Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt To Stress

Your Adrenal Glands And Their Amazing Ability To Adapt 

The ability for a human being to adapt to its environment and to deal with the many ongoing and changes it faces is the hallmark of a healthy body. That we can withstand day to day events that challenge our nervous system, and subsequently our immune system, is a reflection that our body is working very efficiently. This all comes back to your adrenal glands and their ability to adapt.

Understanding the connection between how events affect our stress adaptation system, primarily the adrenal glands, and how the adrenal's hyper-secretions under stress can create havoc with the digestive and immune systems is important. This allows us to make informed lifestyle choices that will preserve and respect our body and our long term health.

Variations In Stress

Most of us do not know what stressors are. We tend towards the idea that emotional upset is what constitutes stress. However, there are 12 major categories of stress that can impact our body and health. Unfortunately, we are subject to these stressors on a regular basis.

A stressor is any activity or event that requires the body to change or adapt in order to maintain its homeostasis, or balance. Therefore, it becomes essential to know the factors we must be mindful of in order to keep our stress levels in check.

Below is a list of the stressors to be aware of in your day to day life:

  • Weather (exposure to hot or cold)
  • Sleep and Rest (specifically, not getting enough)
  • Infection or Silent Inflammation  
  • Allergies (all types)
  • Dental or Medical Procedures and Surgeries
  • Reproduction  (for women: menstrual cycle, pregnancy, breast feeding, menopause)
  • Sexual Activity
  • Nutrition  (too many calories or non-nutritious food) 
  • Exertion and Exercise (too much or not enough)
  • Trauma (any form)
  • Fear, Anxiety, Worry  (ongoing)
  • Loss or grief

By keeping your stress level low, you will reduce wear and tear on your body parts that, in the long term, can lead to chronic illness and disease. It is not the stress itself that makes you sick, but the ongoing wear on the body that causes dysfunction and dis-ease.

Healthy Habits, Healthy Life

There are many ways to reduce stress and maintain a balanced nervous system. While the list is endless here are some of the most popular ways to do so: (1) Exercise regularly. (2) Listen to soothing music. (3) Practice Yoga. (4) Participate in sports. (5) Tend a garden.

Each person finds their best way to relax and de-stress. It is something we all need to do on a regular basis to balance or nervous systems and stay healthy!

 

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How Reducing Your Stress Can Aid Digestion And Prevent Disease

How Reducing Your Stress Can Prevent Illness

Understanding the connection between brain function, cranial nerves, digestion and immune functions illuminates how and why dysfunction and “dis-ease” occur in the body. Just as our machines need electricity to operate, so do our internal organs and cells require electrical impulses to function. The degree to which your nervous system is balanced and well-functioning – or not – is the degree to which you are healthy and able to function at maximum capacity in the world. This is how reducing your stress can aid digestion and prevent disease.

Many healing arts such as acupuncture, yoga postures, meditation, chiropractic, breathing techniques, biofeedback, hypnosis, EMDR and others 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, rather than just treating the pain or symptom of the bodily malfunction. 

Exploring The Body Systems 

By 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 over time lead to chronic illness and disease. Our nervous systems are impacted by stressors; however, stress is not limited to just the emotional realm as many believe. The topic of stressors and adrenal function are explored more deeply in other blogs.

For now, keep in mind that when our stress or anxiety causes our limbic system to send biochemical messages to our cranial nerves, our digestive systems can be functionally affected. The anxiety and stress increases our adrenal function output, and this increase of adrenal hormones and steroids in turn decreases our digestive and immune system functions.

A written schematic would look like this:

Stressor = A limbic system response and/or increased adrenal cortisol secretion. = Decreased digestive function thru sympathetic cranial nerves (vagus nerve) and decreased immune (bone marrow) function.

Overcoming The Effects Of Stress

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 stress–the chronic ongoing conditions and issues–that place wear and tear on our nervous systems and organs. It is this friction or wear and tear 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 reduce stress to aid digestion and avoid illness or chronic disease, and to live long, productive and disease free lives!

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Social Behavior And An Unhealthy Work Environment

social media at work

When most of us think of an unhealthy work environment we think "sick building syndrome," difficult co-workers or the classic "boss from hell."

After attending a conference that was populated by a number of staffing agency directors, I received insight into the latest unhealthy work issue that is gaining the attention of a lot of organizations. OFBTM – Obsessive Facebook and Text Messaging while on the clock. It is becoming such a concern to some employees that more and more companies are having their computer networks re-tooled to block Facebook from being accessible from the office computers.

Unbecoming Habits

How much of a problem is it that a significant number of those raised on electronic communication and networking cannot stop checking their Facebook and Text Messaging while they are being paid to do the job tasks required of them? That employers are noticing and concerned about this trend affecting their productivity and even their bottom line, says something important about immediate communication impulse and what is being called "the narcissistic tendency" we are developing as a culture.

The focus and integrity to attend to the job we are expected to perform as well as the ability or willingness not to pay attention to ourselves when we are getting paid to be working, seems to be lacking today more than ever before. Cell phones, e-mails, text messages, social networking, Facebook and other electronic forms of communication have begun to hold our attention prisoner, even when we are on the job. Not only is this unfair to the individual or organization paying our salary, but it also sends up a red flag about how we are growing more and more self-absorbed as a culture.

Social Media And Health 

Can someone be healthy when they are overly concerned about the moment to moment activities of their lives? There are (most commonly in humor columns) reported Facebook posts by individuals who literally record every minor thought and event of their day, posting them publically for all their friends and fans to read. Is it true that we are becoming a narcissistic society unable to pull ourselves away from the details of our lives? Is the problem so invasive that we no longer put in "an honest day's work"?

Health is made up of many things. Being productive, making a contribution, working hard and enjoying what you do are all pieces of a healthy lifestyle. If social networking and electronic communication is pulling you further away from a balanced and healthy work life, it may be time to unplug and unlink.

Present, Productive, and Fulfilled

Finding fulfillment and feeling commitment about what we do in our work, as well as how we do the work, is an important part of being a productive, contributory, healthy, happy individual. 

Excessive electronic communication can not only be self-centering but can also distract us from other essential aspects that are part of a balances life. It’s something to consider.

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Learn The Secret To Taking Control Of Your Health And Wellness

Learn The Secret To Taking Control Of Your Health Today

Do you ever wonder why, in spite of all your good intentions, you just cannot seem to take control over your whole health and wellness? The answer to that question can be found in the words of Albert Einstein, who reminds us "you cannot correct a problem with the same thinking that created it." In other words, you cannot change old behaviors and overcome old obstacles without new information.

The Institute of Medicine recently published a study indicating that 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. Data compiled previously identified "lack of information 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, 1996 Harvard Medical School study, approximately 70% of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes. Furthermore, our diseases and conditions are primarily a result of stress, food, environment, attitude, emotions or beliefs that keep us in behaviors that lead to illness. Which invites the question, 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 this information in a way that is appropriate for our own unique personal health needs. There is, however, good news. Making its way into the mainstream of health care is an integrated model of health information and education that provides a "whole picture of health" perspective, allowing each of us to discern and create our own unique approach to taking charge of our health and well-being. Whole Health Education, developed over the past 28 years, in cooperation with Boston physicians, nurses and educators, is an approach to understanding the cause and effect our behaviors and choices have on our state of health. Demystifying the five major factors that influence how sick or well we become, Whole Health Education provides a perspective on human anatomy and physiology, bio-chemistry, psycho-social, environmental and spiritual aspects which allow for an authentic understanding of what we need to know to resolve chronic health problems or to stay healthy.

Integrating evidence-based information with the wisdom of various spiritual teachings and a whole-person overview of behavioral options, Whole Health Education offers each of us a tool for personal health management by providing personalized health information that explains the physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual aspects of a health concern.

For example, 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; the unique Whole Health perspective can facilitate the restoration of health for those with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Physical/Structural

What happens on a physical and structural level with Mature Onset Diabetes? The specialized beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin, become incapable of producing adequate amounts of the critically necessary secretion. This happens over a period of years and can begin in our bodies, over time, by eating large amounts of insulin-provoking foods. These insulin provocateurs, which are sugars and starches in the form of complex carbohydrates, require the pancreas to produce more insulin so that the sugars can be carried over the cell membranes to all parts of the body. Serious disturbances occur when we do not have enough insulin to carry the sugar over the cell membranes. Insulin hooks onto the sugar molecule and acts like a lock and key mechanism to bring that sugar into the cell, where it is then used in the energy cycle of cell metabolism. The nervous system, brain and the lungs cannot function without the proper metabolism of sugars.

Emotional/Social

Just as diabetes is a lack of nourishment on a chemical/nutritional level, so is it a lack of emotional nourishment on an emotional/mental level. It relates to the "feel good" nourishment component of your body. What do we know about carbohydrates and serotonin? Carbohydrates provoke the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that produces a feeling of well-being. There is a direct relationship between what our body is doing chemically and how we feel emotionally. When we crave or build our diet around carbohydrates, this can be a way of "self-medicating" our emotional needs by eating carbohydrates to provoke insulin production.

Sugar problems can affect us emotionally. Let's say you have a pancreas that is not working properly. What can happen somatic-psychically from the pancreas to the brain? If we are feeling the ups and downs of hypoglycemia, and its biochemical/neurological symptoms, it may undermine our sense of security, self-esteem, and produce anxiety and fear.

What is the emotional component of diabetes and the pancreas? Often, it can be a poor sense of self-esteem and a fear of not being "good enough" or not belonging. These feelings, medicated by the serotonin foods, can lead us to not look deeply enough into what is causing our health concerns and allow the feeling/feeding cycle to continue.

Chemical/Nutritional

On the nutritional side, the treatment for people with Mature Onset Diabetes is to decrease the stress on the pancreas by making changes in their diet — decrease starches and sugars and decrease calories. Eat less, eat right. What kind of a diet would be best for preventing Mature Onset Diabetes? Vegetables, vegetables, and vegetables combined with lean proteins such as fish, chicken, water, a little fruit and a little fat. In a hypoglycemic situation, it is wise not to eat grain or sugar, but sprouted grain bread and other substitutes can be healthy and satisfying.

Because hormones are chemicals, diabetes and hypoglycemia are both hormonal-based problems. What we know about the hormone system is that it works as a balanced interdependent system. Diabetes is an endocrine-related, systemic problem. With a systemic problem like diabetes, you have a body system problem–you do not just have a condition by itself. It is known that the pancreas is related, through hormone interaction, to the adrenals, and the adrenals are in turn related to the reproductive system. It is known that these glands are related through hormone interactions to the pituitary and the pituitary is related to the thyroid gland, the thyroid is related to the thymus, and the thymus is related to the immune system.

Environmental/Internal & External

The environment that we work in, live in, walk through, and/or live near  can have an impact on the way that we feel and the way we feel about ourselves. How do we learn to trust in the order of the universe? By behaviors that come from trusting the order inside ourselves. We do this by setting boundaries — codes of conduct of how we are going to behave, eat, work exercise and live. If we don't violate our own boundaries, we are less likely to let anybody else violate our boundaries. We have to start with ourselves. Our experience of victimization can begin with our own self-victimizing behavior.

Spiritual/World View

A Hindu Vendata truth is that "the whole world is one family." It is said that there is only one disease, the disease of separateness, separating oneself from the awareness that we are one living organism. Competition creates isolation. The spiritual challenge presented by hypoglycemia and diabetes appears to be involved with over- or under-valuing the self: judgment of self and then others. Where are we in the process of getting to the truth that we are all equally important? The drama created by a one-up or one-down dynamic that we may allow to be part of our experience can lead to psychophysiology and the behavioral issues which can contribute to and create Mature Onset Diabetes.

Expanding your knowledge of whole health can transform your experience of taking care of yourself. It can provide an understanding of our health concerns and conditions from this multi-dimensional perspective that makes sense in a way we can utilize the information directly and in a meaningful way. In addition, having the information provided in a mindful, respectful way that invites each of us to discern what we know about our health and condition, how to choose to resolve the problem and what kind of care we choose to have, allows each of us to experience whole-person health care through whole health information. Then, WE become the center of our health and healing process, rather than the doctors or practitioners we go to for guidance.

 

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Could Hormones Be The Cause Of Your Depression?

A research review by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explored hormonal dysfunction in women as a potential cause for depression. The focus of the investigators and their subsequent report was on how the female reproductive system interacts with the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates the body's stress response.

HPA Disruption Consequences

This mechanism can set up a biochemical environment for psychological disorders in females. It was noted that females are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Through the HP-axis, stress in women impacts the reproductive hormones, which can upset patterns of ovulation. This upset can contribute to the loss of menses and to infertility. If the inter-relationship of stress and female reproductive hormones becomes chronic, behavior and mood disorders and depression can increase significantly.

When oxytocin is suppressed due to excessive stress hormones, fertilized eggs cannot implant into the uterus. This is believed to be a primary cause of infertility in American women, owing to our highly stressful lifestyle. Depression, eating disorders, alcoholism or other addictions may also occur with the estrogen-induced disruption of normal HPA function.

The Stress-Less Cure

The key to preventing or correcting the problem as we find in many physiological conditions is to create a more balanced, less stressful lifestyle. If the body's stress adaptation system becomes overwhelmed, and cannot appropriately adapt to the environment and demands of everyday life, many disorders and conditions can develop, depression being just one of them.

Post-Partum Problems

Regarding post-partum depression, the investigators identified that chronic hyper secretion of the stress hormone cortisol during a pregnancy creates a temporary suppression of adrenal function following delivery. This coupled with the sudden drop of hormonal levels of estrogen after birth may be a significant factor in post-partum depression or subsequent immune dysfunctions such as post-partum thyroid conditions.

Why Balance Is The Key

It is very important for women, because of our very integrated hormonal and nervous systems, to work towards a balanced, low stress life-style. Unlike our male counterparts, our hormonal system immediately lets us know when we are "off center" by delivering loud messages through hormonal dysfunction.
 

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Our Pets Improve Our Health

While it may be difficult to get Americans to collectively agree on the many issues, it seems that when it comes to pets and the value we place on them, there is little disagreement. The 2015-2016 American Pet Products Association survey reported that an astounding 65% of all American households have a pet. An identified 79.7 households have dogs–over 100 million of them in all. Cat owner households total 42.9 million. Fresh water fish, birds, reptiles and horses, along with small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, and others make up another 25-27 million pets.  

Americans, it seems, have also come to view and treat their pets in human terms. No longer satisfied with relegating the family pet to its own domain, today’s pet lovers are demanding the highest quality products and services for those they love. The idea of buying a simple dog chew or catnip toy now takes a back seat to designer sweaters and jewelry for our beloved companions. The current trend of dog hotels instead of kennels, indoor animal toilets, perfume, a hugely popular service “doggie dates” and exotic animal sitting services have found their way into today’s pet economy.

For the most passionate pet lover, faux mink coats, lumberjack vests, designer jackets, matching jeweled leather collar and leash sets, Halloween costumes, and holiday outfits are becoming part of the new “pet fashion.” Safety seats for transporting pets in vehicles are also becoming popular. One of the larger pet expenditures is pet food. These days the pet food aisle looks strikingly similar to the rest of the “human food” aisles in chain grocery stores. Specialized, balanced gourmet meals are readily available in the refrigerator section as well as a plethora of animal treats, vitamins, and supplements. Special diet foods for the senior pet population offer life extension and prolonged health.

The country's household expenditures on pets for 2015-16 was in excess of 62.75 billion dollars. It is easy to imagine that this number must be a mistake as this is more money being spent on pets in the United State than the gross national product numbers for all but 64 countries around the world. This 62.75 billion dollar figure also represents almost double the approximately $35 billion dollars Americans spend on going to movies, playing video games, or for listening to recorded music.

The approximate 20% of non-pet households are for the most part made up of individuals with allergies, or who live in apartments or other environments that do not welcome pets, and those who have no time left in their over-scheduled lives to care for a pet. It seems people of all ages, ranging from infants to very elderly, enjoy and welcome the company of pets. The presence of pets is so popular today that some nursing facilities now have therapy pets at the facility on a regular basis. The one down side to this practice is that sometimes the residents start arguing and competing over who gets to keep the cat, dog, or bird with them for the day.

What fuels our passion for pets? It is really quite simple. Our pets love us unconditionally. They listen to us when we speak, provide companionship without politics or the agenda of most relationships. They accept our love and affection the way we chose to give it, without complaint, and they provide us in return with affection and loyalty. They are the ultimate loving family member, and we are now treating them as such. Can anyone blame us?

Social networking has become the way we communicate and “do” relationships. These days it is often over e-mail and texting messages that we are starting relationships or ending them, sharing major life events–even proposing marriage. The intimate contact of human connections we had even 15 years ago before the dominance of the internet and cell phones is now being replaced by our pets.

Pets are not only beloved companions, but they are also taking on the role of healers. Dogs have been long known for their service as seeing eye dogs, but the use of dogs and other pets in many areas of healing and health monitoring are becoming more widespread. Dogs who alert their companions for seizures or “sniff out” cancer or horses that assist with helping autistic children to interact with others are easily found on the news or internet.

A recent study by researcher Dr. Karen Allen at the State University of New York at Buffalo identified that individuals suffering from hypertension when adopting a dog or cat had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than their counterparts who did not have a pet companion. The National Institute of Technology Assessment Workshop, Health Benefits of Pets, identified that pets provide greater psychological stability, which us protects not only from heart disease and other stress related conditions but also reduces depression. In the same study, pets have been shown to lower the cost of health care as individuals with pets make fewer doctor visits, especially “for non-serious medical conditions.”

A Perdue University study demonstrated that when seniors face traumas or other forms of adversity, the affection received by their pets and the bond between them helps prevent depress and loneliness. As a means of enhancing our psychological and physical well-being, pets have the power to love us, heal us, and help us to live longer. If only we could get other humans to do so with the same honesty and loyalty that our pet companions provide us.

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Is Instant Energy Bad For Your Health?

Available everywhere and promising instant energy, energy drinks have grown in popularity over the last decade. They allow us to get more done faster, but at what costs? The largest population they are pitched to is the "under 30" group. This includes high school and college students as well as athletes, both school age and professional.

Our over-worked culture is moving beyond coffee for its morning wake up and afternoon pick-me-up to the energy drink solution. This product comes with it's own health concerns. Energy drinks contain significant amounts of caffeine and sugar and can include other stimulants such as ephedrine, guarana, and ginseng, which have all been shown to have potential health concerns. Here are some points of consideration you may want to be aware of before gulping down a can or two of the elixir.

Things To Consider:

  • Energy drinks contain as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Consumed quickly, the caffeine and sugar provide a jolt of energy by stimulating your stress system. This can also raise your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, causing your heart to beat faster and work harder.
  • The contents of these energy drinks can produce symptoms that may include anxiety, insomnia, irritability and nausea that can be severe enough to require medical attention or hospitalization.
  • Energy drinks, if taken during exercise, can dehydrate the body and deplete much needed calcium and potassium.
  • Because of the energy provided by the caffeine and sugar in energy drinks, they have become popular as mixers with alcohol. This can lead to an individual not being aware of the level of intoxication, which might allow them to drive under the influence.
  • Bad reactions to energy drinks have been reported to U.S. poison control centers published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
  • In a report of nine cases of adverse reactions to the energy drink Redline, patients reported nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, tremors, dizziness and numbness.

There is the impression that because these drinks are available over the counter and can be bought in any retail store, they are not a "substance" that we should use carefully. This couldn't be further from the truth.

While energy drinks can be part of a balanced lifestyle when consumed sensibly, as with all things related to health and lifestyle, we need to exercise moderation and good judgement to avoid the problems that can arise from inappropriate or excessive use.

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A Tipping Point For Holistic Nurses

I was recently featured in the American Holistic Nurses Association’s ‘Beginnings’ publication. Below is a reprint of the article, shared with permission.

In the cover story of the October 2016 edition of the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s magazine, hrm, Clive Fields, MD and Tim Barry address the health insurance industry’s move to value-based care and value-based billing reimbursement. The U.S. insurance industry is a multi-trillion dollar compilation of private insurers and payers that functions independently of the ever-changing political scene in Washington. These private insurers and payers control the cost of health care, as well as the manner in which health care reimburses providers for services rendered.

The hfm article begins with the following statement: “The tipping point. The point of no return. A critical juncture” (Fields & Barry, 2016, p. 1). This refers to the healthcare industry’s embrace of a value-based purchasing standard. Pay-for-performance programs place professional and financial pressure on medical providers by paying out reimbursements based on the providers’ past performance. Programs include:

  •  Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing
  •  Hospital Readmission Reduction
  •  Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier

What these three programs have in common is they all involve patient centered care. This means healthcare providers need to revamp their current patient care model to include prevention through incorporating patient health education, a cornerstone of patient centered care. The authors explain: By 2018, 50 percent of all Medicare payment will be tied to value-based alternative payment models, recognizing not only the volume of care delivered but also the clinical outcomes that care generates. Commercial carriers all have followed suit. (Fields & Barry, 2016, p. 1)

The impact of this tipping point on nurses, and holistic nurses specifically, is significant. For the first time, the U.S. insurance industry has endorsed a holistic approach to healthcare and disease prevention as a preferred model of medical delivery. This is forcing health care to move beyond the acutecare, symptom-based approach to include both disease prevention and patient empowerment through patient education for self-care. Nursing education is rooted in the holistic, whole-person care model developed by Florence Nightingale in the mid-nineteenth century. The nursing scope of practice, which includes patient health education, aligns standards and competencies with current healthcare philosophy, and mandates nurses to provide patient-centered care, prevent disease, and reduce acute care interventions, while improving outcomes and reducing costs (ANA, 2015). For decades, holistic nursing has encompassed principles of whole-person care, and at the core of this specialty practice, “holistic nursing care is person and relationship centered and healing oriented, rather than disease and cure oriented” (AHNA & ANA, p. 1)

A Stitch In Time

Now that the healthcare industry has started to embrace the bigger picture of how to deliver patient-driven health care, while reducing costs, the demand and utilization of therapeutic approaches that support this model are rapidly growing. Patient health education is at the core of the patient-centered care model, and no other clinically trained health professional is better poised to fill this role than the nurse – and more specifically, the holistic nurse. This is important for the following reasons:

  •  Patient health education is contained within nursing scope of practice.
  •  Physicians have very limited time with their patients.
  •  Nurses spend more time with patients and are often the first or last to have contact with them during a medical office visit.

Fields & Barry (2016) go on to clarify this bigger picture: Delivering primary care within a value-based model involves much more than changing contracts and compensation. It requires a proactive clinical focus, in which patients at high risk for disease progression are identified for early intervention, patient education services are expanded, care is coordinated across sites and specialties, and redundant, non-evidence-based treatments are eliminated—all with three key objectives: making patients healthier, providing high-quality care, and reducing the total cost of care. (p. 2)

More than a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine reported the need for ongoing education and training of health professionals to meet the changing needs of healthcare consumers. The report, “A Bridge to Quality” from the 2003 Health Professions Education Summit, called for innovative approaches in education to equip health professionals with new skills and roles in order to best respond to the shifting needs of populations (Greiner & Knebel, 2003).

Laboring in the Field For many decades, holistic nurses worked in acute care, as well as private care settings, carrying a vision of whole-person, patientcentered care as a dream for the future of medicine. While holding that vision, they served their patients with compassionate presence and a whole-person perspective often in facilities that had no time or attention for either the patient’s or the nurse’s needs as individuals. In 1976, a small group of holistic nurses and mental health professionals, who worked together in Boston, recognized a critical missing piece in healthcare delivery essential for authentically inviting and engaging patients more deeply with their own care. Health information needed to be demystified for patients, providing them with a “whole picture of health” that clarified the how and why of their particular condition or concern. Collaborating together, this group of pioneers developed whole health continuing education courses for nurses and health professionals, and the National Institute of Whole Health (NIWH) was born.

Research and Accreditation

Since 1980, NIWH has been conducting hospital-based research on its patient health education model, which includes Behavioral Engagement with Pure Presence™ (BEPP), a health behavior change model. The most recent studies of this model were conducted with a Central Michigan University (CMU) group of patients and four physician practices (Clipper, 2015), and a Blue Cross Blue Shield-funded physician practice study at Michigan State University (MSU) (Aldasouqi, Clipper, Berkshire, & Lopes, 2016). Two medical researchers from CMU and MSU respectively utilized the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure Survey both pre- and post-intervention to assess the effectiveness of NIWH’s BEPP model. The study demonstrated 27.5-35 percent improvements in both patient satisfaction surveys and physician satisfaction surveys (Aldasouqi et al., 2016). During the past 41 years, NIWH’s important and visionary work has blazed the trail for whole person care. Through its professional partnerships and
advisory board members, NIWH has worked to effect communication with the national commissions on nursing and physicians.

The NIWH tenets of whole person care include:

  • placing patients at the center of their healthcare decision making,
  •  treating the patient as a whole person, and
  • evidence-based patient health education for disease prevention and disease management.

The standards and subject matter for the NIWH Whole Health® Education Program are based on the Health and Medicine Division (HMD, formerly known as the Institute of Medicine) guidelines, referenced as “Population Health” (IOM, 1998). This specialty focuses on the leading chronic care conditions and the specific education and evidence-based knowledge nurses need to empower their patients with selfdirected health information and self-care skills. The NIWH curriculum educates nurses to look at the totality of the individual’s lifestyle and environment and help patients discern and choose what they can do to eliminate or reduce chronic conditions. NIWH’s 5 Aspects of Whole Health™ guide the course presentation, assignments, and testing.

The convergence of 21st century medicine with holistic care is an enormous opportunity for nurses to offer compassionate, patient-centered, holistic nursing. Nurses can work as patient health educators within medical practices, for hospitals or other healthcare facilities, conduct a private practice in health and wellness education, or work collaboratively with referrals from medical providers. By utilizing patient health educators, physicians can better serve their patients, comply with guidelines, and improve their practice income. Patients receive the information they need to take real control of their health while insurance payers save on avoided procedures and chronic care costs. Especially now as health care reaches a “tipping point” with new pay-for-performance standards, the NIWH patient health education model offers a win-win-win for patients, payers, and providers.
 

 For more information on the AHNA, visit www.ahna.org

What Your Sleep Position Says About You

In a BBC report linking certain sleeping positions with health risks, British scientists revealed that the sleeping position of an individual may provide clues to their true personality in addition to revealing health clues. It is an interesting theory and I became interested to learn whether a person's usual sleeping position could really hint toward character flaws or health symptoms. Here's what I learned through further study.

Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, analyzed six common sleeping positions that he believes are linked to specific personality types. "We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us" Professor Idzikowski noted.

The sleep study identified that most people are unlikely to change their sleeping position during the night. We are also creatures of habit. Most people sleep the same way every night. Only 5% of the study participants were reported to have slept in a different position on different evenings. Another interesting reveal of the study was that only one in ten individuals cover themselves completely with a blanket. Most people expose a leg, an arm, or both feet.

Professor Idzikowski also examined the effect of various sleeping positions on health. You may have read that some positions are believed to help aid digestion, while other positions are believed to promote snoring and restlessness.

Here are the six common positions studied by Professor Idzikowski. The study's findings related each position to certain personality traits and health implications. See if you agree with the findings based on your own sleep patterns.

  • Fetus position – A majority (41%) of the study participants, with 200% more females than males, sleep in this curled-up position. The personality appointed to this position is that the sleeper has a tough exterior and is shy and sensitive but warms up quickly.
  • Log position – This study identified that 15% of people sleep in this position. Sleeping on your side with both arms down suggests that you are a social, easy-going person who is trusting and possibly gullible.
  • Yearner position– The third most popular position, utilized by 13% of the participants, is the side-lying position with both arms out in front of the body. This position is considered to be open-minded and yet cynical. They can be suspicious and stubborn.
  • Soldier position – 8% of the sleepers in this study lie on their back with their arms down and close to the body. This position is paired with people who are reserved, quiet, not fussy, and hold themselves and others to a high standard. This position also has a higher rate of snoring due to the back position.
  • Free fall position – Only 7% of the sleepers lie on their bellies with arms under or wrapped around a pillow and their head turned to the side. These individuals were considered brash, outgoing, and uncomfortable with criticism.
  • Starfish position – Those who lie on their backs with arms near their head or pillow make up the smallest group of sleepers, with only 5% utilizing this position. Starfish sleepers are considered good listeners, helpful, and  uncomfortable being the center of attention. Sleeping in the starfish position is likely to lead to a poor night's sleep due to snoring.

It will be interesting to see how future studies add to the knowledge revealed by Professor Idzikowski. In the meantime, take some time to ponder whether the associated personality traits are accurate for your style of sleeping. Consider ways to remedy any undesirable traits or health consequences.  

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Healthy Habits: Eat More Colors

The living world around us is filled with color. Look around and you may see blue sky, green grass, aqua oceans, and an unlimited array of tress, flowers and plants bursting with intense, vibrant color. Health is associated with color as well. When we are healthy we have pink cheeks, bright eyes, and a healthy flush to our skin. Quite interestingly, aging is the gradual loss of color. This fading of color marks the slowing or ebbing of life vibrancy.

It is no wonder then that colorful foods are the healthiest foods we can nourish our bodies with. They contain nutritional benefit in the form of phytonutrients, which means plant nutrients. The fruits and vegetables with the most vivid colors contain the highest amount of these important plant nutrients. Their hues act as a table of contents for the phytochemicals found inside the plant.

Listed below is a color guide for choosing the fruits and vegetables that will provide these powerful healing plant nutrients. Make a conscious effort to include a variety of these healthy colors in your daily diet. Not only will you get more nutrients, but your meals will become more fun and enjoyable.

  • Orange = Contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports immune function.
  • Yellow-Orange = Provides vitamin C, which detoxifies and inhibits tumor cell growth.
  • Red = Holds lycopen, an antioxidant that reduces cancer risk.
  • Green = Contains folate and iron, which are essential to building healthy cells and genetic material.
  • Green-Light =Provide indoles and lutein, which eliminates excess estrogen and carcinogens.
  • Green-White = Hold allyl sulfides. These can destroy cancer cells and support a healthy immune system.
  • Blue (fruits) = Contain anthocyanins that destroy free radicals.
  • Red-purple (fruits) =Provide reservatrol, a plaque reducer and mineral chelator.
  • Brown (legumes, whole grains) = Are high in fiber, carcinogen remover and digestive aid.

Filling your diet with many colorful fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need to stay healthy, happy, and vibrant. Think 'rainbow' the next time you prepare your plate.