Category Archives: Health Promotion

Finding Balance while Living with Autoimmune Related Conditions

March is autoimmune disease awareness month.

For those of you who know or follow me, you are likely well aware that living healthful and well is a key focus area for both my personal life and professional niche.  This may be in spite of having chronic conditions or underlying physiological dysfunction.  The fact that I carry my own diagnosis and am a fit to “autoimmune wellness warrior” can present certain idiosyncracies to maintaining balance.

Professionally, I work with people to live better, well, and most healthful, while personally, I am often holding on tight while navigating through turbulent, bumpy roads all while working to keep it all together!  Naturally, it can give me greater ability to express empathy, but it can also leave me feeling that I have a massive case of imposter syndrome.

A few insights on autoimmune related conditions are as follows (more can be found via the AARDA):

  • Approximately 50 million Americans are afflicted with an autoimmune-related condition.
  • There are over 80 conditions confirmed associated with underlying autoimmune dysfunction and the list is growing.
  • Women are disproportionately affected.
  • Late or misdiagnosis has been common.
  • Despite supportive evidence for lifestyle interventions significantly influencing outcomes, immunosuppressant treatment is still common yet may result in devastating long-term side effects.
  • The body of research centered on effects from environmental factors and the manifestation of autoimmune-related conditions is mounting.

For people who are able to put autoimmune conditions into remission, a 3-5 year timeline is common.  This is typically curated through a “lifestyle-medicine” approach which will involve a range of shifts including dietary approaches, relationship with sleep and stress, reduction in adverse environmental exposures where possible, and a potential range of therapeutic related approaches to nudge the body closer to healthful homeostasis.  For many of us, like myself, complete remission may not be realistic, but a significant reduction in the severity could be possible.  Therefore, 5 years not just after a diagnosis, but from the time in which notable lifestyle changes are begun is kind of a relevant time to do a robust check-in.

This spring will mark 5 years since I have had a formal diagnosis for autoimmune related conditions, (which often cluster and may come with secondary conditions that are considered to be present as a result of the specific autoimmune condition(s) manifestation).  In many ways, things are going relatively well.  There may still be an occasional flare-up or mishap, but many of my symptoms have been significantly reduced, my antibody labs came back the best results I have seen since I started this journey, and I have indoctrinated the lifestyle changes to become my new normal without much mental anguish to think it all through.

Which brings up a good point.  As much as these conditions are physiological, there is also a chaotic dance in store for the mindset.  However, although sometimes haphazard with certain unexpected variables, it’s still one that can be orchestrated.  Therefore, a few wellness tips can also be rather impactful!

Manage expectations through letting go of perfect.  “Well” does not mean perfect.  Hey type A-ers, I’m talking even a little more closely to you.  Systems and plans can be fantastic for staying on track, but remaining flexible while having a sense of humor can also go a long way!

It’s ok to say No.  Not everyone is going to understand what we are dealing with.  It’s not personal, educate when it’s appropriate, but otherwise, let it go.  Time and energy are much better spent on other areas in which we can enthusiastically say “yes”.

Focus on the unintentional gifts.  For me, I have significantly more knowledge and perspective than I would have had otherwise.  Also, I have been able to shift various focus and responsibility to a more meaningful purpose.

A few other bloggers’ posts that are a little similar to this one that may provide further insight and inspiration.

Autoimmune Disease Warriors, About Us

The Advantages of Disadvantages

Why I Am Not an Autoimmune Warrior

 

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash

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Live Out Your Joy

It was a blast to plan out an Instagram contest with a fellow entrepreneur who takes center on healthful living.  Be sure to follow @theConureLife and @LiveConscientiousLiveHealthful on Instagram to play along.

It starts on February 13th (US time) which also happens to coincide with “National Self Love Day”.

The daily themes center on healthful habits and behaviors that can be easily and consistently addressed, such as hydration, breathing, eliminating negative facets that don’t serve you, movement, and appropriate rest.

Additional ideas for you to “Live Out Your Joy” can be found in this Mind Body Green article, 10 Everyday Choices for a Soul-centered, Joyous Life.  I also love this article written by Eric Barke, How to Live Joyously Like an Old Person, that gains perspective on joy from our elder population.

Feel free to join us!

 

 

Photo credits to @JuicePlus and @WellnessStockShop

Bug Off…

It’s summer in the US and I definitely do not blog as much between June and September.  However, a news alert caught my eye this past weekend; Scientists say record floods could brew bad batch of mosquitoes (Chicago Tribune).  This on top of reports of the first case of West Nile virus in the state of Illinois this year…  Eeek.  Southern regions may be seeing even greater batches of the little buggers.

Unfortunately most commercialized insect repellents are higher dose chemical concoctions.  Considering the alternative of an invasive virus, the choice may be simple.  However, lower toxicity options do exist in the essential oil (EO) spectrum and, bonus(!), some of these EO’s may assist in overall immune health.

Lara Adler, a reputable and resourceful expert educator on environmental toxins reminds us that “a number of essential oils have clinically been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, including clove oil, tea tree oil, thyme oil, oregano oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus, lemon-grass, and cinnamon oils.  Some oils are more effective against bacteria, while others are more effective against viruses, so combinations can be more effective than just using one oil on it’s own” (nd).

Furthermore, certain EO’s are particularly effective for insect repellent.  In this area, I’ve seen several blends usually including options such as lemon-grass, peppermint, and/or citronella.

My amazing friend and camping expert shared the following insect repellent recipe (for a 2 oz bottle):

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 8 drops citronella
  • 8 drops cedarwood
  • 6 drops lemon-grass
  • 5 drops rosemary
  • 5 drops peppermint
  • 5 drops rose geranium
  • 3 drops thyme

*Fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water.

Check out Cricket Camping blog for more outdoor living tips and some cool narratives.

This summer, further support conscientious healthful living by getting outside and active, but with consideration for the option of lower toxicity “bug off” approaches.

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Adler, L. (nd). Tools for Teaching Toxicity. Essential Oils as Cleaners.

Wellness Wednesday: Lessons from the Blue Zones

This month, I have been focusing on community ties with respect to social well-being.  There are numerous studies assessing associations between social connectivity and circumstances with respect to health outcomes.

In fact, social determinants for health, is a hot button topic within current health policy.  On a broad perspective, these determinants fall under three primary categories; 1) social institutions, 2) surroundings, and 3) social relationships (Anderson, et al, 2003).

One of the most compelling projects that has further illustrated this construct is the Blue Zone Project.  Originating out of the work from a National Geographic investigative journalist and researcher, Dan Buettner,  the project as a whole has taken an anthropological approach paired with methodology from epidemiology.

The project inspired a movement and has been referred to by many leaders in the field of lifestyle health.  Various activities to build out some form of a Blue Zone like attributes to communities have been initiated across the U.S. through workplace wellness service providers, government grants, and other community-based initiatives.

Although the majority of us do not live in a “true” Blue Zone, the project does present certain qualitative factors for all of us to consider.  In layman’s terms, it helps us consider actionable areas in our lives by revealing the characteristics of those living within an official Blue Zone.

In application, the project presents us with 9 key themes for living a life most suited for good health and longevity; regular natural movement, purpose, stress reduction (“down shift” methods), 80% rule in terms of eating to only 4/5th fullness, heavy intake of plant based foods, low-moderate consumption of quality wine, sense of belonging, prioritizing loved ones first, and associating with the “tribe”, ie social circles (Buettner, 2016).

It is the last three areas that align well to my monthly theme.  They are both inspirational and scientific.  To elaborate further;

Belong – essentially, find your faith and the respective group to help support you in it.  This may not be a traditional religion, but there should be principles that mimic various world religions including unity, moral conduct, and regular, consistent social congregation.

Loved Ones First – nurture yourself AND familial relations.  In some cases, this may also include the “family you create for yourself”, meaning certain close friends.  Consider a plan to take care of aging parents and loved ones while relishing in the many wisdom-based lessons they can provide you.  In some form or capacity, find at least one life partner.

Right Tribe – ever hear of the New York Times article, “Are your friends making you fat?”, which focuses on socialization with relation to health behaviors (Thompson, 2009)?  Although I don’t love the actual title of this due to potential stigmatization, the concept within presents some truth.  Align yourself to those who are willing to practice healthy behaviors and, in return, inspire those around you through your commitment to do the same.

I might also add that intertwining “purpose” into the three concepts above can have a dynamic effect.  Your sense of purpose can help lead you in the behaviors associated to social constructs AND your exploration of social relationships can also further support your definition of purpose.

In lifestyle practice, this could translate to identifying your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly intentions.  There are a whole host of mind-body tactics to help you do this as well as effectively planning methodology.  For those that might need a little help with this, please check out my professional website.

REFERENCES:

Anderson, L.M., Scrimshaw, S.C., Fullilove, M.T, and Fielding, J.E. (2003). The Community Guide’s Model for Linking the Social Environment to Health. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 24(3S), 12-20.

Buettner, D. (2016, Nov 10). Power 9, Reverse Engineering Longevity. Retrieved from Blue Zones: https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/.

Thompson, C. (2009, Sep 10). Are Your Friends Making You Fat? New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/magazine/13contagion-t.html.

Wellness Wednesday: It’s Winter in the U.S. Are You Missing Fresh Produce?

I’m going to let you in on a nutrition “do”…  when it comes to produce, quality most certainly matters!  So what’s the “do”?  Quite simply, seek education of the options, weigh them, then make the commitment to select the best options.

There is a plethora of things that can affect nutrient composition and density ranging from the mineral composition of the substrate it was grown in, the time it was picked as compared to the degree of ripeness, to how long it transported before getting to your plate.  These variables matter.

If you are dependent on super markets or corner stores to provide your produce, then you might find it challenging to pick the best options, particularly over cooler winter months.  Therefore, it’s good to have an idea of what is in season.  It will likely cost less and may be available through local sources which could be indicative that it was picked riper and shipped much less in distance.

According to Fruits & Veggies More Matters, winter is a great time for options such as certain cruciferous options such as Brussels sprouts, Collard greens, and Kale.  It can also be prime time for Sweet potatoes, Squash, Turnips, Dates, and Pomegranates (n.d.).  No wonder these are staple to holiday meals!

The Fresh Everyday Produce website also highlights Oranges, Grapefruit, and Cranberries (2012).  Finally, one other special mention is Greatist blog post “The Best Winter Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter” for highlighting by cool or warm climates (Breene, 2013).

You may also consider what you can grow on your own.  An article on Off The Grid News highlighted different ways to grow Broccoli, Cabbage, and Cauliflower all year long without a garden (Cash, n.d.).

Modern technology is also on our side.  With the explosion of aeroponic and aquaponic methods paired with the local food movement, at home options are popping up every where and growers are investing in the systems to “up” the quality of what is available in grocery settings as well.

Personally, I’m partial to the Tower Garden.  Have you seen these things?  Available for outdoor or indoor use, the aeroponic system grows fresh produce faster, uses less water, and requires less space as compared to traditional farming methods.  Also, when given the right low-maintenance care, it can produce much more abundance for the dollars you put in as opposed to purchasing in stores.  Add one to your living environment and you might just make friends with those neighbors!!!

Nourishment through adequate nutrition from whole food sources is imperative for all seasons and it’s easy to get off track in winter.  Hopefully you can now say you know more about the what, where, and how to stay on track in terms of fresh produce.

References:

Breene, S. (2013, Dec 9). The Best Fruits and Vegetables to Eat This Winter. Retrieved from Greatist: http://greatist.com/health/seasonal-winter-produce-guide.

Cash, P. (n.d.). 3 Vegetables You Can Grow All Winter … Even Without A Garden. Retrieved from Off the Grid News: http://www.offthegridnews.com/survival-gardening-2/3-vegetables-you-can-grow-all-winter-even-without-a-garden/.

Fresh Everyday: What’s in Season. (2012). Retrieved from Fresh Everyday Produce: http://fresheverydayproduce.com/in-season/.

What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season During Winter? (n.d.). Retrieved from Fruits & Veggies More Matters: http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/whats-in-season-winter.

Other Mentions:

Wellness Wednesday: “For the Love of…, Rake Leaves”

Ever look at the faces of people raking leaves on a nice Fall day???

I have noticed over the years, they are often smiling!  Although I can not tell you for certain why this is so, I think its likely a combination of variables; positive benefit of physical exercise, enjoying the season and outdoors, and overall feeling of accomplishment.

Personally, I don’t care for leaf blowers.  This may come hard for the Tim the Tool Man Taylor type, but taking the time to rake can be much more beautiful.  It’s peaceful, creates less dust, and is calming to perform.

How many calories you actually burn may have a broad range.  MyFitnessPal estimates 272/hour for a 150 lb person, while Livestrong suggests a range of 180-356/hour.

For fun, below are a few photos from my fall season so far;

Motivational Monday: Marathons & Life’s Journeys

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  Since moving to Chicago in 2011, it has become an annual tradition to cheer the thousands of runners and wheel chair racers.

The event is quite motivational to observe and many people come out to watch one of Chicago’s best “parades”.  For many spectators, it turns into quite the social affair with outrageous signs, creative outfits, various noise makers, and planned brunches at places along the course.  The positive energy can be infectious!

Each year has demonstrated its own sense of character.  One year, I had three out of town friends who traveled in order to run it and my cell phone was signed up for the tracking notifications..  (Talk about an added boost to the exhilaration from watching the event!)  This year, one sign that became the hit of social media for the day read “I complete Netflix marathons”.

As the sign implies, the theme of “marathon” can take on multiple meanings and purpose.  It can indicate a literal showing of athletic sportsmanship or it can be a figurative representation for various journeys throughout life; each with time committed and a respective end goal.  I have come to hold particular appreciation for the term marathon used as an analogy for one’s health journey.  This can be significantly relatable for one who is working very hard to send a chronic condition into remission.

Training for a marathon requires intent, commitment, and following a plan.  However, it also requires key aspects of resilience.  Beyond having the ability to get back up when one falls, it is the self-awareness to know when to take slower steps toward the end goal.  As the photo below reveals, there may be a few storm clouds along the way, but further down the path, the sun will shine.

For this week’s Motivational Monday, it is only suiting to focus on life’s journeys and many accomplishments.  Whether they are health related or not, each deserves its own form of “hurrah” for completion.

Congratulations Chicago Marathon entries and for all of you completing your own versions of marathons throughout your daily lives!

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National Kale Day 2016 is October 5th!

There is nothing quite like smaller, symbolic holidays.  One of my favorites is National Kale Day.  I wrote up a summary of this last year and will, therefore, not regurgitate the same information.  This year, I’ll share my favorite way to eat kale.  “How’s that?” you ask…

Raw, massaged, and well dressed!  

To do this is simple.  The idea of massaging the kale is to tenderize the hearty green making it more palatable.  Some will massage it for 2-3 minutes, then dress, while others will partially dress it and massage all in one.  I prefer to latter option.  Although a little messier on the hands, I feel it infuses more flavor and uses a little less acidic liquid (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, ginger, etc).  I also make all my own salad dressings in order to best control ingredients.

First, you want to strip the kale.  (If you don’t know what I mean by this, please visit YouTube for a visual.  Here is one option – https://youtu.be/IUyNTLXE9TE).

Second, chop or slice the kale.  Some prefer to slice it into ribbons.

Then, add an acidic based liquid and massage away.  After that is complete, add the remainder of your dressing and toss.  For a dressing, I keep it simple; 1/2-1 part lemon juice (or sometimes ginger juice), 2 part cold-pressed olive oil, & a dab of raw honey (1 tsp-1 tbs).

Finally, mix in your choice of complimentary items such as nuts, berries, avocado, or other fruits and vegetables.

Voilà!  Happy, Healthy, Kale Salad!

To learn more about this ever so relevant holiday, please visit the website; http://nationalkaleday.org/.

October 7th, 2015 is National Kale Day!

Across several decades, American culture has designated honorary “days” of the year to commemorate various faucets.  Each have been significant to something culturally relevant and, often, trend specific.  National Kale Day rings in its third honorary year October 7th, 2015.  #NationalKaleDay

So why are we celebrating this age-old vegetable?  After all, despite pop-culture’s portrayal, kale is nothing new.  It grew freely and steadfast in my great-grandmother’s backyard garden and likely many other gardens.

However, kale has become a bit of a figure-head these days.  A member of the cruciferous family and highly appreciated for nutrient density, it is the latest rage.  It serves as a symbolic representative in ambassador activities geared at shifting cultural norms back to nutrient-dense, whole foods.

In fact, this is exactly what Drew Ramsey, MD and Jennifer Iserloh (The Skinny Chef), part of the grassroots organization Team Kale[1], wish to promote.  Underlying this primary goal is the mission to highlight kale’s culinary versatility and its ease to grow (National Kale Day, 2013-2015).

In efforts to make it a mainstream vegetable, National Kale Day was launched (2013-2015).  Kale has, with all due respect, taken one for the team by serving in the spotlight and bringing greater light to national nutrition standards.

Therefore, when you see a few extra kale plugs across social media and other faucets this week, you will have a plausible explanation.  Be sure to keep an eye out for your timely reminder to “Keep Calm and Kale On” :).

[1] Be sure to check out Team Kale’s assortment of resources and tool kits at http://nationalkaleday.org.

References:

National Kale Day (2013-2015).  About Team Kale.  Retrieved from http://nationalkaleday.org/about-team-kale/.

National Kale Day (2013-2015).  Our Mission.  Retrieved from http://nationalkaleday.org/our-mission/.