Saturday, April 30, 2016

Herbs/Spices and Chronic Conditions

Recently the New York Times’ Well-Health had an article on turmeric, which has been touted as having anti-inflammatory properties and aids digestion. The April issue of Consumer Reports contains two articles-Does Tea Tree Oil Work? and Does Aromatherapy Using Essential Oils Work? 

Even though turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries according to the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) as well as the New York Times article there isn’t sufficient research to make too many claims. 

Any number of newspaper and popular magazines will list the power of rosemary, sage, garlic, ginger and other herbal supplements (also called botanicals), but like turmeric, Tea Tree Oil and aromatherapy is there valid research to back it up?

The NCCIH’s Herbs at a Glance provides fact sheets on 41 different herbs. Overwhelmingly this is an area where there’s a lot of anecdotal information but minimal research.  What is helpful about these handouts is that they provide information about possible side effects, drug interactions, etc.  

Often when research on a popular topic appears in the medical journals, the media will pick this up and draw their own conclusions. It's helpful to have a basic understanding of what is a good study when reading such articles. A quick way to understand if it's a valid study is sample size. A study with 500 people is going to yield more reliable findings than one with 50. Were an experimental group (participants receive treatment) and a control group (participants didn’t receive treatment) used? Learn more about this topic at Know the Science.

Herbs and spices are incredible food flavor boosters, and so dietitians and nutritionists highly recommend them. If you want to explore the use of “botanicals” for medicinal purposes, consider the following:

• Check Herbs at a Glance to see what research has been done, if there are contraindications and what type of side effects could happen. For example St. John’s Wort can interfere with many medications including antidepressants, birth control, Digoxin etc.

• Don't exceed recommended dosages or take for longer than recommended.

• Keep track of what you take and write down how it effects you.

• Be cautious about supplements manufactured outside the United States. Herbal products from some European countries are highly regulated and standardized. But toxic ingredients and prescription drugs have been found in supplements manufactured elsewhere, particularly China, India and Mexico.

• Check alerts and advisories. The FDA and NCCAM maintain lists of supplements that are under regulatory review or that have been reported to cause adverse effects. Check their websites periodically for updates.

• Keep your medical provider informed about any herb, spice, or supplement that you are taking or have tried.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Take a Break: Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was on April 23rd (last Saturday). Interestingly, it’s also believed to be his birthday. So events are being held all over the world, including today’s “take a break.” For some Shakespearean fun, try the following:

Check out Internet Shakespeare Editions: Lots of neat stuff at this site, including a biography 

The complete works of Shakespeare are on-line so try reading one of his plays 

Watch a movie that was inspired by one of Shakespeare's plays:
-       She’s the Man based on Twelfth Night
-       The Lion King (Hamlet in African animal form)
-       The Bad Sleep Well (Hamlet)
-       Strange Brew (Hamlet)
-       West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet set in 1950s New York City)
-       Romeo Muse Die (Romeo and Juliet)
-       Warm Bodies (Romeo and Juliet)
-       Kiss Me Kate (The Taming of the Shrew)
-       Deliver Us from Eva (The Taming of the Shrew)
-       10 Things I hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew)
-       Forbidden Planet (The Tempest)
-       Ran (King Lear)
-       A Thousand Acres (King Lear)
-       O (Othello)
-       Throne of Blood (Macbeth)
-       Men of Respect (Macbeth)
-       Big Business (The Comedy of Errors)
-       My Own Private Idaho (Henry IV and V)
-       Get Over It (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
There are lots more but this list should get you started

Watch the Bolshoi Ballet’s version of Romeo and Juliet 

Did Shakespeare really write the plays, sonnets and all that’s been attributed to him? Given the illiteracy of his parents as well as his daughters, many scholars question who did write the plays? Who was he fronting for and why? Read more on this topic. 

We use a lot of phrases and words that were actually coined by Shakespeare. Check out some examples at Mental Floss

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Living with Chronic Disease: If you can only do three things

Recently, several caregivers and/or friends talked to me about someone who has a very serious chronic and/or life threatening condition. Their primary request was for any new information that could lead to a cure. Without belaboring why I focus on healing versus cure, I recognized two very important things:

a)  In our “can do” society, where it seems like there is a pill or app for everything, the idea of "chronic" is difficult to grasp. Consequently, this can lead to a lot of anger, frustration, conspiracy theories and more.
*  b) Due to the abundance and overwhelming information available, people want very short and immediate information that they will understand.

With these two ideas in mind, her are three things that those affected by chronic and/or life threatening conditions should do:

11. Find a medical team you trust and can work with.

22. Join a support group (on-line or in person): Places to find a support group include: local newspaper; clinic or doctor’s office where you receive care; condition specific organizations; asking friends and family; your place of worship; or local library. Find friends and places that can support you emotionally, and where it is safe to talk about your health issues. Be sure to consider AA, Al-Anon, church group, or even a social club. On-line resources.
33. Share your data and follow the research. By sharing your data, through websites like Patients Like Me, or disease specific sites such as MyLymeData or Association of Cancer online Resources you can compare treatments, symptoms and experiences, chart your progress and help find effective treatments. Check out Being an E-Patient for more information on this topic.

Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

If you can do more, consider the following:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Take a Break: Celebrate Earth Week 2016

Hard to believe that Earth Day/Week has been going on since 1970. So this year make a difference to mother earth by engaging in one of the following activities:

• Attend an earth day event in your area. Check local media sources as well as Find an Event in Your Area 

• Plant a tree or donate funds to have one donated in your name or someone you would like to honor.

• Start a garden

• Create a Little Free Library  as a way to re purpose materials, recycle books and promote literacy in your community. 

• Make a birdhouse

• Give up bottled water. Purchase a water bottle (glass or stainless steel) and use it.

• Re purpose some everyday items into something new:
No Sew T shirt totes Option 1  Option 2- use a tank top. Turn it inside out and gather the ends together and tie it with a piece of string, or whatever you have handy. Tie it tight though. Turn it right side out. Voila.
-       Wreath from old pool noodles and one off flip flops (maybe I’m the only one that’s forever loosing one). Perfect door decoration for the summer months ahead.

• Ride a bike, walk or carpool