Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Plastics Toxicity and You

As I read the about the reminder of the plastic bag ban to go into effect on May 5 in my town, it brought back memories of my post-grad training in functional medicine and how in this paradigm, we are seeking root causes of a lack of wellness and not endpoint disease.

Our present medical system is based on identifying endpoint diseases rather than looking at symptoms and syndromes that lead to these diseases.  In the “functional approach”, the quest is to halt the process altogether or at least slow it down.  Our country does have excellent emergency medicine however, and it is not appropriate to completely bash the system, but rather to begin to look at how we can create better “health” care systems that focus on prevention.

Back to plastics.  As was brought out in the article, we have become a disposable society  and as a result, losing convenience will be a tough habit to break.  There will be anger, frustration, a lack of ideas about what to do instead, thus the educational component comes into play.  Board of Health member, Michelle Gottlieb put it nicely – “It’s creating new habits”, “We have to relearn and reinvent the throwaway society that we have created”, “It won’t happen overnight”.  This so rings true in my practice as a nutritionist and wellness consultant.  Breaking old habits and creating new ones can be challenging, thus support and education in order to stay focused and motivated is key.  I work very hard on establishing and maintaining relationships with my clients to stay focused in the process.

Chemicals found in plastics have known toxins and these are BPA and phthalates.  These are known endocrine disruptors, chemicals that show evidence for increasing  the incidence of infertility, cancers, malformations in utero, as well as influence on the thyroid, and increasing obesity.  Phthalates, known as plasticizers, are found in cosmetics, perfumes, aerosols, paints, lotions, shampoos, nail polish and I could go on, but you get the idea!  Our bodies are bombarded in ways that we don’t even think about.  Research has shown over 280 chemicals identified in newborn cord blood and of that, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals.  Some of these statistics are from the Environmental Working Group.

There are signs and symptoms that may present in a “burdened body” and these include:  fatigue, depression, chemical sensitivity, autoimmune disease, headaches, hormonal imbalances, asthma and allergies, and again, I could list more.  The challenge with identifying toxic load is that there are so many diffuse symptoms that do not fit into the current model of diagnosis and thus, toxic burden is often overlooked.

What can we do in this challenging environment.  First of all, recognize that change is not overnight and begin by learning more about what is in your environment – from food, to the containers it comes in.  Second, do an inventory of your “products” – and by this I mean, not only personal hygiene, but cleaning products as well.  As an aside, May is Spring cleaning month for me and I just stocked up on my jug of white vinegar for washing walls, appliances etc.  Gone are the days of pleasant smelling sprays and scrubs that used to be in the closet.

Check out, a wonderful resource for listing the safety of foods, personal care, cleaning products and more.

Consider a “functional medicine” consult to review body systems, look at tests that may identify toxic burden and if you choose to embark upon a “detox” or “cleanse”, consult with your practitioner to make sure that your body can handle the three important phases of detoxification.

Lastly, use this plastic bag ban as an opportunity to re-think what is in your environment and consider taking small, deliberate steps to cleaning up the environment for yourself and our planet.

Squeaky clean,

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Trip To The Mount

Last weekend marked the first long driving trip that I've taken since the hospital, surgery, chemo and oh, don't forget, the quarantine - needing to avoid contact with people for a while during recovery.  I was excited and also anticipating how I would feel.  After all, I usually get stiff, tired and creaky with long drives.

I chose to begin my day with a yoga class - always a good choice - as it limbers me up, it increases oxygen to my brain and I feel wonderful leaving class.  I proceeded to meet my Dad for the visit to Graymoor, a place that I have mentioned in former blogs -  one that is my spiritual retreat for the short overnight that we are there.

Graymoor is a mountain in the Peekskill mountains  of NY,  and was founded by a priest who converted to catholicism with the intention of uniting all faiths.  The motto of the Friars of the Atonement is, "That All May Be One", and this message holds such importance for me.

My Dad and I had a nice conversation on the way there and I was able to bring Tammie with us, my little dog who is with me most of the time.  It's been different since Mom died.  I had been very close to my Mom, less so with my Dad - he worked a lot, was somewhat strict and was involved in his own hobbies.  But things have shifted and I call it "a gift" - another one of my common phrases.  I have learned more about who my Dad really is - his vulnerabilities that he used to attempt to hide under a gruff and strict facade; his true caring for others in need; his poor self-esteem-someone who really sees himself as so much less accomplished than he really is.  I've also felt less afraid to show him who I am - "a gift" that having cancer brought into my life.  Heck, if I can  get through being a single mom, a bankrupcy, a husband passing away while another stalked me, and cancer on top of it, what is there to be afraid of - NOTHING!  And yet, one of my biggest fears has always been letting others know all of me.

We arrived, got settled into our simple but comfortable rooms and I immediately took Tammie out to walk to the mountain top.  It was a gray afternoon, but beautiful nonetheless.  The air was clean and the valley below showing signs of Spring green on the trees.

Our visit with Fr Steve was wonderful.  While Fr is 87 years old, he is so open-minded and wonderful to engage in conversation about spirituality and new ideas of philosophy - a favorite topic of mine.  Early the next morning, I awoke and walked to the bottom of the mountain and back up before breakfast.  It was so invigorating and this time, I felt such stamina and energy.  It seems that over the last three years, I would become so winded and tired.  This was even before knowing that I was sick, but this time felt like years before.  I was exuberant and so very grateful.

The Mount has such deep meaning for me - can you find a place to retreat to - even if only in your backyard, woods or local lake.  Take time to be in nature, to revel in the simplicity of nature's beauty and be filled with gratitude.

In Peace,

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"There Are No What ifs Only What Is"

As I sat to do my morning meditation, I found the usual "flood of thoughts"  enter in.  This is "my lion to tame" and I realize that we all have something that gets in the way of being balanced and in the moment!

I've avoided the whole meditation thing for years, knowing deep down inside that it would be really, really good for my "Virgo" mind.  For years, I would laugh about my sun sign, stating that it is a carbon copy of me - the good, the bad and the ugly!  I am loyal, empathic, a good parent, organized, a teacher AND I am critical , analytical, perfectionistic, a little OCD!.  While I now embrace the various facets of my personality and behavioral type, it can be challenging at times.

Those of you who follow my blogs, know that I take my life experiences and challenges as gifts to learn by and to share with others.  They can be pearls of wisdom, intuitive integration, ahha moments that change the direction of the journey - nonetheless, old habits and ways of being - the ego part of self, can find a way to creep back in.

For me, as I take on new and bigger challenges in my work and life, I find that I am persistent, a go-getter, passionate about my direction, BUT, I can be stopped by the little voice in my head that says, "what if . . ." and "are you crazy . . ." and "how dare you think you can . . .".

As humans, habits become automatic, part of the subconscious that rules about 90-95% of our thoughts and actions, and if not continually focusing on being present and aware of this very moment, it is easy to be caught up in those self-limiting statements.  As difficult as it seems, especially for those of us who live in our heads, it is very possible to re-train the mind to be focused on the moment at hand, the task in front of oneself.  It surely uncomplicates the situation realizing that we really only have this very moment and indeed, a precious one at that!

In peace and calm,

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Like a Seinfeld Show - Humor in the Humanness

Reflecting on the day yesterday felt much like a cartoon show amidst the solemness of also being Good Friday.  As usual, I felt great pearls of wisdom coming from the humor as well as being reverent!

Started my day fasting (which I hate to do, especially missing my morning coffee!), en route for a number of hours for the continued medical visits - first lab, then follow up appointment with my functional doc.  Being organized with my food, supplements, coffee and oh yes, freezer packs to keep my kefir and bison cold, I began my day.  In my left pocket, I placed my bloodstone - I collect crystals and stones and bloodstone has "Christ energy", and so I was very aware of this being Good Friday and what Jesus symbolizes in my life.

Following the labs, I went straight to the car for my latest concoction of coconut kefir, chopped pear and carrot, hemp protein, walnuts, cocoa and cinnamon powder, drizzled with sesame tahini and Permavite powder (a great insoluble fiber source lightly sweetened with stevia).  Of course, I had packed my organic coffee and enjoyed my breakfast with Tammie in the car - she accompanies me on these long trips and we usually stop off for a walk.

Following breakfast, I needed to use the bathroom.  Now listen carefully, as this is great news, news that is usually hush hush, but in my practice, I temper it with telling my clients that we always talk about "poops" in my office - gotta have humor!

A little background here - as I became more ill over the past few years, my IBS worsened significantly and at times, I could not wear normal clothing  due to bloating.  I had such fogginess, fatigue and muscle pain, that I knew I was a toxic load and "full of ----!"  It has been a journey trying many medications, supplements, teas - you name it - but thanks to Matthew Liscomb, my spiritual and life coach, I have had faster success these past few weeks.  Check out Matthew's link as he is an amazing healer -

Matthew gave me info on kefir, suggesting that it could be made into coconut kefir as well, since I am dairy sensitive.  I had read a lot about it, but a few years ago when I tried cultured and fermented foods, my body rejected them pretty violently.  I am in a better place now, supporting growth of many "good bugs", building my immune system with my naturopath and killing those persistent cancer cells which were quite high for me and now within normal limits - woo-hoo!

As I approached the bathroom, there was one other person in there and amidst the silence, I heard her grown, flush the toilet to hide any noise and she repeated this pattern for a few minutes.  For me, being in public bathrooms has been challenging - God forbid I make noise or worse yet, smell!  I breathed, relaxed and reminded myself that this is a normal part of every human beings' functioning.  Voila - it worked!

The take away message here is to take care of your needs as they arise, never feeling shame for paying close attention and to RELAX!

Onward to the next cartoon in my head.  I tend to be technologically challenged and my kids can vouch for that!  A few weeks ago, Lindsay helped me to download music onto my iphone and now I can enjoy this as I walk or am in the car.  I decided to listen to my music and proceeded to pull out various cords to hook up in the car - my headset (not sure I needed that!), the charger (definitely did not need that!!) and proceeded to press play.  Nothing happened.  Finally, I began to laugh recognizing that I needed the aux cord.  As I plugged it in, I began to laugh pretty hysterically and envisioned myself with hair on end as if electrified and wrapped up or shall we say, tangled up with wires!  I immediately called Ashley, my techie and we both had a good laugh.

Moral of this vignette is to learn to laugh at yourself, find humor in things that may not be your forte.  I used to go through life condemning myself, creating the story of being stupid and now know how utterly harmful this is to one's self-esteem, creating limiting beliefs.

I hope you you will Live, Laugh and Love as the saying goes!