Digestion: It Affects Your Health More Than You Think

The single most reported complaints in all hospital emergency rooms are related to digestive system disorders. The digestive system is the most “stress affected” system in the human body and a big topic in our accredited health program. According to the Drug Topics News Magazine for Pharmacists (October, 2008) in 2008, Americans spent 5 billion dollars on over-the-counter digestive or “stomach” remedies.

It Starts With Education

Wouldn’t it be helpful to understand and educate others on how and why they are suffering from digestive ailments? In the accredited health program, we all know people who eat organic, natural food and are meticulous about the quality and quantity of what they put in their body and yet are sick, tired and plagued with health issues. Then there are others who eat anything and everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, and have energy to burn, not a pimple on their entire body and feel great.

Often, this is the result of the function and efficiency of their individual nervous systems. Those who have an active “sympathetic” nervous system, with the tenth cranial nerve wreaking havoc with their alimentary canal then to struggle. These are the folks that no matter what they eat and how much pure or clean organic food they consume – they just don’t do well and feel unwell much of the time.

For the individual with a well-tuned central nervous system, the digestive system can be a culinary playground that accepts all types of nutrients and food stuffs and produces ample nutrition without upset or illness.

What makes one nervous system different from another, one person’s experience different from another? It has more to do with the unconscious personality of an individual than any other single factor, with the exception of the rare congenital or pathological occurrence.

Demystifying The Nervous System

Just as our machines need electricity to operate, so do our internal organs and cells require electrical impulse to function and operate as well. The degree to which our nervous system is balanced and well-functioning – or not – is the degree to which we are healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in the world. As discussed in our accredited health programs, many healing arts such as acupuncture, yoga postures, meditation, chiropractic, breathing techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and other healing modalities attempt to restore balance to the nervous system as the pathway to improving internal and external bodily function. These methods address the cause of the presenting condition and not just treat the pain or symptom of the bodily malfunction.

Looking more closely at the digestive system and its intimate relationship with the immune system and the nervous system, we can easily follow the pathway of how brain function and the nervous system can create a “whole body” systemic cascade of bodily reactions which overtime lead to chronic illness and disease.

Bringing Stress Into The Mix

Our nervous systems are impacted by stressors; however, stress is not limited to just emotional stress as many believe. Stress includes poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, infection, excess exertion, surgery, trauma and reproduction. When our stresses or anxiety cause our brain to send biochemical messages to our cranial nerves, our digestive systems can be functionally affected. The anxiety and stress decrease our digestive and immune system functions.

The effect of a stressor on the body in the short term can be readily overcome by a healthy, adaptive nervous system. It is the longer-term stress, the chronic ongoing conditions and issues that place wear and tear on our nervous systems and organs and it is this friction or wear and tear that leads to chronic illness.

By understanding the intimate dance of our body’s organs and systems and how to maintain a balanced, healthy nervous system, we can avoid illness and chronic disease and live long, productive and disease-free lives!


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

Addressing Mature Onset Diabetes With A Whole Health Approach

mature onset diabetes, whole health

Whole Health Education promotes new thinking and a plan of action for taking control of your health and wellbeing. Do you ever wonder why, in spite of all your good intentions, you just cannot seem to take control over your health and wellness the way you really want to? The answer to that question can be found in the words of Albert Einstein, who reminded us “you cannot correct a problem with the same thinking that created it.” In other words, you cannot change old behaviors without new information. 

The Institute of Medicine recently published a study that indicates ninety million Americans are “health illiterate,” which means we do not know how to interpret or use health information to control or improve our health, or prevent chronic disease. “Lack of information” was cited as the number one root cause of death. Understanding that there exists a cause and effect relationship between what we know and how we behave, we need a model of integrating this important information to change the behaviors that lead to chronic disease. 

According to a seven-year Harvard Medical School study published in 1996, approximately 70% of all cancers and chronic conditions can be prevented through lifestyle changes. Furthermore, our diseases and conditions are primarily a result of stress, food, environment, attitude, emotions or beliefs that keep us perpetuating behaviors that lead to illness. Are we consciously choosing to be unhealthy, or do we just not understand sufficiently the relationship between what we think, how we behave, what we put into our bodies and how we keep ourselves well or make ourselves sick? 

In a world exploding with health information, especially on the Internet, we are caught in the dilemma of having abundant amounts of information without a context through which we can understand and utilize it in a way that is appropriate for our own unique personal health needs. There is an urgent need for quality health education. Whole Health Education, developed over the past 28 years in cooperation with Boston physicians, nurses and educators, is an approach to health education that can transform our experience of the way we care for ourselves and others. Evaluated in a pilot cardiac rehabilitation hospital trial study in 2002 by Dr. Harvey Zarren at Union Hospital, North Shore Medical Center in Lynn, MA, Whole Health Education integrates evidence-based medical information with the wisdom of various spiritual teachings and a whole person overview of behavioral options. By providing individualized health information that explains the physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual aspects of any health concern, Whole Health Education helps patients discern what information they are lacking about their health, what choices they can make to eliminate or control their health problems, as well as the best care options for their individual needs. It is a common sense approach to becoming our own best friend and personal healer by understanding the cause and effect our behaviors and choices have on our state of health. In this model, we become the center of our health and healing process, rather than the doctors or practitioners we go to for guidance and treatment. 

Adult Diabetes

Mature onset diabetes affects approximately 18.2 million Americans and is the leading health concern in our culture today. As all chronic conditions are, mature onset diabetes is a multi-dimensional disease state. Restoration of health for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes is far more successful when a patient is educated about the many facets of their illness and treatment. 

Physical and Structural 

What happens on a physical and structural level with mature onset diabetes? Our nervous system, brain and the lungs must function with a certain metabolism of sugars within the body. In order to maintain this balance, insulin, a secretion of the pancreas, hooks onto sugar molecules and acts like a lock and key mechanism to bring sugars into the cell to be used as energy in the cycle of cell metabolism. Over time, when a person indulges in eating large amounts of insulin-provoking foods such as sugars and starches in the form of complex carbohydrates, the specialized beta cells of the pancreas which produce insulin can become incapable of producing adequate amounts of this critically necessary secretion. Serious disturbances occur when we do not have enough insulin to carry the sugar over the cell membranes. 

Emotional and Social 

Just as diabetes is a lack of appropriate and balanced nourishment on a chemical/nutritional level, so is it a disease of a lack of emotional nourishment on the psychological level. Current scientific research indicates a dynamic relationship between carbohydrates, overeating and a chemical called serotonin, a neuro-transmitter produced in our bodies that provides a feeling of wellbeing. Serotonin production is increased in the body when we overeat or consume complex, starchy carbohydrates, demonstrating a correlation between our body’s chemistry and emotional state. 

The pancreas is one of the hardest working organs in our body. It is the “end organ” of digestion, providing numerous enzymes and hormones that allow us to assimilate or “take in” the outside world on a very cellular level. The pancreas is also a metaphor for our relationship with others and the world around us, as it literally allows us to take in, integrate and nourish ourselves from the macro to the micro level. In this regard, problems related to the pancreas, or the third chakra, relate to our relationships with self and others and our sense of belonging — the real sweetness of life. The pancreas also correlates with psychologist Abraham Maslow’s third hierarchy, which is the need to belong that connects us with each other, our family and our community or tribal bonds. 

Often when we build our diet around starchy, complex carbohydrates or find ourselves craving them, this can be a way of “self-medicating” our emotional needs by eating foods that lead to increased serotonin levels as compensation for the lack of loving relationships or connections in our lives. Regardless of the emotional motivation, over time excess consumption of starchy complex carbohydrates and overeating can result in the pancreas not working as efficiently as it was designed to. This can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar.) Paradoxically, if we are feeling the ups and downs of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, this may produce feelings of anxiety or apprehension that further undermines our emotional sense of wellbeing, security and self-esteem. The chronic anxiety that stems from these emotions often leads to more self soothing behaviors of overeating and elevated starchy carbohydrate consumption which eventually results in mature onset diabetes. When our feelings of poor self-esteem, a fear of not belonging, or a need for approval and acceptance are dealt with by “medicating” with serotonin producing foods, we are simply treating the symptoms. This masks the underlying emotional cause of diabetes and allows the feeling/feeding cycle to continue. 

Chemical and Nutritional 

The treatment for people with mature onset diabetes is to decrease the stress on the pancreas by making changes in diet — decrease starches and sugars and decrease calories. Eat less, eat right. What kind of a diet would be best for preventing this disease? Vegetables, vegetables, and more vegetables combined with lean proteins such as fish, chicken (for the vegetarian eggs or soy products), water, fruit and necessary healthy fats. For individuals who experience hypo or hyper glycemia, it is wise not to eat processed grains or sugar, which provoke an insulin response, but rather consume sprouted grain products which convert the grain glutens and non-digestible plant sugars into digestible amino acids and maltose. 

Diabetes is an endocrine-related, systemic problem. A systemic condition is a body system problem — you do not just have a condition by itself, but one which affects interdependent body systems. The pancreas is related, through hormone interaction, to the adrenals, which in turn feed regulatory information back to the pituitary, thyroid and thymus glands, ultimately affecting the immune system. This chemical/nutritional interdependence is what makes diabetes such a serious health concern overall. 

Environmental: Internal and External 

The environments that we work in, live in or pass through daily have a significant impact on the way we feel about ourselves and in our bodies. Dr. Maslow brilliantly pointed out that human beings are herd animals — interdependent beings who seek the safety and comfort of the tribe. Belonging, being a part of a family or faith community are important needs of all human beings. When we are living or working in environments that do not value us, do not reflect back to us our contributions or embrace us as belonging to the group, we suffer from alienation and a sense of loss which can in turn lead to self-soothing behaviors such as starchy carbohydrate over consumption, smoking, drugs or alcohol abuse. Likewise, we must be able to slow down and listen to what our body’s internal environment is telling us, such as when we have eaten too much or too little of certain foods, when we need to rest, relax and take time for self-care. When we choose to ask questions about what might be the unconscious cause of our behaviors — either emotional or physical — we can process this information to liberate unwanted unconscious conditioning. 

One of my patients recently had a transformational experience using this listening exercise. A devoted environmentalist, Linda would become angry and upset whenever she saw someone throwing away bottles or cans instead of placing them in available recycle bins. She would pick up the discarded container and boldly put it in the recycle bin, glaring at the offending stranger as she did this. Unfortunately, her anger and frustration would leave her with an emotional and physical “hangover” — upset stomach, aching head and a strong desire for chocolates and anything starchy. In facilitating Linda’s process of understanding her pattern, she was invited to explore the question, “What does it feel like when I see someone ignore recycling efforts?” The answer surprised Linda because what she felt was that she, personally, was not being valued or respected. She was able to trace the feelings back to having her “Earth Mother” values mocked in high school, not only by her peers but by her siblings as well. She was then able to understand why she reached for chocolate, which contains phenylalanine, an amino acid our brains produce when we are feeling loved and satisfied. This is the reason chocolate has long been associated with Valentine’s Day, because of its biochemical mimicking of the “love protein.” 

Spiritual and World View 

It is said that there is only one disease: the disease which comes from separating oneself from the awareness that we are one tribe, one family. When we lose our connectedness to one another, competition becomes commonplace. Competition creates isolation, and isolation leads to dis-ease. The spiritual challenge presented by hypoglycemia and diabetes appears to involve our need to belong to the tribe, and how we choose to behave towards ourselves and others. The drama that is creating the one-up or one-down dynamics of our highly competitive, materialistic society can lead to the self-soothing and behavioral issues which contribute to the development of mature onset diabetes. 

The renowned anthropologist and writer, Joseph Campbell, stated that, “all human beings have three essential questions they seek answers to: Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Where do I go when I die?” Our attempts to answer these questions form our worldview, our spirituality or faith in the unknown. Faith requires trust in the unseen and provides us with a tool that puts order in our universe and allows us to formulate purpose and meaning for our lives. 

How do we learn to trust in this mysterious order of the universe? Various ancient spiritual teachings suggest we can achieve this state through trusting the order of our inner universe. We do this by setting boundaries — codes of conduct regarding how we are going to behave, eat, work, exercise and live. If we do not violate our own boundaries, we are less likely to violate others’ boundaries or to let anyone else violate ours. Krishna’s ancient dictum — “The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself” — gives us affirmation that when we heal ourselves we heal the world. 


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

Are You Using Integrative Medicine For Better Healing?

Are You Using Integrative Medicine For Better Healing?

There is no doubt that today more and more people are turning to integrative medicine and alternative modalities for their health concerns and disease prevention. This popular movement, winning one out of every two American consumers as converts, may seem to some like a new idea or a “health revolution.” In reality, it is a return to a period in time, over 400 years ago, when health was seen from a more whole person, integrated and even spiritual perspective.

Until the early 1600’s, the realm of human health was believed to represent a person’s spiritual state. If one was healthy, that meant they bore no demons. If one was sick, that meant they needed to purge sickness, which was seen as a “possession” or a spiritual incorrectness that had to be remedied. The prevailing church of the day, ruled by the Vatican, exerted a huge influence over the medical community and how people viewed the cause and cure of their disease.

In 1612, Rene Descartes, a powerful, influential physician and scientist, declared “I think, therefore I am.” He held that the mind and body were two separate, unrelated parts of a human being. Descartes led the political movement to separate the body from the soul, a separation in which he and his peers literally brokered a deal with the Vatican, which was reluctant to give up control over its flock. However, the “scientific revolution” was gripping the culture and the church knew it was prudent to agree. Thus, the division of the mind and body began and the practice of medicine started down the slippery slope to where we find ourselves today.

Since this division set up a medical system that treated only physical health, it became considered, by the mass majority, that this form of medicine was the only legitimate form of healthcare. However, over the course of the past 50 years people have grown sicker and increasingly dissatisfied with the medical system. This led to an increase in the use of “untried” remedies and treatments, which offered success and often cures for varied ailments. This “alternative medicine” attempts to address the whole person rather than just the physical body. Because of the success of alternative medicine, and the resultant popularity, we are currently experiencing a renaissance of the “whole-person” body, mind and spirit approach to healing.

Today, thanks to the internet, we have more information about every aspect of health than ever before. Still, there exists confusion between allopathic medicine and integrative medicine regarding how their treatment approaches differ and how one can discern what is right for their particular need or condition. By comparing and contrasting both approaches individuals can be empowered with information to make an educated decision about how they would like to address their personal healthcare and what forms they would like to incorporate.

Often called modern medicine, conventional or traditional, allopathic medicine defines health as the absence of disease, disorder or problem. This is most often attained by administering drugs or surgery that produce the opposite effect of the problem.

In allopathic medicine, the main cause of illness is considered to be viruses or bacteria. Scientific tests are used to diagnose before drugs or surgery are prescribed. Furthermore, the emphasis here is more on “attacking the problem,” which is seen as an invader or enemy outside the self, rather than exploring the cause and effect of the problem and working to identify what needs to be changed or altered to bring about the return of health.

On the opposite spectrum, alternative, natural, complementary or holistic medicine addresses the problem or condition from a focus of identifying what particular choices or behaviors the individual might be making that are leading to the expression of symptoms collectively called their “disease or diagnosis.”

In contrast, because integrative medicine bridges the gap between traditional and alternative medicine, an integrative physician or practitioner would evaluate not only the patient’s physical health, but also the other aspects of their life that may be influencing their health. Scientific evidence and ancient teachings have proven that there are multiple components to health that make up a whole person, therefore, illness cannot be cured or wellness realized without taking multiple aspects into account.

For example, a traditional allopathic approach to a sore throat could include a drug substance or over the counter aspirin and possibly a cough and sore throat medicine. The integrative medical practitioner trained to stimulate the body’s healing potential, may prescribe nutritional changes, herbs, aromatherapy, gargling with various natural extracts, vitamins, garlic, broths, vegetable juice or extracts, calcium sources or homeopathic remedies.

The options we are offered today through Integrative Medicine invite us to become more proactive and better informed as health care consumers. This empowers us to take greater control over our health outcomes and longevity. That’s a prescription for good health we can all live with.


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

 

Six Immediate Steps To Improve Your Relationships

Six Immediate Steps To Improve Your Relationships

Making your relationships more fulfilling for you as well as for the important people in your life is easier than you might think. Most of us simply forget what makes a good relationship, yet we know what it feels like when one of our relationships isn’t going well. Often, improving any aspect of your life is a matter of being reminded what the tried and true behaviors are that create happy relationships. Here are six easy-to-remember and even easier-to-do steps you can take right now to improve your friendships, family dynamics and even interactions with co-workers:

1. Respect Everyone

Respecting someone means to literally accept them for who they are and how they choose to think, feel and live. We cannot change others, and it is futile and even presumptuous of us to try. By accepting others and meeting them in a respectful way, we save ourselves needless frustration. No one wants to be told who to be or how to live; and the sooner you apply this principal, the sooner you improve your relationships.

2. Practice Kindness

Kindness is one of the most attractive qualities in anyone. Even more attractive is when a person thinks and feels that all others are worthy of their consideration and kindness and treats others with mutuality and compassion. People notice kindness and know when someone is caring. This is easy to do if you treat other people the way you would treat anyone you truly care about.

3. Be Happy For Others

In the highly competitive, often dog-eat-dog environments many of us work and live in, we can develop an attitude that if “we don’t have ours” than “no one else should have his.” This is an unhealthy and unsuccessful attitude that doesn’t allow us to celebrate for others and invite them into celebrating for us when we have success or an achievement. Good wishes toward others result in good wishes for us.

4. Release Resentments

When we hold onto anger or resentment toward others, we end up doing more harm to ourselves than to them. Anger and resentment make us sick and chains us to the events or circumstances that hurt us. This does not allow us to move on in life, and it lessens the love and kindness we can be experiencing and sharing with others. It leaves us in turmoil about something in the past.

5. Do The Small Things

Think back to your most tender and memorable moments with the important people in your life. You will probably find that those moments were filled not with expensive, larger-than-life gifts, events or experiences, but rather with small, meaningful gifts, gestures and shared experiences. While you cannot do special things for everyone in your life, the people who are most important will really appreciate it if you show them how important they are to you with the small things that mean so much.

6. Follow the Golden Rule

There is a saying that we should never expect others to give us what we are not willing to give to them. The Golden Rule is a simple one: Give to others what you want the most for yourself. If you want to be loved, love others. If you want success, than provide service or value for others. This is an easy and simple rule and best of all, it works.

For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

3 Expert Ways To Feel Happier

 

3 expert ways to feel happier every day

We all want to be happy. Yet few of us know how to achieve happiness on a day-to-day basis. We may be happy when something wonderful happens; but if something not-so-wonderful happens, we can easily find ourselves feeling angry, depressed, disappointed or just plain unhappy. This blog will share three expert ways to feel happier every day.

Simplicity

The first tip is to keep it simple. Health Coaches know that there are simple things we can all do to develop our skills for becoming and remaining happy in spite of whatever may be going on around us or that might befall us. That is not to say that we should not be concerned or sad if someone we love is ill or that we should not react to losing our job or having the landlord sell our apartment building for condo development.

But by developing and strengthening our “happiness muscle,” we can maintain our happiness and bounce back from adversity easier and faster.

Here is a simple yet powerful tool we can all apply daily to help us find a balance point with all the ups and downs that we find ourselves dealing with.

Keeping Track Of Gratitude

Start writing down every day the specific things you are grateful for. A 2003 gratitude study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Robert Emmons of the University of California and Michael McCullough of the University of Florida, showed that when we keep track through journaling about or making lists of what we are grateful for every day, we experience a higher reported level of the positive states — alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy — compared to people who journal or write down negative interactions, complaints or grievances.

Help Others

Positive journaling also results in the reaching out to others and helping those in need. During the time the study was being conducted, each of the participants continued to help others in less fortunate circumstances on a weekly basis. This, in turn, connected the participants to a fulfilling experience of giving and receiving compassion and caring.

Caring for others also translated into a greater sense of caring for themselves for the participants and brought about a sustained sense of happiness or contentment even when less desirable events occurred.

We can develop our happiness skills and happiness sustainability by focusing on being grateful for the positive things in our lives every day and by focusing less on the things we may want but don’t have. This makes us more compassionate of others and well as of ourselves.


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

The Secret To Reducing Stress: Balancing Life

The Secret To Reducing Stress: A Balanced Life

A statement by the well-known mind/body physician, Herb Benson, M.D. says that 60-90% of all visits to the doctor’s office are due to stress. We all hear about stress, experience stress, but what exactly is stress? Most of us think of stress as the emotional conflicts we experience in our daily lives, but our emotions are just one category or one type of “event” that can cause us to experience stress.

In order for us to survive in our ever-changing environments, our bodies are designed to adapt and it does so through a series of biochemical reactions. These chemical reactions are natural and necessary, but they are the wear and tear of living that we call stress.

Here’s an example I like to share in relations to because it gives a clear vision of this principle. When I was living in New York City, I drove my little stick shift through the stop and go traffic. Imagine the wear and tear (stress) on the clutch.

There are many events that might cause similar stress to our bodies. Some may surprise you.

  • Weather
  • Excess Exertion (such as too much exercise or lack of sleep)
  • Trauma or Injuries
  • Allergies and Immune Insults
  • Infections
  • Reproduction Related Events (monthly cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, etc.)

While the common nature of these events does not sound encouraging, there is some good news. If we have a stress response that is short term, like when the phone rings and the nurse tells you that your child had been vomiting, our bodies do just fine.

It is the prolonged stress, like anticipating for two whole weeks a root canal or that pesky “annual office evaluation.” That does us in! This extended stress affects our digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular and even reproductive systems. Couple this with poor eating habits or insufficient sleep, and we are not happy campers.

While excessive or chronic stress is definitely not good for our health, we need stress adaptation for survival, so it is actually a very good thing. How this adaptation takes place is by way of specialized hormones from our adrenal glands, located in our kidneys. They change our heart rate, blood pressure, lung capacity, and a host of other functions, for our survival. However, these hormones, if secreted too much or too often can suppress our immune, digestive and reproductive systems and even damage our cardiovascular system. Chronic stress is one very large reason why some of us have fertility problems.

So how can we make friends with stress? The answer is good old moderation. Remember being told “all things in moderation leads to a healthy body.” It is true. We do not have to learn to do anything exotic to reduce stress, we just need to balance our lives and avoid excess.

Nevertheless, there is the rub, given modern life. We are all excessing more and more and moderating less. For a great book on this subject, check out Why Zebras Don’t Have Ulcers by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. It is a very witty and informative book. Laugher, as we know, is “our best medicine.” It is also a great stress reducer.

 


For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

 

How You Can Shape Meaningful Relationships In the Workplace

How You Can Shape Meaningful Relationships In the Workplace

Some of us may not realize just how important it is to shape meaningful relationships in the workplace. Without the support or cooperation of those with whom we spend a significant amount of our time, our job performance and certainly our work satisfaction can suffer. Several studies have shown that difficult office relationships impair performance and decrease morale even more seriously than rumors of employee layoffs.

Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours working. And as a result, we spend the majority of our time with our co-workers. Just as with other people in our lives with whom we interact on a regular basis, our co-workers need to be viewed as important and essential parts of our “life support” group. Cultivating respectful, considerate relationships with our co-workers is good for our health and our work performance. It creates a positive and friendly environment where we spend a majority of our time.

Here are some easy ways to make the work environment nicer, friendlier and more positive place:

Avoid gossiping: No one wants to be gossiped about. If you don’t gossiping about others, your co-workers will get the message that you do not wish to “stir the stink” about them and they will respect your integrity and treat you likewise. If someone starts to gossip with you, simply respond: “Really?” Then change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation. Reducing gossip effectively enhances the work environment and your reputation.

Show genuine interest: One of the nicest experiences is having someone show interest in the things that interest us. It makes us feel valued and builds rapport and trust. If you are aware of co-worker’s interests and happen to run across something pertaining to those subjects, giving them information or helpful articles can really make their day and enhance your working relationships.

Give credit where credit is due: Embrace the win-win attitude and always give credit where credit is due. If people have worked hard and made a huge contribution to a project, they should be recognized and applauded for their efforts. Nothing is more uplifting than being recognized for our contributions and the value we bring to our work. By supporting and appreciating co-workers, you create for them and for yourself a cooperative and trustworthy environment that encourages them to continue to do their best.

Competition can be healthy, but not when it results in giving credit to the wrong people or not recognizing excellence in others.


For more life-changing, whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolution With Mindful Eating

Accomplish Your New Years Resolution With Mindful Eating

I love what Geneen Roth has to say about our relationship with food and how it reflects our relationship with ourselves.  In my over thirty years as a clinical nutritionist, I have observed, like Geneen, that we feed ourselves the same way we live our lives. The way of mindful eating is that our eating patterns and nutrition, like adaptation and survival, are critical components of our ability to live and thrive. Accomplish your New Year’s resolution, such as improving your health or losing weight, with mindful eating.

The Source Of The Challenge

In spite of the fact that the food we eat has such a significant impact on our whole being and quality of life, most of us are wildly confused about nutrition. This is especially true today because this basic necessity has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, selling us foods and nutrition related goods our parents didn’t need or know about. 

“In the old days”, food was produced more naturally with less processing, lifestyles were less complicated and decidedly less stressful.  Remember how we said we would never grow up to be like our parents? We may want to rethink that – they are the healthiest and wealthiest generation ever!  Nutrition has become a big health issue because of poor quality food, soaring stress levels and our lack of exercise.  “The balanced diet” –the tried and true standard for good nutrition has been pushed aside for every conceivable variation on what and how to eat.

Some of this new information is quite useful and lots of it appeals to our vanity or desire to avoid taking the long look at what Geneen Roth refers to as “being present to our food and our lives.” If we are present, we realize that moderation and balance (just like with stress!) is the way to go.  Our foods are chemicals and can affect our emotions as well as our bodies.

A Grainy Example

An example of this is excess grain consumption. Human beings do not produce enzymes to break down cellulose, the outer protective layer of grain.  Many animals like cows and horses can eat grain in its natural state without a problem. If we attempted that, we would injure our mouths and esophagus, so we alter the grain from its natural state to flour, in order to consume it.  We think we can eat whatever, so we get creative and bake, fry, boil, etc. this processed grain into “food.” 

Unfortunately, the majority of us do not tolerate the protein gluten found in most grains.  Gluten can damage and weaken the lining of our gut, leading to all kinds of problems, which can include eating disorders, obesity and depression. Humans are also the only mammals that continue to consume milk after weaning, and it’s breast milk from another species at that. 

When we are experiencing mindful eating, we become aware of our body’s responses to what we put into it.  That requires slowing down, which is what our nervous systems have to do for our digestion to work properly. Stress is “anti-nutritious” because during stress our ability to deal with the “emergency” at hand.  Stress also significantly increases the need for certain nutrients, which are critical for the stress response. Protein, Vitamins A, B, C, and E, unsaturated fatty acids and minerals need to be replenished.

Moving Forward Mindfully

How we can improve our nutrition and discern what is best for us? We can observe why and how we eat, what feedback our bodies give us and consider the always prudent common sense approach of balance and moderation.  We are living beings, we need to eat living food.  The good news is you can eat all the fruits, vegetables, salads, veggie soups and stews you want (barring allergies) and you can’t go wrong!

 

For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

 

 

What Causes The Cycle of Emotional Eating?

What Causes The Cycle of Emotional Eating?

Thanks to the work of M.I.T. professor Judith Wurtman, PhD, and others we now understand the significant role that a neurotransmitter or "chemical messenger" called serotonin plays in producing our cravings for complex carbohydrates and sugars, two of the largest contributors to unhealthy weight gain.

Serotonin and other neurotransmitters are produced by our bodies as "feel good" hormones. Under stress, we do not have enough of these hormones and we become motivated to "self-soothe" by behaviors that lead to the increase in serotonin. Overeating carbohydrates and fatty rich foods or "comfort foods" such as cookies, ice cream, and other "treats" significantly increases these hormones. Many addictions such as smoking, drinking alcohol and abusing drugs are also attempts to self soothe and increase serotonin, but no other addictive or unhealthy behavior is as socially accepted and as easily available as overeating. We can do it anywhere, anytime, alone or with company. It is no wonder we have such a love affair with eating.

In addition, the body’s need for certain nutrients, specifically protein, Vitamins A, C and E, unsaturated fatty acids, cholesterol and minerals skyrockets when we are "adapting" under stress. Often, if we do not stop the stress cycle or appropriately supplement these vital nutrients, we can turn to overeating to satisfy the body's demand for the fuel it needs to keep dealing with the stress we are experiencing.

For a period of time, foods that comfort, soothe or supplement can make us feel calmer until our level of serotonin drops again or until we become more exhausted and need to feed ourselves once more. Then we start the cycle all over and consume more carbohydrates and rich, fatty food to stabilize our blood sugar level and brain function until we feel better again.

This is the cycle of self-medication or self-soothing practiced in homes, offices, restaurants, automobiles and yes, even in bathrooms across America. The long-term effect of such behaviors, apart from obesity and escalating chronic diseases, is that our nervous systems are being hyper-stimulated. Anxiety, exhaustion, depression, overeating and insomnia are just a few of the symptoms we experience when our nervous systems are working on overload.

As a result, it is no wonder that within the last few years, low carbohydrate diets have proven effective for so many people. Approximately 20% of Americans, or 20 million people, are currently on low carbohydrate diets. For many of us, our stress level is a major factor in the over-consumption of carbohydrates; therefore reducing or eating normal amounts of carbohydrates is spawning weight loss. However, this is the real issue: How long can we reduce our carbohydrate loading without reducing our stress levels and the behaviors that create elevated stress in the first place?

For more whole health discussions like this, listen to my weekly radio show Living Above The Drama available on iHeartRadio.

Preventing Conflict During The Holiday Season

avoiding conflict during the holiday season

The December Holidays are just around the corner. Some say, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Or is it? For many of us, the holiday visits back home to family members is something to be dreaded. While we look forward to the pleasure of celebrating these festive times, there is also the memory of past conflicts and the real possibility of new confrontations that we find ourselves anxious to avoid. We can tell ourselves that this is the year we will not get stressed out or upset with visits to or from our families. This is what we strive for yet, most often, not how things turn out. Here are some strategies for avoiding conflict during the holidays.

In is common, according to Dr. Jeffrey Fine, Ph.D., Director of the American Foundation for Conscious Parenting that our families can be “a breeding ground for repressed resentments and hostilities left over from childhood. “We might anticipate that once we have grown up and moved away to create our own lives and families that these feeling would diminish but, as many of us experience, unfortunately they do not.

One potential solution to transforming the holidays from stressful to joyful is the application of identified communication skills that have been researched and shown to facilitate changing difficult relationships. Behavioral Engagement is a 12-step set of communication skills that has been the subject of hospital pilot studies over a 32-year period.

The outcomes of these pilots showed the participants experienced a significant improvement in their relational outlook and attitude after interacting with the communication skills model.  Originally developed to enhance relationships between doctors, nurses and patients, the model was also applied and studied with business and family relationships.

James Prochaska, PhD, renowned researcher on behavior change and author of “Change for Good – the Six Stages of Transtheoretical Change” says of Behavioral Engagement that “The process of Behavioral Engagement has the potential to transform relationships that are suffering or struggling to ones that are thriving!”

Generally, one of the most recommended approaches to staving off holiday conflicts is to “try and accept family members or friends as they are.” Unfortunately, this good intention can be easily side-lined without specific communications skills that can help keep us on track.

Step by Step Behavioral Engagement

The 12-Step Model of Behavioral Engagement that Dr. Prochaska endorses offers specific, easy to learn, communication skills that have been proven effective in changing conflicted relationships into compatible relationships based on the understanding that we all want to be valued, respected and listened to.

The steps are based on physical, psychological, hormonal and neurological aspects of human relationships and communication. They start with the understanding that while we cannot change others’ behavior, we can change our own behavior in how we relate to others, which can result in a transformative outcome for all participants.

We can do so by using specific, simple communication skills and following the steps that have been shown to be effective in creating greater receptivity and generating more positive emotions in relationships that have previously been conflicted or stressful.

If you have experienced or are anticipating challenging relationships during the holidays, you may wish to apply these easy steps and see if they can assist you in having happier and even healthier holidays.

Step One – Be physically comfortable when communicating. This removes discomfort that can distract providing your full attention to the person you are speaking with. Distractions reduce your focus on the person you are speaking with, which decreases receptivity, which sends the message that you may not be listening to them, which can flame the fire of resentment.

Step Two –Understanding what you want. Our intentions are powerful behavior motivators. Understanding what we want from an exchange with another can assist us in communicating more clearly our thoughts and feeling, inviting greater understanding and intimacy. Example – “I really want to understand what you are upset about.”

Step Three – Centered Body Posture. Uncross arms and legs, present open, receptive body language. To send the message that you are respecting the conversation and giving the other person your fully attention, do not play with your watch, glasses, hair or continually look away from the person you are speaking with. Committing to being focused is an important element in communication and sends the message that you value your time with the other person. We can all feel when someone values being with or speaking to us. 

Step Four – Sustained, Soft Eye Contact has been scientifically proven to stimulate oxytocin which opens emotional centers of the brain and enhances trust and feelings of love and intimacy.

Step Five – Respectful Inquiry. Asking rather than telling or directing, and using “I” statements rather than “you” statements, creates a safe, non-judgmental environment for the other person to communicate openly.

Step Six – Responsiveness. By using appropriate responses, such as facial expressions, smiling, head nodding and so forth, indicates you are responding to and understanding what the other is saying without interrupting or interjecting. This acknowledges the value you have for their communication.

Step Seven – Pauses between responses, allowing for silence between statements. Instead of immediately speaking as soon as the other person is finished, allowing for appropriate silence when someone has shared a thought or feeling with you is an important part of the experience of being respectfully listened to. It is also a component of being truly present to them.

Step Eight – Non-Judgment. By not allowing your unspoken mental and emotional judgments to invade your attention, you eliminate the unconscious communication that is sent through subtle and gross body language. Unconscious, non-verbal body language is something most of us pick up immediately. They can make or break your communication and relationships within your family.

Step Nine – Leave the ego at the door. Eliminate the push-pull or power struggle of previous relationship interactions by letting go of taking control of the communication and allow for equity between you and the other individual.

Step Ten – Re-Centering when you start to lose focus. Mentally repeating simple words that you identify as prompts to get you back to the focus of the conversation is a quick and effective way to get yourself re-centered in the exchange. Example: “back to focus” or “get-centered”.

Step Eleven – Collaborative mindset. Working towards having a win-win outcome eliminates conflict and improves the quality of the relationship in both the short term and for the long term.

Step Twelve – Sacredness of Relationship – Sacredness means “worthy of respect”. When we are aware of appropriate verbal and behavioral boundaries within our communications, we hold the other person in high esteem and create fulfilling, lasting relationships.

When dealing with family holiday conflicts, it can be helpful to try these simple, proven communications skills, but also to reflect on the wisdom of the question – “would you rather be loved than be right?” Often when we select love over being in control or being right, then our relationships shift for the better.

You can download a free excerpt of the book on Behavioral Engagement by visiting www.changingbehavior.org

 

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