July 28, 2010

It's Time to Think for Ourselves About Artificial Sweeteners

I'm at the stage in my book where I talk about sugar and all its derivatives. I just have to put a bit about artificial sweeteners in my blog right now because it's so insidious and we are so misled. I don't think there is another section of my book where I get so riled up!

I continue to hear that the latest newfangled artificial sweetener in yellow packets is safe even though this is nonsense. “I talked with my pharmacist about it and he said it's fine,” one person said. Now Hear This… artificial sweeteners in any form, no matter how they are advertised to us, are not healthy alternatives. You can’t afford to be ignorant about what you put into your body, and your pharmacist is a legal drug dealer. Pharmacists, bless them, distribute synthetic drugs to a nation that is becoming sicker by the minute. They are not knowledgeable about holistic healing. Although I must say, European pharmacists, bless them too, have much awareness about herbs and natural remedies.

The truth about artificial sweeteners has been difficult to come by. We are told to stay away from sugar to avoid obesity and lose weight. But the nation turned to chemical substitutes and became fatter than ever. It’s not sugar that made Americans obese. We’ve had that all along. What we didn’t always have was processed foods, many of which contain artificial sweeteners that are suspected of causing cancer.

I offer you an overview in my book (I'm on the final edits!) of some of the most popular sweeteners because I believe it’s time we step into our own power, take our brains back from the all-pervasive advertisement culture we live in, and know what we are putting into our own bodies.

Here is some background on just one of the insidious little things: Aspartame.

Manufactured by Monsanto Chemical Corporation, the same company responsible for pesticides that kill not only pests in your yard, but the earth itself, you’ll recognize aspartame as "Nutrasweet" and "Equal."

Despite this common knowledge, I still find these poisons on restaurant tables everywhere.

Aspartame is a neurotoxin and excitotoxin sometimes seen on labels listed as “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.” It can be found in over-the-counter and prescription drugs often listed under “inactive ingredients.” It is also responsible for the majority of adverse reactions, such as headaches and allergies, reported to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A common additive in processed food, aspartame breaks down into methanol that converts to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde has been shown to denature and mutate DNA. Classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, formaldehyde is deemed a probable cause of cancer by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This information was put out by the National Cancer Institute on their formaldehyde fact sheet.

This is but one more reason to convert your diet to whole foods that are found in nature, and to eliminate processed, packaged products. 

July 22, 2010

May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Scar Therapy for Women Who Have Undergone Breast Surgery

If you have undergone breast surgery or a mastectomy, you might consider specialized scar massage therapy to help your body heal from the trauma. This type of massage targets scar tissue, which is an ongoing source of pain and discomfort for many women.

Lymph drainage will also be addressed as part of your treatment. Scar tissue can become hard, behaving like a solid wall and preventing the proper flow of lymph. Since your lymphatic system plays such an important role in helping your body eliminate toxins, it is vital to your health that your lymph flows well without obstruction. 

Scar therapy massage creates motion around traumatized tissue and enhances the normal flow in lymph capillaries just under the skin. By softening and dissolving scar tissue, it helps release tissue congestion. This improves circulation in surrounding areas, including the arms where many women have continual aching after breast surgeries.

When the circulation and movement is increased - not only in breast tissue, but in your shoulders, chest, back, and neck - it can alleviate swelling, discomfort, and other post-surgery symptoms, such as pain or pulling around the surgery site. For women who have cysts as well, it can decrease the fluid in them.

Breasts are a touchy subject for Americans, despite the apparent fetish with them. Having another person, even a specialist who is well-trained and experienced, touching one’s breasts can be cause for alarm. Many women are self-conscious and uncomfortable with the idea of breast therapy, but scar massage therapists are generally very supportive and are there to help.

I have two colleagues who specialize in techniques to heal scar tissue. They love to help women healing from breast surgery. Both of them have wonderful attitudes toward their work. They are dedicated to helping women live better lives post-surgery. As an added bonus, these therapists know when scar tissue has softened, whether cysts have decreased in size, or even if there are unusual lumps in breast tissue that ought to be checked by your doctor.

Many massage therapists find that working on the breasts is too intimate. Breasts are loaded with emotional, sexual, and societal concerns. Being the therapist who enters this territory can be daunting, but fortunately there are those who know its healing power, who feel very comfortable with it, and are dedicated to helping women in this way.

If you are interested in having scar therapy and breast massage, seek out a female practitioner well educated in breast anatomy and lymphatic massage. The American Massage Therapy Association website at www.amtamassage.org is one place to start. Once you are on this site, click on “Find a Massage Therapist.” Currently breast massage isn’t listed as a modality, but lymphatic drainage is, so once you find a list of therapists in your area you can then narrow your search to one that also specializes in scar therapy.

July 21, 2010

What You Might Not Hear from Your Doctor About Calcifications in Breast Tissue

There are various causes of calcifications in the breasts including injury, inflammation, and radiation therapy. Improper assimilation of calcium can also lead to clustering in tissue. Calcium is an abundant mineral found almost entirely in bones and teeth. Only a tiny amount should be in cellular fluid, blood, or muscles.

Calcium deposits in breast tissue can be detected with mammography. Appearing as little white dots, macrocalcifications are usually considered harmless. But microcalcifications, appearing irregular and clustered, are often found in areas of rapidly dividing cells. Because of this they are checked more closely for cancer.

Some women have calcifications surgically removed, but if the underlying cause of the problem isn’t addressed, they can return. Therefore, calcifications in the breasts are your opportunity to become more aware of an imbalance in your body.

In general, we are encouraged to increase our calcium, drink plenty of milk, and take supplements. But according to research conducted by German doctors Paul Gerhardt Seeger and Johanna Budwig, unless this is balanced with magnesium, calcium levels become too high and magnesium levels can remain low in the extra-cellular fluid. Your cells are then challenged to pump the calcium back out. When they can’t do this efficiently, the mitochondria in each cell can calcify.

Many calcium supplements aren’t easily assimilated. If you take too much or the wrong type for your needs, it can upset the mineral balance in your body.

Too much calcium can cause magnesium deficiency. Low magnesium has been linked to cancer, while higher levels have been shown to prevent cancer and heal precancerous conditions. When magnesium levels are low, calcium migrates out of your bones and into your body’s tissue. When levels are high, calcium moves out of the tissue and back into the bones. Healthy cells have high magnesium and low calcium levels.

If improper assimilation of calcium can cause it to cluster in tissue, it makes sense to consume absorbable calcium and magnesium to maintain balance between the two. Some of the best sources of absorbable calcium are kale, swiss chard, collard, mustard, dandelion, and turnip greens, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and bok choy.

Most people are not eating these vegetables in abundance, if at all. They are turning to other sources for calcium, such as dairy products. I don’t believe this is the best source, despite what we’ve been told, since Americans have a particularly high rate of osteoporosis and also a very high consumption of dairy.

If you’ve been told you have calcifications in your breast tissue, your doctor might recommend that you wait six months and have them checked again. This means you will return for another mammogram, or x-ray of your breasts, which in itself is a problem. 

Instead of waiting passively, there are a few things you can do to help yourself heal. Have your magnesium levels checked. On a side note, it’s interesting that chocolate cravings can be correlated to low levels of magnesium. Higher levels of magnesium reduce these cravings.

Get movement through your breast tissue with self-breast massage, the use of castor oil packs, exercise, and making sure your bras are not limiting your circulation. I recommend you discontinue the use of popular deodorants and antiperspirants, as it is theorized that the chemicals in these contribute to breast calcifications.

If you take a supplement, find one that is not synthetic, but made from whole foods, and be sure it is correctly balanced with magnesium.

Finally, nature has provided what we need. Eat lots of calcium rich vegetables, which your body already knows how to assimilate.

July 12, 2010

15 Simple Ways to Support Your Digestion for Better Health

I recently heard a famous doctor telling people that it is normal to have a bowel movement every couple of days. While this might be the norm in our society, it is definitely not normal. It's not healthy either. It's constipation.

A healthy digestive system is top priority for health, especially if you want to heal from or prevent life-threatening diseases. With good digestion, toxins are carried out of your body and the nutrients from food can nourish you.

To do this, your bowels need to move regularly. Twice per day is ideal, but for some people, even once per day is rare. If this is the case for you, food and toxins alike are staying in your body too long, where they can fester.

When your digestive system isn’t like clockwork, all of your organs work less effectively. Your body can’t absorb the nutrients it needs. Your body wants to eliminate what is not useful to its optimum functioning while utilizing each and every nutrient it can from your food. That is part of its job. But the modern lifestyle prevents it. The average diet leads to increased cases of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, skin conditions, aches and pains, indigestion, acid reflux, autoimmune disorders, and more.

To be well, we need to eat well, and top quality food is not pre-packaged. It's not found in a box, can, wrapper, or drive-thru. It’s found in your own kitchen or one in which fresh, real, live food is valued. Processed food is heavy in additives, light in nutrients and quality. Some of it is just plain dead. Your body can’t use it for nourishment and has to use energy to get it out of you.

With a little discipline and patience, you can heal or considerably improve long-standing digestive problems which are at the root of poor health. Here are 15 inexpensive things you can do to get you well on your way to digestive bliss, no matter what your current state of health.

1.    If constipation is the norm for you, drink a large glass of warm water with one teaspoon to one tablespoon of fiber first thing in the morning. Use a fiber supplement based on fruits and vegetables.
2.    Drink purified water throughout the day.
3.    Drink a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a little warm water before each meal, or add it to salad dressings or vegetables.
4.    Avoid sugar, white flour products, excess meat, food with chemical additives, fast food, caffeine in any form, fried foods, oranges and their juice, alcohol, and foods that can upset your stomach, such as spicy ones. Once your digestion is healthy again, you can occasionally indulge.
5.    Eat a fresh room-temperature salad every day. However, this is not a good idea if you tend toward diarrhea. In that case, steamed vegetables and broths will be better for you.
6.    Each morning, drink a warm glass of water with the juice of ½ an organic lemon.
7.    Eat a bit of sauerkraut with every meal to create healthy gut flora. Once your digestion is healthy again, eat it regularly. You can also do this by supplementing your diet with a high quality probiotic.
8.    Eat room temperature or slightly warm food, and avoid cold foods and drinks. Cold products cause your stomach to work harder to digest your food.
9.    Eat homemade broths and stocks made from meat, chicken, or fish to gain their healing properties. These have been used by traditional cultures for centuries. Gelatin - which occurs naturally from simmering bones and cartilage - is a powerful aid for digestion.
10.    If constipated, snack on a few raw walnuts that have been soaked in water for several hours. Soaking nuts helps you digest them better.
11.    Drink fennel, ginger, peppermint, or chamomile tea instead of coffee or sodas.
12.    Do an intestinal cleanse, preferably guided by a natural health practitioner. Follow up with a cleanse every year in the springtime.
13.    Get tested for parasites and Candida so you can begin to eliminate vitality-sapping parasites and fungus.
14.    Supplement your diet with digestive enzymes which can assist your body detoxify and absorb nutrients. You can also eat more pineapple and papaya, both of which contain helpful digestive enzymes.
15.    Sit down for meals. Eat slowly in a comforting environment with your attention on your meal, not on the computer or television, and especially not on the news. Rest for a moment after you eat.

July 11, 2010

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

...Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver

July 6, 2010

A Hopi Elder Speaks

"You have been telling people that this is the eleventh hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the hour. And there are things to be considered.

Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader."

Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, "This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. they will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.

"Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water.

"And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.

"The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

"Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

Oraibi, Arizona
Hopi Nation

Calm Amongst the Storm

When things are going well in your life do you feel something might happen to disturb and disrupt your state of calm? Like a playing child who is suddenly very quiet, it is common in our busy society for people to feel mild anxiety when everything feels quiet and peaceful. Is there really a calm before the storm? Is that old adage correct? Sometimes.

Upsets come in all forms. They ask us, "Can you hold the center of your being while a storm rages?" We can become overwhelmed and shattered by the death of a loved one, illness, betrayal, abandonment, physical, emotional, and psychological pain. We can become despairing over the actions taken by those we love, allowing the choices they make to affect and hurt us deeply. How can we make it through some of life's circumstances with greater awareness, compassion, and wisdom?

Something will come to disturb the calm. It always does. That is part of the human experience - a common one - you can feel great one moment and in the very next moment can receive a phone call or experience a shock that triggers a state of suffering.

I used to believe that much of one’s ability to handle the storms of life has to do with an ability to grieve and heal. I thought, well, we are not taught how to grieve and then to be free from that grief. In many cases we are taught to get over it quickly, go back to work, move on, and certainly don't show so many feelings. As a result, people carry around so much old grief that as soon as a new circumstance arises that creates more suffering, it cannot be managed. It is like the last drop of water that overflows a bucket, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

I do believe it is vital to grieve fully for past losses and suffering in order to effectively manage life’s storms, but more importantly I think the majority of us can use an attitude adjustment. Instead of complaining (and holding onto the notion) that life has done us wrong, we can accept the ebb and flow of difficult circumstances in life. Simply accept that life is this full, sometimes joyous, sometimes painful and continually soften our heart centers as we move through life.

Why do we resist this so? Perhaps it is because we, our own private worlds, have not acknowledged our unique strengths, power, and ability to endure. So we keep trying to get this recognition outside ourselves: look at what happened to me. And then this happened, and this, and he said this, and she did that, and I was innocent to it all.

To cultivate a practice of remaining centered in the face of storms, try the following:

Breathe. Be aware of your breath in every moment.
Consciously feel any sensations in your body, even discomfort. Energy moves through you and it needs to move through and out. When sensations are avoided and ignored, they tend to bury themselves, percolate, and fester.

Accept life! It's full of events both pleasant and not so pleasant.
Remember and repeat, “This too shall pass.”
Each evening before you sleep, look inward and ask, “Am I holding onto suffering? Am I wanting attention for my pain? Am I willing to change and face life with greater joy?

Hold the conscious, deliberate intention that you will go forward knowing that whatever you encounter, you will be conscious of your attitude and how easy it is to let it drop into negativity. Focus on what you have and the gifts your life has brought you. See the beauty all around you. Force your mind into a higher perspective. Insist on it, and it will happen.

July 5, 2010

A Drug-free Way to Manage Overwhelm, Stress, and Uncertainty

Lately more people tell me they are overwhelmed. We witness and hear about more things now than any human beings before us. There is an onslaught of information which on its own can be overwhelming. But we are also in a time of rapid change, causing many people to transform their ideas and even their values. This requires letting go of old concepts that once provided a sense of stability. It also causes feelings of uncertainty and fear.

How can you get comfortable with uncertainty in these quickly changing times? This is the key to alleviating stress in your life. One excellent way is to meditate. Westerners resist meditation, being oriented toward a more outward focus. But if you truly want to feel calm and become more peaceful within without drugging yourself, find that spot of comfort and ease with uncertainty by becoming quiet within every day. Sit down, close your eyes, be still and quiet, focus your attention inward, and notice the feelings wanting your attention.

All good meditation practitioners know that once you begin to do this, you will discover that no thought or feeling remains with you for long. Each and every thought, emotion, or sensation - such as overwhelm - just gets the opportunity to be noticed. It will arise and pass away. It will not stay. And it will stop chasing you.

On a different note, here is something you probably haven’t considered. If you are overwhelmed or feeling fear, are you trying to force things to conform to your will? Changes are taking place in our world in the realm of "will and power," making way for group cooperation. If you are still trying to will things to your liking, you are probably feeling frustrated. We are moving toward operating at a more heart-centered level now. The old ways, those of I-twist-your-arm-and-you-do-what-I-want, are gradually dissolving. We are entering a new era of co-operation.

In our individual lives, this means we will learn to compromise - our ideals, values, wants, needs, and desires. On a global scale, same thing. We can just turn on the news and read between the lines how these changes are subtly occurring. It is becoming difficult for anyone to be out of integrity without everyone knowing about it. As further interesting and perhaps unexpected or unusual things emerge in our world, we'll see it is increasingly difficult for singular entities to be in control. Life will demand that people cooperate with one another.

We are each in charge of the way we experience this life. We create our own drama and tears, our own joys. If you have found yourself in more drama than you care to admit, you can change course to something less stressful at any moment. This requires you to relinquish "victimhood." This "victim" thing is powerful and we tend to wallow in it, until one day something clicks and we decide we've had enough of it. Is now a good time to decide you’ve had enough?

You can benefit yourself even further by turning your thoughts to more of what you would like to see in your life. It is time to understand how powerful your thoughts are. For example, think more about consideration, harmony, love and belonging, integrity, cooperation, fulfillment at work, community, greater abundance, peace, eco-harmony, clean water, clean air, conscious people, kindness. Never discount the power of your own mind to create positive change for yourself.

Finally, turn your worries around. Remember your every thought is powerful, like a prayer or a plead to the Universe. Now is the time for you to gain authority over your thoughts and direct them mindfully. If you find yourself pondering your worries, reverse direction. Focus on what you want to see, not on what is wrong. This is a powerful way to manage overwhelm, stress, and uncertainty. Stop blaming, worrying, and commiserating with others. No more excuses, just you taking responsibility for how you choose to be in the world.

My suggestions here require no drugs or synthetic substances to help you avoid yourself. Instead, they encourage you to grow, expand, become more wise and aware, and live life in a more balanced way. There is no doubt that is why you are here and I’ve no doubt you are capable of stepping into a more conscious and evolved future. As you do this, you’ll find the overwhelm dissipates, stress diminishes, and uncertainty, though it remains, is just fine.