‘Tis the Season…

Holidays often offer opportunities for over-indulgence in eating, drinking, and other celebratory practices. Since there seems to be a dearth of current discussion on the negative effects of alcohol, let’s take a look so we can make more informed decisions. Some of the known harmful effects of alcohol include:
  • Toxic liver – the liver is charged with detoxification of harmful substances including medications, alcohol, and toxic chemicals. When it becomes toxic it is less able to do its job and can lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, or alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Increased insulin release leading to increased fat storage
  • Hormone imbalances (including estrogen and testosterone)
  • Vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins
  • Sleep disruption
  • Aging
  • Dehydration
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Compromised immune system
A recent article in the Barnstable Patch, reporting on news from a survey by 24/7 Wall St., reveals that Cape Cod is the “drunkest” place in MA with 21% of its inhabitants drinking excessively! (This is defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC – as binge drinking: four or more drinks in a single occasion for women and five or more for men and heavy drinking: defined as at least eight drinks per week for women and 15 for men.)
Some of you are now asking “But what about the positive health effects of red wine?” Unfortunately the jury is still out on this but most researchers agree that it’s nearly impossible to get sufficient amounts of the antioxidant resveratrol from red wine without risking toxic doses.
Healthier alternatives: Try sparkling water with fresh lemon, lime, or unsweetened cranberry juice. (Sparkling Kombucha, a probiotic tea, makes a healthy and delicious alternative too!) If you do choose to drink alcohol, do so wisely.

For more info:

Medical Tests & Procedures

Do you automatically comply with every medical test and procedure  your health care provider advises? According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, approximately 30 percent of all medical procedures and tests may in fact be unnecessary. The health care system is actually focused on disease rather than health. Unnecessary testing feeds this focus on disease by discounting the negative health effects of this testing in the name of advanced diagnostics. (The costs include emotional and physical harm as well as financial waste.) Various studies have shown that many newer testing options offer little or no patient advantage over older methods yet are promoted through effective marketing techniques and medicine’s desire for “cutting edge technology.” In fact, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, studies show that “between 40 and 78 percent of the medical testing, treatments, and procedures you receive are of NO benefit to you — or are actually harmful.”

I have worked in various health care settings over a period of 40 years and have seen first-hand the use of unnecessary testing. Patients often comply with their doctor’s wishes without question or discussion. Very often the practitioner is trying to avoid a lawsuit that may arise from a missed diagnosis; unfortunately this is often at the expense of the patient. X-rays, CT scans, and MRI’s for example, are not without health consequences.  Furthermore, often the “big guns” are pulled out when a smaller one would suffice. For example: The use of CT scans which emit dangerous levels of radiation when a simple X-ray would confirm a diagnosis.

As an informed consumer who understands the risks and benefits of many so-called “preventative” procedures, I frequently decline these tests which are actually diagnostic and not truly preventative. Here I’m referring to many of the standard recommendations for procedures which are ordered yearly or at other intervals to uncover a disease for which there have been no signs or symptoms. It can be (and frequently is) argued that these tests and procedures sometimes detect early evidence of disease and that standard (conventional) guidelines should be followed.

What to do? Empower yourself with knowledge – discuss options with your health care partner and make an informed decision on which tests and procedures are necessary for you!

RN’s Speak on Aging and Being Mortal:


Challenging Perspectives on Aging and Dying


Two area nurses discovered a mutual passion for empowering Cape Cod’s aging population with tools to embrace a fuller, healthier, more enjoyable life. Together they developed What’s so Funny about Aging and Being Mortal – Challenging Perspectives on Aging & Mortality, a two-hour workshop designed to improve people’s outlooks on the subject along with their health.

Kathleen Budreski, RN and Amanda Murphy, RN are seasoned nurse educators with diverse personal and professional experiences qualifying them to speak on health, wellness, aging, and mortality. As part of Cape Cod’s aging community, they are both committed to developing personal wellness qualities including life-long learning, positive outlooks based on current research and inspirational guides, and by challenging aging stereotypes.

In addition to demonstrating how humor can make aging easier and help prepare us for the inevitable changes that occur with aging, they explore and debunk several myths of aging. For example, the “aging equates with disease” myth is exposed through a look at several lifestyle factors which are known to impact disease development. Research is presented which shows we can live healthy lives well into our 90’s and beyond with lifestyle review and by opting for healthier ways of life.

By providing insights into new models of aging based on current scientific study, the instructors offer an opportunity to experience positive eldering.  For example, emerging evidence continues to show positive health outcomes linked to the spiritual practices of elders regardless of religious or non-religious background. Experiential activities related to humor, memoir, and gratitude are weaved into the workshop in order to learn first-hand the value of positive practices.

While this class is for everyone, professional nurses and social workers can earn continuing education credits while learning new skills to enrich the lives of themselves, their families, and their clients. For more information call Wellness Paths at 508.862.6395.

Last Minute Gifts Revisited

Last year at this time I posted this but think its message bears repeating, reminding myself and others of what’s really important at this time of year.

I’m recalling an exercise that was shared with a group of health care workers in a local nursing center last year. We were asked to write down 10 things that were very important to us and that would be difficult to live without. After completing our list, we were asked to remove 2 things from the list. This process continued until we were down to the last 2 items and we were asked to remove one. This was an exercise in empathy, helping us understand how difficult it must be for residents of a nursing home to give up so many things that are meaningful to them. I was a bit surprised by what was left on my list of one – “health.” I realized that all those other things, including my beloved furry companion, were not as important as maintaining the gift of health, without which I would be unable to care for her. With that in mind, I’ve decided to suggest some “last minute gifts” that you may want to give yourself to benefit your own health:
• Benevolence – Is there a particular charity that might benefit from your services or a monetary contribution? Is there a neighbor who might need some help at this time of year, perhaps with you cleaning up their yard leaves or gifting a casserole? Giving to others provides the giver with health benefits, including that warm feeling around your heart.

• Forgiveness – Who do you need to forgive? Don’t forget to include yourself here, knowing that the immune system “hears” everything. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior, it simply means letting go of the resentments for the sake of your health. After all, holding a grudge doesn’t hurt the other person, only the one holding it.

• Play – This time of year can be unusually stressful as we place high expectations on ourselves and others to produce the perfect holidays. We need to counter the stress with exercise, healthy foods, social support, and a liberal dose of fun! Schedule in some play time doing what you most enjoy – sports, a movie, visiting grandchildren, or even dressing up in Santa-wear at the office.

• Nutrition – Much has been said on this topic but many don’t realize that a typical American diet actually promotes more stress and compromises the immune system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of illnesses. Plan ahead so you’re not left victim to the many processed and sugary foods served at holiday parties. It’s “ok” to bring your own snacks!

You may be motivated to gift yourself in other ways – there are many “free” gifts available. Choose gifts that bring you joy – a surefire way to promote wellness. Happy gifting and happy holidays!

Positive Ageing Skills can make Ageing Fun!

Contrary to what most folks think, most people actually become happier as we age into our senior years. Becoming free of of the many stressors involved in raising a family and promoting a career allows many seniors to pursue personal interests and to meaningfully reflect on their lives. They have time to volunteer for example, an altruistic activity known to boost morale as well as the immune system while increasing the happiness quotient.
It’s been found that what we feel and think about ageing actually determines how we age! Beliefs and expectations are important contributors to our health at any age but never more important than in our senior years. If we believe that ageing involves disability and unhappiness, for example that’s likely what we’ll get, owing to the powerful effects of the mind body connection. Many of us have bought into the media’s depiction of old age as an unfortunate occurrence which must be tolerated by both the individual and society rather than celebrated. Ageism is practiced by all ages, however when practiced by the very group it is aimed at – usually seniors – it’s effects can be devastating. As Ashton Applewhite notes in her book “This Chair Rocks” we need to “wake up…cheer up…and push back!” Other practices to combat ageism include becoming informed on the topic, integrating with all ages, activism including challenging our own and others’ beliefs, and a sense of humor on the very real changes and challenges that occur as we age.
Some other easy to learn skills which can make ageing healthier and more enJOYable include a gratitude practice, journaling and/or memoir writing, and adopting a new model of ageing such as “sage-ing” which can help us claim our wisdom and empower our stature as elders.
For more information on the topic and to learn how to claim your full stature as an elder, check out What’s so Funny about Ageing & Being Mortal: Challenging Perspectives on Ageing & Dying taking place on November 10th at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod.

Challenging perspectives on aging and mortality….

If we’re lucky, we’re all aging and will continue to do so into a healthy old age. So why do so many of us have such negative feelings and perspectives on aging if it’s a universal condition? Perhaps it’s natural to shun the inevitability of our mortality so we choose ageist commentary while engaging in practices and procedures that promise to keep ourselves forever young in order to deny what we fear. But what if we could learn to accept – and even enjoy!- our aging process?

Enjoyment and laughing our way through our senior years makes the process easier, improves our health, and prepares us for the inevitability of our mortality. I have teamed up with Kathy Budreski, RN to create a workshop: What’s so Funny about Aging & Being Mortal: Challenging Perspectives on Aging and Dying.  Aging myths and  the negative images of aging – “ageism” – are explored and contrasted with the value and blessings (and humor!) of aging. New models of positive spiritual eldering are presented as emerging evidence continues to show positive health outcomes linked to the spiritual practices of elders regardless of religious or non-religious background.

This topic has a very personal meaning for me as I enter my senior years, wondering where the years have gone and noticing physical changes almost daily. (Who is that stranger in the mirror?!) It became necessary for me to keep focused on the positive aspects of aging  – the level of personal comfort achieved and the ability to be more authentic rather than needing to be accepted by others for example. These realizations led me to create a workshop on the positive aspects of aging in order to help counter all the negative bias against it. Besides humor, we present uplifting information on the value of gratitude and memoir to help with coming to terms with our eventual mortality.

This class is being presented on November 10 from 2:30 – 5:00 PM at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth. You can register at Wellness Paths or call me at 508.862.6395.

“Do these genes make me look….?”

Dis-ease is a result of the interplay between our genes and our lifestyles, or, perhaps more accurately, our “stress – styles.” We are both susceptible and resistant to a wide variety of diseases, dependent upon our genetic makeup. Researchers who study epigenetics have found, however, that most diseases occur only when susceptible people make lifestyle choices that trigger the expression of a genetic tendency. These diseases include cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes among others.

Dr. Mark Hyman, a Functional Medicine practitioner notes that “What we eat, think, or feel; exercise; stress; toxins in our environment – all of these influence our genetics.” Holistic/integrative practitioners are concerned with preventing disease through lifestyle evaluation and alteration, thus reducing the negative impact of stressful behaviors. Some of the more basic strategies we can employ to reduce both stress and the risk of serious disease include:

•Exercise – daily physical activity is mandatory. Find something you enjoy doing so it won’t be viewed as a chore. Prioritize this as you would any other self-care practice such as brushing your teeth!

•Breath! Walking in nature while being mindful of deep breathing can provide a number of benefits such as fresh air, exercise, and a respite from daily stress.

•Eat a plant-based diet and avoid processed and genetically modified “foods.”

•Drink lots of filtered water and avoid plastic bottles which leach chemicals out of plastic and into your body.

•Learn to manage stress and develop positive attitudes – this requires practice! There are many self-help books, classes, and support groups available to help with this. Remember that life is a process – stay connected to your health goals.

•Consider Wellness Paths for your health and wellness education and coaching! Call for info: 508.862.6395

Uncovering Hidden Health Hazards

small[1]Holistic health is concerned with disease prevention and finding the cause(s) of disease rather than treating the symptoms of disease with medication and surgery as conventional health care normally practices. (This is referred to as “sick care” by many since the focus is on the disease rather than the overall health of the client.) Most people are unaware of the numerous hidden health hazards that affect our health and well-being. Becoming aware of these disease- influencers can empower us toward making informed lifestyle changes that may both prevent illness and improve our current state of health. Some of these hazards include:


• Water – Water quality involves much more than the seemingly “A-OK” water report your town sends you every year. Water departments typically do not test for toxic chemicals, leaving you uninformed about the true quality and healthfulness of your water. Consider a carbon block filter to help filter out toxic contaminants including medications present in most water supplies. For more info go to Silent Spring.
• Food – There are a multitude of hidden health hazards in our foods. I recommend for information on foods with the highest and lowest amounts of toxic pesticides, nutritional content of various foods, and other crucial information.
• Radiation – Half of our exposure to radiation comes from natural sources found in the earth, air, and cosmic rays. The other half comes from man-made sources, including medical imaging. To reduce your exposure, ask your health care provider or emergency room physician to consider standard x-rays or ultrasounds rather than CT scans which can have up to a 1000 X higher radiation dose! Also, limit or avoid microwaving and reduce your use and reliance on wireless devices.
• Personal Care Products – Most of us use an average of 9 – 12 personal care products daily. Shouldn’t we be concerned with the ingredients in these products and their potential for causing disease? There are over 84,000 man-made chemicals used in this country and more than 13,000 of those are in cosmetics and other personal care products. Few of these chemical ingredients have been tested for safety. You might want to consider checking your products’ “score” at
• Air pollution – While difficult to avoid, air pollution from coal-fired power plants, auto exhaust and other sources of industrialization contribute untold health effects. Options to reduce risk include avoiding heavy traffic and consideration of indoor air filters.
• Endocrine disruptors – Many people do not realize that many chemicals can actually disrupt our endocrine (think “ hormone”) system, exposing us to a vast array of health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and thyroid disease. Some of the more commonly used chemicals in this class include:
o Dioxin – Mainly by-products of industrial manufacturing, dioxins find their way into food sources such as meat, cheese, and fish where we ingest the toxic contaminant. For more info – World Health Organization 
o Atrazine – While the safety of this common week killer is often debated, there exists a wealth of evidence that it is toxic to marine life and to humans. And, according to NRDC “Atrazine was found in 80 percent of drinking water samples taken in 153 public water systems. All twenty watersheds sampled in 2007 and 2008 had detectable levels of atrazine, and sixteen had average concentrations above the level that has been shown to harm plants and wildlife.” More info:
o Phthalates – These are ubiquitous chemicals used in plastics, personal care products, home furnishings, etc. Difficult to avoid, we can lessen our exposure by avoiding products containing “fragrance,” avoiding plastics with recycling codes 3 and 7, and eating organic foods.
o Perchlorate – A contaminant primarily from military operations, perchlorate causes hypothyroidism. (Is anyone concerned about the numbers of people currently taking thyroid replacement medication to treat this disorder?) Again this toxin has been found in drinking water and food sources.
o Fire Retardants (PBDEs) – While flame retardants have been removed from clothing, they still remain in most of our home furnishings. Since household dust contains these chemicals it is advised to dust and vacuum frequently (using a HEPA filter.)
o BPA (Bisphenol A) – BPA and other chemicals leach out of plastic food and water containers, food cans, and medical devices such as IV bags, endangering our health. It’s a known fact that newborn babies have over 200 toxic chemicals in their cord blood! Some folks are still microwaving food in plastic, an even riskier practice. BPA-free plastics are probably no better, found to release estrogen-like chemicals. What to do? Avoid plastics, never heat plastics, and avoid canned foods. More info at Mother Jones:

• Medication – We only need to tune into the evening TV commercials to realize the potential negative effects of medication. What many people don’t realize is that all medication has side effects and potentially negative effects, averaging 70 per drug! This doesn’t include the oft neglected issue of “polypharmacy” interactions that can occur when more than one drug is taken. Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of medication is the “Here take this” mentality which encourages the use of medication as a first line to treat disease and illness. Could this mentality be the root cause of our current opioid epidemic?
This is quite a list of hidden health hazards although I haven’t listed all known contenders. Use this information to empower yourself – invest in a home water filtration system, avoid plastics (use glass for food storage), inform yourself on the level of toxins in your personal care products and household cleaners, avoid unnecessary medications and medical imaging, and eat organic.

Heart Awareness Month


Many of us still believe the outdated notion (based on outdated research) that avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet will prevent heart disease. The 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended we stop limiting dietary fat and cholesterol since they do not promote heart disease. What is now known is that trans-fats, present in many processed foods present a clear health danger, clearly linked to heart disease. (Trans-fats and refined vegetable oils promote an unhealthy lipid profile, leading to heart disease.)
Furthermore, elevated levels of cholesterol and LDL (so-called “bad cholesterol”) were not linked to an increased risk of heart disease but low levels of HDL (so-called “good cholesterol”) was. Low HDL is a result of eating sugar and refined carbohydrates, resulting in prediabetes and metabolic syndrome which is closely linked to heart disease. Studies have shown that low fat, high carbohydrate diets lead to unhealthy lipid profiles with high triglycerides, low HDL, and small LDL particles (the unhealthy LDL.) A particularly dangerous sweetener is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in many soft drinks and processed foods.
What to do? Eat a low glycemic, plant-based diet without trans-fats and refined vegetable oils and exercise regularly. Don’t forget to add in the “good fats” from cold pressed olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. If you eat animal products, opt for organic, grass fed over conventionally farmed animals.
Happy Heart Awareness Month!



New Dietary Guidelines: Help or Hindrance?




Have you tried navigating through the voluminous report the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has recently published to help us make healthier food choices? While there is much good information in the report, what most of us want is simplicity – guidelines that are clear, complete and accurate, without the influence of special interest groups. Unfortunately, this is not what we get.


Dr. Walter Willett, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said this about the new Guidelines:


The 2016 Dietary Guidelines are improved in some important ways…Unfortunately, Congress censored the scientific Advisory Committee’s conclusion that red meat consumption should be reduced for reasons of planetary health … it is not possible to have food security if our food supply is not sustainable… the USDA …also censored the scientific Advisory Committee’s conclusion that consumption of red and processed meat should be reduced for health reasons. (Recall the recent announcement by the World Health Organization that both were found to be carcinogenic.)


Dr. Willet goes on to say: Further, the clear scientific conclusion that sugar-sweetened beverages should be reduced were also censored in the final recommendations. .. the USDA has engaged in censorship and obfuscation. Clearly these Guidelines bear the hoof prints of the Cattleman’s Association and the sticky fingerprints of Big Soda. They fail to represent the best available scientific evidence and are a disservice to the American public.


And Dr. David Katz, founding director of Yale University’s prevention research center, notes that the official Dietary Guidelines are “put together by federal agencies accountable to Congress…and are what politicians think should be done rather than what actual experts (the scientific Advisory Committee) think.”


 If you want the whole story on nutrition, I advise you expand your reading to include authors such as Dr. Joseph Mercola who offers a wide variety of current health and nutritional research, Mark Hyman, preventative health MD, Ann Louise Gittleman, nutritionist and author, and Marion Nestle, nutritionist, author (most notably “Food Politics” and “What to eat”) and sociologist.  There are many others. And keep an eye on this blog for future discussions!