Category Archives: mental status

How to Prepare to Make Positive Health Changes

It’s never too early or too late to begin planning ways you can implement simple changes to improve your health and wellness in Planning for Success graphicthe new year. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, but I am a believer in careful planning. (For more information on making successful resolutions, see Ten Reasons Resolutions Fail and Ways to Succeed.) The following tips can be applied any time of year, but seem particularly appropriate right now. I also want to thank multiple members of one of my networking groups who suggested and requested this post. 

Following are my tips for creating a plan for positive change: 

  1. Figure out your priorities: What do you want to accomplish by making positive changes? I often hear people say they want to “eat healthier.” If I ask them WHY they want to create healthier eating habits, they can’t come up with an answer. Attaching a specific outcome to a change we wish to create will greatly increase the likelihood of success.
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    Take time to sit down and make a list of specific health improvements you wish to create. Don’t think about what you’re writing down, just brainstorm. Your list may have a few items or may cover several pages. After you create the list, look at it very carefully and ask yourself why you wish to accomplish these changes. Dig down deep and make sure the changes you wish to see are your personal desires and are not intended to impress other people or cater to someone else’s wishes. Eliminate any items you wrote down that are more for others than for you. After that, prioritize your list. Write each item down on another piece of paper (or move the items around if you made your list electronically) in order of most important to least important. 
    When creating goals, focus on your top three priorities. If your top three priorities are huge, you may want to focus on one at a time.

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  2. Ease Your Way Into Each Change:  If your goal is to run 25 miles a week but you rarely leave the couch right now, it is very unlikely you will accomplish that goal without causing yourself serious harm. Whether the goal you’re focusing on involves changing your eating style, changing your thought patterns, or moving more, start very gradually. Set a specific goal each week and then increase the goal for the following week. Break large goals into ‘stages.” For example:  If your goal is to lose 100 pounds, set a goal of losing five pounds each month. That is a very “do-able” goal that is not overwhelming. Breaking your goals into bite-size chunks help prevent becoming overwhelmed and also helps you regularly celebrate successes. (Celebrating success and rewarding yourself with non-food rewards is important. Don’t skip that part!)
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    Depending on the magnitude of the changes you make, easing into things also helps your body gradually adjust to the changes. The changes we make affect our body chemistry. Making drastic changes too rapidly can overwhelm our body’s ability to adapt and may cause negative health results. Slow and steady wins the race. Remember that every change you make counts. Changes you consider “tiny” eventually add up to large rewards.
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  3. Be Specific:  It’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to create a list of healthy changes. Many of the lists i see include items such as “eat healthier, lose 100 pounds, run 50 miles a week, drink more water, stop smoking, and only think positive thoughts.”  Although those may be valid goals, each of them is far too large and very non-specific. After identifying your priorities in Step 1, create very specific, measurable changes (goals) to associate with them. For example, instead of making your goal to “workout,” create a goal that says you will “walk ten minutes two days a week and do a light hand-weight routine for ten minutes two days each week.” That goal is very specific, eases you into things, and is very measurable.
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    Instead of listing a goal of “eating healthier,” consider making it your goal to “eat one serving of vegetables with every meal and two daily servings of fruit as snacks or dessert.” Again, this goal is very specific, very measurable, and relatively easy. If eating five servings of fruits and veggies each day is overwhelming, start with something as simple as, “eat one salad everyday.” You know yourself and know what’s realistic for you. Create goals that are realistic and achievable, not ones that will require superhuman effort.
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  4. Jump start your success with a detoxification program:  A great way of preparing your body for positive change is by doing a 3-10 day detoxification program. A gentle detox program serves to rejuvenate the body and helps eliminate toxins which may impede  your success in reaching goals. Most people who do a detoxification program lose 10 pounds during the following year even if they don’t change their eating and exercise habits. Detoxification program typically require a bit of added discipline, which is a great way to start the process of creating positive change.
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    Your detox program could be as simply as giving up coffee and alcohol for ten days, or could be much broader. Click here for more information about my upcoming Detoxification and Cleansing Program, or here to purchase Detoxification and Cleansing Kits.
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  5. Find an accountability partner:  Making changes by yourself can be tough. Making them with a friend is easier. You can encourage each other and hold each other accountable along the way. Find someone you like and by whom you’re comfortable being held accountable. Share your goals with each other, work together to set goals and create plans to meet them, and then meet weekly or chat on the phone frequently to share your successes and discuss your challenges. Before you begin, pick specific non-food ways to celebrate your successes and attach dates to those celebrations. Rewarding success is an important part of accountability that is overlooked far too often.
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  6. Track your progress:  As you begin making changes, it’s important to track the changes you make, your successes and challenges, and the results you see from the changes. I recommend starting a journal. On the first page, list your goals and any measurements associated with those goals. Potential measurements to list include weight, cholesterol, blood sugar or A1C, measurements of specific body parts, blood pressure, muscle mass, etc. Pick measurements that make sense to you and which you hope your changes will positively impact.
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    On a daily basis, log information pertinent to your goal. You may wish to log what you eat, how long you work out, the positive affirmation you chose for the day, etc. In the midst of tracking specifics related to the day’s activities, also list items such as how you felt that day, what your emotional status was, any challenges you faced, etc. Make a point of sharing your journal entries with your accountability partner and reading his or hers.
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  7. Stay positive:  You’re human. Accept it. One of the fun things about making changes is that you get to learn a lot about yourself and about successful ways to achieve success in spite of challenges. If you have a day (or ten) when you completely blow it and don’t follow your plan, that’s ok. Learn from it and move on. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but don’t give yourself permission to continue. Record your challenge in your journal, noting what you learned about yourself and how you deal with challenges of that type. Use that knowledge and experience to achieve success next time. 
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  8. Use meal planning, but keep it real:  Most health changes involve changing our eating style. Planning menus and meals can be a huge help in sticking to a new eating style. Basic meal planning includes selecting meals for the week, creating a shopping list based on those meals, and then sticking to it. Some people view meal planning as pure drudgery, so I recommend using the following guidelines:
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    • Stay flexible:  If you planned to make lamb chops but the store is out of them, be flexible. This also applies if you notice something not on your meal plan for the week is on sale at a deep discount. Stay flexible and be willing to use other meals based on what the store has on sale and in stock. Keep a list of ten “go to” meals you can easily substitute if you’re unable to make something you planned for the week.
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    • Don’t be rigid about scheduling:  Some people schedule specific meals for specific days, while others pick 5-7 breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the week and fit them in as their schedule allows. Do what works best for you, but be flexible and be willing to change your plan if your schedule changes.
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    • Make enough to create leftovers:  Cooking more than can be eaten at one meal is fine. Leftovers can be used for lunches, frozen in individual servings for nights when things are crazy, or even eaten as breakfast.
    • Stick to real food:  Meal plans should include whole, real foods, not processed food that comes in a box. It doesn’t take significantly more time to cook simple meals from scratch – I promise – and the health benefits are huge.

Being flexible and not overly rigid in scheduling can also easily be applied to exercise planning.

What changes are you planning ot make in 2015? 

Health Benefits of Laughter

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

Is laughter truly the best medicine? We all know we feel better after a good laugh, but is there any scientific proof to explain why? There is! Laughter has so Laughter Graphicmany 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!

Case Study: Eliminating a 20-Year Cough

I recently promised to share more case studies so you could gain a better grasp of what I do on a daily basis and the types of cases I handle. Please note I have permission to share this information, will never use the person’s real name and may change minor details of the case to protect the client’s identity.

This case study is about “Eleanor,” a woman in her 50’s who came to see me because she wanted to lose weight and was trying to reverse Type 2 Picture of a daisy with a heart centerDiabetes. She was on Metformin, a nasal inhaler, two different allergy medications, asthma medication, high blood pressure medicine, a statin drug, Levothyroxine and Nexium. During her initial consultation, she casually mentioned she had constant post nasal drip with a cough and had to clear her throat constantly. She said this had begun over 20 years ago and nothing had worked to eliminate it. She had grown so used to this she didn’t even consider it a problem. I thought it was a significant issue we needed to address. Eleanor also shared she was exhausted and was often too tired to participate in social activities she was invited to attend.

As I reviewed Eleanor’s medical history and eating habits, I noticed she ate a large amount of carbohydrates and had bread or crackers with every meal and snack. The fact she was eating so much wheat made me suspect she had developed an allergy to it. A further review of her physical symptoms and a check of her allergy point with the EDS unit confirmed this. “EDS” stands for “Electro Dermal Scan” unit. It is a unit I use to check nerve centers associated with body systems and health conditions. Eleanor’s allergy point scored extremely high, meaning there was a large probability she had one or more allergies. Using a piece of bread, I was able to identify that wheat was a likely culprit.

I made the following recommendations:

  • I recommended that Eleanor eliminate wheat for three weeks. I encouraged her to keep a diary during those three weeks to record any changes she experienced physically, mentally or emotionally.
  • I recommended a revised eating plan known to help reverse insulin resistance.
  • I encouraged her to engage in some form of movement ten minutes each day.
  • I recommended three supplements known to help insulin resistance, thyroid function and systemic inflammation

At Eleanor’s next visit, she burst into my office grinning from ear-to-ear. She was visibly more energetic, happier and her skin looked better. When I asked her to share what changes she had seen, she said her cough and need to clear her throat had completely disappeared. After 20 years, she was finally able to sit through a movie without embarrassment, sleep soundly and leave home without tissues. She went on to say her energy levels had improved and she had lost ten pounds. Not bad!

After six months, Eleanor had lost 30 pounds, was off the Metformin, the statin drug, all allergy medications, the inhaler, Nexium, the asthma medication, and her blood pressure medication. In addition, she was on a lower dose of her thyroid medication, Levothyroxine. She had gone from taking nine daily prescription medications to only taking one. She said she no longer turns down social invitations, got a raise at work because her productivity improved dramatically, and she was training to run a mini-marathon. She thanked me profusely, but she gets all the credit. She recognized she needed to make changes and she committed to making them. I am so proud of her!

Currently, I meet with Eleanor via telephone about once a year. She is truly a different woman from the one who first walked into my office. Stories of transformation and progress such as hers are why I do what I do. How can I help you? Please contact me if you would like to schedule a consultation.

Top 10 Ways to Live Abundantly with Diabetes

Last week I participated in an online diabetes discussion and was accused of not having diabetes. Since I’ve had Type 1 diabetes since 1967, this accusation surprised me. The reason for the accusation? Among other things, this person said it was “obvious” I don’t have diabetes because I don’t mention it in any of my social media profiles and do not talk about it constantly. As a result of this, I began reviewing profiles of people I know have diabetes. Out of over forty profiles, I was the only one who does not Diabetes Dreams Canceled?mention having diabetes in the first 30 characters of the profile. For people who are diabetes advocates or who work in the diabetes industry, that’s fine. For anyone else, I find it heartbreaking.

Why heartbreaking? Because these people have made diabetes the sole focus of their journey. Instead of viewing diabetes as a challenge that is a secondary part of their life, they view it as the primary matter that defines their existence. I find this heartbreaking! Yes, diabetes is a serious disease; and yes, it requires constant vigilance, but it should never become the factor that defines how a person views him or herself. In fairness, there are many medical conditions which people allow to become their identity instead of being a tiny part of their life. This phenomenon is not limited to diabetes, but seems to be exceptionally common in people with diabetes.

Sadly, this has become very common. Medical professionals often encourage patients to become victims and tell the newly-diagnosed that their disease must become the focus of all their attention. They also often tell patients that diabetes will impair their quality of life and eventually kill them. I consider this the worst form of malpractice. Patients need to be educated about their diagnosis and need to be told about its seriousness, but they should never be convinced they must become invalids who cannot live normal lives. They must be encouraged and trained to control diabetes instead of letting diabetes control them. Diabetes is a fickle condition that doesn’t always obey the rules and rarely does what the textbook says it should. It can be frustrating, but should never become all-consuming. In my case, I have never and will never allow diabetes to prevent me from doing something I wish to. I maintain normal glucose levels by eating a unique diet, exercising and using insulin. (For those who are familiar with diabetes control, my A1Cs run under 6.0. I intend to keep them in the normal level.) I’m not non-compliant and I certainly don’t ignore the fact I have diabetes, but I don’t let it control my life, either. I control it and I’ve learned to deal with unexpected occurrences with humor and acceptance.

It drives me crazy to constantly see diabetes “support” organizations make statements such as, “Having diabetes is hard,” or “Diabetes is a constant stressor.” (Those are direct quotes taken from national diabetes support groups with online channels.) Having diabetes is only hard or stressful if you choose to view it as such. Diabetes is a serious disease, but it should NEVER become such a large focus of someone’s life that they cease to live normally. I talk to many people who tell me they “can’t” do things because of diabetes. My consistent response to that is, “Why the heck not?!” Having diabetes can be challenging, but shouldn’t be limiting. There is absolutely no reason people with diabetes cannot live full, abundant lives. People who control diabetes instead of allowing it to control them feel free to travel, participate in sports, ride motorcycles, stay active, and enjoy every minute of their life. (For more info on having diabetes and riding motorcycles, please see Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding.)

Here are my top ten ways to live abundantly with diabetes: 

  1. Do what you know you need to. In other words, stay compliant and follow the rules. Ignoring your condition will only lead to problems.
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  2. Learn to laugh about it. Let’s face it, blood sugars are affected by so many different factors they sometimes don’t do what they should. Learn from every unexpected occurrence, but keep a sense of humor about the developments.
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  3. Plan ahead, but be prepared for the unplanned. Always carry a fast-acting source of glucose and your blood sugar meter. If an unusual situation develops, test glucose levels more frequently.
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  4. Get support. By “support,” I don’t mean someone who will let you whine. I mean find people who will listen and provide encouragement, but who are not afraid to hold you accountable if you start holding pity parties. I also give you permission to tell people to stop telling you what to do and to stop asking, “Are you sure you should do/eat that?” Educate those folks, set firm boundaries, and then move on if they continue trying to be the “diabetes police.”
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  5. Let the grieving end. Every person with diabetes goes through a period of grieving. Unfortunately, many folks with diabetes get stuck in the “anger” stage of grieving. As a result, they are constantly angry about everything related to diabetes. Do whatever is needed to release your anger and bitterness so you can start living abundantly and enjoying your life. If needed, seek professional counseling. This is especially true if depression is starting to limit your ability to live a normal life. (And … YES … people with diabetes can live normal lives.)
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  6. Stop talking about it constantly. It isn’t necessary to tell every new acquaintance you have diabetes. Try focusing on other conversation topics. You will probably find your circle of friends widens and you start receiving more social invitations.
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  7. Hold yourself accountable. At the end of every day, take a personal inventory of what your thoughts focused on the most during the day. If diabetes consistently wins the prize, it’s time to start focusing on other things.
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  8. Find a doctor who views you as part of the team and who allows you to control things without constant supervision. Many doctors are horrified if patients change their insulin dose or dietary plan, yet most people with diabetes have to do so to maintain control. Find a doc who recognizes you know more about controlling your glucose levels than s/he does and who welcomes your involvement in making changes.
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  9. Cut yourself some slack. Even those of us who do “everything right” sometimes experience unusual highs or lows in glucose levels. Don’t blame yourself and don’t assume that every unusual occurrence was caused by you. Review what happened prior to the high or low and then think about anything you could have done to change it. Let the unexpected become learning situations. Also recognize that unusual fluctuations may occur which cannot be attached to a specific cause. Accept it, learn from it and move on.
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  10. Stop limiting yourself! Make a list of five things you think you “can’t” do because you have diabetes. Now create a schedule of ways you can gently attempt each of those things. Don’t try to go from zero to sixty overnight. Venture into the new activity in small doses. (Limit the list to legal things, please. In the US, diabetics cannot be astronauts, scuba dive, hold a pilot’s license, be police officers in some states or drive passenger vehicles. Set your sights on legal activities which are similar.) Evaluate things you’ve been told you should “never” do to see if it makes sense to not do it. Were you told you should never get a pedicure? Think about potential risks and then devise a work-around, such as taking your own tools. For the record, I think there are a variety of common activities diabetics are often warned against that make no sense at all. If you want to get a piercing or tattoo, wear open-toed shoes, have a body part waxed, etc., consider the risks and take proper precautions.

How ’bout you? Is diabetes your identity or a tiny part of what defines you? 

Note: I know many people will respond negatively to this post. This is purely my opinion. Please keep your comments balanced and kind. 

Modern Epidemic: Metabolic Syndrome

“Metabolic Syndrome” refers to a group of symptoms that are increasing at an alarming rate in the U.S. and other developed countries. Metabolic Syndrome is often referred to as an “epidemic” because the number of people affected by it is increasing so rapidly. Why does this matter? Because Metabolic Syndrome is a set of conditions created by lifestyle and dietary habits. Metabolic Syndrome is Metabolic Syndrome: Apple with Stethoscope and Measuring Tapeknown to increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hormonal imbalances, depression, stroke and more.

Although experts disagree on the specific causes of Metabolic Syndrome, they all agree that obesity, a high carbohydrate diet, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables are contributing factors. Other factors which may increase your risk include heredity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, smoking and possibly toxic exposure from food, air and water.

The problem with Metabolic Syndrome is that no single definition of what it is and no specified set of diagnostic criteria have been defined. Many practitioners in the mainstream medical community do not believe Metabolic Syndrome exists and do not believe early identification can help improve health outcomes. There is also controversy about whether the symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome truly represent a “syndrome” or are merely a group of related symptoms which each has its own risk factors. The concern is that we have created a “disease” which truly doesn’t exist.

The bottom line is that whether you group the symptoms together and label them or not, they each represent a very real risk to health and longevity. In my practice, I work with many people who have multiple symptoms associated with Metabolic Syndrome. Addressing the issues quickly restores health. It also often results in improved self esteem and a restored positive outlook. I find that people who address Metabolic Syndrome typically experience better overall health on a long term basis.

Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome

The most common symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome include:

  • Weight gain in the stomach and abdomen, often in spite of exercise and decreased food intake
  • Fatigue
  • Increased triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Fasting blood glucose levels greater than 100 mg/dL
  • Acne
  • Higher than normal blood levels of insulin (Please see The Top 3 Blood Tests Everyone Should Request for more info)
  • Mild to moderate kidney damage resulting in excess protein in the urine
  • Increased systemic inflammation which may cause joint pain, water retention and other symptoms
  • Increased liver enzymes due to insufficient detoxification and/or a condition called “fatty liver”
  • Excess growth of Candida (yeast) in the body
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in women
  • Low Testosterone in men
  • Abnormal development in children
  • Mental and psychological issues, ranging from mild to extreme

If you have three or more of those symptoms, please schedule an appointment with your practitioner. Ask him or her to order blood work including a complete metabolic panel, complete blood count, insulin level, A1C and complete thyroid panel. (If your doctor is unsure how to interpret these tests related to Metabolic Syndrome risk factors, please feel free to contact me to schedule a half-hour blood work interpretation consultation.)

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome

The good news is that Metabolic Syndrome can often be reversed using simple lifestyle changes. Supplements may also be used in some cases. The purpose of the recommended changes is to improve insulin sensitivity and restore balance to the endocrine system. Potential changes may include:

  • Improving an exercise regimen and combining it with weight training
  • Decreasing the type and quantity of carbohydrates eaten on a daily basis
  • Increasing the amount of healthy fat consumed on a daily basis
  • Identifying and addressing mineral deficiencies
  • Improving digestion to ensure foods are adequately digested and absorbed
  • Other recommendations based on the person’s specific health needs

Reversing Metabolic Syndrome is very possible, but requires the direction of a qualified practitioner. If you suspect you have Metabolic Syndrome and would like to start the process of reversing it, please contact me to schedule a consultation. 

Photo courtesy of Keith Ramsey

Ten Tips for Avoiding Hangovers

I want to take this opportunity to wish you a joyous night of celebration and a very Happy New Year. Please celebrate with caution and be careful! This post is dedicated to ways to avoid hangovers.

I don’t condone excess drinking, but we all know that New Year’s Eve is typically a night filled with alcohol.Beer Bottles Why does excess alcohol cause a hangover? For the following reasons:

  • Alcohol causes dehydration, which leads to inflammation and feeling generally horrible.
  • Alcohol contains two highly toxic compounds: acetaldehyde and malondialdehyde. These two chemicals create massive cell damage throughout the body. The damage caused by these chemicals is so severe it resembles the damage caused by radiation. There’s a good reason you feel so bad! 
  • Alcohol lowers blood sugar and can cause hypoglycemia. Typical symptoms of hypoglycemia include weakness, dizziness, nausea, and more. Sound familiar? If you ever notice someone acting far drunker than their consumption warrants, chances are they have a low blood sugar. Get them something to eat! 

If needed, use the following ten tips for avoiding hangovers:

1) Don’t drink. (This is the only certain way to avoid hangovers. You know it.) Please don’t waste your money on products claiming to be a hangover “cure.” There is no such thing. The only way to avoid hangovers is to not drink, or to drink very small amounts of alcohol.

2) Alternate every alcoholic drink with a big glass of water or other beverage. Dehydration is one cause of hangovers, so drinking a non-alcoholic beverage between each alcoholic beverage will help limit your intake and will help keep you hydrated. Staying hydrated is key to avoiding hangovers.

3) Add trace minerals to every drink. In addition to replacing essential electrolytes, trace minerals help counteract alcohol’s acidic effects. My favorite trace mineral is I like this one: Premier Polar Mins, but drinking coconut water is also an excellent way to replace trace minerals. It makes a good mixer, so it’s a win-win.

4) Don’t mix different types of alcohol. Stick to one type. Mixing beer and wine and distilled liquors puts a heavy load on your body’s ability to metabolize both the alcohol and the other ingredients in the drinks. There’s no guarantee that only drinking one kind of alcohol will avoid a hangover, but it may diminish the symptoms.

5) Drink lighter colored forms of alcohol. Darker alcohols (bourbon, dark rum, etc.) contain higher amounts of congeners, the toxins in alcohol which cause hangovers. Cheap booze also has higher amounts of congeners, so splurging on name brands which are more expensive may reduce hangover symptoms.

6) Avoid bubbly mixers. The gases in bubbly mixers can cause alcohol to enter the bloodstream more rapidly and may make it more difficult for the body to eliminate the toxins in the alcohol. Instead of carbonated mixers, use coconut water (loaded with electrolytes), fruit juice, water, etc.

7) Eat before you start drinking. Eating slows the absorption of alcohol and helps your body eliminate alcohol’s toxins. Eating a meal high in healthy fats is known to reduce hangover symptoms.

8) Order drinks on the rocks. The ice will melt and dilute the alcohol and will help keep you hydrated.

9) Ask for a larger glass. Ask your server to put your drink in a 16-ounce glass and fill the empty space with water.

10) Use supplements. Yes, supplements can reduce the effects of a hangover. Many hard core alcoholics know that taking Lecithin and Milk Thistle before, during and after drinking can help reduce hangover symptoms. The added bonus is that these also help repair the liver, so there is some value in using them.

Alcohol depletes the body of B Vitamins, Magnesium, Potassium and other essential nutrients, so taking a multi-vitamin before you drink and a B Complex vitamin can help. Taking potent antioxidants can also help prevent the damage done by alcohol’s damaging chemicals. Taking all of the previously mentioned supplements as soon as you wake up may also help.

Related Articles:

Surprising Facts About Vitamin B12

Why You Need More Magnesium

Unusual Ways to Keep the Holidays Healthy

My Holiday Prayer for You

Resolving Not to Resolve: Success in New Year Resolutions

Have you chosen a New Year Resolution yet? How likely are you to achieve your goal as a result? Although I applaud the attitude and desire that motivates New Year Resolutions, I’m not sure the “overnight sensation” approach is a good idea. Most New Year Resolutions become failed resolutions fairly quickly as List of New Year Resolutionspeople embrace unrealistic expectations, set impossible goals with impossible timelines, and soon become overwhelmed or frustrated and give up. 

I recently asked my followers on social media if they make resolutions and whether or not they are successful when they do. Most people responded they do not make resolutions because they typically fail, while others said they make resolutions but only attain them about half the time. My favorite response came from a friend who said he tries to improve every single day instead of waiting until the start of a new year to create change.

The problem with most New Year Resolutions are that they are “all or nothing” propositions that wind up being made with little forethought and which wind up being very temporary. Creating true lifestyle change that permanently alters habits takes a different approach.

Here are my recommendations for creating lasting change: 

  1. Identify why you want to change: Many people say they want to lose weight, but if you ask them WHY, you get a wide range of responses. Some will say they want to look better, others will say they want to be healthier, some will say they want to have more energy, and many will look at you as if you just asked the world’s stupidest question. Having a goal isn’t sufficient unless you can identify the reasons you want to reach the goal and can state what you will gain by attaining the goal. I recommend writing down your reasons so you can use them as motivation as you work toward your goal. Recognizing why you wish to reach a goal will also provide greater satisfaction when you reach your goal. One word of warning: Reaching a goal does not always have the outcome you thought it would. Recognize the benefits you gain even if they are not what you expected.The most common new year resolution is to lose weight. Unfortunately, some people want to lose weight because they believe being thinner will make them more popular, allow them to meet the man or woman of their dreams, or bring about other positive social changes in their life. One of the secrets of having a full social calendar is to love and appreciate yourself just as you are. Loving who you are and being content with where you are at creates a confidence and joy that other people enjoy being near. The type of people who are attracted to others simply because they’re thin aren’t the type of people you want in your life, anyway. Trust me.
     
  2. Break your primary goal into smaller steps: For most people, it makes sense to ease into your goal, using baby steps to reach it. For example, instead of setting a goal of not drinking caffeine (out of a desire to lower blood pressure or improve pH), set a smaller goal each week that will gradually build to create your final goal. For instance, give up energy drinks the first week, soda the next, and coffee the following week. In addition to making your goal easier to achieve by “chunking” it into smaller pieces, this also lessens the shock on your body and your psyche. Lessening the shock (or detoxification process) on your body will help you feel better and will again make it easier to stick to your plan and achieve success. It also lessens the emotional shocks that come with creating new habits. This approach can be used with any type of lifestyle change and is not limited to giving up food or drinks. There are times when giving up a food or beverage “cold turkey” is desirable, such as when a food allergy has been identified or when a health condition makes it necessary. However, making changes slowly and steadily brings a higher level of success when illness is not your motivator.
     
  3. Set a start date: Setting a target start date allows you to prepare mentally and emotionally for establishing new habits. Setting a start date also provides the opportunity to identify and eliminate any triggers that led to failure in the past. If you broke your goal into small steps or milestones, attach a time limit to each step. After you set your start date and subsequent milestone dates, use the time leading up to it to encourage yourself on a daily basis, to strengthen your commitment to meeting the goal, and to addressing any negative thoughts you have related to the goal. Use positive affirmations, write down your goals and review them daily, ask friends and family for encouragement and support, or use whatever motivational technique works best for you. Being prepared emotionally will make it easier to rise above and resist any temptations that come. 
     
  4. Celebrate your successes: Reaching goals is a huge accomplishment. CELEBRATE your success and reward yourself! When identifying your goals and milestones as mentioned in Step 1, attach a reward to each one. Pick rewards that are not food-oriented and which do not include anything you’re working to eliminate. Your rewards may include a pampering experience such as a massage, or may be as simple as allowing yourself (and asking your family to give you) one uninterrupted hour to read a book. Your rewards do not have to cost money. Be creative and choose rewards that will make you feel truly rewarded.
     
  5. Don’t let a single slip derail you: Nobody’s perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be. If you slip and step outside of the boundaries you created, use that slip as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself what motivated the slip and how you could have avoided it. Learn from the slip, consider how you will resist similar situations in the future, and move on. Some people view a single slip as evidence they can’t succeed and use it as an excuse to abandon their entire plan. Don’t give into that temptation. If you deviate from your plan, learn from it and move forward without looking back. Beating yourself up about it won’t accomplish anything positive, so don’t do it.

The bottom line is that there’s more success in choosing to make tiny changes on a daily basis than in trying to accomplish a great change overnight.

Did you make a resolution this year? If so, what was it? 

Graphic courtesy of One Way Stock

Ten Ways to Eliminate Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy. Unfortunately, many people get so caught up in holiday “shoulds and musts” that their season becomes a time of stress instead of a time of joy. Following are my recommended top ten ways to reduce holiday stress so you can enjoy your celebration.

  1. Let go of unrealistic expectations: Unrealistic expectations are the primary cause of disappointment and sadness during the holidays. Although it may be difficult, take time to consider which of your expectations are unrealistic and to accept the truth. Making the best of reality is a quick way to de-stress. Acceptance leads to joy!
    . 
  2. Recognize that you are the source of your stress: It is tough to admit, but the stress you feel is genuinely all in your head. When you feel holiday stress, stop and ask yourself WHY you are stressed. If you can change the situation, do. If not, accept it, make the best of it, and stop stressing! (Refer back to point one if needed.)
    Two women experiencing holiday stress. 
  3. Get creative: Sometimes a little creativity is all it takes to eliminate holiday stress. Think outside of the box and come up with simpler ways of doing things. (Hint: It’s fine to have dinner catered or to buy the sides. I swear no one cares you bought the cheese ball instead of making it yourself. It’s fine to change the family meal to a pitch-in or go to a restaurant. Giving an occasional gift card is also acceptable. I promise.)
    . 
  4. Keep a sense of humor and realize none of the fluff matters: When all’s said and done, none of the holiday fluff really matters. If things don’t go the way you planned, be flexible, laugh it off, and move on.
              .
  5. Just say NO: Most holiday stress is caused by overcommitment. Existing in a constant state of exhaustion is no fun and leads to illness. Instead of saying “yes” to every invitation, prioritize your commitments and say no to those which do not bring joy or which are too difficult to fit into your busy schedule.
    . 
  6. Schedule time to do nothing: Take a day during the holiday season and dedicate it to doing absolutely nothing. Commit to spending the day with your family doing peaceful, stress-free activities. You owe it to yourself to take a day to recharge and refresh! If it’s impossible to commit an entire day to doing nothing, schedule a few hours each week and firmly devote them to being good to yourself.
    . 
  7. Discuss changing traditions with your family: As families grow and mature, their needs and dynamics change. Take time each year to evaluate traditions and to openly discuss how traditions can be modified to better meet everyone’s needs. Things to discuss include drawing names instead of buying for each individual, meeting on a date other than Christmas day, making a communal donation to a charity instead of exchanging gifts, volunteering at a shelter instead of having a family meal, etc.. Consider meeting in January to completely eliminate holiday stress. If some family members are not willing to change, try to find a compromise that is not offensive to those who take comfort in tradition.
    . 
  8. Use technology: Take advantage of time savers offered by technology. A few options include shopping online, sending an email card or newsletter, or getting together via a Google+ Hangout. The Hangout feature lets you connect “in person” with people all over the world.
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  9. Look outside of yourself: Proverbs 11:25 says it best: “The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” Take the focus off of receiving and concentrate on giving. Giving your time and compassion has far more value than any material gift. Teaching your children to bless others and to appreciate the joy of giving is a gift that will multiply through the years.
    . 
  10. Ditch the materialism: Gifts and food have no lasting value. Concentrate on the spiritual side of the holidays. In my family, we take special effort to focus on the fact we are celebrating the birth of Jesus. We blend all the other activities into this focus to give them higher meaning. Your celebration does not have to contain a religious focus in order to more enriching. Focus on gratitude, family and blessing others instead of gifts and food.

How do you avoid holiday stress? Please share a comment and let us know! Your ideas will help others de-stress and have more fun.

Twenty Surprising Facts About Vitamin D

Vitamin DThe following facts about Vitamin D may surprise you:

  • Vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. (This post refers to it as a “vitamin” because that is the common terminology used.)
  • Vitamin D is a powerful anti-inflammatory
  • 90-95% of Vitamin D is produced by the skin through sun exposure
  • The natural form of Vitamin D the skin produces is Vitamin D3 
  • The Vitamin D that is added to milk and other products is Vitamin D2, which is not well absorbed
  • Vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning the body stores it 
  • Experts estimate that 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D regulates more than 200 genes in the body
  • Grass fed beef contains Vitamin D3; mainstream beef does not
  • Vitamin D is a powerful immune booster
  • Studies proved 2000 IU/day is more effective than flu shots at preventing the flu
  • Vitamin D is known to protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Multiple Sclerosis, and over 800 different cancers
  • It is very difficult to get adequate D3 through the diet
  • Ten to thirty minutes of unprotected sun exposure is the best way to boost levels
  • Pregnant women need twice as much Vitamin D as other people
  • Dark-skinned people typically do not produce Vitamin D well and are often deficient
  • The best test to check Vitamin D levels is the 25-hydroxy-vitamin D test
  • The 1,25-dihydroxy-vitamin D blood test is very inaccurate and may return false levels if D levels are low
  • The ideal range of D in the blood is 50-75 nmol/L. Higher and lower amounts may cause or worsen health challenges.
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin D have been connected to depression, inflammatory conditions, cancer, fatigue, digestive disorders, metabolic disorders, weight gain, headaches, bladder disorders, and much more

Do you take Vitamin D? I generally recommend starting with 2000-5000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day. Check your blood levels every three months, adjusting the dose as needed. The goal level of Vitamin D should be 50-75 nmol/L.

If you do not have a doctor, you can order a home test kit at: Vitamin D Home Test Kit

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

Conquering the Roaring Lion of Food Temptations

A tempting box of chocolates

I recently realized there were still posts which did not import when I imported my content from my former blog site. Unfortunately, this post was one of them. It’s a late addition, but one I knew would benefit others. 

This blog was inspired by my clients, patients and friends who have changed lifestyle and eating habits and experienced cravings as a result. It’s also for everyone who battles cravings as part of daily life. (Anyone who has dealt with cravings knows it is indeed a BATTLE. This post is for you!)

Chances are you’re reading this because you’ve decided to change your eating habits. You may have chosen to change because you want to lose weight, improve your health, delay aging, or for many other reasons. Regardless of the desire that prompted you to change your eating style, you’re probably battling food temptations on a daily basis. In this post, I’m going to look at what causes cravings, how to identify their cause, and provide suggestions for strategies you can use to successfully combat and eliminate your cravings. Ready? Let’s go!!

Food cravings typically stem from four sources:

  1. Psychological and physical habits
  2. Detoxification
  3. Hormonal fluctuations
  4. Unaddressed emotional issues

Cravings that stem from ingrained habits can be tough to beat because of the sense of security that are often tied to them. For instance, if you are used to starting every day with a big bowl of “Captain Death” cereal and whole milk, switching to a bowl of fruit and nuts may take some getting used to. Your ingrained habit will cause your mind to attempt to force you to reach for that box of death and to not change the status quo. Your mind and body will associate your daily habit with security and stability. Changing the habit will require re-teaching your mind and body to embrace the healthy habit and reject the unhealthy old habit. Research has shown that a bad habit can typically be replaced with a good one in 21-40 days. Want to shorten that time frame? Don’t rely solely on yourself. Ask God for help, ask your friends and family to encourage you and hold you accountable, and – most importantly – avoid situations that expose you to foods you’ve chosen to avoid. When you decide to change your dietary habits, clean out your cabinets and refrigerator and donate all of the off-limit foods to a food pantry or give them to friends. If you live with others who are not making the same dietary changes you are, designate one specific shelf in the fridge and one specific set of shelves in cupboards and pantry as yours and yours alone. This way you only need to look one place for your “safe” foods and won’t have to be exposed to the unhealthy foods of those you live with. Ask your family to respect your decision and to help you. If you need to ask your spouse to please eat his Big Macs, Snickers bars and banana splits in another room … do it.

It is also very possible and probable that we have addictions to some foods. Identifying those addictions can be very helpful in combating cravings and temptations. One study found that rats who were addicted to sugar and cocaine chose sugar over cocaine every single time. Another study found that sugar stimulates the same regions in the brain as cocaine. These two studies provide strong proof that it is indeed possible to develop an addiction to sugar. Other foods that contain addictive chemicals include wheat. Diet Coke, high fructose corn syrup, most fast food options, white sugar, etc. If you realize you have a food addiction, it is imperative to completely avoid that food. Having even a tiny amount of the food will send your cravings through the roof and will also make resisting temptation very difficult.

Cravings sometimes come as your body cleanses itself of the unhealthy residues of former food habits. This is commonly known as “detoxification.” The good news is that detoxification is temporary and not everyone experiences it the same way. Your personal detoxification experience will be different from everyone else’s. More good news is that detoxification happens in different levels. Your body will detoxify itself of the most recent toxins you’ve eaten or absorbed first, and will then methodically detoxify itself of toxins from the past. More good news is that your detoxification process will be lesser if you’re only making minor dietary changes. After making huge dietary and lifestyle changes, some experts believe it can take up to two years before full detoxification occurs. Detoxification may generate a wide range of symptoms, including pimples and skin rashes, diarrhea, a runny nose, fatigue, achiness, low-grade fever, feeling chilled all the time, strange dreams, body odor and bad breath, a coating of the tongue, grumpiness and irritability, and more. To minimize detox symptoms, do any or all of the following:

  • Drink plenty of purified water. It is recommended that everyone drink half their weight in ounces of purified water on a daily basis. Many people find it wonderfully cleansing to start the day with a big glass of water with organic lemon juice in it. This is known to aid liver detoxification and to be very alkalizing.
  • Take a hot bath 2-3 nights per week with 2 cups Epsom salts and 2 cups organic apple cider vinegar in it. This is a “detox bath” that will pull toxins out through the skin and help you feel better in general. This bath is also known to help eliminate colds and flu if you take one every day at the very beginning of the illness. (For more info, read How to Create a Detoxification Bath Using Common Ingredients.)
  • Do everything you can to help your body cleanse your liver. Things to try include drinking 1 TBS of liquid chlorophyll in pure water morning and evening; sipping on pure water with organic lemon juice throughout the day except close to or during meals; taking 175mg Milk Thistle three times per day; using liver cleansing herbal teas; etc. It is not uncommon for liver enzymes to elevate a bit during a prolonged detox, so helping your body cleanse the liver will ultimately help you feel better.
  • Use enemas or colon hydrotherapy to cleanse the colon. These tactics cleanse the colon of toxins and can greatly diminish cravings. I don’t recommend using these methods on an ongoing basis, but using them during a detoxification phase may be helpful.

Moving on … Hormonal fluctuations can and will cause cravings and can make resisting temptation more difficult. For those who are making minor dietary changes, I would encourage you to limit or eliminate sugar, coffee, alcohol and other caffeinated beverages, all processed foods, etc. These foods can exacerbate hormonal issues. Eliminating those foods may make a huge difference in how you feel. Regular exercise can also help balance hormones.

Emotional eating is perhaps the toughest challenge to battle. Sometimes we experience cravings which we cannot explain. Those cravings are often the result of unmet or unaddressed emotional issues. These issues could include unforgiveness, feelings of abandonment, feeling unfulfilled, feeling unloved, etc., etc. Feelings of unforgiveness or bitterness can be especially damaging to our willpower. My encouragement to anyone who realizes that emotional issues are sabotaging their dietary changes is to journal, find a friend to share your intimate feelings with, and to seek professional counseling if needed. I also encourage you to prayerfully seek wisdom in identifying the specific emotional issues that cause you to overeat or to make poor food choices. Hypnosis is a scientific method that can effectively help you identify and eliminate food barriers. I highly recommend Paula Presnoples, CH of UR Path Hypnosis for anyone in the Indianapolis area.

Remember that emotional issues sometimes need to be addressed one layer at a time. Choosing to identify and address emotional issues is a huge step. Promise yourself you will do that, then pay attention to the things that trigger overeating or making poor food choices. Once you recognize the triggers, see if you can connect emotions to those triggers, and then seek spiritual guidance on how to work through the unaddressed issue. Some people find help from EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), counseling, prayer, support groups, journaling, etc. Commit to working through your unmet emotional issues and you will find that you receive crystal-clear insight as to what issues are clogging your ability to eat the way you want to.

Let’s move forward and discuss strategies for rising above temptation and cravings. Please know that cravings and temptations are a problem for me, too. I have found several thing successfully combat those cravings. First and foremost, I would recommend writing down your reasons for making the dietary changes. Set personal goals for making the changes you are making. When you are tempted to eat the wrong foods, remind yourself of your reasons for changing and ask yourself if going back to old habits is worth not meeting your goals or destroying goals you’ve already met. Chances are that piece of pizza or donut will not seem so appealing when compared to a life spent being overweight or ill. Anytime I am tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I ask myself the following questions:

– Does this food add to or subtract from my health? You could rephrase this by asking, “Will this food help or hinder my weight loss goal?” or “Will this food keep me younger or accelerate aging?” Ask yourself a question that targets your goals for making the dietary changes you’ve chosen to make.

– Does this food glorify God? (Or whomever your personal Higher Power is.) I had to realize that what I eat directly reflects my understanding of who God is. Seek direction from your own Higher Power and ask yourself what the food choices you make say to others about your personal God.

Other factors that can help combat temptation include prayer and finding encouraging affirmations, verses, quotations, etc., that will inspire you to stick to your goals. Verses that help me include Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc. I also have a collection of quotes from health gurus that help immensely. Memorize or write your affirmations or quotations on cards and keep them with you so that you have ready access to them at all times. Posting them on the door of your refrigerator or cupboard may be especially helpful. Most importantly, ask others to pray for and encourage you!

Finding a “food buddy” is also an excellent way to combat food temptations. Find someone who is making similar dietary changes and agree to support each other by being available via telephone, email, text, etc. Having someone available that you can contact when you’re feeling tempted is a strong motivator. This technique is a primary component of the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Each person has a mentor, or sponsor, whom they can call any time of day if they are feeling tempted to have a drink. Since our food temptations may be caused by food addictions, this technique can be very helpful for anyone who wants to make dietary changes and better food choices. It’s also very encouraging to have someone available whom you can laugh with and who will celebrate your successes with you.

As I said earlier, the best thing to do to combat your cravings is to avoid the situations and foods that make you weak. Don’t purchase foods that make you fall.

Here’s my closing encouragement for dealing with food temptations: If you stray from your set goals, don’t beat yourself up and don’t use it as an excuse to stray even further. We’re all human and are all prone to weakness. Remember that there is always a way to avoid your temptation if you’re willing to let go of the temporary pleasure the temptation will bring. Sticking with drastic dietary changes is a challenge that may be difficult to maintain. You can do it! If you stray, remember that straying from your new diet provides fantastic opportunities to learn more about ourselves and to learn new ways to meet our goals. You are in my thoughts and prayers as you strive to change your life to pursue new levels of health, wellness and weight loss.

Confessions from Thyroid Hell

I guarantee you have been touched by Thyroid Hell at least once during your lifetime. If you do not personally have thyroid disease, you have definitely come in contact with someone who does. That encounter may have been quite pleasant, or may have been a nightmare. Either way, the quality of the encounter can be directly attributed to how well that person’s thyroid levels were balanced on that particular day. (Thyroid levels can fluctuate on a daily basis, which makes managing thyroid conditions that much more difficult.)

I thought I’d share an insider’s look at Thyroid Hell, mainly because I’ve spent a lot of time there. I invite those of you with thyroid imbalances to share your stories in the comments. Feel free to have fun with it and please don’t worry about offending us. Thyroid disease is no laughing matter, but the situations it creates are sometimes hilarious.

In the upcoming weeks, I will share more detailed information about thyroid disorders. I will also launch a wellness coaching program for thyroid patients that will provide detailed information about lifestyle changes, dietary changes and supplements that can be used to support the thyroid gland. This program will also contain very specific information on how to discuss thyroid issues with your doctor and on the tests you need to request. I do not want one more thyroid patient to needlessly suffer, and I recognize that education is the only way to prevent that.

The Thyroid Gland is a tiny gland that wraps around the esophagus. It sits just below the “Adam’s Apple.” In spite of its size, the thyroid gland is incredibly powerful. It secretes hormones that directly affect every body system. Every single one. An imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can affect brain chemistry, emotions, digestion, reproductive health, fluid balance in the tissues, kidney function, heart function, liver function, hair and nail growth, sexual function, emotional balance, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, dexterity, muscle strength and stamina, cholesterol levels, anxiety, vision, internal temperature regulation, and more. As you can see, thyroid dysfunction affects body, mind and spirit in profound ways. Unfortunately, many MDs prescribe antidepressant meds to treat the symptoms instead of doing detailed blood work to find the cause of the problems.

The one item that is also affected but which was not included in the list is: RELATIONSHIPS. It is very difficult for thyroid patients to explain to family members and friends that they truly aren’t themselves. I frequently hear people with thyroid disorders express: “I hate myself and don’t know who this monster is living in my body, so I don’t know how any of my coworkers, family members or friends could stand me.” I’ve been that monster. Even though I was able to usually control my outbursts, the constant turmoil spinning through my brain and thought patterns was pure hell. Many people who are very positive, calm and chipper become Mr. Hyde when their thyroid levels become imbalanced. Those of us who have dealt with thyroid issues for many years instantly know it’s time to get blood work and check levels when the monster starts to rear her ugly head.

Unfortunately, people who have never before received a thyroid diagnosis often genuinely think they’re going crazy. It is extremely common for patients who are hospitalized due to suicide attempts to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder. It is not uncommon for lab tests to reveal that people who successfully committed suicide had thyroid imbalances. I am very thankful that a growing number of MDs are choosing to specialize in both endocrinology and psychiatry. I personally believe the two cannot be completely separated.

In my own experience, I can say that I could easily deal with the physical afflictions of thyroid imbalance if the emotional effects were not so profound. I’ve heard other thyroid patients echo similar sentiments. Once you realize your thyroid levels are out of balance, you begin the process of changing medication dosages until the correct dosage is found. This can sometimes create a rollercoaster effect where the patient goes from being hypothyroid (having thyroid levels that are too low) to being hyperthyroid (having thyroid levels that are too high.) Unfortunately, there is a lot of overlap between the symptoms for hypo- and hyperthyroidism, which makes the entire process that much more fun.

For those of you who have friends, coworkers or family members with thyroid challenges, here’s a list of the emotional and behavioral changes you might observe when their thyroid levels become imbalanced:

  • Having extreme anxiety where none existed before
  • Reacting irrationally to minor issues
  • Responding to almost everything with anger
  • Displaying extreme levels of irritability (as in being annoyed by your breathing)
  • Overtweeting or excessive use of social media (I’m not making that up)
  • Suddenly having a total lack of self confidence and a complete disbelief their efforts will succeed
  • Becoming completely apathetic about projects or topics for which they have a passion
  • Dressing very differently because their clothes do not fit, their body image plummets, or they just don’t care
  • Suddenly becoming out-and-out mean, caustically sarcastic, hypercritical, etc.
  • Becoming very negative
  • Suddenly becoming a hermit who has no desire to leave the house or interact with others
  • A total slob may suddenly become obsessively tidy, or a neat freak may suddenly become a slob

That list could continue with many more points, but the bottom line is that thyroid imbalance changes people’s personalities, not just their physiology. The good news is that there are a wide variety of natural approaches that can support thyroid health. These approaches, used in combination with natural thyroid replacement hormones, can eliminate the hell and restore normalcy.

So what can you do to help a thyroid patient who’s in flux? Love them, obviously. In the midst of that, ask questions to ensure they are working with a professional to stabilize their hormone levels. I cannot stress this enough: Most thyroid patients are already experiencing a bit of self hate. Try not to be negative and judgmental about the changes in their life habits. They may need your assistance in maintaining the status quo, and they may need you to very gently hold them accountable, but they do not need your judgment. Threatening them with ending the relationship will not motivate them at all. Their hormonal imbalance is already affecting their self image, so losing a relationship may not matter to them (or they may expect it) when their levels are out of balance. I know that sounds extreme, but I hear it and see it on a daily basis.

The best advice I can offer is to ask the thyroid patient in your life how you can help them. Be specific. Ask if you can help with chores, if they need you to take them out to have fun, and let them know you love them and are there for them if they need to talk or need a soft shoulder to pound on. Your support will do more for them than anything else.

Ok … your turn. Have you experienced this? What else can we add to the list? I welcome in put from thyroid patients and from people who love them and who are on the receiving end of the angst.

Why You Need More Magnesium

Experts estimate that 80% of the US population is deficient in Magnesium, a very basic mineral that is essential for good magnesiumhealth and which is used by every system in the body.

A lack of Magnesium in the body may cause any of the following: 

  • muscle cramps
  • heart palpitations
  • headaches and migraines
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • muscle weakness
  • digestive disorders
  • impaired pituitary and thyroid function
  • PMS
  • kidney problems
  • insulin resistance and/or hypoglycemia
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • vertigo
  • problems swallowing
  • muscle aches
  • tremors and shaking
  • anxiety or over-excitability
  • muscle twitching and tics
  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • kidney stones and heel spurs
  • coronary spasms
  • atrial fibrillation
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • numbness in extremities
  • worsening of asthma symptoms
  • water retention
  • high blood pressure
  • loss of appetite or nausea
  • and many more 

The problem with these symptoms is that many are very vague and most could be caused by a wide variety of other issues. Unfortunately, it is extremely rare for a medical professional to consider a magnesium deficiency and act accordingly when faced with symptoms that indicate one. Additionally, plasma levels of magnesium measured during blood tests are very inaccurate because only 1% of magnesium in the body is stored in the blood. The majority of magnesium in the body is stored in the tissues, making blood tests almost worthless. We live in a society where mainstream physicians are taught to place more weight on blood test results than on symptoms, which makes it even less likely that a person exhibiting multiple symptoms of magnesium deficiency will be given magnesium. (There is a blood test that is more accurate, the ionized magnesium test, but it is not widely available.)

As the huge list of symptoms indicates, magnesium is necessary for the proper functioning of every body system. A deficiency can have devastating consequences. Magnesium is the most prolific mineral in the body and is responsible for almost 400 different biochemical reactions in the body. A short list of the body functions magnesium directly influences include:

  • Allows the body to absorb calcium and to place it where it belongs 
  • Essential for the production of energy
  • Essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats
  • Relaxes muscles so they remain flexible
  • Essential for the activation of B vitamins
  • Helps build bone and keep it flexible enough to not shatter
  • Helps maintain a normal electrical flow of nerve impulses in the heart
  • Essential for hormone balance (especially during PMS and menopause)
  • Essential for initiation over 300 different enzyme reactions essential for health
  • Essential for proper digestion
  • Essential for the production of key brain chemicals
  • Essential for normal kidney and liver function

Obviously, you need magnesium. If you eat a standard diet, drink alcohol, or drink coffee, you are probably magnesium deficient. Many people are magnesium deficient because of digestive disorders and malabsorption. (Please read Top Six Ways to Maximize Digestion for tips on improving digestion.) 

It is possible to maintain adequate magnesium levels by eating high levels of dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. If you’re eating well and don’t have absorption problems, you’re probably not deficient. If you don’t eat well, drink alcohol or can’t get by without your daily cup of java, you need to be getting supplemental magnesium other ways. (Coffee and alcohol sap the body of magnesium very quickly. It is not unusual for alcoholics to have anxiety and sleep disorders as a result of their magnesium deficiency.)

Drinking a daily Green Drink is a wonderful way to get sufficient magnesium and other essential nutrients. If you don’t care for the taste of green drinks (which taste like grass, to be blunt), try Green Vibrance Capsules by Vibrant Health. It is one of my favorites and is one I use frequently.

If you prefer to increase your magnesium using supplements, do NOT take Magnesium Oxide. It is a form of oxide that your body cannot absorb. It is worthless. Read labels and make sure whichever supplement you purchase does not contain magnesium oxide. Most people do best taking 200-800 mg of magnesium on a daily basis. I recommend starting with 200/day and very gradually working up (not exceeding 1200 mg) until your symptoms disappear. Having loose stools is a good indicator that you’re taking too much. If you develop diarrhea, take less magnesium.

I recommend doing or using the following to increase magnesium levels, in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • Take a very warm bath three times weekly with 2-3 cups of Epsom salts in the bath. Your skin will absorb the magnesium, eliminating the need for it to be absorbed through the digestive system.
  • Use Magnesium Oil:  Magnesium oil is not an oil, but has an oily feeling due to the high concentration of magnesium in the liquid. Note that it is necessary to use high doses of magnesium oil in order to receive a high amount of magnesium. Most oils need to be used in doses of eight sprays, three times daily.
  • Take Magnesium Glycinate:  Magnesium Glycinate is one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium. The magnesium molecule is bonded with glycine, which is an amino acid. The human digestive tract is maximized to absorb amino acids, and glycine is known to improve digestion, so the combination of the magnesium and the glycine greatly increases the absorption levels. The amount of glycine absorbed is minimal, so please do not use magnesium glycinate instead of a glycine supplement if you need supplemental glycine.

My passion is helping people improve their health by identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies and other causes of illness. I have helped thousands of people improve their health, reverse symptoms and reduce their need for medication. If you are ready to improve your health using a holistic approach, please contact me to schedule a consultation.

As always, none of these statements were evaluated by the FDA and none were intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition. Check with your medical practitioner before starting or stopping any supplement or medication.

References:

Yu ASL. Disorders of magnesium and phosphorus. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 120.

Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.

Healing Truths I Learned Riding My Motorcycle

It recently occurred to me that most of the truths I learned about achieving wellness and healing have parallel truths I learned while riding my motorcycle. Healing is as much a mental process as a physical. I hope the following wellness tips bring a smile to your face and help you advance in your healing journey.

Dr. Pamela's Motorcycle

Focus on Where You’re Headed, Not Where You Are

Most beginning motorcycle riders find that cornering (making a turn) is one of the hardest skills to master. Cornering has so many different facets to consider that schools exist which have the sole purpose of teaching how to corner more effectively. One of the first lessons learned is that the best way to turn without winding up in a ditch or in oncoming traffic is to focus on where you want to end up. (This tidbit works while driving a car, too, but is most effective in motorcycle riding.) It’s a simple fact that when you focus on your ultimate destination, your mind automatically triggers your body to do what’s needed to take you there. Most beginning riders get hung up looking down at the road lines or at their own front tire and wind up veering far away from where they need to be. Focusing on our destination is especially important for physical healing.

I find many people become so focused on being sick they fail to focus on becoming well. Their thoughts become burdened by their physical challenges and they stop thinking about regaining health. I know how easy it is to stop focusing on wellness and to become almost obsessed with the many physical problems you’re battling. I’ve been there. I can speak from experience that true healing requires the ability to look past today’s challenges to focus on tomorrow’s victories. Doing so will be easier some days than others, but committing to focus on your end goal will help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.

Always Wear Protective Gear

Nothing concerns me more than seeing a motorcycle rider zipping along without a helmet and without any protective gear. Common sense dictates that wearing protective gear will help protect one from the unexpected. In our household, one of the basic rules each of our kids has to follow before riding anything with two wheels is that full protective gear is always required. Ignoring this rule and not taking basic precautions for protection would be foolish. The same is true of wellness.

I am often amazed when I meet with people who want to feel better but who are not doing basic things to maintain the health they have or who are not doing the things they know they must to control a specific condition. For example, a diabetic who eats everything, doesn’t exercise and who never checks a blood sugar is asking for trouble. Regardless of the health challenge one is working to reverse, there are simple lifestyle habits that must be done on a daily basis. Occasionally skipping a day is acceptable, but ignoring basic health needs on a continual basis may result in worsening health or in an additional diagnosis. Taking full precautions to protect oneself from harm just makes sense. I’m not talking about extreme changes, but am merely referencing the basics. I estimate it only takes me about 60 seconds to put on my protective riding gear. Taking the steps needed to improve health are also rarely complicated or time consuming.

Speeding Doesn’t Get You There Faster

If you do the math, you’ll quickly find that riding fifteen to twenty miles over the speed limit only gains two to three minutes on short trips. The time gained is minimal and typically does not justify the added risks. Driving from one location to another is a process. It would be nice to speed up the process or skip a mile or two, but that usually isn’t possible.

The same is true in healing. Healing takes time. Most health conditions develop over time, so it logically will take time for your body to reverse conditions. One of the basic healing guidelines I learned in school was that the body heals conditions in the reverse order they occurred, and that one can typically expect the body to need about one month of healing time for each year the condition has existed. This is just a guideline – each person’s situation will be very unique. Sometimes the body can reverse a condition very rapidly, sometimes additional time is needed. Regardless, the fact remains that the body requires time to heal. Healing is a process. Mainstream medicine says you can skip the process by taking a pill, but this merely hides the symptom instead of reversing the problem. Healing takes times. We live in a society used to receiving instant gratification. Our bodies don’t work that way. Patience may sometimes be needed to stop being a patient.

Drop the “When Not If” Mentality

When I was learning to ride, one of the things I heard over and over again was the mantra: “It’s not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN you’ll drop your bike.” So what naturally happened? I developed a nagging fear of dropping my bike and dropped my brand new Buell within two months of buying it. Here’s my problem with the “when not if” mentality: It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you have those seeds of impending doom planted in your subconscious, they inevitably take root and bloom if you don’t work to pull out that weed of deception.

This is closely related to focusing on your desired destination and not on where you are now. I find many people become terrified of and focus on the potential outcomes of their condition instead of being thankful for the health they have now. I recently chatted with a woman who has had active cancer for over fifteen years. The doctors keep telling her she should be dead, but she refuses to listen. She gets up every day and gives thanks for how good she feels – even when she doesn’t. Her blood work continues to improve, she feels better every day, and her doctors can’t figure it out. By focusing on the positive and ignoring the potential negative consequences of her illness, she is maintaining a high degree of health. There are no guarantees. Just because you’ve received a diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re going to have every possible complication associated with that diagnosis. Focus on your wellness and maintain a positive attitude! Focusing on the positive actually creates physiological changes in our body chemistry that aid healing. Keeping a positive attitude may accomplish more healing than anything else. Even if it doesn’t, you feel better when you focus on the positive, so give it a try!

Everybody Loves a Custom

Anyone who’s ever watched the Discovery Channel knows many hit shows revolve around taking a stock motorcycle or stock parts and creating a custom look. We have a fascination with taking what the factory hands us and customizing it to fit our own personality and style. Most bike owners find customizing their bike is a back and forth process that is never really done. We need to use this same approach with wellness!

Every eating plan and lifestyle program can and often should be “tweaked” to fit your personal needs. Your body won’t lie to you. If you began a program that worked well for a few months but you’re now starting to lose the momentum you gained, it’s time for a change. I encourage my clients to get regular blood work or Zyto scans every six months to make sure various nutritional and physiological measures are staying at their optimum level. There is no single eating style or lifestyle approach that is perfect for everyone. Constantly monitor your progress. If you start to feel poorly or regain symptoms, then it’s time to identify and address the reason. This typically means a change is needed in lifestyle habits, eating styles or supplementation. Wellness is a journey with many twists, so we should expect to need to make adjustments along the way.

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What are your thoughts about this analogy? Please share your perspective!

For more information on healing and motorcycles, please visit:

Diabetes and the Art of Motorcycle Riding

How Motorcycle Riding Improves Physical Health