Category Archives: Wellness

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!

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Many of us still believe the outdated notion (based on outdated research) that avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet will prevent heart disease.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!



Avoiding the Flu

depositphotos_16276245-Flu-or-Cold.-Sneezing-Woman-Sick-Blowing-Nose[1]There remains much debate over whether or not to get your yearly “flu shot.” That’s a decision that should be made after researching current findings, talking with your health care provider, and trusting your gut. Whether or not you opt for the flu shot, however, there are other measures you can take to help avoid the flu – all by boosting your immune system. Let’s talk about some of these.
Diet – Foods and conditions which may negatively impact the immune system include:
• Sugar
• Rancid oils (keep all oils, nuts, and seeds in refrigerator)
• Excessive Alcohol
• Excessive Caffeine
• Processed foods
• Over cooked foods (over cooked foods lack the necessary vitamins and minerals necessary for building immune components)
• Excessive food quantities (can lead to obesity which can contribute to a depressed immune system)
• Food Allergies

Exercise – Moderate, consistent exercise benefits the immune response and when exercise is performed daily, the effect becomes cumulative. Those who exercise regularly, therefore, will be better able to recover from health challenges and will be sick less frequently. (Extreme exercise negates this benefit.)
Sleep – Lack of sleep is related to obesity as well as a depressed immune system. Melatonin, an antioxidant hormone which stimulates the immune system is normally increased at night, allowing restful sleep. Electrical pollution, however can interfere with Melatonin production and thus affect our immune system as well as our quality of sleep. It is advised by Ann Louise Gittleman in her book Zapped, to have minimal or no electronic devices in the bedroom, including cell phones. Wireless routers should be unplugged, electric blankets removed, and any appliances such as alarm clocks at least six feet away from the bed. Limiting alcohol can also help by allowing the deep restful sleep needed.
Stress management – By now most of us know that stress impacts the immune system. One way to reduce stress and boost the immune system is through catharsis – laughing, crying, talking to a trusted friend or adviser, and journaling. One famous study measured college students’ number of visits to the health clinic. Half of the students were instructed to journal daily, the other half were given no special instructions. It was found that the students who journaled had significantly less visits to the health clinic than those who did not! And we know that ~80% of all physician visits are for stress-related illness.
Spiritual practice – This can include anything from meditation, gratitude, and strong connections with others to laughing, dancing, singing and being in nature. It seems our immune system benefits from liberal doses of joy and connection, including pets.
In addition to these measures, frequent hand washing and avoidance of those who are obviously sick with a respiratory illness are recommended. Since you can’t avoid “germs” such as influenza virus altogether, it’s always prudent to keep your immune system in good running order. So take a walk, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep, take time for fun and listen to the voice within.

Holidays: Time for some Serotonin?

Have you ever heard about the effects of kindness on your brain? In his book The Power of Intention, Wayne Dyer shares the amazing science of kindness.Serotonin is the drug that makes you feel good, which is why the pharmaceutical companies have been able to sell so many anti-depressants which chemically increase your serotonin level. We can activate our own internal pharmacy, however, and increase our serotonin levels in several ways. For example, serotonin is released when we do things to help others – it’s like nature’s way of rewarding us! Not only does the helper get a boost in serotonin, the person you’re helping also has serotonin released in her/his brain! You both feel better! Amazingly, not only do you both feel better but so does some random person who happened to watch your act of kindness.
 The holidays seem like a perfect time to perform random acts of kindness while you increase your happiness quotient while improving your health – it’s well-known that mood affects our physical health. Can you find ways to bring joy to others this season, thus improving the health and well-being of yourself, the “others,” and all those who are “watching?”
Stay tuned here for more ways to boost your serotonin and Happy, Healthy Holidays!imagesCATXJGW8

The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back


Several years ago a burgeoning Functional Medicine doctor explained this concept to me as it pertains to health. Feeling crummy without specific symptoms and having had a long bout of chronic fatigue syndrome some ten years previous, I wanted to improve my health in a manner that did not involve masking symptoms with drugs nor labeling my ailment as an “unknown etiology” with an equally unknown path to recovery.

The concept of the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was probably the most useful thing I learned from this physician. Since we are all individuals with varying degrees of health and “dis-ease,” that proverbial “straw” could come at any time from any number of causes. Understanding that health involves mind, body, and spirit, and that attention to all three realms is critical in disease prevention allows me to periodically check for possible “straws” that may find entry and threaten my all-important health.

In the intervening years I have had the opportunity of increased study into holistic/integrative thought, furthering my understanding of just where these “straws” might come from. One certification course I undertook proposed that most disease stemmed from stress – mostly “intra-psychic” (that which originates in our minds) although other stressors such as environmental also play a role. With the number of stressors present in any of our lives today, it’s not hard to see how this factor impacts our health.

Another certification course I took looked at “5 Aspects” of health and disease, noting environmental and nutritional factors in addition to the usual triad of body, mind, and spirit. This concept makes sense since research shows that each of these areas can contribute to our level of health or disease; in combination, what is the exact straw that prevents the enjoyment of health and wellness?

Yesterday, in researching “smart phones” I began to wonder just what that magic “straw” might be for any given individual. Worried about SAR (specific absorption rates) of cell phones in general and smart phones in particular, I wondered if perhaps an individual’s risk of cancer due to the radiation from cell phones might be reduced if, for example, they had an unusually healthy diet or even belief system. I also wondered why more people weren’t concerned about this risk and why they didn’t modify their behavior accordingly. Is it because they don’t know there IS a risk? Has the risk been down played? Are they “in denial?” or do they simply believe, as many of us former smokers once believed “cancer happens to other people, not healthy people like me.”

Through both formal and informal education, I have learned that disease is usually not the result of one lifestyle habit or one environmental toxin but, rather, the result of the interplay of many aspects of our lives – our thoughts, beliefs, lifestyles, expectations, level of education, diet, environment, relationships, stress levels, and genetic predispositions to name a few. Just as we know that the more risk factors one has for heart disease (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle) the more likely that person is to succumb to a major cardiac event, we also know that the more risk factors we have threatening our body/mind/spirits the higher the risk for any number of “straws” to cause an infinite variety of diseases. We never know quite where that final “straw” will come from that will interact with the whole of us to produce disease.

As for me, I’ve learned to mitigate some of the risks of serious disease by modifying my lifestyle – eating a whole foods diet, exercising daily, fostering meaningful relationships, questioning my beliefs, nurturing a positive attitude, and avoiding environmental toxins as much as possible. Our body/mind/spirits are amazing. They take countless assaults and keep on performing, allowing us yet another chance to reconsider our thoughts and behaviors. But at some point, if healthy options are not undertaken, each individual’s body/mind/spirit will have reached a tipping point where disease is allowed to take hold – the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Oh, the cell phone? I decided to keep my old “dumb phone” based on my presumption it has a lower SAR level, and therefore, a lower “straw” level!

On the Fear of Excellence

1948031_10152300561072417_461698006_n[1]On the Fear of Excellence

A conversation developed yesterday during a Holistic Health presentation by Amanda. A participant noted that she has become happier while deliberately learning to become more authentic. I asked the group if they thought perhaps becoming more authentic might allow others to do the same. Most agreed that was probably true. I was reminded of this excerpt from ““A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson which was recited by Nelson Mandela during his inauguration:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
 We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
Or gorgeous,
Or talented,
Or fabulous?

Actually, who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that others won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in every one of us.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
 As we are liberated from our fear of our own excellence, our presence automatically liberates others.
And excellence becomes the standard of all our lives.

Powerful words! What do you think about the power of both authenticity and excellence? Do we perhaps have a duty to present these qualities to others so our example – our “light” – liberates others from their own fears? We can only wonder at the value of self-liberation for improved health and wellness. Spread the word.