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Natural Ways to Treat Seasonal Allergies

By Christine Cioppa


There’s a seek and destroy mission going on in millions of Americans’ bodies. The enemy: pollen, grasses and weeds.

The immune system of seasonal allergy sufferers acts as if these allergens are harmful, releasing chemicals that trigger symptoms (itchy eyes, stuffed or runny nose, breathing problems, etc.). The body is actually overreacting to something considered harmless.

Popping pills may help some, but there are natural ways to manage allergies. Surprisingly, even some foods are connected with seasonal allergies and cross-react, making things worse. So, for example, eating raw celery can trigger an itchy throat in people allergic to birch pollen. Eating tomatoes can cause a food allergy reaction in those allergic to grasses. Sunflower seeds can cause an oral allergy in people who eat them and also have ragweed allergies.

Jennifer Johnson, N.D., clinical associate professor in the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, can help take the mystery out of your seasonal suffering with great tips so you can plan the best course of action to make it to finals without carrying a box of Kleenex.   

Q.  What are natural ways to fight spring allergies? 

A: As much as possible, limit exposure to the allergen (e.g., better to go outdoors on rainy days— rain helps keep pollen count down). Eat foods to lower overall inflammation: salmon, fatty fish, and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can naturally lower inflammation.

Drink green tea; new research shows this acts as an antihistamine (histamine release in the body creates the symptoms of allergies). Take the herb stinging nettle (in capsulated, freeze dried, or dried herbal tea form) three weeks before allergy season. This may be difficult to predict in a new town.

Q: Our readers are from across the country, and some are living on bases overseas. How do seasonal allergies vary by region, and how does that change the treatment?

A: When we move to a new location we are exposed to new plants for the first time. That initial exposure may be a time when we do not react. So being in a new place may provide a break from allergies for the year. In years two and/or three, this is when the reaction may pop up. And the allergy season may vary from location to location, depending on how long the growing season is and/or when the spring starts, so be aware of the season changes. Allergies are best treated a bit in advance before the symptoms intensify.

Q: What are your thoughts on over-the-counter oral antihistamines, and which, if any, do you ever recommend?

A: I usually have my patients try natural options first; if less invasive treatment can work, then this is ideal. First: Clean up the diet—lower sugars and alcohol/caffeine (helps the body to be in the best shape to be less reactive). Second: Reduce exposure (rinse hair after being outdoors, wipe off pets, change clothes, try an air filter in the bedroom, etc.). Third: Try the natural options above (also vitamin C with bioflavonoids). If these don’t work, then try the oral over-the-counter antihistamines; they are usually safe. Check with a healthcare provider/pharmacist if taking other medications, though, since some patients experience a sensation of dryness that is just as bothersome as the allergy symptoms. If needed, try Claritin or Zyrtec (max 10 mg per day)

Q: What are your thoughts on over-the-counter or prescription nasal spray antihistamines or corticosteroids, and when, if ever, do you recommend them?

A: I would first recommend a “neti” pot or nasal saline wash or saline spray.  This is a gentle way to help soothe the nasal passages, making them less reactive to the allergen (e.g., pollen). Some patients benefit from gargling with salt water. It’s best to use sea salt or salt without added iodine; the iodine can irritate. The first line for nasal steroid is Flonase. Caution: Patients can have a sensation of extreme dryness and irritation with nasal steroids, though for some patients they are a godsend.

Q: Can airborne allergies during spring and fall increase a person’s susceptibility to food sensitivities and food allergies?

A: Yes, patients who react to seasonal allergies (especially ragweed and other weeds) may cross react to:




sunflower seeds

herbs: Chamomile and Echinacea

If eating these foods trigger a similar reaction, then it’s best to avoid, especially during allergy season.

Q: Aside from the typical symptoms of seasonal allergies (runny nose, coughing, sneezing, stuffed nose, itchy eyes), are there other symptoms, not so obvious?

A: Shortness of breath, low mood, fatigue, sore irritated throat.

Q: How do things like sugar intake, alcohol, a poor diet, a lack of sleep, consuming processed foods, and stress affect the body’s ability to handle seasonal allergies?

A: Alcohol and excess caffeine can dehydrate the body, making the histamine levels more intense, worsening symptoms. More sugar/processed foods, lack of sleep, and stress all drag down the immune system, making is harder to fight off other infections if in an allergic state (e.g., may make people more susceptible to sinusitis).

Additional resources:

When seasonal allergies peak by region:

How foods are linked to seasonal allergies:

Avoid a Career Catastrophe: Don’t Talk Politics at Work

While political debates may be the order of the day everywhere you go during an election year, and while you may be tempted to join in on the conversation, the one place you shouldn’t be a part of the political chatter is at your place of work. Unless of course you are working on a political campaign staff.

“There are a few downsides to discussing politics at work,” said Josh Warborg, district president of Accountemps, a Robert Half company. “It's an emotionally charged topic that can be polarizing, it can disrupt productivity, and heated discussions could offend others and hinder collaboration in the future."

In general, it should be easy to avoid political discussions. Don’t bring up the subject and walk away when someone else does. However, there may be times when you find yourself caught right in the middle of the debate because your coworkers don’t do the same. When that happens, here are a few tips to avoid a career catastrophe.

First: “Try to approach the conversation in a lighthearted manner,” Warborg said.

Just be careful not to come across as teasing or even humorous, because that can go downhill fast when the joke is not received in the way you intended it.

Sandra Spataro, associate professor of management, believes the key to safely interacting about politics is to be is to be respectful, open and constructive as opposed to denigrating politicians or people who agree with them.

Second: “Do not assume others share your views,” said Spataro, whose research work on status and influence processes in organizations has been published in various management and psychology journals. 

“If you find yourself talking with someone who has different views, and you feel like it can be a constructive conversation, pursue it,” he said. “Maybe you can learn from them. Understanding the opposite view is a great way to clarify your own views. It doesn’t have to be a contest of who is right and who is wrong.

Third: If you are on the receiving end of the offensive conversation, it is perfectly fine to let people know.

“You can say: Actually, I feel differently and assuming I hold the same views as you offends me. Let’s either agree to disagree or maybe talk about something else,” said Spataro, who also advises not to let the disagreement grow to an insurmountable issue.

Finally, consider refraining from constant political statements and discussions on your social media sites. Don’t post, chat, comment, tweet and otherwise share practically every thought and movement you have 24/7. Although you have the freedom to express yourself, exercising that freedom too much could become a threat to your career and you not even realize it.

“Strong stereotypes exist around political party and issue affiliation,” warned Spataro. “Employers might make links – however faulty – between the image of you that your social media site presents and who you would be in the workplace,” she said.

Although it may not be fair that people will do this, the reality is that they do.

“Talking about anything that is as controversial as politics is right now is always something to be careful with,” Spataro said.

The Career Path Less Chosen: Walking that Winding Road

By Amy Nielsen


Last week I talked about a school I found that would fill a gap not only in my education, but that also fits a niche in the greater community where I want to work. I called the school and spoke at length to an admissions counselor.

It was an interesting conversation as I tried to get around the sales jargon and to the real meat of the program and what it can do for me. What I learned is that not only is the school a lot less expensive than I thought (SCORE!), it is exactly what I want to learn all rolled up into one nice neat package.

Does it go into as much depth as I would like? No, not initially. This might be a shortcoming to some, but I am taking it as an opportunity to fill in the missing pieces with extracurricular research. As a seasoned learner, I think I have the discipline and skills to find and read the corresponding texts and materials to get the depth of knowledge needed to have a thorough understanding of each topic. I am already planning to create extra work for myself. Great.

I am at an intersection of my life where my personal intestinal fortitude is either going to get me through or not. I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to put myself through the financial, emotional and time stress that this endeavor will take.

However, I know what my personal learning style is and how well I follow through. I also know I am a magpie and I like shiny things and my stick-to-it-ness was often times tested in longer, self-directed projects throughout my past learning career. Which means that without a leader to get me from my current knowledge base to where I really want to go, I will most likely get distracted and stop three quarters of the way through. This is not a criticism of myself, it is an honest assessment.

If you are going to get anywhere with higher education, you have to be brutally honest with yourself about what you will and will not do. I know that I am not a great, solely self-directed learner.

Choosing what I am calling an interim school will help keep me on track and moving forward. Could I get all of the knowledge I am going to get out of this particular school in other places, through texts and other resources? Yes, I most certainly could.

But, that process is infinitely harder to slog through. With someone else telling me which diet to study for the next three weeks and assignments to hand in, I know I am much more likely to follow through and finish the course with the knowledge that I want. Besides, the money I’m slapping down was hard to come by and there is nothing so motivating as putting your money where your mouth is.

Six things to do before you separate from the military

There are a lot of bennies to being active-duty military – freebies, discounts and other little benefits, both from the military and civilian sides - that we often we forget about. If you are retiring or separating from the military for other reasons, be sure to do these five things first:


  1. Take a Space-A flight. Pick a destination and go, anywhere you want. Hawaii, Europe, Asia … travel to the location of your dreams could be free. You can still fly Space A when you retire, but in a lower category that can make it much harder to get a premium destination, especially during peak retirement times. And, retiree spouses cannot travel without their “sponsor” after retirement, either.
  2. Take advantage of discounts that apply to active-duty only, such as certain theme park tickets, free national park passes and shopping discounts. You’ll still get some of these as a retiree or veteran, but many will disappear. Disney World, for example, offers their discounted admission tickets to retirees, but not veterans in general. Busch Gardens allows one day of free admission per to year to military families, but only while still on active duty.
  3. Check your GI Bill benefits. We had a friend who recently found out, a decade after retiring and when his daughter was applying for college, that his GI Bill benefits had not been properly transferred to her. There is no recourse at this point. I also recently heard of a family who, after their retired servicemember died, discovered that he had only transferred 10 percent of his GI Bill benefits to each of their two children. That advice was commonly given to people when changes were made in the program about 10 years ago. The idea was that you could adjust the amounts for each child later as needed. The problem: Only the servicemember or retiree can make such adjustments. In the unfortunate circumstance where this retiree passed away, the remaining 80 percent of GI Bill benefits could not be used by his children.
  4. Get physicals for everybody. The separating or retiring servicemember will go through extensive medical screening. The rest of the family should get full physicals, too, while it’s still covered by active-duty insurance. The same should be done for dental appointments, eye appointments, or any other related issues. Get a well woman exam, mammogram, dermatology screening, prescription refills, immunizations. Basically, ask for anything your primary care manager will authorize or give you referrals for.
  5. Utilize free legal services. The average cost of having a will drawn up at an attorney’s office in the U.S. is $375. A power of attorney can cost anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred dollars, depending on the type. You can get these, and many other legal documents, from your base or unit JAG office for no cost.
  6. Get your resume updated. Most bases have an employment readiness program, usually through Army Community Services or a similar agency, that gives free career counseling, helps with writing resumes, has job interview classes, etc. The retiring or separating servicemember usually goes through these classes as part of their transition. But spouses can use these benefits, too, to get ready for their post-service job search.
May Job Fairs Coming – Are You Registered?

PCS season is upon us. That means, if you need a job at your new duty station, you need to start looking, now.

If you can manage to travel to one of these job fairs hosted by the U.S. Chamber Foundation, you will be one step ahead.

The foundation hosts job fairs across the United States that are specifically open to only military members, veterans and their spouses.

Employers who attend want to hire these individuals because they know the valuable skillset that being a military member or military family member gives them.

So, check out this list and make sure you register. The events fill up quickly. For a list for other job fairs hosted in other months, check out the chamber’s main website at:


May 3

Pittsburgh, PA


May 5

San Diego, CA


May 10

Fort Leonard Wood, MO


May 17

Dallas, TX


May 18

Charleston, SC


May 21

NAS JRB Fort Worth, TX


May 24

Boston, MA


May 25

Seattle, WA

Fort Belvoir, VA


May 26

Pensacola, FL

The Career Path Less Traveled: The Winding Road

By Amy Nielsen

Right now I have a projected plan of earning a master’s degree and license in five years. I just happened upon a professional school that has many of the pieces I need to pull together already bundled into one certificate program.

The school is not an institution that would lead to sitting for a license and would be a slightly different tangent to what I had originally planned, but would use my current skills and educational background to better effect. It is also more closely aligned with my ultimate employment goals.

So, now I come to a fork in the road. Which path do I take? The master’s degree program or professional school? Or can I do both?

The program I found is a 1-year, online program. It does dove tail into a master’s program at a several different universities, but not the one I was planning to attend. There is one that is close to me, but not close enough to travel to for daily classes.

If the credits I earn for this program don’t fulfill the missing requirements in my antique transcript to transfer to my first choice master’s program or the most local master’s program is not online, then it doesn’t make sense to take the time to do this now.

If the dovetail master’s is online, this becomes a total no brainer and I do both. I could use those resources of time and tuition on classes at our local community college, especially those that I know will cover and transfer. Since the interim school is a fully online course, I expect that at least one of the follow-on master’s programs will be as well.

Right now, I have lots of ifs. So, I have more research to do.

Earlier in this process I wrote a list of jobs I wanted to do when I finished my education. It covers a wide range and includes: returning to the kitchen as a chef; creating a product to sell; writing a book and culinary coaching.

I finally decided that in this day and age, I don’t have to choose. I can do all of those things. In fact, I should do all of those things to stay relevant to the current topics and trends in the industry. This interim school would help me fill that jack of all trades niche of integrative diet and culinary coach.

A Good Night Sleep May Keep the Doctor Away

By Christine Cioppa

With all the demands in our day—caring for our families, taking classes, going to work— it’s easy to think, what’s an hour less of sleep? But, people who sleep six hours or less put themselves at risk for accidents and chronic medical conditions.

Adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but 83.6 million U.S. adults (1/3 of people) get less than seven hours. Those who skimp may be driving tired and are more likely to be among those who fall asleep at the wheel or crash. “Drowsy drivers” cause 83,000 car crashes, several hundred of which are fatal.

Aside from clumsiness and fatigue, sleep deprivation can also be costly to your health.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association links respiratory infections with poor sleep. This is one study in a long line of others linking health conditions and a lack of sleep.

A study in BMC Public Health in 2013 found that insufficient sleep (14 or more days per month of inadequate sleep, often less than seven hours per night) is linked to high blood pressure, asthma and arthritis. Researchers have also reaffirmed the link between lack of sleep and obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Another study in Psychiatric Services in 2013 found that insufficient sleep was connected to anxiety and depressive disorders.  

According to a recent report by the CDC, “At present, no professional sleep organizations have issued consensus statements or recommendations about the efficacy or safety of either over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids for improving sleep duration in the general adult population.”

If you’re doing too much and then having trouble unwinding when your head does hit the pillow, you may want to talk with a sleep specialist or your doctor.

What do night shifts, hormones, jet lag, and more, have to do with sleep? Find out and get a good night’s sleep. Find your guide to healthy sleep here:

Job Outlook 2016: Finding the doors that lead to real opportunity

Worried that you may have to hang your cap and gown in mom and dad’s closet after you get your college degree this spring? Don’t be, the job market continues to be on the upswing.

“The job outlook for college grads has been improving every year since 2009 and 2016 appears to be no different,” said Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter (

Furthermore, 42 percent of the employers who participated in the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Job Outlook 2016 survey characterized the job market for class of 2016 graduates as very good or excellent. In 2014, only 18 percent of them felt that positive about the job market for graduates.

Despite the positive outlook and a large number of job openings though, declaring your financial independence won’t be a cakewalk. Graduates will have to be strategic and creative.

“There are about 5.5 million jobs open nationwide, according to the (Bureau of Labor Statistics’) Job Opening and Labor Turnover Report, but employers would rather let their vacancy announcements expire than to hire a candidate who cannot prove his or her value,” said Robert Meier, president of Job Market Experts (

Meier believes the key to proving your worth is effectively using CAR statements whether you are describing your school projects, internships, part-time work, full-time work or military experience.

“In a few compelling sentences, give employers something to be impressed with. Your story should include the (C)hallenges of the job, the (A)ctions you took and the (R)esults of your actions,” he said.

So how do you land an opportunity to tell your story? Networking. But again, be strategic and creative. Don’t just start calling or emailing everyone you know asking for a job.

Instead, put yourself in a position to have jobs come to you.

“Volunteer at a non-profit and get yourself on some committees or boards. The other members will likely be further along in their careers and often are business owners or executives who are looking for ways to give back to their communities,” Rothberg said. “By working shoulder-to-shoulder with them, they’ll get to know you and hopefully will either offer you a job or connect you to someone they know who will offer you a job.”

Also, check with your alumni association and college career center to see what ‘connections’ they may have; establish your own contacts by becoming an active member of a professional organization; and ask people who work in your intended profession for advice and support (not a job!).

So, while this year’s job market may not have you worrying so much about the closet in which you’ll hang your cap and gown, don’t just glide through the job search. Put extra effort into being strategic and creative to find doors that may have plenty of career opportunities behind them.


Mentors, Cheerleaders and the Wind beneath your wings: Your Job Search Team

Well, I didn’t get the job I applied for.

They chose the gal who speaks fluent Spanish over me. I would have made the same decision in hiring if I were in the director’s position. We had a lovely chat about my profound over-qualification for the position I had applied for and where I might be able to volunteer with the program over the next few months.

All around, this experience was positive, even if not in the way I had originally planned.

I want to address something that is crucial to the process and the final success or failure of these life changing endeavors. The people who will have to live with your insanity until you get to a stable point. These people will be your team. I am finding my relationships are changing as I start to work on this project in a more concentrated manner. I have found that three important relationships have solidified themselves.

I now have a very definite mentor, a cheerleader, and of course, the wind beneath my wings. I know I am going to need my team early and often for the ups and downs over the next few years. These people who will listen for the one millionth time about how excited I am about every little new thing I am learning, every lesson, in every subject. And again, six months from now, when I am all tears about how much homework I have and how much I would rather go to the local brew pub for weinerschnitzel than list one more protocol for respiratory illness.

I was chatting with a mom in our homeschool co-op and mentioned, “Geesh, someday I really should just write a book on healthy eating from the herbal and fermented side for singles and couples.”

She piped up with, “Well, why don’t you? I am doing a challenge this year to write 300 words a day. Every day.”

Hmm, well, I can do that, surely 300 words is like half a page, or less. OK, so what is the goal? A manuscript ready to go into first revisions? Sure. And away we went.

We now have a third member of our little writing group. All of us sitting down at some point during the day to blob, not blog - blob, a minimum of 300 words a day. Every. Single. Day.

So, as I sit here writing this at 23:37, in another 23 minutes the counter ticks back and I have to write another 300 words. If I am still writing on this blob in 23 minutes, I will have to continue for another 300 words in tomorrow’s slot, or I can finish this thought and start a new one tomorrow. But, I have to write a minimum of 300 words. Every day.

This wonderful woman, and her silly 300 words, is my mentor. She is always there asking if I wrote yet. Now that I am writing for you wonderful readers too, she is even more excited for our 300 words project.

My cheerleader came in the form of a friend who has asked me to write for her before and the universe got in the way. This time, I had newly started on my journey to go back to school and redefine my life again, when she asked again if I would write about it for this blog. I call her my cheerleader because I am totally new at this whole online blog thing. I read a few, and the thought crossed my mind that a blog might be a good fit for how I want to get my information out, but I have never written one.

I need someone to help me through this new technology and style. I am timid when it comes to doing things right the first time. Her belief in me at the other end of the web from the other side of the planet gives me the confidence to set forth what I write for you all to read. So again, I thank you my readers, for being guinea pigs and helping me prove to myself that this is a viable option for my future.

Do you have a smaller version or related side project that you can dovetail into your schooling to test the waters? Who can help you start that?

The wind beneath my wings, the one and only, my husband. But then - what if you don’t happen to have a conveniently uber supportive live-in best friend who is willing to try any concoction you come up with, read any junk you write? Find one. That person is the one you will call at three in the morning when you are in tears because you just cannot possibly see a way to make this actually work and you are watching your dreams crumble before your very eyes. And, they will make you tea and bring you a blanket and tell you to suck it up. Doesn’t have to be your life partner. I’m lucky that way. But there is one person out there who is as excited as you are about this new you that you are embracing and they want you to succeed with every fiber of their being as much as you want to.

Make it a formal project for yourself to identify your team. Know who you will go to when the going gets tough or when there is an unexpected stumbling block. You may have more team members than I do. I am sure I will find more people who fit in this team for me as I go down this road.

And that beats 300 words.

Changes to Tricare Autism Services May Hurt Military Families

By Tiffany Shedd

I have been writing a fair bit about health care and health care reform lately on this blog.  It’s important that we know what’s going on with our benefits and how those changes will affect the care out loved ones receive.

As of April 1, Tricare is implementing new reimbursement rates for applied behavioral analysis services (ABA). These changes will affect more than 10,500 families, and 16,000 additional families who are eligible to receive these services. According to Tricare, the ABA coverage and benefits are not changing, but the rates that providers receive are being adjusted and will be evaluated and adjusted on a yearly basis.

This rate cut is up to 15 percent of reimbursement to your providers.

For those of us unfamiliar with ABA services and those providing this service, here’s a very brief overview of what it involves and what is involved in being qualified to render these services.

Currently there are no "official" standards for certifying or licensing applied behavior analysts nationwide. Some states, however, have certification or registration procedures for behavior analysts (e.g., Florida, California), and the field has identified the following formal training and competencies required of professionals in behavior analysis.

It is by and large an unregulated profession. That being said, there are providers who do amazing work with patients and have brought about a lot of progress that is invaluable to them and their families. Some of these providers have helped vastly change the lives of those who use this therapy, whether it’s helping a non-verbal dependent better express their needs and wants to their caregivers or help with behavioral and sensory issues, like being able to get a haircut without having a total meltdown.

While these milestones may sound like small things, they are big steps forward for families with autism. So, it is essential to give families access to quality providers.

What does a 15 percent rate cut look like to providers? Before April 1, providers were being reimbursed on a sliding scale based on their level of education and degrees. A provider with a PhD or master’s degree was being reimbursed at a rate of $125, while those with bachelor’s degrees or technicians with a high school diploma were being reimbursed $75 and $50 respectively.

A 15 percent rate decrease would mean PhDs earn $114, holders of master’s degrees $107, $67 for a bachelor’s degree provider, and only $40 for a technician with a high school diploma.

What does this mean for you if you use these services? You could see a decrease in providers willing to accept Tricare as a method of payment. You could also see more out of pocket spending in order to stay with providers you already see. If you already have trouble finding quality providers in your area, this is not going to help you. The quality of available providers may drop as well.

As I said before, this new rate decrease is going into effect. We can’t do anything about it right now. It will be re-evaluated over the next year, so that means your experiences under this new system will be very valuable in demonstrating how this decrease hurts or helps Tricare patients.

Keep records and notes about how this rate change affects you and your family. Write to your representatives. Congress was actually opposed to this particular change, so your representatives need to know and be reminded that you are out there and being affected by this.

Don’t just complain about it on Facebook to your friends or spouse group. Go to Tricare’s Facebook page and let them know what you think. Be specific. Tell them if your child is no longer making the improvements they made with a previous provider who no longer accepts Tricare.

Let them know if the only providers in your area aren’t as qualified as you would like. And as always, stay up to date on any changes that Tricare is making to programs and benefits. For those of us in the EFMP program, small changes can mean big changes in our lives.


For Military Spouses
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