All posts by Jane Wilkens Michael

About Jane Wilkens Michael

Jane Wilkens Michael is the host of the Jane Wilkens Michael Show-- Better Than Before on CBS Radio, The Sky. She is also the Better Than Before columnist for Spry Living Magazine and SpryLiving.com which appears both online and in 600 newspapers around the country, writing about how survivors of any life-altering event can become Better Than Before. Jane also writes for AARP Magazine, created "Beauty Talk" a health, beauty, fitness, and spa column for Town & County Magazine and was a contributing writer to The International Herald Tribune, The New York TImes, New York Post, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Ticketrmaster's Live! Magazine and Star. She is the author of Breakfast Lunch and Dinner of Champions, for which she interviewed athletes in ten major sports and discussed their nutritional needs and ideal diets, as well as two spa and beauty books.

Better Than Before: Making the Best of Arthritis

arthritisThe Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.

Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.

Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.

Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.

“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”

According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)

The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”

The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”

So what do we do?

“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”

She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”

Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”

Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.

For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.

“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”

“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”

Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”

I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.

 

Better Than Before: Thinner for (Holiday) Dinner

holiday dinnerNext week brings us Passover and Easter. And just these two holidays alone can spell diet disaster. If you’ve ever eaten matzoh, you know that it stays in your system for all eight days, unable to find a way out! And matzoh balls can sometimes weigh as much as a Mack truck. An Easter brunch menu offers similar regimen wreckers as Thanksgiving fare, plus the obligatory chocolate eggs. And we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the barbecues and feasts found on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial weekend, July 4, and at June weddings, to name just a few. So what are we to do if our intent is to still be able to fit into a bathing suit this summer?

Since there doesn’t seem to be any end to opportunities to pile on the pounds, I asked Jacqueline B. Marcus, a Nutrition Consultant and Owner of Jacqueline B. Marcus and Associates Food and Nutrition Consulting in Highland Park, Illinois, if it’s possible to be Better Than Before weight-wise in spite of it all. Happily, Jacqueline devotes an entire chapter to healthy weight management in her new book, Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking.

“Yes,” she began, “you can end the nonsense and regain control, if you simply stop, look and listen.” By that she means to stop the negative self-talk about your body and willpower, to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and the numbers on your scale, and then to listen carefully to her advice to achieve and maintain your “true weight,” no matter what the temptations.

If you are invited to dinner, first up is to call ahead and ask your host: “What’s cooking?” If the answer is a collection of calorically-challenged courses, propose to augment the repast with BYO. Offer to bring a favorite dish to share the cost of a holiday meal. (You don’t have to mention that it is –horrors!—healthy.) If you happen to have a green thumb in cooking rather than gardening, there is no rule against buying something rather than risk poisoning your friends.

Of course, not all (or that many) social occasions will lend themselves to a non-insulting offer to bring your own food to someone else’s dinner party – or even an inoffensive query as to the menu. So Jacqueline suggests that if friendship or propriety trumps your diet concerns, eat a little lean protein or veggies beforehand to lessen your hunger.

Jacqueline also shares some general suggestions for keeping up with your weight management program any time of year. “Think Clean, Lean, Attractive, Simple, Small and Yummy.” In other words C.L.A.S.S.Y! “Choose small servings of simply prepared food without fat or skin and leave sauces on the side. Large, over-dressed portions are always no-no’s.”

Focus on selecting delicious lean proteins, brightly colored vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, wholesome legumes and flavorful fruit. “Healthy food prepared with care can be enormously satisfying. Nix the extra fats and sugars from fried appetizers, snacks and sweetened drinks. If tempted, make do with just a nibble or sip.”

I always like to make half my plate just salad and vegetables. (It helps, of course, that I actually like salads and vegetables.) On the other hand, the Lawyer’s worst nightmares usually start with a dish filled with Swiss chard. He therefore might disagree with Jacqueline’s prescription for delightful dieting. (But don’t go by him for health advice. He likes Cronuts.) “Nothing beats the color, crunch and aroma of garden-fresh vegetables,” Jacqueline continues. “If steamed or lightly dressed, you can pile non-starchy vegetables like D-L-G’s (deep-leafy greens) pretty high on your plate for lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Then add some lean protein and wholesome grains or legumes.” (Check out The Dukan Diet at www.dukandiet.com for great recipes, meals and diet recommendations.)

It is also important to practice what Jacqueline refers to as tradeoffs. “Want that starchy side? Forget the breadbasket. Dreaming of dessert? Skip the appetizer. Love those creamy sauces? Just dribble over protein-rich foods or steamed vegetables. Fried foods your temptation? Save those fat calories for something delicious and nutritious—like velvety nonfat yogurt or ricotta cheese.” (Sounds great to me; but cue the eye rolling by The Lawyer and his ilk.)

Water, not mixed drinks, should be your beverage of choice. “Mixed drinks may add a wallop of calories!” (Boo!) “If you must imbibe, stick with lower calorie and alcohol options, such as light wine or beer. And, of course, always exercise control.”

Speaking of exercise, “try the free track at the mall, park district or gym,” she suggests. “And while you’re there, use the stairs, too. It takes a lot of exercise time to balance any indiscretions. Body fat below the waist is particularly stubborn.” (Sigh!)

Furthermore, it’s important to maintain records. “By doing so, you commit on paper or screen (like on a smartphone) and then confront what you see or do. Record your biggest obstacles and greatest successes. Write positive affirmations and prominently place them where they will motivate you: Your bathroom mirror, the scale, fridge or closet.  Keep a weight loss chart so that you can monitor the way down.”

Practicing positive self-talk is essential. “Ditch the negativism. Dieting is hard, but there are no excuses for “I can’t”, “won’t”, “should have” or “would have.” Also, remove the words “failure”, “cheat” and “loser” from your vocabulary. “No dieter is perfect all of the time. Just focus on your successes one day at a time and get back in charge ASAP.”

It’s also fine to reward yourself along the way or when you reach your “true weight” and maintain it. “Just do it without food. Buy yourself a new pair of all-purpose athletic shoes for your new commitment to walk ‘30 in 30’ –30 minutes of daily walking for 30 days, or a jump rope to burn more calories, or even light weights to tone your muscles. (A new outfit also works, as do Louboutin pumps. Trust me!)

It’s easier if you don’t attempt to do it alone. “Reach out and connect with someone who knows how challenging it is to lose weight and keep it off. They can be your dieting or exercise buddy. “Just make sure that they’re really your pal throughout the ‘thick and thin’ of weight loss and weight maintenance.”

Finally, focus on your intent to be a Better Than Before you. “Downsize! Raid your pantry and part with the oversized packages of foods and beverages high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Likewise, raid your closet and discard any too big, old clothes,” Jacqueline concludes. “When you think smaller and take baby steps in the process, you’ll celebrate each little accomplishment along the way.”

And when it comes to seconds on matzoh balls, remember the chorus of that ancient Passover song. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Better Than Before: The Highs and Lows of Cholesterol

cholesterol“I’ll have the steak,” my husband with the three coronary artery stents announced to the waiter. “A fillet mignon, medium rare,” he added, with a look of self-satisfaction on his face. He was obviously proud of himself because he didn’t order what he really wanted—the marbled prime rib.

“While you’re at it, dear, why don’t you have cheesecake for dessert,” I suggested, “just in case you have any arteries left unclogged.”

I should say, however, that The Lawyer — dietary deviations aside – is in very good shape for a man his age and is extremely aware of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. But that doesn’t always mean he makes the wisest menu choices when it comes to his heart. Indeed, out of my sight and left to his own devices he may just grab a hamburger — or horrors! — that deadly croissant-doughnut hybrid known as “cronut!”

He, of course, swears that a genetic predisposition—and my constant nagging—are the primary culprits for his coronary clogs. Therefore, I must remind him (always, of course, in calm, constructive tones), that while genetics may load the gun, lifestyle still pulls the trigger.

The reason I worry about what he eats, is cholesterol, a big component of all those unhealthy foods he likes to eat, and a known factor in heart disease. And while my husband’s cholesterol isn’t particularly high, every journal article I read seems to say that it should be lower!  It seems, too, as if practically everyone I know, the Lawyer included, is on a statin of some sort or another – 25% of all Americans over age 45, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. But do statins lower all cholesterol? How do you keep the HDL (high density lipoproteins — think “happy” ones) level high while lowering the LDL (low density, think “lousy”).  So my intent for this column is to help readers have a cholesterol ratio that is Better Than Before.

To advise, I turn to an expert, Ed Dannemiller, a specialist pharmacist, in the Cardiovascular Therapeutic Resource Center at Express Scripts and a recent guest on my new show for Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio Talk.  I started by asking just how bad is bad cholesterol.

Turns out it is very bad. “High cholesterol levels are the major controllable risk factors that contribute to hardening and narrowing of the arteries,” he says. “This is known as Atherosclerosis and it is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. And as blood cholesterol levels rise, so does the risk of coronary heart disease, which is the Number one killer in America. “

But not all cholesterol is bad, and Dannemiller adds, it is important to understand the differences between the two types. High levels of HDL’s actually protect against heart attack and stroke, while low levels increase their risk. Too much of the “lousy” one circulating in the blood form thick hard deposits called plaque that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible. Plaque that suddenly ruptures forms clots can result in and heart attacks and strokes because of the arterial blockage.

I have always been a firm believer in lifestyle modifications and Dannemiller agrees that for most people, those can help attain a healthy cholesterol balance.“LDL cholesterol is especially affected by diet,” he stresses. “Eat a heart healthy diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, and low in salt, fat, and cholesterol.”

He points to a Florida State University research study that found that eating an apple a day can reduce LDL cholesterol an average of 23%. “Apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that blocks cholesterol absorption and prevents the body from storing it. Other LDL-lowering foods include oats, barley, beans, unsalted nuts and seeds, eggplant, okra, and fatty fish such as wild salmon.”

The main culprits for high cholesterol, he says, are fat. Hmm. What do you suppose they fry Cronuts in to  make them so tasty?  The Lawyer would obviously like to think it’s first-press, extra virgin olive oil! “Avoid saturated fat,” Danemiller cautions. “This includes fats from red, processed and organ meats, dairy products, and some plant products like coconut and palm oils.”

Processing liquid vegetable oil to make a solid fat creates the dreaded trans fats found in stick margarine, vegetable shortening, and some cookies, crackers, cakes, fried foods, breads and snack foods like chips, candy, and microwave popcorn, he explains. “Read your labels closely: Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the ‘good ones!”

Danemiller has a few other tips:

• Trim all visible fat from meat before cooking

• Broil rather than pan fry meats

• Prepare stews and soups a day ahead of time and refrigerate. Skim off the hardened fat from the top.

• Choose white meat chicken, lower cholesterol organic eggs and low-fat cheeses, milk, and yogurts.

• Lose some weight. As little as 5 to 10% of body weight can significantly reduce LDL levels.

And here’s the one The Lawyer particularly dreads — exercise. “Exercising is essential,” Dannemiller insists. “Just thirty minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, five days a week, or 25 minutes of the more vigorous jogging or running three times a week, can help your body to produce more HDL’s.”

Sometimes, though, lifestyle modifications just aren’t enough, and genetics may have a lot to do with it. “Cholesterol comes from two sources,” Damemiller continues. “The body itself makes about 75% of blood cholesterol, and the rest comes from food ingested. That means that some people are more prone to high cholesterol levels based on genetics. For them, medication treatment can be essential. Drugs like niacin are effective in raising HDL levels, but the workhorses in the medication class are the statin drugs which can decrease cholesterol by 30% to 40% or more, decreasing heart attack and stroke risk by 45% to 60%.”

Statins have some side-effects, including muscle pain. But Danemiller contends that statin drugs are so effective that it is worth working through these issues. “A lower dose of the same medication, a switch to another drug in the class, or changing the frequency of administration can help. If the statin drug is stopped, the muscle pains should subside within two weeks. If it persists after that, it may be caused by unrelated activities like other medical conditions such as arthritis, or possibly even low vitamin D levels or too much exercise.”

But didn’t I read somewhere that statins have been linked to memory loss?

“Studies found no evidence of this. In fact, long-term statin use can have a protective effect on memory and cognition.” Dannemiller says.

Also in the news last year, were reports that statin drugs increased the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, I challenged.

“While data suggests some statins may increase the risk of diabetes this risk is outweighed by the cardiovascular benefits for most patients.”

Lifestyle modifications and statin medication, if needed, are important elements to achieve optimal cholesterol levels. Just watch out for those Prime Rib and Cheesecake combos.

 

Better Than Before: Recovering from a Cruise Excursion

cruise buffetA few weeks ago, I was invited to go to an 80th birthday party. Among the select group of fellow guests were important political figures, judges and lawyers. Now, one would naturally assume that this distinguished assembly of New York City notables would have preferred something equally elegant, say a staid steak house or an upscale Italian eatery. Nope. The destination of choice was, wait for it, a ‘Cruise to Nowhere.’ That translated to one night on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem, a massive modern ship that normally sails to the Caribbean, Canada and the Bahamas. On this voyage, however, the ship simply goes a few miles out to sea – and back. Enough distance, though, to be able to gamble and shop at a duty-free store. Who knew that sailing to New Jersey (or at least safely offshore from the Garden State) could have such lucrative advantages – and be considered “international” waters?

There was one minor problem, though — I have been known to get seasick in a hot tub if the jets make too many waves! So I was understandably hesitant to accept this invitation. But then I read the trip’s description on NCL online: “Leave all your cares on land and slip away for a cruise to nowhere,” it beckoned. “Enjoy dinner and dancing, take in a show, win big in the casino, party the night away or spend some time in the spa to relax and rejuvenate!” It had this overly stressed journalist who hasn’t had a vacation in years at “leave…” So off I went – with my own Lawyer in tow (not that he needed a lot of convincing to take part in something that pretty much promised an open buffet for the entire time). Besides, I was determined to prove to my readers that it is possible to go on a cruise – and return in shipshape, no matter what the temptations. While 18 hours on board isn’t much time to get out of shape,  I still considered this an opportunity to test the waters for the longer lasting versions. Detective Beauty was on the case!!

We have all heard horror stories about these types of trips. As one would naturally assume with something informally known as a “booze cruise,” they either attract the college crowd who stay up all night and drink wherever they are, or those who could be deemed the “Real Housewives of 7-Eleven.” And upon boarding and looking around, I had to admit that this particular excursion lived up to that reputation. There were drinks of every form offered on practically every deck – for an extra fee. Even though it was only 1pm in the afternoon, it seemed as if many cruisers had already had a few — or ten. Of course, when somebody dressed in a full dolphin costume came over and put his or her (hard to tell) arm around me to pose for a ship photo and I happily submitted; smiling broadly at the ridiculousness of it, it no doubt appeared to others that I might have knocked back a few myself.

Let’s skip to lunch. Unless you want to go to a specialty restaurant onboard, which is also extra, it’s basically what you’d expect for cruise food – and lots and lots of it. That means unlimited amounts of whatever is on the menu, much of it not terribly good for your health. Suffice it to say, though, that The Lawyer was in seventh heaven. Restaurants with All-You-Can-Eat buffets, you see, usually have to check with their bankruptcy counsel whenever he and our sons descend upon them. “Jane, should I have a steak?” he asked, knowing that I was sitting next to him and would kibosh the order, but decided to see if I mellowed in the negative ions of the ocean air. Here’s a tip: Look for the options with checks in front of them signifying that they are ‘heart healthy.’ Okay, maybe not what you would get at, say, Sweet Greens organic salad bar, but good enough to not gain ten pounds or fill any arteries left unclogged. And order triples on vegetables. That was all I actually ate, but the waitress nonetheless commented that I had a “hearty appetite.”

There is a long list of possible activities that my group of women and I scanned during our meal. I strongly suggested for them, and for those of you who follow this nautical path, a visit to the gym and spa. Every top-of-the-line ship has them and they are a perfect way to while away the hours instead of going to a bar or playing afternoon Bingo. The gym is open from 6am to 11 pm and offers everything from Thighs, Buns and Tum hour, to Fab Abs, yoga, Pilades, body shaping and all things in between. Everything you would find at a full service gym is right there. I loved the TRX workout, a revolutionary method of suspension training that is brought to us by the Navy Seals, and will make it a point to find a class here in the city that offers something similar. So take advantage of a unique opportunity to try different exercise options.

Finally, visit the spa. This cruise had a particularly gorgeous one — the Mandara. Splurge on a hot rock massage, an oxygen facial, acupuncture, or a cleansing thermal wrap. (And if you’re not Gwyneth Paltrow, how many of us realistically have all those hours to devote to detoxing?) I knew where The Lawyer would be – undoubtedly at the afternoon buffet — so I didn’t have to worry about him honing in on my “me” time. I still remember one year when I was certain that he was at the marina of a French resort taking note of the topless human condition, I called down to the hotel spa to arrange for a treatment. “Impossible, Madame,” was the reply. “Your husband is at this moment on the massage table about to start the very last appointment.”

Yes, I was a little sick to my stomach; but it was because the waters were particularly choppy, not the fact that I caught the dreaded Norovirus. But, at the end of the day, I disembarked the morning after looking and feeling Better Than Before. And if you just plan your cruise activities accordingly, you can, too. As for The Lawyer, he’s still annoyed that I didn’t let him eat any birthday cake. 

Better Than Before: Why are Adult Women Using ADHD Meds?

ADHD pillsI read with great interest the other day a story on the rising use of ADHD medication among women. While the new mantra for women is that to succeed they need to “lean in,” to be more assertive and seek greater authority at work and at home, the added pressures to do it all may be driving them to use these prescriptions to help them attain that superwoman status. Consider, if you will, the competition out there. We all know that classic A-Type tornado — the woman who gets up at 5 a.m., sprints to the gym, then showers, answers all e-mails, fixes her family a breakfast of flaxseed banana waffles with hot maple syrup and is ready to go the office as soon as she drives her four equally perfect children to school.

I must confess that when my kids were little, I too, thought I could be the perfect woman. But that notion didn’t last very long. Indeed, I recall rushing my older sons off to the bus, taking my little girl to nursery school, and even giving The Lawyer a ride to his office. An hour later, all missions accomplished, I, Wonder Woman, űber wife, returned to my office and started to write my column still with plenty of time left to meet my deadline. I sat back in the chair and let out a large self-satisfied sigh, thinking to myself: Who said you can’t have it—and, most important, do it—all? Just then the phone rang.

“Mrs. Michael,” stated the voice on the other end, “this is Mrs. Butters at the nursery school.” Pause. “You seem to have sent your daughter to school in her pajamas.” Bam!

Until recently, the regular evening (and/or lunchtime) calmative of choice for professional women was almost always a glass (or two, or three) of white wine. But nowadays, more and more women are turning to prescription medication to help them focus and become more productive. While virtually all of us in the health advice arena recommend other modalities such as healthier diets, sound fitness programs and meditation, for example, a pill, alas, seems so much easier! In fact, according to a report just released by Express Scripts based  on an analysis of prescription claims that was the latest and most comprehensive look at ADHD medication trends in the U.S., adult women’s use of ADHD medications has risen so far and fast that it far outnumbers those taken by adult men.

The report also finds achievement demands may be impacting increasingly younger women. Surprisingly, the number of females ages 19-25 on these medications is 27 percent higher than girls ages 4-18, countering trends seen in males, whose ADHD medication use drops sharply after age 18. Furthermore, the greatest surge in ADHD use has been in the adult population – climbing 53 percent overall and an alarming 84 percent for those ages 26-34.

“The rapid increase in adult use of these medications is striking, especially since there is very little research on how these treatments affect an older population,” says David Muzina, M.D., Express Scripts’ Vice President of Specialist Practice. “It signals a need to look more closely at how and why physicians prescribe these medications for adults, particularly women, who may turn to them, or experience symptoms of attention disorders, as a result of keeping up with the multiple demands on their time.”

Other findings from the research include:

• The percentage of boys ages 12-18 using ADHD drugs reached 9 percent in 2012, a nearly 18 percent increase from 2008.

• The southern region of the U.S. has the highest concentration of ADHD medication use, with South Carolina showing the greatest prevalence overall: 14 percent of 12-18 year olds there are on an ADHD drug treatment program.

• The prescribing of anti-psychotic treatments is exceptionally high among those treated for ADHD (12 percent vs. 4 percent of non-ADHD medication users); however, the number has been declining in recent years.

Continues Dr. Muzina: “While ADHD medications can be extremely beneficial, they can still be dangerous for patients with heart problems, and may cause serious interactions with other prescriptions, as well as conditions such as bipolar disorder.“

That is why, according to the doctor, these types of drugs require judicious prescribing. To that end, patients with ADHD can benefit from the expertise and experience provided through Express Scripts’ Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center®, where specialist pharmacists with advanced training in behavioral treatments oversee their care. These experienced clinical specialists are very familiar with the complex medication-related issues associated with ADHD and its treatments, are well equipped to recognize medication issues and can effectively counsel patients on the proper use of these drugs.

With ADHD medication abuse a growing problem, specialist pharmacists are also on the lookout for any indications of potential abuse. If this is suspected, Express Scripts’ Fraud, Waste and Abuse program can investigate and, when necessary, will refer the matter to the proper legal authorities.

The net-net is that ADHD medications should be carefully prescribed and monitored. While so far it is mostly through anecdotal reporting, it seems as if there is a growing concern throughout the U.S. that these drugs are frequently being liberally administered without the proper testing. There certainly are plenty of credible defenders of this surge in growth of their use, but the Express Scripts Report is certainly sobering support for those who are alarmed by the recent upward trend. To access the full report, please visit http://lab.express-scripts.com/prescription-drug-trends/turning-attention-adhd/.

Better Than Before: Is Juicing Worth the Squeeze?

juicingWhen I was growing up, my mother believed that eating liver was essential for good vision. Animal livers, she insisted, stored vitamins, in particular A and B complex. These essential nutrients help keep the retina in good shape, the visual purple strong, and the eyes well-lubricated. In any event, my mother took it one step further and gave it to us in the most palatable way she could think of – run through a blender (by a housekeeper with nose plugs) until it became juice. Suffice it to say that my brother and I wouldn’t touch the glass, let alone drink the stuff in it, so we discreetly discarded it out the window. Alas, today we both need glasses, but 17 floors below our old kitchen in New York City is the healthiest tree you’ve ever seen.

Liver juice aside, today on almost every corner in Manhattan there’s a bar touting the ‘juice du jour.’ For me, that’s way better than say, Burger King. To The Lawyer, it’s a shameful waste of good real estate, since the thought of kale juice has about as much appeal as, well, a kale anything else. But he does listen to the experts, other than his wife of course. So I asked Michael T. Murray, N.D., renowned natural medicine expert and bestselling author of more than 30 books, including his latest one, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality (Clarkson Potter, 2014) to weigh in.

JWM: We do know the benefits of drinking fresh juices. But many of my readers and listeners have asked me if it’s better to just eat the whole fruit or vegetable. Why juice?

Dr. Murray: Well, if you think about it, the body actually converts the foods we eat into juice so the nutrients can be easily absorbed. So juicing it before you consume it saves the body energy, resulting in increased vitality. It also delivers more soluble fiber faster and in an easier-to-digest form.

JWM: A lot of bottled juices claim to contain vitamins and minerals. Is fresh always better?

Dr. Murray: Yes! Fresh juice contains many more vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds, such as enzymes and flavonoids–than its canned or bottled counterparts, which have been cooked (pasteurized) to keep them on the shelves longer. Cooking can cause the loss of up to 97 percent of water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and C), and up to 40 percent of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).

JWM: Do homemade juices have increased antioxidant and anticancer properties as well?

Dr. Murray: They do! In fact, a study comparing commercial apple juice with freshly juiced apples found that fresh, raw juice had more antiviral compounds than the store-bought versions. Another study found that fresh, raw apple juice and berry juice (especially raspberries and blackberries) has more ellagic acid, a potent anticancer and antioxidant compound that is stripped from juice when it’s been processed.

JWM: I’ve heard that some fresh juices also help get rid of toxins. How do they work?

Dr. Murray: Speaking just of fresh fruit juice…fruit contains ample glutathione, a small protein composed of 3 amino acids, which are also manufactured in our cells, which aid in the detoxification of heavy metals such as lead, as well as the elimination of pesticides and solvents.

JWM: Talk a little about raw juicing and weight loss, if you will!

Dr. Murray: To begin with, it’s a phenomenal way to reach the goal of ingesting 60 percent of total calories from raw foods. Diets containing a high percentage (up to 60 percent of calories) of uncooked foods are associated with significant weight loss and lowering of blood pressure in overweight individuals.

JWM: Any quick recipe to share?

Dr. Murray: For a delicious, nutritious fruit juice, put two whole apples, sliced in quarters, and 1/2 cup each of raspberries and blackberries through a juicer. Drink it up right away for a blast of energy and nutrients.

JWM: Dr. Murray, leaving the topic of juicing for a moment, I have been aware of your work for many years. And you have been a vocal proponent of natural medicine and healing. Yet, as a society, we seem to be surrounded by illness in epidemic proportions. Why has there been such a lack of acceptance of natural medicine thus far?

Dr. Murray: Thank you for asking that! For the last 30 years I have done my best to educate and inspire others to utilize the healing power of nature. I feel that the biggest factor for this lack of acceptance and use of natural approaches to health and healing is the current financial model of medicine. It is a complex scenario based upon companies and people profiting from a disease-oriented approach. The whole system is based upon the treatment of disease instead of the promotion of health.

JWM: I agree. And like my mother, you were way ahead of your time. What was the inspiration for the first edition of your book, The Complete Book of Juicing, back in 1992?

Dr. Murray: In 1992 there was a tremendous renaissance in the appreciation of fresh fruit and vegetable juice in promoting health. It was really the result of infomercials touting new juicer technologies. My goal in writing the first edition was to use it as a platform to educate people on the factual benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice as opposed to the unsubstantiated overstated benefits that were flying around at the time.

JWM: You recently released a revised edition, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality. How pertinent is it for today’s deteriorating lifestyle habits?

Dr. Murray: Gaining the benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is even more important today than it was 20 years ago. The reason for the update of the book is to deal with the explosion of new information on the important healing and health benefits produced by the simple incorporation of drinking fresh juice into a person’s daily habits.

JWM: Cynics aside, over the last three decades, have you seen a growing inclination/awareness/adoption toward alternative medicine? Do you feel social connectedness is a major contributor to this?

Dr. Murray: There has definitely been a tremendous increase in the awareness of many aspects of what is now considered alternative medicine. In fact, in the last 30 years we have seen the acceptance of many truths that were self-evident back then, but were widely argued against by conventional medicine.

JWM: For example?

Dr. Murray: First of all, the notion that dietary factors were the major determinants of many forms of cancer was viewed as being unfounded from a scientific perspective. Now that link is irrefutable, and the link between diet and many other health conditions is also much better understood today than it was then. The health food industry has been the incubator for many changes in our popular culture. For instance, 30 years ago who outside of the health food industry would have heard of probiotics, antioxidants, gluten, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and herbs like ginkgo biloba?

JWM: I think there are a lot of explanations for the enlightenment of the consumer toward natural health and natural products. But at the end of the day, I don’t think the awareness is the result of some huge advertising campaign. People are actually experiencing positive results from natural medicine and spreading the word to their family and friends. And that’s a good thing. That being said, any final pearls of wisdom for the benefit of Intent readers, so they, too can become Better Than Before?

Dr. Murray: There is no single magic bullet for turning your life and your health around. It requires focusing on all areas of your life. Each component has a powerful effect on the whole system. And, it goes beyond a health-promoting diet and lifestyle. It also requires being a guardian of your attitude and self-talk in order to program yourself to be more positive, adaptable, and committed to life. I do believe that there is a purpose to our lives, and taking care of our body, mind, and spirit is critical in achieving that purpose. So, we need to be very good to ourselves and those around us.

photo by: Food Thinkers

Better Than Before: A Hypochondriac Discovers von Willebrand Disease

 von Willebrand DiseaseThe worst thing you can tell a hypochondriac such as myself, is that there is another illness out there waiting to be experienced. Case in point: The little-known bleeding disorder, von Willebrand Disease (vWD). While it sounds like something you can only catch from effete German aristocrats, it is, in fact, named after Erik Adolf von Willebrand, a Finnish pediatrician who first discovered it in 1926. And the only reason I am writing about it now, is that it turns out that I know someone who actually suffers from it, and she recently described her symptoms to me. (Note: When innocents start doing this and my husband, The Lawyer, is present, he desperately, tries to stop them before I personally start to manifest the symptoms!) Amazingly, it is remarkably common – if not well understood – and by some estimates, affects as many as 1 in 100 people. A genetic disorder, it is non gender-specific, meaning men and women are afflicted equally. Most cases, though, go undiagnosed because the symptoms tend to be very mild.

In order to find out more about vWD, I consulted with the specialty-trained clinicians in the Express Scripts Bleeding Disorder Therapeutic Resource Center, offered through Accredo, who have disease-specific expertise. They help patients understand and manage their condition and treatments. In other words, they are good for me to get to know. (Both the experts and the treatments, that is!)

Here is what Leslie Oygar, a clinical nurse liaison in the TRC, tells me:

Von Willebrand factor (vWf) is one of the key components of the process that helps blood clot. It is produced in the bone marrow and the lining of the blood vessels, where it is also stored. In 99% of us, VWf is released into the blood when an injury occurs and works with platelets to start the clotting process, which ultimately stops the bleeding. If the supplies of vWf are inadequate, it can result in uncontrollable, or poorly controlled, bleeding.

There are three types of vWD. Fortunately, a vast majority –roughly 75% – of patients have Type 1. These patients typically experience less severe symptoms. Type 2 is caused by a qualitative dysfunction of the vWf. There’s enough clotting factor but it does not function the way it should. Type 3 is the most serious, and rarest, of vWD. These patients have a a severe deficiency of clotting factors, and experience significant bleeding –including joint bleeding. Type 3 requires treatment with an intravenous clotting factor containing vWF.

Now for the scary part as far as I’m concerned! That would be the actual symptoms. According to Oygar, these can range widely depending on the person’s gender and type of vWD.

“They can be as minor as light bruising or small knots under a bruised area,” Oygar says.

The more alarming ones include bleeding from the gums and prolonged bleeding after a dental extraction, blood in the urine (kidney bleeding) or bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Female patients, as one would imagine, can have additional signs including prolonged or excessively heavy menstrual bleeding, which are in some cases very serious, requiring blood transfusions until it is under control. Postpartum bleeding is of concern as well.

The good news? vWD is treatable, Oygar points out. How? Glad you asked, because Oygar has answers.

• Symptoms of Type I and some forms of Type 2 are often treated with an intranasal spray, Stimate, also offered in injectable form.

• Oral medications, like Aminocaproic acid and tranexamic acid, are available to help prevent the clot formed from breaking down after the bleeding stops. They are often used before and after dental procedures.

• Some other forms of Type 2 and Type 3 may call for an intravenous plasma-derived clotting factor.

For patients with any form of vWD, however, below are six useful medication management tips to help ensure that their condition is well controlled. They are important suggestions to keep on hand on your journey to feeling Better Than Before:

1) Be on the alert: If you have vWD, as with so many conditions, the first step is prevention. Similar to people with hemophilia, obviously avoid activities that can lead to cuts and internal bleeding. Less obvious is food-intake related actions. Sharp-edged foods, such as corn chips, may scratch or pierce the soft tissue inside your mouth and cause bleeding. Chewing gum can lead to biting your tongue. And if you are already bleeding, avoid hot foods and beverages, as they can cause vasodilation, causing bleeding to worsen.

2) Have First-Aid handy: Keep popsicles in the freezer as a first line of care for oral bleeding until medication can be administered as ordered by the hematologist. The ice-cold treat aids in vasoconstriction, which is part of the first stage of coagulation. Ice packs for topical use on other areas of the body should be in the freezer as well.

3) Cover all contingencies: Especially in the case of your children who may have vWD, have a plan and discuss it with the school nurse or teachers, and other caregivers. Ensure that medication is available in the school clinic for any episodes of bleeding.

4) Use as directed: Nasal sprays, injectables and intravenous medications for vWD require a hematologist’s supervision and approval and should be used exactly as prescribed. Over-dosing or under-dosing can be dangerous and potentially fatal. Always consult a hematologist or an appropriate clinician for questions about dosing changes. Missing doses or discontinuing the medication could cause the bleeding to resume.

5) Monitor fluid intake: Over-hydration in patients on a nasal spray or injectable form of medication can cause seriously low sodium levels which could lead to seizures.

6) Talk to your clinician: Heavy menstrual bleeding can be dangerous and must be reported to the hematologist or clinician. Let your hematologist know at least 2 weeks prior to surgery or dental work. Be sure to report any symptoms or changes.

As for me, I’ve decided that from now on I probably should stay away from sharp knives; and just to be sure, all cooking utensils! The Lawyer will just have to fend for himself in the kitchen. (Who cares if the odds are 99 to 1 that I don’t have vWD!)

Better Than Before: How Diet Effects Mood with Elizabeth Somer

Elizabeth SomerQuite frankly, with the type of winter we have had so far in New York – and continuing to have, now into March – I sometimes think that only a trip to a Caribbean island will make me feel better! Thoughts of a swim in the warm ocean, lying around the sun-drenched white sand, and having one (or ten) of those drinks with the little umbrellas will undoubtedly do the trick. But obviously most of us can’t hop right on a plane to a tropical island. And, snow and cold aside, why aren’t we enjoying winter, anyway? Sledding, skiing, skating aren’t just for watching during the Olympics! And after all, being Better Than Before is all about living in the moment.

I took my query to Elizabeth Somer, author of the bestselling Eat Your Way to Happiness, and highly sought-after and respected source of nutritional information and lifestyle changes. I was hoping she could share some good news on how to keep in a good mood – not to mention not gain twenty pounds from all those hot chocolates with mini marshmallows – while we wait and wait…and wait, for spring.

JWM: Let’s start with the obvious basic question: Why does our mood often plummet during the winter?

ES: At its foundation, it’s biological. The seasonal drop in sunlight throws brain chemistry out of whack, making some of us more anxious, depressed, and tired this time of year. We snap at the kids, sleep more, crave sweets, and as a result, gain weight.

JWM: Can depression, mood swings, and chronic irritability be symptoms of more serious problems than just winter blues? Other than PMS or menopause, that is.

ES:. Yes, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The winter blues and SAD rest on the same continuum, differing only in their degree of severity. In other words, a person suffering from winter blues might feel grumpy and tired, while someone with SAD suffers serious depression, with feelings of desperation, anxiety, and exhaustion. If your depression interferes with important aspects of your life, such as your job or relationships, or if you have feelings of hopelessness, these are possible symptoms of SAD that should be discussed with a physician.

JWM: Who suffers from it? Other than we confirmed hypochondriacs, of course.

ES: Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans battle the winter blues. The reasons why our moods slip and our appetites take over by mid-winter could be simply that we’re cooped up, bored, and restless; or it could have a deeper cause, resulting from a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and hunger. Whatever the reason, most people have some kind of behavior change in the winter. Children and teens can suffer from the winter blues, too.

JWM: What could be some of the signs?

ES: The main ones are obvious – depression and fatigue that lingers. Or, ask yourself the following: Has your mood plummeted along with the temperature? While you stare forlornly out the window at another bleak, winter day, is your spouse dozing rather than playing with the kids? Do you find yourself power snacking on Skittles by the 5th day of rainstorms. If so, you could be battling winter blues or SAD.

JWM: Are there foods and activities — other than Skittles– that you recommend that can boost our mood in these darkened days?

ES: Absolutely. First of all, you might consider finding more light. If your mood improves while vacationing down South, for example, it’s probably more the sunshine than the trip. [Or the drinks with umbrellas.] The researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, are among those who have linked dark winter skies to low levels of serotonin, which makes some people drowsy and more prone to depression. Ample sunshine hitting the retina of our eyes triggers a cascade of events in the brain that raises serotonin levels. Voila! Moods improve! Up to 80% of SAD and winter blues sufferers report at least some relief when exposed for 30 minutes to 1 1 /2 hours daily to sunlight or a specialized light box that emits light 5- to 20-times brighter than typical indoor light. Check out the internet for a local resource for these lights.

JWM: How about diet? Any suggestions?

ES: Eat Regularly: Don’t attempt to skip breakfast in an effort to cut calories. You’ll overeat later in the day, struggle more with mood swings and fatigue, and battle a weight problem in the long run. Be sure to eat breakfast, but make it light and include some carbohydrates, such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Then have lunch. Something as simple as a sandwich, nonfat milk, and a piece of fruit will fuel your brain, body, and mood.

JWM: One way a lot of us make the cold hours pass better is with something to nibble on. What about snacks?

ES: Snack, but not on sweets. A voracious sweet tooth during the winter months also might stem from low serotonin levels. Chowing down on sweets works temporarily – serotonin levels rise and we feel better. But that high is followed by a crash, setting up a roller coaster of highs and lows that causes overeating and weight gain. Replace these foods with more nutritious sweet treats, such as fresh-sliced kiwi mixed with nonfat strawberry-kiwi yogurt, a half papaya filled with lemon yogurt, fresh fruit layered in a parfait glass and topped with a dollop of low-fat whipped cream, or nonfat milk whipped in a blender with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

JWM: But how about people who have a sweet tooth? As you said, sugar is counter-effective in the long run. What should they do?

ES: One way to sooth your mood and save your waistline is to switch from fatty sweets to high-quality carbs, such as whole grain breads and crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, or starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes. Plan a mid-afternoon all-carb snack, such as half a whole wheat English muffin with jam, 3 fig bars, or drizzle honey over a toasted cinnamon bagel to counteract the desire to eat sweets at this crave-prone time of day. Also include carb-rich foods in your meals, such as pasta primavera or marinara, whole wheat couscous, or yams cut into strips and baked on a cookie sheet to make ‘French fries.’ (Serotonin also improves sleep, so a serotonin-boosting evening snack, such as air-popped popcorn or a scoop of sorbet, will help you sleep better, too!)

JWM: There is a lot that has been written about omega-3 fat DHA elevating your mood. How do you feel about that?

ES: You can definitely boost your spirits by taking either omega-3 fat DHA supplements of food rich in it. Research shows that this fat helps boost mood all year long, especially in the winter. In fact, DHA curbs depression by up to 50% in people who are the most difficult to treat; and even helps those who just battle a bit of grumpiness. Interestingly, researchers have found that people who are depressed have much lower levels of omega-3 fats in their blood, fat tissues, and brains — up to 36% lower than happy people. In fact, as omega-3 levels drop, so do levels of serotonin, leaving people grumpy, blue, and downright depressed. If your DHA levels are low, you have a 2.6 times greater risk of getting really crabby and blue compared to someone who keeps those levels high. On the other hand, up your intake of omega-3 fat DHA and serotonin levels rise and mood improves. The evidence is so overwhelming that the American Psychiatric Association in 2006 recommended omega-3s be included in any treatment for depression.

JWM: What are the best foods for omega-3 fat?

ES: You can get all the omega-3 fat you need from flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, leafy greens or soy to help lower your risk for heart disease, but those foods will do nothing for your mood or memory. That’s because there are three omega-3 fats, and they are not all created equal. It is only the omega-3s in fish, especially DHA, which will boost your mood. Aim for 2 servings of omega-3-rich fish such as salmon every week, choose foods fortified with DHA, and/or take a daily supplement that contains at least 220 milligrams of DHA.

JWM: If we don’t see any improvement in our mood or appetite after a few weeks on a high-carb menu, what should we do?

ES: Try substituting some of those carbs for more protein. New research from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that some people don’t experience a mood boost when they eat high-carb diets. So, if you still feel grumpy after a week’s worth of the high-carb choices, try cutting back on the carbohydrates and  increasing protein intake by adding a slice of turkey or a glass of milk to the meal. Protein has a satiating effect that keeps you full longer and curbs cravings in some people.

JWM: A lot of people drink coffee to improve their mood. But for some, like me, it has the opposite effect. What are your thoughts about this?

ES: It’s better to limit coffee. While caffeine is a great pick-me-up, if you are drinking more than 3 small cups a day, it could be fueling fatigue. For the person who is sensitive to sugar or caffeine, simply removing these substances from the diet may be all it takes to reduce or even eliminate depression, according to research from the University of South Alabama. How coffee affects mood is unclear, although caffeine is a drug that affects the nervous system. Cut back or eliminate coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, colas, and caffeine-containing medications, such as Excedrin, Dristan, and Dexatrim.

JWM: We spend so much time in heated rooms in the winter, leading to not only dry skin, but dry everything. Is that a factor?

ES: Absolutely. Actually, the first sign of dehydration is fatigue, which is the stepping stone for depression. Many of us are mildly dehydrated, because thirst is a poor indicator of your body’s need for water. Drink twice as much water as it takes to quench your thirst, or at least 8 glasses daily. Drink even more water if you exercise intensely or drink a lot of coffee and tea.

JWM: Are there any other supplements that you recommend that can affect our moods?

ES: It is difficult in winter to constantly keep up the proper quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit. So several nutrient deficiencies, including the B vitamins, are more common in the winter that indicate a link to impaired mental ability and mood swings. More than one in four patients with depression is deficient in vitamins B2, B6, and B12, and folic acid. B-rich foods include chicken, legumes, fish, bananas, avocados, and dark green leafy vegetables. A moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral, supplies these B vitamins and can fill in the nutritional gaps on those days when you don’t eat perfectly. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels, which can occur due to lack of exposure to sunlight, might contribute to winter blues. So make sure your supplement has at least 1000IU of this important nutrient.

JWM: What about exercise? Please don’t say to take a spin class or use the elliptical machines, my two fitness nemeses in any season!

ES: Any kind of exercise is good. It’s well proven that people who are vigorously active almost every day are at much lower risk for developing any form of depression, including winter blues.

Now if I can get my husband, The Lawyer, to sprint to take omega-3 supplements while drinking a gallon of water, I might have some peace around here before springtime!

Better than Before: Follow Your Gut (DIY Healthcare Tips)

Health-Tips-1One would think that, as a confirmed hypochondriac, I would run from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis for whatever symptoms, however mild, I happen to have. But even though I work closely with the medical community in my role as a health columnist, I seldom, if ever, visit any of them for personal reasons. The problem is that, as is well-documented, the mere sight of a white coat can increase your blood pressure. And then I could have a stroke!

Through it all, though, I have learned to listen to my gut. (Except, of course, when I have indigestion from kale overload!) And while I do take the advice of the renowned doctors I interview for this column and on my radio show, I am also my own healthcare adviser.  Furthermore, I suggest that my readers research and learn everything there is to know about the disease or condition for which they are currently seeing their physicians.  That’s what being Better Than Before is all about. I am all about DIY healthcare advice – the more you know the more you’re prepared.

To that end, I recently discovered a book by Julia Schopick, Honest Medicine: Effective, Time-Tested, Inexpensive Treatments for Life-Threatening Diseases. In it, she tells of her 15-year journey through the American healthcare system, from the time when her husband, Tim, was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor until his death, fifteen years later. As she puts it, “For me, this journey was a lesson in learning to listen to my gut when listening to doctors isn’t enough. It is now my mission to help others do the same.”

Here’s the back story. In 1990, Julia’s then 40-year-old husband Tim was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. He underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – the treatments his doctors knew how to perform. But they weren’t able to keep Tim from experiencing the horrible side effects and complications resulting from the protocol.  Tim just wanted to heal so that he could live a longer, happier life.  Taking matters into her own hands, Julia followed her gut and tirelessly researched. Thanks to some pretty amazing treatments she discovered, her husband was soon eating better, taking nutritional supplements and, in general, living a healthier life. Almost immediately, he began to thrive.

Armed with her own success in helping her husband, Julia decided to write a book with true stories about other patients who listened to their guts and found therapies that even their doctors didn’t know about. In it, she chronicles the journey of  nine patients, with  autoimmune and live diseases, childhood epilepsy, and non-healing wounds, to name a few, who found inexpensive, little known therapies that proved miraculous for them.

Below Julia shares seven DIY healthcare tips to help you follow your own instincts for optimum health:

1) When a prescribed treatment isn’t working, you’ll know it. Take action and look for other options.

2). Patient-evidence-based protocols may not have gone through the rigors of Phase 3 clinical trials, but they have been used for many years by thousands of patients to great success. For instance, since the mid-1980’s Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has treated autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. And the Ketogenic Diet, around since the 1920s, is offered at prestigious institutions such as Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic to treat childhood epilepsy.

3). Once you’ve found a promising treatment, join online patient groups devoted to it. You’ll benefit from the research and experience of many people who share your particular condition.

4). Learn which websites contain useful information and which do not. Some, affiliated with presumably reputable institutions, may have financial ties to drug companies or other hidden agendas. It takes practice to learn which sites to trust.

5). Discuss the information you’ve found with your doctor. Prepare a packet of credible information—including, if possible, small studies. For example, in the case of LDN, studies have been conducted by prestigious institutions like Penn State, Stanford, and the University of California. These finding are also included in PubMed, which doctors respect.

6). If your doctor won’t listen to you, find a more open-minded doctor who will. Support groups and online patient groups can often recommend qualified physicians who will work with patients using patient-evidence-based treatments.

7). We are accustomed to being passive regarding our health—especially when faced with a serious medical condition. Don’t be discouraged – tune in to your inner voice.

At the end of the day, listening to your gut could truly save your life. Or at least make you Better than Before!

Snow Problems: Suggestions for Surviving This Wicked Winter

christmas_snowy_road-1809I live in New York City which has been smacked with the worst winter in over three decades. However, if you reside in one of the few areas left that hasn’t been hit with record cold or sleet and snow –yes, I’m talking about you L.A. and Honolulu — no need to read any further. Then again, no matter which part of the country you happen to call home, you are most likely suffering from SAD, the inevitable seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression or lack-of-daylight blues. So it’s high time for some much-needed advice to help uplift our spirits. For this, I turned to Colin Christopher, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of the bestselling book, Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make or Break You. Christopher, you see, contends that whether you are simply fed up with slogging through yet another round of slush, or just feeling down from time to time, there are ways to find positives to help you become Better Than Before — before springtime.

After all, even bears learn to cope with the cold — and so can we. To that end, here are Christopher’s tried and true techniques that work to reprogram our minds:

• Change the colors of your environment: Color plays a huge role in setting the mood. This time of year, because of a lack of sunlight, it’s best to surround yourself with vibrant bold colors that will lift your spirit and energize you. Think bright reds, oranges and yellows. Try to avoid grays, light blues and white. This can be as easy as painting a bright accent to a bedroom wall to adding small odds and ends that enhance your office or any other space.

• Pump up the Music: The sounds we hear have a direct correlation to how we feel. Athletes typically listen to high energy music to get them ready to compete, just like many people listen to soothing soft music to get them ready for bed. To boost your mood, listen to music that gets you moving and makes you feel good.

• Drink more water: Dehydration increases blood pressure which in turn increases stress and can quickly bring down your mood. Being hydrated is not only good for your overall health, but even one eight-ounce glass can quickly help raise your spirits.

• Think of happier times: Remembering a happy memory for 10-30 seconds can get you out of a rut. Maybe it’s when you got married or held your child for the first time, or something even simpler like a concert you went to or barbequing with friends and family.

• Look up: It sounds simple, but it works. Sit up or stand straight and lift your chin directly towards the ceiling, sky or other high point. This physical movement gives you clarity of thought and automatically makes you feel good. Enhance this simple technique by inhaling deeply from your diaphragm (stomach area), holding for three seconds and exhaling slowly through your lips and dropping your shoulders as you breathe out. Try reciting a statement like “I feel good” or “I feel strong and confident” as you exhale.

• Use your brain: If spending more time indoors, become mentally engaged in an activity. It can be something as simple as a crossword puzzle or board game. The key is mental stimulation in some capacity.

As they say, the, er, snow must go on, so it’s essential to find ways to keep your spirit alive through it all. Better Than Before believes that while ‘stuff’ happens in life, some of it, like the weather, is entirely out of our control. But if there is something we can do about it, we owe it to ourselves to try. The good news is that this week it’s supposed to be in the mid-forties around here. A veritable heat wave! Now we just have to make sure we can still fit into our bathing suits after all those hot chocolates and chicken pot pies.

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