4 Ingredient Organic Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Wraps

Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Wraps

When you love hazelnut and want a healthy, hearty, simple, quick snack; this yummy, four-ingredient recipe hits the spot!

It’s packed with omega-3’s, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and potassium! And it’s non-GMO and organic and you can make it gluten-free! Yes, there’s fats and sugar and carbs, but they’re the good ones and much less sugar than the average sweet snack.

Ingredients

  • Organic whole-wheat or gluten-free tortillas/wraps
  • Nutiva Organic Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa: dark or classic (link at end)
  • Organic bananas, sliced
  • Organic chia seeds (link at end)

Instructions 

  1. Heat tortilla/wrap in pan over medium heat, flipping a few times until hot
  2. Spread with desired amount of hazelnut spread as shown in pic (nutrition info listed below based on 2 tablespoons)
  3. Top with sliced bananas
  4. Sprinkle with chia seeds
  5. Roll up like a burrito

Go here for tips on how to eat healthy without breaking the bank!

Enjoy ♥️ 

Nutritional info

Mission Brand Organic Tortilla: Calories 150, Good Fat 5g, Carbohydrates 24g, Fiber 2g, Protein 3g, Sugar 2g

Nutiva Dark Hazelnut Spread: (per 2T) Calories 190, Total Good Fats 13g (450mg omega 3), Total Carbs 18g, Fiber 4g, Protein 3g, Sugar 12g (40% less sugar than the leading non-organic brand)

1/3 Banana: Calories 37, fat 0, Carbs 9, Fiber 1g, Sugar 5g, Potassium 150mg

Nutiva Chia Seed Organic Superfood: (per 1T) Calories 60, Good Omega-3 Fat 3g, Carbs 5g, Fiber 5g, Protein 3g, Sugar 0.

Irish Raspberry Fool

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Raspberry Fool Recipe Makeover

Raspberry Fool Recipe Makeover!

Who doesn’t want healthy food that tastes like dessert!? 

I’m always looking for recipes I can tweak to make healthier, while keeping them delicious! This is one of my favorites!

I recently attended a meeting where I needed to bring a dish from another country, so I Googled Irish recipes because my ancestors are from Ireland and Scotland and I’d just done a Scottish recipe for a previous meeting.

I came upon Irish Raspberry Fool! It’s absolutely wonderful, delicious, simple and healthy!

My recipe is an even healthier version as I replace traditional whipped cream with organic nondairy coconut whipped cream!

Raspberries and coconut cream are superfoods! 

And I’ve discovered so many ways to serve it! It’s traditionally served with shortbread cookies, but they’re optional. It travels well and keeps well. Great for picnics and potlucks!

A little history 

Fool is first mentioned as a dessert in 1598, and while England claims rights to other Fools, the ‘Raspberry Fool’ originated in Ireland.

Why it’s called “fool” is unclear.

Ingredients:

8 oz frozen organic raspberries

Fresh organic raspberries

8 oz organic coconut whipped cream (homemade or purchased, I use the organic coconut cool whip)

1-2 T organic coconut sugar or other organic sugar (optional). It’s just as good without sugar!

Directions:

Place frozen berries on a dish in a single layer and sprinkle with sugar, if using. Let sit at room temp for one hour.

Pour into blender and purée.

Mix raspberry purée with coconut cream, by hand. Mix completely or partially for marbled presentation. Both are pictured.

Optional garnishes: Scottish shortbread cookies, fresh raspberries, organic whipped cream.

Serve in stemware, small bowls, in a pie crust, or use a cookie dough scooper and dollop it atop Scottish shortbread!

Enjoy ♥️

14 Healthy Energy Boosters and Fatigue Busters

 Healthy Energy Boosters and Fatigue Busters
Energy Boosters and Fatigue Busters

Healthy Energy Boosters and Fatigue Busters ~

The average North American drinks 599 cups of coffee per year.

Coffee, caffeinated soft drinks, and energy drinks, are multi-billion dollar industries because most everyone struggles with energy and reaches for a caffeinated pick-me-up.

As a society, we suffer from a lack of energy.

This is an issue for so many, no matter what their level of health is.

But if you have health issues and/or take prescription medications, they deplete you of vitamins and minerals, often causing crushing fatigue and severely reduced energy.

If you’re not a fan of supplementation, it is very possible to overcome energy issues with some smart food choices and a few other tricks!

If you have health issues and/or take medication, I highly recommend trying everything you can that’s suggested here, including the supplements. Those of us with health issues and medications need the extra nourishment from both food and supplements.

Let’s first talk about what’s causing your lack of energy and/or fatigue.

Energy Drainers

  • Negative Emotions 

Emotions such as anger, regret, resentment, and jealousy. Negative emotions make our minds and bodies tense. When we experience these negative emotions, we exert a lot of energy, which can be exhausting and draining. Negative people can drain energy as well.

  • Heavy Meals and Junk Food 

Large meals require our bodies to expend more energy breaking down all that food, which is why most people feel lethargic after a big meal. Junk food, usually in the form of empty calories, simple carbs, and chemicals, causes a quick spike in blood sugar, which makes us feel energized initially, followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar, a letdown, which makes us feel drained.

  • Skipping Breakfast 
  • Dehydration 
  • Serious/Chronic illness 
  • Medications 
  • Staying up too late

Energy Drink Warning

Energy drinks can be risky. It is important that you understand what is actually in these products because their labels typically don’t tell you! Energy drinks are cited as a possible cause of thousands of emergency room visits each year, and there are reports of at least ten deaths among people who drank 5-Hour Energy. And five deaths have been associated with the use of Monster energy drinks.

Energy Bars 

An Ohio State University study compared the glycemic index of typical energy bars with other sources of carbohydrates. The power bars were no better than a candy bar at providing sustained energy.

And now for the good news! Most of these strategies are used by me and they work! I have chronic health issues and I have overcome the extreme fatigue and lack of energy associated with chronic illnesses.

Energy Boosters and Fatigue Busters

1. Stay Hydrated – Drink water and coconut water.

2. Sunshine – in moderation, the sun has health benefits, including increased energy, but an overdose has the opposite effect.

3. Negative ionsavailable in nature. Go outside, get your nature fix! Open the windows (previous blog topic). Authentic Himalayan Pink Salt Lamps increase negative ions in your home and workplace (buyer beware of fakes).

4. Aromatherapy – diffusing these oils helps combat fatigue and boost energy:

  • black pepper
  • cardamom
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • angelica
  • jasmine
  • tea tree
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • citrus

5. Reframe

When you’re feeling angry or upset, try deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and positive imagery. Focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative aspects of a situation. In psychology, this is called reframing, which means changing negative feelings or thoughts into positive ones. It takes practice, but it makes a big difference in your level of energy if you do it.

6. Avoid Negative People

7. Use Caffeine to Your Advantage

“As a stimulant, caffeine can increase or decrease your energy level, depending on when and how much of it you consume. Caffeine does help increase alertness, so having a cup of coffee before going to a meeting or starting on a project can help sharpen your mind. But to get the energizing effects of caffeine, you have to use it judiciously. It can cause insomnia, especially when consumed in large amounts or after 2 p.m. (or noon if you’re caffeine sensitive).” – Harvard University 

I’ve always said, “use caffeine medicinally!” and I’ve always advised to not consume too much and not after 2pm! I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to see my advice backed by Harvard!

8. Power Naps and Longer Naps 

If you’re in good health, power naps during your lunch break are very beneficial, 10-20 minutes and you’re rejuvenated!

If you have health issues, you’re more than likely going to need longer naps and sometimes more than one. Your immune system and body heal when you sleep so take those naps.

During flares I need one-to-three long naps per day. During times my health issues are ‘quiet,’ I can get away with a power nap or no nap – providing I’m eating and supplementing right!

For tips on how to nap when you have little ones, go here.

9. Exercise – move your body!

10. Go to bed earlier – at least try to.

11. Eat clean

Cut out junk food/drinks that drain you of energy because they lack nutrients and contain ingredients our bodies don’t recognize and can’t use – and our bodies use a great deal of our energy to try to dispose of. Eat your vegetables! And if you don’t like them, hide them in a smoothie with fruit and berries! Eat more plant based foods and high quality proteins and healthy fats, such as coconut oil and olive oil. Try to eat organic. Specific energy producing foods listed below.

12. Eat Breakfast – suggestions below.

13. Energy Boosting Foods:

  • Lemon water. Adding lemon to water transforms regular H20 into a natural energy drink that is packed with electrolytes, which are critical for cells to produce energy. (Wash your lemons first).
  • Fresh fruit and berries. The natural sugar in fruit provides a quick pick-me-up when you’re dragging and helps keep blood sugar levels steady because it’s packed with fiber. They help turn fat into energy. Plus many other health benefits.
  • Nuts. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts, are high in magnesium, which plays a key role in converting sugar to energy. They’re also filled with fiber to keep your blood sugar levels balanced and protein to stave off hunger. They also contain healthy fats which increase energy. Keep a bag of mixed nuts or trail mix in your purse, backpack, car, or desk drawer to stay energetic all day. Bonus: they are anti-inflammatory!
  • Chia Seeds. Chia seeds are nutrient dense and pack a punch of energy boosting power. Aztec warriors ate chia seeds for high energy and endurance. They claimed that just 1 spoonful of chia seeds would sustain them for 24 hours. Warriors would consume chia seeds as fuel for battle and running long distances. Chia seed benefits also include promoting healthy skin, heart and digestive system health, building stronger bones and muscles, and more. They have even recently been linked to healing diabetes. Add to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, soups, etc.
  • Dark chocolate. A little dark chocolate is good for you. It contains the natural stimulant theobromine, similar to caffeine, which boosts your energy and your mood. Lots of other health benefits as well. Must be at least 70% dark chocolate.
  • Breakfast. Organic oatmeal or Organic whole-grain toast  or pancakes, eggs, etc, and fruit/berries/superfoods smoothie. Stay away from GMO grains! They cause health issues while organic grains improve health in most cases. Complex carbohydrates provide 60% of the energy that your body requires, and whole grains are packed with complex carbs (the good kind!), which are full of vitamins and minerals. Eating whole grains can prevent a surge in blood sugar after your next meal, according to a study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, which means fewer energy crashes than when you eat refined carbohydrates in sugary or heavily processed snacks. Start your day with organic complex carbs and fruit. Snack on organic whole-grain crackers or granola bars, etc, and fruit for an afternoon boost.
  • Cardamom. In Asia, this spice is valued for its ability to increase energy and promote blood flow by expanding small blood vessels. So enjoy some chai tea.
  • Asparagus. This green veggie is high in B vitamins, which naturally support healthy energy levels by turning food into fuel, and it contains plenty of blood sugar-steadying fiber. When it’s in season, add asparagus to your salad at lunch to help get you through the afternoon.
  • Broccoli, spinach, and other dark leafy greens. Like asparagus, boosts energy. Packed with nutrients that combat fatigue.
  • Nutrient dense super food smoothiesThey can taste purple but can be green or purple! I have recipes! Or just use the fruits and veggies listed above! Veggies can easily be hidden, undetectable in a berry/fruit smoothie, if you prefer. Great way to get kids to consume veggies!
  • Yerba Maté. A tea-type beverage made from the nourishing leaves of the South American holly tree. Contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, abundant antioxidants. The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society in 1964 concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to Maté in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.” It has the strength of coffee, health benefits of tea, euphoria of chocolate. Boosts energy, busts fatigue and it’s good for keeping bones strong and other health benefits. Don’t drink after 2pm. It contains a mild caffeine that does not cause jitters. I prefer the unsweetened options.
  • Super Easy Energy Protein Bites: Recipe here!
  • Fermented Foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and other fermented foods, help boost and maintain energy levels. The fermentation creates probiotics, which helps you digest food more efficiently. Since the body has to work less to digest, you’re left with more energy.

Added benefits of fermented foods:

Gut Heath! Improved gut health equals improved overall health! Many diseases and health issues are linked to gut health so heal the gut with fermented foods!

Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar improves gut health and ph balance, and so many other health benefits. 1-3 T day can really help overcome fatigue as well as many other health issues! No matter what your level of health is, it’s beneficial.

How to consume raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg’s: 

1-3 T/day, diluted in water, juice or Emergen-C. Add raw local honey if needed. I usually add 3 T to several ounces of water and sip throughout the day. But mixing with Emergen-C is the most palatable, IMHO, and it will give you quick energy without a letdown!

14. High Quality Energy-Producing Supplements (organic is best)

  • High Potency B Complex Vitamins
  • Vit B-12 in addition to B Complex
  • Vit D-3
  • Magnesium
  • CoQ10
  • Vit C
  • Multi-Vitamins
  • Emergen-C: effervescent packed with vitamins, enters your system faster than pill form vitamins for a quicker response in energy. Used by athletes for pregame performance. Also great when fighting a cold! I first learned of it from a woman who had overcome chronic fatigue syndrome using only this supplement when medications failed!
  • ZipFizz: much like Emergen-C but also contains caffeine.

Before taking any supplements, please use this online drug-supplement interaction checker. I use it all the time. Great resource:

https://www.drugs.comdrug_interactions.html

I’ve added some links to some of my favorite energy boosters and fatigue busters below.

Here’s to less fatigue and more energy ♥️

Photo/Adventurer Credit: Justin Olsen

References:

Harvard University, Ohio State University, Dr. Josh Axe, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Psychology Today, Readers Digest

20 Strategies for Coping with Serious/Chronic Illness and Depression

Strategies for Coping with Serious/Chronic Illness and Depression
Strategies for Coping with Serious/Chronic Illness and Depression

I recently posted about clinical/major depression. Now I want to talk about coping with depression caused by serious and chronic illness, as I have a serious chronic illness and many of my friends do, too.

Living with a serious and/or chronic illness can cause depression. 40% of cancer patients are reported to experience depression after diagnosis. Those who suffer from diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are six times more likely to experience depression than people without serious illness.

This type of depression is called ‘situational depression.’ It’s caused by the situation of our serious health issues.

But there are some great and effective coping strategies. There is hope!

1. Accepting Your New Normal

Accepting your ‘new normal’ is key to coping. But also know that better days are ahead and you must strive for them. We have to accept some limitations and fight to overcome other limitations, while also adding joy to our lives, often by implementing new activities that we are able to do. I can no longer hike or ski or dance, so I’ve replaced those activities with others that bring me joy such as writing, photography, fur babies, and spending time in nature/on the water. I may delve more into this topic in a future blog post.

2. Throw Yourself a Pity Party

We all need to do this on occasion, so do it without guilt! Don’t bottle it up or bury it! But throw that party for no more than fifteen minutes then move on. Have a good cry. Scream at the gods. Curse the cosmos. Do what you need to do that won’t hurt you or anyone else. It’s good for the soul. But staying there for more than fifteen minutes can have the opposite effect.

3. Distractions 

We need time to escape and get our minds off our health issues. This can be very difficult when your symptoms are severe and debilitating but if you can manage a hobby, do it. If you have children or grandchildren, you are blessed. What a wonderful distraction!

4. Pets/Fur Babes

Another wonderful distraction! If you don’t have a pet, adopt/rescue one! They really raise your spirits and provide years of joy! They improve your health on many levels. Click here for more on the health benefits of pets.

5. Make a Point to Increase Your Joy  

Do something that brings you joy today and everyday. Even if it’s just a cup of tea or enjoying your fur babies, a bubble bath, reading a good book, or watching a great movie, in the comfort of your own home. Some days that’s all we can manage – but it’s joyful and that’s what counts. Book and movie choices should be uplifting. No sad endings! The purpose is to raise our spirits.

6. Count Your Blessings

Not cliché! This is scientifically proven. Counting 50 things you’re thankful for everyday really and truly cheers you up! It can pull you out of the dumps! You don’t have to sit down and list them, you don’t have to jot them down. Just do it in your head, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing and if it takes all day, that’s ok. If you repeat items from previous lists, that’s ok, too! So first thing when you wake up, get started! Think about what you’re thankful for, count as many things as you can and when you can’t think of more that’s ok, revisit and add to your list throughout the day. You will notice that you’re feeling more positive and cheerful and less depressed and stressed as the day goes on! And do it all over again tomorrow and everyday! Great coping strategy.

7. Exercise

To the best of your ability, exercise. There’s a show on PBS called ‘Sit and Be Fit,’ there was a time, that’s all I could do. Walk, if you can, around your house and yard – and around your block or a nature walk. Some malls open early for walkers, providing climate control and safety. If you can walk, do it. Sometimes I do laps in my house. Exercise improves not only your physical health, but it improves your mental wellbeing, as well. If you can exercise more intensely, do it, but always be careful not to overdo it when you have health issues. I love physical therapy as it’s a trained physical therapist implementing your regimen. Ask your doc for a PT referral. Click here for info on how to decrease inflammation with exercise.

8. Get Your Nature Fix

Getting out in nature is extremely beneficial to the human psyche. If you live in the city, try to go for a drive to the country, a lake, the beach, or mountains. Even if it’s just a day trip. If you can’t drive, ask someone to drive. Get out and walk if you can. Bring chairs and just sit in nature if that’s all you can do. If you can’t get in and out of the car easily, just stay in the car but roll the windows down and breathe in the fresh hair. Bring your camera! Snap some pictures! Enjoy the sunset! For me, a day at the lake is very therapeutic. A few hours on the water makes a huge difference. Try to get close to the water or a waterfall or into a forest, for a negative-ion-rich-environment, for more about this, go here: Nature Deficit Disorder.’ It really raises the spirits.

All terrain wheels on a wheelchair can open up a lot of wonderful possibilities for nature excursions.

Last fall, I invited my brother on an amateur fall-foliage-photo-shoot, just the two of us and we had the best time and have plans to do more photo shoots together! This was an activity I had been doing alone and had no idea he would he would be interested. Wonderful discovery! So then I invited friends on a fall-foliage-photo-shoot and lunch and we had a wonderful day together! All those fall-foliage-photo-shoots brought great joy!

9. Which Brings Us to Friends and Family 

Try to connect with good friends and family. Not just through social media, but in person. Even if it’s just for a cup of tea or glass of lemonade. For more on this topic go here. 

10. Support groups 

Join support groups specific to your health issues. If you have diabetes, join their specific support groups, if you have vasculitis, join those specific support groups. Etcetera. Reach out to the members, they understand what you’re going through better than anyone. Online support groups are great! I’m in several Facebook groups. Since they are international, there’s usually someone available 24/7, especially beneficial since insomnia often plays a role in serious and chronic illness.

11. Meditation and Prayer 

Meditation and prayer helps alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. You can YouTube some guided meditations.

12. Supplements and Essential Oils

These can really help a great deal as well. I’ve experienced it!

Omega 3 Fish Oil is beneficial in fighting depression as well as providing many other health benefits for inflammatory illnesses, as it’s anti-inflammatory.

Other depression fighting/mood enhancing supplements include 5-HTP and St John’s Wort.

As with all medications and supplements, you should always check possible interactions. This is an online source that I use:

https://www.drugs.com/drug_interactions.html

“The top four essential oils for depression are bergamot, lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang. You can use essential oils for depression topically or aromatically, usually as a cream or in a diffuser.” – Dr. Josh Axe

13. Acupuncture 

I’m a huge fan of acupuncture and other alternative health modalities.

“A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture – in which a mild electric current is transmitted through the needles – was just as effective as  Prozac.” – Scientific American  

Acupuncture also helps reduce and alleviate the side effects of prescription anti-depressants.

When seeking acupuncture, be sure to see a ‘licensed’ as opposed to ‘certified’ practitioner.

14. Is Physical Pain a Factor?

If pain is making it hard to cope: acupuncture, lidocaine patches, ginger, and turmeric, help a lot. I’ve had great success reducing and eliminating pain with these treatments.

15. Plan Something

For me, planning something really raises my spirits and gets my mind off my health issues! It adds joy and excitement to my life! Whether it’s a trip/vacation or a family get-together or lunch with a friend or a movie night or date night. Having something to look forward to and plan is really important for me. I have planned trips when I’m too sick to travel, for a date in the future when I’m hopefully well enough to travel, keeping in the back of my mind that I may have to cancel, but most of the time I don’t have to cancel! I think having something to look forward to helps to improve your health so that by the time the travel date arrives, you’re good to go! And travel itself definitely improves your health – a blog topic for the near future! When my sons were at home, I was always planning homeschool dances, science fairs, field trips and other events for our homeschool community. Now that I’m retired from homeschooling and my sons have all mostly moved away, I’m always planning our next family get-together which often includes travel as we all live in different parts of the state now. You can plan a lot when you’re sick! When the date arrives, you’re usually up for it, even if you have to rest a lot. I ran many a homeschool dance from a chair! I’ve done a lot of travel from the passenger seat with lots of naps.

16. Apps – 24/7 Access

There are even several apps for depression! Type “depression help” into your App Store search bar! Some provide 24/7 therapist access! Someone you can reach out to anytime, even in the middle of the night!

17. Counseling/Therapy 

Counseling with a therapist that specializes in chronic illness has really helped many I know with serious health issues. It’s important that the counselor specializes in serious/chronic illness. Therapists who don’t often fall short in the area of serious and chronic illness.

18. Eat Well

The foods we eat greatly affect how we feel both physically and mentally. Eat clean. Eliminate fast food and junk food. Get your nutrient-dense-super-foods smoothie/juice on! For more on this, join my tribe, follow my blog!

19. Know that it’s Normal and Okay to have Sad Days

But use the strategies listed here to pull yourself out of them so that the sad days don’t turn into sad weeks and sad months.

20. And always remember: Be kind to yourself ♥️

For more inspiration, go here: You Can Do Hard

Go here to read about invisible illnesses.

Photo Credit: Me, taken from my front porch

References:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Scientific American, Dr. Josh Axe, drugs.com, Neuro-linguistic Programming

Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing

  • What is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?
  • What are positive and negative ions and why should we care?
  • Why do we need to get our nature fix on?
  • Do we spend enough time in nature?
  • Do our children spend enough time exploring the natural environment?
  • Does it really matter?
  • FREE National Parks Passes for the chronically ill and disabled
Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing
Nature Deficit Disorder is a Thing

Positive and Negative Ions and NDD

Negative ions have a positive effect.
Negative ions are invisible, odorless, tasteless, molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments: mountains, waterfalls, bodies of water, and beaches. Once they reach the bloodstream, negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin, alleviating depression and stress. They stabilize blood pressure, balance alkalinity, strengthen bones, accelerate physical recovery. They boost mood and energy and overall wellbeing. They clean and purify the air.

Positive ions have a negative effect.                                                                                        Positive ions have an adverse affect on physical and mental health. They are linked to an increase in allergies, infections, lethargy, depression, anxiety, suicide, and more. Positive ions are concentrated indoors. Electromagnetic fields, fluorescent lights, and air pollution all increase the number of positive ions in an environment. Your first defense is to open the doors and windows to fresh air!

It is in our best interest to increase our exposure to negative ions. Negative ions are abundant in nature with the highest concentrations near moving water and old growth forests. Notice how you feel when you’re near a waterfall, at the beach, in a forest or a lush garden. Breathe in that fresh-clean-negative-ion-air and you feel alive, vibrant, energized yet refreshingly calm.

Nature Deficit Disorder 
A recent study shows that children now spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day, or about 53 hours a week using media, such as cell phones, video games, TV, and computers. All of which produce harmful positive ions. Studies have shown that this nature disconnect contributes to reduced academic achievement, lack of self-confidence, and many other social, emotional, intellectual and physical problems, which author and co-chair of The National Forum on Children and Nature, Richard Louv, coined as, “Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)”

Today many people of all ages suffer from NDD, which produces a reduced awareness and a diminished ability to find meaning in life.

Children no longer have the great opportunities to play freely in nature, exploring the natural environment and soaking up the beneficial negative ions. Their time is structured, their lives more protected due to stranger danger and other factors. And schools are increasingly cutting back on recess and field trips.

I grew up in cities with parents who took me to Yosemite several times a year, in every season, as well as other wilderness adventures. We camped in the snow! My first camping trip was at six weeks old in Yosemite in November! Boating, fishing and time on the water were also a big part of my childhood. We also had a creek behind our house that all the neighborhood kids spent hours upon hours exploring throughout our childhoods. I can catch a crawdad with my bare hands like a boss! Alaska was even a part of my childhood!

Time on the water is therapeutic for me. It’s my “natural habitat!” A day on the lake, river, or ocean, for me, is as rejuvenating as a week-long vacation. I have a chronic illness and time on the water and the effects of the negative ions always improves my health.

Anytime spent in nature is cathartic.

My children were born in the outskirts of California’s Bay Area and we did a lot of camping and boating and spent as much time in nature as possible, including road trips to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and of course trips to Yosemite! We spent a lot of time on the California Delta! And yes, we also went to Disneyland and Six Flags!

When we started having issues with our neighbors and their adverse effects from over population, positive ion overload, and Nature Deficit Disorder: hostility, gang violence, depression, bad manners, rudeness, lack of respect, a general disconnect – we decided to pack up our boys and move them to as close to a modern day “Mayberry RFD” as possible. We wanted to live where we could have free-range children. About two hundred miles north we found it! They grew up in an oak grove with a creek and pond in the neighborhood and wild animals that live all around us! Incredibly starry nights and fresh air. Lots of adventure! Nature all around us.

One of our sons couldn’t wait to blow this pop stand and head to the big city and so he did! And now he craves time in nature. He comes home often to spend time in nature to unwind, renew, and replenish. His goal is to live in nature again.

Another lives on the beach, another lives in Yosemite – both getting their quota of nature and negative ions on a daily basis. One has returned to his country hometown after college and a stint in San Francisco. While living in the city, he often came home to the country to get his dose of nature. And the oldest calls Tahoe home where she lives in nature!

Friends from the Bay Area came up and went camping with us just up the road and they were stressed-out-basket-cases when they arrived, due to NDD. After some time in nature, they relaxed and found joy and it was a huge confirmation for me that our decision to leave city life for country life was a good decision.

But not everyone can do that due to their careers or desires or other factors. If you can’t or don’t want to leave the city life, make an effort to be in nature often. Your soul needs it. The human psyche needs it. (Encourage your neighbors to as well.) 

Studies show that there are important positive correlations between human health, intelligence and nature. Research reveals that children are healthier, happier, perhaps even more intelligent and creative when they have a connection to nature.

Nature has positive effects on children with asthma, obesity, and attention deficit disorder – NDD plays a role in ADD/ADHD.

When nature is incorporated into the workplace design, the result is increased productivity, job morale, creativity – and improved health – among employees at every level.

Hospital patients with a view of nature from their window heal faster and experience reduced durations in the hospital! The benefits are increased when the window can be opened or the patient is allowed to go outside.

I’ve been hospitalized in many hospitals and the view makes a difference but Cleveland Clinic encourages their patients to go outside and provides gardens and fountains for their patients to enjoy! It’s wonderful! Makes a huge difference in healing time!

E.O. Wilson, the renowned biologist, believes that we are hard-wired with an innate affinity for nature, a hypothesis he calls biophilia. And research shows that if children do not have the opportunity to explore nature and develop that biophilia during their early years, then tragically, biophobia, an aversion to nature, is a risk factor. Biophobia can range from a fear of being in nature, to an intolerance and disrespect for what is not man-made and managed, to an attitude that nature is nothing more than a disposable resource.

In order to protect the environment and biodiversity, as well as the human psyche, creating opportunities to reconnect with nature is essential for people of all ages.

We need to spend more time unplugged and find ways to let nature balance our lives.

We need to increase our exposure to negative ions.

Pursuing even small opportunities for nature everyday, whether in the country, city, home, in the work place, schools, and neighborhoods – is vital.

Plant native species in your yard and leave part of it wild. Take kids fishing, hiking, camping, wading, nature walks – in all kinds of weather. Build or buy a bird feeder, go bird watching, walk in the park, ride a bike, set up a community garden, have picnics, exercise outdoors!

I would encourage every high school graduate to spend the summer between high school and college working and living in a Nat’l Park! Or any summer during college. Or anyone who’s trying to find themselves or anyone who just needs a summer job. Or longer than summer! My son went for the summer and decided to stay! You can decide from one season to the next! Apply now! Seriously. Just do it.

“By tapping into the restorative powers of nature, we can promote mental and physical health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthen human bonds.” – Richard Louv

In the US, our National Parks offer several free park entry dates every year, dates for the remainder of 2017 are as follows:

  • April 22-23: Second Weekend of National Park Week
  • August 25: National Park Service Birthday
  • September 30: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend

Or buy a NPS Pass and go a lot! For pass info, go here.

AND the U.S. National Parks provide FREE Lifetime Passes to the chronically ill and disabled community! Your whole family gets in for free when they are with you! Other discounts as well! Go here for details.

Explore our Nat’l Parks and other wild places ♥️

Photo Credits: Erica Sheppard, Justin Olsen, Dillon Olsen, Brady Olsen, Kylee McAuliffe, C.C. Olsen

References:
Columbia University, Sonoma State University, Allene Edwards, managing editor of Organic Lifestyle Magazine. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, and Vitamin N (for nature), and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network. WebMD, E.O. Wilson

Furry Pets and the Newly Discovered Health Benefits for Humans

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I’m a huge advocate of pets of all kinds for human health and companionship!

We’ve had a myriad of pets over the years, as we love and rescue animals: the typical dogs and cats, plus goats, llama, horse, donkey, frogs, toads, lizards, turtle, ferrets, rats, mice, snakes, rooster, and most recently a duck couple has adopted us!

Today I want to share with you some rather unfamiliar, newly discovered health benefits of furry pets!

Old Facts:

It’s common knowledge that pets bring us joy and happiness and alleviate loneliness and depression.

They improve our overall health and general well-being. They even improve blood pressure!

And if you have a serious/chronic illness, they are a wonderful distraction from the burden of health issues. They raise our spirits! They reduce stress!

New Discoveries:

  • Decreased risk of heart attack
  • Reduced likelihood of allergies
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Reduced likelyhood of suicide for those at risk

Historically, the popular medical belief was that furry pets might lead to the development of allergies, but new data from population-based studies dispute this line of thinking.

Studies now show that furry pets actually reduce the development of allergies. A new study from the University of Turko in Finland indicates that exposure to furry animals leads to changes in the human gut flora and immune system to block allergies.

Background Data:
Allergic diseases among urban populations worldwide has increased dramatically over recent years. Reduced exposure to nature may be responsible.

Several studies have shown that an important factor is exposure to furry animals, including early-life contacts with livestock, which has been reported to be protective against asthma and allergies.

While most researchers have focused on the direct immune response to this exposure, there may be another factor – increased exposure to microbial diversity and its influence on the human microbiome.

New Data:
To explore the relationship to furry pet exposure and the development of allergic diseases like asthma, researchers in Finland examined the gut flora of children enrolled in an ongoing randomized placebo-controlled study in children with a family history of asthma, eczema, hayfever, or food allergy.

The researchers identified infants of families having at least 1 furry ‘indoor‘ pet during pregnancy and the first year of life. Infants from families without pets were selected as controls in consecutive order of recruitment. To determine the development of allergies, skin prick tests (SPTs) were carried out at the age of 6 months. The antigens tested by SPT included cow’s milk, egg white, wheat and rice flour, cod, soy bean, birch, 6 grasses, cat, dog, dust mite, latex, potato, carrot, and banana. The study team also collected fecal samples from diapers when the babies were one month of age. One of the tests performed was DNA analysis for two types of Bifidobacteria that are found specifically in furry animals gastrointestinal tracts: B. thermophilum and B. pseudolongum. The presence of these bacteria was associated with exposure to a dog, cat, or rabbit as a pet.

The results from the analysis indicated that pet exposure starting early and throughout life can have an impact on the composition of the human microbiome in a way that reduces the risk of allergic diseases.

Conclusion from the study:
Furry animals have a positive impact on gut flora (microbiome) which plays a huge role in the proper development and health of the immune system and can prevent the development of allergies.

“Maybe just perhaps, some of the benefits being attributed to therapy dogs and horses in kids on the autism spectrum as well as in other situations may be partly due to influencing the microbiome in a positive way.”
~ Dr. Michael Murray

Furry pets do belong in your home, not just outside, if you want the health benefits they provide for you and your family!

If you don’t have a furry pet in your home, adopt/rescue one ♥️

References:
Nermes M, Endo A, Aarnio J, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Furry pets modulate gut microbiota composition in infants at risk for allergic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Sep 3. pii: S0091-6749(15)01036-2.
Dr. Michael Murray, The Doctors Show

Staying Connected to Friends & Family When You Have a Serious/Chronic Illness

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Staying connected is very important.

You can easily become isolated leading to loneliness and depression when you have a serious/chronic illness. Especially if you’re disabled so therefore unable to work. Especially if you’re an empty-nester or don’t have children. Or if you’re single or live alone.

It can be extremely challenging to stay connected with friends and even family when you have health issues, I know, as I have a serious chronic illness.

Losing friends and relatives when you fall ill

So many friends as well as family members will drop you like a hot potato when you get sick and stay sick. You lose friends and family and it stinks and hurts big time but you find out who your real friends are. And that’s a good thing. No one needs fair weather friends, we all need real friends. One real friend is far more valuable than a dozen fair weather friends. We need friends who will weather the storm with us, those who abandon us when the storm hits, well, we’re better off without them.

Now that we got that out of the way, it’s very important that we stay connected to our real friends and relatives. We’re all busy so we need to make an effort to reach out and invite them to meet in person.

Making Connections 

When my kids lived at home, I made and stayed connected with friends through homeschool, my kids’ sports and their other activities.

Then I retired from homeschooling with my youngest son graduating and lost the in-person connections with my homeschool friends. On top of that, I lost my mom and I became an empty-nester.

I had to make a real effort to see friends and family.

Facebook is a great resource to stay connected to friends and family but we need face-to-face, in person contact with them as well.

Don’t wait for your friends and family to do the inviting – do the inviting yourself!

Start a bunco group, crafting group, book club, etcetera, with your friends! Invite them through Facebook, text or call them!

Facebook has a wonderful feature called ‘Events’ where you can evite/invite friends and family or you can just invite on your timeline.

When my son was in kindergarten, before we started homeschooling, several moms and a couple dads met the first day as we were dropping our littles off. One of the moms had the fabulous idea to invite everyone to Starbucks! Several of us went. That first day, most of us were meeting for the first time. We decided to meet at Starbucks every Wednesday after dropping our children off at school. Those Starbucks mornings led to lunches and dinners, camping trips and boat trips, super bowl parties and baby showers, birthday parties and play dates for our littles. Our husbands and children became friends! Amazing friendships grew out of it – almost two decades later, most of us are still very close! Those friends would visit me in the hospital and bring meals when I was too sick to cook. They would pick my kids up from school when I couldn’t. We’ve moved to other areas, but stay connected through social media and see each other as often as we can!

So on the first day of school, do what my dear friend did: invite everyone to Starbucks!

I also made wonderful friends through my ‘Mothers of Twins Club’ and other social clubs.  Many of whom are still dear friends!

I don’t live near those wonderful friends anymore but we stay in touch and I’ve made more wonderful friends where I live now. I joined a ‘Moms Club’ which has long since dissipated but most of the friends I made all those years ago are still my dear friends. One even helped me get my blog up and running! Over mochas at our local small town coffee house!

I also made dear friends through the aforementioned homeschooling. We try to meet for lunch or breakfast once a month and some of us get together more often! For coffee or lunch. Free concerts and movies in the park in the summer are a favorite activity!

My wonderful moms club friends, homeschool friends and friends I made through my sons’ sports and activities, have also visited me in the hospital, provided meals and helped with my sons’ care and activities when I was unable to.

Other resources

If you don’t have children as a wonderful and built-in source for meeting people, there are other resources such as ‘social clubs,’ ‘welcome clubs’ and ‘meet-up groups.’ Google them for your area. They are a wonderful resource for meeting like-minded people in your area. They have activities for every interest imaginable: fishing, cooking, crafts, quilting, music, bird watching, etcetera. You meet people who share the same interests!

There’s also ‘meet-up apps!’ Check your App Store!

I’ve joined a couple social clubs. One is like Girl Scouts for adults! It’s a fun evening or afternoon with friends once a month! You could join or start one in your area! (Contact me for info)

Church is another great place to make friends.

Reaching out 

I make an effort to make new friends and connect with old friends. I reach out to them and invite them to coffee, tea, lunch, froyo, concerts and movies in the park, etc.

I literally post to my Facebook news feed asking friends to meet for lunch, etc. I usually get at least one yes each time! Try it! I also use the Events (evite) Facebook feature.

It’s very important for those of us with chronic health issues to spend time with friends and family. Isolation and loneliness leads to depression which is an extremely heavy burden on top of chronic illness. Depression makes it so much more difficult to manage our health issues: take our medications, exercise, nourish our bodies – to maintain our health. So reach out to your real friends and family! See them as often as possible.

Inviting friends over is great but it’s also really important for chronically ill peeps/folks to get out of the house when we can!

Venting about your health issues

When you’re spending time with friends and family, it’s best to avoid the health-issue-hardship-venting. If the friend is curious about your health issues, explain the basics to them, give a brief update of your symptoms, then move onto other subjects – ask them about their latest vacation, relationship, school, work, etc. Ask them about their health. With very few exceptions, venting about the hardships of your disease is usually best done in support groups. Of course, there are a few exceptional friends who you can really vent to about your health. But personally, I don’t usually want to talk about my health-issue-burdens when I’m out with friends – I want to enjoy my time with them! I want it to be a break from my health issues. I want to talk about anything but health issues! I do my venting in my online support groups for the most part.

My challenge for you!

I challenge you to post on Facebook asking friends and/or family to meet you for coffee, tea, lemonade, lunch, froyo, or whatever your heart desires! Do it often!

For summer time family connection ideas, go here!

For more info on coping with chronic illness, go here.

For tips on raising a family when you have a chronic illness, click here.

For invisible illness info go here.

♥️ Enjoy!

Photo Credits: Chawn Peterson, Cinde Hagelberg, Cheryl Ann Cox and myself

Two Types of Depression ~ There’s Hope and Help

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World Health Day
Every year on April 7th, the World Health Organization (WHO) spotlights and brings global awareness to an important health issue and this year it’s depression. So I’m joining them today in their efforts in an attempt to reach out and help sufferers of depression.

According to the WHO depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability, globally. More than 300 million people are now living with depression, worldwide, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015.

Depression can affect anyone and all ages.

Situational Depression
Situational depression is what we all experience from time-to-time due to loss, grief, and life’s curve balls, this type of depression runs its course and you are able to cope and get by with a little help from your friends and family and fur-babies – and time spent in nature. Essential oils can also be beneficial. You get passed it. Joy and happiness are yours once again.

Major Depression
But then there’s clinical or major depression that isn’t caused by an event or situation, it’s just there day in and day out, robbing you of happiness and joy, adversely affecting your relationships, job, school – all aspects of life. It’s ongoing and debilitating and it’s extremely difficult to cope no matter how supportive your friends and family and fur babies are. Life’s curveballs and grief can trigger or exacerbate major depression. There are several subtypes of major depression.

But there is hope! Sometimes major depression is caused by a chemical imbalance, such as low serotonin, that can be tested and remedied! Low serotonin can effectively be treated naturally!

Common Symptoms of Major Depression:

  • Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, mood swings, sadness, irritability, agitation
  • Sleep: early waking, excess sleepiness, insomnia or restless sleep
  • Whole body: excessive hunger or loss of appetite, fatigue, restlessness, slowness of activity
  • Behavioral: social isolation, substance abuse, loss of interest in activities, excessive crying
  • Cognitive: brain fog, thoughts of suicide
  • Weight: weight gain or weight loss
  • Also common: repeatedly going over thoughts/obsessing

There’s hope! There’s help!
If you are experiencing ongoing debilitating depression, please seek help. See your doctor, therapist, alternative medicine doc (i.e. naturopath, osteopath, acupuncturist, integrative practitioner, etc).

I’m a huge fan of acupuncture and other alternative health modalities.

“A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that electroacupuncture – in which a mild electric current is transmitted through the needles – was just as effective as Prozac.” ~ Scientific American

Acupuncture also helps reduce and alleviate the side effects of prescription anti-depressants.

When seeking acupuncture, be sure to see a ‘licensed’ as opposed to ‘certified’ practitioner.

Support Groups – local and online
I also love support groups, they are a valuable resource, either locally or online. Google online support groups or search Facebook groups.

Apps – 24/7 Access
There are even several apps for depression! Type “depression help” into your App Store search bar! Some provide 24/7 therapist access! Someone you can reach out to anytime, even in the middle of the night!

Hotlines
Depression Hotline: 877-743-4672
Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255

If you know someone who’s depressed, please reach out to them, encourage them to seek help. Let them know you care.

♥️ There’s always hope ~

For more coping strategies, go here.

Image Source: Unknown

4 Tips on How to Take Naps for Mom’s Sanity and Health

 

Naps! This, of course, applies to dads or grandparents or whomever is up in the night with babies and children, aka ‘littles.’

One of the biggest challenges for moms, et al, of young children is naps. I’m not talking about naps for the littles, I’m talking about naps for mom! When you’ve been up in the night with insomnia, diaper changes, feedings, illness, comforting and cuddling littles who’ve had a bad dream, or babies who think 2am is prime playtime(!) mom needs a nap and getting one in with small children at home can be a major challenge.

Even the healthiest among us can get sick, both physically and mentally, due to sleep deprivation.

When there are underlying health issues, naps are extremely important. Health can decline quickly due to a lack of sleep.

1. Nap when the baby naps! It’s not cliché, it’s darn good advice! Those gorgeous photos above of mommies and babies napping together are provided by my wonderful dear friends and family ♥️

Housework really can wait. No guilt allowed! And no, you don’t have to cuddle the baby during nap time if it works better for you not to. There’s plenty of time the rest of the day to cuddle. Cuddle-time is important.

2. As for older children, I used to plug in a calming video such as Thomas the Tank Engine or Teletubbies for my littles and tell them mommy absolutely has to nap so she can be a good, happy, fun mommy and so she won’t get sick. They were really good about it. I could get a 30 minute nap in once or twice a day.

3. I also hired a neighbor girl (a boy would be great, too!) to come over after school and play with my littles and make and share an after-school/afternoon snack, while the baby and I took a nap for an hour or so everyday. I was in the house, she could wake me up if anything urgent came up. My littles loved it! I loved it! And so did she!

4. If you work outside the home, try to take a 10-15 minute power nap during your lunchtime. Those power naps are beneficial and effective.

I still take naps and my ‘littles’ are now ‘bigs!’ They’re all grown up – and even being an empty-nester, there are days I still need a nap. Health issues, or not, naps are good for you!

If you have a chronic illness, naps are important as the immune system heals when you sleep. Click here for more info on raising a family when chronically ill.

Happy Napping ~

Photo Credits: Nycole Inskeep, my former Campfire Girl (I was her den leader!); Kaylynn Schrack, my cousin; Linda Ryder, my wonderful nurse of two hospitalizations ~

Vitamin C: Do You Need It?

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It’s April 4th ~ It’s Nat’l Vitamin C Day!

I grew up hearing Vitamin C is good for you! It fights off colds and flus!

But is it true? Do we really need it? How do you know if you need it?

Our bodies do not produce Vitamin C and many people are deficient and don’t know it.

  • Vitamin C has been scientifically proven to lessen the duration and symptoms of a common cold
  • Vitamin C may be as beneficial to your heart as walking
  • Vitamin C is well known for helping relax blood vessels
  • There’s scientific evidence that Vitamin C may help protect against a variety of cancers by combating free radicals, and helping neutralize the effects of nitrites (preservatives found in some packaged foods that may raise the risk of certain forms of cancer).

The only way to get Vitamin C is from food and/or supplements. If you use supplements, organic is best. It’s important to get nutrients from foods – we can’t just eat horribly and count on supplements alone. I like to eat healthy, nutritious foods – and use supplements as well. It works well for me with battling chronic illness and prescription medications.

If you have a chronic illness or take prescription drugs, chances are great that you are deficient in all vitamins, including C and you need to consume even more Vitamin C rich foods than the average person.

Some More Vitamin C Benefits:

  • Repairs and regenerates tissues
  • Protects against heart disease
  • Increases the absorption of iron
  • Prevents scurvy
  • Decreases bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Helps delay or prevent cataracts
  • Supports healthy immune system function
  • Promotes skin health, including reversing ‘crepey skin’ and thin skin
  • Combats free radicals

I have personally had very good results with thin and crepey skin repair from Vitamin C therapy.

Signs of Vitamin C Deficiency:

Deficiency symptoms include fatigue, frequent colds, muscle weakness, joint and muscle aches, bleeding gums, rashes and other skin problems. Prolonged deficiency can cause scurvy, a rare but potentially severe illness.

Top 10 Vitamin C Rich Foods:

Oranges: 
1 large: 82 mg
Red peppers:
 ½ cup chopped, raw: 95mg
Kale
: 1 cup: 80 mg
Brussels sprouts
: ½ cup cooked: 48 mg
Broccoli
: ½ cup cooked: 51 mg
Strawberries
: ½ cup: 42 mg
Grapefruit
: ½ cup: 43 mg
Guava: 
1 fruit: 125 mg
Kiwi
: 1 piece: 64 mg
Green peppers: 
½ c chopped, raw: 60 mg

♥️ Make your own organic Vitamin C!

You will need several organic citrus peels as the peels contain much more Vitamin C than the fruit itself!

Wash them well, cut into strips or small pieces and dry them for several days, you can use a food dehydrator, but it’s not necessary! Once they are completely dry, grind them into a powder using a clean coffee grinder or a flour mill or the dry blade of a blender, such as Vitamix.

Store your homemade organic Vitamin C powder in an air-tight container, in the freezer up to 6 months!

A teaspoon-or-so-a-day added to your smoothie provides a good daily dose of Vitamin C!

To check for possible interactions with medications, go here. 

References:
Drs’ Andrew Weil and Joseph Mercola

Photo credit: Christina Im and Hayden Olsen