Category Archives: stress

Holistic Remedies for Headache

6 Holistic Remedies For Headache Relief

A headache can often be uncomfortable. In some cases, such as migraines, they can be painful and even debilitating. Whether it’s frequent and chronic headaches or an occasional bout of acute pain, it can interfere with your life, making it difficult to do the things you want to do. Although there are prescription medications and OTC options to help you deal with migraines, try some of these holistic remedies before you reach for the pharmaceuticals.

While there can be any number of reasons for a headache it’s important that you track them in order to be more aware of what your triggers are.  Keeping a headache or migraine journal, in combination with the holistic strategies below, may help reduce you reduce the frequency and/or severity of your headaches.

Food-based issues

Sometimes your headache may be due to specific foods or sensitivity to ingredients. It could even be due to a deficiency of certain vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  If any of these appear to be contributing to your headaches you’ll want to work with a doctor or nutrition professional who can help you identify some of these triggers and support you through the necessary changes to your diet.  Beyond food-based changes, there are a number of other strategies that you can use to help you with your headaches:


Many people who experience headaches may be chronically dehydrated.  According to the literature, water-deprivation headache was resolved in as little as 30 minutes by drinking an average of 2 cups of water.  In addition to headaches, dehydration can cause a number of other symptoms such as dizziness, rapid heartbeat, dry skin, and fatigue.  Proper hydration can help relieve these symptoms as well as boosting circulation in order to help with detoxification. In addition to drinking more water, choose hydrating foods for a healthy boost to your diet.

Stress Management

One very common cause of chronic headaches is stress. Whether your stress is caused by work, relationship issues, anxiety, or the habit of overanalyzing everything, stress can be a significant factor when it comes to headaches.  Managing your stress means looking at those factors that are, well, giving you a headache, and finding ways to either avoid them or reduce their impact on your life.  Some top tips for reducing your stress include:

    • Spending time with friends and family
    • Getting enough rest (sleep deprivation can be a significant  factor in stress)
    • Participate in some form of regular exercise
    • Find a fun activity that you enjoy such as art, gardening, or music
    • Meditate

Some studies found that meditation was helpful in reducing both pain and tension. The participants in the study were new to meditation and were only given one 20-minute guided session to learn from. 


Massage is helpful for relaxing the muscles and can improve the circulation of both blood and lymphatic fluid. According to one study in the Journal of Headache Pain, massage and physiotherapy (which includes massage plus heat and exercise treatment) were effective options for treatment. 

In combination with massage, it may be helpful to apply either hot or cold compresses to help further stimulate blood flow and reduce the headache.  Cold compresses are generally applied to the forehead and temples while hot compresses are often applied to the back of the neck or head.  People tend to respond differently to either hot or cold so you’ll need to experiment with both to see which works best for you.

Some people also find applying weight over the eyes or to the forehead can be helpful and like to use a rolled up towel or an eye-pillow similar to those used in yoga practice.


This ancient Chinese therapy uses small needles to stimulate certain points or meridians on the body and in doing so balance your Qi or energy. The use of acupuncture has been found to trigger the body so that it produces endorphins, brain chemicals which help reduce pain. One study, in particular, found acupuncture to be similar in effectiveness to preventative pharmacological therapies. Acupuncture can be beneficial for other pain issues as well.

In addition to acupuncture, there’s always the use of self-administered acupressure. Acupressure doesn’t use needles but still applies pressure to certain areas to help relieve the pain of a headache. There are three acupressure points that are most supportive.  GB 20 is the pressure point at the base of the skull, LI 4 is the web in between the thumb and forefinger, and there are four points on the feet.


Herbal therapy can be very powerful and there are a number of herbs that are specifically beneficial for headaches. Most people tend to use herbal teas for their headaches. These can be made by adding 1 teaspoon of dry herb to 8 ounces of boiling water and letting it steep for 4-5 minutes.  Strain and serve, if needed you can add a little honey or stevia as a sweetener.

    • Basil
    • Butterbur
    • Catnip
    • Chamomile
    • Fennel
    • Feverfew
    • Ginger
    • Lavender
    • Rosemary
    • Spearmint/Peppermint

Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for various health issues for thousands of years. Two, in particular, seem to be very helpful for dealing with headaches.


Lavender essential oil is often used for its calming effect. In one study participants used the lavender essential oil by inhaling it every 15 minutes for two hours. Results showed that a majority of the test subjects responded positively to inhaling the lavender. Another study looked at using lavender essential oil proactively as a preventative. In that study, both the number and the intensity of the migraines were reduced.


The other beneficial essential oil is peppermint. A cooling, soothing oil, it has been shown to help reduce the pain and sensitivity that often comes with headaches. Peppermint oil also appears to help improve blood flow to the forehead when applied there.

When using essential oils it’s important to note that they are so powerful that they should not be taken internally. Applying essential oils directly to the area, either neat or diluted, or inhaling them using a diffuser or inhaler is all you need. Because essential oils are so potent it may be necessary to dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil.

Dilution Chart (based on 1 tsp. of carrier oil)
1% – 1 drop (best for children and the elderly)
2% – 2 drops
3 % – 3 drops (for specific issues, as directed)
10 % – 10 drops


  • Blau, JN, et al. Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Headache. 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83.
  • Chaibi, A and Russel, MB. Manual therapies for primary chronic headaches: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Headache Pain. 2014 Oct 2;15:67.
  • DaSilva, AN. Acupuncture for migraine prevention. Headache.2015 Mar;55(3):470-3.
  • Göbel H, et al. Essential plant oils and headache mechanisms. Phytomedicine. 1995 Oct;2(2):93-102
  • Rafie, S, et al. Effect of lavender essential oil as prophylactic therapy for migraine: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Herbal Medicine. Volume 6, Issue 1. March 2016. Pages 18-23.
  • Sasannejad P, et al.Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91
  • Tonelli, ME and Wachholtz, AB. Meditation-based treatment yielding immediate relief for meditation-naïve migraineurs. Pain Manag Nurs. 2014 Mar;15(1):36-40.
  • Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash

    Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

    Coloring for adults

    When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

    Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

    1. Stress reliever
    2. Elevates mood
    3. The Un-tech Effect
    4. Improves focus
    5. Anyone can color
    6. Highly portable

    According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

    When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

    While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

    One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

    Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

    Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

    Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

    Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

    Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

    Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

    Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

    Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

    If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

    Could You Have Scurvy (even Though You’re Not An 18th-century Pirate)?

    What is Scurvy?

    Scurvy is a disease caused by a vitamin C (ascorbic acid) deficiency.

    Without vitamin C, the body is unable to synthesize collagen necessary for wound healing and healthy skin, bones, teeth, joints, and blood vessels.

    Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that effectively fights free radicals and prevents oxidative stress throughout the body.

    In addition, it plays a critical role in adrenal and thyroid function.

    Scurvy Symptoms

    If you’re not eating fresh fruits and vegetables regularly, then you’re likely at risk of developing scurvy. This should be your first clue.

    Other early warning signs and symptoms include:

    • Loss of appetite
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Muscle spasms, cramping or pain
    • Brain fog
    • Diarrhea
    • Weakness
    • Fever
    • Bruising
    • Wounds that won’t heal
    • Bleeding or swollen gums
    • Tooth decay or tooth loss
    • Weight loss
    • Coiled hair
    • Skin rashes or red spots
    • High blood pressure
    • Depression

    Resurgence of Scurvy

    In the 18th century, scurvy caused the teeth of sailors to fall out due to a lack of vitamin C in their diet aboard ship. However, it appears scurvy isn’t just a disease of the past.

    Based on data collected between 2003 and 2004, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 6 to 8% of the general population had a vitamin C deficiency severe enough to qualify as a scurvy diagnosis.

    Between 2009 and 2014, almost 25% of patients admitted to a hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts with unexplained symptoms were diagnosed with a vitamin C deficiency.

    In the United Kingdom, the rate of scurvy-related hospital admissions increased by 27% between 2009 and 2014.

    And a researcher at a Diabetes Center in Australia documented more than a dozen cases in recent years as well.

    Why is Scurvy Making a Comeback?

    This resurgence is surprising to doctors and health officials because the amount of vitamin C needed to prevent scurvy is relatively low. For example, one large orange or one bowl of strawberries a day provides enough vitamin C to do the trick.

    But the sad truth is that more and more people don’t regularly eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Or, if they eat these foods at all, they are either from a package or overcooked, which almost entirely diminishes the vitamin C content.

    Other modern day factors may also deplete the body of vitamin C, which includes:

    • Chronic stress
    • Environmental toxins
    • Illness
    • Injury
    • Synthetic hormones and birth control pills
    • Steroid medications
    • Diuretics
    • Aspirin

    It’s also worth noting that a well-functioning digestive system is necessary to properly digest and absorb vitamin C (and all other nutrients) from food. Thus, with the rise of gastrointestinal diseases and dysfunction, this could also be a contributing factor.

    Best Sources of Vitamin C

    Uncooked, fresh fruits and veggies are the best sources of vitamin C. Those you can enjoy raw with the highest vitamin C content include:

    • Papaya
    • Bell peppers
    • Broccoli
    • Strawberries
    • Pineapple
    • Oranges
    • Kiwi
    • Cantaloupe
    • Cauliflower
    • Kale
    • Cabbage
    • Grapefruit
    • Raspberries
    • Tomatoes

    And in the case of a vitamin C deficiency, it may be necessary to supplement with collagen until optimal levels are reached. 

    In Conclusion…

    Scurvy, a condition caused by a severe vitamin C deficiency, is making a comeback around the world mostly in part to our modern way of life. This means your risk may be real even though you’re not an 18th-century pirate.

    Therefore, it’s important to consume fresh vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables every day to prevent a vitamin C deficiency and the development of scurvy.

    National Institutes of Health – Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Professionals
    Pelton, R. (2001). Drug-induced nutrient depletion handbook. Hudson, OH: Lexi-Comp.
    Scurvy makes surprise return in Australia. (2016, November 29).
    Scurvy Is a Serious Public Health Problem. (2015, November 20).
    The World’s Healthiest Foods – Vitamin C

    On My Mind Monday 01.28.13

    It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

    Aspirin use linked to macular degeneration – While not definitive, it appears that there may be some connection between regular levels of aspirin use and macular degeneration.  
    The first thing that comes to mind is why there would be a high need for aspirin use in the first place.  Second would be to nutritionally support ocular health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both recognized as antioxidants that appear to reduce the risk of certain eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) but I believe would also be supportive for overall ocular health. These carotenoids can be found in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens as well as in eggs. Vitamin C is another antioxidant that is good for your eyes; it can slow the progress of loss of visual acuity as well as AMD Vitamin C is available in fruits and vegetables especially red bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and dark leafy greens. Zinc, a trace mineral, is also important as it helps to create melanin, a protective pigment; it can be found in spinach, sea vegetables, basil, thyme, and pumpkin seeds.

    Eating hot foods off melamine plates may increase risk of kidney stones – Yes, those melamine plates and bowls may be cute, but, as with any plastic-type material, when they are exposed to hot foods some of the substance can migrate into the food.  And once it’s in the food, if you eat it, it’s in you.  Of course styrofoam is one of the worst offenders but how many of us remember to take our own to go boxes to the restaurant with us?  I’m trying to get better at this.  And I have gotten rid of all non-glass or ceramic dishware.  Well, except the sentimental pieces such as the bowl my daughter made in second grade.  But I am careful not to use them for hot things.  And I keep, little by little, chipping away at the amount of plastic that comes into contact with my food.  Now to just remember to bring those glass containers to the restaurant….

    Ramen bowl iPhone doc – I’m not a huge fan of this product.  One I’m guessing it’s made from melamine (see the article above).  Two, this kind of product encourages people to be more focused on their phone.  It’s a proven fact that if we are engaged in another activity when eating, such as watching television, or in this case, being on the phone, we tend to eat more.  We are not mindful about what we are eating nor are we nourishing ourselves properly.  We’re distracted and less aware of what and how much we are eating.  This product isn’t available yet but I hope it doesn’t come to market too soon.

    Technology fasting – This is a great idea.  A few years ago I had heard of the concept of news fasting.  Taking a break from the overwhelmingly negative news feed that occupies us and is more and more readily available.  It stresses us out, but somehow we can’t seem to help ourselves.  But by taking a break we de-stress, just a little bit.  Now is the idea of a technology fast.  I admit this is a hard concept as I find myself regularly interacting with technology.  But I’m planning to give it a try.  To take an entire day where I spend no time on the computer and plan to only use my phone for phone calls.  I’m willing to bet that, just as with a news fast, a technology fast is going to feel pretty good.

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    on Facebook to stay on top of news you can use.

    photo: mconnors

    Puppies Spells Stress Relief

    It’s that time of year for many students.  Exam time.  And because it’s the end of the semester that means final exams.  This tends to bring high levels of stress, late nights fueled by far too much caffeine, and poor eating choices.  For those who have students in their life here are a few strategies that may help with stress reduction.

    1. Know your stressors – recognizing when we are stressed is a big piece of the puzzle.  We can then be proactive about it by engaging in stress-relieving activities
    2. Stay hydrated – when we are dehydrated that simply causes physical stressors as well.  Drink water to stay hydrated, not caffeinated beverages.  Caffeine has been known to increase anxiety and to raise blood pressure, not good combinations for a stressful situation
    3. Eat well – make sure to not let your blood sugars dip out of control.  When this happens we are more likely to binge eat, especially on sugars, which can further destabilize blood sugar.  Having small snacks that are high in protein such as raw nuts, or delicious crunchy veggies with hummus are a great way to help avoid the munchies later in the day.
    4. Sleep – the temptation when we are stressed about impending deadlines is for us to pull an all-nighter.  This can actually impair cognitive function.  When we are well-rested we are better able to handle stress.
    5. Breathe – when we are stressed we often start to breathe shallowly.  This is usually an unconscious shift.  By stopping to take deep, slow breaths we help to oxygenate and we also force ourselves to calm down, even if just for a little while.  Try it now, take three long slow deep breaths, you’ll be amazed at how different you feel.
    6. Try whole body relaxation – this is a process where you tense and relax the muscles in your body.  The entire process takes just a few minutes but can help to let go of a lot of stress.  Typically the pattern is to start by tensing the muscles in your feet, counting to five, and then relaxing them.  Then repeat this for the calves, thighs, buttocks, and so on all the way up the body to the face.  
    7. Take a laugh break – laughter is good for us.  Watching a funny video on YouTube, telling jokes with a friend, or reading something humorous can all help to relieve stress. 
    Some colleges, in an effort to help with stress relief, have even started puppy rooms where students can come and hang out with puppies to get a little fur-ball therapy.  The animals run the gamut from certified therapy pets to animals borrowed from a shelter.  The movement seems to be growing as each year around this time there are more articles about more schools who are doing it.  Some schools, such as Yale, apparently even have a therapy dog program where students can borrow a dog from the library for 30 minute sessions.
    Figuring a picture is worth a thousand words, cute pictures make us smile, and that smiling is very stress-relieving I wanted to share the following.
    These puppies are currently living with my friend Larry who rescued their pregnant mother from the animal shelter so she would not have to give birth there.  He has taken on the commitment to raise them and find foster homes for them.

    Vitamins And Minerals For A Healthy Immune System

    In today’s busy world, staying healthy is very important. Day-to-day stress can leave people feeling run down and low on energy, especially if their dietary needs are not met. Many people with fast-paced lives opt for fast food instead of a home cooked meal. The downside of fast food is that it’s often high in fat and calories and low in the recommended amount of daily vitamins and minerals a person needs in order to stay healthy. With winter just around the corner, cold and flu season is on its way. Individuals with lowered immune systems can be especially susceptible to these pesky viruses. Support your immunity by building up your vitamin arsenal. In taking supplements as directed, you can defend yourself this winter by giving your immune system the boost it needs.

    Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial vitamins of the entire vitamin spectrum. It is found in a variety of fruits (strawberries, oranges, and kiwis) and vegetables (bell peppers, brussel sprouts, & broccoli), and can be taken daily in capsule or chewable tablet form.  Vitamin C gives a boost to the immune system, which is why it is known as a common remedy for winter colds. It also assists in cell renewal and works as an antioxidant, helping the body rid itself of toxins that can also contribute to low energy and chronic health problems.

    Zinc is a mineral that is well known for its immune boosting properties, but zinc also offers a long list of incredible health benefits. Research has proven that zinc is a very important element to the health of human beings, and even a minimal deficiency can contribute to various health issues. Zinc is a potent antioxidant, and antioxidants have been shown to lower cancer risks as well as renew cells and tissues. Zinc also assists in hormone and endocrine function. Low zinc levels can contribute to premature aging as well as well as lower natural energy levels. Probably the most common foods that include zinc are: low fat roast beef, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, and peanuts. People can also easily get the daily requirement of zinc by taking a multivitamin that contains this mineral.

    Vitamin D is essential for health, and getting fifteen minutes of sun exposure each day allows the body to absorb this amazing vitamin and utilize its health benefits. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which contributes to strong and healthy bones and a healthy immune system. It also works to regulate blood pressure, reduce respiratory infections, fight depression and improve cardiovascular strength. To make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D eat fish like mackerel, sockeye salmon, herring, catfish, or tuna fish. If you do not like fish you can also consume eggs or shiitake or button mushrooms.

    These vitamins and minerals can all be consumed individually or in multivitamin form. Multivitamins contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and are a convenient way to get everything you need in one dosage. By incorporating these vitamins into your daily routine and taking them as directed, you will be able to protect yourself during cold and flu season, and you will also be contributing to your overall body health and future wellness.

    Contact Mira to learn how you can $AVE on professional grade, high quality supplements.

    Elissa Pitney studies health and wellness and is working towards becoming a personal trainer. When not working out and watching what she eats, she enjoys mountain biking and spending time outdoors.

    photo:  William Brawley

    On My Mind Monday 10.15.12

    It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

    Dehydration can affect your thinking – In addition to all of the other ill effects of dehydration now there’s one more to add to the list.  It can affect your cognitive processing.  This can become an issue as we age since our thirst mechanism can decline over time.  As the saying goes, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already down a quart.”  While that may or may not be entirely accurate, it is true that by the time you feel thirsty your body is already somewhat dehydrated.  Avoid this by getting into the habit of sipping throughout the day to stay well hydrated and healthy.

    Seven Steps For Instant Calm – In our busy, over-scheduled, modern lives we often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.  Here are some simple tips to remind us of those small things that we can do to help us recenter.

    Why We Get Colds – There are actually a number of reasons why this happens, we’re run down or our immune system is low, we’re overweight, or we consume too much sugar (it suppresses the immune system).  It turns out that cold viruses also do better when humidity levels are low.  To help support the immune system consider adding more garlic to your diet, getting off the couch, checking your vitamin D levels, and cutting back on sugar.

    Sugary drinks cause weight gain – I’m a little surprised that anyone thinks we still need to do studies on this.  Sugary drinks are nothing more than liquid candy.  They represent empty calories that do are not filling and contribute excess intake without any nutritional content whatsoever.  I wonder if they keep doing studies on this because so many of us are so addicted to our sugary drinks that we keep hoping for a different answer.

    An old-fashioned drink is back in style – Mead is making headlines.  Made from a honey base it has a unique flavor, just like wine or beer, depending on where it’s made and the ingredients that go into it.  While I’ve not made it nor tasted it, this certainly sounds interesting and I’ll be watching to see if this is another locavore food trend that spread across the country.

    photo:  mconnors

    Ulcerative Colitis On The Rise

    My brain is reeling.  The following headline made me shudder. “The Ulcerative Colitis Drug Market Will Increase from $1.7 Billion in 2010 to $3 Billion in 2020 as New Agents Will Offer Additional Lines of Therapy for Moderate to Severe Disease.”  This is only the latest of an increasing number of articles that have come through on my news feed recently.

    Sidestepping slightly I will share that I have a personal, vested interest in articles like this.  You see I was diagnosed with UC almost seven years ago.  This was after over 12 years of misdiagnosis with IBS.  Before I learned what was wrong with my digestive system I struggled with some of the less pleasant aspects of UC.  And frequently wondered what was wrong.  Fortunately for me I found answers, especially answers that worked for me, for my bio-individual body.  I also discovered that I’m one of the lucky ones.  I have a mild case.  Mild enough that aside from an occasional flare-up I am able to control my UC through diet.  I have friends who have had to undergo surgery to have large sections of their colon removed.

    Because I don’t take medication on a daily basis it’s easy to get cocky sometimes when things are going well.  And the holidays are especially tough with all of the temptations that surround you.  But when I stray from my nutritional plan and routine I know it; my body makes it very clear that I’ve not been paying attention.  Stress is also a huge trigger and I work hard at living a more mindful life, focusing on what’s important to me and how I handle stress.  I like to think that over time I’ve gotten better at it but it is an ongoing process.

    So why does that headline above bother me so much (and why am I sharing all of this personal information)?  It bothers me because if you read the article that accompanies it you’ll see that it almost crows about the growth in the market and the need for pharmaceuticals.  Don’t get me wrong I am certainly not advocating that someone who needs pharmaceutical intervention for the UC shouldn’t take it, quite the opposite.  However, phrases such as “promising novel agents” and ” sales of maintenance therapies in 2010 accounted for nearly three-quarters of major-market ulcerative colitis sales” and “will contribute to an increase in sales of maintenance therapies as well as an increase in sales of acute therapies” all point toward a burgeoning market that is being driven toward medication with no effort to look at the underlying causes.  More than a billion dollars in growth over ten years is a powerful market force.

    I’m frustrated because in my own journey toward health, and that of clients that I work with, our concerns and questions are often disregarded; we are simply advised to take medication.  My first GI doctor was skeptical when I told him I wanted to change my diet.  But he didn’t stop me and I was able to avoid the need for daily meds.  While I’m certainly not cured, I’m definitely better.  And many people I know with UC lead much more manageable lives (some with and some without medication) by paying attention to their diet and whatever their personal triggers may be (stress being one of the biggest).

    If we are experiencing huge growth in the market for this type of a disorder isn’t it worthwhile to look into the root cause?  Sadly I believe the answer is no because then the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t be able to sell anything, or as much of anything as they are obviously planning on doing now.  Again, I want to make it perfectly clear that I would never, under any circumstances, tell someone to stop taking their medication.  I do, however, question why our current system does not seek answers by looking at the whole picture.  Why the system simply accepts that this, sometimes debilitating, condition is growing by such large numbers.  Shouldn’t we be helping people learn how to better meet the needs of their body rather than throwing medication at the “high unmet need?”  Shouldn’t we be figuring out why so very many people are starting to come down with this disease?

    Psoriasis Can Be Cured

    Psoriasis | photo: James Heilman, MD

    Recently it was announced on the interwebs that a certain celebrity had been diagnosed with psoriasis.  The reason/cause for her condition was attributed to stress.  This is certainly a strong possibility as psoriasis can be an autoimmune response and as those of us with autoimmune disorders know, stress is a huge trigger.

    I was saddened to hear that this young person didn’t feel that she could slow down her lifestyle.  Nor was there any mention of the possibility of the influence of diet.

    As long-time readers know, I am a huge fan of food as a basis for health.  While I certainly do not believe that food is the only cure, I do know from years of working with lots of different people that food can be a large part of the answer.  When we eat the way our bio-individual body needs us to we can help the ourselves to be healthier.  I’m a believer in Integrative Medicine — there is room for both in the equation, in fact it would be silly to discount either side in a food versus medicine tug-of-war.  Learning about diet and the influence of food and nutrition on the body can be an empowering experience for many people.

    This case especially caught my attention due to someone I have been working with who has experienced  a successful dietary transition.  I’d like to share her testimonial here:

    In 1995 following a life threatening flare-up of ulcerative colitis, my large intestine was surgically removed. The last two feet of the small intestine was used to create a new internal abdominal “J-Pouch.” Many pouch recipients experience complete restoration of health following this procedure. Some do not, and I fell into this category. Instead of returning to a healthy, active lifestyle, I became plagued with chronic J-Pouch infections requiring heavy steroid and antibiotic use that lasted several years. With the help of a strong probiotic, the flare-ups became less chronic and in time my health improved.

    Unfortunately I developed a new health concern… scalp psoriasis that gradually spread to my elbows and trunk. I experienced some other nagging symptoms — itching, mild fatigue, and brain fog to name a few. The chronic scalp psoriasis required daily use of a strong topical prescription steroid that barely controlled the problem. I asked my dermatologist if there were recommended dietary changes that might improve the psoriasis, and the response was there was no known diet that proved effective in clearing psoriasis.

    This is where Mira comes in. Following a full scope assessment and using her health and nutrition expertise, Mira shared her results — I was suffering with a systemic Candida yeast overgrowth most likely caused by prolonged steroid and antibiotic use. Mira presented the course of treatment, including a diet that would discontinue feeding the candida. Following a strict two weeks of dietary changes, I was amazed at the results. I skeptically stopped using the topical steroids, sure the psoriasis would return with a vengeance. It did not, and the results were amazing! ”  D.R. 2011

    This wonderful woman has experienced so much improvement with her psoriasis and we continue to work together to refine her health and address her overall nutrition.

    I hope that the young celebrity challenged with psoriasis manages to find a connection to someone with a background in holistic nutrition to help her learn to better understand the needs of her body.  I also hope that she finds the time to slow down and be easier on herself.  We only have one body and our health is so important.  We need to remember to be kind to ourselves.

    Aromatherapy Field Trip

    Steve and I recently took a trip into Houston.  We were headed for the Museum of Natural Science but would up making a little detour before visiting the museum.  Across the street from the Museum, located at One Hermann Street, is a garden that is open to the public.  One part of the garden is an Aromatic Garden.  Filled with raised beds of mints, culinary herbs, rosemary and other aromatics it is truly a delight for the senses.

    We wandered through the beds delighting in the plantings and stroking the different plants to release their scents, admiring how many different kinds of mints and basils and thymes, and more there are.  The smell, the texture, the setting all combined to make a very relaxing and delightful stroll.  I confess that my hands smelled quite delicious by the time we were done.

    Next door to the Aromatic Garden is the Rose Garden.  Abounding with blooms of all sizes and colors we wandered from bed to bed exclaiming over the different colors and scents.  Some of the showiest roses had no scent at all while some were so overpoweringly perfume-y that one small sniff was more than enough.  

    I could feel my blood pressure dropping and a sense of calm envelop me as we enjoyed both of these gardens.  It was a moment of mindful meditation.  Even now, thinking about them as I write I find a peaceful feeling rising forth.  Such is the power of scent and beauty that it can help us to slow down and enjoy the moment.  Not for nothing do we have the phrase “take time to smell the roses.”

    While I have aromatic herbs in my garden I’m now considering adding some roses to I can recreate a small dose of the experience we had this morning for those days when I can’t get all the way into the city.  If you have a small corner of your garden available you might want to consider doing the same.

    photo courtesy of Stan Shebs | Wikimedia Commons