Archive for October, 2018

The witching hour began around 5 p.m. each day. I had two hands and three babies: twin 18-month-old boys and an infant daughter, all of whom were perpetually in the throes of a crisis, fall, or unpredictable bowel movement. My husband would be coming home from a new job and a three-hour round-trip commute, and my stepdaughter would be rolling in from middle school with teenage needs. They were always walking into a war zone.

I didn’t need to chitchat and be asked, “How was your day?” I didn’t need “I love you” either, or even “Thanks for all you’re doing.” I needed the person to walk through the door, roll up their sleeves, survey the situation, and pitch in. I needed help, stat.

So how could I get my fellow soldiers up to speed quickly and help me where the crisis was most intense? I needed them to be ready, and I needed to communicate the plan. So I asked my husband and stepdaughter to ask me the following as soon as they walked through the door: “How can I help?”

Four small, powerful words. They moved us immediately into collaboration, into a place of teamwork. It was the fastest way to integrate them into the moment and get the help I needed. They were no longer observers of crisis; they were EMTs, and we were moving to the next step, side by side.

Soldiers, emergency room doctors, and anyone else who deals in crisis has a shorthand for “I’m here; put me to work where you need me most.” I had spent years working in restaurants, and I knew what it felt like to be deep in the weeds—and more importantly, how to help a fellow chef out of the weeds. I had regularly appeared on live TV, and I had seen network crews do a form of this as well.

Now that I was in caregiver mode, I was always responding to what everyone else needed—or anticipating the needs of those who couldn’t speak. What I needed was someone to help me.

As soon as my husband and stepdaughter started using the mantra (and following up on the request that was made), that pile of dishes in the sink, that dirty diaper that needed to be changed, that hungry child who wanted a snack—suddenly, those to-do items were crossed off my list, lightening my mental load. I had less weight to carry.

In the spring of 2017, a cartoonist named Emma wrote an illustrated story about the “mental load,” the implicit project management work that lands in the lap of (typically female) primary caregivers. This resonated globally, and soon the phrase “mental load” was plastered across social media, everywhere.

“How can I help?” doesn’t solve the mental load, but it acknowledges the role of the caregiver as team leader and the other adults in the home as part of the team. Someone’s gotta quarterback the logistics of children. But the same person can’t be the quarterback and the receiver. “How can I help?” enables you to quarterback and creates a domestic culture of receivers ready for the pass, prepared to complete the play.

Image: Sidney Morgan

It’s never too early to start delegating work to others. Kelli DeFlora, owner of Montclair B.A.B.Y., a birth, advocacy, breastfeeding, and yoga center in Montclair, New Jersey, recommends having a list on the fridge as soon as the baby is born. “There’s always laundry to do, dishes to wash, and meals to make. When well-intentioned friends and relatives come through the door, you can say that the best way they can help is to take an item from the list and cross it off when it’s done,” says DeFlora.

“I see too many parents these days who try to do everything for their child, and disable them in the process,” says Peter Della Bella, M.D., a psychiatrist and New York University child psychiatry professor. Dr. Della Bella supports the “How can I help?” approach to family problem-solving. “Younger children, especially, are put in the position of being active participants, having to reflect, and having to work with someone to identify and solve problems. Arguably, problem-solving skills are the best skills parents can engender in a child.”

If you’d like to implement “How can I help?” in your home, try these techniques to make it part of your family fabric:

  1. Connect with your partner purposefully about roles in the home. Clarify who is taking primary responsibility for home care, childcare, finances, food, etc. Get clear about who is the lead on what.
  2. Share this article with your partner. Confirm that you’re both interested in using this technique.
  3. Have each project lead identify the trouble spots (or witching hours) in their role. When do they feel like they’re getting pulled into the weeds? Are there specific times of day, of the month, of the year, when the responsibility starts to get stressful?
  4. Role model “How can I help?” Now that you know where your partner needs help, say the words. Role model this behavior for your children if they are old enough. Find opportunities to use it on a daily basis: navigating out of traffic, spilled milk, sharing the laundry folding, etc. “How can I help?” can fast be applied in almost any tense scenario or moment of conflict.
  5. If help isn’t coming, ask for it directly. Say, “I need your help.” Pause for positive response, connect for a second, then delegate. Have a follow-up, and give positive feedback if it worked.

Can you imagine your partner, family, and friends walking through the door during the witching hour, asking what needs to be done, and then doing it? On the regular?

It’s the greatest phrase since “I love you,” and I say greater because the “I love you” is implied. And to it is an added “I got your back,” “We’re in this together,” and of course, “This is our family.”

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/why-saying-i-love-you-is-not-enough

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Think your flow looks different this month? Here’s what its hue could mean.

Your period may show up every month and annoy you with the cramps, bloating, and fatigue that come along with it, but it deserves a little respect. Your monthly flow can actually provide a lot of insight into your overall health. For instance, if you’re struggling with irregular periods, that’s a sign you may be dealing with a thyroid problem, polycystic ovary syndrome, or a hormone imbalance, or that you’re underweight. And if it doesn’t show up at all, well, you might want to try a pregnancy test.

The color of your period blood may also provide some insights into what else is going on inside your body. It can come in a rainbow of shades from pink and whitish to bright red and even dark brown. Here, we explore what each period blood color might mean—and let you know when it’s time to call your doctor.

If it’s pinkish…


You may have low estrogen levels, especially if the pink blood is accompanied by a lighter-than-usual flow, or if you’re an avid runner, says New York-based functional medicine nurse practitioner Margaret Romero. Studies have found that excessive exercise can lower estrogen levels, which can subsequently mess with your period, sometimes causing it to disappear altogether. (It’s not uncommon for female professional athletes to stop ovulating.)

While this may not seem like a big deal (who hasn’t fantasized about never having to deal with a period at least once or twice?), low estrogen levels can increase your risk of osteoporosis if left untreated. So if you’ve recently started training for a marathon, have started working out for the first time in your life, or have upped the intensity of your workouts and you notice that your periods are suddenly lighter in color and flow or less frequent, talk to your doctor.

Romero says other potential culprits of a pinkish flow can include poor nutrition, PCOS, or perimenopause, which is when your ovaries start producing less estrogen in preparation for menopause (generally, it occurs around four to five years before menopause).

If it’s watery-looking…


You may have a nutritional deficiency. Alyssa Dweck, MD, assistant clinical professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says that a white-ish, diluted flow can be a symptom of severe anemia, especially if you notice your period getting lighter and lighter when it would ordinarily get a bit heavier. If, after monitoring your period for two or three cycles, you’re worried that this could be the case, talk to your doctor about getting tested for nutritional deficiencies.

To make matters a little more confusing, an iron deficiency might instead be caused by heavy periods. (A Finnish study that examined 236 women with heavy periods found that 27% were iron deficient and 60% were severely anemic.) If you bleed through pads or tampons in less than an hour, wake up at night to change your pads or tampons several times, or are always tired, it can’t hurt to get your iron levels checked.

If it’s dark brown…

dark brown

You may have older bits of uterine lining and blood that are just now making their way out of your body. But don’t panic: This is normal. “We’re not sure why this happens in all cases, but sometimes the blood is sitting around for a while and comes out particularly slowly,” Dr. Dweck says. “It has a lot of time to oxidize, which is why it can look brown or almost black.”

Everyone will shed her uterine lining at a different rate (like snowflakes, each period is unique), but for the most part, seeing some dark brown blood at the beginning of your period or toward the end of it is nothing to worry about.

If it’s a thick jam-colored red with large clots…

jam colored

You may have low progesterone levels and high estrogen levels. While some clotting is normal, says Dr. Dweck, clots the size of a quarter or larger can indicate a serious hormonal imbalance. Romero recommends reducing your consumption of dairy, soy, and sugar and seeing if that makes a difference.

Fibroids are another possibility. They’re most often benign, but they can be painful, so if you suspect they’re behind your heavy, clot-filled periods, ask your doctor for an ultrasound.

If it’s a mix of gray and red…

mix gray red

You may have an infection. You’ll probably also experience a really “foul, necrotic stench,” Dr. Dweck says. Get tested so you can get the right treatment.

Women who miscarry sometimes notice gray chunks of tissue that look like “liver,” Dr. Dweck says, so if you think there’s a possibility that you’re pregnant or having a miscarriage, call your doctor ASAP.

If it’s a bright, cranberry red…


You may have a healthy, regular period. Again, everybody’s “normal” will look different, but generally speaking, a consistently bright red flow that looks a little like cherry Kool-Aid is a signal that everything is working as it should.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a20503433/color-of-your-period-blood-and-health/

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There are some days you just cannot resist the urge to indulge when someone offers you a free doughnut in the office. It might feel like your impulsive choices are arbitrary, but if you pay attention, there may actually be a clear pattern for which days you can’t control the cravings. According to new research, your self-control plummets the day after a sleepless night. Why? Stress.

In a new study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers asked 211 college undergraduates to complete an online survey every night for 30 days. In it, they were asked about things like how much they slept the night before, their alcohol use, the current day’s activities and events (for example, if they were having a conflict with a friend), and how stressful their day had been. The researchers also specifically tracked how much difficulty the participants were experiencing with self-control by having them either agree or disagree with three statements: “Right now my mind feels unfocused,” “Right now my mental energy is running low,” and “Right now I am having a hard time controlling my urges.”

“We found that after a night of shorter sleep than usual, participants reported having greater self-control difficulties than usual,” Garrett Hisler, a research assistant at Iowa State University and one of the study authors, explained to mindbodygreen.

Part of this effect was because sleep loss made the day more stressful than usual, which then increased self-control difficulties. “Thus, sleep loss both directly made self-control more difficult but also indirectly made self-control more difficult by increasing stress,” Hisler explained.

Basically, in addition to sleeplessness itself weakening your willpower, your self-control is further compromised because of exhaustion-induced stress, making it even harder to say no to your vice of choice. When you’re perceiving more stress, self-control feels way more difficult, leading you to make a variety of bad choices.

Just being aware of the relationship between sleep, stress, and self-control is beneficial and may encourage you to think your way through a self-control obstacle. However, the best thing you can do to avoid temptation altogether is get the right amount of sleep every night, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates is “at least seven hours.”

“If you are on a diet and trying to resist the temptation of sugary foods, making sure you are getting enough sleep can be one way to reduce stress and increase the likelihood that you successfully resist their allure,” Hisler said.

If you are having trouble sleeping, there are several things you can do to combat insomnia, according to experts. Try shutting down any blue light sources—your phone, iPad, computer, the like—an hour before bed, keeping your thermostat between 62 and 80 degrees, and avoiding caffeine after noon. You’ll start to feel your impulse control kicking back into gear in no time.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/why-you-just-cant-say-no-to-sweets

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From essentials oils to candles to bath products, lavender’s soothing qualities have become a fixture in the a variety of stress-zapping wellness products. However, some people aren’t convinced that the violet-colored flower can actually help promote calm. Well, here’s some scientific evidence for all you non-believers: According to a new study done on mice, the aroma of lavender can actually provide stress relief.

“Many people take the effects of ‘odor’ with a grain of salt,” study author Hideki Kashiwadani, a physiologist and neuroscientist at Kagoshima University in Japan, said in an email to the New York Times. “But among the stories, some are true based on science.”

In the study, which was published on October 23 in Frontiers in Behavioral Neurosciencescientists enlisted the help of several mice with healthy noses. They had each mouse inhale linalool—a naturally occurring alcohol in lavender that gives the flower its unique scent. They compared them with mice injected with linalool and those on benzodiazepines. What the scientists found was that the scent alone—not its absorption into the blood—had a seriously relaxing effect on the mice’s brain.

Kashiwadani says that linalool’s calming effect is the result of the activation of specific neurotransmitter receptors in the brain via the specialized sensory cells called olfactory neurons. The most amazing thing about it is scientists found that inhaling lavender had a similar effect on the brain as taking benzodiazepines such as Valium. While this type of drugs can cause dizziness or light headedness, mice that inhaled lavender suffered no side effects.

While more studies need to be conducted (ideally on humans), he believes that lavender will be used clinically in the near future. For example, it can be used before surgery to help alleviate preoperative stress. Until that time comes, there’s no reason not to infuse a little lavender into your life.

Here are a few easy ways to do it:

Invest in essential oil

Lavender essential oil is budget-friendly and just a dab on your wrist can keep you in relaxation mode all day long. You can also use an essential oil diffuser to infuse the scent throughout your home.

Add it to your bath

Lavender oil, salts or bubble bath are an easy way to add a little relaxation to your bath time routine.

Try a lavender-infused cleaning product

There are lots of cleaning products that incorporate lavender into their scent. Mrs. Meyers has an entire collection of lavender-infused household cleaners, ranging from multi-purpose cleaners to laundry detergent.

Hang a fragrant wreath

Infuse some relaxation and a dash of color into your home life by hanging a lavender flower wreath on your bedroom door.

Make lavender lemonade or tea

Prepare a lavender syrup by heating lavender buds and sugar together in a small saucepan. Allow the sugar to dissolve and form into a syrup. Remove it from the heat. Using a sieve, filter out the lavender buds. Add a tablespoon of the lavender syrup to your iced tea with some fresh lemon for a cooling and relaxing beverage. You can also brew some lavender tea by brewing lavender buds in a sachet or tea ball. Just make sure to inhale before every sip!

Stash lavender sachets everywhere

Lavender sachets–bags filled with lavender leaves—are easy to make and inexpensive. Put them next to your bed, in your underwear drawers or even in your purse, and enjoy the relaxing benefits of linalool wherever you are.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a24109574/lavender-for-anxiety/

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With the seasons changing, you may be faced with a decision—to take or not take the antibiotic your doctor is recommending. Antibiotics can be necessary to treat some bacterial infections, but taking them causes many to think, “Oh no! My gut!” because of previous research that links antibiotic use with throwing our bacterial composition out of whack. New research is allowing us to breathe a little easier, indicating that antibiotics might not be as destructive to gut health as previously thought.

In a new study, scientists examined the effects of short-term intensive antibiotic use on the gut microbiota, and while antibiotics can deplete our gut of beneficial bacteria, it appears as though the body has the ability to replenish itself to a certain extent.

In the study, three different types of antibiotics were given to young men over the course of four days, and this depleted the gut of almost all beneficial gut bacteria. The participants were monitored over a six-month period, and the gut did recover most of the gut bacteria after six months, but the men were missing nine beneficial gut bacteria species. On top of that, new detrimental bacteria strains were detected in the mix.

While this is generally good news, the concern remains that multiple antibiotic treatments over the course of a lifetime could permanently eliminate beneficial bacteria in the gut, altering the diversity in the gut microbiota permanently. This is important to consider as the health of our gut microbiota plays a major role in things like our metabolic and cardiovascular health.

If you do have to take antibiotics, there are ways you can help your body recover. Functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, M.D., recommends eating a low-carb diet and taking prebiotics and probiotics.

Prebiotics are considered a soluble fiber and can be found naturally in onions and sweet potatoes. For more probiotics, try incorporating more pineapple, tempeh, or miso into your day-to-day. Multi-strain probiotics can also be taken in capsule form.

As mbg expert and gut specialist Vincent M. Pedre, M.D., points out, incorporating a mix of the two is essential for gut health. As prebiotics feed the good bacteria, probiotics defend against bad bacteria and parasites. When the two are taken together, you can be sure you are on the road to better gut health.

So, when the time comes and you need to take antibiotics—and fingers crossed you stay well—rest assured knowing your body is doing what it can to recover, but it can’t hurt to help it along.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/antibiotic-use-could-decrease-the-diversity-of-our-gut-microbiota

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We all love to unwind at the end of the day. Sometimes that’s a great bout of yoga or high-intensity training, and sometimes it’s a glass of wine or a favorite cocktail. Everything in moderation, right?

Or not? Have you ever wondered what impact (if any) alcohol has on your hormones? And just how much is too much? Is any amount “safe”? What is alcohol doing inside our bodies? And what does moderate consumption even mean?

To answer those questions, let’s take it one step at a time.

Alcohol consumption can increase estrogen—but it’s not the same for everyone.

According to clinical studies, moderate alcohol consumption can vary with life stages. What you consume at age 20 may not be the same as what you consume at age 40—and what you drink will affect your hormones really differently as well. As a woman ages, her hormones fluctuate; therefore, less alcohol is needed to have larger hormonal effects over time. For a woman in her 40s or 50s, even “moderate” amounts of alcohol can affect the hormonal system.

Drinking alcohol can cause a rise in estrogen and a decrease in progesterone in premenopausal women. Some studies even suggest that menopause was delayed by moderate alcohol consumption, since “alcohol consumption was significantly correlated with estrogen levels.” Though binge drinking (five or more drinks in one day) is the most detrimental, in terms of hormonal disruption and other health problems, this study suggests that moderate alcohol consumption needs further analysis to determine its health impact.

Alcohol consumption can decrease testosterone—but it depends how much you drink.

According to a study by the Testosterone Centers of Texas, “alcohol is the enemy of testosterone.” Testosterone is important for both men and women (although men have much more)! It’s well-known as the hormone for sex drive and libido, but it is a key player in muscle formation, bone mass, fat distribution, and brain health. Low testosterone (caused by alcohol or something else) in both men and women can result in brain fog, fatigue, irritability, lower muscle mass, and lower motivation.

The Testosterone Centers study goes on to cite that the decrease in testosterone is in direct relation to the amount of alcohol consumed, which poses the question: How much is too much?

In this particular study, the findings suggest that drinking two to three beers a day caused a “slight” reduction in testosterone for men and none for women, a good sign that moderate drinking doesn’t have that huge of an impact. The way in which alcohol affects hormone levels is related to the chemicals alcohol contains. Beer and wine contain chemicals that can increase estrogen, thereby lowering testosterone.

Heavy drinking (more than three drinks a day) is the real culprit for all kinds of health maladies in both men and women: weight gain, lowered testosterone levels in men, and increased testosterone levels in women. Both sexes are affected in terms of fertility. Studies have shown that men who drink in excess suffer from both fertility and “abnormally low testosterone.”

How to balance drinking with a healthy lifestyle.

Though most studies seem to suggest moderate alcohol intake may not cause any health issues in men and women, I’ve found in my years as a practitioner that “moderate” can mean very different things to different people.

The best solution? Consult with your health care provider to:

  • Determine a baseline for your health.
  • Talk to (and trust) your doctor to let her or him know your accurate alcohol intake on a weekly basis.
  • Follow-up, on a regular basis, about how that intake may be or may not be affecting your health.

The bottom line: What’s moderate and appropriate for you might not be the same as what’s moderate and appropriate for me—especially when it comes to hormone balance.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/is-drinking-alcohol-bad-for-hormone-balance

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The Juul contains more nicotine than other e-cigarettes on the market.

With a sleek design, fun flavors, and plenty of posts on social media—more than 240,000 posts tagged as #juul on Instagram, to be exact—it’s easy to see why teens are attracted to Juul. The e-cigarettes are so popular that in less than three years on the market, Juul has grown to represent more than half of the e-cigarette market share, Nielsen data show.

But while users may think Juul poses no risks to their lungs, experts caution that it may open the gates to smoking traditional cigarettes. “While there’s been a significant drop in youth smoking over the last decade, the use of other tobacco products like e-cigarettes, including Juul, in this age group continues to climb,” says Humberto Choi, MD, a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “We worry that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to start smoking tobacco.”

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued more than 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers who illegally sold Juul, as well as other e-cigarettes, to minors. “We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement.

But are e-cigarettes just as dangerous as those we associate with lung cancer? Here’s everything you need to know about Juuling and how it could impact your health.

What is a Juul, exactly?

The Juul vaping system in Washington, DC.

Juul has two parts and looks a lot like a USB drive. The body has a lithium-ion polymer battery, a temperature regulator, and sensors to read the charge level and to sense inhalation. The pod (which attaches to the body) contains an atomizer, e-liquid, and the mouthpiece.

Like other e-cigarettes, the Juul heats up this e-liquid—which contains nicotine salts, propylene glycol, glycerine, benzoic acid, and flavoring—to create an aerosol. The salts are used to “help satisfy smokers when transitioning from cigarettes,” the official Juul website states, because they deliver a hit of nicotine in a way much like how a cigarette does.

Additionally, the concentration of nicotine is much more potent than other e-liquids on the market. A pod of liquid reportedly has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes—and delivers that nicotine 1.25 to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigarettes. However, most 15- to 24-year-olds don’t know that Juul pods always contain nicotine, researchers noted in a 2018 study published in Tobacco Control.

Are there any Juul side effects?

Because the devices are easy to hide and produce less vapor, “you can sit in a classroom, hold it in your hand, blow the vapor up your sleeve, and use these products very intensely,” explains Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a non-profit public health organization dedicated to stopping the use of tobacco.

What’s more, nicotine is incredibly addictive, so those who start with e-cigs may eventually start smoking regular cigarettes, which research overwhelmingly finds is destructive to the body, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But of the young people who know about Juul, almost half think it’s “a lot” or “a little” less harmful than cigarettes, while only a third think it’s “much” or “slightly more” addictive than cigarettes, according to the Tobacco Control study.

Aside from addiction, the long-term side effects of using Juul are unknown at this time since it’s still a new product and there is limited data on e-cigarette use overall.

“We know that in the short-term, e-cigarettes can cause inflammation in the airways and in the lungs,” Dr. Choi says. “And nicotine is linked to multiple health problems, including increased heart rate, constriction of the blood vessels—which could lead to heart disease—peptic ulcers, erectile dysfunction, premature birth, and sudden infant death syndrome,” Dr. Choi says.

So is Juuling bad for you?

Although Juul is thought to be safer or healthier than cigarettes, there is no long-term evidence to support this, Dr. Choi says. “We know that there are short-term health problems associated with e-cigarettes that are typically caused by the heat in the vapor, acute inflammation caused by the chemicals in the liquid, or nicotine toxicity,” he explains.

Some experts, including Koval, believe Juul may be less harmful than cigarettes, “but remember that regular cigarettes are one of the more deadly products out there,” she adds.

Can Juul cause lung cancer?

Juul doesn’t produce tar, carbon monoxide, or other chemicals associated with combustible tobacco and the risk of lung cancer. However, it’s still unclear if Juul poses any cancer risk.

“We know that the liquids used in these devices do contain known substances associated with lung cancer, such as formaldehyde,” Dr. Choi says. Only time and more research will reveal the exact consequences the current teen generation will face from smoking Juul and other e-cigs.

We do know, however, that the younger a person begins smoking electronic cigarettes, the more likely they are to smoke traditional cigarettes—the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. “If this is accelerated by the popularity of Juul, that’s a dangerous thing,” Koval says.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a24074749/what-is-juuling/

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