If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

I don’t go crazy over celebrities.

You could tell me that the world’s biggest star was right across the street and I would still stay home. So when my sister asked me to take her on Friday to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Wahlburgers in St. Charles, Illinois, I was less than thrilled.

But Trish is not one to be shut down when she has an idea. My 58-year-old sister with Down syndrome has spent her entire life asking for whatever seems reasonable to her, even when it’s completely unrealistic to others. It was obvious to her that she should be at this event because she loves Donnie Wahlberg, New Kids on the Block and the television show Bluebloods. She would certainly be the most important attendee. I didn’t have a stronger reason for not going, so off we went.

Once there, it was obvious that despite the crowd, there was a very good chance we would be in close proximity to Donnie and his brother/business partner Paul. I was getting excited and wasn’t sure why. At one point Paul came near to grab something from a table, and I hollered out to ask if I could take a photo of him with Trish. He kindly obliged.

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Trish seized the opportunity to tell him she wanted to work at the restaurant when it opened. Over the course of two to three minutes (an eternity for a celebrity whose name is being shouted by hundreds), she detailed her qualifications. When she said she could wash tables and sweep floors, he joked, “Well if you do all of that, what am I going to do?”

Realizing she was not going to take “No” for an answer, he called over two women who took down her name and address, saying they would send her an application. Trish proceeded to convince these women as well that she should be hired. We then went back behind the makeshift barricade to wait for a drive-by selfie with Donnie.

I watched Paul talk to the two women, look in our direction and speak to another man with a Wahlburgers jacket. I knew something was happening. This man (the general manager I believe) stepped over to shake Trish’s hand and announce that he had the authority to designate her as their first new hire for this location. Cameras were rolling to capture the moment for potential use on their reality series, Wahlburgers.

Soon Donnie made his rounds and came near Trish. I yelled out that she was their first hire. He went to congratulate her with a handshake, but she grabbed him for a hug. She was not going to miss out on a hug from Donnie.

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To say we were amazed and grateful is an understatement. We were thanking God all the way home for these people, and spent the rest of the day telling the tale online and off.

Who is the disabled one?

In bed that night, something struck me about my relationship with my sister. When you grow up with a developmentally-disabled sibling (and I have two), it’s difficult to understand why they act differently. Especially when you’re young and you just want them to conform so that you’re not embarrassed in front of others.

Trish has always pushed the envelope on this. There have been hundreds of arguments about why she couldn’t, and we couldn’t, do whatever she wanted. Even as an adult she insists on going to the Fourth of July parade to get candy (much to the dismay of the children around her). She has never missed trick-or-treating, regardless of whether people are kind to her or not.

Since a junior high visit to a fire station, she has been enamored of firefighters and paramedics. She made sure to meet them all during her 37-year career at a local hospital, and would call them and send cards to them and their families.

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I’ve winced when I’ve heard her ask a new firefighter for his address. I’ve chided her for getting in the way of kids trying to get their share of parade candy. I’ve been impatient when she doesn’t understand there isn’t enough money to buy all that she wants.  Sometimes I could fulfill her endless requests and other times I couldn’t. When she was shut down by one sibling, she would call the next until she got what she wanted or reached the end of the line.

It has taken me decades to realize a few important things:

  • Her “ask” was completely reasonable to her–I was the one who was unreasonable.
  • My “No” was always about me and whether I would be put out or embarrassed.
  • Her relentless pursuit for things that matter to her has made her fearless and successful.
  • I need to be more like her, not the other way around.

I realize now that my sister Trish very often gets what is important to her because she believes she can get to “Yes” if she just keeps at it. While this can’t be true in every situation, it begs two questions: Do I believe in my dream enough and will it change my life enough that I’m willing to go for it? Do I just need to set fear aside and ask? I seemed to be okay entreating celebrities to do things for my sister, but I can clam up when it comes to asking for myself.

So often when I’ve said, “I can’t, Trish”, she will respond with a twinkle in her eye, “Yes, you can”. It’s that “Yes, you can” that is resounding in my thoughts after seeing what she pulled off on Friday. She got a job working for the most famous guy in town–an internationally-known singer/actor/entrepreneur. All because she thought she had every right to expect success.

And so do I. So do you. Life is too short to be afraid to ask.

What are Hospitals Doing About Physician Burnout?

isolated-1188036_1920Is it just me, or is everyone just starting to realize that physicians are people too?

We’ve all known for a long time that the healthcare paradigm shift of the last ten years means that doctors are overstressed, overwhelmed and overbooked. According to a 2017 Medscape survey reported by the American Medical Association (https://wire.ama-assn.org/life-career/report-reveals-severity-burnout-specialty), physicians from 27 specialties ranked their level of burnout on a scale of one to seven (seven meaning they considered leaving medicine). All but one specialty ranked their burnout at a level four or higher.

A harrowing article in The Washington Post revealed surprising stats about physician suicides in the United States. It was something that I never considered since my doctors have always appeared superhuman. As I think about all that they are expected to do to prepare for the profession, and the physical, emotional and spiritual struggles they witness each day, it should come as no surprise. Compassion fatigue doesn’t begin to describe it.

The impact of burnout on the life of a physician is discouraging enough, but what about the effect on patients? Will they lose a physician due to burnout? Will their physician make an innocent mistake because he/she is overwhelmed?

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I think patients need to question what their hospital is doing to protect its physicians from burnout. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with physicians and executives with AMITA Health in the Chicago area and am impressed about their unique initiatives designed to promote physician well-being–some that have been going on for decades.

Guided by insights from The Coalition for Physician Well-being, some of AMITA Health’s unique interventions include:

  • “Huddles” immediately following traumatic events (not just large scale ones)
  • Free counseling sessions available to physicians with specialists outside of the health system
  • A Medical Arts Program that encourages physicians to share their artwork in exhibitions and within their facilities
  • “Creation Health” physician health and wellness opportunities to help them live life to the fullest
  • International mission trip opportunities (and soon local mission opportunities)
  • Physician Leadership Workshops to empower and engage physicians in highest-level decision-making
  • Mentoring of new physicians by experienced doctors
  • Small groups, Bible studies and more.

     

What are other hospitals doing? Stanford Medicine has implemented an interesting time-banking program for physicians to help avoid burnout. According to a 2014 CHA article, “Hospitals within Adventist Health System [based in Florida] have sponsored a variety of programs designed to foster communication and build relationships, from picnics to art shows, physician concerts, health screenings and prayer breakfasts.”

I’m researching ways that other health systems are looking out for the holistic needs of these folks. If physicians leave their work because the practice of healthcare robs them of their own mental, physical or spiritual health, we all lose.

What You’re Saying Is…Things Can Just Start Falling Out?

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I have a wonderful job. I am privileged to interview medical professionals and share what they tell me with various audiences. It’s a great way to learn what researchers have discovered and what medical breakthroughs are on the horizon.

However a recent interview is giving me nightmares. Not because the doctor wasn’t congenial or helpful (he was an extremely intelligent and polite man). It was WHAT he told me that I can’t stop thinking about.

Hold Onto Your_________

The physician is a urogynecologist, meaning that he not only specializes in female reproductive mechanisms, but also in the urinary system. It takes a special person to want to deal with all of that nasty, so my hat’s off to anyone who chooses that field.

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If only it were that idyllic!

 

He wanted readers to know about Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). I had a flashback to the time when my 83-year old grandmother had some sort of female surgery because something was out of place. Is that what she was dealing with 20 years ago?

Indeed it was. My grandma was losing her battle against gravity. The bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that were supposed to fight this downward force and hold her organs in place were failing her. Specifically, her pelvic floor muscles were calling it quits.hammock-68010__340

The doctor told me that the pelvic floor, or the group of muscles and supporting tissues that act like a hammock over the pelvic opening in women, can become injured and weakened over time. As a result, the bladder, uterus, small bowel, and rectum can start to “prolapse” or slip down into the vagina.

WHAT??? Stuff can just start falling out? 

Evidently, a difficult birthing experience can injure supporting tissues which can further weaken as a woman ages. But other factors overstretch these muscles, ligaments and fascia–factors such as obesity, chronic coughing and pressure from chronic constipation.

I didn’t have any trouble when I gave birth to my daughter, and I don’t have these other issues, but I remained concerned. The doctor reassured me with the following stats:

  • Though more than 40% of women over 40 experience some form of prolapse, only about 3%-6% require treatment
  • Most patients who undergo a surgical procedures are in their 60s
  • The peak incidence of symptoms is when a women is in her 70s or 80s (you live long enough and things start to shift)

So I have a bit of time before I worry. But I started telling every woman I know that if she starts to feel something protruding into her vagina, she might have this condition. Interesting topic to discuss at dinner parties, but I wanted women to be prepared!

How to Keep It All In

According to my source, minimally invasive procedures can “rebuild” the pelvic floor hammock with native tissue or mesh (though some physicians stay away from mesh now with problems that women have encountered with it). But even better news is that we can do things to help prevent POP from happening by: appetite-1239056__340

  • Staying active and physically fit
  • Continuing a regular practice of pelvic floor exercises (like those suggested at http://www.voicesforpfd.org)
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Addressing conditions that aggravate muscles such as chronic coughing or constipation.

We’re all in this together gals. Let’s make a daily practice of strengthening those muscles. Let’s stay active and drop the extra weight. Let’s look into natural things that help chronic coughing, (like doTERRA’s Breathe blend) and constipation (like doTERRA’s Digest Zen blend). Don’t go from bad to worse by using over-the-counter remedies when so many natural options are out there.

No more nightmares about walking down the street as organs pop out all over. I’ll be fine and so will you. Just keep doing those Kegels.

 

Essential Oils: Do They Live Up to the Hype?

oil-1205635__340I’m all for natural healing remedies. The Bible addresses them in several places as gifts from God’s creation. I love reading stories of people healing from all sorts of things, including boils by intrepid use of a “cake of figs”. (Isaiah 38:21).

For more than 30 years, I have studied everything I can get my hands on about nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management for good health. I also keep up with what is going on in the fields of “natural medicine”, or the use of food/herbs/plants for healing.

So what about essential oils? I had no clue that the liquid in those little bottles I kept reading about had any real properties for symptom relief.

That is, until I suffered a brain injury caused by a misprescribed medication. Not the doctor’s fault, he didn’t know that a drug he gave me for stomach pain in the ER would affect my brain receptors, neurotransmitters, calcium ion channels, etc.

Nevertheless, I struggled with a variety of mental and physical symptoms for two years. Unless you’ve been through a chronic illness or condition, you have no idea how awful it is to literally have no options. There is nothing you can do, nothing you can take, no one to fix it. You can’t plan out your day because you can’t think beyond the current minute.

That was my daily experience until a friend had me try some essential oils: lavender, vetiver, lime, copaiba and some others. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell that they were making a difference. Thanks, but no thanks. I thought it was all MLM hype.

Another friend sent me a different brand of lavender. Based on my last experiment, I was VERY reluctant to give it a go. But I did, and my life changed that day.

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I won’t go into brand or quality distinctions here. All that mattered to me was that inhaling some of this stuff right from the bottle took some of my symptoms away and got me off of the couch. I called my daughter at college and told her something was working and she immediately started Googling why lavender would impact a chemical brain injury.

Before anyone tells you that there is no scientific evidence for the belief that pure, high-grade essential oils can have therapeutic properties, do your research. While many more studies need to be done, several have already been conducted. I could find dozens on lavender and its chemical constituents alone, including a Frontiers in Pharmacology study published in May 2017 entitled,

Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets

The first thing this study taught me was that each essential oil, whether lavender, tea tree, lemon, peppermint, frankincense or many others, are made up of dozens of naturally occurring chemical constituents, each having a unique impact on the body. These constituents are perfectly combined together to benefit the plant in some way. When the “essence” of that plant is extracted through steam distillation or other method, we get a concentrated “dose” of the properties of the plant.

I also learned that people have been using essential oils around the world for thousands of years for their healing abilities. Why are we behind the times in the U.S.?

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I knew what I needed an oil to do for me, so I read many more studies, some on rats/mice and some on humans. I couldn’t believe I didn’t know that extensive research about these oils was going on across the globe and these studies could be accessed on the internet.

While I don’t claim to be a chemist, physician or pharmacist, I can tell you that I am an expert on ME. Using a combination of essential oils is what allows me to get out of bed, think clearly, leave my house, do work that takes much concentration, exercise, sleep and help care for my family and household–all things I couldn’t do for two years without them. And no, I don’t believe I started to spontaneously heal because when I don’t use the oils I feel like hell.

I use essential oils topically, aromatically and a couple internally. I’ve researched many popular thought leaders on the subject of sourcing, quality, safety and have come up with my own regimen.

So in my opinion–yes, essential oils are worth the hype that you are hearing about them.

But you have to understand that no one is an expert in essential oils. Many will tell you to be overly cautious in their use, others will tell you to use them with abandon, even if you take medication. Just be careful to do your own research on which EOs may benefit you.

That’s what I did. Then I spoke with my physician and a pharmacist friend. Both listened to the studies I presented and said that they made sense, even though they didn’t have great familiarity with the subject.

Don’t let an overly enthusiastic EO salesperson turn you away from trying these products. We all have that one girlfriend or family member who joined an MLM and gives advice with very little knowledge. Not to say that all of the oils produced by these companies are bad (I’ve found quite the contrary), just do your homework.

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Study for yourself. Listen to other people’s stories. Don’t give up trying because one oil may not help you, but another oil will (for instance, I can’t stand bergamot and others swear by it for brain healing). We all have different bodies so don’t think because salesperson Suzy says that Ylang Ylang won’t work for your needs means that you should believe it.

Try one at a time. Learn how to use them. Take good notes about your body’s response to an oil. Then build a regimen.

One last thing…I am a stickler for quality. I found out the hard way that poor quality oils (that you find at many health food stores) don’t work or can make things worse. Know where your oils are coming from. Are they coming directly from the grower or from an oil broker who sells to a bunch of different companies, some who may add other ingredients to stretch it out (and make it less effective)?

So be encouraged. Know that you have options. Believe the hype that these can be very powerful and effective, but know what you’re using and why.

I wish you the best!!

 

 

 

 

A Siren is a Siren…Isn’t It?

Even though it’s mid-winter, the tornado practice siren peals every Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m.

Since I know that with snow on the ground the likelihood of a tornado is slim. And yet every time I hear that darn siren, I get a burst of adrenaline.

And it always reminds me of the first summer I lived in this house.

Lilapsophobia:  irrational fear of tornadoes and hurricanes

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First, let me set the record straight.  When I was growing up 20 miles northwest of here, when you heard a siren, it meant serious business. Living in tornado alley means you don’t mess with warnings–you simply take action immediately.

I can count half a dozen tornadoes that came through our area when I was growing up.  The first, I was told, occurred when I was an infant.  The rest of the family ran for cover in the “under the stairs” closet.  Meanwhile, I was left in the bassinet in my parent’s bedroom.  I guess that comes with being Bonus Child No. 7: totally forgotten in everyone’s haste.  My parents still refuse to apologize and often say, “We would have figured out you were missing at some point.”  I think not.

The next time, I was a toddler.  Thankfully, my oldest sister remembered that I existed and shuttled me to the closet, along with my other siblings and our German Shepherd.  Shoved together with several kids in this small space, I got stuck with the butt end of the dog in my face.  Pepper kept smacking me with his tail, dealing with his own canine version of lilapsophobia. When my parents came home from the store, they said the car lifted off the ground as they were driving.  Yikes.

The third time I remember most vividly because I was older, and the tornado came through our back yard and had the nerve to take my swing set with it.  The concept blew my mind (pardon the pun).  The weather can TAKE STUFF FROM YOU?  What kind of world was I living in?

There were several other pretty scary storms that likely contributed to my fear of tornadoes, so what happened in 2002 shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Check the Fine Print

I remarried in 2002 and moved into my husband’s home with my then-seven-year-old daughter.  Life was peachy, and we looked forward to our first summer in a great new neighborhood.

Then it happened.  One July night at 11:00 p.m., I could hear the city’s sirens going off.  Adrenaline shot me out of bed so quickly I wasn’t sure where I was…and where the closet under the stairs was…and where Pepper was…and where the swing set…wait a minute!  Where was my daughter?

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I ran into her bedroom and picked her up, trying not to wake or scare her.  This was, of course, impossible, considering I was stealing her from sleep and acting like a maniac.  I grabbed the first things I thought of to protect her:  a pillow, her gym shoes and her bike helmet.

She was half asleep as we ran past my husband, who was sitting quietly in the living room, watching television with the front door open.  The wind was whipping the trees into a frenzy and rain was shooting down in anger. Out of the corner of my eye I caught that menacing scroll at the bottom of the TV screen.  I knew it must be describing the peril coming our way.

“What in the world are you doing?” he hollered as I scampered down the basement steps.  I ignored him.  It was every man for himself.

Once in the basement, I found the nook under the stairs and, as swift as could be, put the bike helmet on my daughter. By now, she was fully awake and terrified that life in the new house came with such nightmarish circumstances.  As she was asking me questions, I quickly put on her gym shoes (“We may have to run if the tornado picks up the house”) and then grabbed the futon mattress to put over us.

“What is going on?” My husband was now standing at the top of the stairs.

Was he deaf?  Could he not hear that we were going to die?  The sirens don’t lie.

“There’s a tornado coming,” I yelled up the stairs from our bunker. ” You need to take cover too!”

He had the nerve to chuckle.  Probably just like the tornado that stole my swing set. “It’s just a watch,” he said.  “It sounds once for a watch and two times for a warning.”

I didn’t believe him.  Who changed the rules?  Why was I not consulted?  Why wasn’t a national memo distributed?

Evidently a letter had come from the city a few weeks prior indicating they were putting a revised warning system in place.  Well that explains it.

How Does One Move On?

That was 15 years ago, and try as I might, I can’t control the adrenaline when I hear the siren go off.  Even the test one every Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. It fools me every dang time, takes me several minutes of wondering why I would be hearing that screech when it’s a sunny day.  Was it one of those creep-up-on-you-and-it-sounds-like-a-freight-train-before-you-know-it kind of storms?

Phobias don’t die easily.  But they are spread easily.  Even at college, my now-22-year-old daughter instinctively panics at the sound of the siren or the annoying beep on T..V. indicating a need to watch the skies.

And yet I still can’t convince her to grab a bike helmet and a pair of gym shoes before she runs to the basement of her dorm.  Silly girl.  Doesn’t she know how ingenious that is?

Even My Eyes Are Going Through Menopause?

I’ve worn glasses since I was ten years old, so in my time I’ve seen a fair amount of optometrists.  My first was a freckled leprechaun of a man who always pinched my cheek and told me how cute I was, quite the ego boost for a chubby adolescent with glasses.  He would be my optometrist for a couple of decades until he retired and I had long outgrown the need for affirmation from a mythical creature.

The doctor I’ve been seeing for the last eight years has to be my all-time favorite.  It has little to do with the fact that I love his name, Dr. Christ (rhymes with “mist”), but more likely because I feel like I’ve graduated cum laude from optometry school each time I leave his office.

I’m confident I’ve gotten my  money’s worth at these appointments because I always learn something new that makes a difference in the way I see my eyes (pun intended).  Which in turn feeds my insatiable desire to take my new found knowledge and then impress someone who is not as learned in the field of ocular health.  So here goes…doll eyes

Did you know that a woman’s eyes change during menopause?  As if it weren’t difficult enough to navigate the raging torrent of physical, mental and emotional fluctuations, now we have to pay attention to what is going on with our eyes.

Most of us know that vision changes as we age.  Lenses harden and cause us to have difficulty seeing fine print without readers, bifocals or really long arms.  It seems like the day that I turned 40, I realized that I was having to take my glasses off, or peer through the top or bottom to read things up close.

But I had also noticed lately that my eyes were often red and felt like they had sand in them.  Though I suspected that I had developed a new allergy,  I couldn’t pinpoint the source of the problem.  Dr. Christ told me that as we enter menopause, changing levels of hormones also affect the chemical composition of the secretions of our eyes.

He went on to say that the place where our eyelashes emerge from our eyelids is a breeding ground for bacteria and under normal conditions, our tears help wash away that bacteria.  But hormonal fluctuations cause a change in the one or all of the three layers of our tears (mucus, aqueous and lipid), meaning microorganisms are not kept in check  like they are when we are younger.

He sent me home with a bottle of OCuSOFT Lid Scrub Foaming Eyelid Cleanser.  At the end of each day I pump some of the foam onto a wet washcloth at night and wipe my eyelids.    As a bonus, it also takes off eye makeup, eliminating one step in my nightly routine.  Since I’ve been using it I haven’t noticed any problems with my eyes.

I wonder if Dr. Christ has a magic formulas for hot flashes? Or cellulite?

Six Things We’ve Been Duped into Believing About What We’re Eating

basket-1375743_1920Well, THAT title sounds rather negative, something I don’t like to be on this blog.  But today it’s for a good reason.

I’m mad, and you should be too.  I’m mad that although we have more information about how to be healthier through good nutrition, more Americans are overweight or obese than ever before.

Are we not listening to what we are hearing, or are we misinterpreting what we are hearing?

My Sister’s Story

I have a 50-year old sister who has a mild developmental disability.  Last year, she was diagnosed as having diabetes and high cholesterol (she is at a healthy weight).  I had so many things going on at the time that I didn’t realize that she was subsequently given three prescription medications by her physician.  When I found out, I asked her, “Did your doctor say anything about how to heal from diabetes and high cholesterol through diet and exercise?”  “No, never,” she said.  I confirmed this with another sister who had accompanied her, and made sure that the doctor didn’t diagnose her with forms of both that could not be reversed by a healthier lifestyle.

Needless to say, I was less than pleased.  My sister makes very little money and is spending a huge portion of it to buy these medications, and now is dealing with significant side effects.  My sister may have cognitive deficits, but she is not stupid.  If her doctor had just given her some sound advice about diet and exercise, she would have followed them to the letter.  There wasn’t even a discussion of taking meds for a short time while she worked on improving her health. Sure doctors are overworked and have little time, but what would it have taken to direct my sister to some helpful resources?

It’s a moot point now because I am now working with her to make these changes, and will present these to her physician.

Who Are You Listening To?

When I took my sister to the store to read food labels in order to make better choices, I was struck by how little she knew about eating well.  Again, it was obvious that this was not because she is “slow”.  It seemed like she had bought into the misinformation that commercials and the words on the front of food packages cause.  If we are looking to these two sources to tell us the optimal way to eat, we are in trouble.

Which of these six things have you believe?

Lowfat is Healthy

OK, admit it.  You’ve bought into this one.  I have too.  Just because something is lower in fat, doesn’t make it the best choice if it doesn’t have any other redeeming value.  Case in point:  all of the low-fat chips whether baked chips, lentil chips, rice chips, pita chips, veggie chips, as well as pretzels.  Often there is little nutrition and more salt than your body wants.  If you’re like me, however, you crave crunchy and salty food, and these SEEM like a better choice than Frito’s.  But they are adding calories that will not fill you up or give you sustained energy.  Try to incorporate some low-salt or raw nuts instead, or something like apples, carrots and celery to satisfy your need to crunch.

Zero Calories is Healthy

The only things you want to ingest that have no calories are O2 and H2O–oxygen and water.  Don’t think that you are doing yourself a favor by drinking zero calorie soda.  Take Coke Zero for instance.  Here is the ingredients list:  Carbonated water, colour (caramel E150d), phosphoric acid, sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame-K), flavourings (including caffeine), acidity regulator (E331).  The only thing that sounds remotely nutritious is the phosphoric acid.  Yet even that has been linked to lower bone density in some epidemiological studies, including a discussion in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Even Vitamin Water Zero contains things like sorbitol that can aggravate irritable bowel syndrome and other gastro disorders.  Try water with really natural flavoring, like fresh lemon juice or naturally flavored teas.

If It’s Labeled “Organic” It Must Be Good For You

We fell for this one in our household when we jumped on the organic bandwagon years ago.  We started buying packaged meals because they contained all organic ingredients.  The problem?  The ingredients weren’t much to brag about–cornmeal, white rice, high sodium or high fat sauces, etc.  We realized that we saved money buying unprocessed, organic foods and that their preparation didn’t take much more time than these “convenience” meals.  Also be aware that “natural”, “all-natural”, “100% natural”  and “organic” do not mean the same thing.  Natural foods are processed without preservatives or additives, but may have been grown with the use of pesticides or other conventional methods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the term ‘natural’ only as it applies to added color, synthetic substances and fragrances.

Sugar-Free is Healthy

This was a big source of misinformation for my sister, especially with her diabetes.  She thought she could ingest whatever amount of artificial sweeteners that she wanted because sugar was the devil.  But Sucralose (Splenda) and Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweeet) come with a whole host of problems themselves.  They have proven to cause headaches and intestinal distress, and have recently been linked to cancer and the increase in MS, lupus, fibromyalgia and even diabetes (ironic).  Why risk it?  Food additives are not your friend.  Did God design our bodies to be able to process artificial ingredients?  Don’t just listen to me, there is so much information available about these sweeteners.  There are fabulous natural alternatives like agave nectar and honey, so why not give them a try?

Multi-Grain is the Same as Whole Grain

According to Mayo Clinic Registered Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky, multi-grain and whole grain are not interchangeable terms.  “Whole grain means that all parts of the grain kernel–the bran, germ and endosperm–are used.  In contrast, multigrain means that a food contains more than one type of grain, although none of them may necessarily be whole grains,” she says.  The reason we want whole grain is that fiber, nutrients and other healthy parts of the plant are lost when they are milled.  So we should look for breads and pastas that are labeled “whole wheat” or “whole oats” for example.

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Wheat Flour is the Same as Whole Wheat Flour

Since whole grains keep you fuller longer due to a higher fiber content (which also helps with blood sugar and colon health), they are a better choice.  But don’t be fooled by ingredient labels that say “Wheat Flour”, because that has been refined to lose the outer bran that contains the majority of the fiber.  Choose only “Whole Wheat Flour” if you are eating wheat at all.

It took a little while for my sister to realize that just because a commercial or a label gives the impression that a food is good for you, doesn’t mean that it truly is.  I think she has become a wiser consumer and actually feels empowered with this new information.  We both look forward to seeing her “numbers” at her next doctor’s appointment.

(And yes…she has also started walking and doing a bit of strength training which will also help).

What are some things that have tripped you up in your quest for better nutrition?