How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

A plant sits on a white shelf in front of a line drawing of hands.

Have you ever wondered how to improve your indoor air quality? It’s an area of wellness that’s often overlooked. We can easily forget how important it is that we’re breathing clean, quality air inside of our homes. If you live in a cold weather state, like Minnesota, and spend a lot of time indoors during the winter months, it’s imperative that you’re getting quality air. Or, if you live in an area with poor outdoor air quality due to chemicals (smog) or forest fires.

We know that poor indoor air quality can have a huge impact on our health. There is even a term coined for those experiencing repeated exposure to poor indoor air quality called ‘Sick Building Syndrome’.

RELATED: 5 tips for ensuring safe indoor air.

Many patients come to us with concerns about their indoor air quality, but aren’t sure if there is anything they can do to change it or where to start. Fear not—there are many things that you can do to take back control of your home environment and improve the quality of your indoor air! If you live in a home that does not have known water damage or mold exposure, it can be relatively easy to set yourself up for success. Keep reading below for tips on improving your indoor air quality.

RELATED: Get to the root cause of your seasonal allergies.

Tips on how to improve indoor air quality

Consider getting your home tested

If you’re not sure whether or not your home has experienced water damage or has known mold exposure, consider getting your home tested. EnviroBiomics ERMI test is a direct-to-consumer test that you can complete at home using samples of dust from multiple places in your house. ERMI tests the dust from your home to see what levels of mold and mycotoxins are present in the sample.

Another option is to find a trusted expert in your area to come inspect your home. MN Mold is a local inspection company that will come assess your home and determine what level, if any, mold is present. They will not remediate if mold is present, but can provide other local recommendations for mediation! If you aren’t in Minnesota and are searching for an inspector, consider finding a company that does inspection only and not inspection and remediation to ensure you’re getting an accurate recommendation.

RELATED: What is histamine intolerance? Symptoms and tips on how to treat it.

Invest in a HEPA air filter

Consider investing in a HEPA air purifier for your home. There are tons of options on the market, so it may require a bit of research to determine which brand is the best fit for your home. 

Some things to think about when comparing air purifiers: 

  • How big of a space does the purifier cover? Will I need to purchase more than one to cover the most important areas of my home?
  • How often does it need its filters changed?
  • If it’s going to be in a space such as your bedroom, does it emit a high level of EMFs that can be disruptive to my sleeping environment?

From the extensive research I conducted before I purchased air purifiers for our home, the general consensus was to prioritize HEPA air purifiers that filter the smallest particles possible so that you’re getting protected from as many pollutants as possible. Some HSA administrators allow for the purchase of air purifiers when certain requirements are met.

MIMC’s Favorite HEPA Air Purifiers

Ditch the indoor toxins

Whether or not you choose to invest in an air purifier, it’s important to make sure you’re not using products that are contributing to the problem. Avoid using candles, air fresheners, wall plugins, or other products that release any type of chemicals or scent into the air in your home. Consider diffusing essential oils, or keeping a vase of fragrant flowers (as long as you’re not allergic!) on the counter to give your home a fresh, natural scent.

Let the fresh air in

Some research has been conducted to study the impact that opening your windows can have on improving your indoor air quality, even in very cold weather. I’m not suggesting that you open your windows for hours on end, especially in the cold Minnesota winter! But, it’s worth noting that you can improve your indoor air quality by opening your windows for even 10 to 15 minutes per day.

If you live in an area that experiences lots of outdoor air pollutants like smog, forest fires, or other natural incidents you will absolutely want to keep your windows closed especially during those times! If this applies to, heavily consider investing in an indoor air purifier so you can confidently have a source of quality air while the outdoors are not safe.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder + What Treatments Might Work for Me?

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder + What Treatments Might Work for Me?

If you’ve never quite been able to put your finger on why you feel less energetic, more lethargic and generally down during the winter months, you could be one of the many Americans experiencing seasonal affective disorder. Fortunately, SAD has become widely understood over the last several years and there are more treatment options than ever to support you through the long winter months. Keep reading to learn about some of our favorite ways to combat seasonal affective disorder!

What is seasonal affective disorder?

You might be familiar with seasonal affective disorder, appropriately abbreviated as SAD. Mayo Clinic defines SAD as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons—SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year … your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, zapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

So how exactly can you boost your energy if you have SAD? Let’s chat.

RELATED: Is my fatigue normal?

Get a new gadget

Some research has shown light therapy as an effective treatment solution for treating SAD. While there are lots of light therapy boxes on the market these days, it’s important to find one that works well for you. Mayo Clinic helps break down the ins and outs of light therapy boxes, and why some might be more effective than others.

In general, you should be looking for a light box that provides an exposure of 10,000 lux and produces as little UV light as possible. Some other factors to consider include size, whether or not you need to plug it in, and whether or not it’s actually designed for SAD.

Our providers’ favorite light box is the Verilux HappyLight, which you can find on Amazon and at most major retailers! Verilux has expanded their product line and you can find HappyLight in just about every shape and size you’re looking for.

RELATED: Are you stressing yourself to fatigue?

Make sure you’re getting sufficient Vitamin D

If you’re experiencing seasonal affective disorder and live in a cold-weather location, it can be really difficult to get adequate Vitamin D during the winter months. Talk to your physician about getting your Vitamin D3 levels tested to see if you’re deficient and determine what options you have for supplementation.

Some brands on the market have developed Vitamin D sun lamps, which, while effective, can also have damaging effects on your eyes if not used properly. Be sure to consult your healthcare provider and follow manufacturer instructions should you choose to use a sun lamp! 

RELATED: How to keep your vitamin D levels balanced, especially if you live in Northern climate.

Lean on your stress management practices

It’s no secret that implementing daily mindfulness and meditation practices can be a game-changer for your mood year-round. Don’t forget to rely on those during the winter months too! While it can feel like the biggest task to get out of bed and turn on a 5-10 minute meditation in the morning, it can also have a huge impact on your mindset. My personal favorite meditation app is Headspace, but you can also look to Insight Timer for a cost effective solution!

Plan something to look forward to 

A practice that I’ve personally implemented in the last couple of years has been planning something to look forward to during the long winter months. Consider what time of the year you feel the most down, and plan something during that time for you to look forward to! Some things I’ve planned for myself in the past:

  • Weekend trip to a sunny destination to soak up the warmth and get allll the vitamin D.
  • Day-trip to the spa. Some favorites have included Idlewild, Four Seasons and Woodhouse Spa.
  • Stay-cation at a boutique hotel in Minneapolis or Stillwater. Still close to home, but can give you a change of scenery and a fresh perspective.

If you or someone you know has struggled with seasonal affective disorder, you probably know how debilitating it can feel when you’re in the midst of it. Don’t forget to lean on your support system for some extra TLC during these winter months and use the tips we shared above for an extra boost during the winter months.

And if you’re just not recovering using these tips, your fatigue and lethargy could mean something else. Check in with your provider for additional support and to get to the root cause.

How to Meal Prep: 4 Simple Steps You Can Start Today

How to Meal Prep: 4 Simple Steps You Can Start Today

Meal prep can be an incredible tool to save on time and support your health goals. Having meals and snacks already prepared takes a lot of guesswork out of the day and keeps you on track! However, we hear from patients all the time that meal prepping can feel overwhelming, they don’t know what they like, it takes too much time, or they find they get tired of eating the same meals over and over again.

I’m here to tell you that adding meal prep to your schedule does not have to be difficult—it can be a quick and easy way to set yourself up for success and continue making headway in your desire to eat well. Today I’m sharing my tips on how to meal prep in a way that feels easy and enjoyable!

RELATED: How to choose the best protein powder for you.

1: Gather inspiration

The first step is the most important, in my opinion. Is it easier to make plain rice, a sheet pan of veggies, and seasoned chicken breast? Yes, of course! Am I more likely to get so sick of rice, broccoli, and chicken breast by day two that I never want to look at it again? Absolutely!

What I’ve found to be the key to enjoying meal prepping is finding meals that you actually want to eat and find enjoyable. They don’t have to be meals with a laundry list of ingredients that you’ll never use again. You can find lots of one-pot or sheet-pan meals that are easy to make, but taste good and keep you satisfied all week long.

My favorites sources of recipe inspiration come from:

Half Baked Harvest

Pinch of Yum

Fit Foodie Finds

RELATED: The best healthy restaurants in the Twin Cities.

2: Take stock of what you already have

Nothing drives me crazier than buying a grocery cart fulllll of ingredients to be used once and never seen again. I learned a long time ago that instead of leaning into my perfectionistic tendencies to meticulously recreate the recipe I’m following, I should find ways to use what I already have, or find meals based on the ingredients in my fridge that need to get used up.

The easiest way to do this is using the SuperCook app on my phone or laptop while I’m thinking about meals for the week. SuperCook will help you find recipes that use ingredients that you already have on hand! Win-win for cutting down on waste and finding meals that you’re excited to eat.

One of my favorite ways to use up veggies is to make an egg casserole. Simply chop and put your need-to-use veggies into a baking dish, whisk as many eggs as you’d like, and pour over the veggies. Stir it all up and add some high-quality, organic cheese (if you tolerate and enjoy dairy) and seasonings, and stick in the oven! Baking times vary on temperature and number of eggs used. Just keep an eye on it and pull it out when the center is fully cooked through!

RELATED: What’s a continuous glucose monitor and why you might need one.

3: There’s an app for that

There are tons and tons of meal prepping apps on the market, some paid and many free. I’d recommend downloading a few and testing them out to see if their capabilities meet your needs. If you don’t like one, just delete it and move on! Here are two of my favorites.

While not free, PlateJoy is consistently one of the highest-rated meal prep apps on the market. When you download the app, you’ll take a short survey to find out what types of meals you enjoy and which things you don’t have a preference for. PlateJoy’s algorithm will then create a personalized meal plan just for you. Their streamlined, easy to use interface makes it a no-brainer.

Eat This Much has both free and paid versions, depending on your preferences. Find inspiration and create grocery lists all in one place to keep meal prepping fun and easy. You can start with the free version of the app to determine if you enjoy the style of meals they suggest and then move to a premium subscription for all of the extra bells and whistles.

4: Find kitchen gadgets that are actually useful for meal prep

After you’ve planned your meals, you’ve gone to the grocery store, you get home, and then you actually have to do the cooking, right? This can feel like the most difficult part of the process sometimes. You were high on energy and motivation and now you’re staring at your measuring cups wondering if you’ll ever make it through the 4 recipes you chose for this week.

Finding and investing in the right kitchen tools can make a world of difference in actually doing the work! Over the years, I’ve found the tools that make my life easier and the ones that end up collecting dust at the bottom of the drawer. This could change depending on your dietary preferences, but these are my favorite gadgets that save me time and energy in the kitchen.

This garlic press is ergonomic and dishwasher safe, saving you lots of time (and fingers!) chopping garlic into tiny little pieces.

Another favorite is my stainless steel citrus juicer. Again, easy to use and dishwasher friendly! I tend to favor stainless steel over any type of plastic kitchen tool to avoid microplastics and other chemicals that can be released, especially when working in a hot kitchen.

I’ve seen these vegetable choppers increase in popularity over the last several years. I find chopping veggies to be strangely therapeutic, but if you hate chopping this is an amazing time and energy saving tool.

Lastly, I love these glass food storage containers. They’ve got snap-on lids so your lunch won’t go flying, but they’re safe to heat your food up in as long as you take the top off. They come in multiple sizes depending on how big of a container you’re looking for!

There you have it, all of my tried and true tips on making the meal prepping process feel less overwhelming and more motivating to find meals you love that make you feel well too! What other meal prepping tips do you all have to share?

How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Guide for Non-Scientists

How to Read and Understand a Scientific Paper: A Guide for Non-Scientists

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably health and wellness obsessed. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent listening to podcasts, watching Instagram stories, or reading blogs about the latest in health and wellness. 

One phrase that I heard over and over again from leading industry experts was “according to the research” or “according to a study” and honestly, I never quite understood what that meant. My background is not in medicine—in fact I graduated with a degree in Event Management and I don’t know the first thing about clinical studies or how to read research articles.

So, I set out on learning how to properly read a research / scientific article so I could actually understand what “according to the research” meant. I wanted to further my understanding of meaningful clinical research and how to apply it to my own daily practices. Here are a few tips from a non-medical professional on reading and understanding research articles!

RELATED: New to functional medicine? Here’s where to start.

Start your scientific paper search on Google Scholar or PubMed

There are tons of research article databases online, so it’s important to know where to start. My favorite place to start looking for research is Google Scholar or PubMed. These databases are both free to use and have millions of abstracts (more on that later) from research articles to read.

RELATED: What is a health coach and what do they do?

Use specific language to get relevant results

The first thing you’ll do in either Google Scholar or PubMed is start searching for research articles related to the topic of interest. To get the most relevant results, you’ll need to incorporate some medical terminology. For example, instead of searching for “thyroid,” you can search “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis lifestyle interventions” to get targeted results on what you actually want to learn about.

You can also begin typing in a few words related to what you’re looking for and use some of the examples that populate in the search bar to get you started.

RELATED: The best health apps for iPhone and Android.

Understanding the abstract

The abstract is a concise summary of an entire research paper and it’s the first section at the top of the paper. It gives you the high level details about the study performed and its conclusion. If you’re interested in digging in further and the full article is not available on either platform, you can often email the author for the full research paper and many will share the full version with you for free.

The abstract will also share the objective of the study with the reader. It should give you an idea right away if the article is relevant to the information you’re looking for, or if you need to go back to your search results and browse a few others.

Confidence intervals and study size

Many research articles will share with you their confidence intervals (CI) to express their certainty in the validity of their research. From the research I’ve done, not every article shares this number, but it’s an important one to keep track of when available.

The confidence interval can be translated similarly to percentages. For example, if the confidence interval of a particular study is 95 the authors are 95% sure that their research is sound with a 5% margin of error. Here’s a good rule of thumb:

  • 91 = minimum
  • 95 = optimal
  • 97 or higher = best

There are a few factors that have an impact on the CI of a study, like sample size, percentage, and population size. In theory, the more people participating in the study, the higher the likelihood that the results are accurate!

Sample size, or study size is also an important number to keep at the back of your mind. Anywhere you see in a research article, ‘n = #’ that means the number of participants. The higher the better, as it shows that more people are part of the study and the conclusion can likely be applied more broadly to a variety of people.

Study types and which ones should be considered reliable

There are several types of studies and some tend to be more reliable than others. The main types of studies are randomized controlled trials (RTCs), cohort studies, case-control studies and qualitative studies. In fact, this National Institute of Health article breaks down the main types of studies and where they tend to work best. When considering cause-and-effect relationships, RTCs are considered the most reliable.

There aren’t any types of studies that should be considered unreliable—at the end of the day they just provide additional information to you!

Don’t get caught up in the scientific paper’s data

Digging into a research article can quickly become a rabbit hole! Don’t let yourself get too bogged down by the research if you can’t relate to it. You know yourself best; don’t be afraid to trust your own unique experiences and work with your personal healthcare provider to find a plan that works for you.

The Best Healthy Restaurants In the Twin Cities

The Best Healthy Restaurants In the Twin Cities

“I want to go out to eat, but I want to go somewhere with healthier options. Does that even exist?”

Something we hear from patients all the time is that they’re bummed about having to give up Friday nights out on the town or Sunday morning brunch. I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to! 

We’re fortunate to live in a place where the majority of people place a big emphasis on eating good tasting, and good-for-you food. It’s led to a massive increase in these types of restaurants all throughout the metro area. Keep reading to learn about a few of our favorites!

RELATED: 5 herbs you can grow yourself to support your health.

Tao Cafe and Herbery

A beautiful space that combines good food and a retail space for herbs with house-made herbal blends, Tao Cafe and Herbery is located in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, just a short walk away from the Lake of the Isles. Their philosophy as described online is to “support the health and wellness of our community and our earth through our commitment to the Taoist philosophy: Health achieved through a simple, balanced life in harmony with nature.” 

Their menu consists of good food, which is sustainably sourced, low allergenic and organic. Try their coconut curry bowl on a cool, fall day or a super greens smoothie on a warm, summer day!

Key: Organic, Low Allergenic, Sustainably Sourced, Gluten Free Options

RELATED: 5 foods that can boost your mood.


Another amazing find in the Uptown neighborhood, BRIM features a menu that is organic and always gluten-free. They highlight their use of only extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil and avocado oil in their menu items—no more asking the kitchen to skip the vegetable oils! Their tagline, “We believe the best food is real food. Mostly plants. Always organic” supports a healthy lifestyle balance while still being able to enjoy Sunday brunch. Next time you’re there, get their Seared Salmon & Dill bowl or the Breakfast Tacos!

Key: GF, Organic, Plant Based

RELATED: How to navigate special events with food sensitivities.

Olivia’s Organic Cafe 

This gem, located in Burnsville, takes better-for-you cuisine to a whole new level. Olivia’s Organic Cafe is a family-owned restaurant inspired by the owner’s daughter who faced her own health challenges and was often left out from being able to enjoy meals outside the home. Her mom, Melanie, has made it her mission to create a space where those who have celiac disease, autoimmune diseases or those who simply want to prioritize whole, real foods can come together.

Their entire menu is gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, and non-GMO, and they prioritize locally sourced ingredients. They’ve got a little bit of everything: breakfast, soups, salads, you name it! We love their wide variety of breakfast foods that taste even better than your average diner food.

Key: GF, DF, Organic, Non-GMO, Locally Sourced Ingredients

Peoples Organic Cafe

An option with multiple locations throughout the metro area, Peoples Organic Cafe focuses on “nutritious and organic food, pure water and healthy beverages.” Their menu features a wide variety of options to cater to those who are gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan! Their focus on using in-season produce allows them to support local farmers and maintain a menu with ingredients that are 100% non-GMO and majority organic.

With locations in Uptown, Edina, Eden Prairie, and Downtown, most anyone can add this to their list of must-try restaurants!

Key: GF, Organic, Non-GMO, Locally Sourced Ingredients, Vegetarian, Vegan

Good Earth

This Twin Cities staple has locations in both Edina and Roseville, making it accessible to the majority of the metro area. Good Earth focuses on supporting local growers and farmers who don’t use factory farming, hormones or antibiotics. There is even a section of their website that highlights some of their suppliers.

They offer options for larger gatherings including event platters for larger groups and family style dinners (at their Edina location) for mid-sized parties! They’re also one of the only better-for-you restaurants that offers heartier, dinner style dishes. We recommend their Good Earth Beef Stroganoff or their Butternut Squash Pizzeta!

Key: Non-GMO, Locally Sourced Ingredients

Agra Culture Kitchen

Last, but certainly not least, Agra Culture Kitchen is a well-established restaurant with locations in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Edina, as well as a cafe located inside of Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). Their inspiration is to be an extension of your own kitchen by offering real, whole foods and a menu that is entirely void of trans fats; hydrogenated oils; artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives; hormones; antibiotics; and refined sugars. They have a variety of options that can cater to almost any dietary philosophy: organic, vegetarian, GF, DF, vegan, and paleo.

We love that you can take a peek at their full menu online and filter by dietary choices or sections of the menu. In 2016, Agra Culture Kitchen introduced a School Lunch Program to partner with local Minneapolis and Saint Paul schools by bringing healthier options into the lunchroom. We love their mission to bring good food to kids in our area!

Key: GF, DF, Organic, Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo

Quick Service Options (Takeout)

And for those who are in need of healthier alternatives but don’t have time to sit down or order out, check out some of these quick-service options:

  • Whole Foods has a great self-serve hot bar featuring a variety of marinated veggies & easy protein options to keep you full all day.
  • Your local co-op likely has a hot bar, or at least grab & go options. Our favorites are Lakewinds and Eastside Food Co-op (just down the street from our office!).
  • Crisp & Green is one of the most widely available chains in the greater metro area, there is a high chance that you’ll be close to a Crisp & Green on your next busy day of errands!
  • Sweetgreen just opened in Edina in the Galleria.

Save this post so that the next time you get to pick the restaurant, you can choose an option that you know will satisfy you but also keep you on track to meet your goals! Did we miss any of your favorite better-for-you options? Share below!