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Want a Nontoxic Garden this Spring?

Creating a garden that is free of pests but does not rely on pesticides is simple – and better for your family and the planet! Try these three techniques for a safe, thriving garden this year!
If you are planting a garden, try natural, nontoxic approaches to pest control:

  1. Pyrethrum. This mixture of insecticidal compounds found in some species of African chrysanthemums controls aphids, whiteflies, stinkbugs and mites. You should be able to find pyrethrum products in your local garden center (some will say they contain "pyrethrins.") Check labels carefully to make sure you choose the product intended for the crops you're growing or the pests you're trying to eliminate.
  2. Neem. From the seeds and leaves of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica, which is native to India, the compounds neem contains (such as azadirachtin) act as insect repellents. Neem is nontoxic to animals and humans and beneficial to bees. Although neem products are somewhat more expensive than most synthetic pesticides, they are worth it for both personal and environmental health.
  3. Insects. Consider adding beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden (both are commonly sold at garden centers).

Also ask your local garden shop about simple soap solutions you can spray on plants to help eliminate insects, and about pheromone traps (useful against some insects, including Japanese beetles). You can always use netting or pick or brush insects off manually or wash them off with forceful streams of water.


Feeling Anxious? Try This Herb

Anxiety your mental can wreak havoc on and physical health. If physical exercise and mind-body therapies such as breathing aren’t providing sufficient relief, consider this herb.

Feeling anxious is stressful for our bodies and minds. Instead of taking a pharmaceutical to help quell anxiety, consider Kava. Extracted from a tropical plant (Piper methysticum), kava is related to black pepper and native to islands of the South Pacific, where it has a long history of use as a social and recreational drug. Kava is an excellent anti-anxiety remedy - it works quickly to relieve anxiety, often with one or two doses, and has been shown in controlled human trials to be as effective as benzodiazepine drugs (ie. Valium and Xanax). It provides a sedative effect as well.

Because of rare reports of liver toxicity associated with certain types of kava products, no one with a history of liver disease should use kava.  It may have additive effect with alcohol and other depressant drugs, and may interfere with the metabolism of a large number of medications - ask your doctor. Otherwise it is generally safe. You can buy powdered whole kava root to make into tea or other drinks, but I usually recommend extracts standardized to 30 percent kavalactones. Dosage is 100 to 200 mg, two or three times a day as needed.  Don't use it continually over long periods of time (more than a few months).


7 Ways to Prevent Gallstones

Gallstones are unpleasant, to say the least, and their presence often requires surgical removal. Use these tips to minimizing the risk of developing gallstones.

Every year, more than one million Americans discover that they have gallstones - hardened, pebble-like deposits in the gallbladder that can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Roughly 50 percent of people diagnosed with gallstones end up in surgery for the removal of the gallbladder.

So how can you prevent gallstones? Since most stones are composed of cholesterol, diet plays a role in their formation. If you are at risk of developing gallstones (risk factors include a family history of gallstones, being overweight, recent rapid weight loss and, among women, pregnancy, using birth control pills, or hormone replacement therapy after menopause), you may be able to prevent them or prevent symptoms from worsening with these measures:
If you need to lose weight, do so slowly (crash dieting can lead to gallstone formation).

  1. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep hydrated - this can help keep the bile in your gallbladder fluid.
  2. Women should make sure to get 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium from all sources daily (an intake level that's associated with a lower incidence of gallstones). Consider taking 500-700 mg of calcium in supplement form. This can help bind bile acids and decrease the risk of stone formation. However, men should limit calcium consumption to 500 to 600 mg from all sources.
  3. Take 200 mg of supplemental vitamin C daily (in one study, women with higher blood levels of vitamin C were half as likely to develop gallstones as those with lower levels).
  4. Keep your fat intake to about 25 percent of daily calories. A high-fat diet can trigger the gallbladder to release bile and set off an attack if you already have gallstones. But be wary of very low-fat diets, which can promote the formation of stones by failing to stimulate normal gallbladder contraction and flow of bile.
  5. Limit your intake of sugar, which may promote gallstone formation.
  6. Increase your fiber intake, and substitute whole soy protein for animal protein in your diet.



Trying to Avoid Gluten?

While people with celiac disease should follow a gluten-free diet, minimizing the consumption of gluten has become popular for a wider audience. If you want to consume less gluten, follow these guidelines.

An estimated two million Americans - about one in 133 people - have celiac disease, an inherited, autoimmune disorder that tends to run in families. Symptoms are caused by eating foods that contain gluten, and, like many autoimmune conditions, the symptoms can initially be triggered by physical and emotional stress. 

People with celiac disease should follow a gluten-free diet for life. Even a small amount of gluten can cause problems and result in damage to the small intestine. The good news is that following a gluten-free diet can greatly improve and even completely resolve symptoms, heal existing intestinal damage, and prevent further problems.

There have also been enough small studies and many anecdotal success stories that the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine fellows have shared to support the existence of a less-severe condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you feel like this may be affecting you, a three-week trial of gluten elimination is worth considering.

Use the following as a guide to a gluten-free diet:

  1. Avoid all foods containing wheat, oats, barley and rye.
  2. Read labels carefully. Gluten can turn up in cold cuts, soups, dressings, candies and soy sauce. Be aware of ingredients such as starch, modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), texturized vegetable protein (TVP), binders, fillers, excipients, extenders, malt and natural flavorings, all of which may indicate the presence of gluten.
  3. Look for grocers that specialize in gluten-free products - mixes for pancakes, muffins, pizza dough and bread are available. Realize that these are processed foods and should only be enjoyed on occasion. Instead focus on eggs, fish, organic meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
  4. Know where gluten can be hidden in products we use every day, such as stamp and envelope adhesive and medicines.

The Celiac Disease Foundation ( and the Celiac Sprue Association ( have more information on gluten-free foods.


Seasonal Recipe: Sweet Pea and Lemon Pesto

Want a new twist on a classic sauce, while using in-season fresh, sweet peas? Look no further than this delicious pesto recipe. You can use it in a variety of ways, and the peas offer up vitamins K and C, manganese and fiber. Add it to your meal planning this week!

There's no doubt that basil stands as the queen of the pesto kingdom, but when we slipped these sweet green gems in its place, well, let's just say the basil was a little pea-green with envy. Vibrant, fresh and brightly flavored, this pesto is perfect as a spread for crostini or baguette, spread on cooked fish or tossed with pasta.

Get the recipe!


Are Your Heels Dry and Cracked?

It’s not uncommon to slip on a pair of sandals after a long winter only to discover dry and cracked heels. Find out what causes this, ways to promote healing, and the type of shoes to avoid if you want to prevent cracked heels in the future!

Dry and cold weather, prolonged standing and walking, and some types of footwear such as flip flops and other open-heeled shoes can all create cracks (also known as "fissures") in the skin of your heels. These simple, protective steps can help prevent further damage and promote healing:

  1. Exfoliate. Use a wet pumice stone in the shower and gently rub your heels and calluses. This will help reduce the thickness of the calluses and allow lotions to better penetrate these areas.
  2. Moisturize. Moisturizers can help resolve most small fissures, but if you have serious cracks, look for a product designed for feet and heels that has glycolic and/or salicylic acids, which may provide deeper penetration of the skin. Slather it on before bed, and then cover your feet with a pair of cotton socks.
  3. Choose appropriate footwear. Open-backed shoes such as flip-flops allow the skin in the heel area to expand and crack. Opt for closed-back shoes at least until your feet heel.



Foods for a Healthy Weight: Part 2

Yesterday’s Daily Tip covered four foods for a healthy waistline. Today’s Tip offers up five more: from oats to healthy fats, these foods can help you get to a healthy weight. Add them to your meals this month.

If you are trying to lose weight, avoid the frozen, prepared, and often expensive "diet" meals and instead hit up the real, whole foods sections of the grocery store. These foods are not just filling and can help you manage your weight, but offer numerous health benefits as well.

  1. Steel-cut oats. An excellent source of fiber, eating steel-cut oats is a good way to fill up and stay satisfied in the morning without a lot of calories. Consider the convenient use of a crockpot the night before.
  2. Quinoa. A healthy alternative to white rice, quinoa can help curb hunger via its fiber and protein content.
  3. Apples. A calorie-efficient way to curb hunger, apples contain antioxidants that may help prevent metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by excess belly fat.
  4. Buckwheat pasta. Unlike regular white-flour pasta, buckwheat is high in fiber and contains protein, making it more satiating, so you eat less. Try soba noodles in place of spaghetti. Always aim to cook the pasta a few minutes less to decrease its glycemic index.
  5. Olive oil and avocados. Both contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Many people find that increasing their intake of healthy fats makes them feel fuller while keeping insulin - which helps conduct fat into the cells for storage - low and steady.



Foods for a Healthy Weight: Part 1

Getting to a healthy weight usually means a combination of exercise and healthful foods. Start with these filling, healthful options on your next grocery trip!

  1. If you are trying to lose weight, avoid the frozen, prepared, and often expensive "diet" meals and instead hit up the real, whole foods sections of the grocery store. These foods are not just filling and can help you manage your weight, but offer numerous health benefits as well.
  2. Kale. This dark green, leafy vegetable provides fiber, iron and calcium - and at about 35 calories per cup (raw and chopped), it is a low-calorie way to fill up. Choose organic when possible.
  3. Lentils. High in protein, lentils can help prevent spikes in insulin levels that can cause your body to store excess fat.
  4. Blueberries. A good source of antioxidants, blueberries have over 3.5 grams of fiber per cup, which can help to fill you up and keep your digestive system running smoothly.
  5. Wild Alaskan salmon. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can help improve insulin sensitivity, which helps build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. Sardines are another good omega-3 and protein-rich fish option.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s Daily Tip for four more waist-friendly foods! For more information on nutrition, join Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging!