Sitting May Be Hazardous to Your Health

barbara By Barb Silbey, PT

Do you have “sitting disease?” That’s the new buzzword for a sedentary lifestyle that may put your health at risk. In a recent Washington Post article several experts outlined the various health hazards of prolonged sitting. Sitting for 8 hours or more per day, either at your computer at work or in front of the TV at home, can lead to many health related problems throughout the body. These problems include neck and back pain, muscle weakness, scoliosis and even an increased risk for many disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.

Sitting at a computer for several hours each day can put increase stress and strain on the spine as well as the intervertebral discs in the neck and the lower back. This stress can cause neck and back pain, bulging discs, nerve pain and muscular imbalances. The muscles of the anterior shoulder and hip, namely the pectoralis minor and the psoas major become shortened and less flexible and the muscles of the upper back and lower abdominal region, primarily the trapezius and rhomboids in the upper back and the transverse abdominals in the lower abdominal region become lengthened and weakened. These muscular imbalances can lead to permanent changes to the alignment of the spine and can cause chronic neck and back pain over time.

Individuals who are the most sedentary are more than twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. In addition, sitting for long periods of time can slow blood circulation, which can cause fluid to pool in the lower legs. Problems from this pooling can range from edema to varicose veins to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) a dangerous blood clot in the lower legs. Scientists have also shown that prolonged sitting can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis as a decrease in weight bearing activities can lead to decreased bone density and bone strength. Studies have also linked sitting to an increased risk of breast, colon and endometrial cancers.

Human beings evolved as walking individuals, exploring the world on their feet, not sitting in a chair for several hours at a time. There are a number of things that you can do to combat sitting disease. First, if you have to sit for prolonged periods of time, it is important to sit properly. Maintaining a neutral alignment of the spine is key. To achieve neutral alignment of the spine you need to sit up straight with your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. You should be sitting on your “sit bones” and your lower back should be supported if possible with your feet flat on the floor. You also want to make sure that your computer or work station is set up as ergonomically as possible to avoid slouching or straining your neck and back. A supportive office chair is a good investment as well as a stand up desk.

In addition to sitting properly while at your computer you can also do some regular activities to help diminish the effect of prolonged sitting on your body. Sitting on an exercise ball or even a backless stool will help you sit up straight and force you to keep your lower abdominal muscles engaged. This will help to improve your posture and your core muscle strength. Stretching the muscles in the front of your shoulders by pulling your shoulder blades down and back, like you are squeezing a lemon, will help decrease strain on the neck, shoulders and upper back. Alternating between sitting and standing at your work station or at least walking around or marching in place for several minutes every hour will improve circulation and prevent swelling in the lower legs. And finally, incorporating some deep breathing exercises and gentle yoga poses into your day can decrease tension in the neck and back and increase flexibility throughout your body.

Barbara Boot Silbey is a Physical Therapist at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook and check out our blog:

Blood Sugar 101

ChrisBy Dr. Chris Hastings

I was watching Animal House with my son the other night. It was probably the first time I had seen the movie since the 70’s. I was struck by a couple of things while watching the movie—truthfully I’m struck by the same thing anytime I see a movie or TV show from pre-1980 –and that is how there are no fat people in the movie. I remember, back in the day thinking that John Belushi was fat… you kidding me? He looks just a trace bigger than me… so that makes me? Overweight, along with over half the country.

So why is it that as Americans we have continued to increase in size to the point where obesity is reaching epidemic proportions? Why are heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimers so prevalent? A lot of our western maladies can be blamed on our diets and particularly the effect these have on the hormone insulin.

Insulin is an important and powerful hormone with a very wide range of actions in our bodies. It is our primary “storage” hormone that helps the body save any excess calories for a later date. As we assimilate the food (especially carbohydrates) that we eat, our blood sugar rises. This triggers the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin moves the excess sugar into storage so it is available to us when we need it. This is a very good and essential thing when our diets and lifestyles are well balanced. Unfortunately, we live in an era that has dramatically changed the equation, as we have become more sedentary and more reliant on carbohydrate-based foods that increase the demand for insulin.

There is a lot of confusion as to exactly what carbohydrates are. They come primarily from vegetables, fruits, grains, cereals, beans, and from packaged foods like chips, crackers, pastries, donuts, colas and fruit juices. All carbohydrates are not created equal. For health, choose carbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals such as fruits and vegetables and minimize those empty calories commonly found in processed foods. This is good, common sense advice that has been offered by nutritionists for many years.

You also want to pay attention to a food’s “glycemic index”. This is a term that relates to how fast a carbohydrate is broken down into glucose or sugar. The higher the number the quicker the food is broken down and the greater the insulin response. In general, above ground vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, cucumbers and celery are going to have a very low number. Below ground vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and yams tend to have much higher glycemic indexes. Grains and cereals also tend to have high glycemic indexes and relatively high sugar content. Do a search online for a glycemic index to get a better sense of low glycemic foods.

On the flip side of insulin is another important hormone called glucagon. Glucagon raises blood sugar levels when our body needs the energy by mobilizing the stores. This hormone is stimulated by protein consumption and exercise. Protein can be found in meat, dairy, fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds, eggs and soy products. Now, it is not a question of one hormone being good and the other bad; it is a question of balance, and as I mentioned above, our modern diet and lifestyle have increasingly favored insulin dominance.

Think about some of the food innovations and recommendations that have happened since the 70’s. For example, we have seen a rise in the use of high fructose corn syrup—seemingly a godsend for creating super cheap food to battle entrenched poverty and hunger, but with significant health implications. Another major trend has been an emphasis on grain-based foods like cereals, pasta and bread. Finally, fear of the dangers of saturated fat has people decreasing some great sources of protein such as nuts, red meat and eggs. All of these trends lead to a diet that encourages insulin dominance, and too much insulin leads to a host of health problems, obesity being one of them.

So what to do? I always advise small dietary changes that can become entrenched behaviors. The first step is to really take a close look at what you are eating. Download a glycemic index chart and look for foods on the lower end of that scale. Then take a look at the top section of food labels in your home to see how much carbohydrate and protein is in them (as well as other important vitamins and minerals). This is a good way to get a rough idea of what your carbohydrate to protein ratio actually looks like. A great ratio is 2 parts carbohydrate to 1 part protein. Most breakfast cereals are going to be in the neighborhood of 12 to 1 or higher, and I won’t even mention soda’s ratio!

The second step is an extension of the first; keep a food journal to increase your awareness of what you eat, and how it affects you. You may well be surprised by what you find. At the end of each day rate your hunger, energy, and craving levels from 1-10. This is a simple yet effective way to determine how your blood sugar is throughout the day. If hunger and cravings are low, and energy is high throughout the day, you’re doing quite well. If you notice that you have the afternoon fade and crave coffee or chocolate, or some type of stimulant—you probably have room for improvement.

Dr. Chris Hastings is a Chiropractic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook and check out our blog:

Sugar, breaking the habit!!!

StaceyBy Stacey London-Oshkello, RD

Sugar is something we tend to overdo during the holiday season. We make promises to cut back on once we hit January 1. Now that it is the New Year, what will our resolutions be? Sugar poses a conflict for many people, with its addictive yet destructive qualities. White sugar is devoid of nutrition, and yet it so often seems like it eases emotional pain. It feels like we can’t live without it and yet, once we indulge, we feel like we can’t stop eating it. It becomes a dilemma to decide whether we will eat sugar at all. Will complete avoidance lead to a sugar binge later on? Is a life without sugar devoid of pleasure? This article will describe why sugar can create an addictive cycle that becomes hard to break. In addition, I will share the work of Geneen Roth who suggests that complete abstinence and severely restrictive diets can lead to compulsive overeating.

What happens in our body when we eat foods rich in sugar, and why does it elicit a response that feels so difficult to manage? Our body strives to keep our blood sugar between certain levels. When we eat foods that are high in sugar, such as cookies, cakes, and candy, a lot of sugar (glucose) gets quickly dumped into the bloodstream. Our body responds by secreting insulin. Insulin’s job is to get the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cell where the cell uses it for energy. A diet high in refined carbohydrates can result in insulin resistance, so we over-secrete insulin, which in turn leads to low blood sugar and increased fat storage. This creates what some call the “cookie cycle” which becomes so difficult to break. As our blood sugar level drops too low, our body craves the foods that will get our blood sugar back up; those foods will often raise our blood sugar too rapidly, causing it to be high again, so we over-secrete insulin again and end up with low blood sugar again – in a cycle that includes craving cookies, eating them and creating a high blood sugar followed by a low blood sugar and thus craving candy again, and up and down we go all day with the sugar cravings. (There is another cycle involved that includes the release of serotonin that was explained in Dr. Susanne Booth’s recent Reformer article). The serotonin cycle accounts for why it can feel so good to eat sugary, high carbohydrate foods.

The best way to break the cookie cycle is to eat mostly low glycemic index foods, foods low in sugar and overall carbohydrate load. These foods do not flood the bloodstream with sugar as quickly as their counterparts. There are many different sources that report the glycemic index of carbohydrate foods. Research finds that the best way that you can decrease the glycemic load on your system is to include protein, fat, and fiber in all your meals and snacks. Protein, fat, and fiber help to slow down the rate at which glucose that reaches your bloodstream. Ideally, we don’t want to eat sugar-laden foods like cookies or high refined carbohydrate foods like pasta at all because they contribute to the “cookie cycle”; but if you eat a small portion of cookie or pasta with a meal rich in protein, fat, and fiber, you may find it does not contribute as much to cravings for sweets.

You may be thinking that you don’t eat a lot of sugar. Consider how ubiquitous it is in many of our processed foods—flavored yogurt, instant oatmeal, tomato sauce and dressings. A diet high in pasta, white bread, and crackers can create the same kind of “cookie cycle” that a cookie can.

Complete avoidance of added sugar and refined carbohydrates may be optimal. The less sugar you eat, the less you will crave it. A low sugar/ low refined carbohydrate diet can help to decrease cholesterol, decrease triglycerides, manage and prevent diabetes, improve symptoms associated with Lyme disease, decrease cancer risk, and reduce the incidence of many other ailments. Yet completely avoiding sugar and “white” foods may feel impossible. According to the work of Geneen Roth, restricting your diet too much can lead to binging and compulsive overeating. Consider when someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant; it’s all you can think about. Similarly, actively avoiding a food completely can cause you to over focus your attention on this one food making it more difficult to avoid. Often times, people use sugar-laden foods to help them feel better, as comfort food. Notice how you respond to sugar and how complete avoidance affects you over the long run. If you find that you end up binging you may need to rethink your strategy. Limiting your sugar intake while making sure you eat meals and snacks that contain protein, fiber and fat can help break the addictive cycle. Try not to skip meals, and set goals that feel practical and reachable.

If you are using sugary foods to ease your soul and help you relax at the end of the day, I suggest finding alternative methods to fill this void. At the end of the day when we are tired, sweets may seem like the easiest way to nurture ourselves, but they are not the most rejuvenating. Try doing something you love, learn to meditate, write in a journal or simply take a hot bath to unwind and nurture yourself. What really nurtures each of us is individual.

Changing a lifestyle is never easy. It is important to look at what is motivating you to make a change and remember it daily to keep you focused on meeting your goals. Once you reduce the places that sugar and refined carbohydrate creep into your diet, you will find that your cravings decrease. Decreased cravings can make it easier to meet our dietary goals and maintain weight loss. A nutritional coach can offer some guidance in this process.

Stacey London-Oshkello offers nutrition counseling at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. Stacey is mother of 2 children, aged 11 and 9, who teach her how to implement the things she has learned about feeding children. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on Facebook.

The Power of Rest and Sleep

bonnieBy Bonnie Bloom

No one needs to hear again how the pace and complexity of our modern life is challenging. We are in the midst of this raging torrent of information, obligation, perfectionism and high performance drive that the human nervous system is not designed for and has not adapted to. Our bodies cannot thrive in such an environment, so we are plagued with insomnia, anxiety, depression, and a host of stress related illnesses. We are living in a new “normal”.

Just walking around our tiny house in the middle of the night, I was stunned by all of the lights on all of the devices… the modem, laptops, clock on the stove, the hand vacuum recharging in the bathroom, the dimmer switch on the bedside lamps, etc. We are electrified and over stimulated.

But there is a remedy that has tremendous power. It is the power of rest, stillness, and sleep. These are not things to do (or not do) in leftover time; they are essential for health.

The nervous system has two parts—the sympathetic which steps things up and the parasympathetic which downshifts. They work together to help us adapt, but if we don’t take time to slow down regularly, we risk getting stuck in sympathetic overdrive. Then the body is flooded by chemicals that cause us to feel overwhelmed, moody, edgy and jumpy. Eventually the adrenals and the nerves become so exhausted that when something extra happens, we are already so close to the tipping point that we have a very hard time handling the new piece.

Even when we aren’t busy we tend to “keep busy” with the internet, shopping, TV, movies, the news, facebook, phone calls, etc….. The list is long. Yes, there is a lot to do, but if we really check what is essential we might find that including time to unwind and be still is important enough to be included. The body cannot be healthy without time to use its energy for repair, reset, and even detoxification as well as “doing” things. Our nervous system and our organs need time to slow down so we can truly adapt when a real emergency comes into our lives.

Another reason for taking time out to be still (whether it is meditating, napping or staring at the sky) is so that we can know what we feel. Often, we do things all day long—staying busy and never getting it all done—and at the end of the day we haven’t actually really been present at all with our experience. We want to know what is really in our hearts so we can make choices that are really in alignment with what we need and want for our lives.

If we sleep and dream, we can get a glimpse sometimes of our deepest thoughts and feelings. Sleep is a time of body self repair and for the unwinding of tensions accumulated through the day. Deep REM sleep is essential is essential to health.

Many people say, “but I can’t sit still; I can’t take a nap; I have too much to do and it is all important. True enough, but we need to love ourselves enough to negotiate some time for rest and renewal. And if stopping is uncomfortable then we need to take time to retrain ourselves in how to be still.

Restful time and good sleep can improve mood, balance hormones of all kinds, improve digestion and immunity and generally increase enjoyment in life. When I am rested, I see the humor in things, and take much greater pleasures in just being alive. I also am more creative and things go more easily.

I worked with a doctor once who reminded me that the heart not only has to pump, but it must rest between each beat in order to function well. It actually rests equal to its working time. That made me think of breath, too. Each inhale is essential to life; each exhale is cleansing, relaxing, releasing. In fact, the exhale causes the relaxation response.

Life is precious. We need to nourish ourselves well so we can celebrate the beauty and the challenge that comes to all of us.

Bonnie Bloom is a Herbalist and QiGong practitioner at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook and check out our blog:

Microbes R Us

By Clif Steinberg, ND

One of the hotbeds of medical research in recent years has centered on microbes and their impacts on our lives. Unlike the fading medical era that dawned in the days of Pasteur which focused heavily on how microbes relate to disease and sought various ways to do battle with these organisms, there is an emerging awareness that we are completely dependent on the microbial world in ways barely dreamt of until recently.

The implications of this new paradigm are profound and exciting, offering hope of new and simple ways to address many modern ailments that have proven difficult to treat. These include asthma, allergies, arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Even anxiety and depression and possibly other mental disorders appear to have a connection to the microbes we carry.

To understand the importance of our microbial friends, there are a couple of ratios worth contemplating. The first one is 10:1, and represents the proportion by which microbes outnumber human cells in you as you read this. Really. We are all walking microbial warehouses—or more accurately—ecosystems.

The second ratio is 100:1, a whole order of magnitude greater, that approximates the amount by which our genes are outnumbered by the microbial gene pool in each of us. Besides the wow factor of that, it is relevant because many of those genes code for substances that our own cells and organs respond to.

To get a sense of what all of this might mean, consider the findings of some recent research. A team at UCLA led by Kirsten Tillisch has revealed that feeding a group of participants a probiotic rich yogurt prior to a stressor altered brain activity in such a way as to reduce anxiety, revealing a “gut/brain” connection that may be just the tip of the iceberg.

In a nonhuman experiment, Stephen Collins of McMaster University showed that by replacing the gut flora of anxious mice with that of other mice, the anxious mice settled down and became more social. The reverse was true as well, wherein bolder mice became more timid once the gut flora was changed.

Perhaps the most mind-blowing revelation recently comes from another scientist at UCLA, Emeran Mayer, who has found evidence that the actual structure of the brain is related to the complement of flora in our guts. Amazing.

Beyond affecting our brains and our thoughts, it is increasingly evident that our “microbiome” as it is being called (or our 11th organ system) has to be considered in many illnesses, especially the inflammatory ones, as I mentioned above. Epidemiological studies about pacifiers, hand sanitizers, and C-section births are all worth looking up to get a better idea about where this is all leading. There is also an innovative study that anyone can participate in called the American Gut Project that is fascinating and exciting. Take a look.

The most important take home message I am trying to convey here is that our growing understanding about the microbiome and our health demands a redefining of our stance towards the microbial world. In reality, the only thing that is new is that we can now appreciate how much our health depends on fostering a healthy and diverse microbiome, both in ourselves and in our broader communities. In practical terms, this means incorporating more “living” foods and drinks into our diets. A couple of great sources of information about how to do this are The Weston A. Price Foundation and the new book by Sandor Katz, The Art of Fermentation.

We also need to be more judicious about the use of anti-microbials of all sorts including antibiotics, antivirals, pesticides and sanitizers that are commonly used. These things, amongst many other modern products in wide use, have a disrupting effect on our microbes leading to imbalances that can take a long time to fix.

There are many tried and true ways to improve health through fostering good gut ecology. Most holistic practitioners understand that treating the gut is the first step in addressing many chronic diseases, and have been offering these approaches to their patients for years. Just ask your practitioner when you get the chance.

Clif Steinberg is a Naturopathic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,






Zen and the Art of Health Maintenance

clif_tinyBy Clif Steinberg, ND

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and hands; and then work outward from there.”

– Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Nothing is separate” might sound like the musings of a mystic or a wise old Zen master, but it is also one of the fundamental principles at the heart of holistic medicine.

That simple phrase has immense implications when applied to questions of health. It helps us make sense of so many things, such as how poor dental health is associated with diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis, or how food and drink choices can be related to inflammatory processes such as arthritis and allergies. There is even evidence that the higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the air we regularly breathe may be contributing to the obesity epidemic. Wow.

The truth is, the connections between our states of health and our environment are practically endless. We are intimately and profoundly responsive to our surroundings on many levels, all the way down to which hormones and neurotransmitters get produced, and even how our genes express themselves. These internal messengers, in turn, affect how we look, think and feel, not to mention other important measures of overall health, such as quality of sleep, sense of well-being, and energy levels. The dance of life between each of us and our environment is amazingly elegant and intricate.

An awareness of how intimately connected we are to our rapidly changing world presents us with a host of challenges too numerous to list here. However, we also begin to recognize countless opportunities to maintain and improve our health. For example, some simple and effective antidotes to a few of the plagues of modern life include spending ample time outdoors, getting regular exercise of some sort, and consciously breathing deeply, pausing to appreciate just that simple action. Of course, the list goes on and on, and for most of us might include drinking more water and a variety of living drinks such as kombucha, kefir and apple cider vinegar, eating more fresh and fermented vegetables, laughing more freely, noticing the beauty and grace in our lives, and forgiving ourselves and others more readily.

Actions like these will almost undoubtedly improve individual health, as both science and intuition tell us. We advocate for these foundational behaviors every day with those who come to Sojourns for care, usually in conjunction with other parts of a treatment plan. It is a good place to start for most of us, “in one’s own heart and hands”. As we do, we are also led to some difficult realizations, such as how the air we are breathing deeply is often less than pure, and the water we may be drinking more of may have a whole host of contaminants that have been carelessly put there. And yet, these are still steps in a good direction.

Beyond improving our health, these types of actions can help us recognize just how inseparable we are from the world around us. Caring for ourselves in this manner reveals the importance of caring for our air, our water, our food production methods, and ultimately, our whole planet. In loving and caring for ourselves and our families it becomes incumbent upon us to extend that sentiment to include the things that sustain and nourish us. As author and environmental activist, Sandra Steingraber, puts it, “What we love, we must protect”.

So, start with yourself. Breathe deeply. Drink our good water plentifully. Eat fresh and local food with gusto and appreciation. Laugh it up; celebrate. Be gentle on yourself and others. Do these things for yourself and for your loved ones. And then, “work outward from there”. After all, nothing really is separate.

Clif Steinberg is a Naturopathic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,



alexis photoBy Dr. Alexis Chesney

Nutrient deficiencies are common in chronic illness. Discovering what is deficient is part of the exploration necessary for treatment. Sometimes, we can predict potential deficiencies by assessing the biochemical pathways that play a role in nutrient processing. We often look for ‘markers’ in a patient’s labs that give us an indication of which biochemical pathways are not working well.

Pyroluria is one specific condition that is a marker for reversible nutrient deficiencies. Kryptopyrroles can be identified in the urine. They are metabolic waste, related to a difficulty synthesizing hemoglobin. About 10% of the general population has this challenge with hemoglobin synthesis. The Kryptopyrroles bind to vitamin B6, zinc, biotin, manganese and arachidonic acid, thereby creating deficiencies of these nutrients in the body.

Pyroluria was first discovered by an orthomolecular psychiatrist in the 1950’s. It is seen at a rate of 40-70% in people with schizophrenia; 50% in autism, 30% in ADHD, 40-80% in alcoholism, and 80% in Lyme disease.

Let’s take a look at these nutrient deficiencies more closely. Vitamin B6 is essential for brain and immune system functioning. Vitamin B6 is used to treat anxiety, depression, musculoskeletal conditions and macular degeneration. Foods containing B6 include poultry, dairy, fish, legumes and wheat germ. Zinc is required for proper immune function, vision, detoxification by the liver, fertility, digestion, the musculoskeletal system, healthy skin and nails. It is used to treat acne, macular degeneration, digestive conditions and immune disorders. You can find zinc in shellfish, meat, cheese and poultry. One common sign of a zinc deficiency is white spots on nails. Biotin is required for digestion, the nervous system, energy production in the mitochondria, metabolism, and healthy skin and nails. It is used in the treatment of diabetes and neuropathy, and can be found in eggs, nuts, brewer’s yeast, whole grains and legumes. Manganese is a mineral and antioxidant used by the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and is important in general metabolism. Good sources of manganese are whole grains, nuts and seeds. Manganese is used in the treatment of osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes and epilepsy. Arachidonic acid, which is required for proper muscle and nervous system function, is an omega-6 fatty acid found in meat and eggs. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is a specific omega-6 fatty acid which is found in plants like evening primrose oil or borage oil. GLA is converted into arachidonic acid in the body.

Testing is done through a 24-hour urine collection. If urinary levels of kryptopyrroles are high, we would be wise to screen for deficiencies of vitamin B6, zinc, biotin, manganese and arachidonic acid that could be causing depressed immune system functioning and compromised body systems. Because of these deficiencies, someone with pyrroluria may be more vulnerable to chronic disease that continues without resolution despite treatment. When these nutrients are repleted, various medical conditions may be improved or even resolve.

Dr. Alexis Chesney is a Naturopathic Doctor & Acupuncturist at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on Facebook.

Limiting Childhood Obesity


By Stacey London-Oshkello, MS, RD, CD.

Surprisingly, one of the best ways that we can help our children who struggle with weight has more to do with setting appropriate limits as a caregiver than it has to do with food. Children can feel insecure and uncomfortable without appropriate limits; some learn to overeat to compensate for these uncomfortable feelings. Providing children with appropriate limits, positive attention, and age appropriate autonomy can help them naturally get to a healthy weight.

Children and adolescents cannot be expected to get themselves to bed at a reasonable time, to feed themselves regularly, to limit their screen time or to spend appropriate time being active. We must provide gentle reminders and appropriate limits, and be willing to set consequences if necessary. We can offer positive rewards that are not food-related.

How does setting appropriate limits help children manage their weight? Children thrive on routine and regular interaction with the adults in their lives, and rely on them to model healthy ways of being in the world. Even though your children may protest, setting limits creates a level of security for them. When children are uncomfortable in their lives, they are more likely to reach for food to comfort themselves. Setting appropriate limits and reinforcing them, combined with sharing time in a positive context, allows your child to feel more at ease and less likely to use food for comfort.

Shapedown’ is a weight management program used in health care facilities throughout the country. It focuses on many of these issues and has created positive long lasting results for many children. It addresses specific areas that require parental attention—adequate sleep, healthy food, limited screen-time, ample physical activity and no sugary drinks. Some States legislatures have adopted the motto, 5-2-1-0, to help parents and educators remember what healthy limits are:

5 – servings of fruits and vegetables per day

2 – no more than 2 hours of total screen time per day

1 – at least one hour of physical activity per day

0 – sugary drinks per day

Adding an 8- or 10- to the beginning of this can help to remind us to get our children to bed for adequate rest.

Let’s take a look at some ideas of how to meet these goals.

Sleep –

1. Set an appropriate bedtime that allows for adequate sleep and help your child stick to it.

2. Create a bedtime ritual that helps your child to settle down (such as reading). This can be an opportunity for positive, nurturing connection.

3. Shut off lights and electronics 30-60 minutes before bed. The dark signals hormones in our body that tell us that it is time to sleep.


1. Feeding our children 3 meals and 2 healthy snacks per day is vital to achieving a healthy weight. Children need to know that they can count on regular food times to support their intrinsic intake regulation.

2. Healthy meals and snacks consist of a variety of whole foods: protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, vegetables and fruit. Fruit should be limited to 2-3 servings per day.

3. Provide variety even if your child does not like the foods. It takes 15 exposures to become familiar with a new food.

4. Limit intake of chips, cookies, and candies.

  1. Encourage children to learn to understand their bodies’ signals of hunger and satiation. By listening to these signals, our children learn to trust their bodies.

Screen time –

1. Spending too much time on a screen causes us to be sedentary, and is not good for our brain chemistry. Because screens come in so many forms (TV, video games, computer, internet, iPod touch, I phone…), we may need to be extra diligent to be aware of how our children are spending their time.

2. Help your children monitor their screen time. Set timers as a reminder.

4. Allow screen-time only after they have completed their responsibilities.

Physical Activity

1. Plan for at least one hour of physical activity each day. Outdoor play and organized sports both encourage your child to move.

2. Be a positive example yourself. This may be a great opportunity to spend enjoyable time together.


1. Water is the best drink for you and your child.

2. Sports drinks are unnecessary and are mostly full of sugar. Avoiding sugary drinks is one of the easiest ways to lose weight.

3. Keep soda out of the house. Soda provides extra calorie, lots of sugar and can affect getting calcium into your child’s growing bones.

4. Whole fruit is a much better choice than fruit juice; the fiber will help with satiation and blood sugar regulation. Limit the amount of juice your child consumes.

Providing limits in these five areas is a commitment to our children and our future. We are training them to be independent adults as we help them feel good about themselves and maintain a healthy weight for their body type.

Avoid restricting food, as this only tells children not to trust themselves and suggests that they are flawed. Instead, teach them to listen to their hunger/ satiation, provide them with some responsibilities, and be present for them in a nurturing way.

Stacey London-Oshkello offers nutrition counseling at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. Stacey is mother of 2 children, aged 11 and 9, who teach her how to implement the things she has learned about feeding children. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook .


Breathing into Healing

bonnieBy Bonnie Bloom

We breathe our whole lives, and yet rarely do we notice or acknowledge our breathing as the powerful contributor to our mental and physical wellbeing that it is. After all, we are busy all day long, and at the end of a long day, need to relax after all that doing—so we are largely unaware of how we breathe.

If we have a cold, flu or asthma or any other respiratory or sinus issue we certainly notice we are not breathing as comfortably or effectively as usual. Also, if we are frightened or anxious, we notice our breathing becomes more shallow and rapid as our whole chest tightens to clench against what is happening.

But what is our normal everyday breathing pattern? How does it actually contribute to our experience? It can be a great discovery to pay attention to and work with our everyday breath pattern. We can greatly contribute to stabilizing mood and increasing blood and energy flow in the body tissues for greater health, just by improving our ability to breathe deeply and smoothly.

You can easily notice your breath. Just sit comfortably, with your spine straight if possible, and turn your attention towards the breathing that is already happening. Spend a little time observing your breath as it is, without attempting to make it be a certain way or to change it.

Observe the inhale and the exhale for a few minutes. You may find that there is a lot going on. Notice whether the the inhale and the exhale are different; if one or the other is more restricted or feels easier. For some people, just noticing this and allowing the more restricted phase of the cycle to relax can create much more balance and ease in the whole system. When we feel a lot of anxiety, just focusing primarily on the exhale can help to reset the nervous system.

Next, notice the level of tension you may feel in the tissues of chest, diaphragm and belly muscles and even the back musculature as the lungs expand and contract. Some people never breathe past the upper lung area. As the breath is allowed to penetrate into more of the body’s tissues, a much greater sense of ease and relaxation follow.

One more quality of the breath to investigate is the feel of the breath itself. Is it rough and labored? Does it catch somewhere along the way? Is it very short or very long, shallow or deep? Throughout our day, our breath changes in appropriate response to both what we are doing and what we are feeling. Learning to become intimate with our own breath can be the creation of a powerful tool to manage our functions and our moods.

You may find that you actually, unwittingly, hold your breath. This is one way the body and mind can clamp down on emotions as they arise—particularly when we are challenged or under stress or when we are afraid of facing what we feel. Holding the breath simply stops feeling. It actually moves fear (which is a natural response to many events) into an anxiety pattern with all of the related physical symptoms. Any emotion can be held—barely felt—by holding the breath. Unfortunately then, the emotion does not move through our body and mind, but lodges deep within us.

As the breath holding habit is changed into a more freely moving pattern through awareness and practice—especially when it becomes second nature to us—we feel calmer and stronger and have more energy. Pain levels can decrease and our vital signs, like blood pressure and heart rate, relax and normalize as well.

It is interesting to observe a baby or young child breathe when they sleep. Their whole body moves with the breath; it appears like a wave that life is riding upon. By contrast, notice the breath of someone in pain or a frail elderly person asleep, and you will see a much more labored, shallow and irregular breath.

This is all good news. Rather than being helpless in our bodies, if we become aware of how we breath noticing irregularities and lack of rhythm or smoothness, we can gently work with the breath and let it guide us into greater relaxation and even greater health and peace of mind.

There are many books that address working with the breath. Meditation practices like yoga, tai chi and qigong and other forms of healing exercise also address the power of the breath.

Our bodies breathe. There is no way not to do so, so we may as well harness the power of the breath to heal ourselves and increase our capacity to feel deeply, think clearly and be vital and strong.

Bonnie Bloom is a Herbalist and QiGong practitioner at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook

Chiropractic and Foot Pain

JillBy Dr. Jill Marquess

When our feet feel good we usually give them little attention, but when they hurt life can be challenging. Feet are complex structures that are designed to bear stresses many times a person’s body weight. There are 26 bones, 33 joints and roughly a 100 muscles in each foot. Foot bones are called the tarsals and metatarsals; toe bones are called phalanges. These bones align to create three arches: the medial longitudinal (inside), transverse (across ball of foot) and lateral longitudinal (outside) arches. Foot pain can occur when our foot bones misalign (often from poor fitting shoes or ankle sprains), our ligaments loosen, our foot muscles weaken and our arches fall. Chiropractic or other structural care can often help you and your foot pain. A chiropractor trained in treating foot conditions will listen to your history, perform a physical exam and create a treatment plan based on the principle that by creating healthy bone alignment, improving joint movement and re-balancing the supportive tissues (muscle, fascia, ligaments, tendons), we increase the possibility of foot healing.

A treatment plan for common foot problems such as plantar fasciitis, corns, bunions and hammertoes will often consist of Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy (CMT), myofascial release techniques, exercise and recommendations for appropriate footwear. Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy is a high velocity, short amplitude force applied into the direction of movement of a joint in order to re-establish healthy joint motion and alignment. It’s an essential part of improving foot mobility and function, and is what makes chiropractic a unique part of your foot health and healing. Myofascial Release techniques are necessary to re-establish healthy soft tissue function in the feet and surrounding tissues. Exercises are essential in treating foot conditions in order to create more tissue flexibility and strength. Supportive footwear or orthotics are often needed when people are having foot pain due to functional weakness that needs time to strengthen and heal.

A home exercise program plays a big part in foot healing. Strength and flexibility are essential for proper foot movement. It’s important to stretch your hips, thighs and lower legs as well as your feet. Your Hamstrings are the long muscles on the backs of your thighs. To stretch them, stand with one foot on the floor and the other leg outstretched in front of you on a stool or stair step; bend your torso forward over your outstretched leg; you should feel the stretch/burn on the back of your outstretched leg. Your Quadriceps are the strong muscles on the front of your thigh. A good stretch for quads is to stand and bend one knee and bring your heel to your buttock; you should feel the stretch/burn in the front of your bent thigh. Your Piriformis is deep in your pelvis and helps to stabilize you when you walk. It stretches when you sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, cross one ankle over your opposite thigh, bend your torso forward; you should feel the stretch/burn in your crossed leg buttock. The Gastrocnemius and Soleus muscles stabilize the knee. Stand and bring one foot forward on the floor and bend the front knee, keep your back foot and heel on the floor; you should feel the stretch/burn in your back calf.

There are some good foot exercises that are easily done as well. For Tennis Ball stretches, put a tennis ball on the floor, roll the ball around and massage the bottom of your foot. For Toe Scrunches, sit and place your feet flat on a towel that’s on the floor, squeeze your toes, pull the towel and pull your arch up towards the sky. Do 10 toe scrunches a day on each foot.

There are some important basic stretching rules: Hold each stretch for 8 seconds on each side and repeat sides. Remember to breathe! Stretching is only one part of a care plan for healing foot pain. If you feel pain and/or it makes you feel worse, stop the exercise and see your healthcare practitioner.

Most foot pain has its origin in body mechanics and, with appropriate treatment, can be healed!

Dr. Jill Marquess is a Chiropractic Physician at Sojourns Community Health Clinic. For more information please contact Sojourns Community Health Clinic, at (802) 722-4023, 4923 US Route 5, Westminster, VT,, find us on facebook and check out our blog: