Corona-no-no Virus for Me

Are you scared yet?

According to hysterical media reports, the coronavirus has been one of the biggest health threats in history, even though it has only been in the news for a few weeks.  The international markets are collapsing under the threat, governments around the globe are taking drastic measures to contain it, and the public is getting bounced around by conflicting stories coming from the professional medical community and the politicians in charge who seem more concerned with the election than public safety.

I call it as I see it.

 

So, are we at risk of catching this new coronavirus?  

Sure, just like the annual flu or a common cold, coronavirus 19 (the number lets you know the year it was discovered) is quite contagious.

Is it inevitable that this new virus will spread?

Sure, viruses spread, that’s just a fact of life.

Will we all be infected and die as a result?

Nope, not by a long shot.

We don’t know if that person in line at the store two weeks ago was coughing because of a cold, a virus or because of their smoking habit. Did someone sneeze on the elevator panel shortly before we pushed the button for our floor? Did we open a door that someone contaminated had touched?

These are daily possibilities we have always faced, and while most of the time it is a non-issue for us, the recent news makes us more aware of the possibility of viral threats and how to avoid them.

Since there is a fairly long gestation period for this particular virus (now known as COVID-19), taking weeks to show itself in its victims, the only people who are completely worry-free from  having the coronavirus (or the flu or any other virus really) already are those who have been in solitary confinement for the last month, completely isolated from all other humans and infected animals–the likely origin of this virus.

Still, the odds of anyone being infected today are quite small, and there are easy steps we can all take to protect ourselves, so let’s focus on what we do know and limit the fears from what we don’t.

While information about this new coronavirus is still coming in, we already know that it can be transmitted the same way other viruses are, by close human contact and airborne particles from coughing and sneezing.

Touching a contaminated surface and then touching our face, nose, eyes can transmit the virus, especially since we do such actions over 90 times a day on average.

Therefore:

  • Washing our hands regularly with hot, soapy water throughout the day will be a huge deterrent. Wash them for 20 seconds, sing the birthday song twice.
  • Limit your activities outside of your home.  Avoid public assemblies, public restrooms, airplanes, public transport, etc.  While some of these are unavoidable, limit them when you can.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes to protect others around you in case you are infected, even if it is just a common cold.  If you use a tissue, dispose of it immediately. If you don’t have a tissue, use your elbow to cover your sneeze, not your hand.
  • Clean all of your “high-touch” surfaces in the home, including door knobs, keyboards, counter-tops, bathroom faucets, etc. with a rubbing alcohol. That’s the active ingredient in hand sanitizer by the way–hard to find these days (plus it has issues of it’s own and disrupts the microbiome with a carcinogenic ingredient, triclosan. Research says that regular soap and water is just as a effective, FYI)
  • If you have a fever, cough, or breathing problem, call your doctor immediately.
  • If you are feeling sick, for heaven’s sake, stay home!

 

The Best Defense is a Strong Immune System

Taking steps to protect yourself and to limit the spread of any virus is simple. And the best defense of course is to have a strong immune system.

The most at-risk victims of most viruses are those with compromised immune systems and with prior issues and chronic conditions.

BUT there is plenty you can do to give your immune system a boost:

  • Get Plenty of Sleep – We are a sleep deprived nation with too many distractions, screens, and pressures of work and life in general bombarding us daily.  6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep goes a long way to keeping your body strong and healthy.
  • Don’t smoke – COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. Now is a good time to quit!
  • Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.  An apple a day and all that… also, blueberries, dark chocolate, turmeric, broccoli, ginger, sweet potatoes, garlic, green tea (our Wise Women’s Tea is fabulous), eggs, bell peppers, spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, mushrooms and oily fish. Eat the best quality stuff you can–organic, pastured, grass fed, wild fish, etc.
  • If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation if at all. Take milk thistle (for your liver) if you drink.
  • Exercise – Regular exercise mobilizes the T cells, a type of white blood cell which guards the body against infection.
  • Get out in the sun!  10-15 minutes of walking in the sun will boost your Vitamin D levels and reduce the risk of respiratory problems.
  • Wash your hands regularly (see above) and cook your meats thoroughly to avoid pathogens.
  • Take vitamin supplements if your diet is lacking.  Vitamins A, B’s, C, D and E really boost your immune system and are readily available in many of the foods listed above.  Learn your ABC’s! (and D-E)
  • Herbs – AHCC, echinacea, elderberry, andrographis and astragalus can help reduce the duration and severity of illness and provide nutrients for a strong immune system.
  • Stay hydrated – an ounce of water for every 2 pounds you weigh is a good measure to help your body eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness. (Example, if you weigh 170 pounds, you should drink 85 ounces of water.)
  • Reduce Stress – Easier said than done for a lot of people, but try yoga, meditation, or just positive thoughts throughout the day.  Taking an afternoon break for a cup of hot Wise Women’s Tea is a great antioxidant and immune booster.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth if your hands are not clean.  Washing your hands regularly goes a long way in reducing the spread of all viruses.

When all is said and done, this new coronavirus will no doubt spread and infect a lot of people, but that doesn’t need to include you if you take proactive steps to protect yourself and your loved ones.

 

Oh, and here’s a recipe for homemade hand sanitizer:

Combine in a bowl:
⅔-cup rubbing alcohol (99% isopropyl alcohol)
⅓-cup aloe vera gel

Stir well with a wire whisk. Decant into a clean soap or pump bottle. You can buy little pump bottles on Amazon.

Raise the Barre for Weight Loss

Raise the Barre for Weight Loss

Before I even start with today’s blog post, thank you to each and every one of you who has commented on my new silhouette. It has taken lots of work, but I feel wonderful. Your compliments and words of encouragement really do mean a great deal to me.

And because you’ve asked, I want to share a bit more about what has been the biggest needle mover for me, at least with regard to exercise. I changed everything up, ditched the cardio and weight lifting (at least at the beginning) and started taking barre classes.

So what is barre fitness?

Barre classes are based on using the barre like you do in ballet. As a former dancer (I took ballet for years in my youth and into my adult years), I was intrigued by the concept of fitness via barre.

Barre is generally held in a group setting, with great music that really gets you pumped up. You do a series of exercises based on what you would do in a ballet class—like plies, tondu, all the while keeping the spine aligned, tummy tucked in and your seat tucked in as well. In my class we use lightweights and bands as well as a Pilates ball and disc.

Even though I was familiar with the barre and knew it would be effective, I had no idea how quickly it would work for me. I was absolutely blown away!

If you’re looking to incorporate some fun into your fitness regime (or to start a fitness regime), see if you have a gym in your town that offers a barre class—that’s where I do mine, at a big box gym though there are great franchises out there that offer classes in their studios.

Should you decide to head to the barre, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Wear comfortable clothing and preferably nothing too loose and baggy, so the instructor can see that you’re properly aligned.

Barre workouts are usually done in sticky socks (or barefoot), and most barre studios provide them for sale (though you can bring your own).

Bring along a refillable water bottle to keep yourself hydrated.

And most importantly, come with an open mind, and be prepared to have fun. If you’re self-conscious about being the new person in class, leave that at the door! Everyone was new once, and everyone will be so focused on what they are doing that they won’t be paying any attention to you!

Oh, and one final thing: I strongly encourage you to measure yourself before your first class and take a “before” picture. That’s the best way to gauge your results. The scale is one thing but measurements are quite another!

Now go get yourself to the nearest barre and have fun 😉

 

Don’t Be a Sweaty Betty

Don’t Be a Sweaty Betty

Summer+hot flashes.

FUN!

According to a Harvard study, hot flashes and night sweats can go on for up to 11 years post-menopause.

Double fun!

That means your coping mechanism for dealing with these highly inconvenient and uncomfortable events is multiplied in the middle of a heatwave—your hair is frizzy and standing up like a bush in your garden regardless of the last half hour you spent styling it. And forget makeup—whatever you put on is running down your face and you’ve taken on the raccoon look with your mascara betraying your eyelashes and settling into the fine lines under your eyes.

Can you relate?

 

But How Do You Fix This Mess?

There are ways around this menopausal mountain—some of them involve out of pocket medical expenses. There are integrative doctors who can save your sanity with bio-identical hormone treatments—patches, pellets, creams and more.

I’ve done them all—they do work, but they’re just not for everyone.

Cost is an issue and for some people, it’s just not medically appropriate—but you can discuss that with your medical professional.

 

The Coffee Culprit

One thing for sure, caffeine exacerbates hot flashes.

I know, I know…I haven’t given up my coffee either, but I dramatically changed my coffee habit and made only enough for one, maybe two cups in the morning and only in the morning.

Caffeine isn’t a bad thing—it’s been shown in studies to boost metabolism, power brain function and coffee drinkers have a dramatically lowered risk for type 2 diabetes—18 studies, 450,000+ participants showed that for each cup of coffee consumed, the risk of diabetes went down by 7%.

Obviously, you don’t want to be consuming a lot of coffee, but caffeine as a whole, isn’t a bad thing, to curb the hot flashes and night sweats, you need to be mindful of its consumption.

That goes for any hot beverage as well—coffee and tea may have the extra edge of caffeine (unless you choose a decaffeinated type of herbal tea), but hot beverages can also ratchet up the incidence of hot flashes and night sweats.

 

SOS On The Stress

I can speak from experience on this one—handling the stress with certain meditative techniques and breathing exercises.

I’ve heard lots of people say, “But I’m not stressed out!”

And I will argue with you—yes you are!

We all are—even if no stressful events are happening in our lives.

We still all deal with the hustle and bustle of life—whatever that looks like. We’re living in a toxic world which puts additional stress on our bodies (hence your wacky hormones giving you the gift of hot flashes and night sweats) and that adds up to a body that is stressed.

So don’t deny the stress—it’s there.

Instead, learn to meditate and breathe through these episodes.

I have found daily mindfulness and meditation help tremendously, as do some simple breathing techniques.

Daily mindfulness means finding and declaring your purpose (setting goals), being thankful (keeping a journal with gratitude) and working with your hot flashes, not against them.

I know it sounds weird, but hear me out—I’ve done it and it’s been great.

You can feel them coming on—when they start, they work their way up your body. By the time they get to the top of your head, you’re stressed out—maybe not freaking out (unless you’ve just had your hair and make up done for your daughter’s wedding—true story!), but you know what you’re going to get hit with.

As soon as you feel it, the minute you think you have one coming on, do this: close your eyes, and breathe deep.

Breathe in and hold it—feel the breath fill your lungs.

Breathe it out and allow it all to come out slow through your mouth. Draw in another deep breath—repeat this process three times.

While you’re doing this, picture in your mind your body relaxing, the hot flash leaving peacefully and that there’s calm and peace in the place of the hot flash.

I don’t know why exactly this works, but it’s amazingly effective.

Try it!

 

Supplemental Help

Here is a list of supplements that can help with symptoms as well:

Chaste tree berry—specifically for hot flashes and night sweats.

According to experts at University Health New Daily, “In terms of menopause symptoms, chaste tree berry significantly decreases the frequency and severity of hot flashes after eight weeks of treatment compared to a placebo.”

Black Cohosh has been shown in another study, to help women decrease their hot flashes by up to 70%.

Magnesium is helpful as well. If you can take a warm (not hot) Epsom salt bath each night as part of your evening ritual before bed, you can do some breathing exercises in the tub and feel good going to bed.

*Incidentally, the research also shows that we sleep better nude—if you’ve been having trouble sleeping and wake up hot and sweaty in your PJ’s, try sleeping in the buff and see how you like it.

Primrose oil is another supplement used to help with women’s hormone fluctuation. It can help with the severity of hot flashes, but the studies are not conclusive how far it can help with the frequency.

As with any new supplement, work with your healthcare provider regarding dosage and if these particular supplements are right for you.

 

Sign Of The Times

Menopause is a part of life and for some women, it’s more than just “the change”, it’s a complete upheaval.

Children leave the nest, you’re suddenly dissatisfied with the path you’re on and feel like it’s “now or never” to get to where you want to go—I get that, big time.
There is an emotional connection to this big change happening in our bodies and I believe it’s on purpose.

Rather than mourn the change, it’s imperative that we embrace it and look forward to this transition, much like we did when we were having a baby.

There’s pain and discomfort involved, but if you can dig into the emotional side of what you’re facing and too, with your path in life—you can start to see a new path, a new future and one that is a little more independent (your kids are out of the house), and one that is ready for a change-perhaps it’s time to travel some more, start a new career or (gasp) a new relationship!

 

But Menopause Can Get Complicated

When I was in the height of menopausal symptoms, I was also dealing with a completely out of control autoimmune thyroid condition, Hashimoto’s.

I had 3 huge nodules on my thyroid, my weight had ballooned (as common with thyroid issues) to 237 pounds, my skin was ravaged by rosacea and I had plantar fasciitis—so bad, I could hardly walk across the room to get to the bathroom in the morning.

Menopause and Hashimoto’s. YIKES!

 

Here’s What I Did And Do Now

I was a complete mess—and felt hopeless.

I didn’t know where to begin—I just knew I had to do something!

Here are the exact things I did:

1) I started with the breathing (lifesaver!) just to get through the next hot flash. I still use that technique to help me fall asleep at night and right before I begin meditating.

2) I turned to daily meditation. I use an app called Brain.FM and for 15 minutes, I allow this app to give me a moment to just drift every morning before I start my work. I keep a notepad handy in case my brain decides to kick in—it helps me dump the thought and go back to meditating.

3) I worked on my sleep. Those Epsom salt baths I mentioned were a godsend, coupled with an early bedtime and a cool, dark bedroom. Hugely helpful.

4) I gave up dairy. My face was a MESS—I didn’t have the overly pink cheeks type of rosacea, I had the crusty kind, the disfiguring, nothing can hide it kind. I gave up all dairy except ghee for cooking and slowly my face started to heal.

5) I drank an anti-inflammatory collagen-rich smoothie every single morning. Not only did it help cool the inflammation I was dealing with (and the l-glutamine I added helped heal my gut), but it also helped me drop a lot of that thyroid weight I had gained because it kept me full and satisfied. Here’s how I get all that wonderful collagen in my smoothie.

6) I gave up the stressful exercise. And no, I didn’t take up yoga—I found yoga too stressful, LOL! But I did take up barre and I loved it. It provided stretching, strengthening, lengthening of the muscles and made me feel good—and my barre class had some yoga stretches in it so I’m sure those were helpful, too.

7) I hopped back on the water wagon. I drank a lot of water every single day—at least 100 ounces. There are a hundred things I can say about how this simple habit helped—I’m betting you know a lot of them, but suffice it to say, water helps cool inflammation and it worked well.

8) I ate an anti-inflammatory diet: lots of greens, clean, lean protein and good healthy fats like avocado, nuts, and olive oil. I made sure to eat wild salmon at least once a week.

9) I took fish oil. Not all fish oil supplements are alike, but ours is pretty impeccable. Within a few weeks, I could see the difference! Omega 3 fatty acids have been studied endlessly and they are proven to help hydrate and repair your skin AND cool inflammation—wouldn’t be without them.

10) I added fermented foods into my diet daily. I ate either sauerkraut or real fermented dill pickles for my gut—a critical component for anyone interested in optimal health. Read more about fermented foods here.

 

Making Menopause Meaningful

I think that’s a tough one for a lot of women who are in the throes of what seems to be, a merciless taskmaster when you’re dealing with menopause.

Add another condition (like Hashimoto’s) to the equation or just the hot and sweaty summer months, and you’ve got a recipe for misery.

TRY my suggestions! Give them a go—these are tried and true and they work!

And take a moment to reflect and look at your life—it’s changed, just like your body is now.

Now is the time for you to finally make time for yourself. Pay attention to what life is telling you—right now can be your time to flourish and make a new life!

Heart Disease Kills More Women Than Cancer

Heart Disease Kills More Women Than Cancer

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S., averaging annually around 1 out of every 5 female deaths.  That statistic applies to women of color as well as whites, American Indian, or Alaskan Native. Statistically, only Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women die from cancer more than heart disease.

 

Heart Disease Targets Women MORE Than Men

The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, and in the U.S. around 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have it.

That’s ONE in 16 women over the age of 20!!

However, whenever we hear about heart disease, heart attacks, and general death statistics related to the heart, it seems that most people generally think of men and not so much about women.   As it turns out, heart disease actually kills more women than men every year.

 

Symptoms Of Heart Disease Or A Heart Attack Can Be Different For Women

One of the reasons may be that the symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are different for men and women, so women don’t seek out medical assistance as quickly.  Some women have no symptoms while others have some of the more commonly known ones:

  •     Angina – dull and heavy or sharp chest pains or other discomfort
  •     Pain in the back or upper abdomen
  •     Pain in the throat, neck, or jaw

While these symptoms may occur during regular daily activities or while resting, there are other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, indigestion, upper body discomfort, and fatigue.  Sounds like just another day for mothers and office workers, right?

In fact, since most women over 60 years old are not likely pregnant, these symptoms may be indications that you are having a heart attack.

If you have heart palpitations, a feeling of fluttering in your chest, your heart is beating irregularly and that is known as arrhythmia.

Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, neck veins, or abdomen?  Do you feel unusual fatigue or shortness of breath? You may be experiencing actual heart failure.

If you have any of these symptoms and especially if you know that you are at risk, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.

 

How Do You Know If You’re At Risk?

Pay attention to the most common risk factors for heart disease and be honest with yourself.

Some are medical conditions, based on heredity (family history of heart issues?) and many risk factors are personal lifestyle choices:

  •     Drinking too much alcohol
  •     Eating an unhealthy diet
  •     Lack of physical exercise or activities
  •     Being obese or overweight
  •     Diabetes
  •     High cholesterol
  •     Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy
  •     Pregnancy complications
  •     Mental stress and depression
  •     Menopause
  •     Family history of heart disease

 

Whether you have any of these risk factors or just want to reduce the chances of having heart disease, there are many things you can do:

  • Quit Smoking – Easy to say and tough to do, but there are many remedies and tools on the market to assist you and if you don’t smoke now, don’t start.
  • Annual Physicals – When you are visiting your doctor you can discuss getting a standard blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption – Try to limit yourself to no more than one a day. Everyone might like a glass of wine with dinner and during a game you might end up with more than one or two, but on a regular basis that will definitely raise your risk factors.
  • Check Your Blood Pressure – There are no obvious symptoms for high blood pressure and if uncontrolled it can lead to heart disease, so check it regularly.  Many pharmacies have stations for a quick check.
  • Make Healthy Food Choices – If you look at a national map of heart disease in this country you will see the heaviest concentrations around the southern states, Midwest, and southwest, where diets high in unnatural fat are prevalent.  Eating more fish, chicken, pork, or having a meatless meal once or twice a week will help, and reduce your fried food intake. Get familiar with olive or avocado oils for your salads and cooking, which are far better and healthier than corn or canola oils.
  • Take Aspirin – Doctors often recommend that women over 65 years take a daily 81-milligram aspirin if their risk of digestive bleeding is low and their blood pressure is controlled.  If you are at risk and under 65 it may also be helpful or stroke prevention, but discuss this with your doctor and don’t do it on your own.
  • Take Fish Oil – But be careful. Many fish oil supplements are dirty, damaged oils and won’t give you the support you’re seeking for cardiovascular health. (Here’s a clean one.)
  • Manage Stress Levels – There are a few ways to manage stress in natural and healthy ways, from meditation to yoga to Tai Chi and other exercises.  Find your zen.

Keep in mind that you are not alone if you have been diagnosed with heart disease and it can be easily managed if you commit yourself to eating properly and living a healthy lifestyle.

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