Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I am constantly searching for ways to improve and enhance my physical health. Maybe it is because I am starting to see the effects of aging on my body, or maybe it is because I am just more in tune with my body now than when I was younger. Recently I had an experience that taught me that the changes I make don't always have to be outward based, like eating whole grains or getting more exercise, to make a huge impact on my overall health and well being.

About a month ago, my son almost died. It was a huge emotional upset for our entire family, and after the initial shock wore off, my heart was filled with overwhelming gratitude. I felt so thankful for life -- that his life had been spared and that so many highly skilled medical personnel had worked so hard to save him. I was thankful for my family -- without their love and support I would not have been able to be as strong as I was. I felt gratitude for my friends, who even if they did not know what to say to me or how to help, were there by my side, holding me up with their love and praying for us.

I realize now that gratitude helped me to make it through that very difficult time, and it is still helping me now. If all I had focused on was the pain of the situation, or if I had allowed myself to dwell on what could have been the outcome, I would have probably not have made it through. Having gratitude in my heart helped me to heal, and to move past the painful events that occurred. There is a real power in gratitude. The alternative, in my opinion, is despair.

A few weeks after the event, I returned to the hospital to thank some of the people, doctors and nurses, who helped us so much. It was one of the hardest and yet most rewarding things I have ever done. It was hard to go back to that place that held so many bad memories for me, but I felt compelled to show my gratitude to those who had been compassionate and caring and who went beyond their job descriptions to serve. One nurse I spoke to said she had been ready to quit her job, it had been such a horrible day. But then we came and she felt like she had done something worthwhile.

Being grateful is reward enough all on it's own. But the health benefits are also a great side effect of gratitude as well. Recent studies show that the benefits of gratitude may include: less stress, more joy, enhanced vitality, improved sleep, and faster recovery from illness. People who keep a gratitude journal have been shown to be happier, sleep a half hour more per night and exercise 33 percent more each week than those who don't. (Count your Blessings, by Valerie Reiss, Natural Health Magazine Nov 2010)

I remember a story I heard once about some women in a concentration camp who prayed daily and gave thanks for everything, even the lice infecting their scalps. They found out later that those lice had protected them from being raped by the camp guards. If we are able to see the positive things in our lives, even while enduring the painful things, our lives will ultimately be better, richer and healthier.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Essential Oils

I have been wanting to learn about using essential oils for awhile now, but didn't quite know where to start. Then a friend of mine invited me to an essential oils party, and I jumped at the chance. I was surprised to find that not very many people know about essential oils and how to use them. I was also surprised that a lot of people just don't care to know about this natural way of helping our bodies heal themselves.

Essential oils are oils distilled from plants, and they have been used for thousands of years as medicine. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese healers used them to treat various illnesses and in the embalming process.

Some of the benefits of essential oils are:
* They can help regenerate, oxygenate and build up immune responses in the body
* They help transport nutrients to starving cells
* They are powerful antioxidants, helping the body fight free radicals
* They destroy bacteria and viruses while restoring balance to the body
* They detoxify the cells and blood in the body
* They help promote emotional, physical, and spiritual healing

One essential oil you may have heard about is lavender. Many people use lavender oil to promote sleep, and you have probably seen lotions with lavender in them that are marketed as a sleep or relaxation aid. But did you know that lavender can also help alleviate anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, headaches, insect bites, burns, eczema, throat infections, and many more ailments?

Maybe you have heard of people eating peppermint candy after a meal to settle their stomach, or drinking peppermint tea to combat heartburn or indigestion. Peppermint essential oils can be used for those ailments, as well as for colic, gas, headaches, diarrhea, fever, hot flashes, menstrual irregularities, motion sickness, shock, varicose veins, and vomitting. It may also help relieve anger, depression, fatigue, toothaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

Essential oils can be taken internally, such as diluted in a glass of water, used topically by rubbing directly on the area of concern, or aromatically, such as inhaling or diffusing in a humidifier. If you want to learn more about using essential oils, a good website to visit is mydoterra.com. I have personally benefited from using essential oils to treat headaches, stomach aches and muscle pain, and I have only been using them for a few weeks.

It is my belief that the body knows how to heal itself. If you have a cut on your hand, even if you do not treat it in any way, it will heal itself. But if you clean it, disinfect it, and cover it with a bandage, it will heal itself even faster. The same is true with the rest of our bodies. They are capable of healing themselves, but sometimes we can help the process along. I have found that using essential oils is one way of helping the body to heal itself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

So Why Should I Avoid Soft Drinks??

I found an interesting couple of articles on Blisstree.com about the health effects of drinking sugary and sugar-free soft drinks. I knew soda was bad for you, but had kind of gotten lazy about it and would every now and then give in to a craving for a nice cold Pepsi or Coke with lunch. These articles helped remind me why I gave up drinking pop.

Have you ever wondered why Coke comes with a smile? Because it gets you high. They removed the cocaine almost 100 years ago. Why? It was redundant.

  • In the first 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily intake.) You don’t immediately vomit from the overwhelming sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor, allowing you to keep it down.
  • 20 minutes: Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its hands on into fat. (And there’s plenty of that at this particular moment.)
  • 40 minutes: Caffeine absorption is complete. Your pupils dilate; your blood pressure rises; as a response, your liver dumps more sugar into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your brain are now blocked, preventing drowsiness.
  • 45 minutes: Your body ups your dopamine production, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works, by the way.
  • > 60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium, and zinc in your lower intestine, providing a further boost in metabolism. This is compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of calcium.
  • > 60 minutes: The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to pee.) It is now assured that you’ll evacuate the bonded calcium, magnesium, and zinc that was headed to your bones as well as sodium, electrolytes, and water.
  • > 60 minutes: As the rave inside you dies down, you’ll start to have a sugar crash. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You’ve also now, literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke. But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your body could have used for things like hydrating your system, or building strong bones and teeth.

This will all be followed by a caffeine crash in the next few hours. (As little as two if you’re a smoker.) Want to know what happens after that? Check out what happens to your body after you drink a coke, every day for a long time.

Coke itself isn’t the enemy here. It’s the dynamic combo of massive sugar doses combined with caffeine and phosphoric acid, which are found in almost all sodas. Moderation, people!

If you think people are hooked on Coke, it seems like Diet Coke has added a new meaning to the word addicted. It’s not hard to find someone who drinks several cans a day. Everyone seems to think that it’s totally fine for your body, since it doesn’t have any calories. In fact, the communications director of Coca-Cola North America is quoted as saying, “Great taste. No calories. Wholesome ingredients. How could you drink too much?”

We’re not sure exactly which wholesome ingredients he’s talking about. If you check out our post about the effects of Coke on your body, you’ll see that several of the negative health aspects of Coke don’t have anything to do with the high-fructose corn syrup it contains. So we broke down the ingredients of Diet Coke, and what they do to your system.

Carbonated water: This can irritate your digestive system, triggering Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Caramel color: According to the Journal of American Medical Association, there’s some evidence that caramel coloring could increase insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.

Aspartame: This chemical sweetener replaces the “bad” high-fructose corn syrup found in regular Coke, but could be bad for you in its own way. There have been studies for years linking aspartame to cancer, and while the FDA has claimed that there’s been thorough testing on the chemical, not everyone is convinced. In 1995, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a list of aspartame side effects to the FDA, which included headaches, seizures, neurological problems, and abdominal pain, and nausea. Also, when aspartame is ingested, it breaks down into a variety of chemicals, including formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and can also cause abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and damage to internal organs and the central nervous system.

Phosphoric acid: This ingredient gives Diet Coke a tangy taste. Oh, and it can also be used to remove rust on surfaces. Phosphoric acid has been linked to low bone density in several studies, as well as kidney stones. The phosphoric acid binds with zinc, calcium, and magnesium in your lower intestine, which would be good for your bones, but the caffeine in Diet Coke makes you pee it all out before that happens.

Potassium Benzoate: This preservative keeps your Diet Coke fresh. Coincidentally, it also gives fireworks that annoying whistle.

Citric acid: You know that slightly citrus-y taste you love so much in your Diet Coke? That’s thanks to citric acid. It can ruin your tooth enamel and lead to decay.

Caffeine: Your body absorbs caffeine within 40 minutes, causing your pupils to dilate and your blood pressure to rise. It can also lead to ulcers, since it increases the production of stomach acid.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Green Smoothies

Recently a dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have been reading her blog, and she said that green smoothies have been a great tool in her recovery process. I decided to give them a try, since I already had a Vitamix blender, and hadn't really used it that much. To my surprise, the smoothies tasted quite good, and my husband even agreed to drink them with me. Devin wasn't quite as enthused, but with time he may come around! Here is what I have found out about green smoothies:

* They are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium and lots of other nutrients your body craves
* They help boost your energy
* They help build up your immune system
* They help your body eliminate impurities and toxins
* They can help you lose weight
* They are easily digested and are assimilated (absorbed) several times more thoroughly than
chewed greens
* You consume 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables in one smoothie
* Aim for 60% fruits and 40% greens to start with, and gradually work your way up to more
greens as your body gets used to it

The recipe we like best so far is this one:

From the Vita-Mix recipe book

1 cup water
1 cup soy milk (I used vanilla flavor)
2 cups fresh spinach, washed
1 cup frozen, unsweetened strawberries
2 bananas, peeled, frozen

Place all ingredients into the Vita-Mix container in the order listed and secure lid. Select variable 1. Turn on machine and quickly increase speed to variable 10, then to high. Blend for 1 minute or until desired consistency is reached.

If you are trying this recipe in a regular blender, try blending each ingredient one at a time as you add them, and it should work almost as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Take a Walk!

I have been reading a book by Dr. Andrew Weil called "Spontaneous Healing" and I love the advice he gave. He said that you can increase your body's chance of experiencing spontaneous healing by giving it appropriate exercise and rest. But here's the part that I loved: Walking is the best kind of exercise you can get. You don't need to spend hours at the gym in order to be healthy. You can experience optimum health by simply taking a walk outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Walking is what human beings were made to do. It is a complex behavior that requires our senses and motor skills to work together. Dr. Weil says: "When you walk, the movement of your limbs is cross-patterned; the right leg and the left arm move forward at the same time, then the left leg and the right arm. This type of movement generates electrical activity in the brain that has a harmonizing influence on the whole central nervous system -- a special benefit of walking that you do not necessarily get from other kinds of exercise."

Dr. Weil says a wise old doctor that he knows is a shining example of health in his 90's. He does not go to aerobics classes or use exercise machines; he walks. This same doctor often advises patients to crawl as a way of speeding recovery from injuries. When you go back to that simple movement, you help the nervous system move beyond any blocks.

The advantages of walking over other forms of exercise are numerous. You already know how to do it. It does not require any special equipment. It costs nothing. You can do it anywhere. The chance of injury is small. It is less boring than running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. You can do it outdoors. You can do it with friends.

Dr. Weil recommends working your way up to walking 45 minutes a day, covering 3 miles in that amount of time. If your heart and respiratory rate are not elevated at the end of the walk, you should walk faster or find long, gradual hills to climb.

As someone who hates to exercise, this is good news for me. I love going on walks with my husband, my kids, and my dog. And now I feel I can let go of the notion that in order for something to be "exercise", it has to be a structured, planned event. I can make the goal to go for a walk each day, or as often as I can, and know that I am giving my body a great workout that I actually enjoy!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


One of the greatest threats to our well-being and health is toxic overload from harmful substances in our environment. Many downplay the threat from chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and pollution, but more and more people are beginning to recognize the danger these things pose.

Your body will be able to eliminate these unwanted substances if you keep four systems functioning properly.

1. The urinary system -- Drink plenty of water
2. The gastrointestinal system -- Eat plenty of fiber to ensure regular bowel function
3. The respiratory system -- Exercise your respiratory system regularly with deep breathing
4. The skin -- Periodically increase your output of sweat through aerobic exercise or exposure to heat such as saunas or steam baths.

Try to minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals by:

* Using air and water filters in your home. I have a reverse osmosis water purifier in my kitchen, or you can use a pitcher with a filter in it. I also use a Holmes air purifier, a Sharper Image ultrasonic humidifier, and shower heads that filter out chlorine and other chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.

* Buy organic produce whenever you can, or even better, grow your own! Local farmers markets and other fruit and vegetable stores are a good place to start.

* Avoid processed foods that contain chemical dyes (label will say "certified color", "artificial color", or a specific name like "red no. 3) and artificial sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame).

* Try to only take pain relievers and other otc drugs when you absolutely have to. Instead of popping a couple of tylenol when you have a headache, try lying down and relaxing in a cool, dark room. Your liver has to process any chemicals you put into your body, and it can get overburdened.

* Use cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners and lotions that do not contain chemical dyes. Look for brands that are colorless, white, or are tinted using vegetable extracts.

* Clean your home using natural cleaning products, or good old hot water. I have a steam mop that I use to clean my hard floors, and it only uses water, no chemicals. You can clean mirrors and sinks with a spray bottle filled with water and a little vinegar added and wipe with a microfiber rag or sponge.

* I am still struggling with this one, but use propellant-free room freshening sprays. I recently found one at Target by Air Wick called Aqua Mist. It comes in liquid form in a spray bottle instead of a can.

* Take protective antioxidants to help your body block the chemical reactions by which many toxins cause harm. Vitamins C and E are good supplements, as well as selenium and beta carotene.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


A wise friend told me that I should write down some affirmations. Affirmations are statements that you repeat aloud every day. They are statements of how you want your life to be. You say them as if they were already true, believing that they eventually will be true. Even if you don't believe it 100%, they can still work if you faithfully say them daily. I have been doing this for a few months now, and I have seen changes starting to happen in my life. The changes are subtle and small, but I am starting to see the changes that I am trying to make manifest themselves. Here are a few of mine:

* I sleep well and get all the rest I need.
* My body is healthy and strong, and I am growing stronger every day.
* I have a calming influence on myself and those around me.
* I am organized and have plenty of time to do all that I need to do.
* I am always on time.
* I take extremely good care of myself and my family.
* I totally and completely love myself as I am right now.
* I trust in the Lord and rely on His strength rather than my own.

I plan to add some more affirmations to my list now that I have seen how powerful they can truly be in my life. I think they work because it helps to keep my goals firmly in my mind, and also because I think whatever you put out into the universe comes back to you. If you put positive energy out, it will return to you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Meditation and Relaxation

Much of illness comes from unbalanced functioning of the autonomic nervous system. When the tone of this system is not right, it can produce irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stomach and intestinal disorders, and many more problems. Our conscious minds have no direct access to this system, since it is operated independently of our minds. It is automatic.

We can, however, access this system through our breath. Breathing has direct connections to our emotional states and our moods. If you see someone who is angry or upset, you will see that they breath rapidly, shallowly, noisily and irregularly. But you cannot be upset if your breathing is slow, deep, quiet and regular. You cannot always center yourself emotionally by an act of will, but you can use your voluntary nerves to make your breathing slower, deeper, quieter and more regular, and the rest will follow.

Try doing this simple exercise whenever you can. Close your eyes and take a deep, audible breath. Keep your back straight and continue taking a deep breath, then letting it out. As you take the breaths, see how deep and quiet and regular you can make your breathing without feeling a sensation of not getting enough air, just let it feel perfectly comfortable. Do this for at least 8 breaths and then open your eyes and breathe normally.

By putting your attention on your breath, you change your state of consciousness, you begin to relax, and you detach yourself from ordinary awareness. Researchers have documented many cases of benefits of meditation: Lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rates, increased blood flow, and greater relaxation response. Meditation can calm an agitated mind, create healthier minds and bodies, and put us in touch with our higher selves.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nasal Cleansing

Nasal cleansing has been a lifesaver for me these past few weeks. I have had a bad cold and sinus infection, and rather than go to a doctor and demand to be put on antibiotics (which is what I used to do) I decided to try and treat my symptoms at home. The result was my infection lasted only a few days, and I was able to keep my sinuses mostly clear by cleansing 3 to 4 times a day.

I purchased a neti pot a few months ago and became convinced of its wondrous powers almost immediately! It is like a shower for your sinus passages! I do not like water up my nose, so at first, I was very skeptical. I was really nervous to try it, but I saw a lady do it on live TV, and I thought, "If she can do it on TV, I can certainly do it in the privacy of my own home." Once you get past the fear, you figure out how it works and it is a very enjoyable experience.

Nasal cleansing, nasal irrigation, or nasal douching, has been practiced in India for thousands of years. It is a hygenic yoga practice, but has also proved to be helpful in promoting drainage of the sinuses and speeding healing of inflamed tissues. It relieves congestion from colds and flu as well as allergies. I have found it to be a great alternative to decongestants, which make me jittery and unable to sleep when I take them. I don't like the way I feel when I am on those drugs, and so I prefer to treat my symptoms the natural way.

I have also found out the hard way that those over the counter nose sprays are the devil! Once you use them, you become addicted to them and are unable to breathe through your nose unless you are spraying the stuff up your nostrils every 4 hours. Nasal cleansing is a much better way to go!!

Neti pots are available at any drugstore, or major stores like Walmart and Target carry them. I like the little saline packets that come with the pot, because then you know you are getting the exact right mix of water and salt solution. I also like the Neil Med Sinus Rinse, which gives you slightly more pressure during your cleanse. It uses a squeeze bottle instead of using the flow of gravity. You might want to work your way up to that, however. The instructions on how to use the pot or rinse kit come with them, so I won't go into details on how to do it.

Nasal cleansing can help you breath easier and more freely, and I think you will find it to be a soothing and helpful remedy for sinus problems.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Garlic Anyone?

Garlic is a powerful natural medicine. It has abilities to lower cholesterol and reduce the clotting tendency of the blood. It can also help lower high blood pressure. Raw garlic is a potent antibiotic. It is especially good at fighting fungal infections, but also helps rid the body of viral and bacterial infections as well. A good home remedy for colds is to eat several raw cloves of garlic at the first onset of symptoms.

(If you can't make yourself eat raw garlic, you can cut it into small chunks and swallow them like pills, or chop it finely and cook with it.)

Garlic can also treat ear infections and earaches. Make garlic oil by crushing a few cloves of garlic into some olive oil. Let it sit a few days at room temperature, then strain it. Keep the oil in a container in the refrigerator and warm a bit for use when needed. For earaches and infections, put a few drops of warm garlic oil in the ear and plug with a cotton ball.

If you suffer from chronic or recurrent infections, frequent yeast infections or low resistence to infections, eat one or two cloves of garlic a day. (Remember, a clove is one of the small segments that make up the head or bulb, not the whole head.)

*Information taken from "Natural Health, Natural Medicine" by Dr. Andrew Weil, MD