rainforest Archives - Vitanova

Botanical Wisdom: Why Vitanova Uses Ginger.

Most of us have heard at least something about ginger, either as a spice or for our health, but most probably don’t know why or how we should be using it.

Ginger has been on record for more than 5,000 years and was one of the first recorded spices. Native to south Asia and brought to the Romans and Greeks by Arab traders, ginger was once considered a luxury costing the equivalent of an entire sheep in the Middle Ages. Belonging to the Zingiberaceae family (along with turmeric and cardamom), ginger (zingiber officinale) is best known as a spice used for adding a warming feeling to the stomach and a pungent taste to many food dishes, but it also has many medicinal uses and health benefits, as well.

In Ayurveda, ginger is used for a variety of health issues including stimulating digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, relieving menstrual cramps, and for easing the pain of sprains or strains and increasing joint comfort and flexibility.* Chinese medicine recommends dried ginger to support respiratory health.* And, modern clinical research indicates that ginger is an excellent tonic for nausea, occasional indigestion, gas, and possibly even motion sickness.* Ginger is one of the most studied spices for improving health.*

Can a spice also help you lose weight? Ginger’s high fiber content means that foods ingested will be processed more efficiently and move through the gastrointestinal system and out of the body more quickly. In addition, ginger improves digestion by increasing the pH of the stomach, which can stimulate digestive enzymes. But, the big piece of ginger’s helpful weight loss properties lies in its ability to rev up the body’s burners resulting from its thermogenic effect. This increases metabolism, which translates to fat burning.

Not only is ginger a proven fat burner, it’s also effective for curbing the appetite. A study in the journal Metabolism from 2012 showed that giving study participants (men) a tea with 2 grams of dried ginger powder helped with feelings of satiety. The men were given ginger tea with breakfast on alternating days, and hunger was recorded hourly. The study showed that ginger had a significant effect on the feeling of hunger after eating.

Ginger comes in a variety of forms: tinctures, powders, whole rhizome (root), essential oils, pickled, and in supplement form (pills or capsules), and the FDA has registered the spice as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Since it also has the ability to reduce blood platelet build-up as effectively as aspirin, speak with your doctor before adding ginger to your stable of natural remedies if you take medications for blood thinning or other maladies.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849094

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/zingiber-officinale-ginger

Ginger Root In Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine

http://www.progressivehealth.com/ginger-for-weight-loss.htm

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/ART00366

http://www.herballegacy.com/Whitney_History.html

http://www.metabolismjournal.com/article/S0026-0495(12)00118-7/fulltext

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/zingiber-officinale-ginger

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4277626/

http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients/ucm091048.htm

Changing Course – How Pepique Stout Cleaned Up His Act

Pepique Stout embodies the typical American male. He ate mostly fast food and a lot of meat, drank too much, smoked pot and cigarettes, and his life and health were spiraling out of control. Then, one day, he decided to quit drinking and smoking, and that led to a path of eliminating all “crap” and becoming a vegan. Now, he’s healthier and happier than he’s ever been, and he has the blood tests to prove it.

My story of how I changed my life began with drinking. The first major health change I made was five years ago. I quit drinking, smoking pot and cigarettes all on the same day. That was intense. I went through intense biological changes after that. It proved to be too much to handle all at once, and I fell into a depression. I went to a Western medicine doctor who put me on antidepressants, which I stayed on for about six to seven months. As I progressed through AA and really started to find myself and find my spiritual strength and become more aware of what was important to me, I realized I didn’t need the antidepressants anymore. And furthermore, they scared me. The side effects caused me to get cravings that made me want to up my dosage. And I was getting brain zaps in my eyes every time I moved my eyes. So, I stopped the drug. I wanted it out of my body. At that point, I was freaked out by anything foreign in my body, and I took a very firm stance to not do anything like that at all. When I was going through my first divorce, I went back to smoking cigarettes, which was after about six months of not smoking, and that lasted for about six months. I quit cigarettes again on the same day I quit alcohol a year earlier. So now, my alcohol quit date and cigarette quit date are exactly one year apart on the same day. I now have four years without cigarettes and five without alcohol.

I was also eating a lot of fast food back then. I was driving a truck for my job and eating badly. I was a carnivore of the highest sort. I never really anticipated making any changes in that area. I didn’t feel I needed to make any dietary changes. I just accepted all the health risks of eating that way. It was just the way I was. After pushing forward with this clean quest (no drugs, alcohol or smoking), I started watching documentaries here and there, and gaining knowledge about the health industry and started taking a little better care of myself. But really, I didn’t change a whole lot as far as diet and exercise. I had a physical job, so I just put effort into that.

Somewhere along the way, before I met my second wife, I started smoking pot again. And since I’m an addict by nature (and I accept that about myself), I can’t do these things in moderation. I eventually become self-destructive. So, I decided to be totally sober all the time after my wife and I got married. Then, we decided to have a child, but we ran into infertility issues that were rooted in endometriosis. Through surgeries and miscarriages, it ultimately led us to find that there was no cure for our problem other than a dietary cure, which led us to investigate a vegan diet—no sugar, gluten or soy. That lifestyle was going to prove to be really difficult because a lot of the known vegan products on the market are soy based.

 

We were faced with a dilemma; does my wife cook three meals, for my wife, her daughter, and me, or do we all change and adopt a vegan diet? Prior to these changes, I had already decided to quit fast food. That was probably one of the more impactful changes that I made. I didn’t really feel that sluggish when the meat was from a good source, but I did feel bad when I ate fast food. But even eating meat from a good source, I still felt like I just wanted to take a nap or sit around and not do anything. It was kind of like a food coma. Once we took meat out of our diet and went headlong into the vegan diet, we did a lot of research to motivate us because her daughter and I didn’t want to make the change at first. We were just doing it for my wife. But then, the guilt factor kicked in because she was cooking the majority of our meals. I didn’t want to ask her to cook meat for us when she couldn’t eat it, so we made the decision as a family to go vegan. As it progressed, we really started to enjoy it and we began to educate ourselves. We’d watch food movies as a family, Forks Over Knives, Food, Inc., Farmageddon, and more. There is a wealth of knowledge on how to eat vegan, and it’s easily accessible these days. The Beautiful Truth was the most impactful of all the movies we watched. It’s amazing to see how deceived we’ve been by the FDA and the cancer drug societies and the like. Everything we need is already here. We don’t need to process it. It grows in the ground. Just go and find it. It’s a basic thing that we’ve all forgotten. We’ve been so deceived by the lies of the dairy industries and the meat industries that are trying to just make money, but they’re no better than the cigarette industry. They’re lying to us and telling us these things are necessary.

The vegetarian food industry is stuck on soy as the easy way to get protein. There’s a common misconception that you need some sort of protein source like processed soy or meat product to be healthy, which is just absolutely not true. There is more absorbable protein in some vegetables than there is in some steaks. Yes, granted, the meat products contain more protein when they’re sitting on your plate than the broccoli does, but when it goes through your body and you digest it, what come into your body and what goes out as waste, you will wind up with more absorbable protein from some of the vegetables than you ever will from eating meat. That’s the thing that the meat industry doesn’t tell you. They aren’t lying; you just aren’t absorbing much of the protein. When I eat a full plate of broccoli and kale and all these other intensely deep-green vegetables, the amount of nutrient that my body absorbs is above and beyond anything else I can get from dairy or meat or processed soy.

In addition to eating a vegan diet, supplements are a big deal to me. I eat a full breakfast and then I take supplements with a vegan shake. I have to make the exception when I eat out that I won’t always find non-GMO, but I do insist on organic whenever possible and vegan. Animal rights were not what drove me to become vegan. It’s the health factor. I tried it, I put it in my body, and I feel the difference, and that’s my marker…how I feel. I’m a big advocate of spices, too. They are therapy in your food, too. Turmeric and cayenne pepper I put into just about everything. There are a ton of good spices. Most of the Indian spices are really powerful. The spices themselves are almost more healthy than the food they’re on. And that’s also really overlooked by Americans. We’re a salt and pepper society. I’ve been exploring the culinary aspect of creating something that is not only delicious but also nourishes my body, and when I’m done eating it, I feel great.

I went to the doctor recently, thinking there was something wrong with me. It turned out that it was my recent second divorce that was causing my anxiety. The doctor ran all kinds of tests: heart, blood, lung x-rays—everything—trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Turns out, I’m the epitome of health! I didn’t have any deficiencies. Again, my diet was all I need to be healthy. Vitamin B12 and iron, which are common deficiencies in under-educated vegans, were perfect. When I first went into the doctor for the antidepressant, I was anemic and the doc put me on an iron supplement. And that’s when I was eating meat almost exclusively. So, that was an aha moment for me. Now, as a vegan, I have more iron absorption and I’m not anemic. I also do a lot of probiotics and supplementing to fill in the gaps, definitely, but they are all organic, seed-based for protein, and none of it is soy based. That’s what I find works best with my body. Western medicine, and my tests, proved that it’s working for me. Hydration is also a huge factor. I carry around a water bottle at all times.

This is a full-body growth experience that has led me to feeling healthy and stable and not depressed. All of that depression and anxiety was because I had too many of the things that shouldn’t be in my body and not enough of the things that should be there. By cleansing my body of all foreign crap and poisons (as I refer to alcohol and tobacco now) and sugar, I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been before.

Tara Marlow’s Story – Life is Short. Make It Matter!

Tara Marlow is the travel blogger behind the site Travel Far Enough, where she and her husband inspire others to quit their corporate cubicles and live the lives they dream of. But her own life and dreams weren’t always aligned: until 2011, Tara worked 70-hour weeks and envied those whose lives revolved around traveling and writing about it. A road trip with her preteen daughter brought Tara’s priorities into focus, challenged her to drastically reorient her life around them, and compelled her to live her dreams. 

I grew up in Australia and took my first overseas trip as an 18-year-old. I was immediately bitten by the travel bug! At age 22, I moved to America, where my former husband and I thought we’d stay five years before moving on. The marriage didn’t stick, unlike the travel bug, but a beautiful daughter came from that marriage.

Five years turned into 20; I met my wonderful husband Rich and built a career in Texas. Before I realized it, I was drinking the Kool-Aid of corporate America and found myself working 70 hours a week. I got up each day to rush out the door, work at a frenetic pace, and come home only to work more while throwing dinner together before sitting down in front of the TV to work on my laptop. I had migraines a few times a month from the weight of it all.

Work was costing me my health and my relationships with family and friends. However, I stuck to my promise to my daughter that we would take a mother-daughter trip every year. In 2010, I knew I needed to get away from the craziness for a while and that our annual girly getaway would slip through my fingers if I didn’t make a plan. So, I asked her if she wanted to take a road trip. Without any hesitation, she said, “Let’s go to Mount Rushmore.”

I laughed because Mount Rushmore had never been on my list! But she’d learned about it in school. I thought, “Why not?” We agreed that we’d make it an epic two-week road trip and visit some other cool places along the way. We researched the stops to make, created road-trip playlists, downloaded audiobooks, found a questionnaire we could talk through, and came up with a mantra: “Try something new every day.” Little did I know that this wouldn’t just become a fun road trip; it would change my life.

My daughter and I reconnected as we traveled. Our reconnection on the road made me realize that I was missing out on her life when we were at home. I wondered what I had missed over the years of 70-hour weeks.

A year later, both my father and Rich’s father passed away. Around the same time, my daughter came to me while I was working and asked if she could talk to me for a few minutes. I replied, “Yes, but give me five minutes.” Three hours later, I finally went to her bedroom to find her sobbing on her bed. She said, “Mum, you said five minutes. It’s been three hours.” This was not a proud parental moment.

That was the absolute turning point for me. It was time to listen to what was happening in my life. I talked with my husband, and he said, “You know, yes. You are spiraling. You’re not in a good place. You should consider what else you can do.”

In mid-2011, I got my ducks in a row at work and gave notice. I rediscovered my passions for travel, writing, and photography and researched them like crazy. For the next year, I took online courses and sold my photography at local markets. Life was good. I could breathe again.

In 2012, our life changed again. My husband had his own “aha” moment after watching my transformation and decided to join my quest. After a family discussion, we decided to move to Australia. Even with the stress of an overseas move, my migraines stopped.

For our family of three, moving to Australia was the right decision. Now, I can spend three hours deliberating John Donne poetry with my daughter, take hikes with my family, and go camping or explore epic snorkeling spots in the middle of the week. And when my daughter graduates, Rich and I will be traveling full time. Life is open to us now.

We have a daily routine focused on family, health, and following our bliss. Over coffee and our daily vitamin D each morning, we plan our day. It may be writing, working on marketing, or exploring a new spot. When my daughter returns from school, we talk about her day at length. We make healthy meals together with the abundance that Australia’s farmers’ markets have to offer. Our evenings are like most families’, with a key difference: we ditched the TV when we left America. We love it. Life is healthier for us in every way.

I’ve thought about what drives me to make each day better than the last, and it’s simple. It’s what we talk about on our website: Life is short. Make your life matter.

Kay Stephens’ Story – Embracing Each Day

International model and businesswoman Kay Stephens’ life changed drastically in an instant one windy New York day in 2003. As she walked to class, gale-force winds hurled a 60-pound pole from a poorly secured construction zone fence into the left side of her head. She saw the wind knock down the construction materials like dominos as she blacked out. Her life has never been the same, but Kay hasn’t let her immense challenges get her down. Instead, she embraces each day as a fresh start and is empowering other brain injury survivors through her Faces of TBI campaign. 

Before my brain injury, I found success and fulfillment in many ways. Not only was I an international fashion model with work in my home country of Jamaica and in London, but I also had done public relations for public, private, and governmental entities, had run a grooming and modeling school in Jamaica, and published a book that sold 20,000 copies in the Caribbean. My wonderful daughter had just started high school in New York, where I was attending Queens College.

My concussion happened as I went to class one day. Right as I was feeling thankful that I’d made it to class in one piece, a metal pole from a makeshift construction fence struck the side of my head. My neck went one way as my body went the other. In the emergency room, doctors told me I had short-term memory deficits from the concussion that would remedy themselves within a few weeks. They said I was fine otherwise and did not do an MRI or CT scan. But the truth was that I had suffered many injuries, including herniated and bulging discs in my cervical spine, a torn rotator cuff and tendons, hip and right shoulder bursitis, pelvic injuries, and more. Some of these would not be discovered until years later.

The problems I experienced after that did not make sense to me, and I hid them for a long time, thinking I was going crazy. I couldn’t smell for three years. I had problems with my vision, hearing, and urinary systems. I could look, but I couldn’t interpret what I saw or read the words on the page in front of me. Sounds that are in the background for most people, like a clock ticking or a refrigerator humming, were suddenly loud and overwhelming for me because I couldn’t filter them out. I had terrible neck spasms and blinding headaches.

The true nature of my injuries was not uncovered until 2008, when I finally took control of finding out what had happened to me. I underwent neuropsychological testing, which revealed a “mild” traumatic brain injury, or TBI, which caused short-term memory and attention deficits and emotional deregulation. Parts of my brain had very low oxygen flow. I had to focus on each injury one at a time, and to date, I’ve had more than 1,300 appointments stemming from this one accident. My brain injury may be categorized as mild, but its impact on my life has been immense.

Life as I knew it stopped that day in 2003. My type A personality had to retire early, and surviving my TBI became my primary focus. I underwent so much treatment that I experienced secondary health issues; medications that helped me with aspects of my injury caused gastritis so bad that I wanted to die as I lay in the hospital. Help came in the form of a homeopathic nutritionist who gave me some critical advice: “Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.” I cured my gastritis through an intestinal cleanse, dietary restrictions, and a commitment to the right foods. Combining this with my routine physical therapy and other treatments has allowed me to return to some of my old activities and manage my emotions.

I strengthen and center myself every day through quiet time and prayer. This time connects me with my inner strength and my spiritual sense of a higher purpose. Music is therapy for me, and I connect socially in small group settings with the people who have rallied around me. These things have helped me make my dream for the Faces of TBI campaign a reality. This campaign will raise public awareness of the invisible disability of brain injury to increase understanding, tolerance, funding, and emotional support for those with brain injuries.

I encourage others with brain injuries to accept yourselves. I couldn’t have gotten here without finding the courage to accept my new, disabled self and making changes to support my own success. Find someone to share your feelings with who is objective, while also building your support network of friends and family who accept you the way you are. Envision your new goals, renew your love for yourself, and do what brings you joy! Like me, you can choose to make each day a fresh start.

GMOs: What’s the debate about?

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are living organisms in which the DNA has been altered with the genetic material of another species. Most GMOs are plants that have been modified to withstand the application of herbicides; the weeds die and the farmers’ crops survive. In one odd instance, to study human-genetic disorders, Chinese geneticists took the bioluminescence DNA from jellyfish and inserted it into the genes of pig embryos, creating piglets that glow in the dark when put under a black light.

So, why, if GMOs offer benefits to farmers and medical studies, are more and more consumers becoming alarmed? Because today, more than 90% of all soy and corn sold in the United States has been genetically modified, along with sugar beets and canola oil. Not only are these commodity crops our staples, but they’re also common ingredients in many processed foods. In fact, 80% of the food in the U.S. contains some GMOs, and while Big Food, chemical companies, many biotech scientists and world organizations insist GMOs are safe, critics claim genetically modified foods raise serious health concerns.

According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.”

And, although some attempts at genetic engineering have been done to increase nutritional value, The Institute for Responsible Technology states that the two most engineered traits are “herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. These results have no health benefit, only economic benefit.”

Even worse, not only have GMO crops become tolerant to herbicides, so have weeds, creating “super-weeds” which require even heavier applications of most toxic chemicals such as glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup. Scientific American recently reported that the World Health Organization declared “glyphosate a probable carcinogen.”

Unfortunately for Americans, the United States has the loosest restrictions worldwide. According to the United States Library of Congress, “Compared to other countries, regulation of GMOs in the U.S. is relatively favorable to their development…the U.S. is the world’s leading producer of genetically modified (GM) crops.”

Currently the debate has moved into the spotlight on the political stage. Since the federal government won’t pass more stringent laws regarding GMO use, states have taken matters into their own hands. In 2014, Governor Pete Shumlin of Vermont passed one of the nation’s first mandatory labeling laws for GMOs, which requires all foods that are genetically modified or have genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2016, and legislation currently in Congress and backed by the Big Food lobby is trying to stop the law from taking effect, arguing that state-by-state labeling requirements would make it challenging for the food industry to comply.

Many consumers nowadays want to be informed about the GMOs in their foods. Until laws mandate that the food industry tells us which foods contain GMOs, we can only rely on those responsible companies that can assure us no GMOs have been used. Look for the label “non-GMO” or “no GMOs” to be sure.

 

Sources:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/vermont-invades-your-kitchen-1457308283

http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/

http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/health-risks/

http://www.aaemonline.org/gmo.php

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/11/vermont-lawsuit-a-test-case-for-gmo-labeling-laws-and-the-first-amendment

http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/05/17/organic-101-can-gmos-be-used-in-organic-products/

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/truth-about-gmos

http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

http://www.livescience.com/40895-gmo-facts.html

Scientists Create Glow-in-the-Dark Pigs Just in Time for Your Next Rave

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-gmo-food-labeling-0313-biz-20160311-story.html

Rochelle’s Battle with Celiac Disease

Rochelle Asmussen led a normal life until celiac disease turned her world upside down. With healing came weight gain and a frustration that she was stuck in a rut. She discovered the way to a better, fitter, happier life through a personal trainer and daily rituals.

I was diagnosed with celiac disease about 17 years ago. I was so sick and so uncomfortable, but it was a blessing to find out it was just a food allergy and not something worse. For a long time, we were thinking that I was really sick. The doctors didn’t know what was going on. They had no clue. These days, celiac is so mainstream. The food was awful back then for anyone with a gluten allergy. Now, it’s great. I don’t even think about it anymore.

I’ve always been fit, but since getting celiac and becoming very thin from being so sick, my metabolism just completely changed and I gained all the weight after my body healed from the damage. It isn’t fair. I finally got my body fixed and felt better and then the weight came on and my metabolism got all messed up. So, ever since then, I’ve been struggling with my weight and trying to get it down. Then, I turned 50 and my hormones went crazy with menopause, stress, job, children, a teenager and a college kid, bills, and anxiety. I knew I needed a change.

At a scrapbooking convention, my friend, Shelly, was casually saying that she had just gotten her training certificate in personal. She was wondering how to find a job, whether she should go with a gym, etc. I told her she should think about training people in their homes. I can speak from experience, I don’t like going to gyms because I’m embarrassed. I’m heavier than anyone else there and I wonder if people are judging me, so I told her I would love it if someone came to my home. We began working out together a month later. I told Shelly I didn’t know if I could do it, or if I’d be good at it, but I wanted to do it. It’s a very vulnerable feeling. You’re getting down to your nakedness, almost, and then you’re exercising and grunting and groaning in front of someone else.

I had to start with measurements and weight, and that was the hardest part. That’s where I had to face everything, and now someone else knows too. It’s now out there. We started really slow, and I loved her style; she was very easy on me. I couldn’t do much to begin with.

Shelly took notes and pictures to when we started and as we go along. She ups the ante as I get stronger and has created exercises that are harder and harder. When we first started, I could barely get up off the floor. It was really hard. I had to use a chair or other things to help me up. Now, fast-forward a year later and I can jump right up, and I don’t even need to use my hands. I can do full burpees. I used to just move slowly from one foot to the next, and now I can jump through them properly. My squats are also amazing. Shelly put me against the wall and just had me hold the sit position. I said, “This is all you got? I can do this another two minutes!” I was doing shoulder raises at the same time and I could do that all day, too. My biceps are stronger, as well. I feel completely different. My balance is even better than before. She’s always got me on a balance ball or something. My core is stronger. Everything feels different. I feel so good. Weight-bearing exercise at my age is so important.

I also have a competitive husband, and we now have FitBits—and so does Shelly. We’re all friends on the FitBit program, so we challenge each other constantly. We can see each other’s seven-day cumulative steps, and we are always competing against each other. When I see that one of them has more steps, I think, “Oh, my gosh, I only have 8,000 steps. I’ve got to go for another walk!” Even though I’ve already done my hour workout and already been all over the house and up and down the stairs, I then go for that extra walk. I’ve got to! I’ll take the dog one more time. The dog helps; she will go for a walk whenever I want and however many times I want.

This has completely changed my thinking. I’m always thinking about what active thing I can do next and I don’t mind running up and down stairs anymore. I need my steps and I need to beat my husband! It’s been so good for both of us. He got his FitBit a year before I got mine. He bought mine for me for Christmas last year. When I got mine, his life also changed for the better. Because he’s super competitive, he’s been getting about 20,000 steps a day. We call him the nightwalker. He goes downstairs and walks on the treadmill at midnight.

Before, I didn’t like exercise; I did it because I had to. Now, I really look forward to it, and I love that Shelly is coming over. I get up early every morning, and I think, “Yay! I’m going to work out today!” She’s making me a better person all around. I’m taking my vitamins now because she has suggested it. My husband can tell me all day long that I really should take my vitamins, but if Shelly tells me, I’ll do it.

My goal for my weight loss right now is two pounds a week. By spring break, I want to feel better when my family goes to Mexico. That’s my new goal. I have to cut out all the wine and bad stuff. So far, I’ve been building a lot of muscle, so my weight hasn’t changed as much as I would like, but things are fitting better and I feel better. I just have to stop drinking my calories in wine.

I’ve never had a goal before. I always know what the end result is, but I haven’t made the little goals. Two pounds a week doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. Two pounds is pretty easy.

Thankfully, I have a kid to get off to school, so I have great morning rituals. I’m not supposed to work out on an empty stomach or with too much food, so I have a little bit and then warm up with 2,000 steps on the elliptical even before Shelly gets there. I also do “I am” affirmations all the time, too, and I start my day by meditating for 20 minutes.

I work out every day now, and I feel so good. I used to be sluggish and tired. Now, I have much more energy and I look forward to working out. My skin looks better. I’ve been drinking more water, sleeping better. I still have anxiety at night, but it’s getting better. Working out helps the anxiety a lot. Even just fresh air helps.

We’re realtors, so we have a lot of stress and anxiety. Getting out there and getting that breath of fresh air because you’re trying to get your steps is so uplifting. I can leave in a huff and angry, and by the time I’m halfway around the first block, I’m thinking, “This is great! Why was mad? I don’t even remember.” I can’t even yell at my husband if he makes me mad because I’ve forgotten why I was mad.

I used to listen to positive books when driving to see my mom as she was dying, before I started working out with Shelly. That was the beginning of this new transformation. I am committed to this—it’s been a year and I’m still committed to it. This has shifted my thinking into healthier choices. Exercise and taking care of myself will be something I do for the rest of my life now. I love it.

Eleuthero Helps us Adapt to Daily Stress

Stressed out on high adrenaline? Wiped out from too much on your to-do list? Modern living can have many of us feeling that rollercoaster of energy levels––the highs, the lows, the sharp turns––when what we’re trying to achieve in our lives is balance.

Luckily, we can look to the past to help with contemporary life. Siberian ginseng, more recently referred to by its scientific name Eleutherococcus senticosus (or eleuthero, for short), is one of the five most important herbal adaptogens. Functionally, when we’re too revved up with stress, or too slowed down with fatigue, adaptogens help our bodies adapt and rebalance, regardless of which rollercoaster loop we’re on.

Eleuthero’s use dates back 2,000 years in Chinese medicine. Not to be confused with Chinese or Korean ginseng, eleuthero produces somewhat different effects on the human body. Pronounced eh-LOO-thero, it is one of the most widely researched herbs in the world, proving its efficacy not only through scientific studies but also through the empirical evidence of thousands of years of application.

So, how does an adaptogen work?

According to an article by Jill Stansbury, ND, in the Journal of Restorative Medicine, “Adaptogens are plant-derived compounds that normalize endocrine function and promote adaptation to environmental stress. Adaptogenic herbs modulate stress responses, enhancing energy production and sleep quality and improving immune function.”

The Natural Medicine Journal includes, “Siberian ginseng is used to invigorate qi; strengthen the spleen; nourish the kidney; provide energy and vitality… In traditional Russian medicine, Siberian ginseng is used to stimulate the immune system. Siberian ginseng is among the five adaptogens most commonly used by Western herbalists.” Siberian ginseng also maintains blood pressure already within normal limits, promotes a healthy inflammation response, and supports respiratory, heart, and liver health.*

In my own experience, having used eleuthero on and off for more than a decade, I can attest to my body’s response when taking this particular adaptogen. When I’ve been pushing too hard, I’ll find myself recovering in a deep sleep. When I’m dragging, it seems to revitalize me.

HerbWisdom.com says, “Unlike many herbs with a medicinal use, it [eleuthero] is more useful for maintaining good health rather than treating ill health. Research has shown that it stimulates resistance to stress and so it is now widely used as a tonic in times of stress and pressure.”*

Can anyone out there in the modern age not relate to this?

Sources:

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/aarm/jrm/2012/00000001/00000001/art00008

http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2012-03/siberian-ginseng-review-literature

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-ginseng-russian.html

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/REM00049/Eleuthero-or-Siberian-Ginseng-Dr-Weils-Herbal-Remedies.html

Chasing the American Dream – A Story of Rebirth

Chip DeClue had pursued and won the American Dream, with a long-time executive position at a major rental-car company, a beautiful wife, and two daughters—yet he still felt unhappy. He lacked a sense of security and peace. When he learned to pursue his calling, instead, security, health, and happiness followed. 

I came of age in the 80s. My friends and I all knew we would be CEOs one day. I met the woman of my dreams, a wonderful, preppy woman with similar aspirations, and told her when I proposed that I would really have to be married to my job for the next several years so I could make partner. I worked 80 hours a week for a while, then “took it easy” working 70 hours a week at my next job. My life was measured by my financial success.

And I had the success—but my life was all about my work. I was obsessed with driving performance; I looked at the people in my life and evaluated what extrinsic value they provided. This came to define not just my work relationships but also my home life. I expected my wife, Karla, to perform a certain way, and I looked at my daughters through the same lens. Karla told me one night that our daughters actually dreaded when I came home because the fun would stop and everyone would have to get in line.

By most measures, I was successful. I had a beautiful family who had fun. We took great vacations, lived in a nice house, and had a membership at the country club. But I didn’t have security or happiness. Everyone in my life was a constant disappointment to me, including myself. In fact, the more money I made, the less secure I felt, like everything could come tumbling down at any moment. And it did.

In the 2008–2009 recession, I saw my income, which was based on commissions, drop so steeply that the company told me they’d front me 40% of my old pay on the condition that I would pay it back when I started making money again. Karla and I had to very suddenly learn how to live on a budget.

In this time of steep financial decline, we started looking at how to establish new priorities. We started going to church for the first time since high school, and I read a book called Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob P. Buford. The idea of moving into the second half of my life and defining it by my significance to the world spoke powerfully to me, as did the message of selflessness and service I was learning through my faith. I wanted to change internally and make a difference in the world.

I decided to reorient myself toward putting others first and asking not what they could do for me, but what I could do for them, in every area of my life. I went from being someone who put the process before the people, who rode my employees hard so they’d produce, to wanting to invest in people’s lives—and everything changed. My employees, whom I’d pressured so hard, performed better because I was managing them by putting them first instead of managing through fear. My marriage developed new meaning and intimacy. My daughters and I became closer. And I found my own heart healing because I was serving others.

As I reoriented myself in my relationships, I also reconsidered my activities. It started when I was practicing Guitar Hero because my daughter and I played it together. I looked down at the little plastic guitar and its multicolored buttons and I thought, “Chip, you have an American Standard in your basement. What is wrong with this picture?” I put that Guitar Hero controller down and never picked it back up. Instead, I started playing my old guitar again—not because it would give me peace (though it did) but because I could use it to help other people. Now, I play at church.

I had always rewarded myself for hard work with activities that entertained me, but as I considered moving from success to significance, I wanted my activities to help other people or improve my relationships. The things that emerged as a waste of time, like the country club membership and my video games, got kicked out of my life. The Red Wings season tickets I’d used to get away from my family with the guys became my way to get one-on-one time with my daughters. And I started volunteering with the middle-school youth group.

Karla and I also looked at our physical health. We don’t see becoming healthy as a goal unto itself, but as a means to an end. That end is being able to help others. We envisioned our perfect life ten years from now and knew that if we wanted to serve others effectively, we had to be healthy. It’s an interesting truth that to serve others, you have to take care of your own needs or your needs will consume you. We committed to follow a book called The Plan by Lyn-Genet Recitas this January to get our eating habits on track and are recommitting to yoga. Cooking and exercising together is an amazing way to stay motivated and strengthen our marriage. And we already feel healthier.

If there’s one word I can emphasize, it’s intention: Being intentional and purposeful with my time and resources has made my life meaningful. I set my intention every day with meditation, prayer, and nutritional supplements. I listen for what my purpose is, where I can best serve the world, and what makes me tick. And in this halftime of my life, I am going to create a second half that allows me to be involved with and passionate about the people I’m serving for the rest of my life.

Turning Adversity Into Inspiration -Jennifer’s Story

Jennifer Babcock Bernardo spent two years subjecting her body to medical interventions that didn’t help her psoriasis. When she chose to pursue plant-based interventions instead, her life was transformed. 

Between high school and college, I found out that I had psoriasis. It was a very irritating case, linked with arthritis, and it felt like I saw every doctor under the sun in an attempt to find the right treatment. They treated me with the best medical intervention they could come up with, cortisone injections, but it felt like they were only treating the symptoms. I would go in, get dozens of little doses of cortisone injected into my scalp and all over my body, and experience two weeks of improvement. Then my symptoms would return worse than before.

I felt like I looked like a monster. I didn’t want to leave my house, and I stopped going to school. I couldn’t deal with how they were treating me—I felt like a monkey, a test subject. And I was dealing with all of this for something that did not work for my body.

I finally reached the point of pulling away from all the doctors and Western medicine. I decided not to put my body through more until I had figured out what I truly needed. I started changing the way I approached my disease; I began eating better and looking into alternative medicines and treatments. One night, I met with a woman who knew about the healing properties of botanicals and herbs. She talked me through the function of herbs and their interactions with each other. We then put them into a big pot to stew all night. The next morning, I ended up with a little jar of a disgusting salve. I began using the salve, and it immediately improved my skin and the way I felt. And it was not with cortisone needles or chemicals. My healing was created from the goodness of the earth.

After that day, I took the wisdom shared with me and I started refining it. Over the past eight years, I’ve worked with the recipe to make jars of salve that are better with each batch and have researched the ingredients to make it as effective as possible. I started giving away my salve to people with health issues similar to mine. Like me, they saw improvements and wanted more. It even helped them with other ailments besides psoriasis.

I started making bigger batches and kept refining the recipe to where it is today. Now, I have a business license. I sell to places around the state of California, bulk customers, and people around the country. When I faced my illness and embraced a new approach to medicine, I found not only my own healing through botanicals but I also became an entrepreneur determined to help others access inner healing from that which comes from the earth.

I’m continually amazed at what herbs and botanicals can do for us. I think that much of what Western medicine has done has gotten away from the healing of plant derivatives. Of course, even Western medicine has derived some things from plants, but their cures are removed from the source. True botanical cures are all organic and in nature.

Embracing the healing power of the earth has involved not just my salve, but how I approach everything I put in and on my body. I start every day by drinking an all-organic, vegan, plant-based smoothie product with banana and almond milk. Then I take my shower, which has become very ritualized for me. It’s not about comfort so much as letting it take care of me. I sense the water, pay attention to it, and acknowledge it against my skin. Then I apply my balms to the areas of my body that are still affected, even though my condition has nearly eliminated.

Throughout the day, I’m conscious of what my family puts into their bodies, as well. I didn’t used to think that way; I didn’t realize there was such a strong connection between the foods I put into my body and what was happening on my skin. I used to put so much junk in my mouth. Now, I’m so careful to choose foods, herbs, and teas that will support my family’s wellness, including that of my two-year-old daughter.

Jennifer’s balms are only available in certain states. They can be viewed at http://www.babsbalms.com/

Taking Charge of My Life – Sandi’s Story of Rebirth

Sandi Pearce’s life had been marked by medical problems; she had been bitten by a tick and stung by a scorpion, and she was afflicted by Lyme disease, multiple allergies, and chemical sensitivities. Her life was defined by her sickness. When she was in tachycardia in 2006, the ER doctor had to stop and restart her heart. Sandi knew it was time to stop life as she knew it and start living a new, healthy life.

I met Marie on the very first day of work back in 1999. We were in the same orientation class. It was obvious from the start that we had a lot in common. I was already struggling with some sort of illness, and I didn’t know what was wrong. Marie suggested her doctor to me. I blew it off. “Yeah, yeah. I have plenty of doctors.” She just gently said, “You’ll come to me when you’re ready.” She left it at that and didn’t say another word.

Six months later, I was even sicker. It was then that I remembered what Marie had told me when we first met. I went to Marie, sort of sheepishly, and asked, “Could you please give me the name of your doctor?” She never said a word about our prior conversation. She just gave me the number and said I would love this man and he would heal me. I made an appointment to see him (a naturopath and osteopath) right away. And after he tested me and listened to my symptoms, everything Marie had said that she thought was going on with me was correct. I was allergic to sugar, dairy, soy—a long list of different foods—and they were making me extremely sick. When the doctor told me all that I was allergic to or sensitive to, I thought: 1) I need to tell Marie she was right, and 2) I would have to make some really drastic changes, quickly. I cried. I didn’t want to give up every yummy, wonderful thing I loved, which were all processed and full of gluten and a ton of carbs, and yuck. But, I quit everything the doctor wanted me to quit to calm my system down and get healthier.

I immediately lost 20 pounds in the first two months, and I’d never had that much energy. I was strictly sugar-free for two years after that. I’ve been gluten free for 17 years since—except for a few mistakes—mostly sugar free, soy free, corn free, all these different foods “free,” and I always feel better if I stick to that regimen.

The life I was living back then was basically not in concert with who I felt I was, if that makes sense. Inside, I was this really healthy person, but I wasn’t living that on the outside. Sick meant that I had no energy, no desire to do anything. Once I changed my life and started living and eating healthier, everything changed. It was remarkable. My energy level, my excitement for life—everything. It was so pivotal in my life.

After going to Marie’s doctor, I found a new path, even if I didn’t have a true diagnosis for the allergies at the time. Being on that path gave me new energy and excitement. Bringing that into the rest of my life was surprisingly easy—easier than for other people because I had no choice. It was change or die.  Other people can say, “I don’t think I should eat pizza so often, but it’s hard to change.” But I had to say, “I can’t ever eat pizza again or I’ll get really sick.” I parlayed that into getting healthy in general. I started running again. I learned kickboxing. I quit smoking and cut back on alcohol. Because I felt so good, it was much easier to stay on that course. Like anyone else, I backtracked a few times, but overall I’ve stayed the course.

I now know that my multiple allergies are from chronic Lyme disease, which wasn’t diagnosed for many years after the tick bite, and also coincided with becoming really ill. It created permanent allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and pain that persist to this day. The bacteria even invaded my brain, causing permanent lesions.

My morning ritual is a series of things I need to do for my dogs, but I also take supplements in the morning, too. My favorite ritual is my afternoon ritual, though. I walk my dogs for a full hour every afternoon, and that’s the cornerstone of my exercise routine. Even if I don’t have time for anything else, the dogs have to be walked, and it’s my time to just be present with the dogs. It’s amazing how easy it is to see the world around you if you watch it from a dog’s eyes. It is what keeps me going. We charge through the open space and cruise around. I have three 100-lb dogs, and I also walk my parents’ little dog.

My supplements and vitamins are also a huge ritual to me. Genetic testing showed my body doesn’t make certain key enzymes for processing B12 and folate, so supplementing active enzymes is vital for me to stay alive and healthy. Folate and B12 are key because they provide the body with much of its energy. I did some research and discovered how many things are synergistically complete if they are taken together—or also messed up if they are taken together! For example, most vitamins or supplements should not be taken with vitamin D, so I take that alone. I make sure that I take certain vitamins together to give me the best bang for my buck.

One of the things I now say is, “I affirm that this is how my life will be now.” I stick to that and believe in that. Making my vitamins part of a morning ritual is one of the best things I’ve discovered. I link everything together. When I take my vitamins, my affirmations are playing in my mind. “This is helping my body. This is making me stronger. This is giving me the energy that I need.” Making that mind-body connection is so important.

Then, on October 16, 2006, my heart became erratic when I was out to lunch with a friend. I was in tachycardia and my heart rate was above 200 bpm. When my friend and I arrived at the hospital 15 minutes later, my heart rate was still 186 bpm, and the doctor couldn’t get it back to normal with any of his usual methods, so he had to give me a drug to stop my heart and restart it. After my heart was back to a normal rhythm and my doctor was about to release me, he said, “Sandi, whatever it is you’re doing to cause this much stress in your life, you need to stop it immediately. I looked at him and thought, “Okay, this is it. My life has to change.” It was even more pivotal in my rebirth, and changed me forever. From then on, I was working out much harder—three hours a day in that first year—and even more committed to living a life filled with things that are good for me. I quit smoking that day after leaving the hospital. I knew my job was killing me slowly (or quickly), and I turned in my notice two weeks later. Everything from then on has led me to where I am now—far healthier 17 years later than I was then.

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