Thursday, September 26, 2013

Watch Out For GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms)

I often write about how important it is to eat organic food these days. "Regular" food is so full of chemicals, toxins, preservatives, etc, that it presents serious health risks. However, there's another food risk that's becoming more and more common, and that's genetically modified organisms. 

GMO's are a frightening concept - attempting to "improve" God's creation through altering specific genetic details of certain plants (by changing or adding genes). Such mutations pose a serious health risk. 

Three of the main crops that are almost all genetically modified today include soy, corn, and canola (unless the product is specifically labeled as organic and Non-GMO). 

I already avoid these products in my diet, but the reality is that these three crops are included in some form in tons of other products (processed foods, skin & body care products, non-organic meat, etc.). 

And it's not just the plants you eat that are a problem. Unless you eat organic meat, you are consuming GMO's from the animals that were fed these products. "Regular" dairy products also are contaminated, from the cows' unhealthy diet of GMO feeds. 

Frankly this whole movement of GMO is scary. It's already gone way past healthy boundaries, and unknowingly people are reaping the dangerous affects.

Here's a short video by Jordan Rubin on this topic. I so appreciate his willingness to share truth and inspire people to take action to protect our health. 

And here's a good article about the dangers of GMO's based on recent studies.

The regulating agencies (at least in the US) haven't stopped these kinds of things. It's up to us to know what we're eating and to do what we can to protect ourselves and to promote healthy standards.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Practice The Basics

When it comes to health, I'm sure we all know more about what we should do than we actually do. Still, I think it's good to be reminded of how many basic things we can be doing for our health. All the little good things we do add up to help improve overall health. 

Here's a list of some basics - positive things you can do for your health on a daily basis:

*drink plenty of water

*chew your food thoroughly 

*have positive thoughts and pleasant conversation while eating 
Negative thoughts/words really do adversely affect digestion--definitely don't watch the news or discuss recent tragedies while eating.

*do deep breathing 2-3 times a day 
It's not hard if you make it a habit, like when you first get up and before you go to bed.

*smile and laugh a lot =)

*keep good posture 
This actually helps your body in several ways.

*spend a few minutes intentionally relaxing

*do 3-5 minutes of stretches

*spend 10-15 minutes grounding (standing barefoot on the ground)
Even if you only do this a few times a week, it'll still help.

*brush & floss your teeth (you don't have to use any paste, or use a non-toxic toothpaste) 
Yes, this really does affect your overall health.

*list 3 things you're thankful for today =) 

These things aren't hard to do. They simply require intentionality until they become habits and a way of life. 

If a list like this makes you feel a little overwhelmed, I do understand. But you can remember this motto - 
"Start somewhere. Do what you can. Celebrate progress." =)

I hope these reminders are helpful. Let's keep practicing the basics and moving toward good health! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

"You Need Your Rest"

You've probably heard this saying a lot in your life. I imagine those of us with chronic illness probably feel like we've had enough rest to last us a lifetime...and then some. I know once I started feeling better, I just wanted to go, go, go! So much to do, see, experience, etc. =) 

But the reality is that God created our bodies with the need for rest. We need consistent sleep at night (see last week's post). And we also need what the Bible calls a "Sabbath rest." 

When God created the world, He rested on the seventh day. Later He told His people to work for six days, then take a day off. 

It seems strange that this was so hard for people back then and is still hard for people today. You'd think we'd be grateful God told us to take a day off. What a kind, gracious God to not make us work every day!

God created our bodies, so obviously He knows what they need. And He's made it clear that we need a day off once a week.  

For those who already spend every day lying around (I've been there, I know how hard that is), perhaps your "day of rest" could simply be resting from complaining or worrying...or reading verses that encourage you...or some other way of "resting." (Please share any thoughts you have in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!)

For those of you who aren't confined to bed, do you take a day off once a week? Do you spend time resting physically and being refreshed emotionally and spiritually? 

For me the practice of a Sabbath is still developing. At first I only "rested" from any kind of writing, since that was about the only "work" I was able to do. Lately I've been trying to also rest from laundry (now that I can actually do laundry again!) =) I actually look forward to the day each week when I set aside my "to do" list and intentionally rest and relax. 

Our bodies, minds, and spirits need a Sabbath rest. It's an important piece of the overall health puzzle.

Robert Morris gave a wonderful message on this topic. I hope you'll listen and be inspired to either continue practicing a weekly Sabbath or perhaps begin this week. (I don't think it matters what specific day you choose to rest, as long as you do it.)

God has told us, "You need your rest." Let's take Him seriously.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." -Jesus (from Matthew 11:28-29)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sleep Sweetly

It seems very few people actually get a good night's sleep anymore. 

Most people I talk to either have trouble falling asleep, wake up several times in the night, or never sleep deeply. The result can be feeling sluggish and tired all the time, or even worse. For many years I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a truck. My whole body ached, I was groggy, grumpy, and never felt like getting out of bed, no matter how late I slept. It wasn't fun.

Thankfully, my quality of sleep has vastly improved in recent years. I've learned some basic things I can to do work toward better sleep. I hope these tips will help you as well. 

(Note: remember that poor sleep and poor health are intertwined. If you don't sleep well, that contributes to health problems. But if you already have health problems, that will often cause difficulty sleeping. So it's important to work on both sleeping better and improving overall health through other means as well.) 

Anyway, here are a few ideas to help you sleep more sweetly. =)

1) Adjust your bedding - 
All mattresses, sheets, blankets, and especially pillows contain flame retardants (also knows as PBDE's). It's required by law in the US, (I'm assuming in Canada as well, but not positive) that all bedding, and many other products, be treated with this chemical. I plan to devote another post to details about flame retardant, but suffice it to say it is highly toxic! Disrupting sleep is only one of the dangerous results of being exposed to flame retardants all night long. 

So, if you can afford to invest in an organic mattress, that's a great way to go! If you can't, then I recommend purchasing an organic cotton "barrier cloth" to cover your mattress (providing at least a small "barrier" between you and the toxic mattress). Also use an organic cotton pillow and organic 100% cotton sheets. I've purchased these items from Janice's, but there are other companies that make them as well. 

When you're sleeping on bedding that contains toxic chemicals, your body is in danger during a time when it should be safe and able to rest and recover. That's why investing in organic bedding (without the flame retardant) is so important. Sleep is God's gift to us. It's the time our bodies repair and heal. If we keep the body under physical stress from toxins while we sleep, it won't be able to heal properly.

Also, it's important to change your sheets often. Every 5 days is probably best for most people, but definitely at least once a week. And every 2-3 days is better if you're going through a detoxing phase. 

2) New pajamas - 
Along with bedding, the clothes you sleep in also can affect you. Anything polyester, nylon, or spandex actually contains petroleum products or by-products. It may sound strange, but these can also put stress on your body. The best material for pajamas is 100% cotton (organic if possible). Many stores now carry organic 100% cotton clothes, or at least 100% cotton, even if not organic. 

I realize you probably can't change your whole wardrobe, but as much as possible try to chose pajamas that are 100% cotton. And make sure they are NOT made in China! (Anything made in China is highly toxic.)

3) Clear your environment - 
It's really important that the room where you sleep is a non-toxic environment. That means:

First, no electronics in your room at night (computer, cell phone, TV, stereo, etc). These put off EMF's (electromagnetic fields) which can disrupt your sleep, so they are better left in another room. (If you must keep something, like a cell phone, in your room, then at least put it away from the bed. Many people sleep with their cell phones within inches of their head at night, and this is very bad for healthy sleep.)

Second, remove books, paper, notebooks, etc. to another room or at least across the room, away from your bed. These contain a certain amount of formaldehyde, petroleum products, etc.

Third, remove furniture that's not metal or real wood. If it's "pressed" wood, definitely move it out. (It's made of recycled material that has high levels of formaldehyde.) 

These are the three main problem areas, but generally, whatever you can move out of your room is better for you. Keep closet doors closed and shoes & clothes inside. Dust frequently. If you have an air purifier you can run at night while you sleep, that's also good.

4) Protein snack - 
Many people find it helpful to have a small protein snack in the evening, such as scrambled eggs, almonds butter on toast, a piece of boiled chicken, etc. - whatever is a healthy protein snack for your body. I definitely sleep better if I have a small evening snack.

5) Grounding - 
A lot of people report sleeping much better if they spend 10-15 minutes a day "grounding" (basically it just means standing barefoot on the ground). This website explains the science behind this technique. I've been grounding a few days a week and it seems to help with my energy level. 

6) Relax -
One very important detail for good sleep is to not be on the computer, cell phone or TV after 9pm (or at least an hour before you go to bed). Your body needs time away from the electronics to wind down so you'll be able to get to sleep. Many people who stay on their computers late actually get an artificial "boost" from the EMF's and end up staying up too late when their bodies are craving rest.

If you like to, try reading for 10-15 minutes before you go to bed. Reading is very relaxing and helps your brain send your body the message that it's time to slow down and get ready for sleep. (Of course, don't read a page-turning thriller novel or something that will start your adrenalin pumping.) 

If you have a hard time falling asleep, try a relaxation technique. There are different ones I've heard of. 
- You can take several slow, deep breaths while picturing a restful scene in your mind. 
- You can close your eyes and tell all the various parts of your body "goodnight" (goodnight toes, goodnight feet, etc.). This one sounds a little funny, but I know parents often use it with kids when they're restless. =) Or a variation is to think to yourself calmly and slowly, "I'm relaxing my toes, I'm relaxing my feet, etc." 
- You can try to slow your breathing to match your heart-rate. 

This last one is what my physical therapist recommended I try and it really helped me at one point when I had trouble falling asleep or waking up a lot. Basically, I just closed my eyes and pictured the beach with waves gently rolling in. Then I tried to breath in and out as I pictured the waves rolling in and out. If you need a word to focus on, you can simply think "in" as you breathe in and picture the wave rolling in, then think "out" as you breathe out and picture the wave going out. Giving the brain something specific and simple to focus on helps it let go of all the other competing thoughts that often keep us awake.

When I first started doing this, I actually felt agitated after a few minutes. But I forced my mind to keep focusing, keep breathing, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up! So somewhere after the frustration, it actually worked and I fell asleep.

Scientifically I think this kind of thing would be called bio-feedback. For me, it helped my mind calm down and focus on something peaceful, which relaxed my brain and I fell asleep. After using this method a few times, my brain got the message and I've hardly had to use it since. I fall asleep easily now. =)

Well, those are my tips. I hope they're helpful! 

What ideas do you have for improving sleep?