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10 Surprising Facts About Lyme Disease

The CDC recently announced it estimates 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported each year in the US. That is a ten-lyme 300x300 10 Surprising Facts About Lyme Diseasefold increase over their estimates of just a few years back.  Advocacy work by patients and Lyme Disease support groups is one reason for the increase, as more and more people affected by Lyme Disease are insisting its devastating effects be recognized.

In my practice, I see a wide number of people with Lyme Disease. I never imagined needing to know much about Lyme Disease, but over 10% of my clients have a definitive diagnosis of Lyme Disease, and another 10% suspect they have it but remain undiagnosed. My own research through the years opened my eyes to some shocking facts about Lyme Disease. My goal is to use this post provide education about Lyme Disease that will empower others to make wise choices and seek the correct type of testing and care.

If you suspect you have Lyme Disease, please seek care from a Lyme Literate physician immediately. You can find a list of physicians with special training in Lyme Disease at the Lyme Disease Association Doctor Referral Center

Here are ten surprising facts about Lyme Disease:

  1. Lyme Disease does NOT always cause a “bull’s eye” rash:  The presence of a “bull’s eye” rash always means medical care should be sought immediately. Unfortunately, many people infected with Lyme Disease never develop the classic rash. Some have no skin reaction whatsoever, while others develop lesions or other skin issues which are often not recognized as Lyme Disease. In cases where no bull’s eye rash develops, diagnosis must be confirmed via testing (more on that below) and symptoms. If you become symptomatic, please don’t assume you do not have Lyme Disease simply because you never developed (or saw) a bull’s eye rash. Seek medical care.
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  2. Deer ticks are not the only animal/insect capable of transmitting Lyme Disease:  Multiple other species of insects and even mammals have been identified as carriers capable of transmitting Lyme Disease. Other organisms capable of transmitting Lyme Disease include other species of ticks, some varieties of fleas and flies, and even a few mammals. The belief that only one type of tick can transmit Lyme Disease is comforting, but false.
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  3. Lyme Disease is not limited to a few parts of the US, it’s everywhere:  The CDC insists that people who live in or travel to the northeast region of the US are the only ones at risk for Lyme Disease. Lyme Disease diagnoses exist in every US state, including Hawaii. Most people diagnosed with Lyme Disease who live outside of the northeast region have not traveled to the northeast when they contract Lyme Disease. Geographical location is not a limiting factor in contracting Lyme Disease, although the odds of becoming infected are higher in the northeast region of the US. Lyme Disease exists on every continent except Antarctica.
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  4. The best tests for Lyme Disease are often wrong:  Unfortunately, the best tests we have for the Lyme Disease bacterium are not always correct. Some experts estimate the tests are wrong 50% of the time. This makes it difficult to know for certain if someone should be treated. The common tests include the Western Blot and the ELISA (IgG/IgA) tests. These tests check for antibodies the body creates to fight the Lyme bacterium. Unfortunately, some people’s bodies do not produce many antibodies (due to weak immune systems), causing a negative result even if they are very ill and have high levels of Lyme bacteria in their system.
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    Other tests often used to test for Lyme Disease include the CD-57, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), Immunofluorescent Assay (IFA), and a relatively new test deveoped by Dr. Joseph Burrascano that cultures Lyme bacteria and measures their growth. A major drawback to all of these tests is that it can take 4-6 weeks before results are available. That’s a long time to wait when someone is miserably ill. (Most Lyme Literate MDs start treatment based on symptoms and wait on test results merely to confirm.) For best accuracy, Lyme Literate MDs will usually run a combination of Lyme Disease tests instead of only running a single test. The IGeneX Profile, which consists of 4-6 different tests, is considered the best option. It is an accurate and viable panel.
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  5. The average patient with untreated Lyme Disease suffers more than three years before getting a correct diagnosis:  This is because the symptoms of Lyme Disease vary greatly, testing is inaccurate and unreliable, and most doctors have not received adequate training on how to spot Lyme Disease and how to treat it. Change is occurring, but it’s a slow process. In the meantime, many Lyme patients wind up on disability because their physical symptoms are so severe. It is also very common for people infected with undiagnosed Lyme Disease to be referred for psychological treatment because the medical community believes their illness is imagined. As more doctors become aware of Lyme Disease, hopefully the time required for diagnosis will dramatically decrease. Many patient advocacy groups are working to create greater awareness in the public and the medical community.
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  6. Symptoms of Lyme Disease are incredibly varied:  The symptoms of Lyme Disease are so varied Lyme is often misdiagnosed as other illnesses, including Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and even Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:  neck stiffness or pain; fatigue; skin lesions – with or without the classic bull’s eye rash; joint aches that sometimes worsen to the point of causing disability; jaw discomfort; cognitive impairment; swollen glands; vision problems; tremors – some severe; headaches; blood pressure fluctuations; digestive issues; and more. The Lyme bacteria customize their attack to the person’s weaknesses, so symptoms manifest many different ways.
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  7. If caught early, Lyme Disease is relatively easy to eliminate, but may still require long-term antibiotic treatment:  I am strongly opposed to the over-use of antibiotics, but feel very strongly that antibiotics are a necessity in the treatment of Lyme Disease. The traditional treatment of two weeks of Doxycycline is rarely enough. Physicians who are familiar with Lyme Disease will typically recommend a regimen of low-dose, long-term antibiotics which are rotated every few months to prevent the Lyme bacteria from developing resistance. Treatment may last anywhere from six months to two years. Yes, that’s a long time to be on antibiotics, but the benefits of launching an early and prolonged attack on the Lyme bacteria is worth any temporary effects from antibiotics. (Ongoing countermeasures are usually used alongside the antibiotics to prevent negative consequences.) There are also natural techniques which can be used to combat the Lyme bacteria, which can be used alongside antibiotics if desired.
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  8. If allowed to continue untreated, Lyme Disease can be very difficult to eliminate:  If Lyme Disease is allowed to proliferate without any form of restraint, the bacteria will multiply rapidly and will potentially invade every body system. They increase in number and strength, making treatment more difficult. During this time, the person with Lyme suffers increasingly worse symptoms. The Lyme bacteria have a tendency to protect themselves with a complex wall of protection called a “biofilm,” so approaches to addressing Lyme Disease also need to include a protocol used to eliminate biofilms.
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  9. Tick-borne Lyme Disease requires a tick to be attached for a minimum of 24 hours, but other forms of Lyme Disease can be transmitted in a much shorter time span:  The CDC insists a tick must be attached for 36 hours before Lyme Disease can be transmitted, but multiple studies proved this belief is false. It often takes far less time for the bacteria to be transmitted. Some of the bacteria associated with Lyme Disease are known to be transmitted in less than a minute by infected fleas or flies. This doesn’t mean we all need to be fearful of Lyme Disease, it simply means we need to remain aware and to act quickly if we suspect an infection.
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  10. Although true Lyme Disease is one bacteria, there are multiple others associated with Lyme Disease: Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria associated with true Lyme Disease. There are multiple others often transmitted by infected ticks (and other insects) which are also now thought to be part of Lyme Disease. When discussing Lyme Disease, you’ll often hear a reference to the “3 B’s” of Lyme. This references the three most common bacteria found in Lyme infections. The bacteria include Borrelia, Babesia and Bartonella. These bacteria frequently occur together instead of individually. Treatment for each is very similar.

If you suspect Lyme Disease may be the cause of your health concerns, please contact a Lyme Literate MD immediately. Education is key!

Have you been affected by Lyme Disease? Please share your story in the comments as an encouragement and inspiration to others!

 

References:  

CDC Press Release, August 19, 2013

Lyme Disease, Laura Torrentera

Ten Facts About Lyme Disease, LymeLight Foundation

Top Health-Related Motorcycle Articles of All Time

People often look at me as if I’m crazy when I share that riding a motorcycle has taught me a lot about wellness, and that honda shadow 225x300 Top Health Related Motorcycle Articles of All Timewellness and motorcycle riding have many similarities. To prove that point, I’ve created a list of my favorite health-related motorcycle posts. These posts share a little bit of everything, including a nice combination of science and satire. I hope they bless, inspire and encourage you to live life more abundantly!

How Motorcycle Riding Improves Physical Health:  My compilation of why riding a motorcycle (or any two-wheeled vehicle with a motor) provides a wide variety of benefits to physical health.

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Eight Reasons Why Motorcycles are the Best Drug:  A satirical look at why motorcycles make better drugs than ones you can only buy in not-so-safe parts of town.

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Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding:  A great look at why it’s perfectly fine for people with diabetes to ride motorcycles, along with tips and tricks for ensuring blood sugars remain stable while riding.  

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Can Riding a Motorcycle Strengthen Old Bones?  A scientific perspective on how the effects of riding a motorcycle improve bone density.

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Healing Truths I Learned Riding My Motorcycle:   A look at the similarities between riding a motorcycle and the steps the body uses to reverse illness. I promise there’s more wisdom and similarities between the two than you realize!

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Riding a Motorcycle Makes You Smarter, Not Just Sexier:  Interesting look at research done in Tokyo that proved the minds of motorcycle riders function at a higher cognitive level. (We knew that, but it’s nice to see it proven scientifically.) For the record, I hate the picture they used to illustrate this post, but there’s nothing I can do about that.

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Two Weeks from a Broken Foot to Dancing in Heels:  A true story about how a motorcycle rider used natural methods to enhance her body’s ability to restore a broken bone.

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As always, ride safely, wear full protective gear and don’t push your limits!

Mathematical Workout Formulas You Need

Working out has gone from being a chore to being something I love and look forward to. Those close to me recognize calc2 Mathematical Workout Formulas You Needwhat a water-into-wine miracle that is! Being the science geek I am, when I committed to get serious about my workouts, I did extensive research about various forms of workouts and exercise methods. From that research, I selected the niche workouts that are best for my lifestyle, body type and attitude. In the midst of that, I also came across a variety of mathematical formulas that can be used to monitor progress, create workout goals, and/or help you focus on your greatest strengths or improve areas of lesser strength.

The most important aspect of working out is that you do it. Not how you do it (as long as you’re being safe), not whether or not you use a “method,” and not how or if you’re tracking your progress. The fact you’re moving more is all that matters. Don’t let anyone talk you out of enjoying your favorite workout by saying it’s ineffective or won’t deliver the return on investment that person thinks it should. Exercise always provides benefits. Don’t get overly hung up on following someone else’s guidelines. Just do it.

Please don’t consider any of these formulas to be an absolute that must be adhered to religiously. These formulas are general guidelines, not “rules.” Use them as sideline helps, not as rigid requirements. Working out should be fun. Forcing workouts to fit within rigid guidelines based on a random formula won’t work and will quickly suck all the fun out of it. These formulas are tools to improve your workout, not laws to put you in bondage.

As always, please use common sense and listen to the signals your body is sending. Don’t start any exercise regimen without consulting your physician, and never push yourself beyond your personal limits. It is not good to be in pain after working out, nor is it beneficial to be exhausted. Fatigue after a workout should be temporary and should not last several days. The “no pain, no gain” mantra is a lie straight from the pits of Hell. Don’t believe it and don’t push yourself so hard you wind up being sore for days. Pain is a sign of distress and means your body is trying to tell you to slow down. If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, an extreme headache or chest pain during a workout, ask someone to call 911. 

When you first start working out, commit to gently working out 10 minutes a day, three days a week. Increase the duration and intensity of your workouts and muscle-building activities very slowly and gradually from there. You are not competing, you are improving. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and don’t try to go from being a couch potato to being an American Ninja Warrior overnight.

Here are my favorite workout formulas. I hope they help and encourage you:

Heart Rate Formulas

I’m not a fan of heart rate formulas, because the truth is that everyone has their own personal “ideal” heart rate. Each person’s ideal maximum and target heart rate is influenced by what type of workout they’re doing, their current weight, their age, their body fat percentage and muscle mass, their bone density, their pre-existing conditions, their intracellular and heart 300x300 Mathematical Workout Formulas You Needextracellular water levels, etc., etc. As you can see from that long list of influencers, there’s really no such thing as an ideal heart rate. I’m sharing the following formula because it provides a guideline that can help you recognize whether or not your cardio routine is too intense. 

For those who use High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), your heart rate will be significantly higher than that of people doing longer, less intense cardio regimens. The key is to be able to slow your heart rate down by at least 20% within two minutes. If you cannot sufficiently slow your heart rate down during a two-minute “cool down,” it may be wise to ease up a bit during the high intensity portions of your workout.

Note:  Being dehydrated will raise your heart rate significantly. If you find your heart rate is extremely high, stop working out, drink at least 16 ounces of water and wait 20 minutes before resuming your workout. If your heart rate continues to be extremely high, please stop working out and call your doctor.

Maximum Heart Rate (MHR):  This number represents the highest your rate should get during a workout. For people doing HIIT, your heart rate during the high intensity intervals should be 80-90% of your MHR.

220 – Age = MHR

Example:  Jane is 34, so her MHR = 220-34 = 186

When Jane does HIIT workouts, her maximum heart rate during the high intensity phases should stay between 149-167.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body would burn if you did absolutely nothing but lie in bed for 24 hours. It is helpful to know your BMR in order to gauge how many calories per day are necessary. As you increase your body’s muscle mass, your BMR will increase. People who are obese are at an “advantage,” as their  BMR will be higher than other people’s. That will change as they lose weight.

BMR for Males = 66.47 + (6.24 x weight in pounds) + (12.71 x height in inches) - (6.76 x age in years )

BMR for Females = 655.1 + (4.34 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.68 x age in years)

Example:  John is 50 year old male who weighs 300 pounds and is 6’2″, or 74 inches tall. He does not work out.

John’s BMR = 66.47 + (6.24 x 300) + (12,71 x 74) – (6.76 x 50) = 66.47 + 1872 + 940.54 - 338 = 2541.01

If the person works out 2-5 times per week, you can multiply their BMR times 1.5.

One Rep Max (1RM)

The One Rep Max (1RM) is the ultimate ego booster. It calculates the maximum weight you could lift/push in a single rep. 1RM is calculated using the weight you’ve been lifting/pressing and the number of reps you’ve been doing. Although it can be a huge boost to do the calculation and figure out what your muscles are potentially capable of, your 1RM is NOT an indicator of the maximum weight you can safely lift or push. For example, my current 1RM on leg presses is 475. I’m happy with that, but wouldn’t dream of trying to press that weight, as i know that would put extreme stress on my muscles and ligaments and could result in injury. In weight lifting, it’s imperative to maintain proper form to prevent injury. Lifting or pushing a weight that exceeds your comfort level could cause you to break form and injure itself. It is not safe.

In general, 75% of the 1RM is a good number to use to continue building strength. For example, if you’re doing bicep curls and know your 1RM is 50 pounds, you can multiply 50 x .75 to determine that doing reps of 37.5 pounds would be a good way of building muscle and boosting your 1RM. (If you can’t find dumbbells at that weight, use 30-35 pounders.) If you discover that weight is a bit much, switch to 50% of your 1RM (25 pounds, in this case) and do an increased number of reps to build strength. Work up very gradually and don’t extend yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

One Rep Max (!RM)

1RM = (Weight lifted x Number of Reps x 0.033) + Weight Lifted

Example:  John hit a new record yesterday by doing 12 reps of leg presses of 250 pounds. He is focused on increasing his strength quickly, so he wants to know what his 1RM is for leg presses. His 1RM would be:

(250 x 12 x 0.033) + 250 = 349

Using his 1RM, John decides to increase his current leg press weight to 260 (349 x 75%) and to build his strength slowly but surely.

blueline 300x10 Mathematical Workout Formulas You Need

Do you use formulas when you work out? Which are your favorite?

Top Ten Signs You Have Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is so common it now has multiple names. You may hear it called “metabolic syndrome,” “Syndrome X,” insulinresistance Top Ten Signs You Have Insulin Resistance“pre-diabetes,” or “dysmetabolic syndrome.” MedicineNet.com says recent studies found 32% of the US population has insulin resistance. Sadly, this number includes many children.

Why is insulin resistance so common? Our modern lifestyle tends to combine a lack of exercise with a high carbohydrate eating style. This combination forces the body to release high amounts of insulin to counteract the blood sugar increases caused by the high intake of carbohydrates. Over time, the body’s cells become overwhelmed by the high levels of insulin in the bloodstream. They therefore stop absorbing and using the insulin. Insulin Resistance tends to be a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and other negative health conditions. For more information on Insulin Resistance, please read Metabolic Syndrome: Modern Epidemic.

Signs of Insulin Resistance

The following signs may indicate you have insulin resistance:

  • Weight gain, especially around the stomach and waist:  Insulin signals the body to store fat, so increased levels of insulin caused by insulin resistance often creates an increase in body fat. The waist is the most common location of body fat caused by insulin resistance. People with insulin resistance often gain weight or find it impossible to lose weight even if they are eating less and exercising more. For more information on insulin, read Surprising Facts About Insulin
  • Fatigue:  Increased insulin levels and insulin resistance put a strain on the body that results in decreased energy levels. People who reverse insulin resistance often comment the increase in energy is their favorite part of restoring their health.
  • Feeling sleepy after eating a big meal:  Insulin resistance often results in slightly elevated glucose levels after a big meal loaded with carbohydrates. The body puts such a high priority on digestion it will divert energy from other body systems to help digest the meal. This, combined with the energy-draining effects of elevated blood sugars, often results in sleepiness.
  • High cholesterol and triglycerides:  The body creates triglycerides from the carbohydrates we eat, not from the fats we eat. When the body’s metabolism is negatively affected by insulin resistance, cholesterol and triglyceride levels will rise dramatically.
  • High blood pressure:  One of insulin’s lesser-known jobs is to control the pressure inside blood vessels. If the body stops absorbing insulin, an increase in blood pressure is a very common sign. I believe improving insulin resistance should be the primary course of action for most people with high blood pressure.
  • Brain fog and difficulty concentrating:  High insulin levels affect brain chemicals and neurotransmitter balance, which may negatively affect concentration.  
  • Depression:  Due partly to the physical changes caused by insulin resistance and partly by the effects insulin resistance has on brain chemistry and neurotransmitter balance.
  • Constant or increased hunger:  When insulin levels and/or blood sugars are elevated even slightly, the body stops turning food into energy. This results in a constant feeling of hunger as the body signals its need for fuel.
  • High blood insulin levels:  Did you notice I didn’t list high blood sugar? This is because people with insulin resistance often have normal fasting glucose levels, especially during the early stages of the condition. A fasting glucose level is not a realistic reflection of the body’s normal state, as most of us eat at least three times daily and very rarely fast more than 6-8 hours. The best way to detect insulin resistance is to measure the amount of insulin circulating in the blood stream. Although many labs claim insulin levels as high as 18 are “normal,” I start recommending subtle lifestyle changes as soon as insulin levels creep above 8.
  • Fatty liver disease:  If left unchecked, insulin resistance and elevated triglyceride levels cause fatty deposits to develop in the liver. These fatty deposits can result in fatty liver disease, liver damage that is unrelated to alcohol consumption.

Please note that each of these symptoms can be indicators of other health conditions. If you suspect you have insulin resistance, please consult with your health practitioner.

The good news is that insulin resistance can often be reversed using simple modifications to lifestyle and eating habits. There is hope! If you would like assistance creating healthier lifestyle habits, please feel free to contact me to schedule a consultation.

 

 

 

 

Health Benefits of Bacon

I’ve recently seen a lot of “bacon bashing” by people claiming bacon is bad for health. That is untrue. This article explains whybacon2 Health Benefits of Bacon bacon is a very healthy food and which types of bacon are best. Let me state up front that saying bacon is healthy does not mean it’s healthy to eat it in huge quantities, nor does it mean it’s healthy to eat large amounts seven days a week. “Moderation in all things” applies to bacon and every other healthy food or beverage. Recognizing the health benefits of bacon is not permission to go hog wild. (Pun intended.)

Even the healthiest bacon is still a processed meat and is not your best option. Please enjoy it in normal serving sizes (3-4 slices), preferably no more than once or twice a week. People who do not have a gall bladder or who have gall bladder disorders would be wise to avoid bacon or to use a strong digestive enzyme containing high amounts of lipase when eating it.

When I say, “bacon,” please note I am referring to ethically raised, grass fed, organic bacon made without nitrates and/or nitrites. Buying from a small, local farm is the best option for finding this type of bacon. Ask a lot of questions to ensure you are getting what you want.

Why nitrate/nitrite free? Because nitrates and nitrites may lower the amount of oxygen in the blood stream and may lead to coronary issues when eaten frequently. Bacon processors have changed how they make bacon. They now add Vitamin C to counteract the potential negative effect of nitrates, but my preference is still to avoid them. If that’s not possible, an occasional dose shouldn’t be harmful. Baking your bacon instead of pan frying it will help prevent the nitrates/nitrites from forming potentially harmful nitrosamines.

Here are the health benefits of bacon:

  • Bacon is loaded with healthy fat:  Yes, healthy!! The belief saturated fats cause heart disease was based on one small, poorly designed study in the 60′s which drew conclusions its design did not make valid. The commercial oil industry jumped on board and began quoting the study, trying to convince the public that heavily processed vegetable oils were healthier than animal oils. Nothing could be further from the truth.
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    Over the next 50 years, the American public was slowly but surely duped into thinking saturated fat caused heart disease. That is simply not true. Multiple studies proved saturated fat does NOT cause coronary problems. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently compiled and reviewed 21 different studies including over 350,000 people. They concluded saturated fat has no connection to heart disease. The truth is that saturated fat helps maintain the integrity of cell walls, boosts immunity, helps the body absorb calcium, and actually improves heart health.
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    Three slices of bacon contain a good combination of monounsaturated and saturated fats. (Please note that bacon in a limp, almost raw state increases the amount of fat it contains and may fail to kill parasites in the pork. Crispy bacon is a better option.) Three slices contain 2.1 grams of saturated fats, 3.5 grams of monounsaturated fats, 140 grams Omega 3 fatty acids, and approximately 1200 grams of Omega 6 fatty acids. Eating grass-fed bacon will increase the amount of Omega fatty acids and greatly decrease the amount of inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids. The numbers shown here are from grain and corn fed bacon, which I recommend avoiding if you can. Bacon also contains high levels of heart-healthy oleic acid, the same acid found in extra virgin olive oil.
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  • Bacon literally makes you happy:  It’s true! Bacon contains high amounts of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate affects brain chemistry in a way that boosts mood and increases happiness levels. There’s a chemical reason eating bacon makes us feel so good! (Monosodium glutamate is not a valid source of glutamate, so don’t try to boost your mood by eating that.)
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  • Bacon is nutritious:  Bacon is loaded with far more healthy nutrition than most people realize. Three slices of crispy bacon contain beneficial amounts of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, Vitamin D and Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12. Bacon also contains enough protein to count as a serving, along with less than a gram of carbohydrates. Three slices of bacon contain 7-9 grams of protein, a single serving. The belief bacon contains nothing but fat is false. Bacon does indeed contain high amounts of sodium, so look for a processor who uses mineral-rich sea salt instead of using overly processed table salt. I’m not a fan of turkey bacon, as it generally contains much higher amounts of artificial sodium than regular (pork) bacon does. For more information on the nutrients mentioned here, read Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Vitamin B12, Why You Need More Magnesium, and Facts About Iron-Deficiency Anemia.
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  • Bacon is a hefty source of energy:  Since bacon is 68% healthy fat and fat is the best source of energy there is, eating bacon is a delicious way to boost energy levels without raising blood sugars. Healthy fats boost energy levels 80% percent than carbohydrates. Smart long distance runners “fat load” before a race instead of carb loading because they know it’s more effective and does not lead to blood sugar imbalances.
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  • Bacon can boost brain function:  Bacon contains high amounts of the chemical choline, which is known to improve memory and learning capacity. There is some evidence choline may be beneficial for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, Tourette’s syndrome, seizures, schizophrenia, etc. (Please note that choline should never be substituted for medications used to treat these diseases.) Evidence also exists that regular consumption of choline may reduce the incidence of dementia as we age.

There you have it. When enjoyed in moderation, oven-baked, organic, grass-fed, nitrate-free bacon is a healthy addition to most eating styles. Go for it!

 

References:

Is Bacon Bad for You, or Good?, Authority Nutrition

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link, New York Times

Nutritional Data for Bacon, Nutrition Data

Choline, WebMD.com

Health Benefits of Laughter

A clown is like an aspirin, only he works twice as fast.
                                                                           ~ Groucho Marx

Is laughter truly the best medicine? We all know we feel better after a good laugh, but is there any scientific proof to explain why? There is! Laughter has so laughterjpg Health Benefits of Laughtermany health benefits – both physical and emotional – there are several healing and therapy programs based on laughter. These programs are each based on studies supporting the therapeutic use of humor and laughter:

  • Laughter Yoga:  Uses laughter, breathing techniques and more to help alleviate a wide array of different challenges. 
  • Rx Laughter:  A national organization that helps children’s hospitals incorporate humor and laughter into the lives of children with terminal illness. The program was created after a study proved healing rates were higher for children who laughed more.
  • Humor or Laughter Therapy:  A therapy program that uses humor and laughter to alleviate pain and stress. This therapy is endorsed by the American Cancer Society and is used in many cancer centers across the US. The Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor is a not-for-profit organization that promotes humor therapy and provides training in its use. 

Laughter benefits physical and emotional health in a variety of ways. A few of the benefits of laughter include:

  • Reduces Stress Hormones:  Laughter has been shown to decrease the levels of cortisol, epinephrine and adrenaline in our blood. All of these hormones may negatively affect other hormone levels and are associated with increased muscle tension, elevated glucose levels, higher blood pressure and more.
  • Increases Feel Good Hormones:  Laughter increases the production of serotonin, endorphins and other neurotransmitters known to improve mood and make us feel more optimistic.
  • Boosts Immunity:  Laughter has been found to increase the production of a variety of cells the bodies uses to fight viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. In the mouth, laughter increases the production of Salivary Immunoglobulin A, a chemical that helps protect against respiratory infections. Laughter also increases the production of “killer” T Cells, Gamma Interferon, and various types of white blood cells called “lymphocytes.” The body uses all of those cells to kill or defend against pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Boosts Circulation and Increases Cellular Oxygenation:  A five-year study conducted by the University of Leeds School of Healthcare found patients with leg ulcers experienced more rapid healing from daily laughter sessions than from more expensive mainstream treatments. Although there is a wide variety of reasons why patients who laugh frequently heal more rapidly, the researchers concluded laughter increased the amount of oxygen in the blood stream and healing was faster as a result. Laughter is actually a mild form of exercise. It gets muscles moving in the abdomen, face and neck and temporarily increases heart rate. These effects all increase the amount of oxygen in the blood stream.
  • Strengthens the Diaphragm:  Laughing is especially good for the diaphragm, a muscle through which the esophagus, aorta, vena cava, vagus nerve and other major organs and vessels pass. The diaphragm also plays an important role in breathing. Stimulating the diaphragm and keeping it well exercised are key to maintaining overall health and wellness.
  • Relaxes Muscles:  Because laughter reduces stress hormones and increases feel good hormones, it relaxes muscles from head to toe. A good, hearty laugh may be the best remedy for tension.
  • Lowers Pain Levels:  Laughing stimulates the body to release endorphins and other chemicals which are natural pain relievers. Endorphins affect and diminish our perception of pain, providing pain relief that is as effective as morphine or codeine.
  • Improves Digestion:  Laughing while eating causes the releases of digestive enzymes that improve digestion and absorption. This is one reason eating with friends who make you laugh can directly improve your digestion.
  • Improves Cognitive Function:  Studies found that students who were able to laugh while learning remembered the material longer and had higher test scores than those who did not. Teachers could improve student performance by incorporating humor into their lesson plans.
  • Helps the Body Detoxify:  The act of laughing constricts a wide variety of muscles. The movement of those muscles stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body, which in turn helps the body eliminate toxins. For more information on the lymphatic system, please read Important Information About the Lymphatic System.
  • Releases Emotional Stress:  Laughter is the ultimate reset button. It releases negativity and provides a break in the midst of stressful situations. The fact laughter also stimulates the production of “feel good” hormones strengthens its effectiveness as a stress reliever.

The bottom line is that taking time to laugh every day can dramatically improve health and wellness. I encourage you to surround yourself with people who make you laugh, make an effort to make others laugh, maintain a list of funny videos and books that crack you up, and take advantage of every opportunity you have to laugh. In other words, go giggle!

The Alkalinity Myth

One of the current fads in natural health is an obsessive fixation on keeping the body’s fluids alkaline. Proponents of achieving ph The Alkalinity Mythextreme alkalinity claim it improves health in dramatic ways. Some even claim an extremely alkaline pH will reverse disease. These extreme claims are not 100% accurate. The scientific truth about alkalinity needs to be shared.

Most people who live the “alkaline lifestyle” do indeed have health improvements. Their health progress is not, however, due to having an internal alkaline pH. I discuss that in more detail later in this post.

Let’s chat a little bit about the pH scale. The pH scale is a scale that rates whether a substance is acidic or basic. The scale ranges from 0 (highly basic) to 14 (highly acidic). Seven is considered neutral.

Here are important facts to consider related to alkalinity and acidity:

  • The pH of different body systems, fluids and tissues varies greatly and changes constantly. For example, the stomach’s pH is very acidic because our digestive enzymes require acidity to function correctly. Blood is almost neutral, while urine and saliva should be slightly acidic. To assume a body is out of balance by solely measuring the pH of one body fluid is inaccurate and deceptive. The foods we eat affect our urine’s pH but do not affect our blood’s pH. It is therefore inaccurate to assume a person’s body tissues or blood are acidic simply because his or her urine is.
  • The pH of blood is ideally 7.35-7.45, which is essentially neutral. The body considers the pH of blood to be so important it will do anything necessary to stabilize it. Blood acidity is usually caused by physiological imbalances such as renal failure, breathing challenges, diabetes, etc., not the food we eat. If the blood’s pH becomes overly acidic, the body’s most common method of alkalizing it is via the kidneys. The premise that acidic blood is alkalized by pulling minerals from the bones is absolutely false and was proven false by scientific studies. Although eating foods which are considered acidic does increase the excretion of calcium in the urine, that calcium comes from the kidneys not from the bones. The kidneys play the most important role in maintaining the blood’s pH. 
  • Cancer can indeed grow in an alkaline environment. One of the most common reasons used to support the alkaline lifestyle is that is prevents cancer. The truth is that cancer can grow in an alkaline environment. Most cancer studies are actually done in environments that are alkaline because the cancer cells respond favorably to it. Tumors grow better in an acidic environment, but that is because they create their own acids in which they thrive. The premise that cancer will not grow in an alkaline environment is patently false. Cancer prevention hinges on many different factors, not solely on maintaining an alkaline pH.
  • Drinking “alkaline” water is pointless because the stomach’s acidic environment immediately makes the water acidic. Please do not spend money on water touted as being “highly alkaline.” I know many people claim alkaline water has miraculous healing potential, but that simply is not true. Belief has a strong effect on health, so those who believe alkaline water is beneficial may experience a placebo effect.
  • Excessive alkalinity can actually be as damaging than excessive acidity. People with extremely alkaline body systems often experience digestive disturbances, frequent urinary tract infections and other health challenges. Once they stop their extreme eating style and the consumption of alkalizing supplements, these challenges disappear.

The foods we eat may positively impact our body’s health. The most healthful choice we can make is to eat in a way that is clean, void of chemicals and which ensures the highest level of nutrition. I know many people claim an alkaline eating style reverses disease. The truth is that changing to an alkaline eating style creates many physiological changes that improve the body’s environment and may enable the body to reverse damage. An alkaline eating style typically increases a person’s consumption of vegetables and fruit while decreasing the person’s consumption of processed foods, grains, dairy and chemical additives. These changes can all have a beneficial effect on health, regardless of what the person’s internal pH is.

I therefore believe the benefits claimed to be gained by following a strictly alkaline eating style have more to do with the nutritional and detoxifying results gained by eating a clean, whole food diet than from increasing alkalinity. Many people following an alkaline eating style continue having acidic readings of their saliva and urine but experience health benefits in spite of that. The truth is that moderation is always the best path. Extremes in any eating style have the potential to lead to problems.

I”d like to hear your opinion. What do you think about alkalinity?

Supplements in Tablet, Capsule or Liquid Form: Which is Best?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is whether it’s best to take a supplement in a tablet, capsule or liquid. The supplements Supplements in Tablet, Capsule or Liquid Form: Which is Best?truth is that the form the supplement was made probably will not affect its absorption in someone with a healthy digestive tract. The importance of taking the most easily absorbed and digested supplement is increased for those with a digestive disorder.

Before I discuss the different forms of supplements, let’s chat a little bit about supplements in general. My preference is to use supplements which are sourced from food. These are often referred to as “whole food” supplements. These supplements use food – usually a fruit or vegetable – as the source of the nutrient(s) they contain. Even though the supplement is sourced from food, it is important to note that whole food supplements are still fermented and processed.

The best source of nutrients is always organic foods. My belief is that supplements should only be used to correct deficiencies, provide large amounts of a specific nutrient to correct an imbalance, or to receive nutrients which are difficult to obtain from food. (Vitamin D is one example of a nutrient that is difficult to obtain in high amounts from food.) Supplements also sometimes provide nutrients in a more concentrated form than is available from food, which may be necessary to help the body reverse physical challenges. A simple example is that a medium orange contains approximately 70 mg of Vitamin C. This means someone who has been advised to take 5000 mg of Vitamin C daily would need to eat 71 oranges per day to achieve that amount of Vitamin C. That is obviously not practical. The bottom line is that taking handfuls of pills every day is never healthy. Supplements should only be used when needed and many should only be used on the advice of a trained professional.

The most important facets of selecting a supplement include how pure the ingredients are and how well the supplement will be absorbed. Please only use supplements which do not contain a lot of fillers, artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners or high amounts of sugar. Always read the “Other Ingredients” section of the label to identify what additional non-therapeutic ingredients were used to make the supplement.

Absorption is important. If the supplement cannot or will not be absorbed, the person taking it will receive no benefit from taking it. Digestive disorders are the primary cause of malabsorption. but the form the supplement is in can sometimes affect absorption. The adage, “You are what you eat,” needs to be changed to, “You are what you absorb.”

When discussing absorption, let me also say that seeing a change in urine color does NOT always mean the supplement is not being absorbed. Some nutrients, such as Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), create brightly colored waste material when they are metabolized and absorbed. Having neon yellow urine after taking a B vitamin is actually a very good sign the vitamin was indeed absorbed and well metabolized. On the other side of the spectrum, seeing whole tablets in one’s stools means the supplement was not well digested or absorbed. For more information on healthy digestion, please read Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion.

The table that follows provides an overview of the pros and cons of the various forms of supplements:

Supplement Form Advantages Disadvantages
Liquid/Powder mixed with water
  • Very easily absorbed. Some nutrients may be partially absorbed while in the mouth and stomach.
  • Are typically more expensive.
  • Powders may be a bit inconvenient.
  • Liquids may need to be refrigerated.
  • May contain sugars or artificial sweeteners. Read labels carefully.
Softgel
  •  Easily absorbed, but not as easily absorbed as a liquid. Most softgels take 10-20 minutes to dissolve.
  • Easy to take and transport.
  • The ingredients used to make the softgel case may include toxic chemicals.
  • Typically more expensive.
  • The oil used inside the softgel may be non-organic GMO soy.
  • Often become soft and sticky and may burst in hot conditions.
Capsule
  • More rapidly digested and absorbed than a tablet, but slower than a liquid. (Typically takes about 10-20 minutes for the capsule to dissolve and release the contents.)
  • Easy to take and transport.
  • Usually very inexpensive.
  • The ingredients used to make the capsule may include toxic chemicals.
  • Most capsules contain “fillers,” some of which may be undesirable. Many fillers are solely used so the supplement powder easily flowd through the manufacturing equipment. Try to find capsules that do not include fillers.
Chewable Tablets
  • Easy to take.
  • May be more easily absorbed than tablets.
  • Most taste great.
  • Easy to take and transport.
  • The ingredients used to make the chewable may include toxic chemicals.
  • Most chewables contain sugars or artificial sweeteners. Read labels carefully.
  • Higher risk of overdose if children or pets are in the home.
  • Usually higher priced than other forms.
Tablets or Pills
  • Usually the least expensive option. 
  • Easy to take and transport.
  •  Longest time to digest and absorb of any form.
  • “Time release” tablets may never completely dissolve, meaning most of the supplement will wind up in the toilet.
  • Higher choking risk.
  • Most tablets are made up of fillers which may include undesirable ingredients.
  • Tablets have to be heat-treated to be formed. Heat treatment may lessen the potency of some nutrients.

My preference when recommending a supplement is to choose the liquid form first, then a capsule, then a tablet. I try to avoid tablets completely, but that is not always possible. 

What’s your favorite form of supplement? Did any of this information surprise you?

 

References:

How Many Milligrams of Vitamin C are in Oranges?

Top 10 Posts to Read on Vacation

I am a big fan of vacations. I’m on one now, as a matter of fact. I therefore wanted to focus on articles that are funvacation Top 10 Posts to Read on Vacation or which focus on topics suitable for vacation. Kick back, grab a frosty beverage, and enjoy.

 

sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationEleven Ways to be a Jerk at the Gym:  A fun and humorous look at various ways to make everyone else at the gym hate you.

 

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationShining Light on the Truth About Sun Exposure:  This article reveals the myths that exist about sun exposure and shares the truth.

 

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationHealing Truths I Learned on My Motorcycle:  Healing and motorcycle riding have more in common than you may think. Read about the similarities here. You may even learn some valuable life skills.

 

 

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationNatural Sunscreen Recipe:  Learn how to make your own very effective sunscreen using all-natural ingredients. By making your own, you can avoid the use of toxic ingredients and nano particles.

 

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on Vacation

 

Break the Bondage of Negativity and Set Yourself Free:  An especially pertinent article for anyone who struggles with poor or overly negative self-image issue. Shares simple strategies for viewing yourself without judgment.

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationHow Motorcycle Riding Improves Physical Health:  Believe it or not, riding a motorcycle is a form of exercise known to have powerful health benefits. This article shares facts about the benefits of motorcycle riding.

 

 

sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationHow to Live Abundantly with Diabetes:  Although these trips are aimed at people with diabetes, the powerful lessons in this article can be applied to anyone in any situation.

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sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationSimple Marinara Recipe:  This light, delicious recipe makes a meal to be treasured. The recipe uses ingredients which can be easily found at any farmer market or local grocery.

 

 

 

sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationPerfect Smoothie Formula:  Use this formula to make perfect smoothies every time. This guide can be used on vacation to request power blends for any snack or meal.

 

 

 

sunicon2small Top 10 Posts to Read on VacationTop 11 Low-Carb Breakfasts:  Use these great suggestions to ensure you eat a nutritious breakfast that is not overly high in carbohydrates.

Perfect Smoothie Formula

Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrition into a small package. They are also a potential way of packing an excess of sugar and other unhealthy smoothie1 Perfect Smoothie Formulaingredients into a tiny serving. (Please read The Joy of Fruitless Smoothies for more information on how to create smoothies having zero glycemic impact.)

Here are my top five recommendations to keep smoothies healthy:

  • Don’t add too much fruit or other sugar-packed or artificial ingredients.
  • Always add at least one serving of dark leafy greens or other vegetables.
  • Freeze your fruit or make ice cubes out of organic dairy or milk alternative, veggie juice or herbal tea to avoid needing to use ice cubes made out of unpurified water.
  • Use filler veggies such as cucumbers or zucchini to add bulk without adding sugar, taste or calories.
  • Use a liquid that provides more nutritional value than water. More information on that is shared below.

Here is my Perfect Smoothie Formula. After the formula, I share more details on unique ingredients to use for each part of the formula:

Good Works Wellness Perfect Smoothie Formula

For a perfect smoothie, combine the following:

  1. 1 portion of a thickener
  2. 1-2 portions of liquid
  3. 1-2 portions of dark, leafy greens or “filler” vegetables
  4. 1/2 portion of healthy fat
  5. 1 serving of protein
  6. Optional: 1 portion of low-glycemic impact fruit
  7. Optional: Other enhancements as desired

Ideas for each part of the formula follow. Please note most ingredients in the formula – other than the liquid – are optional. All ingredients referenced are organic. Some ingredients appear more than once throughout the list of options. Please only choose each ingredient once. Please also note this formula typically creates two servings.

To create your smoothie, select your desired ingredients. Add the liquid to the blender first, followed by the other ingredients, sliced and diced as needed. Blend well and serve.

1.  Thickener Options

  • 1/2 a banana (if there is no need to keep the smoothie low glycemic)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 – 1 cup organic chia seeds (allow to soak 5-10 minutes before blending)
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/2 cup nut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground psyllium seed (allow to soak for 5-10 minutes before blending)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed (keep refrigerated to ensure the fats don’t go rancid)
  • 1/2 cup organic yogurt (dairy or dairy and soy-free)

2.  Liquid Options

  • Aloe vera juice (use conservatively, as this can have a laxative effect)
  • Coconut water
  • Water or Dairy Kefir
  • Kombucha (limit if Candida is an issue – read Why Kombucha and Candida Don’t Mix for more info)
  • Yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Green Tea or other herbal tea
  • Milk alternative (almond, coconut, hemp, etc.)
  • Vegetable juice
  • On a wild and crazy day … coffee!

These liquid supplements may also be added in much smaller portions. Please be careful to use the recommended amount:

  • Herbal extracts
  • Colloidal Silver
  • Bach Flower Remedies
  • Chlorophyll
  • Trace minerals
  • Any other liquid vitamin, mineral or supplement

3.  Dark Leafy Green and Filler Vegetable Options

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Beet, Mustard, Collard, Turnip or other greens
  • Radicchio
  • Romaine
  • Mesclun
  • Arugula
  • Swiss Chard
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli (chop finely)
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Peppers of any color, sweet or spicy     smoothie2 Perfect Smoothie Formula
  • Tomatoes
  • Summer Squash

4.  Healthy Fat Options

  • 1-3 tablespoons organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup nut or seed butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc.)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup seeds (sunflower, chia, flax, hemp, sesame, etc.)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Tahini

5.  Protein Options

  • 1 serving protein powder (I recommend avoiding a soy-based powder.)
  • 1-2 organic eggs
  • 1/2 cup nuts, seeds or nut/seed butter
  • 1 serving spirulina
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup quinoa (cooked or raw)
  • 1/2 cup sprouted beans or lentils (or cooked)
  • Organic dairy kefir or yogurt

6.  Low Glycemic Impact Fruit Options

Adding fruit is completely optional and is NOT a necessity. Use less than one cup if you choose to add it.

  • 1/2 cup any form of berries
  • 1/2 apple or pear
  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • 1 cup cherries (raw, not canned)
  • 1 pear (raw, not canned)
  • 1 orange

7.  Optional Enhancements

 Any of the following can be added as optional enhancements. Please follow label instructions for supplements:

  • 1 serving green powder
  • 1 serving bentonite clay
  • 1 serving liquid B complex 
  • Herbal extract(s)
  • Bach Flower Remedies
  • Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, Himalayan sea salt, etc.
  • Stevia
  • Colloidal Silver
  • 1/4-1/2 cup kefir grains or probiotic grains
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fermented fruits or veggies

Most Commonly Overlooked Causes of Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a fairly common problem, but it is often addressed by prescribing a sleep medication instead of finding insomnia2 Most Commonly Overlooked Causes of Insomniaand addressing the cause of the insomnia. In my opinion, it is imperative to identify and address the cause of sleep disturbances instead of merely patching the symptom. I support the use of sleep medications on a short-term basis during times of insomnia and if other remedies have not been effective, but most of those medications have serious side effects and should only be used when absolutely necessary.

We’re all familiar with transient insomnia caused by excess caffeine consumption, stress, grief, pain, etc. Chronic insomnia is characterized by insomnia that lasts for at least a month but which may stretch on for years. Per the National Institutes of Health, most cases of chronic insomnia are side effects of other health problems which may or may not have been diagnosed and addressed.

There are a wide variety of issues that can cause prolonged bouts of insomnia. The list that follows describes some of the most commonly missed causes of insomnia. When possible, I discuss how to identify these causes and how to address them.

The following causes of insomnia are rarely considered when someone has insomnia:

  • Blood Sugar Fluctuations:  The body has an amazing desire to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Its desire to maintain normal blood sugars is strong enough that it will not allow someone to fall asleep who has a low or high blood sugar. It is also very normal for people with a low or high blood sugar to wake up and not be able to fall back asleep until their sugar is at a normal level. Eating a snack before bed that contains low glycemic carbohydrates combined with protein can sometimes help avoid overnight blood sugar drops. Those who struggle with high glucose levels should work with your doctor to find the perfect insulin dose and eating style to avoid high or low overnight sugars.  
  • Hormonal Imbalances:  This issue is most commonly experienced by women. Progesterone is a reproductive hormone that is known to induce sleep. The highest levels of progesterone occur in the days immediately preceding menstruation. This is why sleeping more is a normal part of PMS for many women. Women who have a progesterone deficiency or estrogen excess often experience insomnia. Depending on the severity of the deficiency or excess, their insomnia may only occur during specific days of their cycle or may occur every night. The best way to identify this type of imbalance is with a saliva hormone test. My favorite can be purchased online: Hormone Level Saliva Test Kit. After identifying any existing imbalances, steps can be taken to bring hormone levels back into balance. Please work with a trained practitioner to address any imbalance identified.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalances:  Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers the brain uses to send signals throughout the body. Imbalances in neurotransmitters can have a broad range of effects, but often include sleep disturbances. Neurotransmitter imbalances can be identified via Neurotransmitter Testing. It is important to work with a trained professional to bring neurotransmitter levels back into balance.
  • Adrenal Fatigue:  The adrenal glands are the body’s “fight or flight” organs. They spring into action anytime the body is exposed to stress. Stressors can result from external environmental sources or from internal, physical challenges. If the adrenals are exposed to stress over a long period of time, they sometimes become fatigued and stop producing normal levels of adrenal hormones. The adrenals secrete over 400 different hormones, so any deficiency will be felt in a wide variety of ways. The most common symptom of Adrenal Fatigue is extreme fatigue, but insomnia can also be an unfortunate symptom. Although saliva hormone testing can be used to test for deficiencies in some adrenal hormones, there is no definitive test to identify Adrenal Fatigue. The most common method of identifying Adrenal Fatigue is identification of symptoms and ruling out other potential physical issues. Adrenal Fatigue is best addressed via changes in eating style, rest, and herbal supplementation.
  • Thyroid Imbalance:  Many people know that excessive thyroid activity (hyperthyroidism) interferes with sleep, but many people do not realize that insufficient thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) may also cause insomnia. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is rarely suspected in cases of insomnia and correct testing is rarely ordered. Please read How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate for more information on how to identify a thyroid imbalance.
  • Prescription and OTC Medications:  Many medications cause insomnia. Medications for coronary issues, blood pressure, pain, high cholesterol, antidepressants, allergies, stimulants, steroids, decongestants and products for weight loss may interfere with sleep. if insomnia develops, discuss the medications you are taking with your physician.

Have you suffered from chronic insomnia? What was the cause?

In my next post, I’ll discuss natural ways to address insomnia. Thanks so much for reading!

How to Successfully Address Scabies

I’m seeing a huge increase in scabies infestations this year. I’m not sure why so many people are affected, but scabies can scabies 300x240 How to Successfully Address Scabiesbe very difficult to get rid of. Scabies are tiny mites that burrow under the skin, where they reproduce and excrete toxins that cause extreme itching. Although it sounds absolutely disgusting, scabies are very common, especially in elementary schools, daycares and other environments where people are in very close contact. Scabies are typically spread via prolonged skin-to-skin contact, such as occurs when children sit in a group or during sexual activity. Scabies cannot be caught via brief contact with someone who is infected.

It is important to note that Scabies cannot be passed to or caught from cats and dogs. The mite that causes mange is a different type of mite which cannot survive for extended periods in the human body. I have wondered if the current problem being called “Scabies” is a new mite, as I know several of my clients found their pets became infested with mites after they became infected. Further testing is needed in that realm.

The itching associated with Scabies usually starts on the hands or stomach and spreads from there. The mites can cause redness, but often very few external signs are visible. If the skin hasn’t been scratched, tiny “trails” may be visible under the surface of the skin. These trails indicate the paths the mites took when traveling. People who are extremely allergic to the mites may experience tiny sores and/or large red welts.

To say the itch from Scabies is intense would be putting it mildly. The itch caused by such tiny mites is intense. Some have said it is worse than the itch caused by poison ivy. The itch usually worsens at night and may interfere with sleep. It is the type of itch that is difficult to ignore. Topical anti-itch creams may help briefly, but the itch will remain until the mites are killed.

Scabies cannot live more than 72 hours without human contact, but it may take several weeks for the itching to subside after the mites are dead. The prolonged itching is due to a continued allergic reaction to the mites and their feces. I usually recommend repeating the treatment every two weeks until complete relief is achieved.

If you or a loved one develop an intense itch, it is important to identify its cause. Do not self treat before seeing a practitioner to confirm the cause of the itch.

My recommendations for eliminating Scabies include:

  • Seeing a doctor and using the prescription cream. Most contain permethrin, an insecticide. The OTC product Nix (a lice treatment) is also known to be effective against scabies. With the current outbreak, many people are finding the prescription remedies are not working.
         .
  • If you prefer to not use the prescription approach, apply tea tree essential oil directly to the affected areas. It may be necessary to apply it head to toe in order to effectively eliminate the infestation. I recommend applying it at least once daily, but preferably three to five times daily. The tea tree oil is known to kill the mites, soothe the skin and alleviate the itch. I like this tea tree oil: http://amzn.to/1jpdLUT
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  • Wash bedding, towels and clothing on a daily basis using hot water. This is imperative regardless of which other options you choose. I recommend adding a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle. This will help ensure no mites are living in the fibers of clothing and household goods.
         .
  • Make a spray using one cup of 100 proof vodka and one tablespoon tea tree oil. Shake well and spray on furniture to kill any mites lingering there. The mites will die if they don’t find a human host within 72 hours, but spraying the furniture will help ensure they aren’t able to infest anyone before they die.

Have you dealt with Scabies? What approach worked best for you?

Natural Solutions to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a relatively common condition that can destroy a woman’s physical and emotional health. It is a hormonal disorder, but the hormonal imbalances are not limited to reproductive hormones. Current estimates are that five million women in the US have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). However, PCOS is not fully understood and is rarely tested for using the correct methods, so the numbers are potentially much higher. Another issue is that the symptoms of PCOS closely mimic several other conditions, so proper testing and diagnosis is essential to correctly addressing the correct condition.

pcos Natural Solutions to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS Awareness Ribbon

The symptoms of PCOS vary from woman to woman, but are caused by an overproduction of male hormones. Symptoms of PCOS may include but are not limited to:

  • Weight gain
  • Facial hair or excess hair on the chest, back, stomach, fingers or toes
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Infertility
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Frequent ovarian cysts
  • Acne and oily skin
  • Dandruff
  • Sleep apnea (periods where breathing stops for short periods while sleeping)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Skin tags (small “tags” of skin that are painless but can be embarrassing when they occur on the face or in large quantities) 
  • Dark patches of dry, tough skin 
  • Anxiety, depression, or wildly changing moods

Many of the symptoms of PCOS are the result of the fact the woman’s eggs never mature and she therefore does not ovulate. The lack of ovulation creates a deficiency in the hormone progesterone. That, combined with the fact that woman’s ovaries are producing excess male hormones and the woman has excess insulin in her blood stream create a waterfall of different negative symptoms.

Although no one is sure what causes PCOS, recent research suggests that insulin resistance is the cause of PCOS. Genetic predisposition, lack of exercise and exposure to excess androgens in the womb may also play a role, and two recent studies found a link between PCOS and exposure to the plastic Bisphenol A (BPA). The original belief was that PCOS caused insulin resistance, but research has confirmed that insulin resistance typically precedes PCOS and may ultimately cause it. Other symptoms of PCOS, such as weight gain, sleep apnea, acne, anxiety and depression, and skin tags are also associated with insulin resistance. (For more information on insulin resistance, please read Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome.) The simple fact is that excess insulin in the blood stream leads to lower levels of female hormones and higher levels of androgens, both of which are present in PCOS.

Unfortunately, many doctors are unfamiliar with PCOS and are unsure how to legitimately diagnose it. To correctly diagnose PCOS, the following tests should be run.

  • Fasting insulin level:  This test is essential, as it will reveal the degree of insulin resistance that exists. Unfortunately, very few doctors order it.
  • Hormone levels:  Both male and female.
  • Full thyroid panel: TSH, FT3, FT4 and TPO at a minimum. Thyroid disorders can mimic the symptoms of PCOS, so it is essential to ensure thyroid function is normal. If your doctor only ordered a TSH, find someone else, as it is impossible to gauge thyroid health solely using that test. (Please read How to be Your Own Thyroid Advocate for more information on correct thyroid testing.)
  • Ultrasound and/or pelvic exam to check ovaries for cysts and/or inflammation:  Please note that having ovarian cysts does NOT automatically mean you have PCOS. Many women have cystic ovaries at some point in their life. 

Perhaps equally important, the following question should be asked:

  • When did you stop taking birth control?  Many women have false PCOS as a result of stopping birth control. It can take over two years for hormones to regulate after taking birth control, and menstruation may be irregular during that entire phase.

Most doctors use the “Rotterdam criteria” to diagnose PCOS. That criteria stipulates that a diagnosis of PCOS must include high androgen levels, cystic ovaries and a lack of ovulation. Unfortunately, this diagnostic criteria ignores insulin resistance, which is an essential factor in addressing PCOS successfully.

Successfully addressing PCOS requires major changes in eating habits and lifestyle habits. Let me say right now that Metformin is NOT an acceptable “treatment” for PCOS. Metformin improves insulin resistance short term but does nothing to address the cause of insulin resistance, nor does it reverse the issue. To truly address PCOS, the body’s natural sensitivity to insulin must be restored via significant lifestyle and dietary changes. Metformin may be useful very short term while lifestyle changes are being implemented, but is neither effective nor advisable to use as the sole option for rebalancing insulin sensitivity.

After making the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, hormonal balance may be further restored using a wide variety of techniques and/or supplements. Each of these must be carefully selected based on the woman’s individual needs.

The top three things to do to start the process of reversing PCOS include:

  • Following a low-glycemic eating plan and greatly reducing consumption of glycemic carbohydrates
  • Exercising daily
  • Eliminating all processed foods, chemical cleaners, plastic exposure, etc.

PCOS can be addressed and reversed, but the condition has so many varying factors that it is impossible to use a prescriptive approach. Each person’s case must be considered on an individual basis, with very careful choices made to best address the person’s symptoms and causative factors. I work with many women with PCOS and have helped many restore balance in body, mind and spirit. There is always hope.

References:

Polycystic Ovarian Fact Sheet, Womenshealth.gov

Mid-Missouri Reproductive Health and Surgery, PCOS and Insulin Resistance

Janssen OE. High prevalence of autoimmune thyroiditis in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur J Endocrin 150(3): 363-369

Fernandez, M, N Bourguignon, V Lux-Lantos and C Libertun. 2010. Neonatal exposure to Bisphenol A and reproductive and endocrine alterations resembling the polycystic ovarian syndrome in adult rats. Environmental Health Perspectives http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.0901257.

Diamanti-Kandarakis E. P2-395. Presented at: The Endocrine Society 92nd Annual Meeting and Expo; June 19-22, 2010; San Diego.

Riley Hospital’s New ICU and Family Lounge

riley45 273x300 Riley Hospitals New ICU and Family Lounge
Photograph Courtesy of William Mollencupp

This year is the 21st Miracle Ride. Riley Hospital directs donations from each year’s Miracle Ride to fund a specific need. Last year’s donated funds were used to build and equip a Family Lounge in a new ICU unit at the hospital. The Family Lounge provides a place for families to relax, eat, meet friends, and decompress while their child is in intensive care. The lounge is well equipped with comfortable furniture, kitchen equipment, a refrigerator, computers and other equipment designed to make the parents’ time spent there as comfortable as possible. The lounge is also very attractively decorated and does not have an institutional feel. The entire Simon Family Tower is very attractively decorated and contains bright, happy pictures from various ecosystems. The elevators even have pictures on the ceilings to help entertain and distract children lying on gurneys.

While touring the new intensive care unit (ICU) in the Simon Family Tower, I was blown away by the information the physicians shared about the unit. The impressive facts included:

  • The entire building was designed using lean engineering techniques to allow it to be multifunctional and to ensure consistency between different parts of the building. Every patient room is exactly the same. The staff shared that Riley Hospital has put extensive thought into every detail of the design of every floor and unit of the hospital. The end result is that every storage facility in the hospital has the exact same layout and stores items in the same location. This makes it very easy to staff members to quickly find what they need if they need to work on a different floor or unit. It also enables staff members to quickly find needed supplies when speed is essential.
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  • Each ICU patient room contains a computer system on wheels that allows the nurses to log and reference data from their patient’s bedside. The nurses’ external workstations are also brilliantly designed. Each work station is located directly outside of two adjoining rooms. The workstation has windows that allow the nurse(s) to see the child in the bed and view the child’s medical monitors to track vital signs, IV status and other important information. The doctors who miracleride logo2 300x178 Riley Hospitals New ICU and Family Loungeprovided the tour shared that intense consideration was devoted to the design and angle of the windows to ensure the maximum level of patient care while also allowing parents to be alone with their child if desired.
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  • Best of all … each ICU patient room contains a pullout bed, private restroom and a Nintendo Wii. This attention to detail and comfort is highly unusual and will make the hospital experience much more comfortable for parents and children. The in-room restrooms will allow parents to stay closer to their child while attending to personal needs, and the pullout beds will help parents rest more comfortably during overnight stays. (When our son was in intensive care in another hospital, the ICU rooms were extremely cramped and did not have any chairs or furniture that could be used for sleeping. We wound up sleeping in a waiting room that wasn’t very close to our son’s room. The pullout beds in the Riley Hospital ICU rooms are wonderful.)
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  • The staff spent months planning the exact location of every piece of equipment and every supply item so that every action will run smoothly for patients, parents and staff. The doctors who led the tour acknowledged this focus on consistency and ease is intentionally designed to make hospital stays less stressful for parents and children alike. As an example, the doctors shared that weeks were spent figuring out where the best location would to place the hand sanitizer required to enter isolation rooms. They also shared that they created cardboard models of every piece of equipment and furniture contained in every ICU room and then tried a wide variety of layouts so they could choose the best placement for every piece of equipment, furniture and medical supply item. The end result created rooms that are functional yet comfortable and logical in their layout.
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  • The unit contains a staff training room where state of the art training mannequins will be used to train new staff members, assist with team building, etc. The training mannequins are programmed in such a way that they show the direct outcome of treatment decisions made by staff members. This means new staff members can be presented a specific medical situation and asked to create a treatment plan. Their treatment choices will be entered into the mannequin, allowing them to immediately see the results of their treatment plan. This will help medical staff quickly learn the best approach for a wide variety of medical situations. The training facility will also be used to provide advanced training to physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other staff members.
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  • The ratio of patients to nurses is incredibly small compared to that of other hospitals. The maximum number of patients assigned to a single nurse is three, assuming the patients’ needs do not require more attention. The typical assignment ratio is two patients to one nurse. In cases where patients require constant monitoring and attention, it will not be uncommon for four or more nurses to be assigned to a single patient 24 hours a day for as long as that level of care is needed. I was impressed at the hospital’s willingness to ensure each patient receives the level of care his or her medical needs require.
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  • Although the hospital’s top priority is medical care, the staff devotes an amazing amount of attention to the experience each child and family has while in the hospital. The Riley Hospital Child Life program is dedicated to ensuring the child’s emotional needs are met and that each child has a chance to engage in age-appropriate fun activities during his or her hospital stay. The Child Life team consists of a huge number of staff members who ensure every child has a chance to play, avoid boredom and engage in therapeutic ways of expressing themselves as needed. The Child Life team also provides an opportunity for children and parents to tour the hospital and learn about a child’s
    riley1 300x225 Riley Hospitals New ICU and Family Lounge

    Photograph Courtesy of William Mollencupp

    upcoming procedure prior to coming to the hospital for the procedure. This “medical play” allows the child to see exactly what will occur during their stay and is designed to reduce the child’s fear. The Child Life team also works to help parents express and deal with their fears and concerns. Depending on the procedure, a Child Life team member may be present during a procedure to coach the child through the procedure using techniques to reduce pain and fear. The Miracle Ride has a long history of supporting Patient Life Programs to ensure each child and family has access to fun activities and emotional support during their hospital stay. 

Riley Hospital went out of their way to make the evening we spent there comfortable and enjoyable. After the dedication ceremony, the staff treated us to a delicious dinner and hosted our monthly Miracle Ride Committee Meeting. The Miracle Ride is still in need of volunteers and donations for the event on May 31st – June 1st. Please visit the Miracle Ride website to learn more.

If you would like to make a donation to The Miracle Ride without riding in the ride, you can! Visit The Miracle Ride’s page at First Giving to make a donation and support Riley Hospital.

10 Surprising Facts About Blood Sugars

Many people assume the only people who need to pay attention to their blood sugar are those who have diabetes, hypoglycemia or who are grossly obese. The truth is that everyone should be aware of how blood sugars affect their overall bloodsugar 300x208 10 Surprising Facts About Blood Sugarshealth and wellness. Glucose is one of the body’s primary sources of energy, and is the only fuel the brain can effectively utilize. It is therefore very important for everyone to have a basic knowledge about blood sugars. Insulin resistance is a common syndrome that causes the body’s cells to have difficulty absorbing insulin. The person’s pancreas works fine and secretes plenty of insulin, but the body cannot use it correctly. For more information about insulin and insulin resistance, please read: Surprising Facts About Insulin and Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome.

The following facts about blood sugars may surprise you:

  1. Blood sugars impact emotions in huge ways:  A blood sugar that is even mildly low or high changes brain chemistry enough to influence emotions. Low or high blood sugars tend to increase irritability, anger and may even cause feelings of paranoia. Two studies done in 2010 found that couples who had the highest degree of aggression and antagonism toward each other also had the lowest blood sugars. The study leaders concluded that maintaining stable blood sugars was a key to a happy marriage. That may be a stretch, but I believe they are on the right track.
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  2. Exercise sometimes raises blood sugars:  Most people assume that exercise lowers their blood sugar. Unfortunately, that is not always true. Exercising without eating a meal, or exercising when blood glucose levels are already above 250, may cause the body to release glycogen (a potent form of sugar) from the liver. Why does the body do that? Because it does not feel it has enough energy to fuel the exercise. Exercising without eating an hour or so before a workout sends the body into emergency mode and may result in higher blood sugars. Many Type 1 diabetics (myself included) can vouch that blood sugars may rise to dangerous levels if exercise is engaged in without providing adequate fuel. This is also pertinent to those trying to lose weight, as glycogen causes a healthy pancreas to secrete high levels of insulin, and insulin is a hormone that signals the body to store fat. It is therefore advisable to eat a snack containing a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat prior to working out. An apple with almond butter is a perfect choice.
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  3. Dehydration raises blood sugar:   Those of you who follow me know I recommend that everyone drink half their weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. Drinking this much water ensures cells remain hydrated. When dehydration occurs, the sugar in the blood stream becomes concentrated. This causes the pancreas to secrete more insulin. As I explained above, insulin is a fat storage hormone that has negative effects on weight loss or weight maintenance. Drinking water is a simple fix to helping maintain stable blood sugars.
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  4. Intravenous Vitamin C can cause false readings of high blood sugar:  IV Vitamin C is commonly used in a variety of nutritional IV therapies. Those with blood sugar imbalances need to be very careful following the administration of a Vitamin C IV, as blood sugar readings will appear high when they actually are not. This can lead to taking excess insulin, thereby causing dangerously low blood glucose levels. If receiving intravenous Vitamin C, work with your practitioner to track glucose readings and determine how to adjust your bolus and sliding scale.
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  5. Hormones other than insulin impact blood sugars:  Most women with diabetes know their sugars tend to run high during the week prior to their period. Although this affects women with diabetes most strongly, the effect also occurs in women who do not have diabetes. The hormones released prior to menstruation tend to decrease insulin sensitivity. The end result is higher than normal blood sugars. For best results, cut back on carbohydrates and increase exercise to naturally reverse this effect of PMS.
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  6. High cholesterol is usually caused by high blood sugars, not by fat consumption:  People who have high cholesterol levels should always ask their doctor to check their blood insulin level. (See The Top 3 Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request for more info.) When the body has excess sugar in the blood stream which it cannot lower due to insulin resistance, the body will – in simple terms – convert the sugar to fat. This conversion tends to cause high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. When people reduce their carbohydrate consumption and improve their insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and triglyceride levels often return to normal fairly quickly.
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  7. A lack of sleep can raise blood sugar levels:  According to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Care, people who get less than 4 hours of sleep a night often have decreased insulin sensitivity and increased blood glucose levels. Again, this effect negatively affects everyone, not just diabetics.
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  8. Hot temperatures affect blood sugar levels:  On a very hot day, blood vessels dilate, which can increase the speed of insulin absorption. This can cause lower than normal blood sugars for many people. Other people experience very hot days in the opposite extreme. The stress caused by extremely hot conditions cause their body to excrete glycogen to provide energy to deal with the stress. This raises blood glucose levels and will cause a rise in insulin secretion in those who do not have Type 1 diabetes.
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  9. Coffee raises blood sugars, even if nothing is added to it:  The caffeine in coffee causes a spike in blood sugar coffeecup 199x300 10 Surprising Facts About Blood Sugarsthat may last throughout the day. The caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, which in turn stimulate the liver to secrete glycogen. (See a trend, here?) The glycogen causes blood sugars and insulin levels to significantly raise. This can have a negative effect on anyone trying to lose weight. For best results, drink organic, Swiss Water Process decaffeinated coffee without added sweeteners or creamers.
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  10. Some foods lower blood sugars:  Some foods are known to contain insulin imitators that effectively lower blood sugar. The lowering effect may be minimal depending on the quantity eaten and the person’s personal physiology, but these foods are known to be helpful for weight loss and for blood sugar control. (Please note that these foods should never be substituted for insulin injections.) The following foods are known to contain insulin imitators:  avocado, cinnamon, fenugreek, Jerusalem artichokes, bitter melon, and nopal (prickly pear) cactus.

 Did any of these surprise you? Which one was the biggest surprise?

 

 

References:

Unhappy Marriages Due to Low Blood Sugar?

How to Dye Eggs Using Natural Easter Egg Dye

eastereggs 300x282 How to Dye Eggs Using Natural Easter Egg Dye

Picture courtesy of the Bloom Blog

When my children were much younger, one of my favorite Easter activities was dying Easter eggs. The fun the kids had experimenting with different decorating techniques and proudly displaying their works of art created many precious memories. We attached a significant event to each color as one way of teaching the wonder of the Easter story.

As the years passed, I began to have concerns about the ingredients used in commercial egg dying kits. Does it really matter that egg dyes contain artificial ingredients since we don’t eat the shells? Yes, as the vinegar added to the egg dye tablets makes the shells more porous, thereby allowing the dye to potentially soak through. On top of that, we all know how common it is for eggs to crack during the boiling stage, and have all eaten brightly colored eggs as a result. My preference is to therefore use natural Easter egg dyes to avoid any exposure to potential toxins. 

PaasIngredients How to Dye Eggs Using Natural Easter Egg DyeAs can be seen in the graphic at left, the ingredients contained in the most common OTC egg dying kits include artificial dyes and a variety of artificial chemicals and foaming agents. The artificial foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate is a known irritant with suspected mutagenic properties that is known to remain in the body’s tissues for an extended period of time. Since we avoid eating foods or using body products containing these ingredients, it therefore makes sense to avoid them in egg dyes.

Nature provided many wonderful alternatives for making natural Easter egg dyes. The table that follows shows which common kitchen ingredients can easily be used to create beautiful dyes:

Color Products Used
Blue Pureed blueberries; red cabbage; 
Orange (light) Turmeric; carrot tops; 
Yellow Yellow onion skins; chamomile tea; 
Lavender Grape juice; red cabbage; 
Red/Burgundy Red wine; paprika; cherry juice; raspberry juice
Tan/Brown Coffee; tea;
Green Grass (yes, the stuff growing in your yard); spinach; liquid cholorophyll
Pink Hibiscus tea; diluted red wine; beet juice; cranberry juice; 

The most important issue with using botanicals and other natural ingredients for natural Easter egg dyes is to make sure the ingredients are all edible. As I said before, egg shells are somewhat porous, so you want to be sure your dye ingredients are edible. If they are not, please only use the eggs for decoration and do not eat them.

Some people like to hard boil their eggs at the same time they make their dye, while others make their dyes and then color the eggs. I prefer the latter method, as it creates less mess and brighter colors. 

To dye eggs:

  1. Hard boil the number of eggs you wish to dye. Allow to cool and store them in the refrigerator until your dyes are ready.
  2. Choose which colors you wish you make and gather the necessary ingredients. Plan on needing about one cup of plant material for each color; 1-2 tablespoons of powdered spices; or 1/2-1 cup of juices. The more colorant you use, the more vibrant the egg color will be.
  3. Boil each botanical or spice in a separate pot of 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar for about 20 minutes. A longer boil will create a more vibrant color.
  4. If using juices for colorant, there’s no need to boil them. You can use one cup of straight juice and two tablespoons of white vinegar, or can blend the juice with one cup of water and two tablespoons vinegar. I recommend experimenting with straight juice before adding water so you can find the right blend for the perfect color.
  5. After boiling, strain the plant material or spices out of the liquid and pour the liquid into a ceramic/glass bowl or measuring cup. Be sure to use non-porous bowls that will not be stained by the dyes.
  6. Gently drop the eggs into the containers of prepared dye. They need to sit in the dye for a minimum of 20 minutes, but letting them sit overnight will achieve the brightest hues.
  7. When the eggs reach the color you wish, remove them from the dye and gently blot dry with a paper towel.
  8. The eggs will not be shiny, but you can rub a tiny amount of liquid oil on the eggs to create a shine.

For added fun, make designs on the eggs with a white crayon before putting in the dye solution, or use rubberbands to make wild patterns on the eggs before dying. Both techniques will create white spaces where the dye did not come in contact with the egg shell.

To see how others made natural Easter egg dye, I recommend visiting these sites:

The Bloom Blog, Natural Easter Egg Dyes

Live Science, Coloring Eggs with Natural Dyes

Serious Eats, How to Dye Easter Eggs Naturally without Buying a Kit

That’s it! Making and using natural dyes is very simple and easy. Have you tried this before? If so, please share pictures of your creations on the Good Works Wellness Facebook page!

 

Important Information About the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in our body, yet it rarely gets the attention it deserves. Our lymphatic Important Information About the Lymphatic Systemlymphatic system plays a primary role in detoxification and immunity, and some have said the lymphatic system is just as important as the circulatory system. The truth is that we have four times as much lymphatic fluid as blood. In spite of that, very few medical professionals encourage their patients to pay attention to their lymphatic system. The goal of this article is to explain the importance of the lymphatic system and to share simple techniques you can use to support it.

The lymphatic system’s primary job is to protect the body from bacteria, viruses, fungus, and other pathogenic invaders. The lymphatic system uses cells called “lymphocytes” to protect us. Lymphocytes are white blood cells whose job is to kill pathogenic cells. In a healthy human body, lymphocytes make up 20-40% of all blood cells. Lymphocytes’ main job is to determine what type of immune response is needed and to implement that response. Lymphocytes originate in the bone marrow and are found in various organs of the lymphatic system, including the spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, etc. Lymphocytes work by binding to pathogenic cells to neutralize them and eliminate them. For every pathogen we may be exposed to, we have a specific lymphocyte whose role is to bind to it and neutralize it. There are two main types of lymphocytes:

  • B Lymphocytes:  Also called “B Cells.” B Cells handle immunity controlled by antibodies. B Cells remain in the bone marrow, where they mature into cells that spring into action when we are exposed to an invader. Some types of B Cells create antibodies that play an important role in immunity, as they develop in response to a pathogen (antigen) and work to neutralize it. Excesses in lymphatic reactions can lead to antibody imbalances such as allergies.
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  • T Lymphocutes:  Also called “T Cells.” T Cells travel to the Thymus gland, where they mature to become either helper, regulatory, cytotoxic or memory T Cells. Helper T Cells stimulate the B Cells to turn into plasma cells to produce antibodies. Regulatory T Cells work to control immune reactions; while Cytotoxic T Cells work to bind to and kill cells infected with pathogens. Killer T Cells are the body’s primary defense against cancerous cells. Memory T Cells retain a memory of past immune responses. Memory T Cells remain in an inactive state until they are needed, at which time they quickly mobilize to combat the pathogen using the same approach that was effective previously. (Our body is pretty darn amazing, isn’t it?)

Although lymphocytes play a primary role in the functions performed by the lymphatic system, the lymphatic system is responsible for much more. The organs included in the lymphatic system include:

  • A network of 600-800 lymph nodes and lymph vessels
  • The thymus gland*
  • Bone marrow
  • The spleen
  • The Peyer’s patches in the digestive tract
  • The tonsils and adenoids
  • The appendix. (It is important and is not disposable.)

When you consider the fact that lymphatic organs exist from head to toe in virtually every portion of the body and that the lymphatic system plays a key role in protecting us from invading antigens, it’s hard to believe we aren’t encouraged to take better care of it. Each of the organs in the lymphatic system plays an important role in white blood cell production and in protecting the body from invaders. The lymphatic system also collects toxic debris from cells and carries it to the bloodstream for removal. Lymphatic fluid is the body’s mobile garbage system, so it’s important to keep it moving.

*On a side note, your thymus gland is located in the center of your sternum, about two inches below the ends of your collar bones. The thymus gland is highlighted in red in the graphic above. Tapping the thymus gland stimulates it to create lymphocytes and boosts immunity. I recommend tapping your thymus anytime you’re in an environment where people have contagious illnesses. I tap it frequently when I fly.

One of the challenges the lymphatic system has is that the system has no pump to move the lymphatic fluid throughout the body. The only way to get the fluid moving is via exercise, deep breathing or massage. This is just one more reason we should each engage in some form of movement on a daily basis. Our immunity and body’s detoxification efforts rely on some form of daily movement.

You can help your lymphatic system work most efficiently by:

  • Exercising daily in a way that gets arms and legs moving up and down and back and forth.
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  • Drinking plenty of water.
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  • Eliminating as many toxins as possible from your eating habits, skin care products and environment. Eliminating toxins will mean your lymphatic system will not need to work as hard to eliminate toxins.
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  • Bouncing on a mini-trampoline for a few minutes daily, or simply bouncing up and down on the balls of your feet for a few minutes daily.
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  • Getting a therapeutic lymphatic massage. If you have lymphatic blockages or stagnation, be sure to tell the massage therapist about it and request a specialize lymphatic massage.
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  • Sweating in a hot bath or sauna, or using detoxification methods such as an ionic foot bath or far infra-red session.
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  • Eating more healthy fat! The lymphatic system needs fatty acids to function correctly. Load up on healthy fats such as avocados, raw nuts and seeds, nut butters, organic butter, extra virgin coconut oil, organic eggs and bacon, etc. (For more information on why fat is healthy, please read Six Surprising Facts About Cholesterol.)
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  • Breathing deeply! Deep breathing is known to help circulate lymphatic fluid and to help the body use the lymphatic system for toxin elimination.
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  • Dry skin brushing. Dry skin brushing is a method of stimulating lymphatic flow using a natural bristled brush. Always brush toward the heart. If you don’t have access to a natural bristle brush, you can use a dry wash cloth to accomplish the same thing. Start at your feet, working upward and always brushing/stroking toward the heart.
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  • Detoxification. I recommend doing a total body detoxification every three to four months. To learn more about detoxification, please read How to Know You Need to Detoxify, How Your Body Detoxifies Itself and How to Cleanse and Detoxify on a Daily Basis.
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  • Eliminating tight clothing. Tight clothing restricts the flow of lymphatic fluid, so do yourself a favor and switch to comfortable clothing that allows your body to move freely.
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  • If necessary, herbs such as nettles, burdock, yellow dock, or goldenseal are known to support the lymphatic system. Please work with a trained professional to help you choose the best option for your specific needs. 

Your lymphatic system is your friend. Treat it well and you’ll benefit!

How to Successfully Address Low Testosterone

The new glut of “Low T” commercials has my head spinning. “Low T” is the new fad diagnosis sweeping the country because
happysenior2 300x200 How to Successfully Address Low Testosteroneso many pharmaceutical companies stand to make such a huge profit. It goes by many names: “Low T,” “Andropause” and “Male Menopause” are just a few names given to low testosterone levels in men.

An interesting side note is that “Low T” is considered a “disease” and testosterone creams for men are therefore covered by insurance, but hormonal imbalances in women are not considered a “disease” and are not covered. Let’s chat about that some other time.

Please note it is imperative to measure testosterone levels before boosting them. Low testosterone levels have many vague symptoms that can mimic many other physical challenges. NEVER take any supplement designed to boost testosterone levels without first using a saliva or blood hormone test to measure your testosterone levels. Adjusting hormone levels without knowing what specific deficiencies and excesses exist can have very negative results. Please do not try to adjust hormone levels on your own, and please thoroughly discuss your test levels with your physician.

Moving on … it is perfectly normal for testosterone levels to drop as men age. Thirty years ago, the natural drop was minor and did not produce the severe symptoms men are experiencing today. Symptoms of low testosterone levels may include:

  • Fatigue and lack of energy and motivation
  • Loss of libido
  • Erectile dysfunction, softer erections, less ejaculate, etc.
  • Hair loss
  • Inability to build muscle and/or a loss in muscle mass
  • Weight gain and an increase in body fat
  • Depression and other mood changes
  • Decreased facial hair, “man boobs,” shrunken testicles, etc.
  • Loss of height due to losses in bone mineral density

The main reasons testosterone levels are dropping to lower levels and men’s symptoms are stronger today than they were in years past include:

  • We are surrounded by xenoestrogens, or estrogen imitators, that negatively impact hormone balance in men by artificially elevating estrogen levels. These xenoestrogens exist in plastics, chemicals sprayed on crops, body products, and other common products.
  • Our food system is overloaded with soy and soy derivatives. Soy is a known phytoestrogen which elevates estrogen levels and therefore decreases testosterone levels in the body.
  • Obesity can cause the body to produce less testosterone.
  • Insulin resistance, which often precedes Type 2 diabetes, is known to play a role in lowered testosterone levels.
  • Meat and dairy raised in mainstream farming operations are raised with high levels of hormones that may impact the body’s normal hormonal balance.
  • Physical imbalances and illnesses such as pituitary disease may impact testosterone production. Many of these conditions are severe and require medical intervention.
  • Steroid use is known to decrease testosterone production.
  • Sedentary lifestyle habits also decrease the body’s natural production of testosterone.
  • Chronic inflammation can affect testosterone production by inflaming the cells responsible for producing testosterone. We live in a world where ingesting inflammatory substances such as food additives, alcohol, etc. is common and even encouraged.

For men dealing with low testosterone, here are a few approaches known to help:

  • Test to make sure your symptoms are caused by a testosterone deficiency and not by other physical illnesses. The symptoms of low testosterone can mimic many other illnesses. Make sure you’re addressing the correct cause of your symptoms.
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  • Clean up your diet. Eliminate all processed foods, all white flours and sugars, all soy, soda pop, hydrogenated oils, etc., etc.
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  • Insulin resistance is one known cause of reduced testosterone levels. Work with a trained professional to reduce and target carbohydrate consumption and improve insulin sensitivity.
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  • Exercise! Exercise is known to boost testosterone levels and to improve testosterone receptors. There’s just no getting around the fact we all need to exercise. Start slowly and work up very gradually. Try to combine small amounts of cardio or walking with weight lifting for best results.
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  • Switch to stainless steel drink containers instead of drinking bottled water. BPA – common in plastic water bottles – is a known xenoestrogen. Avoiding canned food is also a good way to avoid BPA.
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  • Clean up your body care by switching to all-natural soaps, shampoos, lotions, body washes, etc., to reduce your exposure to additional xenoestrogens.
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  • Sleep more. Men who get less than six hours of sleep per night tend to have reduced testosterone levels. This is in part because their body is tired and diverts its energy to tasks it considers more important than hormone production.
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  • Check for nutritional deficiencies. Deficiencies in Vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and other nutrients are all known to be causative factors of low testosterone.
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  • Check Candida levels and address any overgrowth. Candida tends to cause systemic inflammation that can cause the testicles to produce less testosterone.
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  • Switch to a non-inflammatory eating style. As mentioned above, inflammation can directly impact testosterone production by causing inflammation in the testicles. Reducing toxins is a first step to reducing inflammation. Identifying food allergies, eliminating night shade vegetables, avoiding processed foods and drinking adequate water may all help reduce systemic inflammation.
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  • Consider herbal alternatives. There are a number of herbal supplements known to boost testosterone production. I’m not going to discuss them here because some have severe side effects, I do not believe they are appropriate for everyone, and because I feel it is dangerous to take supplements that affect hormone levels without first checking to see if any hormonal imbalances exist.

There are times where physical injury, vasectomy, pituitary disorders, exposure to extreme toxins or other issues can cause testosterone levels to drop so low that medication is needed. I believe testosterone creams are often prescribed without doing adequate testing and without making the necessary lifestyle changes first. In extreme cases, testosterone pills and/or injections may be required to return levels to normal. When testosterone medications are used, it is important to test hormone levels frequently to ensure hormone levels are where they should be.

There are a number of side effects with the creams, so they must be used with caution to avoid exposing women and children to the hormones in the cream. Use caution and research heavily before agreeing to use them.

Most of all, don’t lose hope. Low testosterone levels can be improved naturally or via medication. Take the time to do adequate research and receive correct testing before choosing the program that is best for you.

A Good Time Was Had By All

I was honored to be invited to attend the 2014 Indiana Artisan Marketplace last weekend and to write about my experience. 2014iam 300x244 A Good Time Was Had By AllIn exchange for these blog posts, I was given a set of tickets to give away and one set to use for myself. I was not compensated beyond that. These opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review, nor were my opinions influenced in any way.

I attended the Indiana Artisan Marketplace on Sunday, March 30. I went by myself so I could wander as slowly or as quickly as I wanted. Going by myself also allowed me to give away another ticket to one of my readers, so it was a win-win. The show was held in the Exposition Hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Having been to many other events and shows in that building, I was impressed with the show’s layout as soon as I walked in. The aisles were wide and traffic flowed smoothly. 

I loved this show and highly recommend attending next year’s event. The organizers have already announced that next year’s show will be held March 28-29, 2015. It’s definitely worth marking in your calendar now.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed the show so much was because it was a juried show, meaning each vendor had to submit samples of their craft which a committee reviewed. Only the best artisans and food crafters were invited to have a booth. The quality of the handcrafts at each booth was phenomenal. I was also impressed at how well the show organizers ensured booths selling similar goods were spaced far away from each other. Every row held a wide variety of different items, which meant that each booth provided a new surprise. The food and beverage artisans were interspersed among the handcrafted item artisans in a nice way.

I had a great time chatting with the artisans, admiring handmade jewelry, sampling a few wines and seeing many old friends. I also picked up a few treats, most of which were for my hubby or for Christmas gifts. The picture I shared shows a few of the goodies I picked up. I’ve highlighted some of those artisans below.

Here’s a summary of a few of my favorite booths:

Functional Ceramics:  Artist Kris Busch’s pottery uses a unique glazing technique that makes her items appear to have multiple layers of color. Every item offers a perfect blend of art and functionality.

Litterally Divine Chocolates:  My friend, Suzanne Litteral, makes some of the best truffles and toffee I’ve ever tasted. Best of all, she uses mostly organic, vegan ingredients. Her chocolates are truly divine.

Lisa Atchison, Touch of Glass Designs:  Lisa Atchison makes her own beads, but does it in a very unique way. She grows crystals in unique patterns which she then forms into incredible works of artistic jewelry. I spent quite a while chatting with Ms. Atchison while admiring her jewelry. I wound up wishing I had significantly more money in my jewelry budget!

SACS & Company:  SACS & Company makes custom-blended, handmade soaps and other body products. As a soapmaker myself, I can vouch that their products are extremely high quality. They also have fantastic aromas!

240 Sweet:  I was not familiar with 240 Sweet prior to the Indiana Artisan Marketplace. One taste of their marshmallows make me wish I’d heard of them sooner. They make artisanal marshmallows in a wide variety of flavors, but they do not use corn syrup. I picked up a package of their Guinness marshmallows for my hubby. 

Willow by Greg Adams:  I stopped by Mr. Adams’ booth to admire the furniture, and wound up leaving with a big bundle of willow branches to fill a lonely vase in my office. He makes unfinished and finished furniture, frames and a wide variety of other wares that are all wonderfully unique.

As I said, if you have a few hours to spare March 28 and 29th next year, I highly recommend stopping by the 2015 Indiana Artisan Marketplace!

Aldi Has Organic Food?

I will be honest that this blog post is a bit of an experiment. I have friends who consistently blog from their phone, but I never have. Until today. I’m committed to writing and posting this entire post from my phone. Let the adventure begin!

Several months ago I read an announcement  Aldi Has Organic Food?that Aldi was going to start carrying organic options and was creating its own line of organics. For those who have never heard of Aldi, it is a deep discount store whose parent company is in Germany. It has many similarities to the big warehouse stores such as Costco, but has much smaller stores and a much smaller array of offerings. When shopping at an Aldi, you bring your own bags, expect goods to be displayed in the carton they were shipped in, and you always bring a quarter because you’ll need one to gain access to a cart.

The goods sold at Aldi are definitely low in price. Their paper goods are extremely reasonable. If we shop at Aldi, it is only to get paper goods because most of their products are highly processed, non-organic, and heavily packaged. Their produce was usually not top quality and never organic. Their meat was cheap but often contained fillers and was never organic or ethically raised.

Things are changing! My hubby and I were out running errands today and decided to take a “field trip” to Aldi. Here’s what we found:

  • Organic bananas, apples, carrots and cherry tomatoes. (It’s a start.)
  • Organic, grass-fed ground beef for $4.49/lb. We bought six pounds and will probably go back and buy the rest since this Aldi was located in an area that typically does not have high sales in organic goods.
  • Organic real honey, which is amazing because what is sold in most mainstream stores isn’t really honey.
  • No organic milk, yogurt, cheese, bread or eggs.
  • No organic coffee, spices, condiments, juices, canned goods or snack items.

Final conclusion? I applaud Aldi for listening to the wishes of the American public, but admit they have plenty of room for improvement. I noticed a huge new store is being built close to the one we visited, so I look forward to seeing how they choose to fill the additional space.

Aldi is the parent company of Trader Joe’s, so the move to carry organic goods wasn’t much of a stretch. My hope is they will expand their organic offerings and will soon commit to carrying fewer GMO products.

Have you shopped at an Aldi since they added organic goods? What did you find at the Aldi near you?

If you were wondering , this will be the last post i write from my phone. Thus the adventure ends.