Perfect Pairing: Nadia Volf + French Girl Wellness
Photo Credit: Tom Volf
Photo courtesy of Assouline
Photo courtesy of Assouline
A telltale nonchalance prevails among Parisian girls—a dash of lipstick, worn-in jeans, laissez-faire hair—so it’s not surprising that the French apply the same approach to maintaining their health. Paris-based acupuncturist Nadia Volf M.D., who co-wrote a cookbook, Food & Life with chef Joël Robuchon, and just completed a new volume about the healing properties of auriculotherapy called Mysteries of the Ear (both published by Assouline), says a few simple lifestyle rules can boost immunity, aid digestion, and regulate moods.
The walking detox
Walking not only strengthens bones and works our muscles and tendons, it also stimulates blood circulation and brain activity. Volf says leaving a restaurant or dinner party on foot, “aids digestion and detoxification by relaxing the diaphragm and stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes.” Parisian girls hone their street style, and detox their bodies, simply by making a habit of traversing both the cobblestone streets and wide avenues on foot.
An orange a day
Citrus fruit juice—from lemons to clementines—are naturally high in vitamin C, an essential immune system booster, but Volf says all the parts of these fruits are actually beneficial. “The seeds contain anti-bacterial properties that help fight respiratory, digestive, and urinary infections.” The white part of the orange between the outer rind and pulp, called the pith (or albedo), contains two flavonoids, rutin and quercetin, especially beneficial in preventing allergies. Volf says the flavonoids “help to break down certain long proteins that are difficult to digest.” Without the pith of citrus fruits, these proteins can remain intact and the body may see them as foreign molecules, start to produce antibodies against them, and trigger an allergic reaction.
Mindful analog meals
Sitting down for a freshly-prepared meal—and concentrating on it rather than eating at a desk with a computer inches away—activates the brain centers responsible for the secretion of digestive enzymes and for the regulation of your appetite. “You eat just enough, not too much, not too little,” says Volf. Gathering with friends to savor the flavors of the food also gets you out of your chair, which promotes circulation (see The walking detox above), refreshes your mind, and can even include a dose of much-needed Vitamin D if you make it out into the afternoon sunshine.
Motion sans sickness
A visit to an acupuncturist—and a few well-placed needles in our ears—confirms that a plethora of ear points are directly related to the nervous system centers. Press them and you get relief from headaches and a host of other maladies. During the summer travel season, ear points for the cerebellum, brain stem, and inner ear that are responsible for balance become key. “Pressing the ear points with a finger or pen (or have an acupuncturist do it) for diaphragm, cerebral stem, and ‘Shen Men’ helps to relieve even space sickness in astronauts,” says Volf, whose new volume includes a useful auricular chart of the main ear points corresponding with particular organs. “So this combination is very effective to combat motion sickness during travel,” she adds.
Foods that actually comfort
“Eating turkey or lobster can relieve pain in our soul,” says Volf who advocates including them in post-breakup meals. Both contain the amino acid tryptophan, the basis of serotonin—the luck hormone—the main hormone of the limbic system that regulates mood (there’s a reason these foods are traditionally served during large family gatherings that can quickly get intense). But Volf says turkey also protects the heart and stimulates it functioning, an effect she calls “very important during times of stress.” She says vegetarians can turn to mood enhancers like sunflower seeds or poppy seeds as well as figs (Volf calls these the favorite fruit of Cleopatra), cinnamon, ginger, honey, and chocolate to “stimulate endorphins, our natural opioids, and also foster feelings of well-being.”
By Elizabeth Varnell
Pictured: Nadia Volf, M.D.
Photo by Tom Volf