Category Archives: Health

Practicing Having an Emotional Moment

Emotional health like physical health is so vital to having a balanced and productive life, but in many cases it’s a topic that gets swept under the rug.   I was raised in a family that taught me to suppress my emotions. So as an adult, I have to continuously work on improving my emotional intelligence. Emotions are there for a reason, and suppressing them isn’t going to help me be the healthiest, well-balanced person I can be.

Here are some of the techniques I use to deal with emotional times. I hope they might help some of you.

  • Feel emotions deeply

I give myself a minute or two to let the emotion wash over me with its full intensity. If it is something sad, I let myself tear up. If I am angry, I might shake my fist in the air. In the past, my tendency was to shut down these feelings as fast as I could. Now I give them their own moment.

  • Take ten breaths

After that moment, I work to regain some calm and perspective by taking ten deep breaths. If this reminds you a little bit of needing to count to 10 before you address a toddler who is acting up, you are right. In this case, I think of my emotional self as the toddler who needs someone calm and loving to take care of them.

  • Love yourself

Next, direct some compassion and love towards yourself. I do this by thinking of the person or animal that brings up the deepest feeling of compassion in me. Then I picture myself as the recipient of that compassion.

  • Reflect

Take another moment to think about what your emotions were telling you. Emotions can help us understand our needs and what we truly deeply value. For more insight into the message behind emotions, Lara Fielding shares her perspective in this fantastic blog.

  • Assess

When you gain some understanding of the underlying needs and values behind your emotions, you can plan some small steps to address those needs. If your landlord did something that made you angry, is there something you can do to protect yourself from that happening again? If you experienced a loss, can you give yourself some time to grieve and honor what you lost?

Giving emotions their own space and honoring their message can be a powerful healing tool, which can lead to better unity between the body and mind.

Dr. Laurell is the resident homeopathic advisor for Grato Holding, Inc.

Uplifting Bug Spray

Make an insect repellant you actually want to use.

I live in the country and a lot of bugs have been biting me recently. I have a natural insect repellant, but I only use it if I know I am going into the backwoods. I don’t like how it smells so I don’t use it most days and find myself swatting mosquitoes and worrying about ticks.

Most natural insect repellants use citronella or lemon eucalyptus as their main ingredients, but these scents don’t appeal to me. Fortunately, there are a number of other essential oils that can help repel insects. They might not be quite as strong as citronella, but I figured that if I actually used my new bug spray because I liked it, I would still be ahead.

I looked at the list of essential oils commonly used to repel insects (basil, citronella, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, and peppermint) and picked out the ones that I would want to smell all day. I particularly love the smell of grapefruit essential oil and it contains a compound that ticks and mosquitoes hate.

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Here is the recipe I came up with:

Uplifting Bug Spray

16 drops Peppermint essential oil
16 drops Lavender essential oil
16 drops Grapefruit essential oil
16 drops Lemongrass essential oil

Mix into 4 ounces of water in a spray mister.
Shake well before each time you use it. Reapply frequently.

You can modify this recipe based on what essential oils you like. I chose mostly energizing and uplifting essential oils for my blend, but you can go another direction too as far as the additional benefits of the essential oils. Also consider adding aloe or witch hazel to replace some of the water.

Have fun, smell good, and tell the insects to buzz off.

Cure Heartburn Naturally

A new study gives us another reason to pause before we take some of the common drugs for heartburn. The use of these drugs known as proton pump inhibitors correlates with a 20% higher risk of heart attack. These drugs were intended to be used for 6 months or less while many Americans are using them for much longer periods of time. This longer use is possibly part of the problem.

This study doesn’t necessarily show that proton pump inhibitors are to blame for the increased heart attack risk. We only know heart attacks happen more often in people taking these medications. The good news is there are other ways to deal with heartburn.

As one researcher commented, some of the same lifestyle choices that contribute to heart disease can also cause acid reflux. He mentions bad diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. So yes, it makes absolute sense to improve our diet and lifestyle instead of using a drug to mask the symptoms of heartburn.

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When I am discussing acid reflux with my patients, I generally start with diet and stress as the two most common factors contributing to heartburn. Sometimes people know the foods that trigger their heartburn, such as fried or spicy foods. Other times there can be a hidden culprit like gluten or dairy.

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While my patients are working on appropriate diet changes, I might treat the symptom temporarily to help them feel more comfortable while the body heals. On popular product is DGL, a chewable licorice tablet that soothes as well as promotes healing. Blends containing zinc carnosine like Endozin may also help protect and heal the lining of our digestive tracts. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, I might also employ some of the other steps of my gut healing protocol.

Fix the underlying problem driving heartburn and you often can prevent other health complications later in life. If you have been using medication for heartburn, discuss your heart disease risks with your doctor and see what steps you can take to improve both your acid reflux and your long-term health.

Stay Hydrated and Enjoy Water

Warmer days are here so it is an important time to make sure we are drinking enough water. It is extremely important that we stay hydrated all year round. Adequate water helps flush toxins out of our body and keeps our skin and joints healthy. During the summer, dehydration can contribute to heat exhaustion and other serious issues.

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Getting adequate electrolytes can be just as important as drinking water. Electrolytes are the minerals that our bodies need for proper nerve and muscle function. My husband works a lot outside, and in the past, he would start feeling nauseous on very hot days. Now he adds ElectroMix, an electrolyte blend without sugar, to his water and hasn’t had a problem since.

I started using the ElectroMix too on the days I work in the garden and find it feels more refreshing than regular water. I have found this to be true with some other enhanced waters too. I don’t drink very much coconut water because I don’t want to add the extra sugar to my diet, but I do feel better hydrated when I drink it.

Electrolytes and minerals are what these two beverages have in common. So I started experimenting with other minerals in my water. I found I like adding ¼ of a serving of Pure Essence’s Magnesium Plus powder to my water in the evening. This diluted mixture is still flavorful enough and sweet from stevia, lo han fruit, and FOS, a prebiotic. I don’t know if it is the sweet flavor or the extra minerals and nutrients, but this drink is reducing my evening sugar cravings.

Don’t get me wrong. I love plain water and drink lots of it, always purified. Sometimes I just want something else. A sparkling mineral water might help satisfy the desire for a soda. I just tried a new blackberry pomegranate flavored one from Mountain Valley out of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Other great ideas are iced herbal teas, adding lemon to your water or even trying a diluted version of my 2 Minute Detox Drink .

So stay hydrated, and tell me which other healthy beverages your body says YES to.

Steps to Heal the Gut from Food Sensitivities

Since I help a lot of people with their gastrointestinal issues, I frequently get the question “Can we recover from our food sensitivities?”

The answer is yes and no. I often see people who are reacting to multiple foods. I explain that there is usually one major food like gluten that is creating inflammation in the gut. Because of this inflammation or leaky gut or some other factor we don’t understand yet, we can develop secondary sensitivities to other foods that we eat frequently like blueberries, coconut, or avocado. I have seen these food reactions decrease by avoiding these problem foods and using a gut healing protocol. Often, the original culprit like gluten or dairy still needs to be avoided, but the other secondary reaction foods can be added back after an appropriate time.

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Here are the basic steps of my gut healing protocol:

Step 1: Reduce Inflammation

In addition to cutting problem foods out of our diet, we sometimes need to examine the balance of organisms growing in the gut. Inappropriate bacteria and fungi growing in the GI tract can cause conditions such as dysbiosis or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). These issues are often intertwined with food sensitivities and contribute to the inflammation that is fueling our discomfort. Depending on the case, I might use an anti-microbial herbal blend or encourage increased consumption of inflammation fighters like fish oil and turmeric.

Step 2: Replace Good Bacteria

Inadequate beneficial gut bacteria are often associated with food reactions. Rebuild these populations by taking probiotic supplements or emphasizing fermented foods in the diet. Also include foods that are rich in prebiotics, nutrients that help probiotic organisms thrive. Finally, cut sugar out of the diet. Not only does it increase inflammation, but it can also feed troublesome organisms in the gut.

Step 3: Strengthen Digestion

There are numerous ways to improve our digestion. Depending on the person, I might recommend digestive enzymes or bitters. Stress can also wreak havoc on our ability to digest our food, so choose appropriate stress reduction activities unless you are one of those few people who aren’t stressed out.

Step 4: Repair the Gut Lining

Feed the cells that line the gastrointestinal tract with glutamine powder. As their preferred energy source, glutamine can help these cells replicate and repair themselves. N-acetylglucosamine is also used to rebuild the protective mucus layer of the GI tract. Some probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG actually encourage replication of intestinal cells and stimulates the production of this protective mucus layer.

I am not saying that this type of plan is either fast or easy, but with some diligence, we can turn around many of our health issues by taking care of our gut.

N-acetylglucosamine for Rebuilding the Gut

When food reactions, medication, or other gut irritants damage the gastrointestinal tract, we need rebuild the gut as well as get rid of these offending agents. Along with improving the diet, replacing good bacteria, and reducing inflammation, I frequently recommend N-acetylglucosamine to aid in gut repair.

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N-acetylglucosamine (also known as NAG) is similar to the glucosamine we take for arthritis and joint pain. While NAG might have some of those benefits, it is best know for supporting the body’s creation of a healthy mucus layer in the gut. This normal mucus layer protects our cells from damage by enzymes, acids, bacterial toxins, and more. Additionally, NAG might support the growth of beneficial gut bacterial like Bifidobacterium bifidum. Some interesting studies on multiple sclerosis demonstrate that it may improve immune function as well.

While N-acetylgluosamine might benefit anyone who has substantial digestive issues, it looks particularly promising for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. People with conditions like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis tend to have much thinner mucus barriers in the gastrointestinal tract. In a recent study, patients with inflammatory bowel disease taking NAG for 1 month had substantial improvement in their symptoms. Specifically, they had less abdominal pain, diarrhea, and mucus passed in the stool. Even though this wasn’t a placebo-controlled study, the results were impressive enough to make NAG an important consideration for these and related disorders.

Since your digestion is the root of your health, make sure you have a happy GI tract. And stay tuned for more tips on healthier digestion.

P.S. My cat is getting NAG too along with his probiotics.

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Sharing Probiotics with my Cats

I am not saying that you need to share your probiotics with your cats. But Moonpie, Bois D’arc, and I have been enjoying this morning ritual, and it had me thinking again about the nature of different probiotics.

Moonpie and Bois D'arc

Moonpie and Bois D’arc

Here is what I have been doing. When I am feeding the cats in the morning, I sprinkle about ¼ of a capsule of my probiotic on each serving of cat food. Then I dump the rest of the contents of the capsule into my mouth. Most probiotics are very mild tasting so the cats and I don’t mind the flavor at all. A few probiotic brands add fruit, vegetable, or herbal extracts, which can make the taste sour or bitter, so I can’t say the same about every brand.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help with gastrointestinal symptoms, immune function, detoxification, and maybe even healthy weight loss. Moonpie had to take a round of antibiotics recently, and I always follow antibiotics with at least 2 weeks of probiotics to help restore the normal balance of gut bacteria.

The particular brand I am using right now is Culturelle. It contains a single strain of probiotic known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. There are a few unique things about this strain.

It is resistant to stomach acid. That is why I am not worried about dumping the contents of the capsule straight in my mouth. For conditions like sinus issues or heartburn, you might get more benefit from the probiotics by putting the powder in your mouth. For instance with heartburn, some studies show that the wrong organisms are living in the esophagus. We are not sure if this is a cause of the problem or a consequence of the symptoms, but probiotics seems to be a helpful part of the solution for many. I have my patients with heartburn take their probiotics this way so the organisms are getting to the esophagus and stomach.

At other times when I am taking strains that are not resistant to stomach acid, I look for products that are enteric coated. This means the capsules are designed to release only after they past the stomach. With this type of capsules, our stomach acid doesn’t destroy other important organisms, like Bifidobacteria for the large intestines.

Another unique thing about Lactobacillus GG is that organism grows particularly robustly in our upper GI tract when we are taking it regularly. This gives it the potential to outcompete harmful microorganisms, particularly in the small intestines and stomach. Because of this, I would particularly choose a product like this for travelling abroad.

When we stop taking Lactobacillus GG, this protective barrier might start to disappear. This is a good time to make sure you are replacing them with other healthy bacteria so the bad guys don’t have a chance. Choose probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kim chi. Add to this some prebiotic foods to help feed the beneficial organisms. Prebiotics are found in foods like garlic, beans, carrots, onions, honey, rye, asparagus, banana, maple syrup, oats, and Jerusalem artichoke.

We don’t have to take probiotics all the time, nor do our cats. But since these beneficial organisms boost our health in so many different ways, it is important to make sure we are maintaining a helpful population of gut bacteria. Once the body is in balance, you can emphasize the probiotic and prebiotic rich foods in your diet.

P.S. No, I am not just writing about my cats because cats rule the Internet.

Spring is in the Air!

Go outside and see if you can feel spring in the air. I was outside the other evening shortly before dark and was amazed at the subtle changes I could notice that helped let me know it was really spring. And along with this, I felt a sense of hope and renewal.

I believe that engaging our senses and connecting with nature can have profound benefits for our wellbeing. With all of the stress and toxins in our lives, a good breath of fresh spring air can be the little thing that helps keep us going.
So step out into the spring air and see how many changes you can notice.

I tried to notice what all of my senses were telling me. I noticed the light, brighter than it has been, and the color of the clouds in the distance. I saw the bright emerald green color of the grass starting to grow after winter’s cold.

I smelled the air. It had rained recently, and there was slight sharp smell in the air that I associate with damp earth and leaves. I could also feel a hint of the moisture in the air from the recent rain. There was a light breeze mixing a little cool air with the warmth left from the sun that day.

My ears were delighted to hear the song of spring peepers, a small frog that starts calling at this time of year. It seemed like the birdsong was also different. Maybe the birds are changing their tune to attract mates. Speaking of birds, I was amazed to see a male cardinal trying to impress a female by hopping back and forth over her three times where she was perched on my garden fence.

Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

I got to taste spring also. To honor the first day of spring, we harvested some of our first crops from our garden.

All of these spring sensations lifted up my mood. And I felt calm from taking a minute to enjoy the season and pay attention to the world around me. I have often noticed that spring has this effect on me. I have even lived in places like New Orleans and Seattle that don’t really have four seasons. I missed the transition from winter to spring and the positive effect it can have on my mood.

So step outside and see what spring has to say to you. It will likely be different sensations and emotions that I felt, but hopefully it will remind you that you are alive and connected to so much more around you.

P.S. I know for some of us spring in the air also means troublesome pollen. To help you enjoy springtime more, try some of my favorite herbs for allergy season like nettles. Butterbur is another great choice for allergy season that performed as well as one popular allergy medication in a comparison study.

Don’t Be Afraid of Fat

Don’t be afraid to include some high fat foods in your diet for better health. Back in the 1980s, fat became the villain that we needed to avoid for heart health and weight loss. Unfortunately, most low fat products ended up being high in sugar or strange artificial ingredients that might do us more harm than the original fat. We also didn’t understand the health benefits we could gain from good fats such as the anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats from fish or flax.

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The concern about eating fats is that they are more calorie dense than proteins and carbohydrates. From this viewpoint, cutting out fat cuts down on calories and watching calories can help us maintain a healthy weight. But eating foods that have fat in them may help us feel more full and satisfied, which can help us avoid excess snacking. While if we ate a low fat product that was high in sugar, the possible blood sugar and energy crash later could make us want to eat more.

What are the possible health benefits of having healthy fat sources in your diet? Healthy fats can be important for our brain health. I think of the brain as being a complex series of “wires” that conduct electrical impulse. The insulation that surrounds those “wires” is made from fat, therefore our brains need fats to function properly. Certain fats can also be important fuels for our brain cells.

Choosing healthy fats, particularly sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, can reduce inflammation in the body and even protect us from heart disease. Some traditions recommend higher fat consumption to help with allergy and sinus issues. This is possibly related to inflammation reduction and/or adequate moisturization of the sinus passages. Likewise, healthy fats can be vital for healthy skin. I also look for adequate fat intake when trying to find underlying causes of constipation. Sufficient water, fiber and fat consumption can be important for proper bowel health.

Even saturated fats aren’t the offenders we once thought. For years, we were told that saturated fat from meat and dairy products contributed to heart disease. Now even more conservative groups are starting to question this connection, citing a recent study that showed higher saturated fat consumption didn’t mean higher rates of heart disease when looking at large population studies. The unique saturated fats in some oils like coconut oil are even being touted for their particular weight loss and brain health benefits.

There is still one type of fat out there that we need to avoid: transfats. These are the artificially made fats that were originally produced to replace butter and other saturated fats. Now, we know that these hydrogenated fats found in shortenings and many processed foods are the worst culprits when it comes to heart health. Surprise, surprise, the unhealthy fats are the artificial ones!

Besides avoiding transfats, the most important consideration is picking fat sources that bring a lot of other additional nutrients to the table. Many processed foods that are high in fat are just junk. Think of donuts and other white flour laden deserts. Now, stop thinking about donuts, and chose instead foods like nuts, avocados, eggs, and olive oil. These healthy fats sources are also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants to help protect our health.

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Finally because high fat foods are calorie dense, we need to watch our serving sizes. For instance, a serving of nuts is generally ¼ cup, so don’t sit there and eat a whole pound.

We are all different so the amount and types of fat we need can vary, but healthy fats are now in the good foods column. So don’t run from these healthy foods due to outdated propaganda.

Moisturize from Within

If you find yourself needing to use lots of lotion all the time, you might need to consider moisturizing from within. A current beauty trend is to consume collagen and other nutrients that nourish and hydrate hair and skin.

Skin is designed to be a natural barrier that uses oils and other compounds to hold in moisture and protect us from the environment. We also have collagen and other connective tissue molecules that help our skin, hair, and bones maintain their shape and elasticity.

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To keep hair luxurious and skin looking healthy, start with proper hydration. I find if I drink enough water, I don’t feel like I need lip balm most of the time. Another health trend is to drink bone broth, which provides water along with collagen and minerals to support the hair, skin and bones.

Collagen is also available in the form of a supplement. Type I collagen is what is found in hair, skin, and bone health, while type II collagen is available for joint support. One report I heard about collagen that particularly stood out was from a woman who said her skin was clearer after taking a collagen supplements for a month. My friends taking collagen have also noticed thicker, sleeker hair.

Finally, collagen is as important as calcium for keeping bones strong. We can also support our body’s ability to make collagen by getting adequate vitamin C and zinc.

Another important natural hydration handler in the body is hyaluronic acid, which is found throughout the body. I think of like a microscopic sponges holding water within our tissues including skin, joints, and even eyes. I am mostly referring to the inside of our eyes, but hyaluronic acid may have benefits for dry eye issues as well. One woman told me that the hyaluronic acid I recommended for her skin seems to have helped relieve her dry eye symptoms.

Don’t ever forget about increasing your healthy fat consumption when there is a skin issue, such as wintertime dry skin. Incorporate into your diet nuts, avocados, and healthy oils like olive oil. For skin, Omega-3 fatty acids from fish are a great addition, sometimes with added GLA from evening primrose oil. The same approach is useful for dry eyes, which is essentially a dry skin issue for most people. One study noted an initial reduction in dry eye related symptoms in just 12 weeks.

So give your body what it needs and be comfortable in your skin.