Seeds & A Healthy Garden …

Spring is in the air, for most of us. With it, there always seems to be that surge of Spring fever that hits this time of year — an opportunity to rid ourselves of the old and bring in the new. We visit garden centers … plant seeds … fertilize soil … and nourish all that grows. Then, we cross our dirty fingers and say a prayer — hoping for a good outcome. Our lives — our bodies — are gardens, too. Remember? Though it would be easier to care for them, on a seasonal basis, it isn’t the best of choices.

If you have a Chronic illness, you know this all too well. It is a 24/7 job just trying to keep up, i.e. symptoms, treatment, doctor’s appointments, routine tests, medications, side-effects, surgery, therapy, etc. Somewhere on that long list, you have to fit in your work schedule … time for your friends and family … even some exercise. You have to avoid too much stress, when your illness seems to literally breed it. You may need to limit, or omit alcohol. And your diet may also need fine-tuning. Some days, it feels pretty overwhelming. Other days, you just want to give up. You may even console yourself by saying, “I can’t do it all!” But if you have a digestive condition like Diverticulitis … managing your diet is key to managing your disease and your life. You have to do better than try. You must prioritize how you eat.

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Diverticulitis is an inflammation, or infection, of the diverticula (small pouches) in the walls of the intestines. Abscesses can develop, as well as perforation of the bowel. The disease may present itself as acute or chronic. In its acute form, Diverticulitis is one or more attacks with periods of stability in-between. Chronic Diverticulitis never clears completely. It is a daily health issue. With time, the disease can cause a variety of complications. Often times, surgery is required.

Exercise, diet and fluid consumption (especially water) play intricate roles in managing Diverticulitis. If you have been diagnosed, you should try to exercise for 30 minutes on most days. It will promote normal bowel function and reduce pressure on your colon. A High-fiber diet will reduce your risk of a disease flare-up. Fiber in your diet absorbs water. This will aid in eliminating wastes from the body.

It was once thought that seeds and nuts aggravated Diverticulitis. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has proven this to be untrue. There was no correlation between eating nuts, seeds or popcorn and uncomplicated diverticular disease. There was also no significant association between ingesting fruits with small seeds, i.e. blueberries, strawberries, etc., and complications to Diverticulitis. So, by all means, enjoy such foods.

All of these steps promote a healthier colon. And a healthier colon equates to a happier you. Once you are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, lifestyle changes are often beneficial to your overall well-being. There are no cures. But you can choose to make the most out of every day. And choices matter. Maintain a healthy garden and enjoy living!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.ajronline.org/doi/full/10.2214/AJR.07.3597

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16885698

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371758

https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/understanding-diverticulitis-basics

https://www.badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/who-says-you-cant-eat-nuts/

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diverticulosis-diverticulitis/eating-diet-nutrition

* Photo by Jannis Brandt on Unsplash

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Addison’s Awareness & Butterflies …

The next time you are sitting in a garden, or on a park bench … admiring the beauty … soaking-up the warmth of early Spring … look around and see if you can spot a butterfly. Watch them as they glide through the air … fluttering from one flower to the next … teasing your senses … almost daring you to follow them. Then, try to take note of how many — if any — are blue. As strange as it may sound, blue butterflies are rare. The Palos Verdes Blue is the rarest butterfly in the world. Perhaps, this has helped to make blue butterflies the perfect symbol for a lot of things including Addison’s Disease? Approximately, 40-60 people out of every million are diagnosed with Addison’s. It too is rare and deserves our attention. Since April is Addison’s Disease Awareness Month, there is no better time to start a discussion …

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Addison’s, also known as Adrenal Insufficiency Disorder, is the result of severe or total deficiency of the hormones that are made in the Adrenal cortex. The Adrenal glands, located above each kidney, are two endocrine (hormone producing) glands that function as one. Addison’s effects both genders, equally. It discriminates against no one. Onset of the disease usually occurs between 20-50 years of age. However, young children and teens have also been diagnosed. And Addison’s can be life-threatening.

The symptoms usually develop slowly, but they should never be ignored:

  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal issues, i.e. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Salt cravings

If you, or a loved one, has experienced any of these symptoms, you should see your physician immediately. Early diagnosis is crucial to a patient’s quality of life, even years after the disease first presents itself.

Simple tests, along with a discussion of your medical history, are used to make the diagnosis. Treatment for Addison’s will include Hormone Replacement Therapy to correct levels in the patient’s body. This may be administered orally, or by injection. Sodium intake is also important, especially if it is hot weather … rigorous exercise is planned … or stomach issues are present.

April is Addison’s Awareness Month. So, read about it. Talk about it. Google it. Help others to be more informed. Addison’s patients are just like everyone else. They have dreams, goals, jobs and plans. They go to school, work and marry. They enjoy the same things that the rest of us do, i.e. movies, sports, shopping, music, painting, travel, etc. Illness does not define them. It is just part of who they are. And they are capable of great things. One of them became the 35th President of the United States!

Chronic illness, if anything, teaches patience and perseverance. Addison’s patients know this. They live by it. And they have normal life expectancy. So, please, treat them normally. They are our loved ones, friends, neighbors and co-workers. They just have Addison’s. They manage their condition. They live their lives. And if we can offer a little encouragement … a smile … some support … it’s appreciated. Understanding, like acceptance, matters.

Remember those butterflies? Each one goes through four life stages, before it gets its wings. Yet, the end result is beautiful. The next time you see one, whether it is blue or not, think about Addison’s Disease. Then, spread the word. Awareness is priceless!

 

Reference Links:

https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/addisons-disease/

http://www.nadf.us/adrenal-diseases/addisons-disease/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350293

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350296

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P01979

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23322510

https://www.dailystrength.org/group/addison-s-disease

http://www.butterflyinsight.com/blue-butterfly-color-meaning-and-myths.html

*Photo by Ashley Rich on Unsplash

It Is Well With My Soul

If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual rollercoaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace it. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?

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A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your spiritual beliefs.

Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in difficult times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. Those things they shrugged aside — took for granted. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.

Today, thanks to modern medicine, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems to be addressed. Awareness continues to be a need. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. We cannot control human nature. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes —  to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or marriage? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. And you probably feel the same. But it is well with my soul.

Have a Blessed Easter.

 

Reference Links:

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

http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2012/july-online-only/doesgodallowtragedy.html

http://www.jennifermartinpsych.com/yourcolorlooksgoodblog/2013/09/the-five-stages-of-grief-for-chronic.html

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-affliction.html

https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/diseases-bible

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070773/

*Photo by Caleb Frith on Unsplash

Should I Take Generics?

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If you manage to celebrate your 65th birthday, free of any chronic illness, by all means consider yourself lucky. More than half of America’s population is living with at least one chronic condition, i.e. Mental illness, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, HIV, Cancer, Epilepsy, Hypertension, Addiction, etc. If you are one of those individuals, then you know how expensive and confusing it can be. Medication isn’t the sole issue, but it is a large part of the equation. And as the cost of medication continues to rise, you feel the pinch on your budget. Frustration. Worry. So, you begin to think about your options. With a chronic illness, you cannot risk doing without your medication. Though, unfortunately, some have resorted to such decisions. But you can consider alternatives. Generics offer a very viable solution.

When a company creates a Brand-name drug, a lot of research goes into its development. Once the FDA gives their approval, a 20-year patent is issued. And the drug goes on the market. When that patent expires, a Generic version can be created. Because it requires less research/development expense, a Generic costs less — usually 30-80% less!

I am not here to promote any specific company, or drug. I am here to inform. What many people do not realize is that a Generic drug is a chemically-equivalent version of a Brand-name drug. The FDA requires that Generics have the same active ingredient, dosage, safety strength, usage directions, quality and performance as the Brand-name drugs they copy. They work in the same way. And, like Brand-name drugs, they are manufactured in FDA-inspected facilities.

There are two types of Generic drugs: Generic Substitution and Therapeutic Exchange. A Generic Substitution drug is the equivalent of the Brand-name drug, on the molecular level. The Therapeutic Exchange is a little different. Think of it as comparing store-brand products with Brand-name products. It is a molecular-related substitute, but not exactly the same.

Generic drugs play a pivotal role in the management and treatment of chronic illnesses. One study estimated that the use of Brand-name drugs for the treatment of blood-pressure, in a non-diabetic patient, can cost up to $52K per year. That same patient, using Generics, spends under $8K per year. Which would you prefer to pay?

Best of all, Generics do work. I have spoken to many people, with a variety of chronic illnesses, who made the decision to switch to Generics. Like myself, they found that the Generic drug performed as well as the Brand-name drug. Health insurers and government programs also approve of their use. In many cases, pharmacies will automatically fill a prescription with the Generic version unless they are instructed to use the Brand-name drug.

All medications, Generic or Brand-name, have side-effects. There is no perfect pill, capsule, injection, etc. Finding the right medication is often a process of trial and error … searching … trying … sometimes trying again … then finding the one that works for you. And a couple of Generics, as with a few Brand-name drugs, have been disappointing. Still, the vast majority of Generics are not only safe … they are very effective!

If you are wondering about the use of Generics, talk to your doctor. Ask questions. Be candid with your concerns. He/She can give you information on the Generics that are available for treating your condition/s. You can also visit the FDA Generic Drug Program on their website. You have a choice. Perhaps, it’s time to consider making it?

 

Reference Links:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161025092655.htm

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/buying-generic-drugs-201607159982

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21734210

http://healthsmart.com/SmarterHealth/GenericVsBrandDrugs.aspx

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/article/how-good-are-generic-drugs

https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/GenericDrugs/ucm167991.htm

*Photo by Pina Messina on Unsplash

The Healing Power of A Pet

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Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful they are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All heathful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. And many seniors live with chronic illnesses that cause a lot of discomfort.

When we are bonding with a pet, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo by the author

Clarity In The Garden …

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There are few things that represent clarity better than water. Whether you are admiring a waterfall, a fountain, a koi pond, or the massive ocean, there is something clear … almost pristine … about it. You might even wonder how it can look that way … beautiful, refreshing, sustaining.

God gave nature ecosystems to filtrate its water. If you own a garden pond or fountain, you probably have a filtration system operating to maintain it — freeing the water of muck and algae. He also gave our bodies a good filtration system to eliminate cellular wastes and fluids. That system comes in the form of a pair of organs known as kidneys. But when Chronic Kidney Disease strikes, it can make that filtration very difficult.

CKD, or Chronic Kidney Failure as it is also known, is the gradual loss of kidney functioning. When it reaches an advanced stage, dangerous levels of wastes and fluid build-up in the body. Progression of CKD can lead to End-Stage Kidney Failure which requires regular dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.

Chronic Kidney Disease has a variety of symptoms that may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep Problems
  • Changes In Urination
  • Decreased Mental Sharpness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Swelling in the feet & ankles
  • Itchy Skin
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Hypertension

Since many of these symptoms can be associated with other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor if you are experiencing them. A diagnosis usually involves examining family history; the medications a patient may be taking; blood tests; urine tests; Imaging tests; and possibly a kidney biopsy. If Chronic Kidney Disease is present, treatment is based upon the stage that the CKD is in.

Since CKD is a Chronic illness, it’s not leaving. So a patient’s response becomes very pivotal to how the disease progresses. There was life before CKD and now there must be life with it. Lifestyle modifications have shown significant improvement in many CKD patients. Through diet alone, one study showed that patients with CKD reduced their risk of death by 68%! Cigarette smoking, exercise and body mass also play a role. Those CKD patients who do not smoke show a slower progression of the disease. They also have a reduced risk of heart attacks and death. Regular exercise was also associated with a reduced risk of death.

The DASH diet has been approved by many health organizations including the National Kidney Foundation. If you have been diagnosed with CKD and need to lose some weight, it is an excellent option. Studies have already shown that the DASH diet helps to decrease hypertension; lowers a patient’s risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer; as well as reducing the formation of kidney stones. If you have any questions, discuss it with your doctor or contact the National Kidney Foundation.

The DASH diet is simple. It is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. The diet encourages less salt/sodium intake. And it limits sugars/sweets. This isn’t a crash diet, or a fad diet. This is about eating healthier and living better as a result.

Exercise can play a positive role, in the lives of CKD patients. Yet, some choose to avoid it. Hopefully, if you’ve been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, you will talk to your doctor about exercise options that can keep you on the move. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase oxygen consumption, in some patients. There is also evidence that aerobics can improve hypertension, lipid profiles and overall mental health. If you just can’t visualize yourself in an aerobics class, then consider another low-impact option. There are many low-impact exercises that provide beneficial results: Golf, Swimming, Water Aerobics, Walking, Elliptical machines, Kayaking, Hiking, Yoga, etc. The important thing is that you find one that you like and get moving.

Life with Chronic Kidney Disease isn’t easy, but it is possible. What matters most is the kind of gardener that you are. Think about that, for a moment. If you ever seen an unkept garden, you know that it is steadily taken over, i.e. weeds, pests, etc. There is no control. A conscientious gardener stays vigilant … takes the actions that need to be taken, maintains a level of control. As a result, they have a beautiful garden. Our lives are gardens, too. How we live … thrive … and enjoy life … depends upon the kind of garden that we choose to keep!

                         “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengthens Me.”

 — Philippians 4:13 (KJV)

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/stages-of-chronic-kidney-disease-topic-overview

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Dash_Diet

https://www.kidney.org/news/lifestyle-modifications-improve-ckd-patient-outcomes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15974634

* Photo by Jeffrey Workman on Unsplash