Ask someone what their most annoying health challenge is, and there’s a good chance they’ll answer “heartburn and GERD.” Heartburn and GERD are uncomfortable and potentially damaging conditions which are one of the most common issues experienced by people in the US. There are currently 285.3 million people on prescription medications for heartburn and GERD. That equates to one in ten people! This number doesn’t even include the large number of people taking self-prescribed over-the-counter medications for heartburn and GERD. Many people (including mainstream medicine) assume heartburn and GERD are caused by excess acid. This means the common approach is to prescribe proton pump inhibitors (such as Nexium and Prilosec) without determining the true root cause of the problem.
One problem caused by the prolonged use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is they interfere the absorption of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, B12, etc. Long-term use has been linked to malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies. PPI use has also been connected to frequent headaches, constipation and diarrhea, fatigue, increased incidence of pneumonia, higher rates of bone fractures (due to inhibited calcium absorption), bacterial imbalance in the digestive tract, higher incidence of C Dificile infections, magnesium deficiency, increase in coronary disease, and other serious health problems.
The primary reason it is so imperative to assess the cause of heartburn and GERD is that many people’s heartburn and GERD is actually caused by a lack of stomach acid, not by an excess. Although PPIs may bring relief by further decreasing already faulty levels of stomach acid, they ultimately lead to poor digestion and absorption.
As I stated previously, it is absolutely imperative to determine the root cause of heartburn and GERD before taking any medication. It does’t make sense to take a medication designed to decrease the production of stomach acid when heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficit in stomach acid. Most people assume the acidic burning in their stomach is caused by excess stomach acid, but the truth is that many forms of heartburn and GERD are actually caused by a deficiency in stomach acid.
Stomach acid is essential for digestive enzymes to work. A deficiency in stomach acid causes the body’s digestive enzymes to not work effectively, which leads to indigestion, poorly digested food, heartburn and GERD. Stomach acid does not digest food but instead creates an acidic environment that allows digestive enzymes to work at their peak efficiency. Decreasing stomach acid weakens digestive enzymes, which ultimately means the nutrients in foods cannot be absorbed. Stomach acid is also essential for the absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc.
Heartburn is a typically burning sensation limited to the stomach. Heartburn my cause burping, bloating, and/or nausea, too. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the contents of the stomach rise into the esophagus. (Which should never happen.) GERD can create a burning in the chest and throat, a gagging sensation, or a feeling something is stuck in the throat. GERD can also cause muscles in the esophagus to spasm, which sometimes creates intense pain that may be confused with a heart attack. (A single nerve communicates pain from both the heart and esophagus, so pain in the esophagus often feels like pain in or near the heart. This pain may be severe.)
If you are having chest pain, seek medical attention immediately even if you suspect the cause of the pain is heartburn. The root cause of GERD is that the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) that should separate the esophagus from the stomach (and prevent food from traveling up) doesn’t close when it should or does not close completely. Some studies found increasing the stomach’s acidity actually improves the LES’s function. This means PPIs may eliminate symptoms but actually worsen the root cause of heartburn and GERD. Since GERD causes stomach acid to enter the esophagus and damage it, use of PPIs may cause worse damage to the esophageal tissues while hiding the symptoms – for a while.
My perspective on PPIs is that they may be valuable as a short-term means of restoring quality of life, but that steps need to be taken to identify and address the true cause of the problem. The goal should always be to shorten the use of PPIs. Heartburn and GERD are miserable conditions. If left untreated, it may cause a lack of sleep, inability to work, and may lead to vomiting multiple times per day. Restoring quality of life needs to be a priority.
The most common causes of heartburn and GERD include, but are not limited to:
- Food allergies: This is the THE most common cause of heartburn and GERD, but is a factor that is often ignored. I have many clients who were told their symptoms couldn’t possibly be caused by food allergies. When we identified their food allergies using a simple blood test and eliminated allergenic foods, those clients experienced complete relief and no longer needed medication. Food allergies can produce over 200 different symptoms from head to toe, so it is important to identify them and eliminate the offending foods. I’m a firm believer that anyone with chronic heartburn or GERD should have a food allergy panel run.
I spent two years vomiting three or four times daily and feeling horrible due to digestive distress and extreme GERD. My gastroenterologist laughed at me when I asked about food allergies. (I’ve forgiven him and am now thankful to have had that experience because it enables me to help more people today.) I ignored my gastroenterologist and sought help in other places, including having food allergy testing done. Identifying and eliminating the food allergies I had completely eliminated my digestive issues. I often find identifying food allergies and eliminating the culprits quickly restores health in many ways. Sadly, some people aren’t wiling to give up “comfort” foods and prefer to remain on medication. Food allergy testing can be conducted by a single blood test that can identify over 700 allergens.
- Lack of stomach acid: Our bodies produce less stomach acid as we age, which can cause heartburn. Using herbal remedies known to increase the production of stomach acid is my preferred approach when a lack of stomach acid is the cause of heartburn. In extreme cases, it may be necessary to take HCl in capsule form with meals. (Organic Apple Cider Vinegar may also help.) I try to avoid the use of HCl, as taking an external form of HCl may cause the body to stop producing it.
- Excess consumption of liquids with meals: It sounds simple, but drinking less than 6 ounces of liquid with meals often eliminates heartburn and reflux. When we drink too much liquid with meals, the stomach’s agitating action tends to force stomach contents and liquids up into the esophagus instead of down into the small intestine. This leads to pain and potential damage to the esophagus.
- Ulcers: Active ulcers don’t always show up on stool tests designed to find blood. It is important to test for H Pylori or use other assessment techniques to identify ulcers. There are natural approaches that can be used to address an ulcer, but they should only be begun under the supervision and direction of a trained practitioner.
- Extreme dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance): Digestion and absorption can be harmed if the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the digestive tract is skewed. This typically results in an overgrowth of fungus that can lead to leaky gut, diarrhea or constipation, anal itching, constant nasal stuffiness, and other challenges. (See Candida Basics: Important Info for more information on this condition.) Re-establishing ample beneficial bacteria greatly improves digestion and absorption. This can sometimes be accomplished simply by taking a probiotic or eating fermented vegetables.
- Gallbladder imbalance: Removal of the gallbladder or stagnation in the gallbladder (including sludge and stones) may lead to heartburn and indigestion when fatty foods are eaten. Restoring gallbladder function using natural methods often eliminates this problem very quickly. I do not believe the gallbladder should ever be removed, as it performs a vital function. The body will reverse gallbladder disease when proper support protocols are used.
- Structural abnormalities: Sometimes heartburn is caused by physical abnormalities. This cause is the toughest to treat and may sometimes require surgical intervention.
Have you eliminated GERD or heartburn? What solutions did you use? Please share!
Several of you recently asked me to continue doing more reviews of foods and supplements. I am happy to oblige! I often recommend “green powders” to people who are looking to detoxify, improve energy levels, alkalize and more. The problem with green powders is that they taste like grass. I was therefore thrilled to find one that has a crisp apple taste but which is still loaded with nutritional power. This review is for Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Powder – Apple Flavor. (You can click the link to view it on Amazon.)
I received a canister of this powder last December from Garden of Life. I owe them a huge apology for not posting this review sooner. Other topics seemed to be more pressing, life got in the way, and the powder tasted so good my husband and I consumed it in less than two weeks. Please note that although I did receive free product in exchange for this review, I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. The information shared in this post is purely my opinion, based on my experience with similar products and on my years of training. Since I use the product myself, I feel qualified to share my opinion of both its positive and its negative qualities.
Here are the qualities I love about this product:
- It’s ORGANIC!!!
- It contains no fillers or artificial ingredients
- It contains an unusual blend of nutrient-dense powders from grasses, fruits and vegetables
- It’s sweetened with Stevia and contains no harmful artificial sweeteners
- It tastes amazing – nothing like most green powders
- The grass, fruit and vegetable powders are obtained at low temperatures so their enzymes remain viable
- It’s dairy and gluten-free
- It contains no herbal additives that could interfere with prescription medications
- It’s low glycemic, with only 3 net carbs per serving
- It contains sprout powders and probiotics
- If apple isn’t your thing, Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW is also available in Plain and Chocolate flavors
As we used this powder, we found it blended easily into smoothies and other drinks. (I shared a recipe below.) It tastes good enough to blend into plain water. We enjoyed adding cinnamon and nutmeg to it for an added kick. The bottom line is that this product is an excellent source of trace minerals, enzymes, probiotics, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants, all provided in a great tasting powder.
It’s price point is under $30 for a 30-day supply, another factor that makes it a winner in my opinion. You can view the product on Amazon here: Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Apple.
The only negative comment I can make about this green drink is that it absorbed moisture out of the air and solidified in the container after being opened. I recommend storing it in a sealed container of some sort.
Here’s a copy of the nutritional information so you can see how truly loaded this product is:
Please note that people with gluten sensitivity CAN consume wheat and barley grasses. The grasses do not contain the proteins that are problematic for people with Celiac and/or a wheat or barley allergy.
Here’s a recipe using this product:
Good Works Wellness Perfect Food Apple Spice Smoothie
- 1 scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food Apple Powder per serving (recipe makes 2-4 servings)
- 1 diced avocado
- 2 cups coconut water (may use milk alternative, purified water or aloe vera juice if preferred)
- 1 diced organic cucumber (use half a cucumber for a single serving)
- 1 handful organic spinach
- 1 diced organic Honey Crisp apple (use half an apple for a single serving)
- 1 teaspoon organic cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon organic nutmeg powder
- Optional: Stevia to taste
Blend all ingredients well in a high-speed blender. This recipe makes enough for 2-4 servings. This smoothie is delicious and is loaded with healthy fat, trace minerals, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants and a great blend of vitamins and minerals. It’s very energizing but is extremely low glycemic.
Have you tried Garden of Life’s Perfect Food Raw Apple Powder? What did you think?
I’m often amazed to read recipes labeled “healthy” that include ingredients that are either nutritionally void (such as egg whites) or which contain harmful toxins (such as fat-free sour cream). The reason I’m amazed to see these potentially harmful ingredients labeled “healthy” is because fat-free foods have finally been proven to be harmful to health instead of being helpful. This article explains how this myth became perpetuated and what the truth is. The bottom line is that your body requires fat for the health of every cell. The type and quantity of fat is what determines whether or not the fat you consume improves your health of harms it.
And – YES – you have my permission to eat organic, nitrate-free bacon in moderation. Here’s why: Health Benefits of Bacon.
It is an absolute myth that fat causes heart disease and weight gain. There is no scientific proof to support claims a low-fat diet is healthier. So why is this myth so prevalent? Simply because a single, flawed study was conducted whose results were twisted. The study drew conclusions which could not be supported by the study’s design. Multiple other studies conducted since then confirmed that fat is essential to the health of body, mind and spirit.
A recent study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the results of over twenty different studies. The reviewers tracked tracked the health of study participants over a span of 5-23 years. Their final conclusion was there is NO connection between consumption of saturated fat (or any fat, for that matter) and coronary disease. Other studies found people with the highest consumption of natural fat (either saturated or unsaturated) had lower death rates from any cause. We’ve obviously been lied to. Living to a ripe old age requires the fat myth to be busted and laid to rest.
I’ll save my rant about the “Cholesterol Myth” for another day, but you can learn more about cholesterol in the article: Six Surprising Facts About Cholesterol.
The truth is that the body requires fat and finds it essential for:
- Proper nerve function
- Production of hormones
- Building and maintaining healthy blood vessels
- Maintaining body temperature
- Cushioning and protecting internal organs
- Maintaining healthy skin
- Normal, efficient cognitive function
Based on that list, it is obvious that not eating enough healthy fat can create a myriad of health problems.
So what’s the difference between a healthy fat and an unhealthy fat? It’s very simple:
- Fats made by God and found in nature are safe and have health benefits.
- Fat made in a lab (such as hydrogenated oils) are unsafe and can have negative health effects.
It truly is that simple. The fat in dairy, meats, fish, eggs, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds and everything else found in nature is healthy. Hydrogenated oils made in a laboratory are not. Hydrogenation uses chemical modification to turn oils that are liquid at room temperature into oils that are solid at room temperature. Oils are hydrogenated to simplify their shipping and to simplify the emulsification process of some products. Oils are not hydrogenated for your benefit. The hydrogenation process creates foreign chemicals our bodies do not recognize or know how to metabolize. Consumption of hydrogenated oils can lead to high levels of arterial plaque that can definitely interfere with coronary function.
The one caveat to natural oils being healthy is that some vegetable oils are extremely high in Omega 6 fatty acids that are known to be highly inflammatory. Those oils include corn, soy, canola, etc. Those oils also have fatty acid bonds which are very easily broken by high heat, which means they tend to deteriorate when used for cooking. (Olive oil also deteriorates at high heat, but is not inflammatory.) For best results, use olive oil for cold foods such as salad dressings, and use extra virgin olive oil for cooking. (If you’ve never tried popcorn cooked in organic, extra virgin olive oil, you are missing out on quite a treat!)
There you have it. You now have my permission to eat more fat. Don’t go crazy, but feel free to enjoy one more piece of bacon!
Many parents are concerned about the dangers of Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) due to how the media is covering the virus.
Enterovirus D68 is a virus that has not been widespread in the past. This year it is spreading more rapidly. I felt compelled to share the facts about this virus because I keep seeing information shared that is not 100% factual. Let’s separate the fact from the fiction and hopefully set some parents’ minds at ease.
Important Facts About Enterovirus D68
Here are important facts about Enterovirus D68:
- EV-D68 was originally identified in 1962. Since then, there have only been small outbreaks, most of which rarely spread across state lines. This year’s outbreak has spread rapidly, possibly because very few children have developed immunity to Entervirus D68 due to never having been exposed. Most adults are not affected, as they have developed resistance (from exposure to other viruses) that provides protection. Enteroviruses are usually most active between July – October, so the current spread is in line with normal occurrences.
- The CDC confirmed cases of EV-D68 in 22 states as of September 19. It is important to note that the number of confirmed cases (160) is small because most children infected with EV-D68 do not need medical attention and are therefore not tested. Hospitals only recently began testing for this specific virus since the likelihood of it being the cause of breathing problems was almost nonexistent until recently.
- No deaths have occurred from the virus so far.
- Most children who become ill have nothing more than typical cold and flu symptoms. Few children wind up being hospitalized, and most don’t even need to see a doctor.
- The virus is closely related to hand, foot and mouth disease. It shares some of the same symptoms, although EV-D68 may have a stronger effect on the lungs and usually does not cause a fever. Children who have had hand, foot and mouth disease seem to have less likelihood of contracting EV-D68 or from having serious symptoms.
- Ninety percent of the children hospitalized had pre-existing asthma or other upper-respiratory diseases or conditions that weakened their immunity.
- Enterovirus D68 is a virus. Antibiotics are ineffective against it, and there is no known cure. Mainstream treatments focus on lessening the symptoms. Those with serious symptoms are put on supplemental oxygen, given breathing treatments, or – in extreme cases – put on a respirator to aid breathing until the virus runs its course.
Typical Symptoms of Enterovirus D68
The typical indicators of Enterovirus D68 include, but may not be limited to:
- Runny nose, cough, sneezing, etc.
- Body aches
- Mouth sores or blisters (do not occur in every case, but are possible)
- Fever (unusual in this season’s outbreak)
Extreme cases may include the following symptoms, each of which requires immediate medical intervention:
- Fever above 103 degrees F.
- Difficulty in breathing: Difficult breathing is not always easy to recognize. Look for extremely rapid, shallow breathing, with breaths occurring more frequently than one per second. Watch your child’s ribs. If you can visibly see the skin being “sucked in” between the ribs with each breath, that is an indicator medical intervention is needed immediately.
- Continuous coughing
- If you notice any of the above symptoms, please call your physician or take your child to the emergency room immediately. Call 911 if your child is unconscious, has blue lips, or other severe symptoms.
Protective Measures Against Enterovirus D68
Enteroviruses are all relatively hardy and can live for quite a while on surfaces. The virus is carried in body fluids, mucus, snot, etc. Potential ways to lessen the likelihood of the virus include:
- You know the drill – frequent hand washing, teaching children to sneeze and cough into their elbows, etc. There is no need to use antibacterial soaps. ALL soap is antibacterial. The chemicals in antibacterial products are known to be dangerous and should be avoided.
- Making a spray using 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of alcohol, 40 drops of tea tree oil, 40 drops of lavender essential oil and 40 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. Blend well and keep in a glass spray bottle. Spray on counters, door knobs, faucets, etc. to help kill viral cells.
- Give your children Vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most powerful immunity boosters known. Most children over age two need a minimum of 1000 IUs per day for maximum immunity. This is especially true if you live in a climate that prevents daily sun exposure. There is no need to worry about toxicity at this dose. For more information about Vitamin D, read: Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D.
- Taking Vitamin C throughout the virus and flu season is known to reduce infection rates. Follow the instructions on the bottle for dosage, but know it’s safe to double the recommended dose at the first sign of a cold or flu. I recommend continuing the double dose until symptoms abate.
- Use Elderberry Syrup if you suspect your child has caught a virus. Elderberry is an extremely powerful antiviral that is known to be effective against the enterovirus. It can also be taken as an immunity booster prior to illness, but I would definitely use it at the first sign of a cold or virus. It tastes great, so getting children to take it is nice and easy.
- If your child has asthma or any other chronic illness, discuss and create a care plan with your physician prior to illness. Keep the plan handy and be ready to implement it immediately when illness occurs.
- If your child catches what appears to be a cold but symptoms rapidly worsen or your mother’s instinct insists something is wrong, call your physician. Take your child to the emergency room or call 911 if symptoms become severe.
The good news about the virus is that we are hopefully nearing the end of its “season.” Higher number of cases also mean we now have higher immunity throughout the country.
Has your child dealt with Enterovirus D68? What were your experiences?
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral illness that is spreading like wildfire this year. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is rarely serious, but it is extremely unpleasant and highly contagious. (HFMD is not related to Hoof and Mouth Disease, an illness that only affects animals.) Caused by the Coxsackie A virus, HFMD usually only affects children under the age of five. Many children are exposed but never have any symptoms because their body naturally vanquishes the virus. Those who become ill may experience a wide variety of different symptoms. The virus is extremely contagious, typically spread by mucus, liquid from sores and feces.
The typical case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease may include:
- A fever, usually below 102 degrees F
- Fatigue and generally feeling unwell
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
- Diarrhea (not always)
- Sores in the mouth and throat (usually appear two to three days after the initial symptoms.) Sores may also be visible on the tonsils.
- Red bumps that do not itch but may be sore. The bumps usually turn into blisters that weep fluid. HFMD is often confused with Chicken Pox due to these bumps. The bumps usually appear first on the hands and feet, but can appear anywhere on the body.
It is important to note that Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is caused by a virus. Antibiotics will not help. The mainstream approach is to soothe the symptoms and let the virus run its course. There are natural approaches that will bring relief and which are said to shorten the duration of the virus. My favorites include:
- Clove Tea: Cloves have a numbing effect. A tea made from one tablespoon of cloves and one cup or more of purified water will be very soothing to sores in the mouth. An added benefit is that cloves are also mildly antibacterial and antiviral. The tea may be drunk warm or cold. Add a bit of stevia or honey to sweeten if needed. Several of my clients have said clove tea was a lifesaver while their child had HFMD.
- Elderberry Syrup: Elderberry syrup is one of the most potent antiviral agents known. An added benefit is that it tastes good, so getting kids to take it is not difficult. Follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how much to give your child. If you have more than one child but only one is sick, the other children can be given Elderberry Syrup as an immunity booster even if they are not visibly ill.
- Homeopathic Mercurius Solubis: This remedy is known to help reduce the pain of the mouth sores and to be especially good to help children sleep at night. Homeopathics are a nice option because they have no side effects and do not interact with any prescription medications. They are very potent and very easy to take. Follow the dosage recommended on the bottle. (Dosage should be cut in half for children under 1 year of age, but the tiny tablets can be dissolved in water if needed.) To maintain their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies should not be administered within 10 minutes of eating or drinking anything other than water, and should not be given within an hour of brushing the teeth if a toothpaste with mint is used. (The mint blocks the body’s ability to absorb the homeopathic remedy.) You have my permission to stop brushing teeth while the child has mouth sores, as the experience may be extremely traumatic and painful.
- Potent Broths: Some children are unwilling to eat and drink while they have HFMD due to the sores in their mouth. Giving them nutrient-rich broths is an easy way to boost immunity while providing nutrients and keeping the child hydrated. Since salt will sting, try to make your own salt-free broths using organic bones, organic veggies, garlic and onions, rosemary, turmeric, thyme, etc. (Each of those ingredients is known to help boost immunity.) Adding some organic coconut oil will help coat the sores and be soothing. Coconut oil is known to be mildly antiviral, so it’s a win-win.
- Good Ol’ Vitamin C: Vitamin is known to help the body heal tissues and is known to boost immunity. If using a liquid Vitamin C, you may need to dilute it to help the liquid not sting. If only one of your children has HFMD, it makes sense to give your other children Vitamin C while the sick child is contagious.
- Soothing Baths: A soothing bath that is warm but not overly hot may help children calm down before bed and is known to help the body eliminate toxins. Helpful additives during HFMD include Lavender Essential Oil (5-10 drops), 1/2-1 cup Epsom Salts, 1/2 cup coconu oil, 1 cup of Bentonite Clay, 1 cup of Baking Soda, 1 cup of Chamomile and/or Calendula petals, etc.
Stopping the Spread
Unfortunately, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is most contagious 3-5 days before any symptoms appear. After the symptoms appear, the virus may be spread for up to two weeks. Families with multiple children obviously want to take care to avoid having the entire family wind up sick. The following options are good for helping prevent the spread of HFMD:
- If possible, dress the sick child in long sleeves and pants to help prevent exposing others to the liquid in the sores. Try to find soft-soled flannel slippers or booties to cover the feet.
- Blend 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of Vodka. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons Tea Tree Oil and 1/2 teaspoon Lavender Essential Oil. Place the blend in a spray bottle and spray everywhere! Spray on toys, counters, doorknobs, etc.
- Make children wash hands frequently. (See Hand Sanitizer Alternatives for recipes to make your own toxin-free hand sanitizer.)
- Don’t allow children to share utensils, water bottles, etc. (I know this is obvious, but figured it was worth mentioning.)
- Wash bedding as soon as you realize your child has HFMD. Wash bedding again after HFMD has run its course.
- Throw your child’s toothbrush away and replace it with a new one after HFMD is gone.
- Contact your child’s school or daycare center to find out what their policy is on when the child can return.
Has your family dealt with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease? What approaches did you find to be the most effective?
Digestion has been called the foundation of health. It is important to improve digestion using simple techniques. This is because our body uses the nutrients absorbed during digestion as “building blocks” to maintain every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Poor digestion and absorption can cause many problems and often creates higher levels of disease and dysfunction.
Digestive issues are rising at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, the symptoms of poor digestion are not always limited to the digestive tract. When poor digestion leads to nutrient deficiencies, symptoms may manifest in any body system. This means vague symptoms may be indirectly related to poor digestion and absorption. As always, determining the root cause of physical challenges is imperative. It is almost impossible to improve digestion without knowing the root cause of the challenge.
There are a few very simple steps you can take to improve digestion. As always, discuss these with your physician and/or practitioner before making any changes to your current lifestyle habits.
Practices that can improve digestion include:
- Chewing Better: Grandma knew what she was talking about when she encouraged you to chew every bite 20 times. We live in a world where people inhale their food. Chewing it thoroughly creates a “slurry” the stomach and intestines can digest and absorb much more easily. Chewing well is the first step you can use to improve digestion.
- Not Drinking More than 6 Ounces of Liquid With Meals: Your stomach performs poorly when overfilled. Diluting the digestive enzymes puts a strain on the small colon, as it may cause undigested food to pass from the stomach into the small colon. Making sure food is adequately digested before passing out of the stomach is an important step to improve digestion. Drinking too much liquid while eating dilutes digestive enzymes and also overfills the stomach. Overfilling the stomach can lead to heartburn when food and liquid are forced up into the esophagus during the digestive churning that is normal for the stomach.
- Exercising Regularly: All forms of exercise positively impact the muscles of the digestive tract, enabling them to do their job more efficiently. Exercise also stimulates the muscles of the colon, allowing wastes to move more easily. Many people notice a need to have a bowel movement immediately following a workout. There’s a good reason for that!
- Standing Up Straight: It’s such a simple change, but standing up straight and maintaining good posture – especially immediately following a meal – can have a strongly improve digestion. When we slump, the digestive organs get squished together and may not be able to function efficiently. Standing or sitting erect takes the pressure off and allows the digestive tract to work better. You may also notice you have less back pain and have more energy, as good posture makes it easier to breathe deeply and reduces strain off the neck and back.
- Eating Purposefully: In other words, taking time to sit down and eat in a relaxed environment and state of mind. Easier said than done in this crazy world, but taking time to enjoy a relaxed meal has a positive impact on digestion and absorption. Stress negatively impacts the stomach’s production of stomach acid and the digestive tract’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Purposefully taking time to eat slowly and to enjoy every bite is a powerful way to improve digestion.
- Staying Hydrated: In a perfect world, we would each drink half our body weight in ounces of water every day. One of the results of staying hydrated is that our digestive tract works more smoothly and is able to more efficiently eliminate waste. Staying hydrated allows the body to keep waste moistened so it moves through the digestive tract more easily.
- Eating Real Food, Not Processed Chemicals: It’s a simple truth that our digestive systems were not designed to recognize and digest food additives such as artificial colorants, chemical preservatives, etc. Switching from a diet of processed foods to natural food often has a dramatically positive effect on digestion and absorption. Our body most easily digests and absorbs real food that it easily recognizes.
- Getting Help When Needed: The factors mentioned above can improve digestion but are usually not enough to restore normal digestion when the digestive tract is not working properly. If your digestion is not what it should be, please seek the guidance of a trained professional. Restoring digestion is often the first step to restoring wellness in other areas of the body.
You’ll notice I did not list any supplements. There are a wide variety of supplements that can benefit digestion, especially for someone with digestive challenges, but I chose to stick to lifestyle changes in this article.
Have you ever dealt with digestive challenges? What helped you improve your issues?
The CDC recently announced it estimates 300,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported each year in the US. That is a ten-fold 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Ten Facts About Lyme Disease, LymeLight Foundation
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 wellness 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.
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.
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.
Can Riding a Motorcycle Strengthen Old Bones? A scientific perspective on how the effects of riding a motorcycle improve bone density.
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!
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.
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.
As always, ride safely, wear full protective gear and don’t push your limits!
Working out has gone from being a chore to being something I love and look forward to. Those close to me recognize what 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 extracellular 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.
Do you use formulas when you work out? Which are your favorite?
I’ve recently seen a lot of “bacon bashing” by people claiming bacon is bad for health. That is untrue. This article explains why 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.
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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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
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 many 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!
One of the current fads in natural health is an obsessive fixation on keeping the body’s fluids alkaline. Proponents of achieving extreme 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?
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 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:
|Liquid/Powder mixed with water||
|Tablets or Pills||
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?
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 fun or which focus on topics suitable for vacation. Kick back, grab a frosty beverage, and enjoy.
Eleven 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.
Shining Light on the Truth About Sun Exposure: This article reveals the myths that exist about sun exposure and shares the truth.
Healing 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.
Natural 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.
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.
How 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.
How 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.
Simple 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.
Perfect 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.
Top 11 Low-Carb Breakfasts: Use these great suggestions to ensure you eat a nutritious breakfast that is not overly high in carbohydrates.
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 ingredients 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 portion of a thickener
- 1-2 portions of liquid
- 1-2 portions of dark, leafy greens or “filler” vegetables
- 1/2 portion of healthy fat
- 1 serving of protein
- Optional: 1 portion of low-glycemic impact fruit
- 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
- Trace minerals
- Any other liquid vitamin, mineral or supplement
3. Dark Leafy Green and Filler Vegetable Options
- Beet, Mustard, Collard, Turnip or other greens
- Swiss Chard
- Bok Choy
- Broccoli (chop finely)
- Peppers of any color, sweet or spicy
- 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.
- Colloidal Silver
- 1/4-1/2 cup kefir grains or probiotic grains
- 1/4-1/2 cup fermented fruits or veggies
Chronic insomnia is a fairly common problem, but it is often addressed by prescribing a sleep medication instead of finding and 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!
I’m seeing a huge increase in scabies infestations this year. I’m not sure why so many people are affected, but scabies can be 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
- 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?
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.
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
- Menstrual irregularity
- Insulin resistance
- Frequent ovarian cysts
- Acne and oily skin
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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 provided 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.