Have you ever watched a reality TV program called “My 600-pound Life“? Morbidly obese people travel to Houston, Texas in hopes of getting weight-loss surgery. There are extensive personal interviews as we follow these people on their weight-loss journey before and after their surgery.
They talk about what food means to them, about how eating makes them happy and hunger is never satisfied. Their every waking moment is consumed with their desire for food and they only feel complete when they are eating. Yet, at the same time, they hate their lives and their bodies.
Food becomes their addiction and obsession, longing for the comfort only food can bring. Just as strong as the desire for food are their feelings of shame, self-loathing, disappointment, hopelessness, and frustration over their lack of self-control.
Whenever I watch this program, I cry inside for those frustrated, pitiful, unhappy people. I understand the yearning for change and the shame and disappointment that comes after the eating. Fortunately, I do not weigh 600 pounds, but the struggle of seeking comfort in food is very real for me, too.
Are you feeling moody? Anxious? Depressed? Trouble sleeping? Sluggish or overactive digestion and bowel movements? Low libido/sexual desire? Poor concentration?
There is common thread running through these symptoms: a lack of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is one of more than 40 neurotransmitters found throughout the nervous system. It is intimately tied to our sense of well-being.
Are you quarantined due to Covid-19? Perhaps you have lost your job or maybe all you do is go from home to work and back, in order to protect yourself and family. Have you been out of contact with friends and loved ones due to Covid-19?
Are you concerned about friends or family members who are currently ill with Covid-19? Have you lost loved ones to this terrible disease?
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are designed to attack and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, healthy cells are also often attacked and killed. This is one of the reasons these therapies often create unwanted side effects.
During and after chemotherapy treatment, many cancer patients experience feelings of brain fog, fuzzy thinking, or memory difficulties known as chemo brain. Frequently, the effects of chemo brain continue long after the chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment has ended.
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.
Acne outbreaks can be unsightly, painful, and embarrassing. Acne outbreaks can affect a person’s sense of self-confidence.
The good news is there are hundreds of easily obtained products designed to reduce and prevent acne outbreaks.
First let’s take a look at over-the-counter creams and cleansers commonly found at your local drug store or grocery store. A check of the most common ingredients shows the majority of these products contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide as the “active ingredients’. Also found as “active ingredients” are hydrogen peroxide and alpha hydroxy acids.
The acids penetrate the skin, dissolve dead skin cells that clog pores, and reduce oily build upon the skin surface. They also act as anti-inflammatory ingredients and help prevent bacterial infections.
However, these ingredients are extremely harsh and can actually damage the skin. That is why they are always diluted and combined with a variety of creams, gels and ointments designed to soothe and re-hydrate the skin.
Whenever I look at a condition or disease, I always ask: are there natural alternatives to chemical and pharmaceutical preparations?
Actually, natural remedies have been used for hundreds, even thousands of years to alleviate common skin conditions and even treat wounds. Common natural remedies are high in anti-oxidants, and have one or more ant-bacterial, anti-fungal, and/or anti-viral properties.
Tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca Alternifolia plant. It has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used to treat acne, athlete’s foot, contact dermatitis, and head lice.
Add 4 drops of tea tree oil to half a cup of water and apply to the face with a cotton ball twice daily. Tea tree oil is very strong and should be diluted before using. Tea tree oil can be added to your favorite shampoo to help clear dandruff.
Tea tree oil products for acne and other uses are available at your local health food store. Do not swallow tea tree oil or get it into your eyes. It is toxic if taken internally.
Honey has been used since ancient times to treat burns, sores, and boils. Raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-oxidant properties. Raw, pure honey never gets moldy or rancid.
Manuka honey comes from flowers of the melaleuca tree. Doctors in New Zealand and Australia use it to treat wounds and burns. In 2007, the FDA approved use of manuka honey for treatment of wounds and burns in the US.
Gently dab raw, unfiltered honey onto pimples. Anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties of honey help clear debris from clogged pores. Dilute a half teaspoon of honey with a little lemon juice to create a facial mask and gently massage into your face, avoid getting it into eyes. Rinse with warm water after 5-10 minutes.
Aloe vera has also been used for hundreds of years to treat burns, wounds, and skin conditions. It has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. After cleansing, use creams or gels with at least 10% aloe vera content. It is an excellent moisturizer, and can be used as a face mask right from the plant or bottled in its natural state.
Now I want to share a very exciting new product. Modere, the company that makes Liquid BioCell, has created CellProof, a facial serum containing the Liquid BioCell molecule. Designed for anti-aging, CellProof improves hydration, microcirculation, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. I decided to test it for use with acne.
My grandson, Simon, age 17, had been regularly using over-the-counter acne products with salicylic acid when I took these photos on August 10, 2019. His acne became so bad that a dermatologist prescribed a course of anti-biotics.
Following his anti-biotic treatment, I gave Simon a bottle of CellProof serum and asked him to use it faithfully, twice a day after washing his face. He continued using acne products with salicylic acid, but the addition of CellProof with Liquid BioCell increased the effectiveness of his cleansing routine. After about a week of using CellProof, he said that he noticed his skin felt smoother, and most importantly, his face did not hurt anymore.
Adding the serum to his daily cleansing routine made a tremendous difference in the severity of his acne. On October 20, 2019, I took these photos of Simon:
On December 15, 2019, I took these photos. Notice that acne scars have begun to heal and there are only minor breakouts.
Finally, here is Simon, now 18, taken on February 15, 2020. What is most remarkable is the healing of deep acne scars and almost no breakouts.
Can the foods we eat be related to acne outbreaks?
Ask any teen-ager if they think foods can cause an acne outbreak and I’m pretty sure they will mention chocolate. Well, in addition to chocolate, greasy foods, sugary foods and drinks, as well as highly processed, refined foods are all suspected of contributing to acne outbreaks.
Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates tend to cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation is known to increase incidents of acne. Avoiding foods that cause inflammation may help decrease acne outbreaks.
I recently started a series about the causes and cures of acne and cystic acne. Click here to read part one in the series. This week, I will tackle the causes. In part 3 and 4, I will conclude the series by discussing the role of diet and will introduce a remarkable cure and case study for this troubling condition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
Part One in a 6-Part Series Have you ever heard someone say:
“I would give anything if I could just get a good night’s sleep.” Or “I just don’t know why I can’t get to sleep.” Or “It seems I just lie awake and can’t stop thinking about stuff.”
Everyone is talking about sleep. Nearly everyday, a news article or internet post appears about the topic. My own research about sleep is eye-opening. So, for the next few blogs, I want to share some of my lessons learned.
Restful, refreshing sleep is undoubtedly one of life’s great pleasures. But we have become a nation of sleep-deprived adults, teenagers, and children. We can’t get to sleep because we’re stressed out and we’re stressed out because we can’t sleep.
Lack of sleep is not just stressful. Scientific research links poor sleep to depression, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, increased colds, poor work performance, work related accidents, and even Type 2 Diabetes.
Why do we struggle to sleep? After all, sleeping is a natural activity. We were born to sleep. It’s written in our DNA. So, sleeping should be a simple biological function. We get tired, we go to sleep. Babies do it all the time.
In actuality, falling asleep and staying asleep are part of a complex symphony of physical and environmental conditions working in harmony. Several different stages of sleep and many different structures within the brain contribute to sleep.
It all begins with something called circadian rhythms. The world runs on circadian rhythms. These are natural periods of light and dark, day and night, and changing seasons, resulting from the rotation of the earth.
All living organisms, from bacteria to plants, to animals, and to humans. Circadian rhythms govern us all. In fact, circadian rhythms influence sleep/arousal cycles, hormone release, eating, digestion, behavior, migration patterns, and even sexual activity.
Humans, like all other vertebrates (animals with backbones), have biological, internal master clocks similar and related to the environmental circadian rhythm. Our internal master clocks form our own personal circadian rhythm. They regulate our sleep/arousal cycles, bodily functions and even moods and behaviors.
Located deep within the brain is our master clock, which is located in a peanut-sized area known as the hypothalamus.
In addition to the hypothalamus, several structures within the brain contribute to the regulation of our sleep/arousal cycle. In the next blog, I will discuss some brain anatomy and physiology involved with the sleep/arousal cycle.
I hope you stay tuned and watch for my next installment.
Sleep is essential for our bodies to function. It is during sleep that the body removes toxins, and our cells divide, grow, and repair. Without sleep our brains cannot create new neurons, make connections between neurons, and lay down memories. Sleep affects every tissue and system of the body and is crucial to brain function.
Sleep and arousal are dependent upon circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the cycle of day and night, light and dark, and changing season resulting from the earth’s rotation. Deep within the brain are several structures that are responsible for falling asleep and waking. Light and darkness are the triggers that begin a series of events that bring on sleep and help us to awaken.
In addition to being tuned into environmental circadian rhythm, we also have our personal circadian rhythm and our personal internal clock, our chronotype. Whether you are a morning bird or a night owl is actually a genetic trait.
Morning people wake naturally, often not needing an alarm. They love mornings, enjoy breakfast, feel less fatigue during the day, and go to bed early. They often find it difficult staying up for late night parties and outings. Night people frequently have difficulty waking and usually need that alarm, often hitting the snooze button. They like to stay up late and sleep in. Getting up and going in the morning takes them a while. They make great night shift workers because it fits right in with their natural rhythm.
Our sleep/arousal cycle is controlled by several structures located deep within the brain. The hypothalamus, a peanut-sized structure deep within the brain is our internal master clock. The hypothalamus regulates our sleep/arousal patterns, body temperature, hormone release from the pituitary gland, hunger and thirst, sexual behavior and reproduction, and even moods and behavior.
Inside the hypothalamus is a cluster of thousands of nerve cells that receive information about light exposure directly from the retina of our eyes. The brain stem, a structure at the base of the brain that is the beginning of the spinal cord, communicates with the hypothalamus to control transitions between sleep and arousal.
Both the brain stem and the hypothalamus have sleep-promoting cells which produce a chemical called GABA in response to decreasing light and approaching darkness to help us fall asleep. GABA inhibits our level of arousal.
When darkness approaches, the light-sensitive cells within the hypothalamus communicate with pineal gland, a tiny, pea-shaped structure located deep within the brain. The pineal gland then releases melatonin, which increases sleepiness and helps us fall asleep.
Once we are asleep, we experience several stages of brain activity, known as the sleep cycle. In addition to the hypothalamus and the brain stem, several other structures of the brain are involved with the regulation of our sleep cycles and are active during sleep.
Check back shortly to read part 3 of my series on sleep. I will discuss the stages of sleep and the parts of the brain involved. So, stay tuned!
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
Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
Non- Rapid Eye Movement (NREM).
NREM has three stages: N1, N2 and N3
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.
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 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.
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.
Do you remember what bedtime was like when you were a small child? You probably had a special bedtime ritual or routine.
I’ll bet it went something like this:
First you a had a warm bath, filled with lots of bubbles for sure, along with fun bath toys.
After the bath, while Mom or Dad dressed you in your pajamas, you probably talked about your day, asked questions and had your toes tickled.
Then, while you were tucked into bed, it was time for a favorite story, and maybe a song or a prayer.
Finally, a goodnight kiss and lights out.
Eventually, every parent learns the importance of a bedtime ritual or routine to allow children to relax, unwind from the day and get ready to fall asleep. As we grow up, it seems we usually forget the importance of spending time to prepare the body for sleep. It is equally important for adults to have a bedtime routine as it is for children.
With today’s stressed and hurried lifestyle, we all need to allocate time to prepare our minds, brains and bodies to unwind and relax as the first step toward falling asleep and achieving a restful, restorative night’s sleep.
Remember those light-sensitive neurons in the hypothalamus and the importance of circadian rhythm of light and dark? We need to allow our brains to wind down from both daylight and all of the artificial light with which we are constantly surrounded.
An extremely important aspect of preparing the brain for sleep is limiting light exposure. This means that we must turn off our televisions, computers, cell phones, and tablets at least 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. Preparing for bed is not the time for stimulating or scary movies, TV programs, or video games.
Bedtime is the time to allow the wakeful inhibiting neurons to do their job, and they need increased darkness. Instead of watching screens, try reading, listening to music or an audio book, writing in a journal, doing a craft, or playing an enjoyable game with your partner or children.
Speaking of your children, the hour before bed is the time to unwind, not do homework. Considering homework and studying for that important test, remember that it is during deep sleep when memories are encoded and sleep is critical to learning. Even if your children are older or are teenagers, it is still important to have a bedtime routine and it must include turning off computers, televisions, cell phones, and video games.
The need for darkness should also include the bedroom. As much as possible, it is important to have darkening or blackout shades/curtains to shut out outdoor lighting. If you have a lighted alarm clock or clock radio, turn the light to the dimmest setting and turn the clock face away from directly lighting your bed.
By the way, for all of us women who wonder why our husbands seem to get to sleep faster and sleep better than us, wonder no longer. It’s a scientific fact that, on the whole, men do sleep better than women. There are differences in sleep stage cycles and circadian rhythm patterns in men and women that may account for differences in quality of sleep in men and women.
For the best night’s sleep, your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Believe it or not, we sleep better in a room with a cool temperature of between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, because our body temperature naturally drops as we fall asleep.
However, that being said, some people sleep better between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s important to experiment to find the best cool temperature for you. You should be comfortably covered, without the need for layers of blankets. Babies need it a little warmer and the best temperature for a baby’s room is between 67 to 72 degrees.
So, let’s say you have done all of the above things, but you still can’t get to sleep. Let’s not forget the relaxing effects of nice, hot bath. Adding relaxing essential oils to the water can help make the bath even more effective. Experiment with scents you find appealing and relaxing.
Here is a list of seven scents that are used in aromatherapy for relaxation:
Citrus. (Depending on individual reactions, both sandalwood and citrus can be either stimulating or relaxing.)
There are many different natural remedies and supplements that can help you fall asleep. I’ll discuss some of them in the final part of this series. I look forward to sharing them with you soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am passionate about education. As a former special education teacher with more than 30 years of experience, I love helping children succeed. In order for kids to truly succeed, they must read. Yet, one in five children struggle with learning how to read due to dyslexia and other language learning difficulties.
In 1887, Dr. Rudolf Berlin, an ophthalmologist, coined the word “dyslexia” to describe adults who could not read the printed word despite the absences of visual abnormalities. He assumed, correctly, that the cause of this “word blindness” must be within the brain.
In the 1920’s, Dr. Samuel T. Orton studied children who had reading and language processing difficulties. He determined that their difficulties must lie within the brain. He worked to formulate a set of principles for teaching such children.
Anna Gillingham, a gifted educator and psychologist, who mastered language, began working with Dr. Orton to help him develop instructional materials and strategies. So began the Orton-Gillingham method, still considered the gold standard for teaching reading.
Fast forward to 2019. 132 years have passed since the word dyslexia entered our language. In those intervening years, the debate has raged as to the cause and cure for dyslexia. The debate is now over!
Thanks to MRI, combined with scientific investigation of methods for teaching reading, we know (unequivocally) that dyslexia results from a brain-based, neurological origin. And, most importantly, we know how to teach children with dyslexia to read.
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) has determined that to achieve this vision of a classroom where every child reads, we must educate the TEACHERS. In this new century, the focus of IDA is to become part of every university that has an education strand and to provide curriculum and accreditation so that every teacher knows the structure of language and effective reading instruction.
Imagine a classroom where every child is successful, and every child can read. This is the goal of the IDA. For almost 100 years, IDA has been in the forefront of scientific research to discover and promote development of the most effective method for teaching children to read.
IDA is promoting a method of instruction, coined “Structured Literacy” which is even now being introduced and used in several universities. This approach not only benefits children who struggle with learning to read, but it is so fundamental and natural that every child can excel.
By donating to and being a member of IDA, you enable and support achieving the reality of our goal and our vision of EVERY CHILD READING.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
While we are part of a society that focuses on Christmas, we often forget that not everyone we meet personally celebrates Christian traditions.Throughout the world, millions of people are participating in joyous and holy celebrations unrelated to Christmas.
Diwali This five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. It is a celebration of good triumphing over evil and is usually held in November.
Chanukah A Jewish holiday, this is an eight-day festival of lights. It is a celebration of triumph over adversity and the miracle of a small jar of holy oil that burned for eight days instead of one, which allowed the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Kwanza A seven-day holiday of lights, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate family culture and heritage, and is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa.
Winter Solstice The shortest day and longest night in the Northern Hemisphere. This year it falls on Friday, December 21st. There will only be 7 hours and 50 minutes of daylight hours. Throughout human history, from prehistoric time to the present, this time of year has been a time of celebration and ceremony.
Ancient civilizations around the world built temples and structures designed to capture the rays of the sun at the moment of the Solstice. One of the most famous of these is Stonehenge, located in Wiltshire, England. The Winter Solstice is particularly important for Druid, Wicca, and Pagan communities. Today, people around the world celebrate the Winter Solstice with bonfires, music, family gatherings, dancing and singing.
Shalako Kachina Ceremony is a series of dances and ceremonies conducted by the Zuni people at the winter solstice, typically following the harvest. For other tribes, this is commemorated as the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa and also the season of K’aliyee, the time of the north wind blowing.
The Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony involves extinguishing old fires and lighting new ones. The Hopi Holy Cycle celebrates the changing of the seasons and the nature of the Hopi sacred universe.
Chinese New Year Also known as the Lunar New Year, this is the most important date of the Chinese calendar and is related to the Chinese Zodiac. Because the Chinese calendar is both a Solar and Lunar calendar, the actual New Year’s Day changes from year to year. Prior to the New Year, people clean their houses thoroughly and set up traditional decorations.
This is a time of year for family reunions, parties, gift giving, and fireworks.Many of us look forward to the holiday season each year, and revel in the traditions that accompany it. However, with the holiday season, comes a myriad of potential threats to your health. Check back next year (on January 1), when we will post about how to stay healthy in the New Year.
Whatever gatherings, ceremonies, celebrations, and traditions in which you participate, I want to wish you a healthy and joyous holiday season.