Cranberry Goodness

Let’s be honest; shall we? At this time of year, we all enjoy certain foods. Whether it’s comfort or not, we look forward to eating them. Often times, they highlight a family recipe. They might even remind us of a loved one, or a cherished memory. These foods have become part of our holiday celebrations. Some of us may even be incapable of imagining the holidays without them. And I completely understand. Cranberries, in some form, are definitely part of that culinary echelon. But did you know these little, crimson beauties are actually good for you?

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Cranberries are native to North America. Farms in Canada and the U.S. have thousands of acres devoted to this major crop. And we are abundantly grateful to every grower, for it. Cranberries, aside from being downright tasty, provide us with many nutrients and antioxidants. In fact, only blueberries offer a higher antioxidant capacity per serving. They’re also packed with proanthocynidans or PACs that help us to fight — possibly prevent — many diseases. They’re low in calories. And they also provide fiber to our diet. Need I say more?

All of this goodness guards against Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs. It helps those who live with Cardiovascular Disease and Alzheimer’s. Cranberries help with inflammation. That equates to better mobility and possibly less pain, for Arthritis sufferers. They boost our immune system. Hello? Who doesn’t need that! Cranberries can reduce your blood-pressure, lower cholesterol levels, provide better dental health and aid gastrointestinal diseases. If that isn’t enough encouragement, consider this … the goodness of cranberries can slow tumor progression and positively impact many forms of Cancer, i.e. prostate, liver, breast, ovarian and colon.

Cranberries are even good for man’s best friend! Imagine that! For basically the same reasons that humans benefit from eating these berries, our dogs can too! Offer Fido raw, cooked, or dried cranberries in moderation. Juice and sauce are too high in sugar, for our pets. And before you add large amounts of cranberries to your pet’s diet, please talk to your veterinarian. Too much can cause stomach upset. As a pet-owner, it’s important to know where that line is. We want healthy, happy fur-babies. 

Aside from all these perks, cranberries are so easy to add to your diet. Many people enjoy eating them raw, or dried, as a snack. When you’re cooking or baking, consider using cranberries instead of raisins. You’ll be pleasantly surprised! Sprinkle some on your tossed salad, too. Eating healthy doesn’t have to equate to eating bland. If you’re planning a holiday party, you might want to try the Cranberry-Avocado Salsa recipe found in the reference links below. It’s quite simply WOW! And you can prepare it, a day in advance. So, it’s a great time-saver too. If you’re looking for a festive, light dessert … try this Cranberry-Apple Crisp (https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cranberries-year-round-superfood). It’s an easy and awesome way to end a holiday dinner. You could even add a scoop of vanilla ice cream a la mode! Enjoy!

 

Medical note: If you take a blood-thinner, you should consult your doctor before consuming large amounts of cranberries (due to the Vitamin K content). 

 

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cranberries-year-round-superfood

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160614005444/en/Landmark-Study-Suggests-Cranberries-Decrease-Antibiotics

https://www.cranberries.org/health-benefits

https://www.cranberries.org/recipe/cranberry-avocado-salsa

https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/healthy-foods-checklist-cranberry-dogs

* Photo by Henk van der Steege on Unsplash

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Navigating The Holidays

As the holidays approach, many of us start planning menus for our holiday dinner or special gathering. Then, there are the additional invites that inevitably come our way, i.e. office parties, dinners, family get-togethers, pot-lucks, etc. Many of us see weight-gain, in our near future. It’s the holidays, we tell ourselves. It happens. But if you have a Chronic illness that requires healthy eating, like Diabetes, you can’t take a cavalier approach. You can’t afford to.

The holidays can be a daunting journey, for diabetics. Temptation is everywhere. Life becomes more hectic, in a myriad of ways — affecting their blood-sugar levels. And before they know it, they’re losing control of their disease. The key to navigating the holidays is balance. And the best way to maintain balance, while celebrating the season, is by planning ahead!

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If you or a loved one is diabetic, consider these simple steps:

  • Avoid making the holidays solely about food and drink. It’s part of the festivities, but it isn’t the heart of them.
  • Focus on the reason for the season. Here lies the real importance of what you are celebrating. Enjoy the company of those around you, decorating, caroling, etc. That’s how memories are made.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself by scheduling more activities than you can possibly handle. This will help you to maintain your stress levels.
  • Remember to get your rest.
  • Make exercise part of your holiday routine. A quiet walk, a yoga class, a trip to the gym, etc., will help you to keep feeling your best.
  • Think before you eat or drink. Then, make wise choices.

When you are planning a meal, consider implementing healthier recipes. It will help you to stay in control. Sugar is everywhere; isn’t it? Candy. Cookies. Cakes. Pies. But Diabetes management is more than watching your sugar intake. So, watch your carbohydrates. Keep them consistent. Remember that snacking adds up, whether it’s while you are preparing a meal or attending a party. Second helpings just aren’t worth getting off-track. Every diabetic has their limit. You most likely know yours — respect it. If you’re taking a covered-dish to a gathering, think healthy. You won’t be the only one who can benefit from, or enjoy, the option. Remember to check your blood-sugar, often. During the holidays. With so much going on, it’s a smart move. Take your medication, as directed. And if you’re going to drink alcohol, remember that it contains sugar and calories too. It’s best for diabetics to limit their consumption, i.e. one moderately-sized drink per day for women, two for men.

When you plan ahead, make wise choices, etc., you aren’t denying yourself or taking unnecessary health risks. You’re “celebrating smart”! That’s the best way to navigate through the holidays. Think of it this way … a cruise without proper navigation wouldn’t be a pleasurable cruise. And the last thing anyone wants, at the holidays, is misery. So, “celebrate smart”. There’s joy in it — better health, too. And that’s something we can all appreciate!

 

References: 

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/general-health-issues/maintaining-your-health-during-the-holidays/

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/sweet-holiday-tips-diabetics#1

https://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesmanagement/index.html

*Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Give Thanks To The Lord …

Thanksgiving. Sometimes, the original meaning of the day gets lost in the activities that we plan. It doesn’t make us bad, or disrespectful. It just makes us human. Between the parades, the family and friends, the food and football games, we can too easily forget the most important thing — thankfulness. And that’s sad.

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Even in the difficult years, we have reasons to be thankful. Someone, rest assured, has had a year worse than ours. We may not know these individuals personally, but they do exist. When we do know them, it often adds perspective to our own lives. We find ourselves appreciating what we have, instead of fretting about the things that elude us.

The spirit of Thanksgiving has a way of reminding us of what is truly important in our lives. It has the ability to humble us, if we let it. Teach us. This spirit opens hearts and eyes. It reminds us of who we are, as individuals as well as a nation. It can make us aspire to do more and give more. And that’s a good thing. 

When the Plymouth colonists and Native Americans celebrated that first Thanksgiving, they weren’t showing-off a new smartphone or playing football. They were thankful to be alive. The voyage and winter had been harsh. Nearly 50% of all of the passengers on the Mayflower had perished. Adults were widowed. Children were orphaned. These individuals had fought disease as well as the elements, daily. They knew fear and grief. They had struggled, desperate to survive. But when the harvest came … it was plentiful. Friendships had been made. Trade had begun. Hope was overflowing. Despite obvious differences, both the colonists and the Native Americans shared a common thread — the belief in giving thanks. And they did.

On this Thanksgiving, no matter where you are or the company that you are in, take a moment to be thankful. Believe it or not, the turkey and dressing can wait. The cranberry sauce will not disappear. For a moment, reflect on 2018. Think of what you have. Be glad for these blessings. Thank the Lord for each and every one of them. Share your thoughts with others. This is what Thanksgiving is all about.

As you greet your loved ones, hug them a little tighter. Pick up the phone and call those who are far away. Fix a plate and take it to an ailing neighbor. Share. Smile. Laugh. Reminisce. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. But we do know, at this moment, what we have — all that we have. And it is a gift. Be thankful. 

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  —  1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)

 

 

References:

https://www.history.com/news/first-thanksgiving-colonists-native-americans-men

*Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Experiencing The Advantages Of Tai Chi …

Here we are, deep into the Fall season, with the holidays and winter quickly approaching. For many who live with a Chronic illness, the thought of colder weather is a cruel reminder of the pain … stiffness … even lack of mobility … that winter brings. If you are one of these individuals, it may feel as though your body has placed you on house-arrest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Low-impact exercise can help you to feel better and significantly reduce the symptoms that are making you miserable. And none are better at doing this than Tai Chi!

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Unlike other low-impact options, Tai Chi requires slower motion. And this slow motion can loosen your body in ways that others cannot. With Tai Chi, you must concentrate on what you are doing. Think of it as a meeting of the body and the mind. You are focused, yet relaxed. Your breathing is easier — calming your senses. Even the movements of the Tai Chi exercises … from the shifting of your weight … to the flowing motions of your arms … articulate every joint. You can actually feel better, after just 8-10 minutes of Tai Chi. As you strengthen your core, you may want to do longer sessions. And you can do Tai Chi in so many places, i.e. inside your home, in your yard, at a park, on vacation, etc. The winter weather cannot keep you from enjoying the benefits, even on the snowiest of days.

Aside from flexibility and convenience, Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve your balance. That is something anyone, at any age, can use. Tai Chi is also helpful for circulation. As with any exercise program, discuss Tai Chi with your doctor before starting. But given its reputation, he or she will probably encourage you to take the initiative. And, just in case you are wondering about expense, Tai Chi is as affordable as purchasing a DVD. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, or a gym membership. If you would prefer a class, there may be locations in your area that offer them. You can also obtain information from The Arthritis Foundation (call 1-800-283-7800, or visit http://www.arthritis.org). You can even find Tai Chi on YouTube. Perhaps, the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be good at Tai Chi to reap the rewards. You just have to be willing to try!

 

 

References:

https://www.energyarts.com/tai-chi-worlds-best-low-impact-exercise/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/tai-chi-and-chi-gong

*Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. So, for a moment, let’s shed some light on this chronic illness. Anyone can develop Epilepsy. No one is immune. But what exactly is it? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that effects the nervous system. It is also known as a seizure disorder. The diagnosis usually comes after an individual has had two or more seizures. These seizures are caused by electrical disturbances within the brain. Sometimes, they are the result of a brain injury. Other times, they can be caused by other medical conditions, i.e. stroke, brain tumors, meningitis, AIDs, etc. But for many patients, the cause of Epilepsy is unknown. 

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Last year, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of Americans living with Epilepsy had reached an all-time high — approximately 3.4M! Globally, over 60M live with the illness. 

There are many types of seizures, so symptoms and treatment can vary widely. But every patient with Epilepsy can benefit from awareness. There are, unfortunately, many stigmas that have been [and still are] attached to this illness. This misinformation can lead to harassment, bullying, even discrimination. Let’s change that!

An Epilepsy patient’s intelligence should never be underestimated, because of their condition. In fact, many world leaders … high achievers … influential advocates … inspiring athletes … and successful artists … have lived with seizures, i.e. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Socrates, Michelangelo, Presidents James Madison and Theodore Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, George Gershwin, Charles Dickens, Margaux Hemingway, Florence Griffith Joyner, Danny Glover, Chief Justice John Roberts, etc.

As with any chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc., patients must respect their condition. They should take their medication as directed and maintain regular visits with their doctor. Epilepsy is a diagnosis. It is treatable. But it does not define who the individual is, or their abilities. Most people with Epilepsy lead normal lives. They go to school, college, build careers, raise families, etc. They have hobbies and enjoy sports.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. The more you know, the better that you can understand. You can spread the word. And, most importantly, you can change your view as well as the views of others!

 

References:

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0810-epilepsy-prevalence.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093

https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-epilepsy/celebrity-lists

http://www.edmontonepilepsy.org/epilepsy/living/famous.html

https://epilepsynewstoday.com/2016/09/09/boy-with-epilepsy-scores-a-grade-advanced-mathematics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14728909

http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/epilepsy/how-does-epilepsy-affect-daily-life/

What Is Forest Medicine?

The healing properties of nature have long been recognized. Cedar trees were used by many Native American tribes for healing and protection against disease. John Muir, the great Scottish-born American naturalist and writer once said, “Come to the forest, for here is rest.” A century later, researchers around the world were taking medicinal and scientific interests in trees. The Japanese government was literally encouraging its citizens to get out — commune with the woods — for therapy. They called it “forest bathing”. From 2004-2012, Japan spent $4M studying hundreds of subjects. Their work became the foundation for the modern concept of “Forest Medicine”. But what exactly is it? 

 

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Forest Medicine is the science of using nature to heal you. And it has been accepted by many traditional medical practitioners. Why? Research has proven that trees having healing properties. The antimicrobial oils, or phytoncides, that protect them from germs can also help people. These oils reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety. They also boost the immune system, improve sleep and increase energy. It’s even possible that they can help you fight cancer or depression. As a result of these and other benefits, Japan designated 62 therapeutic forests. These woodlands attract millions, every year. All in search of better health.

Researchers in North America have also taken notice of Forest Medicine. A study, conducted by doctors at the University of Illinois, noted that children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hypersensitivity Disorder) showed improved concentration after just a 20-minute walk in a green space, i.e. a park. Many spas and treatment centers throughout the U.S. and Canada now offer “Forest Therapy” or “Shinrin-Yoku”. It’s even been highlighted for tourists, i.e. The Travel Channel and the Fodors Travel Guide. Some locales may be closer than you think. Are you tempted? The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy actually offers free Forest Therapy Starter Kits, on their website.

For me, personally, I find rejuvenation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I prefer that simple, one-on-one approach. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks, in the mountain streams, soothe me. The smells of wood and earth fill my senses. And I feel stronger — better. I somehow have more energy. I don’t have to climb a high peak to experience the positive effects to my body. I don’t have to hike five miles. Nature opens its arms like a loving mother and it provides. And the peace is priceless.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://qz.com/1208959/japanese-forest-medicine-is-the-art-of-using-nature-to-heal-yourself-wherever-you-are/

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

https://hikingresearch.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/an-interview-with-forest-medicine-and-shinrin-yoku-researcher-dr-qing-li/

http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

https://www.redbuttegarden.org/forest-medicine-north-america/

https://www.fodors.com/news/hotels/9-spas-where-you-can-try-forest-bathing

*Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

                                               

 

Kindness Matters …

Our relationships are like the seasons — they change with time. Some grow warmer and others are colder. Some may be harsh. Others are soothing … understanding … and loving. How these relationships evolve, or change, in part depends on each of us. Why?We change, i.e. our health, our jobs, our priorities, etc. Often times, that change can effect our relationships — even strain them. Yet, our relationships are an important part of our lives. And that is all the more reason for us to be proactive.

As winter approaches, we pull out our winter clothes. We may even buy a new coat, boots, a scarf, or all of the above. We make an effort to prepare. We take the time to consider what is, or may be, needed. As summer approaches, we do the same. Our relationships need that same kind of attention. It doesn’t matter who your relationship is with, i.e. spouse, partner, significant other, caregiver, children, parents, co-workers, etc. All need and deserve consideration.

None of us are the person that we once were. But we can still be our best, despite age or Chronic illness. We can reach out — nurture ourselves as well as our relationships. And we can be all the better for it. But to do so, we need to embrace kindness.

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“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”   —   Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

One the surface, kindness is the quality of being considerate … generous … friendly. But, often times, it requires courage and strength. Though it isn’t regularly seen as such, kindness is a skill. There are different ways that we can practice kindness. We can look at a person, or group, and identify what they need. When we do so, we strengthen the relationship between us and them. Simple gestures, i.e. a smile, a hug, offering a compliment, or running an errand are acts of kindness. A card, an email, or a phone call are also excellent ways to extend kindness. Sometimes, the most helpful acts of kindness are candid and direct. They show our concern as well as providing much needed honesty and insight.

Kindness is linked to happiness and contentment — ours and someone else’s. It has  psychological and spiritual levels. Kindness promotes our gratitude and our empathy. It can encourage the will to live and provide hope to those who feel life is hopeless. Kindness has the ability to connect us, one-on-one or as a group. Kindness can bond an entire community — strengthen it. And Kindness can be good for our own health.

If you, a loved one, or neighbor has a Chronic illness, kindness can be a godsend. Talk with them. Talk to their caregiver, or yours. Talk candidly. Tell them what you need. Ask what they need. There is no shame in asking for help. Nor does it take a great deal of effort to offer some. Little things can and do mean a lot. All of us, chronically ill or well, need help from time to time. Last, but not least, remember to be kind to yourself. Love yourself.

Self-kindness has the ability to promote better health, in patients who are chronically ill. Most Chronic diseases involve pain, fatigue and/or a decrease of functioning. Self-kindness will allow a patient to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. It enables all of us to better cope with stress, setbacks, etc. Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is even being considered for use in clinical settings. Like optimism, it’s a positive thing. And the rewards are worth reaping.

May God bless.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mdedge.com/jcomjournal/article/146122/role-self-compassion-chronic-illness-care

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-wellbeing

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/help-chronic.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness

*Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash