August 27th, 2014

6 Powerful (But Simple!) Tools To Cope With Stress

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have a pattern for coping with stress. Unfortunately, most people have found patterns and methods that do not support good health.
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If you want to be truly successful in coping with stress, you need to identify negative coping patterns, and replace them with the following, positive ways of coping.

1. Train yourself to think like an optimist.

What distinguishes an optimist from a pessimist is the way in which one explains both good and bad events. Instead of blaming, for example, you recognize that everyone makes mistakes. Instead of getting angry, you forgive. Instead of being down on yourself, you recognize that you did your best, given the circumstances.

2. Make a real effort to talk to yourself in a positive way.

There is a constant dialogue taking place in our heads, and our self-talk makes an impression on our subconscious mind. In order to develop or maintain a positive mental attitude, you must guard against negative self-talk.

Become aware of your self-talk and then consciously work to imprint positive self-talk on the subconscious mind. Two powerful tools for creating positive self-talk are questions and affirmations,

3. Ask better questions.

A powerful tool for improving the quality of self-talk and hence the quality of life is a series of questions originally given to me by Anthony Robbins, author of the bestsellers Unlimited Power and Awaken the Giant Within.

According to Tony, the quality of your life is equal to the quality of the questions you habitually ask yourself. For example: An individual is met with a particular challenge or problem. He or she can ask a number of questions in this situation, such as “Why does this always happen to me?” or, “Why am I always so stupid?”

The answers to these questions don’t build self-esteem. A better question would be, “What can I learn from this situation or do to make it better?” If you want more happiness in your life, simply ask yourself the following questions on a consistent basis: “What am I most happy about in my life right now?” and “Why does that make me happy?”

4. Use positive affirmations.

An affirmation is a short statement with some emotional intensity behind it. Positive affirmations can make imprints on the subconscious mind to create a healthy, positive self-image. In addition, affirmations can actually fuel the changes you desire.

You may want to have the following affirmations in plain sight to recite them over the course of the day:

  • I am blessed with an abundance of energy.
  • Love, joy, and happiness flow through me with every heartbeat.
  • I am thankful for all of my good fortune.
  • Yes, I can!

5. Set positive goals.

Learning to set goals is another powerful method for building a positive attitude and raising self-esteem. Goals can be used to create a “success cycle.”

Achieving goals helps you feel better about yourself, and the better you feel about yourself, the more likely that you will achieve your goals.

Here are some guidelines to use when setting goals:

  • State the goal in positive terms. For example, it’s better to say “I enjoy eating healthy, low-calorie, nutritious foods” than “I will not eat sugar, candy, ice cream, and other fattening foods.”
  • Make your goal attainable and realistic. Little things add up to make a major difference in the way you feel about yourself.
  • Be specific. The more clearly your goal is defined, the more likely you are to reach it.
  • State the goal in the present tense, not the future tense. In order to reach your goal, you have to believe you have already attained it.
  • Set short-term goals that can be used to help you achieve your long-term goals. Get into the habit of asking yourself the following question each morning and evening: “What must I do today to achieve my long-term goal?”

6. Practice positive visualizations.

Many people believe that we have to be able to see our lives the way we want them to be before it happens. In terms of ideal health, you absolutely must picture yourself in ideal health if you truly want to experience this state.

You can use visualization in all areas of your life, but especially for your health. Be creative and have fun with positive visualizations and you will soon find yourself living your dreams.

August 27th, 2014

Is Your Medicine Making You Sick?

Ever since we were children, we’ve been told to take pills when we feel bad—for headaches, insomnia, indigestion, aches and pains, even mild depression, to name a few common complaints. TV ads reinforce this message, with experts telling us what pills to take to stop our pain.

We’re so used to reaching for pharmaceuticals for fast relief that we don’t stop to ask three obvious questions:

  1. What is really causing the discomfort?
  2. Are these drugs really working?
  3. Are the side effects worse than the original symptoms?

We’re encouraged to mask our symptoms, and the medical and pharmaceutical industries are more than happy to indulge us. The catch is, a headache is not caused by aspirin deficiency, so even five types of aspirin are not going to cure it!

In fact, many common drugs we take to relieve our symptoms—both over-the-counter and prescription medications—often make the symptoms worse. You can end up sicker than if you never took them!

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Below are some beliefs and facts about common drug store medications you may turn to regularly whenever you feel out of sorts, and some alternatives that may be better and cost less.

“Meds” That May Be Making You Sick

1. Antacids

Belief: The wonder cure for indigestion.

Fact: Antacids harm your digestive system.

Antacid therapy—particularly the proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid—actually increase the risks of various gastrointestinal cancers. Use of these meds can lead to serious nutrient deficiencies and intestinal infections, along with other side effects. They prevent your body from performing its normal digestive process.

Safer alternatives: Eliminate the foods from your diet that may be causing the problem. Learn how to prepare hydrochloric acid in the right dosage. Try digestive enzymes, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, and peppermint oil. Switch to a high-fiber diet, and help yourself to 6-8 glasses of water a day.

2. Aspirins and Other Headache Pills

Belief: Aspirins stop headaches, so take as many as you want; no side effects!

Fact: Headache meds can actually cause headaches.

The medicines most people use to treat chronic tension headaches actually make them worse, including aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol). In one study, 200 headache sufferers improved after they stopped taking the headache medications they were using.

Safer alternatives: Relaxing your neck, face, and scalp muscles (using self-massage, breathing, and other simple procedures) usually brings immediate relief. Chiropractic care, physical therapy (correcting your posture and stretching your cervical muscles, for example), and massage therapy can help, as do exercise workouts and stress-management techniques. Look on the labels of your other “meds” and see if “headache” is listed as a possible side effect.

3. Sleeping Pills

Belief: Sleeping pills just help you sleep.

Fact: Sleeping pills actually deprive you of sleep.

Most people don’t realize that these popular meds disrupt healthy sleep cycles. We need our sleep to feel rested, happy, and ready to face the day, and sleeping pills can end up depriving us of that. Don’t kid yourself: sleeping pills are powerful drugs that interfere with normal brain function, and they are also highly addictive. They can cause depression, and can produce a 25 percent increase in early mortality and all causes of cancer.

Safer alternatives: Avoid substances that throw off your sleeping patterns, including alcohol, caffeine, and recreational drugs such as marijuana. Instead, take 3 mg of melatonin or other natural sleep aids like magnesium, 5-HTP, L-theanine, or valerian. These supplements are very safe and effective. Daily exercise and progressive relaxation techniques are also great remedies for sleeplessness.

4. Antidepressants

Belief: Antidepressants are fairly safe and well worth the trouble.

Fact: Look out! Antidepressants make you fat!

SSRI-type antidepressants (for example, Prozac and Zolof) alter an area of the brain that regulates both serotonin levels and the utilization of glucose, causing an increase in obesity. In one study, some patients gained 40-60 pounds in a short period of time, and once that process begins, it usually doesn’t end. This makes you feel even more depressed, and threatens your health in many ways.

Safer alternatives: St. John’s Wort extract (SJWE) standardized to contain 3-5 percent hyperforin has proven to be more effective than antidepressants for mild to moderate depression, 900 mg/day to 1,800 mg/day, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Also explore cognitive therapy and a technique called “learned optimism,” both of which have shown great results too.

5. Osteoarthritis Pills

Belief: Popping pills for arthritis is just part of growing older.

Fact: Osteoarthritis drugs lead to joint destruction.

Meds for the aches and pains of osteoarthritis, including NSAIDS and COX-2 inhibitors, actually make the condition worse than if the patient took nothing at all. Both types of drugs speed up osteoarthritis and joint destruction by interfering with cartilage repair.

Safer alternatives: Glucosamine sulfate, taken as a supplement, stimulates the body’s natural production of glycosaminoglycans, the structural components of cartilage. It is also more effective for pain relief than conventional osteoarthritis meds.

The Takeaway

Before you reach for that quick-fix drug, ask yourself these questions:  What is the real cause of my discomfort, and will this pill help address it? Has this drug really worked for me in the past, in all aspects, and with long-term benefits? Have I really thought about what the side effects were for me in the past? What do clinical studies say?

If you don’t like the answers, you will be happy to know that there are often safe alternatives to prescription medications, ones that actually cure the underlying condition. In short, you can enjoy symptom relief without the dangerous side effects, and improve your health for good.

August 27th, 2014

5 Natural Supplements To Help You Avoid Catching A Summer Cold

Toss your sweaters to the side, because summer is officially here!
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However, you may be tempted to keep those Kleenex around. After all, a lot of folks get upper respiratory ailments this time of year, perhaps due to the change of weather or complications related to seasonal allergies. This is when you need your immune system to kick in to high gear.

The whole topic of dietary supplements is confusing to many consumers. Which ones should we take, and which ones really work?

Have no fear: you can beat that summer cold. Here is a short list of natural supplements that are effective for preventing and treating colds and related upper respiratory ailments. Start with the first supplement and add others, based on your symptoms.

 

Natural Ways To Help You Avoid Getting Sick This Summer

 1. Antioxidant Mixture

Antioxidant mixtures are great for keeping a cold at bay. The nutrients found in an antioxidant mixture help prevent oxidative damage to the thymus gland, the major organ of the immune system.

Try a good antioxidant mixture to keep your thymus going strong. Find a high-potency multiple vitamin and mineral supplement that combines all essential nutrients including approximately: 20-30 mg zinc, 200 mcg selenium, 25,000 IU beta-carotene (or other carotenes), 100-250 mg vitamins C, and 100-200 IU vitamin E.

2. Astragalus

Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, this herb is getting more respect lately because scientists have found that it contains substances that stimulate different parts of the immune system.

Need more proof? In one open, randomized clinical trial in China, 115 patients who took the herb for eight weeks showed significant improvement in their counts of infection-fighting white blood cells.

A typical daily dose is 100-150 mg of powdered extract combined with any liquid, three times daily, whenever you have a cold or flu. Caution: If you have rheumatoid arthritis or another autoimmune disease, use astragalus only under a doctor’s supervision.

3. South African geranium

Also known as umckaloabo, this herbal remedy has been shown to be effective for treating bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection that often follows colds.

Although doctors of herbal medicine typically recommend this natural supplement for patients who have been diagnosed with bronchitis, I advise taking it if you have a cold, because it reduces symptoms. Dosage is 20 mg three times a day until symptoms subside.

4. Beta-glucan

This is a class of compounds found in baker’s yeast, medicinal mushrooms, and a variety of grains. These compounds have been shown to stimulate the activity of immune cells and immune signaling proteins, which help the body fight infections.

Like a key in a lock, the binding of the beta-glucan to cellular receptors flips white blood cells on and triggers a chain reaction, leading to increased immune activity. Dosage is 250-500 mg daily. This dose is effective for treating viral infections as well as prevention, for when you feel a cold coming on.

5. Echinacea

Modern research has shown Echinacea purpurea—otherwise known as the purple coneflower—exerts significant effects on immune function.

That being said, be aware that not all of the clinical studies in humans have been positive. There have been mixed results from clinical studies with echinacea. What determines the effectiveness of any herbal product, however, is its ability to deliver an effective dosage of active compounds.

For example, a study that used Echinacea purpurea plants concluded that early intervention reduced symptom severity in subjects with upper respiratory tract infection. Some people, in fact, cleared their cold symptoms up to three times faster than the placebo group.

Many of the studies that have discounted the effectiveness of echinacea in recent years were found to have used low-quality forms of the herb. Buy fresh product and follow dosage instructions printed on the label.

August 27th, 2014

The Minimalist’s Guide To Detoxing Your Body Using Healthy Foods

When you hear the word “detox,” do you cringe a little bit?

Many people associate detox diets with fasting, but the best approach may be to detoxify gradually, with fresh and delicious food. Detoxing your body doesn’t have to be unpleasant.

A sound approach to aiding the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms can include a long-term approach to detoxing combined with the use of periodic short juice fasts (three to five days).

Our body is in a constant state of removing harmful substances, and we can give it some help.

The Long-Term Approach to Detoxification

To truly support the body’s detoxification processes, you must support the health of your liver. This is more of a long-term lifestyle decision.

To do so, you definitely want to stay away from:

  • Saturated fats
  • Refined sugar
  • Excessive alcohol

Load up your diet with foods that are rich in components that help protect the liver from damage and improve liver function. These include:

  • High sulfur-containing foods (garlic, legumes, onions, and eggs
  • Good sources of water-soluble fibers (pears, oat bran, apples, and legumes)
  • Cabbage family vegetables (especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage)
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Dandelion
  • Many herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger

But if you’re looking for results quicker than that, detoxing your body can also be done through cleanses. Those are probably the ones that make you cringe, but don’t worry–you’ll enjoy this!

Steps To A Short-Term (And Tasty!) Detox

1. Use fresh juice

Most healthy people do not need to go on a strict water fast to aid in detoxification. Instead, a three-to-five-day fresh fruit and vegetable juice cleanse actually provides the greatest benefit.

Drinking fresh juice for cleansing reduces some of the side effects associated with a water fast, such as light-headedness, fatigue, and headaches. In fact, while on a fresh juice fast, individuals typically experience the contrary: an increased sense of well-being, renewed energy, clearer thought, and a sense of purity.

Just make sure to only use only fresh fruit or vegetable juice in order to aid elimination, because fresh juice provides valuable enzymes to our system.

2. Prepare

Although a short juice cleanse can be started at any time, it is best to begin on a weekend or during a time period when adequate rest can be assured.

The more rest, the better the results, as energy can be directed toward healing instead of toward other body functions.

Prepare for a cleanse on the day before solid food is stopped by making the last meal one of only fresh fruits and vegetables (some authorities recommend a full day of raw food to start a fast, even a juice fast).

3. Make the juice the right way

Only fresh fruit and vegetable juices from a home juicer (ideally prepared from organic produce) should be consumed for the next three to five days, four 8- to 12-ounce glasses throughout the day.

Virtually any fresh juice provides support for detoxification; however, some of the better juices to consume during a fast include pineapple-ginger; cranberry-apple; spinach-celery-kale-apple; kale-broccoli-cabbage-carrots-apple; and parsley-carrot-spinach-celery-tomato.

The Takeaway

The ability to detoxify is one of the critical factors for health. After all, it’s amazing just how well the body handles the constant onslaught of modern living! Detoxing your body regularly is very important. Periodic juice fasting, as well as a long-term approach to detoxification, can keep your body strong.

More information on detoxing and juice fasts, including more than 150 recipes, are in The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality (Clarkson Potter, January 2014).

August 27th, 2014

15 Simple Ways To Eat More Fruits And Veggies

Take a look at your typical plate of food. Do you have a piece of meat and some potatoes? Or maybe pasta and a hamburger?

In other words, is your diet looking pretty…well…beige?

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If you’re eating a lot of beige food, chances are you’re not getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Translation: You’re missing out on lots of healthy fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that fight disease.

You don’t have to be a gourmet vegetarian cook to add variety, color, and nutrition to your diet. Here are some very easy tips to increase your intake of daily of fruits and veggies.

How To Make Your Diet Colorful

1. Buy variety.

Buy many kinds of fruits and vegetables when you shop, so you have plenty of choices at home. It’s easy to add slices of summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocadoes to your plate, or to grab a carrot or apple when you’re in a rush.

2. Use the freezer.

Stock up on frozen vegetables for easy cooking so that you always have a vegetable dish with your dinner.

3. Eat while fresh.

Use the fruits and veggies that go bad quickly (peaches, asparagus) first. Save hardier varieties (apples, acorn squash) or frozen goods for later in the week.

4. Keep them handy.

Keep a fruit bowl on your kitchen counter, table, or desk at work. Have washed cherries or red grapes in an open bowl in your fridge. The more often you see them, the more likely you are to eat them.

5. Fix easy grabbers.

Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables on the top shelf of the refrigerator. You can also section oranges and keep them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.

6. Have salad ready.

Make up a big tossed salad with several kinds of greens, cherry tomatoes, carrot, red pepper, broccoli, scallions, and sprouts–but don’t add dressing. Refrigerate in a large glass bowl with an airtight lid. You’ll have a delicious mixed salad to enjoy for several days.

7. Eat fruit-based desserts.

Treat yourself to a fruit sundae. Top a bowl of your favorite cut-up fruits with vanilla yogurt, shredded coconut, and a handful of nuts. For a special dessert, try a fruit parfait with low-fat yogurt or sherbet topped with lots of berries.

8. Make veggie sandwiches.

Try a vegetarian sandwich for your lunchbox. Spread hummus on one slice of bread, mash avocado on the other side, and layer tomatoes, sprouts, cucumber slices, and shredded carrots on top.

9. Steam or microwave veggies.

It’s easy to microwave or steam vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, sweet potatoes, beets, and squash are all quick and easy. Drizzle them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper afterwards.

10. Put fruit in omelets.

Use thinly sliced pears or apples in your next omelet.

11. Choose salad bars.

When dining out or grocery shopping, take advantage of salad bars, which offer ready-to-eat raw fruits and veggies, as well as prepared salads made with fruits and vegetables.

12. Make vegetable soup.

Using a base of sauteed onions, carrot, and celery, add water or chicken broth and throw in your favorite vegetables. Ideas include: tomatoes, fresh or canned; potatoes; green beans; zucchini; fresh greens such as Swiss chard, collards, or beet greens; corn; lima beans; cauliflower–the combinations are endless.

13. Add vegetables to sauces.

Add extra varieties of vegetables when you prepare soups, sauces, and casseroles. For example, add spinach and grated carrots and zucchinis to spaghetti sauce.

14. Drink your vegetables.

Get a high-quality juicer and make delicious fruit and vegetables juices and smoothies.

15. Freeze fresh fruit.

Freeze blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries in season. You can also freeze grapes. Frozen fruits make a great summer replacement for ice cream, popsicles, and other sugary treats.

 Keep it colorful, and you’ll keep it healthy…and delicious!

August 26th, 2014

Create Lucid Dreams for a Better Life

Introduction:

If you ever been asleep and aware that you were dreaming you were likely experiencing what is referred to as a “lucid dream.” New research from researchers in the UK is showing that the ability to have lucid dreams equates to better mental health and problem solving abilities.

The concept of lucid dreaming was explored a bit in the 2010 film Inception. In the movie, the dreamers were able to spot incongruities within their dream, to make them aware that they were in fact dreaming. In real life, people who regularly experience lucid dreams have become aware that they are in fact, dreaming and are then able to relax and enjoy the show. Can that be taught or enhanced? Absolutely, but first it requires achieving a high sleep quality and avoiding factors that impair dream activity including many sleeping pills.

Background Data:

The importance of dreams to mental health was clearly shown in studies in the early 1960s by the pioneering dream researcher William C. Dement of the Stanford University School of Medicine. In one of these studies, subjects sleeping in a laboratory setting were awakened the moment dreaming started, as noted by rapid eye movement (REM). After awakening, the subject was allowed to go back to sleep. The experiment continued for one week. During this time the test group reported increased irritability, anxiety, and appetite. In other studies, people deprived of REM sleep exhibited profound personality changes – extreme irritability, depression, anxiety, etc. – that disappeared when they were allowed to dream again.

New Data:

Reseachers at the University of Lincoln in the UK hypothesized that a key feature of gaining lucidity in the dream state is personal insight. They felt that this ability may also occur in waking life and designed a study to investigate the relationship.

Sixty-eight participants (52 females, 16 males) were recruited into the study with the majority being psychology students at the university. Individuals had to meet the criteria of recalling at least one dream per week to participate. The subjects were assigned to one of three groups.

  • Frequent lucid dreamers, experienced lucid dreams more than once a month.
  • Occasional lucid dreamers, experienced lucid dreams at least once in their lifetime.
  • Non-lucid dreamers never experienced a lucid dream

The subjects completed a questionnaire about their dreaming habits and then took test on a computer that consisted of a series of questions to assess insight and problem solving ability. One of the key assessments of insight was the ability of participants to find a link between three apparently unconnected words.

The results showed that frequent lucid dreamers showed superior performance on solving these insight problems compared to non-lucid dreamers. The underlying trait is thought to be the ability to separate oneself from a situation, and in some sense, observe it. The results from the study showed that the lucid dreamers had this ability in both the dream and real world.

The researchers also noted that this ability to become an observer is also common for people engaged in intense interactive ‘gaming’ or meditation. This suggests that either it may help in improving the ability to experience a lucid dream with meditation, obviously producing perhaps a heightened state of personal insight.

The study also showed frequent lucid dreamers also show superior general problem solving ability, which also suggests that lucid dreaming is associated with higher cognitive abilities (mental function) as well.

Commentary:

First, if you don’t dream or experience lucid dreams – please try my Tranquil Sleep Formula from Natural Factors. It is available at health food stores throughout the US and Canada, as well as online retailers. It is an all-natural sleep aid that improves sleep quality and promotes REM sleep (i.e., dreams)

It has been said, “an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter from God.” Some dreams are definitely symbolic attempts to sort out the options we can choose in life. Obviously, there are times when dreams are not psychologically meaningful. For example, if you are suffering from indigestion or a peptic ulcer and experience a violent dream where you are getting stabbed in the stomach, I would not recommend trying to uncover some deep psychological issue. The problem with trying to interpret every dream is that not every dream will be meaningful. Nonetheless, I think it is important to try to examine every dream for possible clues for personal growth.

There are many theories on how to interpret dreams. My advice is to focus on how the dream relates to what is going on in your waking life. Often dreams speak to us in symbols, so it may not be clear at first. Examine each person or item in the dream from a simplistic view – what does it mean to you? Describe it as if you were describing it to someone from another planet who has no idea of what anything means here on Earth. To help you with interpreting dreams, here are 7 important questions to ask?

1. What are you doing in the dream?

2. What is the story line?

3. What were the feelings you experienced in this dream?

4. What was your mood upon waking?

5. How does this dream relate to what is going on in your waking life?

6. What are the issues, conflicts and unresolved situations in the dream and how might these relate to your waking life? Is there a parallel?

7. What are the insights have you gained from this dream?

It can be very frustrating trying to recall dreams. Not only do we almost never remember most of them, but the ones we do recall, can easily slip away and evaporate as well. But with a little guidance and effort, you can do it. To start, keep a pad of paper and pen or pencil by your bed. Date the paper the night before. When you awake in the night or in the morning, write something down. Even “I recall nothing this morning” is good to write down. If you are keeping a journal, read the last dream you had.

If you are interested in learning more about dreams, go to the website of The International Association for the Study of Dreams (asdreams.org). This organization is dedicated to the pure and applied investigation of dreams and dreaming.

Reference:
Bourke P, Shaw H. Spontaneous lucid dreaming frequency and waking insight. Dreaming 2014;24(2):152 DOI: 10.1037/a0036908