LiveWell®

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


Leave a comment

Integrative medicine makes a difference in fighting disease

Integrative therapies like acupuncture can help patients dealing with serious illness cope with disease symptoms and side effects of treatment.

Integrative therapies like acupuncture can help patients dealing with serious illness cope with disease symptoms and side effects of treatment.

When facing a serious illness, more people are turning to integrative medicine to help deal with the symptoms of their disease or the side effects of treatment. A recent KSTP-TV segment described how integrative medicine is making a difference in their health and well-being, and it included comments from Courtney Baechler, MD, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

“Integrative medicine is truly combining Western and Eastern health [approaches] into one. That means if you are going through a cancer process, you get the best surgical and chemotherapy, along with the best Eastern processes, to make sure that we keep you well throughout this journey,” said Baechler.

Watch the entire segment: Inside your health: More than medicine.

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. To schedule an appointment, call 612-863-3333.


Leave a comment

Keeping it real: How to make lasting change

This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of the Livewell® Newsletterof the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

When resolving to change a habit, take it one step at a time. Set a goal and break it down into smaller goals that are more sustainable.

If your New Year’s resolutions have already begun to wane, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions are set for the wrong reasons. Are you trying to make changes for yourself, or because of society’s or someone else’s expectations of you? “If we don’t take time to reflect on where we are in life, what is working and what is not, the goals we set can reflect more of a superficial layer than our authentic self,” explained Lana Abboud, integrative psychologist and acupuncturist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “This is the time to think about what you are ready to let go of and what you want to step in to.”

If you are trying to change habits, think about what is contributing to the behavior you want to change. Unhealthy habits can sometimes be a reflection of something deeper.

For example, if your goal is to rein in poor eating habits, Abboud suggests taking some time to consider what makes you eat unwisely. “Maybe it’s because of loneliness, stress or because your relationships are not going well,” she said. Accessing and addressing the root cause will help you make lasting change.

“It’s kind of like trying to fill a void in your life with buying new clothes or a red Mercedes. You buy those things thinking they will make you happy, but you still feel like something’s not quite right. That’s because you are trying to fill the void with external things when the work is more internal.”

Another reason that resolutions don’t stick is because we take on too much all at once. “What you want to focus on is building mastery,” said Abboud. “Think about it like steps on a staircase.”

Instead of making a resolution to lose 50 pounds, break it down into smaller goals that are more sustainable. Skip sweets during the week and enjoy a small treat during the weekend. If exercising every day proves impossible, walk three times a week. As you achieve these smaller goals, move on to the next level.

As you build mastery, your self-confidence and sense of empowerment will increase. That means you’ll be less likely to give up when you experience minor set-backs.

Tips to make resolutions stick

  • Focus on adding positives rather than removing negatives. For example, instead of eliminating all sweets from your diet, find ways to add more protein, or choose more foods with naturally occurring simple sugars (fruits, vegetables and dairy products) instead of processed sugars.
  • Choose resolutions better tailored to your own environment and capacities. Don’t commit to going to the gym six times a week when the nearest gym is an hour away.
  • Surround yourself with circumstances, people and images that support you and that feel good to be around.
  • Provide yourself with gentle reminders of the benefits of accomplishing your resolutions to boost your motivation.
  • Remember, New Year’s resolutions offer an opportunity for change. You are not broken, yet what is an area that could use more refinement in your life? What potential have you yet to evoke? Even if you’ve been locked into the same pattern for years, begin to welcome change.

Lana Abboud, PsyD, MA, LP, Mac, L.Ac, sees patients at Penny George Institute – WestHealth in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.


Leave a comment

Have a mindful New Year

Practicing mindfulness is an effective way to manage stress and live more joyfully.

Practicing mindfulness is an effective way to manage stress and live more joyfully.

This article will appear in the Winter 2015 issue of the Livewell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

After the rush of the holiday season, the first few weeks of the New Year can feel like the slate has been wiped clean. As winter deepens, life in the natural world slows down, too.

Take this opportunity to enjoy the stillness and consider what’s important to you, said Mary Beth Lardizabal, DO, psychiatrist, Allina Health Mental Health – United Clinic, and a group leader of Resilience Training at the Penny George Institute.

Better yet, find a way to bring that calming stillness into your everyday life.

LIVING IN THE PRESENT

One way to do that is to practice mindfulness. “Mindfulness is simply paying attention and being present. It’s not thinking about the past or what might happen in the future. It’s living in the here and now,” Lardizabal explained.

For many of us, living in the present is surprisingly difficult. “Increasingly, we are overscheduled and don’t have time to relax and reflect,” she said.

Technology may be partly to blame. “Endlessly checking your email or social media newsfeed becomes a conditioned habit. You end up missing out on everything else going on around you.” Patterns like this become automatic. “Until you become aware, you can’t interrupt the pattern,” said Lardizabal.

“It’s like unconsciously eating. We keep walking to the refrigerator without thinking about it. Once we catch ourselves, we can make decisions about the behavior.”

HOW MINDFULNESS HELPS

But practicing mindfulness can have an even deeper impact on our lives.

“Self-acceptance and self-compassion is an important part of mindfulness and being self-aware. In this culture, we always want to be more than what we are without really accepting who we are right now,” said Lardizabal. “It’s good to strive for improvement, but if the motivation is because you dislike yourself, it’s a set-up for failure.”

Research confirms the value of mindfulness, said Jeff Dusek, PhD, director of Research at the Penny George Institute. “People who practice mindfulness see normal life events such as illness as a challenge to overcome rather than a roadblock to good health. They also experience a greater sense of self-control in their lives, have increased commitment to daily life, and believe the world is comprehensible, manageable and meaningful.”

Mary Beth Lardizabal, DO, ABIHM, sees patients at Allina Health Mental Health – United Clinic in St. Paul. For appointments, call 651-241-5959.

HOW TO BUILD MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR LIFE

The Penny George Institute offers a variety of programs to help you explore mindfulness and put it to use in your daily life. To learn more, call 612-863-3333.

Program Best suited for:
Resilience Training – Eight-week intensive program that teaches mindfulness-based coping skills in combination with an individualized program of exercise and nutrition. Individuals who have experienced depression, anxiety or other stress-related mental health conditions and are currently in recovery or wish to prevent relapse.
Mindfulness Training – Four-week experiential program offering tools to help manage stress and achieve a higher state of well-being. Individuals who wish to explore new ways to manage stress and optimize their health and well-being.
Guided imagery MP3 albums – Three guided imagery albums focusing on pregnancy, stress management and pain management. Individuals who would like to learn how to benefit from the mind-body connection using electronic tools to improve health and well-being.


Leave a comment

Eight fun and healthy family activities around the Twin Cities this fall

You don't have to spend a lot of money to find healthy, fun, family activities for the fall. Just raking the leaves can be a fun event for kids.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find healthy, fun, family activities for the fall. Just raking the leaves can be a fun event for kids.

By Courtney Baechler, MD

Once the school year starts, cooler weather hits, and we kick off a season of sweets that starts with Halloween, it can be challenging to find fun family activities that support a healthy lifestyle.

As a mom of two young children, I know this all too well and make an effort to keep our family active year-round.

Here are some of my favorite healthy fall activities and destinations in and around the Twin Cities:

  • Saturday and Sunday trolley rides at Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. This is an oldie, but goodie. My kids love going on the scenic trolley car between Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun. You can also stop by the park at Lake Harriet, which has climbing options for kids.
  • Renting a bike that seats a family at Minnehaha Falls. Sometimes the most challenging thing with bikes and small children is feeling like you are out of control as a parent. The “Surrey” and “Double Surrey” bikes that you can rent at Minnehaha Falls allow you to get some exercise, stay together and enjoy the scenery.
  • Day trip to Winona, Minn. I’m biased since my husband is from Winona, but it is such a beautiful place to visit. The leaves are gorgeous in October, and there are many opportunities to hike and bike. You can try the flat walking path around Lake Winona. Or, if you want a challenge, try hiking the Garvin Heights Overlook and the Sugar Loaf Bluff. You can grab some apples on your way back in Lake City on the south shore of Lake Pepin.
  • Healthy kids food alert. I can’t say enough positive things about the restaurant Agra Culture in Edina, Minn. They prepare healthy, kid-friendly food quickly. You can choose from protein bowls, great salads and breakfasts that include quinoa. The food is served cafeteria style, making it easier to get in and out with young kids.
  • Raking leaves in the yard. It’s free, easy and a great workout. Plus, my kids love the crunch and smell of the leaves, along with the undivided attention.
  • Pinehaven Farm, Wyoming, Minn. A relatively short drive from Minneapolis, you will find this a great place to enjoy some Halloween fun. It is complete with a petting zoo, corn maze, pumpkin patch and face painting. There are activities for family members of every age with a wide variety of interests.
  • Bowling at Pinstripes in Edina or Town Hall in Minneapolis. We often do this when it rains on the weekend. While it’s not the most active pastime, at least we get away from a screen. My kids enjoy a game of bowling or bocce ball at Pinstripes, and we can take a short walk around Centennial Lakes afterwards. I find both Pinstripes and Town Hall have some healthier options on their menus for parents and kids.
  • Monster Dash Fun Run. My daughter and I will complete this 5K this year. It’s a great way to dress up in a costume and enjoy a short run or walk. The most important thing we can do as a role model is lead by example when it comes to exercise. If you didn’t sign-up this year, come watch and make a plan for next year.

Courtney Baechler, MD, is a practicing physician with and the vice president of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She has a master’s degree in clinical epidemiology from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health.


Leave a comment

Why maintaining muscle is important and how to get started

Fitness training session

Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET (left) conducting a fitness training session at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

By Gail Ericson, MPT, C CET

In a way, muscle is your body’s engine. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism is, the more calories you burn,  the stronger and more mobile you can be, and the more resilient you are to illness.

As we age, loss of muscle mass is inevitable. This can lead to higher total body weight with increased fat percentage or stable weight with higher fat percentage. It also may result in weakened bones, diminished mobility and a host of other issues.

People who are inactive may lose 4-7 percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 40. This could mean a more than 20 pound loss of muscle for a 160 pound person by the time they are 60 years old. Even active people may lose some muscle as they age, and muscle loss accelerates after the age of 70.

A decrease in muscle mass paired with other disease states, such as osteoporosis, can be devastating and lead to a downward spiral in health. For example, loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in function, balance and mobility. It can also lead to a fear of moving. This in turn may lead to further loss of function and falls, which often end in hospitalization.

The best way to combat muscle loss is with exercise.  Almost anyone at any age can benefit from exercise with few, if any, bad side effects. A combination of strength and aerobic activity three times per week for 20-30 minutes is adequate to maintain muscle strength and prevent some muscle loss that comes with age.

Here are four tips to get started:

  1. Keep moving and limit sitting for long periods of time if possible. Our bodies are built to move, and staying idle backfires on us.
  2. Pool exercise is an excellent starting point for both aerobic and strength work. It is also easy on the joints
  3. Use simple resistance bands or everyday items like soup cans to design a strength routine for home. In most instances, no fancy equipment is needed to add strength training into your day.
  4. If you are considering starting a strength routine for the first time and need guidance, seek out support. Consult with a physical therapist, or a trusted, credentialed athletic trainer or personal trainer.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers a host of programs and services to help you initiate, evaluate or progress in an exercise program.

Our highly credentialed staff of exercise physiologists, physical therapist, dieticians, nutritionists, and wellness coaches can help people of all abilities and fitness levels get going on an exercise routine.

If you have health issues or you haven’t exercised for a long time, it’s advisable to talk to your physician before beginning a new exercise routine on your own.

Gail Ericson is a physical therapist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing‘s LiveWell Fitness Center. She has 25 years of experience in exercise therapy and medical fitness. To make an appointment with her, call 612-863-5178.


Leave a comment

Common questions about acupuncture and its use in treating pain

gp_acu_0931

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing offers acupuncture, group acupuncture, and other services for pain management at multiple locations.

By Michael Egan, LAc, DiplOM, MaOM, licensed acupuncturist, Penny George™ Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth

How did you get into acupuncture?

As an acupuncturist at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, this is a question I often get asked.

The answer is I discovered acupuncture as a patient. About 15 years ago, I was suffering from a severe case of tennis elbow (lateral-epicondylitis). The pain was impacting my ability to do just about anything and everything. I received a shot of cortisone that took the edge off for a short while, but then the pain reared its ugly head and it was worse than ever. So, I decided to try acupuncture.

I was treated with acupuncture and electric stimulation for about 10 visits. And I was coached to take a break from weight training and do some very gentle movements to help relax the tendons in my forearm and improve my circulation. I was encouraged to “give myself permission to heal” (a revolutionary concept for me at the time). The pain went away, the function improved, and I’ve had more than 10 years without pain.

What does acupuncture treat? What can it do for pain?

These are also common questions. While the answer to the first question is too expansive for this blog, one of the things acupuncture is most recognized for is treating chronic pain. Acupuncture is recognized as a safe and effective treatment option for conditions such as:

  • neck and back pain
  • knee pain
  • migraines/headaches
  • shoulder pain
  • arthritis pain.

It is important to remember that acupuncture is part of an ancient medical system called Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is much more that just acupuncture. Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, Tuina massage, and movement/breathing exercises such as tai chi and qi gong can also help people suffering with chronic pain.

The Penny George Institute has an amazing integrative approach to treating chronic pain that addresses the body, mind and spirit.

Approaching the treatment of chronic pain from a holistic point of view incorporates addressing the whole person, not just the symptoms. One of the things I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine is the wisdom that has been compiled over 3,000 years. It encourages asking questions like: How do we nourish our lives? How do we save and preserve our health so we can live more meaningful lives?

Anyone dealing with chronic pain knows it is not only physically challenging, but it can be an emotional burden as well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we address the mind and emotions, as well as the body. I work with my patients to remind them that they are not their pain, and they are not their symptoms. They are a whole person who happens to be suffering with a difficult condition.

Michael Egan, LAc, DiplOM, MaOM, sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – WestHealth in Plymouth. For an appointment, call 612-863-3333.

 


6 Comments

Live well, live happy: How to live in the present

 

Find an activity that engages and energizes you.

One way to live in the present is to identify and do activities that fully engage and energize you.

By Mary Farrell, MS, PCC

This is part three in a LiveWell blog series on happiness that launched with  “Live well, live happy” in January, followed by “Live well, live happy: The role of relationships in happiness” in March.

What makes me so excited about writing this series on happiness is the fact that our happiness depends so little on our circumstances and so much on what we do with those circumstances. The message is that happiness really is up to us.

It is now early summer ― one of the most beautiful times of year in Minnesota. Winter’s grip is a distant memory and life bursts forth wherever you look. I can be found under a floppy hat, decked out in garden gloves, comfy clothes, wellies and dirt, and surrounded by fragrant and colorful herbs, flowers and vegetables. As I transplant, arrange and water, I am blissfully and completely in my own world. It turns out that as I do this, I am also tending to my happiness and well-being through a process called flow.

What is flow and why is it important to your happiness?

Flow is being fully engaged in what you are doing and fully present in the moment. It can also be thought of as that “sweet spot” between being bored and being overwhelmed. When you are in flow, you might feel simultaneously transported and yet fully in the here and now. You are lost in what you are doing. Though challenged, you feel that you are performing at your best. You may receive some type of reward for the activity, but more often than not, you do it just for the love of it.

Researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  has studied flow for decades and the findings are pretty amazing. Flow can benefit us by:

  • leaving us fully energized and engaged
  • tapping into our strengths and filling us with competence
  • improving productivity because flow at its best is absolute focus
  • markedly improving our mental well-being.

Sadly only 23 percent of people regularly experience flow and more than 40 percent have never had the experience.  Most of us have the opportunity for regular flow experiences at work, but we are too distracted by anxiety, to-do lists, or external pressures, to enjoy the flow. Outside of work, we may miss numerous opportunities when we are glued to our smart phones and tablets.

If you are ready to “go with the flow,” here are three steps you can take:

  1. Identify your flow experiences:
  • When do you feel most energized? What are you doing?
  • When do you feel absorbed in an activity? When do you lose track of time?
  • What do you do well? What are your favorite skills to use?
  1. Bring flow to the everyday:
  • Try doing a regular task with excellence, focusing on the details.
  • Control your attention — practice focusing on whatever it is that you are doing at the present time. This takes practice.
  1. Expand your boundaries:
  • Begin to explore new interests by asking yourself: What would my 8-year-old self want to learn?
  • Flow in conversation: Listen closely and learn as much as you can about the speaker.
  • Learn the difference between vegging and vegetating: Instead of TV, play a game or work on a hobby or project that demands your attention.

Flow is mindfulness in action. It’s being fully present in the here and now, and responding to the task at hand with curiosity and purpose. Give it some attention and you will reap benefits far beyond those blissful moments.

Mary Farrell, MS, PCC, is an integrative health & wellness coach and an exercise physiologist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. Call 612-863-5178 to make an appointment with her.