Category Archives: Alternative Medicine
We’ve talked a great deal about the scientific side of addictive behaviors here on I Love 2 B Healthy in the past. You know, chemical changes in the brain, dependence on the substance of choice, harmful physical effects of your addiction.
But today we’re going to focus on an often overlooked or overshadowed side of addiction–the spiritual nature of addictive behaviors and ways to conquer them.
What Do You Need?
Most addiction experts believe that we become addicted to our substance of choice–food, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, television, etc.–because of some deep-seated spiritual or emotional need. We need to feel like we fit in. We need to make the pain of life go away. We need to feel good about ourselves. We need to fill up some emptiness left behind by grief or trauma. This need is met with the false securities the substance brings. We feel cool when we’re smoking or drinking with friends. We feel comforted when we’re face down in the ice cream container. We don’t feel anything when we’re high on drugs or down on booze. The spiritual emptiness and emotional insecurity leads to the physical addiction.
Most 12-step programs and other addiction-breaking programs will tell you that you need some spiritual support or guidance to break your addictive habits successfully. Wondering why all the smokeless tobacco alternatives–mint chew, non-tobacco snuff, nicotine gum, running a mile every day–aren’t helping you kick your snuff habit? Could be because you’ve not addressed the spiritual or emotional needs behind the addiction to smokeless tobacco in the first place. Can’t seem to stick to a diet to save your soul? It just might be your soul that needs attention, as much or more so than your waistline.
Change from Within
Breaking addictions is all about change–you are making a huge change in your life. And spirituality has been shown to both hinder and help the process of change. We’re all spiritual beings–we all have some inner divine spark (you can call it God, Shiva, Allah, Buddha, or simply your creative inner child–WHO it is isn’t important here–Bill W.’s Higher Power works for me in this article). Therefore, to make any real change in our lives, in our way of thinking and behaving, we have to engage and satisfy that Higher Power at work within us.
Most agree that a certain amount of “mindfulness” or “intentional living” is necessary for any change to truly and effectively occur. This is simply being aware of where you are, what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. At all times. In the case of breaking addictions, I suppose a great deal of effort has to be put into what you’re not doing and why you’re NOT doing it. If you need to have a discussion or ask the assistance of your Higher Power, or if you feel that you need to satisfy some teaching of your Higher Power in order to make a lasting change, then by all means do so. Having that spiritual backup, that spiritual incentive, can make all the difference in the world. And in you!
Stress seems to be an inevitable part of modern-day life. It’s as if everybody has to be so “on” all the time–we never get the chance to unwind or relax. And then there’s this disturbing trend in society where everyone is so easily offended. We seem to spend half our time peeved at someone or something, and the other half trying not to get on anyone else’s nerves. It leaves us with a great deal of physical and mental stress with no outlet for relief. Sometimes all this stress causes us to indulge in more couch time and extra comfort food, which is alright once in a while, but shouldn’t be a way to deal with stress regularly. Instead, use exercise to burn off some steam. Here’s why it works:
- It’s all in your mind. Ever wonder why every certified personal trainer seems so upbeat and happy? Regular physical exercise has been proven to relieve stress. The reasons for this involve some serious body chemistry. Exercise releases endorphins–neurotransmitters that increase your feelings of well-being and happiness. Just like the “runner’s high” you’ve heard of, exercise gives your mood and your body a boost. But you don’t need to run to feel it–any exercise that gets your heart rate up will do.
- Redirected focus. There’s a certain single-mindedness that is required for most physical activities, whether it’s maintaining your balance while going for that volleyball, or keeping your breathing even and smooth during a Pilates session. The mental concentration required for exercise can help you forget the boss, or the books, or the bills. The more you engage in this mental escape via physical exercise, the less your troubles will seem to plague you.
- Health from the inside out. Anyone with sports trainer certification will tell you that staying active isn’t just about being in shape and looking healthy on the outside. Regular exercise has a way of increasing your self-esteem as you achieve weight loss, gain strength, or just push yourself harder and farther than you’ve ever gone. This picks up your mood, and changes your inner attitude. These internal changes can help you feel more confident to face challenges at work or in your family life, or in other areas where you are experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed.
- Sweet dreams. The physical exertion from exercise causes you to sleep better at night. Since stress often disrupts our sleep habits, having a good night’s sleep can bring about wonders. Better rest helps you to be better prepared physically and mentally to handle whatever the day can throw at you.
- Social encouragement. When exercise is a shared experience among friends or even strangers, you’re getting double the benefits to your health. It’s fine to exercise alone, but if you share your exercise with others, you get much-needed social interaction, encouragement, and one-on-one assistance from someone with group fitness certification. So you get your exercise, someone to make sure you’re doing it right, and a group of people to support one another. Group fitness makes exercise something to look forward to rather than something to dread.
Remember, exercise is something that should be life long, so it’s of extreme importance to do something you enjoy and can commit to. Even a nice long walk with the dog every morning and/or evening is a great way to clear your mind, get your heart pumping, and help out Fido’s health as well. When the going gets tough, the tough get exercising. Try it–you’ll see!
Allergies seem to affect more and more people today than ever before. We’re not just talking about a runny nose and hay fever or a bit of a rash here. These days, allergies have gotten so severe that many people now suffer from life-threatening sensitivities, and living with these kinds of allergies, or with someone who has these kinds of allergies, is often a whole new way of life. Life-threatening issues mean life-changing responses. With that in mind, we’d like to offer a few tips for dealing with life when you have allergies.
- Be prepared. Always keep your rescue inhaler or EpiPen handy. Have more than one. Create a cute or discrete carrying pouch to make sure that you have on handy. Wear a bracelet or other form of medical identification in case you are rendered incapable of informing others of your condition. To the best of your abilities, avoid any situation where you might experience possible exposure.
- Go green. Many respiratory and dermatological allergies are exacerbated or brought on by exposure to chemicals. People from Maine to San Diego are learning the benefits of making their lives and their homes as chemical free as possible. Switch your pest control company to one that offers organic pest control in San Diego. While pest control in San Diego may be quite different from that in Maine, organic methods are still highly effective in combating pests. Avoid using chemical laden paints and building supplies when remodeling or adding on to your home. Many allergists recommend doing away with carpeting to avoid dust and other allergens. However, many patients don’t realize that vinyl flooring often means introducing a whole host of chemicals into the home that are more harmful than the dust mites ever could have been.
- Clean green. Switch your stock of household cleaners to greener, cleaner options. Many can be made right in your kitchen with ordinary ingredients. Some need no mixing or adding at all. Baking soda, apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and lemon juice all have a plethora of cleaning purposes. You can even make your own chemical free laundry detergent to avoid the itchy, scratchy mess left behind by commercial detergents. Green products from the store may not be the best answer. They may not contain harmful chemicals but many include fragrances, oils, or essences that can cause problems and allergic reactions.
- Eat green. Buy organic, grow your own foods, and shop local. Some allergy sufferers swear that consuming local honey in the winter reduces their spring hay fever and pollen sensitivities. Eating fresh, organic meats and produce ensures that you aren’t consuming a cartload of chemicals and processed ingredients. Shopping locally means that getting to know the farmers and producers, so you know just what is going into your food and into the soil it is grown in.
Allergies shouldn’t get you down or keep you from living a full, happy, healthy life. You just need to be keen and go green!
Life sciences research has given us much in the way of advanced health care. Cell based assays found a way to link certain cancers to certain types of stress, for example. And cell based research is on the forefront of the fight against AIDS. But as lofty as these developments are, they really don’t do much for us average folks, trying to just do the best we can for the bodies and lifestyles we’ve got. With one exception–researchers have given us an insight into advanced glycation and its effect on our bodies. And that, they say, can prove very useful to the millions who suffer from diabetes.
Advanced glycation occurs when certain foods are heated–especially when grilled or caramelized (cooked slowly, in fat, over low heat). The sugars present naturally in the food are transformed into advanced glycation end-products. And those, gentle reader, are some seriously bad things. They have been linked to the vascular damage associated with diabetes. They’ve also been linked to advanced aging and cell damage. In short, they’re bad news for all of us, but most especially for diabetics.
These bad boys (AGEs) are the main reason why some naturopaths and dieticians, and even a few physicians, are advocating a raw food diet for diabetic patients. Following a raw food diet is fairly simple–you don’t consume anything that has been cooked or processed in any way. This includes pasteurized milk and juices–raw milk and fresh juice are all right. And no food should be heated to an internal temperature above 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Here’s the basics of a raw food diet shopping list:
Unprocessed, preferably organic, whole foods such as:
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
- Dried fruit
- Unprocessed, safe to eat seafood, such as sashimi
“Cooking” techniques allowed on a raw food diet include dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and fish, as long as the dehydrator’s temperature doesn’t raise the food’s temperature above 116 degrees. You can also juice fruits and vegetables, or blend them in a blender with ice to make smoothie-type drinks. Sprouting of beans and grains is acceptable, as is soaking dehydrated foods. Things you can’t have include meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, refined foods, junk food or fast food of any kind, candies, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. You can sweeten your foods with naturals like honey, agave nectar, or stevia. Most raw food diets also limit seasonings to the natural and mostly unprocessed such as sea salt, herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, and cilantro, as well as dried and fresh hot peppers. Drinks are limited to raw milk, coconut milk, and water.
While some, like the Mayo Clinic, say that a raw food diet should only be followed for a short time, if at all, there are those that swear a raw food lifestyle can actually reverse diabetes and take away the need for insulin. While the raw food lifestyle may not be for everyone, it is a fact that most Westerners do not eat enough fresh fruits and veggies. So, maybe in the interest of all our bodies, we could consider a raw food meal every once in a while, or a two week trial of eating raw foods. Whatever you decide, whatever your overall health, you should consult a doctor before you make any radical diet changes. After all, too much of a good thing can end up being a bad thing. And nobody wants that.
With the New Year just around the corner, many of you smokers will consider quitting, or at least trying to quit, once again. You’ll make that resolution and you’ll mean it this time. And you’ll work hard at keeping it, I’m sure. But the pathway that many of you will choose–going cold turkey–may not be the best. In fact, it’s been proven to be one of the least effective ways to break any addiction, be it drinking, smoking, or eating M&Ms. So, with that in mind, let’s look at some products and treatments you can try to assist in the quest to become smoke free.
- You – Your will power, your determination, your do-or-die spirit are the biggest help you can have in the fight to quit smoking. Your inner motivation has to be kicked into gear big time, or you’ll never make it through the first rough spot.
- E-Cigarettes – These electronic cigarettes can help wean you off nicotine through the use of their various strength nicotine cartridges. They are powered by a tiny battery, and work when a heating element vaporizes the liquid nicotine solution in the tankomizer. You inhale the nicotine but no smoke or other toxic substances. The different strengths of nicotine solution mean you can gradually kick the habit by decreasing the strength with each refill of your cartridges. There’s no hasty or nasty withdrawal to leave you dull or edgy. Shine like a diamond, e-cigarette user, and beat the habit!
- Nicotine replacement gum – This chewing gum works somewhat like the e-cigarette. It gives you the nicotine again without all the other hazardous compounds and dangerous side effects of smoking. And like the e-cigarette, it comes in various strengths. Another one of its strengths is that no one has to know what it is. You can simply chew away, getting your nic fix and fighting your addiction to smoking, almost anywhere and anytime.
- Nicotine patches – Designed to deliver the nicotine into the bloodstream, they also come in a “step down” program that allows you to wean yourself gradually from the habit. The quality of the product varies by brand, but they are ideal for those in settings–travel, office, public speaking–where either the e-cigarette or the gum would not be practical.
- Hypnosis – Some find that hypnotic therapy helps tremendously when trying to quit smoking. The suggestions given to the smoker while under hypnosis often make the cigarette or chewing tobacco unpleasant to the user’s sense of taste or smell. The desire to smoke is often replaced with a desire to exercise or meditate, replacing one bad habit with a good one. While hypnosis therapy can be expensive, some see it as a better alternative than nicotine replacement therapies.
- Acupuncture – Another alternative medical treatment for addiction, acupuncture has proven helpful in some smokers’ bids to quit smoking. By stimulating certain nerves and blocking others, it can help break the dependency on the nicotine.
Don’t think you can’t do it, smokers. You CAN quit. You just might need a little help to do so.
Think using smokeless tobacco is somehow safer than lighting up? Think again! Studies have shown that chewing tobacco and snuff products may actually be more dangerous to your health than smoking, and certainly more addictive. Smokeless tobacco delivers three to four times the amount of nicotine in one use than one cigarette. The nicotine ingested from smokeless tobacco stays in the user’s bloodstream longer than the nicotine from a cigarette, too. As for the safety of smokeless tobacco products—researchers have identified no less than 28 cancer-causing substances in your “safe” smokeless tobacco. So, what’s a chewer to do? If quitting smoking is so notoriously difficult, and chewing is more addictive than lighting up, how do you go about kicking the habit? The most successful way is through the use of nicotine-free chewing tobacco products and gradual decrease of regular tobacco use. Dippers and chewers have choices, with many varieties and flavors of non-tobacco snuff available, including cherry and mint. Yep, you can get a dip of cool refreshing peppermint or wintergreen mint snuff!
The best thing to do to kick the chewing tobacco habit is to wean yourself off gradually. Set yourself a “starting date” that will see the beginning of your nicotine-free lifestyle. Also set a “goal date”—a day that will see you successfully habit-free. Researchers say that gradually replacing a bad habit with a good or healthier one is the best way to avoid the withdrawal symptoms and failure so often seen with those who quit “cold turkey.” Also, research has shown that it takes at least 21 days to develop a new habit, so plan your goal date accordingly. You need to give yourself plenty of time, in other words, to ensure your best chances at successfully quitting. Another part of the problem with kicking any nicotine habit—be it smoking or smokeless tobacco use—is that it is often a part of your daily rituals. A smoke after eating, a chaw or rub as you drive or work. Using nicotine-free chewing tobacco in place of your regular allows for these rituals and routines to continue, without endangering your health.
On your start date, begin by substituting just one or two dips a day with a nicotine-free chewing tobacco product. Find a flavor that you like, or use “straight” or “classic” varieties that taste like “regular” tobacco. (That way, you won’t miss the feel or the flavor while doing without the nicotine.) As time goes by, gradually increase your use of the non-tobacco snuff and decrease your use of the “real” stuff. By your goal date, you should have stopped using regular tobacco completely and made the switch to non-tobacco snuff. Before you know it, you’ll have kicked nicotine out of your life!
Tarik Sansal is somewhat of an expert in using social media. He did, after all, design and found Romio, a social networking site for New Yorkers. According to Sansal, Romio is there to get people to talking about their individual neighborhoods within the city, and perhaps within other cities as well. The goal isn’t just talk, though, according to Tarik Sansal. He would like to see people improve both their lives and the places in which they live through the use of social media. To that end, I have taken a tip from Tarik Sansal and explored a bit about the role of social media in health and fitness.
Did you know that Shape magazine has teamed up with MapMyFitness to develop mobile apps that allow people to chart and share their daily fitness activities right on their mobile phones and other devices? This type of sharing is quite beneficial to reaching health and fitness goals, as it serves as personal accountability, a way to have a “cheering section” of supportive friends and family, and also as inspiration to fitness partners and wanna-be-fit friends. Shape has designed a challenge for this year–the 2012 Shape Fitness Challenge, using the app from MapMyFitness as a central element. Shape, like Tarik Sansal, knows that users are plugged into their smart phones now more than ever. The app allows them not only to share their daily progress, but also to map out new routes for walking, running, or biking.
And let’s not forget that Mecca of social media, Facebook. From local weight loss support groups to fan pages for health, fitness, and beauty products, the big FB seems to have it all. And just like Tarik Sansal’s Romio site, the pages and groups on Facebook mostly all have the same goal–to get you talking about your goals, triumphs, and failures, all in an effort to create a beautiful, healthier community. In this season of foul weather and cold days that just make you want to cuddle under a blanket and sip hot chocolate or play Farmville, knowing that there is a community of caring, supportive folks out there can really be motivating to those of us who need that boost to put down the novel and pick up the pace.
Social media may never replace a workout partner, or a personal trainer. But if using it can boost your inspiration to become and stay healthy and fit, if through it you are afforded the support and drive you need to reach your fitness goals, then you, and the world, will be a healthier place because of it. And that, I think, is something Tarik Sansal, Shape magazine, and even Facebook can appreciate.
Oxidative stress is stress placed on our cells through the process of breathing. (Yep, you read that right. Breathing is bad for you. Really. Keep reading and you’ll find out why and how.) As we breathe in, we take in free oxygen radicals with every breath. These lone ranger, unstable oxygen molecules cause damage and even death to the cells in our bodies. The body does have ways of fighting these free radicals–antioxidants like superoxide dismutase and catalase–and we can help our bodies by increasing the amount of antioxidants we take in through the foods we eat as well. But oxidative stress is a part of the life of every oxygen breathing organism, as the reactive oxygen species (that’s the fancy name for those rogue free radicals) are actually formed as part of the oxygen using processes performed by our cells. However, we add to those naturally occurring ROS by exposing ourselves to cigarette smoke and air pollutants from car and industrial emissions, by consuming alcohol in excess, and through bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Two forms of oxidative stress common to many people are the formation of 8-ohdg and advanced glycation endproducts.
8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine is formed within the DNA of the cell when it is attacked by ROS. When the DNA repairs itself, the 8-ohdg is released into the urine. 8-ohdg is commonly found in patients with certain kinds of cancer. It can also be a risk factor for hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and diabetes, too. The 8-ohdg doesn’t necessarily cause these conditions, but it is present in patients who have, or may develop, these conditions. Therefore, it is nothing to sneeze at or take lightly.
Doctors can perform bio-chemical tests known as cell-based assays and discover whether 8-ohdg is present in a patient’s urine. That’s the good thing about 8-ohdg–it’s easy to find if you know what to look for. And since steps can be taken to prevent atherosclerosis and diabetes, catching the presence of 8-ohdg early on is a good thing. Also, knowing that 8-ohdg is both a risk factor for and an indicator of certain cancers can help a doctor determine what is wrong with a patient.
Another form of oxidative stress is the formation of advanced glycation endproducts. Glycation occurs when sugars such as fructose bind with proteins. This in itself wouldn’t be a bad thing, but when these sugar-protein combinations are ingested, the body can only deal with about 30% of them. The rest are left to interfere with molecular functioning–causing our cells to misfire, backfire, or burn out, if you will, never to function properly again. Advanced glycation endproducts are found in dark colored sodas, barbecued meats, donuts, many French fries and onion rings, cakes and other “taste so good but are bad for you” foods. These advanced glycation endproducts have been proven to cause diabetes and other “age related” chronic illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, deafness, retinal damage, and neuropathy (nerve damage) by preventing the cells from properly functioning.
Oxidative stress attacks our bodies with every breath we take. We don’t need to add to it with smoking, drinking, or eating all the wrong foods, no matter how good they taste. Your cells will thank you, and the body that is made up of them will last you much longer, too.
We need to breathe to live, right? All that oxygen needed by our bodies is supposed to be good for us, supposed to keep us alive. Yet every time we inhale, we take in free oxygen radicals–unstable bits of oxygen that actually do our bodies harm. These free radicals age us, damage our cells, and can cause everything from wrinkles to arthritis to some cancers. Because these free oxygen atoms begin attacking our bodies from the very first breath we take, our bodies have come up with several clever ways to fight them off. The body’s best defense is an enzyme called superoxide dismutase. It takes those nasty free radical oxygen atoms and turns them into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. Our bodies then simply flush the hydrogen peroxide away with the rest of the “waste.” Superoxide dismutase rarely works alone. It prefers to team up with another enzyme, catalase. Combine superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants, and you’ve got a recipe for optimal health.
Besides helping your cells stave off attacks from oxygen free radicals, all this antioxidant activity has been shown to have other beneficial effects on our bodies. Doctors and scientists are only beginning to understand just how superoxide dismutase works, but they do know that there is a decrease in superoxide dismutase and an increase in free radicals as our bodies age. Superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants are believed to have a hand in how healthy we stay as we grow older. Antioxidant activity then, or the lack of it, can determine just how well we do or do not age.
Superoxide dismutase has been used successfully to treat inflammatory conditions like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, myofibrosis, and some joint and muscle injuries. Superoxide dismutase has also been shown to reduce the side effects of cancer-fighting drugs, to aid in the treatment of burns and smoke inhalation, and to ease some prostate problems. In its topical form, it can help fight wrinkles, heal scars and skin wounds, and lighten areas affected by hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin).
A lack of superoxide dismutase in some patients can lead to contracting ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This disease is fatal, causing deterioration of motor nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Initial studies indicate that supplements of superoxide dismutase, catalase, and other antioxidants in the form of vitamin E may indeed slow down the progress of this dreadful disease.
Superoxide dismutase can be found naturally, too, in foods such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other green plants. Since superoxide dismutase rarely works alone, making sure you take in plenty of vitamin C and copper to aid in the production of catalase and other antioxidants will guarantee you’re doing all you can in the fight against free radicals.
We can’t stop breathing. We have to breathe to live. But knowing you are doing the best you can to provide your body with all the antioxidant activity it can handle can help you breathe a little easier.
Little Miss Muffet, as we all know from the nursery rhyme, was frightened by the spider who sat down beside her. How many of you ladies out there have been frightened by the spider veins that sit down with you–in your legs? Fear no more, ladies. There’s a new, high-tech spider vein treatment available. And goodness knows, for everyone from you and I, to famous dermatologist Dr. Obagi, skin healthis high on our list. If we don’t look good, we have a hard time feeling good. If we can’t go out in a dress or shorts for fear of the spiders showing in our legs, we’re no better than Miss Muffet. Don’t let varicose veins stop you from strutting your stuff out of fear of spider veins. Zap them away with a skin laser treatment.
All the blood vessels in our bodies contain one-way valves that prevent the blood from flowing the wrong way. In the legs, muscles also pump against the veins to help the blood return to the heart against the downward flow of gravity. Over time, as we age, the little valves in the veins of the legs often wear out and allow blood to flow backward. This extra blood causes the veins to enlarge and become visible. These enlarged veins are called varicose veins. When the small veins close to the skin become varicose, they appear as a spider web fanning out across the skin of the leg. Hence the term spider veins. (Coincidentally, the smaller veins tend to become varicose first, as they are most susceptible to the added pressure from the leg muscles and the effects of fighting gravity all those years.) Besides being unsightly, varicose or spider veins can become itchy and even painful, especially when standing or walking. Scratching them can cause ulcers to form, as the wound is slow is to heal. So, spider vein treatment may seem like a vain and frivolous thing until you really think about what can happen if left untreated.
Traditionally, exercise, compression stockings and elevating the feet were the typical spider vein treatments. Extreme cases were treated with vein stripping surgery, a painful operation with a lengthy recovery time of inactivity. Today, happily, a noninvasive and painless treatment exists in the form of skin laser treatments. A laser is used to burn the vein closed, so no more blood can flow. The spider veins simply dry up and are usually reabsorbed by the body. No more unsightly spidery veins, no more itching or painful standing. Laser skin treatments are performed over a period of 6 to 12 weeks, and the patient can walk out of the doctor’s office after each treatment. There’s no need for anesthesia, bandages, or recovery time. Your spider veins will take some time to completely disappear, so there’s no dramatic instantaneous results with skin laser treatment, but compared to traditional methods, this form of spider vein treatment is as soft as Miss Muffet’s tuffet!