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by PMS Comfort
Let’s say you followed our 15 natural tips on how to avoid colds and flus from a couple years ago, but you got sick anyway. What do you do now? Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or aspirin? Eat chicken soup? Feed a cold and starve a fever?
We’ve got some natural suggestions that sound a little crazy but they really work (really!)
1. "If you feed a cold, you’ll have to starve a fever." That’s right: the aphorism you’ve heard before is incorrect, mistranslated somewhere along the line. The original point was that eating is the wrong thing to do when you’re sick. So, if you eat when you’re sick, you may end up making yourself sicker. When you’re sick, your body wants a rest from the work of digesting and metabolizing food.
What to do instead? Fast. That’s right, don’t eat. Just drink water, herbal tea, or maybe some broth. At most, cook some brown rice or oatmeal in four parts water (instead of two). Whatever you do, don’t eat sweets or heavy foods that combine protein and fat (so things like ice cream, cheese, meat, and peanut butter are the worst). It takes a little getting used to, but most infections will clear far more rapidly if you don’t eat.
2. Don’t try to lower your fever. Your fever is nature’s way of supercharging your immune system. It may not feel very good, but that is nature’s way of making you rest and sleep. Aspirin or other fever-reducing drugs interfere with this age-old adaptive natural self-treatment. An adult can easily tolerate a fever of up to 102 degrees, while children can tolerate one of up to 104. There’s no harm for an adult in a fever up to 103.5 degrees, actually. Fevers that last more than a few days, or are accompanied by odd symptoms like bruising may indicate something more serious. However, often fevers don’t last as long when you don’t suppress them, and when you have liquids only while you’re sick.
3. Put wet socks on your feet. This one, you have to try to believe, and it does sound odd, but it works. Wring out a pair of cotton socks in cold water till you can only squeeze out a few drops. Put them on your feet then cover them with woolen or acrylic socks (something that is insulating and doesn’t get wet itself, so a dry pair of cotton socks doesn’t work). Then go to bed, and go to sleep if you can. You’ll either wake up with completely dry cotton socks, or you’ll wake up feeling like your feet are on fire and kick off the socks. This is another way to supercharge your immune system. All your blood and lymph travel down to your feet to warm them up, then back up to your head and chest where the infection is, then back down to your cold feet, and so on. It’s like installing a pump in your body, one that activates all your infection fighting white blood cells.
4. Eat garlic. This tried and true natural spice and herbal remedy is unparalleled for fighting infection. Of course, it comes at a cost: it does smell quite strong, especially if you eat enough to make a difference. We’re talking more than one clove here. The more you can take the better, but start with one or two. Some people like to do it the hard way and eat it raw, but you can also bake it until soft. You’ll need to warn your loved ones, because it won’t smell pretty, and if you eat enough it’s going to pour out your pores. But, it’s also a potent antimicrobial, and all natural.
5. Sweat it out. In addition to encouraging a fever, it is beneficial to work up a sweat while you’re sick. Soaking in a hot bath with a cup or two of Epsom salts and a few drops of eucalyptus or ginger essential oil can promote sweating. Sweating is a way to release toxins from the body and encourage healing. While soaking, sip on a cup of diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) herbal tea. Elderflower and ginger are nice herbal tea options to encourage sweating. Follow your bath with a quick cool rinse. Afterwards, bundle up, lie down, and rest. To increase the healing benefit, follow up with a pair of wet socks, as mentioned above.
We all need to do our part to use less antibiotics, since overuse of them is threatening their effectiveness. And, if you have a viral infection, antibiotics are useless anyway. All of these steps can work for mild to moderate viral and bacterial infections. And if you can get yourself healthy without resorting to drugs, you will have strengthened your immunity for the next time, too.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Most women who are concerned about health have to decide for themselves, at some point, whether it is worth it to spend the extra time and money to buy organic food. As you’ll see below, this question may be particularly relevant for women suffering from PMS symptoms and PMDD symptoms.
This whole issue seemed to become more complicated in the past couple weeks after a widely publicized study out of Stanford University reported that there were no, or only very slight, benefits to organically grown food. Unfortunately—as usual—the media misinterpreted the study in a way that created attention-grabbing headlines, while the scientists involved in the study asked the wrong questions and drew the wrong conclusions.
This was a study of studies, known as a meta-analysis, in which many studies of the same subject are pooled and analyzed together. This can be an effective research method, especially when some studies report one result, and others report something different. Which, as you may have noticed, happens all the time with medical research. Of course, a study of this kind is dependent on the quality of the studies it is analyzing. It is also dependent on the consistency of the studies it analyzes. In other words, you have to be comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges. In this study on organic food, they were comparing apples to oranges, becauase the studies they were analyzing didn’t have similar enough methods and subjects. Secondly, the studies themselves asked the wrong questions about organically grown food.
The studies should have asked two main questions: does organic food contain more healthy minerals from the organic soil they’re grown in? And, does organic food contain less of the poisons, pollutants, and pesticides that are such a big part of conventional agriculture? In fact, the meta-analysis did find that organic food contains less pesticides. However, the Stanford researchers concluded that this wasn’t important because the conventionally grown food didn’t contain what they considered toxic doses of pesticides. But the so-called safe dose of these toxins that is allowed in our food hasn’t been proven to be safe, especially over many years of exposure and accumulation in our bodies. When it comes to ingesting poisons, less is better.
Back to minerals for a second. The meta-analysis didn’t look at whether organic food contains more chromium, or manganese, or zinc, or any of a variety of other essential minerals we all need in small amounts. It only looked at calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. And since the latter two minerals are found in conventional industrial fertilizer, it is a curious thing to study. The Stanford meta-analysis did find—and the significance of this has been overlooked—that more than 75% of the studies found more magnesium in organic foods. Magnesium is probably the most important mineral for Americans’ overall health, because it protects the heart and blood vessels, prevents and treats diabetes, and, importantly, appears to help relieve PMS and PMDD symptoms.
Now, back to PMS and PMDD. Those toxic chemicals and pesticides in the conventionally grown food? One important effect they can have is on our endocrine systems, meaning our hormones. While no one knows for sure if higher pesticide and toxic chemical concentrations cause PMS and PMDD, it’s a good idea to try to avoid ingestion of, and exposure to these chemicals, no matter your current health status. We’ve never met anyone who thought ingesting more poison was a good idea. And if you have a hormone-based condition like PMS or PMDD, that’s all the more reason to avoid chemicals that interfere with your hormones.
If you can afford organic food, it’s a good choice. If you can’t afford it – and let’s face it, with the price of all food going up and up, organic is a luxury item for most of us – wash your produce, eat plenty of veggies and fruits, and look for bargains on unpackaged (loose) organic items like grains and beans. Remember, the less processed, packaged, industrial manufactured food you eat the better, so one organic apple may be better than a package of organic mac and cheese or a box of organic breakfast cereal.
Finally, don’t sweat the small stuff! Do the best you can, including trying to eat healthy, and organic if possible, and then focus on the things you can control, not the things you can’t.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
In all the buzz about medals and world records, it’s easy for us to lose sight of what the Olympics are really about. But for two Olympians, even while they were in the midst of competition, the true spirit of the games was never far from their minds.
During the women’s 5,000-meter race, Nikki Hamblin, an English-born New Zealand runner and American runner Abbey D’Agostino tangled legs and fell to the ground – not an unprecedented occurrence in long-distance running. What’s more uncommon, however, is what happened afterward.
D’Agostino, who popped right up after tumbling to the track, tapped Hamblin on the shoulder, spoke to her, and helped her up to continue running. Both women finished the race, D’Agostino visibly pushing through pain to cross the finish line. Hamblin later described the experience, saying she didn’t know how she tripped, only that she she stumbled and found herself on the ground.
"Then suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder, like, 'Get up, get up! We have to finish the race!'" she said.
Although they crossed the finish line last – Hamblin first and D’Agostino a few paces after – Olympic officials determined that the women weren’t at fault and allowed them to advance to the finals. But neither of them knew they would move on. D’Agostino, in helping her competitor, gave up her chance of placing better in the race. Hamblin, meanwhile, crossed the finish line in spite of the disappointing tumble.
The kind of self-sacrifice D’Agostino displayed in helping her opponent may seem to go against the spirit of competition, but in actuality, she embodies the very purpose of the Olympic Games. The primary goal of the games, according to the International Olympic Committee, is to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world…in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
The Olympic Games, in other words, are built around strengthening relationships, both between individuals or countries. Indeed, D’Agostino and Hamblin were able to find connection in their shared experiences.
"When you’re at this level, you know how hard it is to get here, so there’s just a mutual understanding of how much everyone puts into it," Hamblin said. "There’s so much more to this than a medal."
This is a lesson many Olympic viewers, and even some of the athletes competing in the games, may not learn. Winning, while exhilarating, is short-lived. Gratitude and connection, meanwhile, can last a lifetime. This certainly was the case for D’Agostino and Hamblin.
"For sure (we have) a friendship now," Hamblin said after the event. "When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that is my story. She is my story."
by PMS Comfort
Female athletes at the Olympics are used to talking about their health and wellness ad nauseum. In interviews, they detail their workout routines and expound upon their diets. They discuss minor illnesses, sore muscles, and post-event fatigue. But one subject most athletes – and the interviewers questioning them – avoid is the topic of menstruation, which many women still feel is taboo.
There’s one Olympian, however, who sees no issue with discussing her body’s natural processes and the impact her period has on her athletic performance. In a candid interview immediately following her fourth-place finish in the 4x100-meter medley relay, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui talked openly about her menstrual cramps and period-related fatigue. When Fu’s interviewer noticed the swimmer grimacing and clutching her abdomen after the race, Fu explained that the pain she felt was due to menstruation.
"Actually, I started my period last night," Fu said. "So I’m feeling pretty weak and really tired. But this isn’t an excuse. At the end of the day, I just didn’t swim very well."
A casual viewer might miss the significance of Fu’s matter-of-fact disclosure. But menstruation is one taboo that most female athletes – and indeed, many other women – continue to avoid talking about.
Almost immediately, Fu’s comments received widespread attention on social media. Although some of the messages were sexist or uninformed, most praised her for talking so candidly about a topic that is still inexplicably considered distasteful by some.
When the topic of menstruation is taboo, it has profound and negative effects on women everywhere. By avoiding the topic, societies send the message that periods are shameful, leading women to dislike or even fear their bodies’ natural processes. It also means that women don’t receive important information about their bodies, including what is normal and what is not. Without this necessary information, women who suffer treatable but painful conditions such as PMS or PMDD do not receive the help they need.
Fortunately, Fu is one of many women who, consciously or not, are challenging the myth that women and men should not discuss the very natural occurrence of menstruation. Online campaigns to reduce stigma have gained traction, while activists have started powerful discussions about the importance of speaking openly about women’s periods. Even marketers for feminine hygiene products are jumping on board, creating ads and videos that mock the euphemistic language and images of the tampon ads of yore.
More and more, women are being encouraged to embrace their monthly cycles and better understand them, rather than ignoring their bodies’ signals. By openly discussing female health and bodily functions, girls and women will feel more empowered to embrace what is normal and make changes to address what is abnormal. Fu and many other prominent female athletes are challenging us to be more open when discussing our bodies – for the sake of all women.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
The next time you reach for a soda, consider the findings of a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. In this study, researchers found that soda actually ages our cells as much as cigarette smoking. Wow, let’s write that again. Soda ages our cells as much as cigarette smoking.
Most of us are aware of the link between drinking soda and an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, but we don’t usually think of the sugary beverage as contributing to pre-mature aging.
The study revealed that telomeres, our DNA’s protective end caps, were significantly shorter in those who reported drinking more soda. Short telomeres are a marker for biological aging, and several scientific studies have shown a link between short telomere length and age-related diseases.
Researchers estimate that the daily consumption of a 20-ounce serving of soda is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging, comparable to the aging effects of smoking.
Sugary sodas are aging us on a cellular level, and may contribute to premature aging of our skin as well. The sugar in soda can bind to proteins in our blood and form advanced glycation end products (aptly referred to as “AGEs”). AGEs can be damaging to the skin by stimulating enzymes to break up collagen, which can lead to wrinkles and sagging skin. The cellular damage attributable to soda has the potential to not only make us feel older, but look older as well.
So, how do we kick the soda habit for good? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Make a plan:
Give yourself time to make the transition. You could be setting yourself up for failure if you stop cold turkey. Make a plan. Start by decreasing your two sodas a day habit to one a day, then down to one soda every other day, and so on.
2. Stock up on tasty alternatives:
Before cutting back on the soda, find a few drink alternatives that fulfill your soda cravings. If you like the bubbles, stock up on sparkling mineral water. If you crave the sweetness, simply add a splash of fruit juice or a few drops of liquid stevia to your mineral water. If you’re having a tough time cutting back on the caffeine, increase your intake of B vitamins, specifically Vit B12, to help boost your energy and decrease withdrawal symptoms. Or try some iced green tea to give yourself a bit of caffeine while getting the benefits of tea’s age-defying antioxidants.
3. Power in numbers:
Grab a friend, or two, and ask them to join you in kicking the (soda) can for good. There is power in numbers when it comes to breaking a habit. You are much more apt to stick to your plan if others are holding you accountable.
4. Establish new routines:
One of the best ways to drop a bad habit is to replace it with new, healthier, habits. Think of the times in your day that you tend to reach for a soda and consciously decide how you can change your routine to encourage alternative drink choices.
5. Stay hydrated:
To avoid reaching for a can of soda to quench your thirst, don’t allow yourself to get thirsty. Keep up your water intake throughout the day, and the soda will gradually lose its appeal. An added benefit of staying well hydrated is a boost in skin health. Our skin is made up of cells, which themselves are largely made up of water. When we’re dehydrated, even mildly, our skin becomes dry. Dry skin has less resilience and is more wrinkle prone than hydrated skin.
Good luck kicking the (soda) can. You can do it!
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Since June 2014, 539 million people have watched Meghan Trainor’s catchy music video "All About That Bass," which tackles some of these issues with sass, verve, and a sense of humor. We hope that some of the people watching the video have been women and girls who take to heart her message: "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top."
We also hope that men who, sadly, criticize women for their weight and, per appearance have watched it too, and have realized the error of their ways; and what’s more, that some media and advertising types who perpetuate a destructive and unrealistic portrayal of what "the ideal woman" looks like will make greater efforts to reverse this trend.
Happily, there is a growing chorus of women and women’s advocates who are joining in. We recently posted about Keira Knightley’s admirable and courageous nude campaign.
We’re not saying the message contained in the video is perfect. We’re still advocates of mostly avoiding the Technicolor cupcakes in the video. And we don’t think that women and girls should base their self-esteem on whether men desire them based on certain physical characteristics. Still, it’s a music video, a fun one, and it has the right message, and we applaud Meghan Trainor and her producers for singing out.
Of course, not everyone is a fan of pop music. We appreciate this refined version of "All About That Bass" by the talented musician, Kate Davis.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Since she first appeared on the pages of All-Star Comics in 1941, Wonder Woman has been a paragon of a strong, heroic woman. She stands for truth, justice, and peace. She is widely described as a feminist icon—and with good reason. Wonder Woman was designed by psychologist William Moulton Marston to be the type of woman who could "rule the world."
Marston was not only a noted psychologist and professor but also a prominent women’s rights activist.
This paragraph comes directly from The New Yorker article: "'Wonder Woman' was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men; and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations, and professions monopolized by men."
Marston was of the belief that women were the best hope for future civilization. In fact, in 1937, he predicted that women would eventually rule the world. He himself admitted that Wonder Woman was designed to be a propaganda for this "new type of woman" who would lead this new world.
Wonder Woman’s back-story is deeply rooted in the suffragist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. Wonder Woman’s real name is Princess Diana of Themyscira and she’s one of the Amazon warriors. According to Greek mythology, this all-female band of fighters formed their own matriarchal society. The suffragist movement borrowed from Amazon imagery for use in pro-feminist novels, poetry, and artwork.
When Marston was approached by Superman publisher M.C. Gaines to work as a consultant, he suggested creating a female superhero. Marston borrowed heavily from the suffragist literature while developing Wonder Woman’s origin story.
Wonder Woman first appeared in December 1941, on the eve of World War II, in All-Star Comics No. 8, when she flew to the United States from her mythological homeland to fight for truth, justice--and women’s rights. The next spring, publishers asked readers whether Wonder Woman should be allowed to join the superheroes’ Justice Society, which at the time was composed only of male heroes. Almost 89 percent of the nearly 2,000 first responders voted for her inclusion.
During her first few years, Wonder Woman encouraged women to join in the war effort as Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) or Women’s Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services (WAVES). A regular four-page feature called "The Wonder Women of History" included biographies of important women and their accomplishments. Did you know that Wonder Woman ran for president in 1943? A year later, she became the third superhero after Superman and Batman to have her own daily syndicated comic strip.
Marston died of cancer in 1947, just as American women were returning to their domestic roles as housewives (after spending the war working in factories to support the war effort) while men returned from war and went back to work. Wonder Woman followed suit, working more feminine jobs. The "Wonder Women of History" feature was replaced with a feature on wedding trends.
Although Marston’s dream of a civilization led by women has yet to come to fruition, Wonder Woman’s image is still in many ways synonymous with female strength and wisdom. Soon, she’ll be coming to the big screen. In 2016, Israeli actress Gal Gadot will play the Amazon warrior in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. This new Wonder Woman may be a new way for a new generation to engage with Marston’s vision of confident, courageous women.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
The origins of the Paleo concept stem, at least partly, from the perfectly reasonable observation that modern diets and lifestyles create a lot of unnecessary disease. It’s not a very big step from that to realize that we weren’t meant to be couch potatoes; we weren’t meant to subsist on salty, fried, sweetened, packaged, refined, and manufactured foods that didn’t exist until 50 or 100 years ago.
Based on this information, some authors (or marketers) found an apparently perfect target for their wrath: agriculture! Had not agriculture given us white flour and white rice? Wasn’t agriculture the ultimate source of potato chips and white sugar and corn syrup and genetically modified soy? Who regulates factory farms? The Department of Agriculture. Where are the most and herbicides sprayed and applied? Whoops, not on farms. They’re actually applied to on our lawns and gardens more, or at least those of our neighbors. But anyway, farms are the second most common place for them. Who is responsible for the potential mistreatment of farm animals, and the toxic application of antibiotics and hormones to them?
What this whole idea misses is that agriculture, in the pure sense, is not the problem. It’s modern, industrialized agriculture that feeds a huge food processing and marketing industry. And, of course, speaking broadly, we are the problem because we eat that stuff. I don’t want to try to analyze the ills of modern society, so let’s just stick to this idea of agriculture itself, as opposed to modern, industrial agriculture.
When it comes to food, agriculture is our friend. Plant-based foods, eaten in their whole form, are phenomenally healthy. Put in a caveat that some people are allergic to wheat, or corn, or legumes like soy and peanuts (or to strawberries or other somewhat less likely candidates). Taken as a group, whole plant foods are healthy, and are deservedly staple foods around the world.
If you pick out just a handful of them (like wheat and sugar beets and vegetable oil)—and process them and pulverize them and package them in plastic, then you have convenience store food that is really bad for us. But that isn’t really an agricultural problem—it’s an industrialized agriculture problem (and a food distribution and marketing problem, but let’s try to stay focused here).
Animals that are raised in cramped conditions that increase their saturated fat content and lower their healthy omega 3 fat content aren’t so healthy for us. The change in these animal’s natural diet from grass to grain and soy, which fattens them up, fattens us up too. But again, that is an industrialized agriculture problem. Animal husbandry 500 or 1000 or 5000 years ago didn’t have these problems.
This raises an important point—just about every animal product a modern Paleo advocate chooses to eat is a result of animal husbandry. That is, even their meat comes from agriculture. The kinds of animals and animal products we eat nowadays weren’t available to hunter-gatherers.
If the idea of a Paleo diet helps someone to eat healthier, that’s great. However, you don’t need to eat a lot of animal foods to be healthy, and you don’t need a fancy (or inaccurate) concept to guide you. A plant-rich, Mediterranean-style, whole foods diet with some non-industrial-style raised animal products in it will be healthy. And it will, above all else, be an agricultural diet. Eat more like an agriculturalist, and we think you’ll be as healthy as can be.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
In the first post on the Paleo diet, I discussed how Paleo advocates don’t make a good case against agricultural-based diets. I’d like to have some fun here with the Paleo notion that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is what humans are really evolved for. These are points you might want to keep in mind if someone tries to tell you that Paleo is the right way. And if you yourself are a fan of the Paleo concept, I mean no harm. Read on, and you might learn something of value.
Now, who’s Paleo? You can’t live a modern life and get anywhere close to being truly Paleo. If you’re reading this, you’re not Paleo. Paleolithic people didn’t have written language. Reading and writing only became common just before the Industrial Revolution.
Fortunately, you can have a healthy, sensible diet and lifestyle without inaccurately referring to it as "Paleo." My fun with this subject has gone on too long now. My next post will try to take a more constructive approach to the Paleo question.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
In our first gluten-free post, I introduced to you a few ideas about wheat and gluten allergy and sensitivity:
There is a tricky concept to try to tease apart here. Celiac Disease is a serious and destructive illness. In the past, it frequently went undiagnosed, and the medical profession—dubious as always about any claims that food and diet could cause actual symptoms—minimized and pooh-poohed it. This story may be familiar to women who’ve found the medical profession unsympathetic to their request for help when their hormonal fluctuations are causing premenstrual symptoms.
Nowadays, though, there is increasing awareness of Celiac Disease, and of the many problems it may cause. Celiac Disease causes much more than just bowel or digestive problems: the autoimmune process involved seems to be related to many other autoimmune conditions such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis; Type I Diabetes; and Autoimmune Hypothyroidism. There are established tests for Celiac Disease. While a biopsy, or sample, of your intestinal lining is the gold standard for diagnosis, there are blood and genetic tests that can fairly reliably identify Celiac Disease. Given appropriate medical care, a diagnosis of Celiac Disease shouldn’t be missed very often nowadays. Learn more about celiac disease diagnosis.
Celiac Disease is still rare. Most of the people who feel better avoiding gluten are probably benefitting instead from the avoidance of wheat.
However—HOWEVER—there are important exceptions. It is possible to not have Celiac Disease, and still have a reaction to gluten, so avoiding it makes you feel better, and relieves or removes symptoms. If this is the case, you’d have to avoid wheat, too, but barley and rye and foods with hidden gluten in them would probably make you sick, too.
If that’s not confusing enough, someone in this situation may test negative for celiac; their doctor may tell them they’re fine; but they know they feel lousy when they eat gluten, and better when they avoid it. Or, it could happen that certain blood tests are positive, so your doctor orders a biopsy, but that doesn’t show celiac. Depending on your doctor, and to what degree he or she is an "inside the box" or an "outside the box" thinker when it comes to food and health, he or she may tell you that you don’t have Celiac Disease and that food has nothing to do with how you feel. Or, we hope, they’ll understand that the positive tests reflect a problem that hasn’t yet reached a critical stage, and that you’re better off avoiding gluten.
Here is my best advice. If you think a food is causing a problem for you, or better yet if you have any health problem whatsoever, read our information on food allergy and free accurate DIY food allergy testing. Then, do the food allergy test protocol as described. You can talk to your health care practitioner about whether Celiac Disease testing might be helpful in your case, and be sure to find out and mention whether you have any close relatives who have been diagnosed with celiac, since the condition has a strong genetic basis.
It helps to know when you don’t have celiac, and when you don’t need to stress out about gluten-free. And if you have Celiac Disease, it’s a life-saver to know and to follow a gluten-free diet for life.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
by PMS Comfort
What does it mean to be authentic? The word has been thrown around over the last few years by self-help gurus and therapists as a universal goal. So what is authenticity? Can developing our authentic selves actually make us healthier?
Very simply, authenticity means being true to one’s self. A person who is authentic approaches life—for example, social interactions and big decisions—with sincerity and truth. The idea seems easy enough, but in today’s world, where we’re asked to summarize our thoughts in 140 characters and ourselves in a single profile page, it can be difficult to achieve. Our fast-paced world can also get in the way. How can we be true to ourselves if we don’t have the time to reflect on who we really are?
Authenticity is something that takes practice, courage, and commitment. Taking the road less traveled is easier said than done, and learning to speak your mind isn’t a switch we flip in an instant. We’re conditioned to fit in, to go with the flow. To do otherwise doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
The research on authenticity is still very young. Scientists have conceptualized authenticity, but very little research exists to demonstrate definitively how it can benefit someone.
Early research shows that people who are more authentic also use more effective coping strategies in times of stress, have more satisfying relationships, enjoy greater self-worth and confidence, and are better at following through on goals.
Brené Brown, author of the best-selling book Daring Greatly, researches shame, vulnerability, and fear. She found that being vulnerable—that is, admitting our flaws and rejecting the need to be perfect—allows us to let go of stress and build trust and connection with others. When we show the world our whole selves, warts and all, we’re being authentic.
We don’t become authentic overnight. Because we are ever evolving, the task of being true to ourselves is a lifelong, ever-changing mission. Achieving authenticity is a two-part assignment. First, we must better understand ourselves. Then, we must act in accordance with who we are.
To improve your understanding of who you are, try out one or more of these simple exercises:
To practice being true to yourself, start small. Try one or more of these simple exercises to begin.
Of course, authenticity has limits. We can’t all quit our jobs to pursue our dream career, and in many situations, revealing our whole selves or the unfiltered truth is inappropriate. But at its heart, authenticity is an internal state. It’s about finding who we are and accepting ourselves. Even small practices in authenticity can help us increase our confidence, reduce our stress, and step closer to our goals.
"We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be." – May Sarton, Poet
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
by PMS Comfort
When was the last time you sat down at the table to eat with your family? Decades ago, this was practice that happened once, twice, or sometimes even three times a day. But these days, between fast food and microwave meals, many people are missing out on this once-common practice. New research shows, however, that eating together as a family—or even as a couple or with friends—can have numerous tangible and intangible benefits.
More than half of Americans feel they eat fewer family dinners now than when they were growing up, according to recent polls But most Americans—92 percent—look forward to the family dinners they do have.
Why are we spending less time eating together when we enjoy it so much? Between work, school, and extracurricular activities, families find it harder to sit down for dinner. And some families even schedule a sit-down dinner! The typical full-time American employee clocks 47 hours work a week, more than many other countries where family dining is emphasized. Nearly one in five Americans spends 60 or more hours per week at work. When work hours increase, leisurely family dinners become inconvenient.
Kids who eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week are less likely to be overweight. Those who eat with family five or more days per week do better in school, have better relationships with their parents, and are less likely to have drug or alcohol problems. Although scientists don’t yet know the benefits to childless couples who eat dinner together, researchers at Ohio State University are studying the area.
Eating together also has benefits that are harder to measure. Cody C. Delistraty, writing for The Atlantic, noted how continuing family dinners after his mother’s death helped him and his father cope with the loss and stay connected. For many people, eating together is a great way to create space and unwind after a long workday.;
Getting in the habit of regular family meals can be difficult for many families who are juggling lots of obligations. But even a couple of dinners a week can make a significant difference. If you feel your family could benefit from more regular meals together, begin by setting aside one day each week for a family meal, then increase to two or three days each week.
You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to eat well with your family. Start with simple, healthful recipes like marinated tofu or a simple pasta dish. Have family members pitch in to make a side salad or warm dinner rolls. Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and enjoy the conversation. If you’re short on time, even dining together on takeout can reap many of the same benefits for your family.
If you’d like to eat well and increase your family’s bond, make the commitment to eat together more often. You may have to be creative, give it a try! Memories and connectedness will last a lifetime.
by PMS Comfort
by PMS Comfort
With all the liking, tweeting, and pinning going on these days, it’s a wonder we get anything accomplished outside of our virtual lives. The pace of the world around us seems to be exponentially increasing, while our minds and bodies are often left craving simpler times.
I hear at least once a day that there are not enough hours in a day to make the necessary lifestyle changes for optimal health. Many of my patients are sleeping very little, eating on the go, forgoing physical activity, and laugh when I ask about their libido. "What sex life?" they often respond. Why is it that we are so pressed to find the time we need to take care of ourselves? The answer may be found in a recent New York Times article questioning our culture’s obsession with productivity.
Our bedrooms used to be used for the primary purpose of resting. Now, because of our mobile devices and society’s obsession with productivity, we are often left feeling guilty or lazy for finding solace in our beds. For better or for worse, we are now able to accomplish tasks anywhere, anytime. With so many options of where to direct our attention these days, it can be tough to prioritize our time. I often prescribe one or all of the following lifestyle suggestions as a starting point for my patients:
You are how you eat
When we grab our meals to go or eat while responding to emails, our bodies are unable to properly digest the food we take in. We, physiologically, are designed to digest food while sitting down, in a quiet environment, taking our time, and chewing thoroughly. Going against our physiological needs, because we don’t have time, can lead to an array of symptoms from gas, feeling bloated, and heartburn, to migraine headaches and acne. By taking our time with meals and adequately digesting our food, we are our setting ourselves up for success by minimizing distracting symptoms and optimizing our long-term health.
Move your body
Studies show that physical activity is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness, and combating stress. Something as simple as taking a fifteen-minute break, away from the task at hand, to take a brisk walk is all that is required to boost your overall efficiency and creativity.
Leave your phone, computer, and other devices at the door
Just as you are in the habit of removing your shoes at the door, create a new habit of leaving your electronic devices at the door when coming home for the evening. You will be amazed at how much time you have once your ability to check your emails and social networking sites is not within an arms reach.
Turn down the lights
Minimizing screen time and dimming the lights in the evening allows our body to produce adequate melatonin, a hormone that helps us fall asleep. Sleep is essential to our body's ability to repair and detoxify. A good night's sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity and should be at the top of everyone’s "To Do" list.
I will leave you with a quote from my son’s favorite bedtime story:
"It is true that I am slow, quiet, and boring. I am lackadaisical, I dawdle and I dillydally. I am also unflappable, languid, stoic, impassive, sluggish, lethargic, placid, calm, mellow, laid-back and, well, slothful! I am relaxed and tranquil, and I like to live in peace. But I am not lazy." From Eric Carle’s "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth.
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
by PMS Comfort
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
In Part 1 of this 5-part series, we introduced the Myers–Briggs Personality Indicator and its first pair of characteristics, Introversion and Extroversion. Part 2 covered the second pair, Intuition and Sensation; Part 3 the third pair, Thinking and Feeling; and Part 4 the fourth pair, Perception and Judgement. Remember that everyone, to varying degrees, has both of the characteristics described in each of the pairs of attributes. Here in Part 5 we provide some shorthand tips for interpreting and applying this remarkable tool to everyday life.
You need not be able to make complete sense of this acronym jumble to receive some benefit from the insights of Carl Jung and Myers and Briggs. The most important point is to realize that some of your more intransigent characteristics may simply be part of you—they’re innate, almost like the color of your eyes or your unique fingerprint—and that rather than trying to change or alter them, it’s best to accept them. Then, should they cause trouble for you, you’ll know you can learn about the opposing characteristic, and try to cultivate those qualities in yourself. They are there already, you just need to find them and nurture them. This can help you to become more accepting of others as well as yourself, and this usually leads to better and more peaceful relationships.
Fundamentally, it’s a big help to understand and recognize introversion and extroversion in yourself and others. Simply knowing that extroverts get energy from being with people, that introverts need time alone to recharge their batteries, and that extroverts outnumber introverts in this world, can be quite valuable.
As important as the I/E pair is, you don’t even need it to recognize the main types of people in the world. Interestingly, just four combinations of the S/N, J/P, and T/F pairs determine all the main personality types. In extreme shorthand:
Remember, everyone has each of these eight tendencies to varying degrees. You can think of them as existing on a range from zero to one hundred, with more people falling into the middle 40–60 range than the extreme 80 or 90 range for any given trait. MBTI is a useful guide to understanding yourself and others, but needs to be interpreted and applied flexibly, not rigidly. Now, which MBTI characteristic is that?
Visit the website of the Myers–Briggs Foundation »
Of the many excellent books and articles that explore MBTI to varying degree, What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are does a great job of simplifying the Myers-Briggs tool, making it easy to understand and apply to your own life »
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Do you love, crave, or even at times fantasize about rich, creamy dairy foods? Would you describe that melt-in-your-mouthful sensation as a guilty pleasure?
If you think of full-fat dairy as a guilty indulgence, you’ll be happy to learn that a wave of recent research suggests that the conventional wisdom about low-fat versus whole-fat dairy may be an unfortunate food myth. We are now learning that whole milk products that include the butterfat don’t appear to be as bad for you as we’ve been led to believe over the last several decades.Here’s a quick look at the science:
The idea that dairy fat is bad for you is relatively recent, and seems as if it may be misguided. Dairy farmers of generations past took pride in producing milk products with the rich, distinctive flavor, and high butterfat content we love. Today, high-quality dairy products are experiencing a renaissance, thanks to organic dairy farmers, whose cows eat grass. So if you’re not vegan, lactose-intolerant, or follow a diet that otherwise excludes dairy, go ahead and enjoy the full-fat dairy renaissance, and don’t feel guilty about indulging in some delicious creamy butterfat.