Living with Viruses and Bacteria

We live in a world that is filled with invisible living creatures known as microbes.  Algae, fungi, and bacteria are types of microbes. Microbes are single-celled, living creatures. Look at a drop of pond water under a microscope and you will see a variety of fascinating creatures of different shapes, sizes and methods of movement.

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Acne & Cystic Acne

The Structure of Our Skin

Part 1 of a 4-Part Series

I am not a health care or medical professional. The things I share in my blogs should not be construed as medical advice. I am simply writing about my personal experience and my research into different areas of personal interest. I practice the use of natural remedies and herbs and follow a basically whole-food, plant-based diet. I believe them to be extremely important in a healthy lifestyle. I also follow the advice of my naturopath physician.  

One of the things I do professionally is to provide Real-Time, EEG Neurofeedback for brain injury and learning disabilities. This is frequently seen as related to health and wellness professions. As such, I am often asked questions about health.

Healthy Ideas

Cystic Acne

I was recently asked whether I knew anything about help for a condition known as cystic acne. I had never heard of this condition and became curious. I did some research on cystic acne and acne. I found out some very interesting things that I am eager to share with you. 

Our skin is the largest organ of the body. It protects us from bacteria and other microorganisms, helps regulate our body temperature and is our largest sense organ. Through our skin we experience touch, heat, and cold.

About the Skin

Skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin. It provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone. Even though our skin is waterproof, our skin is still permeable. 

Being permeable means that it is possible for the skin to absorb substances that are placed on the skin. This is the reason certain medications can be placed on the skin using special patches, for example nicotine patches to help people stop smoking. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the quality and contents of cosmetics, creams, and even drugs we rub on our skin.

Skin Layers

The epidermis is composed of anywhere between 50 to 100 layers of dead skin cells. Only the very bottom layer of the cells of the epidermis receive nourishment and oxygen. The majority of the epidermis is composed of dead cells constantly moving up to the surface to replace dead cells being continually sluffed off the surface.   

Moisture Barrier

Between these layers of dead cells are fatty substances that act like the cement between bricks. This combination of dead cells and fats creates the natural moisture barrier of the skin. The moisture barrier protects against microorganisms, chemical irritants, and allergens. Loss of the moisture barrier creates dryness, itchiness, redness, and other skin problems.

Dermis

Beneath the epidermis is the dermis. It consists of tough connective tissue cells. It is where we find our hair follicles and sweat glands. The dermis also contains blood vessels that provide nourishment and oxygen to the bottom layer of the epidermis and the dermis. The most common structural component within the dermis is the protein collagen.  It provides the mesh-like framework that provides strength and flexibility to the skin. 

Hypodermis

Finally, we find the hypodermis, the deepest layer of the skin. It consists of fat tissue that insulates the body and provides shock absorption. Like the dermis, the hypodermis contains blood vessels and connective tissue cells, which support the upper layers of the skin. 

Hair

Hair prevents heat loss and helps protect the epidermis from minor scrapes and exposure to the sun’s rays. Each hair grows from its own bulb-like structure, the follicle, within a pore in the skin. Hair is composed of dead cells filled with keratin, a special protein produced by the hair follicle.  

Pores

Pores are formed by a folding-in of the epidermis into the dermis and are lined with cells that constantly shed.  The follicle is found in the dermis and is nourished by tiny blood vessels.

Follicles

Each follicle is connected to an oil gland, the sebaceous gland. These glands secrete a fatty substance, called sebum, which lubricates each hair as it grows and helps create a moisture barrier to the skin.

Sweat Glands

Sweat glands are found in the dermis and are long, coiled hollow tubes of cells. Sweat is produced at the coiled bottom and excreted to the skin surface through the hollow tube. Perspiration helps cool the body, hydrate the skin, and eliminate toxins.

Acne and cystic acne are the result of inflammation and infection of the pores of hair follicles and sweat glands.

In Part Two of this series, we will go into detail about how acne develops.


Sleep, Glorious Sleep: Stages of Sleep

Part 3 of a 5-Part Series

Click here to read part one of this series.

Click here to read part two.

“To sleep, perchance to dream.”

Ah Shakespeare. Sweet dreams, the ultimate good night’s sleep, something we all treasure. Dreams are just one part of our nighttime journey. Besides dreams, what else goes on while we sleep? 

There is a kind of circadian rhythm dance of light and darkness that goes on within neuron centers inthe hypothalamus, thalamus, the brain stem, and the forebrain which produce both wakefulness and the need for sleep.

We have light sensitive neurons in the hypothalamus which produce neuro-chemicals that promote wakefulness. The longer we are awake, and as the day goes on, different neurons within the hypothalamus produce neuroactive chemicals, known as somnogens, that promote sleep. Somnogens accumulate during the day, promote drowsiness, and prepare the brain to sleep.

Eventually somnogens take over and we sleep. There are many different somnogens involved in sleep. The most studied somnogen is adenosine.  It is interesting to note that caffeine (not just from coffee) blocks adenosine receptors, which is why caffeine helps to keep us awake.

Many people have heard of the somnogen Melatonin. It is often used as a helpful, natural aid to falling asleep. Two other very important neurochemicals are GABA and galanin. Both GABA and galanin are produced by neurons in the hypothalamus and are distributed throughout the brain. They inhibit all wake-promoting areas of the brain. 

Stages of Our Sleep

Galanin is very important in learning and memory.  It is during sleep that memories are laid down, another reason sleep is so important to learning. 

So our neurochemicals have done their job and now we are asleep. Actually, sleeping is not just one simple activity. Sleep happens in cycles of about 90 minutes each. During these cycles, brain wave activity changes and activity in both brain and body also changes. 

When we think about getting enough sleep, we also need to realize it is important to have enough complete sleep cycles. The quality of our sleep is just as important as how long we are sleeping and whether we constantly awaken or enjoy several uninterrupted sleep cycles.

Sleep Scientists Divide Sleep Cycles in Two Major Groups

  1. Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
  2. Non- Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).

NREM has three stages: N1, N2 and N3

N1

N1 is our time of drowsiness and transition from being awake to falling asleep. This is that phase when we sometimes have sensations of falling or our limbs might jerk or we experience restless legs. Our brain wave activity is moving from Beta waves of 12 to 38 HZ, our waking active brain activity, to Alpha waves of 8 to 12 HZ, our calming, relaxing brain wave activity, on to Theta waves of 3 to 8 HZ.  In this stage, we are not fully asleep, yet not fully awake.  Our attention to outside stimuli diminishes.  Our brains create a mixture of both Theta and Alpha as we drift from drowsiness of N1 into the next stage, N2.

N2

In N2 we are in the most prominent sleep stage. We are deeply asleep and our brain waves consist of varying levels of the Theta wave frequency. We are not dreaming and we are not yet into our deepest sleep. Our brain activity becomes limited as we move into deep sleep.

It is during this phase of sleep, and the deeper stages of N2, that our body detoxifies, cells repair, divide, grow and develop, cell waste products are removed, and children actually grow. Our bodies are relaxed and waste products are sent to the kidneys and on to the bladder. That’s why we need to go to the bathroom as soon as we awaken, or sometimes during the night.

N3

N3 is our Delta wave sleep of .5 to 3 HZ.  We are now deeply asleep. All systems of the brain involved with wakefulness have been inhibited. Most neurons are quiet, except for specific neurons designed to inhibit wakefulness. This stage usually occurs within 15 to 45 minutes after the onset of sleep. The duration of deep slow wave sleep depends upon age. The older we are, the less time spent in this stage. Babies and young children spend the most time in Delta wave sleep. 

REM Sleep

Finally, we have REM sleep. This is a unique brain wave pattern all it’s own. This is the stage where we experience dreams.  During REM sleep, our thalamus and cortical areas become active and our eyes move rapidly. Heart rate and breathing increase. Neurons are triggered in the brainstem and down the spinal cord, which produce paralysis of our muscles and limbs to prevent us from acting out our dreams.

REM sleep occurs about 80 to 85 minutes into the sleep cycle. REM sleep plays an important role in memory consolidation, the synthesis and organization of cognition, and mood regulation. Everyone dreams, we usually don’t remember them unless they wake us.

More About Sleep Yet to Come

Sleep and dreaming are essential to good health and clarity of thought. In the final segment of this series, I’ll discuss insomnia and tips for getting a restful, restorative night’s sleep.  


Becoming Your Own Best Friend: Loving Yourself

Part 3 of a 3-Part Series

As mentioned earlier, a significant aspect of self-mothering is self-reflection, becoming aware of our thoughts and feelings on a deeper level. Journaling and meditation go hand in hand to help us develop the habit of being still and listening. 

Some people love to journal. They’ve been pouring their heart out, solving problems, complaining and expressing gratitude in writing for years. Other people have tried to keep a journal, find it tedious or just don’t keep it up, or have used it occasionally to remember a special trip or period in their life. Then there are those who have never journaled and find the thought foreign and unappealing.

Personally, I fall into the second group.  I am aware that keeping a journal is a powerful tool toward self-discovery, yet, I have never been able to get started and stick with it. However, I have recently discovered a different kind of journal. It is a five-year journal.

A five-year journal allows you to write just a very few lines about your day, a thought, an experience, or an event. It only takes a few minutes at bedtime and there is no pressure. There are no year dates, only a page for each day of the year and each page has five sections of a few lines each. So, the first year, you write the year date and a few lines, then the next year you go back to the same day and can see what you wrote the year before as you begin to describe your current day for the new year.

At the end of the day, you write what has happened. There need be nothing more than that to get you thinking and listening to yourself. As I began to write my few lines, I discovered I often wanted to say something else, but didn’t have any more room for that day. So, I began to write those few extra things into another journal. Suddenly, I was journaling and enjoying the process.

If you have never journaled, or have never been consistent, using a five-year journal could be your gateway to writing and investigating your thoughts and feelings. 

In addition to writing our thoughts on a regular basis, meditation is the most ancient practice of self-discovery. The earliest written records of meditation come from Hindu writings 1500 years before Christ. In addition to Hindu traditions, many other religious traditions have included some form of meditation. Meditation was introduced to the United States following World War II, by soldiers who encountered it while serving in the Pacific Theater.

Regardless of which tradition practices meditation, the purpose of meditation is to quiet the mind, become still emotionally and physically, and become open to inspiration and the energies of the universe. 

Today we often hear the term “Mindfulness” to describe becoming still and quieting our minds so we can become more fully aware of who we are and where our thoughts lead us. Whether you call it mindfulness or meditation, the result of the practice is a calmer, more relaxed state of being, that often leads to personal insight and personal growth.

Finding time for yourself to learn who you are is a great gift. It is an ultimate expression of self-mothering.

There are online courses and centers all over the country where one can learn the art of mindfulness and meditation.  All you have to do is Google. I encourage you to search the internet to find books, centers, courses, DVD’s, and/or CD’s that appeal to you.  The practice of meditation will change your life.

 To end this series, I am including a list of references to help you in your search toward self-love, self-mothering, and better health.

Websites to learn about healthy living:

www.brightlineeating.com   

www.drjockers.com

www.forksoverknives.com

www.oceanrobbins.com

https://selfhacked.com/starthere

Books about healthy eating: 

Bright Line Eating, by Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD

Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook,by Del Sroufe and Chandra Moskowitz

Books for inspiration and personal growth:

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron

The Four Agreements,by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Hidden Words,by Bahá’u’lláh

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, by Michael A. Singer


Becoming Your Own Best Friend: Healthy Diet

Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

Last week, we began a three-part series. Click here to read the first entry.  This week, we conquer an important health habit — a healthy diet!

Loving ourselves requires thinking about what we eat and how it affects our health and well-being. We are inundated with foods that have been designed for maximum shelf life and maximum taste appeal. Many of these foods contain ingredients that have been genetically modified for any number of different reasons: promote faster growth; resistance to disease; contain chemicals to control insects; create sweeter taste; or to insure longer shelf life.

Processed foods are chemically manufactured using refined ingredients, artificial additives, and high levels of sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. They are foods engineered to appeal to our natural affinity for sweet, salty and fat, resulting in overconsumption.

Processed foods contain preservatives, colorants, and chemically created flavors and textures. Because processed foods have been engineered to appeal to our taste buds, they are extremely rewarding and can become highly addictive. They often contain refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and are low in fiber and nutrients. 

Don’t use artificial sweeteners!

A word about artificial sweeteners: DON’T! We should always avoid putting things into our bodies that were chemically created and have nothing to do with natural processes.

The scientific evidence is clear: plant-based, unprocessed, natural whole food diets have been proven to promote health, prevent disease, and even reverse conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  

A plant-based diet consists of emphasis on eating a variety of vegetables and fruits that are supplemented with whole grains, beans and legumes. Animal products, including dairy, if eaten at all, are a very minor part of this way of eating.

The most important aspect of plant-based eating is that it is not a “diet” in the traditional sense.  It is a lifestyle choice. The concept of a vegetarian lifestyle, has been talked about for more than 80 years.  Robert Bootzin, widely known as Gypsy Boots, was the first person to bring public attention to the importance of organic food, vegetarian eating and fitness. He is actually reported to have opened the very first health food store in the country.

An interesting fact about Gypsy Boots is that in the 1950’s, he was considered a kook, a weirdo, with strange ideas. We now can see he was a leader, so far ahead of his time that people could not understand the truth and wisdom of his teachings. Today, being vegetarian, using organic produce, and exercising to stay fit is a way of life embraced by millions of people. The best part about this lifestyle is that it has been proven by scientific investigation to produce optimal health and prevent disease.


Becoming Your Own Best Friend

Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

To mother is to nurture, to give freely of love and support with the only reward sought that of seeing your loved ones standing straight and tall and always facing the sun. The interesting thing about mothering, is that it does not require giving birth. Mothering can be done by either sex, whether married or single, childless or having several children. 

Even more intriguing, it is possible to mother ourselves. So, what does that look like? Well, the first step is to observe ourselves and become aware of how we treat ourselves. Listen to how we talk to ourselves. Become aware of our train of thought.

Thoughts have energy, thoughts become actions. Negative thoughts create illness, both in our own bodies and in the world. Negative thoughts destroy self-worth and prevent us from achieving our true potential. We need to notice the influences around us and consider whether there are negative or positive influences in our lives.

Like thoughts resonate with like thoughts.  We actually become the company we keep because we share energy with those around us. When we become aware of our own thoughts and energies, we also become attuned to the energies of those around us. We begin to recognize positive and negative influences and make choices accordingly.

It is a fact that anything the human mind can imagine can become reality. Look at all the wonderous things we have invented and accomplished.  Everything began as a thought, an idea. What thoughts are affecting our lives?  If we find we are surrounded by negativity, it might be time to seek a more positive and supportive environment to help change our own thoughts.  

Next, look closely at how we behave toward ourselves, how we treat our bodies. Are we treating our bodies with respect? Do we engage in activities that are known to cause harm, illness, and even death? This does not imply that we must just sit in a corner and never taste life. We can all benefit from adventure and daring activities in our lives, but they can be done safely, without undo risk to ourselves or others. 

Respecting our bodies also means balancing work with relaxation, getting enough sleep to refuel and rebuild the cells of our body and our brains. It means finding time to be still so we can find inspiration.

What about what we take into our bodies? Smoking, alcohol to excess, street drugs, overuse of prescription drugs, and diets of fast food, sugary drinks, candy, fatty foods, and junk food are all things scientifically proven to be harmful. Nicotine and sugar are highly addictive substances. They go right to the pleasure centers of the brain, in fact sugar has been found to be is as addictive as heroin. Sugar has no place in a healthy diet.

Overcoming addiction is not a self-help activity. It requires intense intervention, a support system, participation in a program to provide guidance and encouragement, and a deep commitment to become free. Although difficult and requiring lifelong commitment, escaping the chains of additiction can become one of the greatest triumphs of your life.

Check back in two weeks, when we will publish part two of this three-part series.


Health in the New Year

This time of year brings about a flurry of extra activities, many of which we are unwilling or unable to say, “No” to. Last year (well, actually last month), we discussed the ways various people celebrate during this time of year. Today, we wanted to offer helpful advice about how to stay healthy in 2019 and beyond. To read part 1, click here.

The additional pull on our (likely already) overscheduled lives, leads to additional stress, generally compounded by lack of sleep. Stress can sap our natural resources, leaving us susceptible to illness. University of Birmingham researcher, Dr. Anna Phillips, warns that:

“A breakdown in usual routines, less sleep, more alcohol and immense pressure to be the perfect host can combine to create a very real risk of Christmas making people ill.” 

Illness

This time of year brings about a flurry of extra activities, many of which we are unwilling or unable to say, “No” to. The additional pull on our (likely already) over-scheduled lives, leads to additional stress, generally compounded by lack of sleep. Stress can sap our natural resources, leaving us susceptible to illness.

It’s a good idea to sit down and make a list of activities you really don’t want to miss, and those which you are alright eliminating from your schedule this season. This ensures that the activities you do participate in are ones that you really enjoy, and, by not overscheduling yourself, you are better able to fully experience them – stress-free!

Unhealthy Diet

Unless you are the picture of restraint, everybody indulges a bit more during the Christmas and holiday season. Each event we attend has platters heaped with scrumptious treats, and most of us attend a ton of events during this season. 

University of Birmingham researcher, Dr. Anna Phillips, warns that, “A breakdown in usual routines, less sleep, more alcohol and immense pressure to be the perfect host can combine to create a very real risk of Christmas making people ill.” 

Additionally, the added load on our schedules, leaves less time than usual for fitness.

This disruption to our fitness routine, combined with our loosened diets, can do real damage to our bodies. As I stated in my last blog post, the average person puts on between 1 and 4 lbs. each holiday season, and most do not go on to lose the extra weight afterward.

Mindfulness and preplanning go a long way toward helping you successfully navigate the holiday treats. Moderation really can be the key to helping you enjoy the seasonal treats, without the extra weight. 

When you are doing your Christmas shopping, park as far away from the entrance as possible, forcing you to get some extra walking in, and freeing you from competing for the “prime” spots.

Poor Mental Health

The winter holidays and Christmas are a joyous, warm, wonderful time of the year, but for many, they are also filled with painful reminders of dreams, and loved ones we’ve lost. While the message of Christmas and the other holidays around the winter season is one of hope and joy, the heart wrenching emptiness felt at the loss of a loved one, can make it difficult to feel that hope, let alone celebrate it.

Guard Your Mental Health with Mindfulness

It may be helpful to participate in charity events during this season; sometimes putting the focus on others (and their needs) can distract us from our own pain. For some, continuing with favorite traditions is a soothing comfort.

Whatever gatherings, ceremonies, celebrations, and traditions in which you participate, I want to wish you a healthy and joyous holiday season. And, if you need a little restart, feel free to contact me for assistance with your wellness journey. 


Tips for Maintaining Holiday Wellness

Thanksgiving Well WishesCan you believe we are in the midst of the holiday season? With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought we should discuss something generally overlooked during the holidays – wellness. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for gathering together with loved ones and indulging in a massive feast. Thoughts of health and wellness are not usually at the forefront of people’s minds. However, as enjoyable as the holidays are, they can take a toll on your overall health and wellness. I’d like to help you have the healthiest Thanksgiving possible.

FoodHealthy Thanksgiving Food

The holiday season, and Thanksgiving in particular, are loaded with decadent, fatty, rich foods. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average person puts on an extra pound during the holidays, with people who are already overweight gaining around five pounds. The alarming thing about this is that most people don’t lose the extra weight after the holidays. And over time, the this adds up to an unhealthy situation. Read More


Health Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Benefit Plant Based DietWe are a culture obsessed with finding the “next best thing.” And our diets are no exception. We’re constantly bombarded with new diet trends, “must-have” supplements, “miracle cures,” and “superfoods.” So, how will you recognize those things which are worth incorporating into your diet? In this blog post, I’m focusing on a diet which has stood the test of time — a plant-based diet, often used interchangeably with terms “vegetarian” or “vegan” diets. Note that my use of the word “diet.” This doesn’t reflect a fad, but rather a lifestyle.

Perhaps you’ve wondered what the difference is between a vegetarian and vegan diet?

While these two diets are similar, key differences exist. Modern vegetarians tend to consume dairy (lacto) and eggs (ovo), and some also include seafood (pescatarian). Vegans, on the other hand, do not consume or useany animal products. Veganism is a lifestyle, while vegetarianism is a diet. Read More