Category Archives: Health

Skin, Hair and Nails, OH MY!

  1. If your hair is looking super greasy, dried and straw-like, discolored, broken-off and fuzzy, frizzy, tangled, engrossed with split-ends, or you have an itchy scalp with dandruff/scaling: it’s your endocrine system.
  2. If your skin has a funny yellowish/other color tint, is producing lots of acne-causing oils and blackheads, growing abnormal amounts of hair/ingrown hairs, is dry, cracked, flaky or discolored: it’s your endocrine system.
  3. If your nails are splitting, breaking off, ingrown, bleeding or cracked at the cuticle, discolored, really thin, flimsy or extra thick: it’s your endocrine system.
  4. If you are constantly getting sick, have swollen lymph nodes, have a chronic ailment related to your immune system: it’s most likely due to a dysfunctional gland(s) within the endocrine system; unfortunately, this dysfunction may prove to be an accurate reflection of lifestyle choices.

Your endocrine system is a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate your body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function.  The hormones are released into the blood stream and transported to tissues and organs throughout the body.  The endocrine system consists of:

  • Pineal body-Involved with daily biological cycles
  • Pituitary-Produces a number of different hormones that influence other various endocrine glands
  • Hypothalamus-Activates and controls the part of the nervous system responsible for many involuntary bodily functions (for example, regulating sleep or stimulating appetite) and influences hormones
  • Thyroid gland-Produces hormones that stimulate body heat production, bone growth, and the body’s metabolism
  • Parathyroids-Secretes a hormone that maintains calcium levels in the circulatory system
  • Thymus gland-Plays a role in the body’s immune system
  • Adrenal glands-Divided into 2 regions; secrete hormones that influence the body’s metabolism, blood chemicals and body characteristics, as well as influence the part of the nervous system that is involved in the response and defense against stress
  • Pancreas-Secretes a hormone (insulin) that controls the use of glucose by the body
  • Ovaries-Secrete hormones that influence female characteristics
  • Testicles-Secrete hormones that influence male characteristics

If any of these glands are not functioning the way they are supposed to, your body outwardly displays these problems through parts of us that essentially pertain to beauty standards (skin, hair, nails, sexual organs and our weight/body shape/size).  Maintaining a healthy endocrine system helps your body perform many of its vital functions, such as growth, development, reproduction and immunity. The endocrine system may also affect some aspects of personality and behavior. An unhealthy endocrine system can result in thyroid diseases, osteoporosis and a variety of other problems, both large and small.

Protect your endocrine system, health and overall appearance by:

  • Maintaining a balanced, healthy diet
  • Be aware of family history pertaining to endocrine problems and take preventative measures against those problems which could be hereditary
  • Find healthy ways to eliminate stress that can result in disorders or a weakened immune system
  • Take a daily vitamin or supplement such as Biotin or others that support endocrine system hormones and glands
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“Skin Improving” Red Light Therapy

Red light therapy consists of exposure to daylight or to specific wavelengths of light using polychromatic, polarized light, lasers, light emitting diodes, fluorescent lamps, dichroic lamps or very bright full spectrum light, usually controlled with various devices.  The light is administered for a prescribed amount of time and, in some cases, at a specific time of day.  Light therapy is a common form of treatment for a variety of conditions from auto immune disorders like psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo to wound healing, depression, seasonal affective disorder and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.  Two forms of phototherapy exist, non-targeted phototherapy (from sunlight or a light box like those found at tanning salons), and targeted-phototherapy, in which light is administered to a specific, localized area of the skin.  Current targeted phototherapy is administered through excimer lasers, elemental gas lamps, or LED lights.

The FDA has cleared devices on the market including XTRAC excimer laser, BClear, Theralight, and Psoria-Light LED phototherapy.  Targeted phototherapy is administered in a doctor’s office and is only administered to the affected skin, not the entire body, thus sparing healthy skin from UV rays which may lead to other health issues including skin cancer.  While different wavelengths work for different conditions, treatment is most often done with narrow band UVB (NB-UVB) as this is the safest wavelength. Non-targeted phototherapy can be delivered at doctor’s office or at home via prescription using a booth, multidirectional unit, or wand; the unaffected skin is simply covered. Several devices are FDA-approved for home including the Panosol 3D, Richmond Light and Solarc Handheld.  

Red light easily penetrates the skin and boosts circulation, releasing more blood and nutrients to the area. It also stimulates vital collagen and elastin production; collagen helps plump the skin, while elastin firms the skin. The red light is energizing as it repairs damaged cells and restores skin back to its youthful look.

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM RED LIGHT THERAPY?

  • Reduction in wrinkles and fine lines
  • Tightening and firming (non-surgical face lift alternative)
  • Reduction or complete loss of blemishes and redness
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Reduces sun and age spots
  • Corrects hyperpigmentation on face, hands, neck
  • Improves/diminishes severe acne and acne scars
  • Can drastically reduce the appearance of cellulite with continued sessions

The Cheapest Health Foods

I don’t have a lot of money to overindulge in expensive super foods, dietary supplements or pre-portioned weight-loss programs but I know what works and delivers results.  The nutrients found in all foods and drinks provide nourishment for the body. This nourishment is in the form of:

  • Substances which provide energy
  • Building blocks for bone, muscle, organs, hormones and blood
  • Substances needed for processes to occur in the body (like digestion)
  • Substances that protect the body

Nutrients are drawn from a wide variety of foods and the more varied your diet, the more likely you are to obtain all the nutrients you need.  The 4 key nutrients recommended by the daily intake guide are fat, saturated fats, sugars and sodium (salt).  Additional nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals which play many crucial roles in the body’s function and wellbeing, but do not provide energy (kilojoules).

Some nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Chard, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach
  • Bell peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mushrooms (crimini and shiitake)
  • Potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Cantaloupe, papaya, raspberries, strawberries
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
  • Beans (garbanzo, kidney, navy, pinto)
  • Lentils, peas
  • Almonds, cashews, peanuts
  • Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice
  • Salmon, halibut, cod, scallops, shrimp, tuna
  • Lean beef, lamb, venison
  • Chicken, turkey

All of these foods are important for building muscle, trimming fat and maintaining good health but some can cost more than you might be willing to spend.  These are my top ten cheaper food ideas that have gotten me through my college years and kept me in the same jeans since high school:

  1. Canned tuna/salmon/sardines (I mix the meat w/ spicy brown mustard)
  2. Bananas, apples and large bags of frozen mixed berries–> the mixed berries are great for smoothies and disguise the taste of added vegetables like fresh spinach leaves
  3. Eggs and Bacon–>Eat one egg and one piece of bacon for breakfast
  4. Turkey and Chicken–>Low sodium turkey lunch meat and larger packages of frozen chicken lasts you about two weeks, delivers protein and keeps you full compared to empty carbohydrates and sugars
  5. Whole wheat bread
  6. Skim Milk
  7. Water
  8. Generic low-fat yogurt
  9. Oatmeal
  10. Canned or frozen vegetables

Abnormal Eating Habits 101

“Ok, this is it.  This is the month I’m going to do it.  I’m going to diet, eat healthy and workout for that body I want.  Oh my god that brownie was good.  Er, I mean, four brownies.  Ok, those four brownies were great.  Wait, four?  That’s like thousands of calories, what was I thinking?!  Oh god I’m not eating anything else today, that’s it.  Man I’m starving from not eating all day.  Maybe a few crackers will hold me over.  How many hand fuels did I just eat?!  Seriously?  I just ingested 100 grams of carbs!  Not cool, I better run it off.”  If a similar scenario keeps playing out in your head and you are constantly worrying about food and body image, you may be suffering from an eating disorder.

How do I know if I have an eating disorder and what could it be?

  • Anorexia nervosa: When you have anorexia nervosa (an-o-REK-see-uh nur-VOH-suh), you’re obsessed with food and being thin, sometimes to the point of deadly self-starvation.
  • Bulimia nervosa: When you have bulimia, you have episodes of bingeing and purging. During these episodes, you typically eat a large amount of food in a short duration and then try to rid yourself of the extra calories through vomiting or excessive exercise. You may be at a normal weight or even a bit overweight.
  • Binge-eating disorder: When you have binge-eating disorder, you regularly eat excessive amounts of food (binge), but don’t try to compensate for this behavior with exercise or purging as someone with bulimia or anorexia might. You may eat when you’re not hungry and continue eating even long after you’re uncomfortably full. After a binge, you may feel guilty or ashamed, which can trigger a new round of bingeing. You may be a normal weight, overweight or obese.

When to see a doctor

  • If you feel ashamed, sad, hopeless, drained, irritable and anxious.
  • You’re experiencing a host of physical problems such as irregular heartbeats, fatigue, and bowel or menstrual troubles

 

Protein Powders Exposed

Muscle Milk and Jack3d: two of the most popular creatine powders used among the population’s young athletes in the past decade.  Creatine—typically bought in flavored powders and mixed with liquid—increases the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly. With more energy, you can train harder and more often, producing faster results.  It’s this simple: “If you can lift one or two more reps or 5 more pounds, your muscles will get bigger and stronger,” says Chad Kerksick, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Oklahoma.  Research shows that creatine is most effective in high-intensity training and explosive activities. This includes weight training and sports that require short bursts of effort, such as sprinting, football, and baseball.  Read more…

Why should you consider taking or not taking a creatine powder?

  • If you take creatine, you’ll gain weight at a rapid pace, guaranteed
  • While the initial gain is water (about 2 to 4 pounds in the first week of supplementation), subsequent gains are muscle due to the increase in the workload you can handle
  • Studies in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that muscle fibers grow when a person takes creatine
  • The catch: This only happens if you take advantage of the boost in energy and hit the gym. Otherwise, it is just water weight
  • Creatine doesn’t seem to improve strength or body composition in people over 60
  • In addition to improving athletic performance, creatine is used for congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle’s disease, and for various muscular dystrophies.

Who uses creatine?

  • Creatine is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports
  • The NCAA no longer allows colleges and universities to supply creatine to their students with school funds; students are permitted to buy creatine on their own and the NCAA has no plans to ban creatine unless medical evidence indicates that it is harmful
  • Creatine use is widespread among professional and amateur athletes and has been acknowledged by well-known athletes such as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and John Elway
  • Vegetarians and people associated with illnesses previously listed
  • Americans use more than 4 million kilograms of creatine each year

It’s OK to Talk About It

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At some point in our lives, we all experience the common feelings of grief and distress caused by stressful or upsetting circumstances involving our loved ones.  That ‘sick to your stomach’ feeling; the constant worrying, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, deep sighing and nail biting that accompanies a misfortune such as debt, illness, unlawful wrong-doings, disappearances and death.  In my 23 years, I have been lucky enough to hold on to most of the people I love and care about and was too young to understand and comprehend what this ‘death’ thing truly meant when family passed.  November 2013 was the first time I lost a good friend; not to illness or the hands of anyone else but by her own hands, when she overdosed on heroin.

Last Saturday, we said goodbye and laid to rest the remains of Courtland Lambert, my best friend’s boyfriend.  Courtland disappeared on March 19th leaving his phone, wallet, vehicle and a note for his parents saying he was sorry if he ever hurt and lied to them; the only item he did take with him was the shotgun that his step-father had bought for him years ago and was reported missing the day of his disappearance.  When police decided to search the woods behind the residence once more the following week, they found Courtland’s body with his head blown to bits from his shotgun.  His life was an undetected, ticking time-bomb created by years of silent pains, worries, troubles and anger kept deep inside until explosively ignited by a DUI he received the week before he went missing.  For a week straight, our efforts to rack our brains and memories for any clues or answers that could bring him back to us were greeted with shock and despair, rather than comfort and joy.

When the word spread about Courtland’s suicide, Trisha was bombarded with flowers, ‘sorry for your loss’ cards, texts and friend requests from strangers seeking information, attention and affiliation.  All of these people tried to be involved and show support as a community but in no way could relate to or imagine the pain Trisha was, is and going to be in for the rest of her life as the soon-to-be fiancé to the sweet, handsome genius who seemingly had everything going for him.  It is my privilege and duty as her soul sister to be her shoulder to cry on and person to vent to and express whatever emotion arises.  It’s very relieving and healthy that Trisha is open to talking with family and close friends about feelings associated with Courtland and Amy’s deaths but a fragile person can always benefit from seeing a therapist.

  • Grief, depression and anxiety can lead to missed work, excessive smoking and drinking, and increased risk of developing high blood pressure, a heart attack or even becoming suicidal
  • If you or someone you know is displaying suicidal behaviors, call the 24 hour Life Crisis hotline to speak with a trained professional right away who can provide you with crisis intervention and suicide prevention any time, any day of the year

What’s a healthy weight goal for you??

As bikini season approaches, women across the country are starving themselves or dieting like crazy to shed their winter coats.  Many take it to the next extreme to lose the weight in time which can endanger health and cause for a relapse of extreme binge eating.  Regular bing eating can lead to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Sleep apnea

 The best way to figure out how much weight to lose for your body type will depend on how you were your senior year of high school.  Most people are fully grown for a couple of years at that age and physically fit from sports or activities.  If you wore a women’s size 00 pants your senior year of high school then there is no reason you can’t strive for that 108 pound body again and reasonably obtain that goal over a two or three month period.  However if you were a women’s size 6 pant in high school and were active playing sports, that’s the size your body is at its most healthy weight.  You should never malnourish your body.

If you can afford it, try a healthly meal plan for two months like NutriSystem or Shakeology.  Both of these systems are designed to be low in carbs and high in protein and fiber, helping you lose weight consistently and safely.  Take a personal challenge to avoid all junk food and cravings everyday for two months; reduce cravings by chewing sugarless gum or drinking water when tempted.  I recommend Extra Dessert flavored gum to simulate the sensation of indulging in real treats without actually doing so.  Calculate your BMI and follow guidelines to reduce it to the recommended 18.5 %.  Use a daily moisturizer with Vitamin E and shea butter to reduce the chance of stretchmarks during weight loss and to protect against dry skin as you expose more of your body in the upcoming months.

I’m All Tanned Out

For the last nine years of my life, I have been tan for at least three months out the year.  My sister and I decided over winter break that we were going to quit tanning for good and resort to vigorous skin and sun protection routines year round.   I haven’t been applying sunscreen every day yet but plan to cover myself head to toe as the weather gets warmer and I wear less layers.  We both have noticeable sun-kissed appearances with our freckles and natural yellowish tints but we’ve recently seen that sun damage is no joke.  My mother and grandparents have all consistently had cancerous skin removed and in Mom’s case, a great deal of it is because she didn’t tan safely over 20 plus years ago.

A 2002 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that using indoor tanning devices increased the risk of skin cancers – 2.5 times for squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times for basal cell carcinoma – compared with nonusers.  It is estimated that 2.3 million teens visit a tanning salon at least once a year; I used to be one of them.  Unprotected outdoor tanning also increases your chances of developing melanoma, premature aging of the skin and wrinkles.  I just turned 23 and that means 30 is right down the road; if I want to look my best, I need to stop further damage in its tracks.  I want to look at this as a positive experience and embrace the consequences of giving up bronzed skin for more youthful looking skin in ten years.

All the positives to giving up tanning:

  • Get to sit under an umbrella at the beach
  • You can wear that adorable oversized hat to shade your face
  • Rock the best sunglasses
  • Can finally read some good books on the beach again without profusely sweating and dehydrating
  • Can finally wear hippie jewelry with my bathing suit to the beach
  • Protecting eyes from developing cataracts
  • Protecting skin from melanoma, wrinkles and dark spots
  • Skin won’t be used to make leather boots in 30 years 🙂

A Fur Person a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

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I don’t prefer to use the term “pet” when referring to my dog or cat because I, like many other modern Americans, see them instead as members of the family.  I consider my cat, Oscar, to be my son and my sister’s pitbull, Rillo, my niece.  My parents even refer to themselves as ‘Nana’ and ‘Popsy’ when talking to or about Rillo, and she soaks in this coded language and forms her own vocabulary by association.  Animals may not be able to speak our language but they are excellent at picking up on our verbal and nonverbal cues which in turn guide their behavior.  Research has concluded that the best explanation for dogs’ specialized social skills is that they evolved as a consequence of dogs having been domesticating by humans, representing a case of convergent cognitive evolution.

I believe cats posses these same capabilities but are more independent by nature than dogs and therefore follow social cues when they deem it necessary for affection or their own self gratification.  If Oscar wants to go outside and hunt for the day, he starts purring loudly at 4 am, rubbing his face on mine to make sure I’m up and responding to his affection.  If I don’t get up to let him outside, he jumps on my dresser and starts pushing various figurines on the floor, staring at me in the eyes with each swipe of his paw until I leave my bed.  Anyone that has a pet knows the routines and cues they’ve developed for telling their human counterpart something they need or want, and in turn, we accept this as normal communicative behavior between us and our furry family members.

But what you might not know is that owning a pet has been proven beneficial to people’s mental, physical and emotional health.  Check out Animal Planet’s Top 5 Health Benefits of Owning a Pet to read the details explaining why an animal a day can keep the doctor away:

  1. Breathe Easier: Having a pet in the home lowers the risk of developing related allergies by as much as 33%
  2. Meet and Greet: Animals can act as instant ice breakers in conversation
  3. Stay Heart Healthy: Pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels–minimizing risks for heart attacks down the road
  4. Get a Move On: Dogs need exercise so walking them regularly keeps the weight off you as well
  5. Keep Your Chin Up: Pets provide companionship, boosting feelings of joy and happiness (especially for sick and elderly patients)

A Common Ancestor

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How do you view and comprehend the unexpected events that life throws at you?  God’s plan, coincidence, fate or just random destined moments passing through space and time?  In 2012, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religious and Public Life  survey revealed that, of the 46 million unaffiliated (no religious affiliation) American  adults surveyed, more than half reported a deep connection with nature and earth, and 37 percent claimed they were “spiritual but not religious.”  In the same survey, 34 percent said they were spiritual and 38 percent said they believe in “God or a universal spirit.”  In short, a substantial portion of atheists and nonreligious report spiritual feelings (Cragun, 2014).

Spirituality can be believing you have a spiritual connection with other people, believing there is some form of higher power or believing that there is some form of afterlife; all of these beliefs can be held without any institutional affiliation with a religion.  A growing wave of research suggests that religion and spirituality may help some people better cope with illness, depression and stress.  Several medical studies show a connection between religious beliefs or practices and a decreased risk of self-destructive behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse and suicide.  Perhaps the reasoning behind these findings is that feeling connected with nature and the world around you helps you find inner peace and appreciate quality of life in a world of unpredicted chaos.  Spirituality and religion then, can be seen as strong predictors of and provide valuable insight into a person’s or society’s state of mental health.

If reality is defined through the individual’s eyes, cultures, personal values, beliefs and life experiences, we are creating billions of intertwining collective realities that all somehow affect each other.  Our own reality greatly shapes choices and options we see available for taking or avoiding.  If every person on this planet could put aside their differences and pre-existing notions to think about the meaning of life from this perspective, world peace might be more possible than ever before.  Humans could learn to be codependent on each other and the natural world instead of constantly competing for resources and individual success.  When are we all going to realize that every living thing on this planet came from one common ancestor?  Theory or not, evolution makes more sense than all the world’s religions combined.