son to raise, a job to do, a house to maintain and a television to watch! I’ve got priorities! But I can walk. All I need is a pair of sneakers and a few minutes.

We recently competed in an internal walking challenge here at the Penny George Institute. It wasn’t complicated. We divided into four teams, and the team with the most steps at the end of six weeks wins. We measured our steps with high-tech pedometers called Fit Bits.

During those six weeks, I figured out how to walk 10,000 steps a day without compromising other parts of my life. I walked my dog every day, something I wanted to do anyway. I worked in short walks during the day. We had some walking meetings. I took the stairs more. And I felt better!

You can take or leave the pedometer. I found it useful, personally, and you can get simple ones for less than $10. But the goal is to walk. It’s the easiest way I know to dramatically improve your health.

Nathan Kreps manages the Healthy Communities Partnership program for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Leave a comment

The scent of sweet marjoram, and the power of integrative therapies


by Vicky Grossman, NCTM, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

I work for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing as an integrative health practitioner at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Certified in massage therapy, I offer hospitalized patients massage therapy , aromatherapy, reflexology, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and energy work such as healing touch or Reiki,.

I am at times struck by how these therapies and approaches help different people heal in different, and sometimes powerful, ways. One moment like this occurred with a patient who was hospitalized with a form of an inflammatory bowel disease.

The patient, who ultimately needed surgery, experienced a great deal of pain and anxiety prior to that. I treated this patient several times. Our first encounter included reflexology, using pressure points and massage on the feet, and aromatherapy. I used the essential oil sweet marjoram to address the pain.

The patient’s response to the inhalation of sweet marjoram was nothing less than an amazing surprise, even to me!  The patient enjoyed the scent immensely and found it not only helped with the pain, but also with the anxiety. Following these treatments, the pain was reduced, and the anxiety dropped to almost nothing.

At one point, the patient was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in an emergent situation. While there, the patient was sedated and not particularly interactive.  When I visited the ICU, I left sweet marjoram with a family member of the patient to use once the patient became more alert.

I was told that periodically the patient’s blood pressure or respiration would become elevated, and the patient’s family member would administer the sweet marjoram for inhalation. He was astounded at how the blood pressure and respiration would return to a normal range.

I feel honored to treat patients with what can be a powerful combination of healing therapies and approaches. There is such great potential for gain in using these non-invasive, non-pharmacological approaches to pain managment, anxiety and healing.

If you want to learn more about integrative health approaches to help with pain, stress management, cancer care, or even just health and wellness improvement, visit the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Web site. If pain is an issue for you, visit our online pain education tool, which introduces integrative approaches for pain management.

Leave a comment

Art of Healing exhibits in April and May

Print by artist Laura Corcoran

Print by artist Laura Corcoran

Art is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

You can view the following exhibits on the Abbott Northwestern Hospital campus for the remainder of May:

The displays are part of the Penny George Institute’s Art of Healing Program, which provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.

1 Comment

Exercise – getting started and sticking with it

by Gail Ericson, MS, PT, Physical Therapist

LiveWellPhoto BlogWe all know the benefits of exercise, like feeling good, and warding off disease and weight gain. So why is it so hard to do it? It’s not about information – there are thousands of publications, online resources and professionals to turn to for exercise recommendations. Even a health scare or a warning by a doctor doesn’t always do the trick.

So, where does one go for motivation? You have to look within yourself. You need to find an exercise program that resonates with, motivates, and has long-term meaning for you. How do you do that? It’s not a cookie-cutter approach, but there is a process to go through to develop an exercise program customized to motivate you.

You can follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate your readiness for exercise. Do you ever say, “I won’t exercise” or “I can’t exercise?” Do you constantly make excuses for not exercising? Then it’s time for some thinking-and-feeling prep work.
  2. Consider your “barriers to exercise” and evaluate what is real and what is an excuse. Brainstorm with friends or family on ways to get around the real barriers. Research movement activities available in your area. Once you start making plans about when, where or with whom you will exercise, you are ready for real change.
  3. Create a personal wellness vision statement by answering in writing the questions below.

    If I had optimal health and wellness:
    – What would that look like? Talk about why these things are of value to you.
    – How would you feel?
    – What would you look like and sound like?
    – What would you be doing for fun, work, with family, and for exercise.

    Write your statement as though it is already happening, such as, “I am energetic and focused. I am less stressed, and I exercise most days of the week because I love it …”
  4. Set long-term goals you’d like to achieve in three to six months or more. Be specific, time sensitive and measurable. Instead of simply having a goal of “I want to be stronger,” consider how you would measure stronger. Try: “I want to do 15 push-ups on my knees without stopping.”
  5. Set short-term goals, such as “I will do five push-ups three times per week.”
  6. Rate your confidence level in meeting your goals on a scale of 0-10. If your answer is seven or below, you might want to rework your goal to something you rate as an eight or higher.
  7. Execute your plan. Reward yourself for meeting your short-term goals with incentives, like a special coffee or new music. Remember, any movement is better than none!
  8. Revisit these goals weekly and adjust them as necessary. Ask yourself: What worked? How can you change a goal so you can achieve it? If you don’t meet some goals, don’t consider it a failure. Learn from it. Remember, change is a process, not an event.
  9. Read your vision statement often to remind yourself of why you are exercising.

If you feel you need more support to get motivated or make a health change, consider integrative health and wellness coaching at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

Gail Ericson, PT
Physical Therapist
LiveWell Fitness Center

1 Comment

Staying connected, even in an electronic world

by Pat Vitale, LICSW

In this fast paced electronic world we live in, staying connected has become increasingly challenging. Finding ways to stay present in the moment and connected to the relationships that feed us―in a world of cell phones, instant messaging and social media―is the challenge of the next generation.

In late March, a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences tied social connections to longer, richer lives. Even people who believe they are happier on their own live shorter lives than their socially connected peers, the study says. As I look at the many electronic tools that seem to disconnect us, I wonder how our children will create the connections they need to live healthy lives.

Today’s teenagers are quite sophisticated with electronic connectedness. My 12-year-old son plays multiplayer games online with friends from around the world.  One might think this is not really a way to feel or be connected. Talking to people you have never met, how could that make you feel connected?

I was quite impressed by a conversation I overheard my son having with a young girl half way across the world while they were playing on line.  You see my son lost both of his grandmothers a year ago within months of each other.  The girl he was talking to was in the process of losing her grandmother, who was very ill.

As I listened to their conversation about what it was like to lose someone―and to hear my son console her from his experience―it totally changed my perspective on electronic communication. Two young kids, connecting through gaming, were building a supportive relationship. Even in the midst of online gaming, we are compelled to connect and find a sense of belonging and understanding.

Our children will redefine the means by which relationships are created and maintained via this electronic world.  But make no mistake about it―they still need to connect, even if it is in the middle of playing a game.

So, I ask you to consider these questions: How do you maintain a sense of connectedness? How many different ways do you have for staying connected to the people that mean the most to you?  How do you create your community?

What I have come to understand by seeing the world through my son’s eyes is that it really doesn’t matter “HOW” we stay connected, just so long as we have a way of building and maintaining meaningful relationships. We need a way to create a sense of community that feeds us, nurtures us and creates a sense of belonging.

Leave a comment

How to eat well to help manage stress

by Maureen Doran, RD, LD, integrative nutritionist

As an integrative nutritionist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, I see patients who end up taking on poor nutritional habits during stressful times. It’s easy to do this. It’s a common way to cope.

In some instances, people stop eating real, nutritious foods and resort to living off energy drinks, coffee, or sodas with high caffeine levels. It doesn’t help that when we get stressed, we may have little time to plan, shop for or prepare healthy foods.

The body needs good fuel to work properly. Adding quick, easy nutritious options makes a dramatic difference in overall health. People usually start sleeping better, have a more balanced mood, and overall they look and feel better.

Sugar is like throwing paper on the fire. It burns quickly. Protein is like putting a log on the fire. It sustains. Whole and nutritious foods are key.

Tips for eating well to manage stress

  1. Eat whole food to feel whole. It sounds simple and we hear it all the time, but fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to a healthy diet and provide the nutrients we need so that we have a better base to draw from during stressful times.
  2. Eat breakfast. It doesn’t have to be a big meal. Quick, healthy options include a fruit smoothie with protein powder or a hard-boiled egg and a slice of multi-grain toast.
  3. Aim for color and variety in fruits and vegetables.
  4. Snack on healthy foods so that you don’t overeat later in the day or make poor choices. Doran recommends dried fruits, nuts or a mix of both. Nuts are packed with protein and healthy fats. Dried fruits contain powerful antioxidants. Instead of a cup of coffee and a candy bar in the afternoon, hydrate with water and a nut/fruit mix. A small quantity goes a long way, is portable, stores easily in a desk or purse, and will help you feel satisfied.
  5. Keep nut butters on hand. Examples include almond, peanut, cashew and sunflower seed. Enjoy a small serving with sliced apples or other fruits or vegetables.
  6. Don’t feel you have to spend a lot. To help with your food budget, consider canned beans, canned tuna, bean soups, nut butters, local farmers’ markets or frozen foods from discount stores.
  7. Keep stocked on these items to make healthy, nutritious meals and snacks:
    • Nuts – find a favorite from pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and more
    • Beans – red, pinto, black, kidney and more
    • Vegetables – all varieties, certain vegetables even help the body detoxify and are helpful whether they are eaten raw or cooked including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and brussels sprouts
    • Fruits – fresh or frozen, again aim for variety, berries with anti-oxidants, and fruits with a rich color, such as plums, prunes or cherries, for necessary vitamins and minerals
    • Omega-3s – are important twice a week for brain health. Sources include salmon, canned tuna, sardines and flaxseeds.

To make an appointment with Doran, call 612-863-3333.

Leave a comment

New art exhibitions at Abbott Northwestern Hospital

ArtofHealingFeb-MarParkerArt is powerful. It can nourish the mind, body and spirit, and it can support healing. That is the inspiration behind a bimonthly Art of Healing exhibit offered by the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

View the works of artists on exhibit during the months of February and March:

  • Gail Murton’s photography is on exhibit at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Outpatient Clinic. Murton’s mindfulness photography allows presence of mind to see and appreciate the many nuances of life.
  • Stephen Parker’s mixed media art is on exhibit in the Wasie Building Tunnel, outside the LiveWell Fitness Center. After a heart attack, Parker learned that drawing and creating images could allow his heart and mind to work together for healing.

The Art of Healing Program provides arts-based wellness intervention and education, and supports a healing environment. For more information, call 612-863-9028.

1 Comment

Acupuncture can provide relief to cancer patients

by Noah Frohlich LAc,DiplOM, MaOM

Since I joined the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and Virginia Piper Cancer Institute teams in 2010, I have been privileged to work with a great group of health care professionals to help those with cancer who are going through chemotherapy and radiation.

Acupuncture is very successful in providing relief to those suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and pain. Another benefit of acupuncture is it can help balance out emotions and lift spirits.  When I offer acupuncture, I also like to provide helpful information about diet and lifestyle modification, and acupressure points for nausea and pain. Here is a great article on how acupuncture can help with cancer.

If you or someone you know has cancer, we offer these services through the Penny George Institute at Unity Hospital and at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.