Understanding Osteoporosis

Understanding Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, the most common bone disease in the United States, is when bones aren’t as strong as they used to be. Generally, people don’t think about their bone health until they are middle-aged or older. To put this into better perspective, osteoporosis is regarded as a silent disease. This means someone may not even know they have it until there’s a broken bone.

Half of all American adults age 50 or older are at risk of breaking a bone. In fact, 50% of women and 25% of men will break a bone in their lifetime. This is often due to osteoporosis. If you are getting older or have older family members, bone health is very important. Thankfully, there are some common sense options to support your bones naturally.

Why Worry About Bone Health?

Bone is constantly being destroyed and rebuilt by the body throughout life. On average, bone is fully replaced in 8 to 10 years. The majority of people have their highest bone density during their 20s. Peak bone mass is generally reached by age 30. After this age, bone building slows down, and in late middle age, bone breakdown is often higher than bone building, making weaker bones.

Typically in osteoporosis, the bone itself is weakened by structural changes. The average adult may not think anything of this, but these changes can lead to broken bones. Hip fractures especially in older adults can be very serious, sometimes leading to chronic illness and even death. Experts estimate up to 33% of all older adults (over age 65) will die within a year of suffering a hip fracture. A broken hip leads to less physical activity, and they might be unable to do daily tasks such as bathing or dressing themselves.

How to Know if You Have Osteoporosis

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPST) recommends screening for women over the age of 65 and women of any age at increased risk of developing osteoporosis. There is not enough research at this time to have a recommendation for men. Factors that raise the risk of having weak bones include:

  • Being of white or Asian descent
  • Age
  • Small body frame
  • History of fractures
  • Overall lifestyle habits including exercise, diet, smoking/alcohol use
  • Any diagnosis or medications that may contribute to low bone mass
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Hormone status

Osteoporosis is also more likely to occur if there has ever been an eating disorder involved. Gastrointestinal surgery and a low dietary mineral intake can also increase risk.

Generally, doctors will do physical exams checking on muscle strength, posture, balance, and how someone walks to screen for osteoporosis and other potential health concerns. During a physical exam, they will also measure height and weight to make sure those are in a normal range. Next, a bone mineral density (BMD) test may be in order. The most common type of BMD test is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. This measures bone density mainly in the hip and spine using low-dose x-rays.

DXA results are compared to the average bone density of healthy young people with normal bone health. A T-score is used in people over 50. A score from 0 to -1 means bone density is normal and -1 to -2.5 means osteopenia or low bone density is present. A score of -2.5 or lower usually means osteoporosis is the diagnosis.

Being aware of bone health before age 50 can help build healthy lifestyle changes that will support lifelong health. There are many ways you can grow and maintain healthy bones. Below are several suggestions you can consider.

Using Nature for Prevention

Diet – Eating more vegetables and fruits daily has been associated with a higher BMD. Fruits and veggies have vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K, and potassium, all of which have a positive association with better bone health.

Consider eating foods with supportive minerals such as milk, cheese, broccoli, cabbage, okra, soybeans, tofu, nuts (especially almonds), and fish containing bones (such as sardines). One study found drinking milk once a day lowered osteoporosis risk by 39% or more. Finally, consuming recommended amounts of protein can also be helpful.

Supplements – The recommended dietary intake (RDA) for calcium is 1000 mg for adults and 1200 mg for women over age 50. Men aged 70 or older should also get 1200 mg of calcium a day. Supplementation of no more than half calcium RDA (500 mg – 600 mg) is recommended with the remainder coming from dietary sources. There are a lot of calcium supplements to choose from.

Calcium carbonate has the highest amount of elemental calcium and is inexpensive, but it can be constipating and hard to absorb if you have stomach trouble. Calcium phosphate can be better tolerated, but it’s more expensive. Calcium citrate is very easily absorbed, but it doesn’t contain as high a percentage of elemental calcium. Talk to your doctor to find your best option. Other minerals to consider supplementing include magnesium, strontium, and boron.

Vitamin D is another great supplement for bone health as it helps regulate bone metabolism. This means it helps make sure bone is built and broken down appropriately. It’s recommended that taking at least 800-1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily can support healthy bone status. Vitamin K2 is also helpful with a recommendation of 45 mg a day if you aren’t getting adequate amounts from your diet. Getting out in the sun is also a great way to get some natural vitamin D.

Get Moving

Getting enough daily movement is critical to having strong, healthy bones. If you don’t move, your bones aren’t getting enough stress throughout the day. Without some stress, bones will slowly get weaker over time since they aren’t getting challenged enough. Movement such as walking and going up and down the stairs are some basic weight-bearing exercises. As gravity pulls more weight onto the bones, the bones are forced to get stronger.

Research shows walking alone doesn’t necessarily rebuild bone, but it does seem to stop deterioration. To make walking a more effective exercise, bring along a backpack with a water bottle or two. Something as simple as lifting a heavy soup can help build bone since it is under added stress. Swimming and cycling can also help with strengthening muscles and bones. Activities such as dancing, balancing, tai chi, et.c, seem to help elderly patients the most. They may have a hard time remembering more complicated exercises depending on mental health.

What to Do if You Have Osteopenia/Osteoporosis

Most importantly, osteoporosis is something that can be prevented OR supported through lifestyle changes and working closely with your holistic healthcare practitioner. It’s important to note certain lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking too much can negatively impact bone health. Be sure to talk with your doctor to find out what health recommendations are best for you and your wellness goals. Your doctor may offer medications, minerals or other supplements, an exercise routine, etc.

References:

Image attribution: pressfoto/freepik.com

Natural Ways to Spring Clean

Natural Ways to Spring Clean

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosures here.

 

The air warms, the birds start singing, and the sun rises earlier and earlier… spring is here! With the annual arrival of spring, many folks start to think about spring cleaning. The winter months, especially for those living in the north, are often cold and overcast with long nights. To help toss aside those winter blues, open some windows and get to cleaning! Keeping busy and airing out the house is a great way to refresh your mood and get ready for summer.

Now, one thing that is becoming more and more important in many households is to limit or avoid chemical cleaners. These compounds have been linked to skin irritation, respiratory problems, and fertility issues among others. Public demand for healthier products is increasing, and it’s estimated the market value for sustainable cleaning products will be $111.2 billion (USD) by 2026. For perspective, the projected total market value for all cleaning products in 2026 is estimated at $207.3 billion (USD).

Chemical Exposures Due to Cleaners

In the United States, the laws around cleaning product manufacturing are lax to say the least. Companies can use many different chemicals in their products which have limited safety testing in humans. They are also not legally obligated to disclose all the chemicals used in their products. A few examples of harsh chemicals used in cleaning products are:

  • Sodium hypochlorite – This chemical is used in chlorine bleach and is linked to respiratory problems.
  • Quaternary ammonium compounds – Otherwise known as quats, this class of chemicals has been linked to reproductive issues and harm in animals. These quats can be found in laundry products, sanitizers, and even disinfectants.
  • Acids – These corrosive agents can be used in toilet cleaners, oven cleaners, drain openers, etc, and can cause severe skin and eye damage. Examples are sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds – Otherwise known as VOCs, these can be released from chemical cleaning products. VOCs vaporize at room temperature and have been linked to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches.

You can learn about more chemicals to watch out for from the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Why Natural Cleaning Techniques Are Better

Overall, using natural cleaning products is healthier for your family and the environment. It reduces chemical daily exposures and may even improve health. One French study found using cleaning products reduced the correlation with asthma symptoms. More eco-friendly and homemade products did not seem to cause breathing difficulties. Additionally, using/making natural products also reduces the amount of packaging that has to be thrown out or recycled.

It can be hard to find healthier products to buy. Just because a product labels itself as “green” this doesn’t necessarily mean it is. The term “green” isn’t regulated by any company at this point, meaning green products may be no better than conventional chemical products. This is especially true if the label uses vague terms like “fragrance,” “surfactant,” or “preservative.” This makes it necessary, in some cases, to make things at home.

Non-Toxic Cleaners You Can Make/Use at Home

Choosing to use natural products with fewer chemicals helps create a healthier home. Most cleaning solutions can be made at home using common household ingredients. A lot of households have natural cleaning products sitting right on their shelf. Below is a list of cleaning agents. Recipes using one or more of the suggestions below can be found online via a simple search.

  • Baking Soda – Known as sodium bicarbonate, this white powder is useful for many different applications. It is gentle but slightly abrasive, making it good for scrubbing sinks, pots and pans, ovens, stoves, and tubs. Baking soda can also be used as a deodorizer for the trash can or refrigerator. Due to its abrasive quality, it shouldn’t be used on surfaces that will easily scratch like glass, precious metals, electronics, etc. If you need more scrubbing powder, you can add salt to your scrub as it is more abrasive than baking soda alone.
  • Vinegar – Distilled white vinegar is a great natural cleaning agent. It’s acidic, making it great for rust and hard water stains. Vinegar is also a natural disinfectant and helps eradicate odors due to microbial growth. Use straight distilled vinegar in a spray bottle and mist it in rooms to freshen the air. Please note that cleaning vinegar is stronger than the white vinegar found in the baking aisle. It can contain up to 6% acetic acid and is more concentrated. Use caution if you use cleaning vinegar. Notably, don’t use vinegar on natural stone or rubber surfaces as it can damage those materials.
  • Lemon Juice – Lemons are naturally antimicrobial and have a mild bleaching action. Cut a lemon in half, and you can use it on counters or cutting boards as a cleaner. Let the juice sit on the surfaces for a bit, then rinse clean. It can sit on wood cutting boards longer to help eliminate stains. Lemon juice is also a great degreasing agent. Never use lemon juice on brass-plated items (solid brass is okay) or natural stone counters.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Although this is a man-made chemical, hydrogen peroxide is a cheap, easy-to-use cleaner. Hydrogen peroxide is a great pre-treatment for stains when doing the laundry. It works well on grass, wine, or even blood stains. It can also help make white clothes brighter during the washing cycle. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a glass cleaner.

Other Tips for a Green Home

Below are some more ways to reduce chemicals in your home. Recipe ideas are attached so you can get some ideas on making your own cleaning solutions if you wish!

  • Window Cleaning – You can of course make window washing fluid using rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, and water. Here’s an example. It’s also possible to clean windows using water and a specially-made cloth that leaves a streak-free shine. These cleaning clothes can often be purchased from your local hardware store, or you can order them online.
  • Washing/Drying Laundry – There are chemicals in most laundry detergents, even the “natural” ones. There are many different recipes out there for making laundry detergent. There’s a great recipe for making natural laundry detergent. This particular recipe is great for general cleaning; it may not work well for those with greasy, oily laundry. To dry your laundry, consider using laundry balls instead of chemical-based fabric softeners. The most natural laundry balls are made from wool, but they can also be made from plastic or rubber. These balls generally shorten drying time, soften clothes, and are reusable time and time again.
  • Dishwasher Detergent – It is also possible to buy healthier options for your dishwashing routine. Choose a soap with simpler ingredients and no added fragrance for hand-washing dishes. If you own a dishwasher, you can make cleaning powder at home using some simple ingredients like citric acid (from lemons for example) and washing soda. Here’s an example recipe.

What if You Don’t Have the Time?

For those of you who are unable to make products at home for whatever reason, there are other options. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a Safer Choice label to help consumers choose healthier cleaning products. In order to receive the label, these products must disclose every chemical used in manufacturing. The product is also independently tested by an outside company to verify the ingredients. Then, the product is checked against a list of safer ingredients. These products also use greener packaging options and maintain a chemical pH in a safer range for consumers. Companies voluntarily go through these steps to ensure better products for public use.

And Don’t Forget…

As always, exercise due diligence when adding cleaning products to your home. The more natural cleaning methods with the least amount of ingredients/chemicals you use, the safer you and your family will be. Finally, no matter what you clean with, be sure to wear gloves and use cleaners in a well-ventilated area. Never mix natural cleaning agents, green cleaners, or conventional products as it can cause a toxic chemical reaction.

For more information on products, you can visit the EWG website mentioned above to find out what your better options are. This site lists cleaning products including detergent and other soaps, and skin care products. You can also reach out to a natural health practitioner for more ideas.

 

References:

  • American Lung Association. 2023. “Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals.” https://www.lung.org/clean-air/indoor-air/indoor-air-pollutants/cleaning-supplies-household-chem
  • Bren. N.D. “Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent.” Revised March 10, 2023. https://brendid.com/grade-a-laundry-detergent/
  • Environmental Working Group. 2023. “EWG’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Spring Cleaning” https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2023/03/ewgs-quick-and-dirty-guide-spring-cleaning
  • National Sanitation Foundation International. N.D. https://www.nsf.org/knowledge-library/importance-safer-choice-mark-cleaning-products
  • Pacheco Da Silva, Emilie, et al. 2022. “Household Use of Green and Homemade Cleaning Products, Wipe Application Mode, and Asthma Among French Adults From the CONSTANCES Cohort.” Indoor air; 32(7): e13078. doi:10.1111/ina.13078
  • Sherwood, Alison. 2023. “Guide to Natural Cleaning.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-guide-to-natural-cleaning
  • TruEarth. N.D. “Dryer Balls vs. Dryer Sheets: Which are Better?” https://www.tru.earth/Dryer-Balls-vs-Dryer-Sheets

Image attribution:

freepik.com

 

Eclipse Day Wellness: Your Guide to Safe Viewing and Self-Care

Eclipse Day Wellness: Your Guide to Safe Viewing and Self-Care

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our disclosures here.

 

A solar eclipse is like nature’s grand theater, a phenomenon that transforms day momentarily into night. While it’s an event worth every bit of the hype, viewing it isn’t as straightforward as watching a sunset. Despite the moon covering the sun, its rays can still harm your eyes if proper precautions aren’t taken.

The subdued light can deceive you into thinking it’s safe to stare directly above or go unprotected, but the truth is, UV rays remain powerful and pervasive. They can reflect off surfaces, reaching your skin, or pass through your eye protection, leading to potential damage. So, while the eclipse is a spectacle to behold, it’s crucial to observe it safely, equipped with the right knowledge and tools.

Essential Eclipse Safety Gear

Here’s a look at some of the best solar eclipse essentials you can order now and receive before the big event.

Certified Solar Eclipse Glasses: According to NASA, you should wear a set of eclipse glasses that complies with the ISO 12312-2 international standard when viewing any solar eclipse. Solar eclipse glasses are thousands of times darker than standard sunglasses. This two-pack from Soluna is ISO certified and tested to filter out 99.999% of intense visible light so you can gaze at the solar eclipse without breaking the bank. Those who used these for the last eclipse rated them high for one-time use. They also come in five-packs, twenty-five packs, and even fifty packs.

 

 

 

If you’re seeking a touch of style while observing the solar eclipse, this set of viewing glasses could be a great choice. Designed for family enjoyment, it provides pairs for two adults and three children. Crafted with a SEIC plastic frame, they comply with global ISO safety standards. Additionally, they’re engineered to accommodate standard prescription eyewear beneath, or they can be used independently.

 

 

This basic set of five cardboard glasses, ISO certified, provides sufficient pairs for your whole family to safely witness the celestial event. Customer reviews on Amazon confirm their effective performance during the previous eclipse, and the specifications confirm compliance with ISO standards.

 

 

For those who use prescription glasses and wish to observe the solar eclipse without compromising their vision, this pair of clip-on solar eclipse glasses could be ideal. They adhere to ISO international safety standards and are accompanied by a convenient carrying case.

 

 

Solar Filters: To safely observe an eclipse, specific solar filters must be attached to binoculars, cameras, cell phones and telescopes. These filters can be added to devices you already possess, allowing you to avoid the expense of acquiring specialized equipment.

Designed for easy customization, these filter sheets allow you to craft the perfect fit for your specific equipment. They block harmful solar radiation, safeguarding your eyes and equipment without compromising on image quality, making them ideal for both professionals and amateurs.

 

Power Bank or Portable Charger: Keep your devices charged to capture and share the event. With one USB-C port and two USB ports built-in, this portable charger can juice up THREE devices simultaneously. Triple-port design allows you to share portable power with families and friends.

 

 

Safe Eclipse Viewing Practices

Plan Your Viewing: Know the eclipse phases and timings for your area.

Use Proper Protection: Always wear eclipse glasses when looking at the sun.

Rest Your Eyes: Don’t stare continuously at the sun; take breaks.

Guide Children: Make sure kids understand the importance of wearing their eclipse glasses.

 

Hydration and Comfort During the Eclipse

Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water or hydrating beverages to keep you refreshed during the viewing.

Ensure Comfort: Bring portable chairs, blankets, or a picnic setup for a comfortable viewing experience.

Dress Appropriately: Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats.

Pack Nutritious Snacks: Choose healthy snacks like fruits and nuts to maintain energy levels.

Embrace Mindfulness: Take this opportunity to engage in mindfulness or reflection to enhance your experience.

 

Skin and Body Care During an Eclipse

It’s smart to prepare for UV exposure with protective clothing such as UV-blocking long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats to shield your face and neck, and sunglasses to protect your eyes against the sun’s rays. This layered approach ensures comprehensive protection during the celestial event.

With the proper preparation, you can enjoy the solar eclipse safely and comfortably. Remember, the key to a successful viewing is planning ahead and taking care of your health and safety.

 

Emotional Well-being and Community Engagement During the Eclipse

Emotional Well-being:

A solar eclipse isn’t just a rare astronomical event; it’s also a profound moment that can stir a wide range of emotions. From awe and wonder to a deep sense of connection with the universe, experiencing an eclipse can be a moment of significant personal reflection. It’s a reminder of the vastness of the cosmos and our place within it. Take this time to reflect on your aspirations, feel gratitude for the natural world, and consider the transient nature of our existence.

Engage in deep breathing or brief meditative moments to center yourself and enhance the experience. Allow yourself to fully feel and embrace the unique emotional responses that arise during the eclipse. It’s a shared moment of human experience, connecting you with everyone under the same sky, witnessing the same celestial dance.

Community Engagement:

Eclipses have a unique way of bringing people together, as individuals and groups gather to witness this spectacular event. Participate in local community gatherings or join an eclipse viewing party to share this moment with others. Sharing perspectives and experiences can enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the eclipse, creating a memorable communal event.

If there aren’t any events in your area, consider organizing a small gathering with friends or family. Provide viewing glasses, share information about the eclipse, and create a welcoming space for people to come together. Use this opportunity to educate, especially young children, about the wonders of the natural world and the science behind such events.

Remember to document the event—not just through photos or videos, but also by jotting down personal reflections or sharing stories. This can help preserve the emotional and educational significance of the eclipse, providing a cherished memory to look back on.

Community involvement and emotional well-being go hand in hand during events like a solar eclipse. By embracing both, you can fully experience the majesty of the moment, making it a truly enriching experience.

Conclusion: Reflecting on the Eclipse Experience

As the shadow of the eclipse passes and normal daylight returns, take a moment to reflect on the experience. A solar eclipse is a powerful reminder of nature’s grandeur and the incredible precision of the celestial dance. It’s an event that can bring communities together, inspire curiosity, and remind us of our shared humanity and place in the universe.

Remember to share your experiences, whether it’s through social media, conversations with friends, or personal journaling. Discuss what you learned, the emotions you felt, and how the event shifted your perspective. These reflections can deepen your understanding and appreciation of the experience.

All About Connective Tissue Disease

All About Connective Tissue Disease

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Connective tissue is the scaffolding of the human body upon which all other cells and tissues are built. This tissue is interwoven throughout the body, and connective tissue disease can create terrible health problems. This class of diseases includes more than 200 different diagnoses. These diseases are more difficult to identify as symptoms tend to overlap quite a bit with each other. Connective tissue disorders can occur by themselves, or someone can be affected by more than one connective tissue disorder at a time.

What is Connective Tissue?

Collagen and elastin are the building blocks of connective tissue in the body. Collagen is found in structures like blood vessels, ligaments, tendons, bones, skin, and the cornea of the eye. Elastin is more stretchy and can be found in the ligaments and skin. A connective tissue disease (CTD) is a disorder of collagen and elastin in the body. When CTD occurs, it creates inflammation in these tissues, leading to damage in the body over time. Symptoms that can occur with CTD include fatigue, joint/muscle aches and pain, weakness, coldness in the hands, breathing difficulties, kidney problems, skin changes, etc. CTDs are generally genetic or autoimmune in origin.

Examples of CTDs:

Rheumatoid Arthritis – This is a disease where the body attacks its own joints. It can also cause problems with the heart, lungs, and eyes. It tends to be one of the most common CTDs and affects women more often.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – Commonly referred to as lupus, SLE is also a more common disease. It tends to affect women ages 15 to 40 the most. In the United States, anywhere from 15 to 50 people per 100,000 are affected by this chronic disease. It involves chronic pain and inflammation with many different symptom pictures.

Sjögren’s syndrome – This slowly progressing disease mainly affects exocrine glands. This can lead to severely dry mouth and eyes followed by dry skin, lungs, and genital tissue in women. It is estimated to affect around 3% of people who are over the age of 50 with women most commonly affected.

Scleroderma – Also known as systemic sclerosis, this disease affects multiple body systems. It usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50 and is estimated to occur in 5-20 people out of a million. This severe autoimmune disease causes structural and functional changes in small blood vessels and causes fibrosis (or hardening) of the skin and organs.

How to Eat for Your Connective Tissue

It’s no secret that what you put in your mouth affects your overall health. With CTD, this is no exception. A whole food diet is rich in a moderate amount of protein and fruit, lots of vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid sugar, highly processed oils, and heavily processed foods as much as possible. Studies have also found a few specific nutrients can be helpful. Overall, much more research in this field is needed.

Mediterranean Diet – There has been some research that’s found a Mediterranean-based diet may be helpful for CTD. This diet includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, olive oil, less red meat, and moderate alcohol intake. It’s been found to be more anti-inflammatory and includes polyphenols from plants and healthy fatty acids.

Lower Carbohydrate Intake – Some studies have also found that lowering carbohydrate intake may be helpful with certain CTDs. In a small study, it was shown to improve fatigue and support a healthier weight in SLE patients. There is also some promising evidence recommending going gluten-free. There has been a reduction of symptoms or complete remission of symptoms in some cases (i.e. dermatomyositis and Sjögren’s).

Healthy Fats – Eating fatty fish a few times a week may also be helpful as they contain omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. Types of oily fish include trout, salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna, etc. Other fat sources like extra virgin olive oil and flaxseeds may also be helpful when dealing with CTDs.

Other foods that were found helpful were one tablespoon of flaxseeds daily may be protective if there is kidney involvement.

Natural Supplement Ideas

Supplements can also help support health in those with CTD. Research in the field is still ongoing, so there’s not a lot of data to say certain supplements will improve symptoms.

Omega-3s – Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats and include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They can help reduce inflammation, lower joint pain and stiffness, improve cholesterol labs, and even reduce the chance of autoimmune disease in healthy people. 

Vitamin D – Vitamin D deficiencies are common among those with CTD. The exact reason why is still being researched at this time. Vitamin D is important to overall immune system health as it helps modulate the immune system’s functions. This means Vitamin D helps the immune system become more or less active as needed. It’s recommended to take somewhere between 1,000 – 2,000IU daily though more or less may be appropriate depending on the disease and symptoms. Additionally, there’s been some research that shows Vitamin D may improve fatigue in CTD patients.

Multivitamin – A high-quality multivitamin may be useful to help cover any nutritional gaps in dietary foods. Research has found vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, etc., have been found to be deficient in some people with CTDs. It’s important to chat with a health professional to find a good brand as quality varies greatly from company to company.

Other supplements that were found useful, especially for the kidneys, include green tea extract and curcumin. Research found it improved high blood pressure and reduced protein in the urine.

To Sum It All Up

As always, if you suspect you have some sort of illness/disease, you should see medical attention. Your doctor may run some blood tests as well as make a referral to a rheumatologist who specializes in autoimmune diseases. Be sure to consult with a health professional before adding anything to your lifestyle. If you are looking for more natural options to support your connective tissue health, reach out to your local holistic health practitioner.

Image attribution: freepik/freepik.com

References:

  • Bland, Jeffrey S. 2022. “Therapeutic Use of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Immune Disorders In Search of the Ideal Omega-3 Supplement.” Integrative Medicine (Encinitas, Calif.); 21(5): 14-18.
  • Cedars-Sinai. N.D. “Connective Tissue Disorders.” https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/c/connective-tissue-disorders.html
  • Cleveland Clinic. N.D. “Connective Tissue Disease.” https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14803-connective-tissue-diseases
  • Gaubitz, M. 2006. “Epidemiology of Connective Tissue Disorders.” Rheumatology (Oxford, England); 45(3): iii3-4. Revised Dec. 16, 2019. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kel282.
  • Lisevick, Alexa et al. 2022. “Nutrition and Connective Tissue Disease.” Clinics in Dermatology; 40(2): 166-172. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2021.10.010
  • Oliviero, Francesca, Paola Galozzi, Elisabetta Zanatta, Mariele Gatto, Paolo Spinella, and Andrea Doria. 2021. “The Influence of Dietary Intervention in Connective Tissue Diseases: Evidence from Randomized Clinical Trials” Rheumato; 1,(1): 5-16. https://doi.org/10.3390/rheumato1010003
  • Reynolds, John A, and Ian N Bruce. 2017. “Vitamin D Treatment for Connective Tissue Diseases: Hope Beyond the Hype?.” Rheumatology (Oxford, England); 56(2): 178-186. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kew212
Dinacharya: The Mother of All Foundations

Dinacharya: The Mother of All Foundations

By Ava Wentzel, LMT, Ayurvedic Wellness Advisor

“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this.

It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”

JAMES CLEAR

Hello dear reader, seeker, intuitive healer,

It feels fantastic to be starting off this new year writing to you. As we are just settling into this season of retreat and hibernation, I want to begin by extending an invitation to you to take in any new information with a sense of curiosity and levity rather than a fierce intent to recreate yourself. Contrary to what society is selling you, we are not in the season for completely dismantling and rebuilding old systems (although we can go through subtle cycles within the major cycles, if you know what I mean). We find ourselves now in midwinter. This is a time for deep reflection and consideration, not necessarily action.

Ayurveda divides the year up in three sections:

  • The months influenced by Pitta Dosha are mid-late May, June, July, August, and early-mid September.
  • The months influenced by Vata Dosha are mid-late September, October, November, December, and early-mid January.
  • The months influenced by Kapha Dosha are mid-late January, February, March, April, and early-mid May.

We can see and feel this truth without much effort. Think about how you started to feel in November and December. My guess is you started noticing a lot of dryness (hair, skin, sinuses) and perhaps a sense of scattered or ungrounded energy and you became pulled in many directions for the holidays. You were most likely too cold if you experienced low energy, dark circles under your eyes, or easily caught what sickness was making its way around. (Keeping your kidneys warm with proper layers or a kidney warmer wrap can do wonders for your winter immunity — it’s not too late to start practicing good kidney care in January!)

And now, as we are transitioning from Vata Season into Kapha Season, we will start to experience (or notice others experience) Kapha Dosha increasing in the body and mind. Think post-nasal drip, stuffy nose, slow or low digestive fire, a sense of sleepiness or laziness, lack of motivation, congestion, and the desire to accumulate — it’s normal to want to eat more and accumulate more adipose tissue, it’s innate wisdom wanting to protect us from the cold months and help us last through the season of hibernation.

Exercise:

  • Take a moment at the end of each day to reflect on the abundance in your life.
  • Extend gratitude for everything you already have.

The above exercise can actually be a fantastic part of your Dinacharya! It’s a common practice in Ayurveda to lay in bed and, before allowing the mind to rest for sleep, work your way backwards through the day’s events. This is a simple way to take stock, to stay connected to all that you have done, and remind yourself that you are enough.

So, let’s get into the topic of the month, which is Dinacharya.

Dinacharya is the Sanskrit word we use in Ayurveda that refers to Daily Routine.

In Ayurveda, a strong (consistent and personalized) Dinacharya is the foundation of health and healing. Before we give someone yoga postures to practice, herbs to take, or meal suggestions, we first focus on creating a supportive routine with them that they can sustain. And that means every day. Yes, every day. It is Dina (daily) Charya (routine) after all! It’s been said many times in many ways: Our habits make us into who we are in the most literal sense.

The ancient wisdom teaches us the importance of establishing and deepening our connection to the Earth, the sustainer of all life including you and me. The Earth, as is any good Mother, is a Teacher. And if we look to Her with an open heart and an open mind, the wisdom she has offered to humanity for eons downloads immediately into our cells with ease. If we are compassionate towards the Self and allow our ego to cease it’s gripping momentarily (fear of death can keep us from connecting to Mother Earth, but that is another conversation for another time) we can effortlessly feel into the innate connection we have to seasons, cycles, grooves, habits, and patterns. I do believe that the Earth has sustained Herself for so long because of Her commitment to Dinacharya. The Sun and Moon have a time and place. The seasons occur in the same order year after year, cycle after cycle. The turtles hatch, the monarchs migrate, the bears hibernate, all according to Mother Earth’s Dinacharya year after year after year. Call it chance or call it Divine Planning, but it is undeniable: Dinacharya is the Mother of all foundations of life.

Dinacharyas of Holistic Lakewood

The thing I love most about Ayurveda is that it encourages each individual to be that — individual. As such, no two people are going to have the same Daily Routine. And nor should they! Every path to healing should fit the individual. So instead of telling you about the routines that Ayurveda might recommend (remember, we aren’t starting this year off by overloading our Logic-Brain, we are having FUN!) let’s let go of perfectionism and just take a look into the beautiful and humble lives of people just like you . . . your therapists at Holistic Lakewood!

Let’s take a look at the Morning Routines/Dinacharyas of our team.

PAULETTE

Each morning, I get up early at around 6AM — both because I like to and because the cats wake me up! I feed the cats first, of course, and then hydrate myself with a cup of hot water with lemon and honey. I really would like to stretch each morning, too, so I am going to incorporate that into my mornings in 2024.

SUE

When I wake up, I stay in bed for a few minutes and mentally list things that I am grateful for. I get up and drink a glass of water. I sit for awhile and then I practice Qigong for 15 – 20 minutes.

BLANCA

I wake up at 4AM, use the restroom, and then drink my first glass of water with lemon juice. After that, I spend about an hour praying, singing hymns, and reading the Bible. I end my morning devotional with a gratitude prayer. Then, I take a short nap after all of my prayers to be ready to start my day!

STEFANIA

I get up at 9:15AM and put on a podcast on low volume — I am severely noise sensitive until about 9:45AM no matter how early I wake up so I choose to wake up later to avoid that. Then, I feed the cats, make breakfast and tea/coffee/broth (depending on the day.) I then wash my face, do my skincare routine, put on my clothes and eyebrows, and head out the door to work!

MICA

My morning routine consists of checking in with what my body is feeling upon getting up and being intentional about working out in some way. I also have a glass of water before eating anything and I leave time for stretching and journaling.

AVA

My morning starts off with a crossover between my own Dinacharya and my cat’s — bite to wake up human for food. Not ideal but there’s love there! I usually wake up between 4:30-5:30AM in the warm months and between 5:30-7:30AM in the cold months. Once I am up and have fed the cats (Clancy, the biter, and Nancy his more patient little sis) I put the kettle on and head to the bathroom where I scrape my tongue, brush my teeth, and splash my eyes/face with cool water. Then, I prepare my large thermos with hot water plus a few pinches of pink salt and make a smaller cup of something to drink right away — this might be, again, simply warm water + pink salt, or fresh lemon/honey/ginger tea, or warm water + lemon/lime. At this point, I will do my Nasya (nasal oil) and then take a moment to chant and invoke blessings at my altar, calling in Source for the day. Yoga, pranayama (breath work), and meditation follow, and then abhyanga (self-massage) and shower to get ready for the day.

ANDREA

I meditate for ten minutes, review my schedule for the day, urge my high-school senior to move swiftly along, take a 20 minute walk if the weather permits, have a small breakfast along with herbal tea or hot chocolate, and finally I take a few deep breaths and hope for a good work day!

As you can see, everyone settles into their body and into their day in their own way that suits them best.

This is a truly Ayurvedic approach to Dinacharya!

So take a moment and ask yourself this:

  • What practices support me and make me feel energized in the morning and help me get ready for the day ahead?
  • What practices support me and make me feel at ease in the evening and help me transition into a restful sleep?

I gently invite you to begin this year by deepening your connection to your intuition and sharpening your senses through the practice of cultivating a supportive Dinacharya. Flourishing health might just await you on the other side . . .

If you’d like to dive into the holistic habits that Ayurveda recommends or if you simply feel like you could use some guidance and support in creating a strong Dinacharya / Daily Routine for yourself, please feel welcome to connect with me by sending me an email at ava.l.wentzel@gmail.com or reach out to me through social media.

Many blessings,

Ava

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः

Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

(Om, Peace, Peace, Peace)

FOR MORE AYURVEDIC INSIGHTS, FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM @AVALEBEN

New Year’s Resolutions: Healthier You at Every Weight

New Year’s Resolutions: Healthier You at Every Weight

With the closing of one year, another one brings dawning opportunities for new experiences and growth. Part of bringing in the New Year generally includes some sort of health-supporting change from exercise to dieting, and everything in between. Nowadays, there is a strong argument that dieting isn’t the answer; it’s possible to be healthy at every size. Health at Every Size is a movement that has been gaining in popularity over the last several years. But the question remains: is it possible to be healthy at every size? Let’s dive in and find out.

What is Health at Every Size?

Health at Every Size (HAES) was a movement with a history dating back decades. The roots of weight being more of a concern may have stemmed from clothing manufacture. As textiles were produced in ready-to-wear sizes only, this didn’t work well for every body type. Previously, clothing was handmade and tailored to fit the person it was made for.

HAES coalesced into a movement in the early 1960s. During this decade, Weight Watchers was founded and gastric bypass was invented. Yet, there were a few people who stood up to the bias overweight people were subjected to. This paved the way for the formalized HAES in 2003. It stands on the core idea that people can be healthy and unhealthy at any weight and size.

Principles of Health at Every Size

HAES is based on the five principles listed below.

  • Weight Inclusivity
    • Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights.
  • Health Enhancement
    • Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs.
  • Eating for Well-Being
    • Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.
  • Respectful Care
    • Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.
  • Life-Enhancing Movement
    • Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree they choose.

You can read more on the HAES website here.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages

The core of HAES is about respecting people no matter what their weight is. It is not uncommon for women especially to have difficulties with their doctors listening to their concerns. Physicians can be so caught up with the number on the scale, they don’t see the person for who they are. It makes it hard to hear her concerns and make appropriate recommendations for her health in such a situation. Someone who is obese but eats wholesome, healthy food and moves their body is different from someone who is overweight and sits all day, eating processed foods out of boxes.

HAES is in direct contrast to the idea of dieting. The average person knows that weight loss is extremely difficult nowadays. Due to manufacturing and farming processes, modern diets are full of ultra-processed foods with more empty calories and fewer nutrients. Additionally, people tend to eat less whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and consciously raised meats. Between this and a fast-paced world that doesn’t allow much time for cooking, modern diets are in trouble. Sadly, most people are so busy they don’t even make time to move during the day, much less get any sort of exercise.

Rather than focusing on health as a number on a scale, HAES seeks to make healthier lifestyle choices such as exercising and eating for health. The traditional approach to maintaining health has been to use exercise, calorie restrictions, and dietary changes to lose weight, making the assumption only thin people are healthy. Research from several dieting studies found two years after losing weight, 50% was regained. After five more years, more than 80% of lost weight had been regained.

What Does It All Mean

Arguments are made on both sides about whether you can be healthy at every size. The Center for Disease Control states overweight and obese adults are at increased risk of heart disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, body pain, mental disorders, etc. Yet, on the flip side, if someone is miserable because they are calorie counting and forcing themselves to do workouts they hate, that’s not helpful either.

The most important thing to remember is to live your life as healthy and happily as possible. No matter what size your body is, it’s important to add in exercise, eat a whole-foods based diet, drink clean water, and breathe unpolluted air. These healthy habits are difficult for anyone of any weight to add in. Remember, life is a journey; don’t forget small changes lead to larger life changes given enough time.

Finally…

No matter what your thoughts are on this controversial subject, be gentle with yourself. As always, before making any major lifestyle change, you should have a conversation with your doctor. If you and your doctor don’t see eye-to-eye, especially around weight, there are fat-friendly doctors all over the country. The Obesity Medicine Association has a list of fat-friendly doctors, and HAES has a list of fat-friendly dieticians and therapists who might be helpful for you.

References:

  • Bruno, Barbara Altman. 2013. “History of the Health At Every Size Movement, Part 1”. https://asdah.org/history-of-the-health-at-every-size-movement-part-1
  • Center for Disease Control. N.D. “Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity”. Revised Sept. 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html
  • Gold, Sunny Sea. 2020. “What if we Stopped Focusing on Weight?”. Health; 34(1): 33-35.
  • Hall, Kevin D, and Scott Kahan. 2018. “Maintenance of Lost Weight and Long-Term Management of Obesity.” The Medical Clinics of North America; 102(1): 183-197. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2017.08.012
  • Health at Every Size. N.D. “Principles of Health at Every Size.” Retrieved Dec. 25, 2023. https://asdah.org/health-at-every-size-haes-approach
  • Penney, Tarra L, and Sara F L Kirk. 2015. “The Health at Every Size Paradigm and Obesity: Missing Empirical Evidence May Help Push the Reframing Obesity Debate Forward.” American Journal of Public Health; 105(5): e38-42. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302552

Image attribution: mandriapix/freepik.com

Handle with (Self) CARE

Handle with (Self) CARE

By Shannon Sabol, Holistic Health and Ayurveda Wellness Coach, www.gratefullifehealth.com

The Thanksgiving leftovers are eaten, and the pumpkins are put away … which means it is time to bring on CHRISTMAS!  Like most families, it’s a special tradition for my family and I to set up the Christmas tree.  Bringing in a bit of nature into our home, stringing the lights, and beautifying each branch with our collection of ornaments is a magical experience for us all.

Unfortunately, the day we planned on getting our Christmas tree, it was raining. We didn’t want to bring in a soaking wet tree, so we called around and asked if any local garden centers had their trees displayed indoors. After 3 or 4 calls with no luck, we decided to resort to a Big Box store.  We piled into the car and drove to a brightly lit, overstocked hardware store to see what we could find.  We found our way to the garden center and walked over to the pile of tossed around Christmas trees.  Some were already tightly bundled up, and some were open and leaning against the wall.  Most of the trees were not very full and showed many bare spots. Some were even starting to brown.  We dug through the pile with disappointment, and were discouraged by not finding our perfect tree.  We couldn’t even find a decent tree! These were not happy trees…and definitely not cared for.

I suddenly remembered another garden center, which happened to be down the street!  We left the pile of unhappy, uncared for trees, and jumped in the car.  When we arrived at the locally owned garden center, our tree-seeking sadness vanished. The whole garden center was beautifully decorated, warm and welcoming!  It was like walking into a Winter Wonderland!  We wandered past the glittering ornaments and twinkling lights, and found the Christmas tree nursery.  The smell of pine greeted us, and so did rows and rows of HANGING Christmas trees!  These trees were beautifully spread open, and floating off of the ground.  Not only were they full, healthy and vibrant, but they were also named!  Each tree was decorated with a tag with a name on it, like Popeye, Minnie Mouse, Buddy, and Elvis!  THESE trees were cared for.  The difference from the first store to the second was extreme. Not only was there a visible difference, but you FELT difference being around these trees.

This Christmas tree care (and lack of care), made me think about us humans.  Just like Christmas trees, the care that you give yourself makes a difference in how proudly you stand, how much you sparkle, and how you make those around you feel.

Here are some sustainable tips for how to CARE for yourself this holiday season:

PLAN for your self care:  Just as you are marking the calendar for decorating, baking, shopping, and socializing with loved ones, but be sure to include your self care on the calendar. Write it down or plug it in so you make it a priority.

– Set realistic BOUNDARIES with your time and energy:  Get to know what a “YES” feels like, and what a “NO” feels like in your body, when making decisions for social events and holiday tasks.  Ask yourself often if your inputs and outputs feel balanced.

BOOKEND your less-than desirable events:  We all have things we have to do, but don’t want to do around the holidays.  Try to create bookends around the events, like some quiet alone time with a warm cup of tea, before holiday shopping, and a hot bath afterwards.

– Support DIGESTION:  Unplug.  Sit down.  Eat slow.  Chew well.  Be grateful.  It’s not just what you are eating, but HOW you eat that affects digestion.  Eat mindfully and pay attention to how your body responds to what you are eating.

– See REST as another way to be productive:  Stillness is what balances movement.  Quiet is what balances noise.  Rest is what balances busyness.  You will feel more energized, clear and calm after making rest a priority.

– Love your LIVER:  If you indulge in extra alcohol and sweets this holiday season, try to follow it with a detoxifying tea like dandelion root, cinnamon, fennel or coriander, which is supportive to liver health.  Most importantly….stay hydrated!

– Keep MOVING your body:  Busy times might just mean that the intensity and duration of your physical activity change a bit.  Park far away, take the stairs, or have a quick solo dance party to your favorite song.  Even a walk around the block still counts.  A little bit of movement is better than no movement at all.

PRESENCE over presents:  Keep the health of Mother Earth in mind and give experiences and quality time instead of material gifts.  I offer gift cards which can be used for 1:1 Ayurveda coaching, yoga classes and yoga privates, and even retreats! (the next retreat is May 17-19th at Bellwether Farm!).  Contact me to set something up:  shannon@gratefullifehealth.com

CARE about how you care for yourself.  Stand tall, be bright, and watch your life sparkle!

Be well,

Shannon

Shannon Sabol is a Lakewood local, and a passionate Holistic Health and Ayurveda Wellness Coach.  She offers lifestyle support to others by helping them see their life from a more holistic view, educates on preventative health, and shares knowledge on how to create sustainable habits and routine to create a strong foundation of health. Through the ancient science of Ayurveda, she helps others align to the rhythms of nature and discover the wisdom of their own bodies.  She offers 1-on-1 coaching, wellness workshops, and is also a local yoga teacher.  www.gratefullifehealth.com

Schedule a free 20 minute Clarity Call!  shannon@gratefullifehealth.com