We Need Human Touch …

Most of us don’t put a lot of thought into this subject, but there is much to learn from it.  If you were raised in a family who openly showed affection, you are most likely a hugger. You hug family, friends, new acquaintances, etc. It is a social interaction that is part of your daily life. If you were raised in a family who didn’t easily share affection (by that I mean often or at all), you may not like hugging. You probably don’t even understand why some people are so open to affection. Yet, touch is a basic human interaction. An infant is soothed by it. An adult feels comfort, even joy, from it. And what they are feeling is real. It’s significant. Because we all need human touch — the decent, affectionate kind. It has the ability to relieve us of pain, fear, frustration, etc. It has the power to make us feel loved and appreciated. But how does something like a hug do all that? 

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According to researchers, we all have the ability to communicate many feelings through touch. Physical contact is what distinguishes us from other animals. It is a silent language that needs no words. A mother can cuddle her crying baby, in the night, and the message is clear. The infant knows he/she is secure and their crying ceases. A stranger can go into a natural disaster area and offer a hug to a distraught victim. Again, the message is clear. Help has arrived. That compassion, even from a stranger, can be sensed. And it’s powerful. There is also a difference between a caring touch and an aggressive one. The two categories should never be confused. 

When we offer or receive a caring hug, oxytocin is released in our bodies. This is a “bonding” hormone. It has the ability to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and increase our sense of trust/security. In fact, in a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, researchers discovered that women who received more hugs from their partners had lower heart rates and blood pressure. That’s healthy! A massage has the ability to relax the body, ease pain and melt away tension. That’s healthy! Even something as simple as eye contact and a pat on the back from a patient’s doctor may boost their survival rate, despite the complex disease they are fighting (University of California research). It may sound too good to be true, but science supports it.

Scientific research actually correlates physical touch with several things:

  • Decreased violence. Less touch as a child will lead to greater violence.
  • Greater Trust. Touch has the ability to bond individuals.
  • Decreased Disease & Stronger Immune Systems. In other words, a healthier you.
  • Greater Learning Engagement. When teachers touch students platonically, it encourages their learning. They are also more likely to speak-up in class.
  • More Non-Sexual Emotional Intimacy. Interpersonal touch has a powerful impact on our emotions. 
  • Stronger Team Dynamics. We touch to initiate and sustain cooperation. Hugs and handshakes increase the chances that a person will treat you “like family”, even if you’ve just met. 
  • Economic Gain. Touch signals safety and trust, i.e. NBA teams whose players touch each other more, win more games.
  • Overall Well-being. Adults need positive human touch to thrive, i.e. hugs, handshakes, a pat on the arm or back, holding hands, cuddling, etc. It is fundamental to our physical, mental and emotion health.

Today, we are even seeing Touch Therapy being used to treat patients. First standardized in the 70’s, scientists are not sure how this technique works. The popular theories are: a) Pain is stored in the body’s cells; b) Think quantum physics. Blood, which contains iron, flows through our bodies and creates an electromagnetic field; c) Good health requires a balanced flow of life energy. And there are many Chronic illnesses that respond to this treatment, i.e. Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Pain, etc.

Some of us are old enough to remember the social panic that AIDs initially created. People feared that it could be spread by even the simplest forms of human contact. Patients often suffered in near isolation. Until, one day, a certain princess visited an AIDs hospital … and held the hand of patient. No gloves. No mask. Just hand-to-hand touch. Thank you, Diana. You not only helped that patient, you changed the global perception of a disease.

We are all in need of human touch … of its power … its compassion … and its ability to literally make us feel better. Some are starved for that connection. So, stretch out your arms … reach for a friend, a family member, your pet, even a stranger. It’s time that we all embrace a hug for our good health. 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201808/not-everyone-wants-hug

https://www.khca.org/files/2015/10/8-Reasons-Why-We-Need-Human-Touch-More-Than-Ever.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201309/why-we-all-need-touch-and-be-touched

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-surprising-psychological-value-of-human-touch/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research

https://www.in-mind.org/article/that-human-touch-that-means-so-much-exploring-the-tactile-dimension-of-social-life

https://theweek.com/articles/749384/painnumbing-power-human-touch

https://www.healthline.com/health/haphephobia#symptoms

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/treatment/therapeutic-touch

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-39490507/how-princess-diana-changed-attitudes-to-aids

*Photo by Gus Moretta on Unsplash

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Halloween, Kids & Juvenile Diabetes

It’s October and the leaves are starting to fall from the trees. Cooler air (Thank you, Lord!) has finally arrived. Autumn decorations are everywhere you turn. And, yes, the kids are getting pretty excited about Halloween. But if your child has a health issue like Juvenile Diabetes (T1D), a holiday that’s focused on enormous hauls of candy can literally be dangerous. Still, there are ways to have loads of fun and stay safe. Let’s talk about it …

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Personally, I have struggled with my weight my entire life — up and down the scale. My cousin was diagnosed with T1D, before he even started to school. As adults we began looking for alternatives that might be a source of prevention, for our own children. To date, our efforts have worked!

First of all, don’t focus solely on food especially candy and sweets. This holds true for any holiday and any child. It’s a life-lesson. Yes, Halloween only comes once a year. But that can also be an excuse for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, etc. So, avoid it. Those excuses add up and they can have negative consequences.

Second, but equally important, is your child’s feelings. Kids with any Chronic illness want to feel “included” — not excluded. They want to feel like everyone else. An easy way to make them feel included is to adopt traditions, even for something like Halloween. These traditions bond your family. They can even be shared with friends. 

So, before the big night, plan a fun-packed evening! You will need someone to watch your front-door, while you’re out. Ask a grandparent, or friend, if they can help for 2-3  hours.

Remember that trick-or-treating is just one part of Halloween. It isn’t the ONLY part. Think traditions, here. You can plan a family-dinner at home. You might even put up some decorations, i.e. balloons, Silly String, a Fog Machine, etc. If possible, get the kids involved. It adds to the excitement. And they’re more likely to eat something, if they have helped prepare it. Cucumber and Hummus sandwiches are a good start. Or maybe a Veggie Skeleton? How about Turkey Chili? Cheeseburger Pasta? Meat’n’Cheese Stromboli? Greek Pizza? These recipes and countless others are Diabetic, easy and kid-friendly. For dessert, add a little autumn fun … bob for apples! 

Now, you’re ready to go trick-or-treating. Remember those jackets, sweaters and Glow sticks. It’s important to limit your area of door-to-door action, i.e. your street, your apartment building, your neighborhood. This alone will reduce your child’s candy haul. You can include Grandma’s house, an Aunt’s house, etc. that are located elsewhere. But set limits from the start and stick to them. This will allow your diabetic child to make the rounds … showing-off his/her costume with their siblings and/or friends. And it will also give you more control over their sugar intake.

The last activity of the evening is the grand finale, i.e. a corn maze, a local haunted house, a hay ride, etc. Whatever you choose will be loads of fun for the entire gang. And it will provide plenty of laughter as well as great memories. The photos, selfies, even video will be worth sharing for days … weeks … even years to come. The bragging rights for you and your children will be equally enjoyable. Anybody and everybody can go door-to-door. Yawn. It equates to the same-old, same-old. You took Halloween to a new level and your family will love it!

Once you are back at home, turn your outdoor lights off and bring in your jack-o-lantern. This signals to all of your children that the evening is winding down for everyone — not just one. The candy eating will start and that’s okay. Allow them to eat a little and save the rest for later (a good practice for kids who aren’t diabetic, too). Get their baths out of the way … and put their pajamas on … then enjoy a DVD … unwind. They’ll be ready for it and you deserve it. Best of all, you’ve started a Halloween tradition that you’ll want to repeat year after year. One that is special, healthy, inclusive, fun and packed with surprises!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20011030/children-diabetes-eat-halloween-candy#1

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/259414/cucumber-hummus-sandwiches/

https://www.tasteofhome.com/healthy-eating/diabetic-recipes/

http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/awareness-programs/hhm/what_can_i_eat-fast_food_tips-American_Diabetes_Association.pdf

Easy Greek Pizza

https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-halloween-treats-for-kids.aspx

https://www.history.com/news/what-is-bobbing-for-apples

 

 

*Photo by Bekir Donmez on Unsplash

Your Privacy, Your Chronic Illness & Your Job

Don’t let anyone fool you. When you live with a Chronic illness, you do a lot of thinking. You make a lot of decisions. Cool tee shirt aside, life really is filled with tough choices. And if you haven’t juggled many in your past, a Chronic illness will change that quickly. Which doctor do you trust? Which treatment do you choose? Which medication/s will work best? And aside from these obvious questions, you also wonder about your privacy. Yes, HIPAA is a great thing. And there are similar protections in place abroad, i.e. PIPEDA, Directive on Data Protection. But, outside of medical community, who do you share your illness with? Who do you entrust with that personal information? How much is, well, too much?

 

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Let’s start with your family and close friends. They are usually part of your support system. And, yes, they need to know about your diagnosis. Especially, those who are closest to you. A strong support system will help you to manage your condition more effectively. Providing them with additional information is also helpful, i.e. the name of your doctor, your medications, etc. Next, is your workplace. And that’s an entirely different animal!

Legally, you are not required to disclose a Chronic illness to your employer. An employer hires you to do a job. If you are capable of doing that job, you are fulfilling your end of the deal. This also holds true, if you are seeking employment. On the other hand, some say the added stress of trying to conceal their condition was/is frustrating and difficult. There is no wrong answer, here. It really depends on what you are comfortable with. You may choose to discuss your illness with HR, but not your co-workers. That too is okay. Nobody wants to be gossip fodder for the break-room. This is about your health and your privacy.

Many patients learn what their group health plans offer, after they have been diagnosed. Better late than never, I guess. When you are living with good health, you are truly experiencing a blessing. But knowing your health coverage is also the peace of mind that will help you to sleep at night. Take a few minutes to actually get those facts. And if you have never taken the time to acquaint yourself with Labor Law, here are two key pieces of legislation to start with: The Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Living with a Chronic illness, you may need to use one or both at some point. Understanding them is crucial. Sadly, disability discrimination still exists in our society. And many Chronic illnesses can lead to a disability. If you ever feel your employer is harassing you, or is discriminating against you, due to your Chronic illness … you can contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC. Know your rights. They exist to protect you.

Last, but not least, go out and LIVE! Don’t allow your disease to define you. It isn’t what you are, it is just a part of who you are. So, make plans. Work. Travel. Finish Grad School. Buy a home. Start a family. Set goals. Dare to dream. The choices are waiting and they’re all yours!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/laws-regulations/index.html

https://www.atlantic.net/hipaa-compliant-hosting/beyond-hipaa-international-health-data-protection-europe-canada/

https://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

https://www.ada.gov/2010_regs.htm

https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/ada18.html

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm

*Photo by Jose Llamas on Unsplash

 

 

An Apple A Day …

Remember the old Welsh proverb that this title alludes to? Well, as it turns out, that saying is more fact than cliche. Apples are healthy for us. In fact, many research studies suggest that apples may be one of the healthiest foods you can eat! And they taste so incredibly good too!

 

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Apples come in over 2,000 varieties, ranging from sweet to sour in taste. So there is something for everyone, no matter your preference. A serving, or one medium-sized apple, contains about 95-100 calories. It also contains 0 gram fat, 1 gram protein, 25 grams carbohydrate, 19 grams sugar (naturally occurring), and 3 grams fiber. Apples are also low in sodium and cholesterol. And they provide a good source of vitamin C as well as fiber. If you are on the AIP diet, also known as the Autoimmune Protocol diet, for  Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Lupus, you’re probably already eating apples. But they can also help patients with other Chronic illnesses, i.e. Heart disease, specific Cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, Obesity, Diabetes, Stroke, etc. Imagine that!

You’ll also find an endless array of recipes (including low-carb) available online, in cooking magazines and cook-books, to help you incorporate apples into your weekly menu. Or you can enjoy one, right from the fruit-bowl. Maybe, a serving of apple juice with breakfast? My personal favorite is applesauce. Sometimes, simple is the best. So, by all means, indulge yourself. It’s September. The apples are fresh and bountiful. It’s time to enjoy them and reap the benefits of better health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290.php

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/benefits-apples#1

Apples

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-apples

https://healingautoimmune.com/aip-food-list

36 Easy AIP Recipes That Won’t Stress You Out

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/healthy-apple-recipes?

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/g4650/healthy-apple-recipes/

*Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

Heredity & Chronic Illness

Tracing one’s ancestry has become a very popular thing, these days. It’s fun. Surprising. Sometimes, even a tad mysterious. Folks can’t seem to get enough of their past. They want to know more. In doing so, we inevitably look at old photographs and compare our likeness to those of our ancestors. Mom’s auburn hair. Dad’s deep-blue eyes. We admire military service. We notice things like multiple births, activism, alma maters. And we smile at those reoccurring “family names”. Personally, I represent the sixth generation to utilize some variant of “Julia”, i.e. Julie, Juliette, Juliana, even a Julian. Obviously, the paternal side of my family likes the name.

We also marvel at other things that we share with the generations before us, i.e. personality traits, dimples, freckles, receding hairlines, etc. In some cases, even professions like medicine, teaching, or law enforcement transcend the generations. All connect us. But how many of us are paying attention to the illnesses that run through our family tree? Like hair color, height, etc., our health is genetically linked to our ancestors. Which is why many Chronic illnesses run in families. And also why millions of dollars have been devoted to genetic research, in the last two decades.

 

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Although 70% or more of our disease risk can be linked to our environment, genetic factors also play a role. We may not be born with a specific disease, but our genetic predisposition or susceptibility may place us at a greater risk of acquiring it in life. There are four types of genetic disorders:

  • Single gene inheritance
  • Multi-factorial inheritance
  • Chromosome abnormalities
  • Mitochondrial inheritance

The World Health Organization has done extensive work regarding noncommunicable diseases, i.e. Cancer, Diabetes, Heart disease, Mental illnesses, etc. This research and that of others (CDC) tells us that it isn’t just our shared genes. Many families share common environments and lifestyles, i.e. smoking, diet, drug or alcohol use. Gender, age, race or ethnicity can also effect our risk. For example, Diabetes is 60% more common in Blacks than in Whites. Blacks are also more likely to die from Asthma than Whites. Fighting this problem goes beyond genetics. It means we must change the system for testing new drugs. We must improve health education. And we must overcome disparities in healthcare.

If you haven’t taken the time to consider your family medical history, I encourage you to do so. Everyone should. Share this information with your doctor/s. It’s possible to work together and prevent some diseases. If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, remember that early treatment can help you to better treat/manage your condition. That’s extremely important.

Our genes are comprised of DNA. It’s the molecule that is the hereditary material found in all living cells. And the genome is the sum total of any organism’s DNA. It’s complex, I know. So, just keep this in mind … the way our genes work can be positively influenced, i.e. good nutrition, exercise, avoiding substance abuse, etc. We don’t have to inherit everything, good and bad, from our ancestors. We have options. It’s time to utilize them. Choose to live well!

 

 

Reference Links:

Chronic disease: Genes matter, but so does environment

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4841510/

https://www.medicinenet.com/genetic_disease/article.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/famhistory/famhist_chronic_disease.htm

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/precision-medicine-dna-lifestyle#2

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/family_history.htm

https://www.who.int/genomics/public/geneticdiseases/en/index3.html

Epigenetics – How the Environment Influences Our Genes

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/11/how-health-and-lifestyle-choices-can-change-your-genetic-make-up/247808/

https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/why-7-deadly-diseases-strike-blacks-most#1

*Photo by Tregg Mathis on Unsplash

One Thing Can Lead To Another …

Dare I say it? Yet, if you are living with a Chronic illness, you know it’s true. Secondary conditions happen. In fact, by 2020, it is projected that 157M Americans will be living with some form of Chronic illness. And 81M, well over half of them, will have multiple conditions. But what exactly are these secondary illnesses? The list is long and complex, i.e. Depression, Anxiety, Lupus Nephritis, Pericarditis, Sjögren’s SyndromeCushing’s Syndrome, Secondary Raynaud’s, Secondary Fibromyalgia, Myocarditis, Anemia, Dysphagia, Glaucoma, etc. This isn’t about a low-grade fever, or stiffness. These secondary conditions are serious health problems, in their own right. And when they follow your initial diagnosis, it is both scary and frustrating.

 

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Because of the sheer nature of how a Chronic illness effects a patient, from onset through progression, I want to focus for a moment on Depression and Anxiety. Both are common among the chronically ill. Life is changing. Physical and/or mental abilities are changing. To say that it’s overwhelming is, well, an understatement. The diagnosis alone usually hits a patient like a ton of bricks. Some chronic illnesses, i.e. Parkinson’s, Stroke, etc., actually effect the brain. These changes can directly lead to Depression. Anxiety and stress can also lead to depression. Both are felt by patients who live with any Chronic illness. And a secondary diagnosis can magnify these problems.

If you are experiencing symptoms outside the norm for your diagnosed condition, you should talk to your doctor. You may be living with a secondary illness. And it should be treated — not ignored. A good Support System will help you to cope with your Chronic disease as well as the secondary, i.e. family, friends, doctor, etc. Think of it as a “team sport”! Support Groups are available in many areas. If you are interested, you can contact national organizations for details, i.e. American Cancer Society, SAMHSA, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, The Arthritis Foundation, etc. Or simply ask your physician. These are very beneficial for caregivers, too.

Optimism is also key to living with and effectively managing your Chronic condition. Understand your illness — don’t just accept the diagnosis. If you want another medical opinion, ask for one. It is your body and your right. Learn the facts. Knowledge is power. Find out what you can do, i.e. diet, exercise, medications, etc. Pace yourself. Delegate tasks to reduce your stress level. Understand that setbacks can and usually do happen. Secondary conditions are common. Pursue preventative measures, if possible. If not, maintain your perspective. Blaming yourself isn’t going to help the situation. A Secondary Condition isn’t the end of the world. Let’s say that, again … a Secondary Condition isn’t the end of the world. It’s just a curve-ball that you must deal with. And you can. Millions of patients are doing it. So, give it your best shot! 

Always make the most of every day. Even the difficult ones are a gift. Although, they may not feel like one. With a positive approach, you will also feel better both mentally and physically. You will be able to manage the changes, too. And get back to living!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.nationalhealthcouncil.org/sites/default/files/AboutChronicDisease.pdf

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000602.htm

Secondary Conditions

http://www.jrheum.org/content/46/2/127

Managing Multiple Rheumatic Diseases: How One Patient Copes with Her Disabilities & Advocates for Others

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services.html

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/chronic-illness-mental-health/index.shtml

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11438/

https://www.lung.org/support-and-community/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5209342/

*Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash