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carol@inkwellcoaching.com

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April 11, 2024

Angelos Update and Green Thumb Time

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you may recall my weekly posts that were written comparing the size of my friend’s baby in utero

April 4, 2024

Tips to Get Past the Springtime Slump

Lately, I have this great desire to take a nap every afternoon around…well, anytime between 2 and 5. What is the deal with THAT? Can you relate? One

March 28, 2024

The Miracle of Breath and Easter

Today while I was busy breathing, doing my best to focus on my breath and not what I would blog about this week, I was flooded with a thought that sho

March 21, 2024

Celebrating the Spring Equinox

This year the spring equinox occurred on March 19 at 11:06 P.M. EDT. That was the astronomical beginning of the spring season in the Northern Hemisph

March 14, 2024

10 Muscle Building Tips for Women

Most women I talk with would like to build more muscle and lose more fat. While strength or resistance training is a key component to building muscle,

March 7, 2024

A Taste of Spring

In case you’ve been missing out on some of the most delectable oranges, this is your friendly reminder that we are in the midst of SUMO season. This

February 29, 2024

10 Healthy Snacks for Busy People

My family loves snacks. I love snacks. Who doesn’t love a good snack? I believe snacking can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle. When you c

February 21, 2024

Saving Dough and a Surprise Cake from Mr. Non-Compliant

Some say it’s expensive to eat healthy. I believe it’s even more expensive, especially in the long run, to eat unhealthy. Today I present some tip

February 14, 2024

My Best Workout Tip for Top Results

Ever wonder how to get the most out of your run or walk or strength training workouts? It’s the same way you can feel the most productive about your

February 8, 2024

Celebrating the Birth Month Without FOGO

This year’s birth month is a rare one because I get to celebrate for 29 days. Those of you who get 30, or if you’re REALLY lucky, 31 days, may not

Dirt is Good

Last week I wrote about Forest Bathing—immersing yourself in nature and using all your senses to benefit your health in every way.

This week, I’m heading outdoors to play in the dirt.

Dirt is good. Keep reading to learn WHY.

Your gut houses at least 70% of your immune system. It is loaded (hopefully) with good bacteria (bugs) to fight off disease.

It may also (probably) be home to some bad bacteria.   

All the bacteria in your gut are known as the microbiome.

Any imbalance, whether too few good or too many bad, is not ideal. Gut disturbances can lead to a variety of issues such as allergies, autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, brain fog, weight issues, arthritis, dementia, cancer, and pretty much any undesirable health condition.

Gut imbalances may be caused from:

  1. Poor diet
  2. Medication overuse
  3. Infections
  4. Toxic overload
  5. Inadequate digestive enzymes
  6. Stress

The process of determining the current state of your gut health requires testing to learn which bacteria are out of normal range. Specific treatment is based on the results.

If you’re not feeling quite up to par, or are experiencing some chronic health conditions, testing may be a path you’d like to pursue. (If this is you, let me know and I’ll refer you to a gut health expert.)

In the meantime, here are some ways you can begin TODAY to improve your gut health. (Maybe choose ONE to start.)

  1. Get in the garden. Put your hands in the dirt instead of always wearing gloves. This will help improve the diversity in your microbiome. We’ve gotten a bit crazy with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. It’s good to play in the dirt. No pesticides.
  2. Vary your diet, eat whole foods, and add a new fruit or vegetable each week.
  3. Find a way to relax, especially when enjoying your food.
  4. Exercise—in moderation. Too much is as problematic as too little.
  5. Get plenty of sleep.
  6. Take time to de-stress.
  7. Kick out added sugar and processed foods.
  8. Get your carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits instead of pasta, bread, and sweets.

I’m working on improving my microbiome as I write. This week I’ve been eating dandelion greens. They have a slightly bitter taste; however, the health benefits include improved digestion, increased bone density, body detoxifier, reduced inflammation.

And no, I did not pick them from my yard. I went foraging at Whole Foods. No chemicals allowed on the greens.

Add dandelion greens to a salad, sauté or braise them, add to soups, stews, or smoothies.

Have fun feeding your “good” bugs this week!

Much love,
Health Coach Carol

“All Disease begins in the gut.”—Hippocrates

Celebrating Easter and Forest Bathing

For those of you who are doing some sort of Lenten fast, you are almost complete. We have much to celebrate this Easter Sunday!

Whether you’ve given up sweets, alcohol, toxic people, television, Facebook, meat, or a multitude of other possibilities, you’ve had the fortitude (and faith) to stay the course, or most of it, for 40+ days.

Great work! You now know what is possible—what you’re capable of—when you set your mind to it. 

Before Sunday, take inventory of how you feel. Has your life become richer in some way because you chose to fast from something that may not be serving you?

Are you more at peace? Do you feel better physically, mentally, spiritually, and/or emotionally?

Periodically, it’s important to “check-in” and look at what is, and isn’t working, in your life.

This does not need to be involved and take lots of time.

When you are finished with your assessment, decide what makes sense for you moving forward.

It’s always good to simply name (what you did) and notice (how it has changed your life). You may not notice any difference, and that’s okay.

If you have, you may choose to continue the fast you’ve been on, at least to some degree.

For those of you who have been actively doing something different, instead of fasting, you may choose to continue your new habit.

Need help creating a plan to stay the course? Send me an email and we’ll set up a call.

My focus has been to embrace the habit of generosity. I plan to continue this, as it creates more happiness for all those involved. It’s fun to think of creative ways to be generous, and there is always room for improvement.

If you’d like to check out The Generosity Habit by Matthew Kelly and discover lots of ways to practice generosity, here’s a link to his book.

The Generosity Habit

Forest Bathing

As we celebrate Easter, spring, and new life, you may like to try nature or forest bathing.

Hint: You won’t need soap and water for this type of bath.

Forest bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and social health

In Japan, the practice of immersing oneself in the forest is called Shinrin-yoku. This method of stress reduction has been practiced for centuries, though it was only given a name in 1982.

Forest bathing helps diminish anxiety and depression, boosts immunity, improves heart and lung health, and is known to increases focus, concentration, and memory.

Spending time in Nature is good for body, mind, and soul.

You may not be able to hide in the woods for days, however you can probably find time to take a walk on a quiet path. Leave all the electronics behind so that you are fully immersed in the experience.

I wish you and your family a blessed Easter. Oh, and careful not to over-indulge on the chocolate bunnies.

Much love,
Health Coach Carol

“He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less.” – C. S. Lewis 

Making Memories: Ways to delay, lessen severity of Alzheimer’s, dementia

(The following article was written for the November 2018 issue of Get Healthy magazine, a publication of The Northwest Indiana Times.)

Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a subject that hits close to home.

My mom died of it at age 86 after what was about 20 years of progressive symptoms, the last decade or so in a care facility.

Having a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling) puts me at increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s. And though causes are myriad and treatment complicated, there are things I can do to at least delay the symptoms.

Dementia is a general umbrella term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is a progressive decline of cognitive memory over a period of time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. There are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible. 

The Alzheimer’s Association 2018 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures report states: more than 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s; irreversible, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States; women are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s than men, comprising two-thirds of the patients.

Sarah Milligan, Care Consultant NW Indiana, Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter, states “Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis that the Alzheimer’s Association is poised to address at all levels, in Indiana and nationwide.  We are the 3rd largest funder of research behind the U.S. and Chinese governments.  The Association has $161 million invested across 25 countries working on a solution.  Indiana currently has 7 active awards totaling $1.8 million.”

According to Dr. Stuart Zola, a leading neuroscientist and an expert in the study of Alzheimer’s disease and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, a brain with advanced Alzheimer’s is smaller than a healthy brain. Cell function in the diseased brain is disrupted, keeping neurons from communicating and impairing normal cognitive function. Cognitive impairments—problems with language, memory, thinking, and judgment beyond typical age-related changes—are related to the development of abnormal protein deposits in the brain. This typically develops gradually with the decline varying from person to person.

Risk factors

There are a number of risk factors, none of which mean that you are certain to get Alzheimer’s.

Starting with heredity, at least 27 genetic variations underlie Alzheimer’s. And though the presence of the gene apolipoprotein E e4 (APOE e4) linked to Alzheimer’s does not mean the person will get it, “those who have a mother, father or sibling with the disease, are at a 60 to 80 percent higher risk,” says Dr. Jaswinder Singh, Neuropsychologist at Mid-America Psychological and Counseling services, with offices in Merrillville and Munster.

That said, age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, showing up in the largest numbers after 60-65. The Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures report states that one in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s dementia.

“Head trauma may possibly exacerbate the disease in those who are already prone,” states Dr. Singh.

“Alzheimer’s is greater among the illiterate, making the case for intellectual activity. The theory behind this is that when we learn, we lay down more networks and connections in the brain. The more layering that occurs, the better equipped we are to fend off the effects of the disease.” Dr. Zola notes, “There is still memory loss, however the person has more reserve to draw from.”

Dr. Singh suggests that those who have an increased risk take a simple baseline assessment at age 50-55, and repeat the test every two to three years. He is firm in his belief that none of us needs to be afraid of doing this, since the earlier a correct diagnosis can be made, the better for the patient and their loved ones.

Disease links

According to Dr. Zola, numerous health risks increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. For one, metabolic syndrome, including obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar levels, and high triglycerides, contribute but can be controlled with diet and exercise.

Chronically elevated blood sugars (and blood insulin) seem to increase inflammation, as well as influence the size/development of the hippocampus, a brain structure essential to learning and memory. “There are many similarities in the brains of people with diabetes and Alzheimer’s,” says Dr. Zola.

Diagnosis

The Alzheimer’s Association states: “While most changes in the brain that cause dementia are permanent and worsen over time, thinking and memory problems caused by the following conditions may improve when the condition is treated or addressed: depression, medication side effects, excess use of alcohol, thyroid problems, and vitamin deficiencies.”

When it comes to diagnosing Alzheimer’s, Dr. Singh offers simple tests that assess whether the symptoms are those of depression, anxiety, medication related, or actually Alzheimer’s. Especially with males, a change in personality may indicate the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Other clues are: word finding difficulty, agitation or confusion that occurs around sunset, and loss of short-term memory.

Dr. Singh states, “As we age, it is normal to forget conversations, names of people, the name of that movie we saw last week, or the restaurant we dined in. That’s what we refer to as episodic memory.”

Dr. Zola says, “If we are wondering if we have Alzheimer’s, we’re probably fine. It’s when our family wonders and we aren’t aware of a problem, that there could be one.”

Ounce of prevention

Now that you know what you’re up against, there are some things you can do.

According to Dr. Singh, “Non-interrupted, restful sleep is one of the most important components of our lives and one which we often neglect. It is critical to rule out sleep apnea in those who snore or are overweight, since long-term untreated sleep apnea can lead to mild cognitive impairment. If you have sleep apnea, use a CPAP machine.” Power napping for a maximum of 20-30 minutes is beneficial, especially if you get 6 hours or less a night. Dr. Singh suggests developing good sleep habits: go to bed the same time each night; no TV in the bedroom; and couples may consider sleeping in separate rooms if one is restless, snores, or gets up several times a night, disturbing the other.

Change your diet to one that reduces inflammation, such as the Mediterranean diet. This includes foods that are rich in antioxidants, B vitamins, anti-inflammatory fats, plant nutrients, and lean protein. Think multicolored vegetables, fruits, olive oil, nuts, fish, poultry, eggs, herbs, and spices. Dr. Singh recommends eating fish three times per week, cooking with turmeric and ginger, consuming lots of fruits and vegetables that are dark blue, dark green, and dark red, and cutting out three white foods: sugar, salt and white flour. He believes that the Mediterranean way of eating is best for everyone. 

Exercise. Individuals who exercised one hour, three times a week for three months increased cerebral blood flow, enhanced memory, lowered blood pressure, and increased development of nervous tissue. Any activity—cooking, gardening, and walking—helps. “Even a 10-minute walk three days a week will increase blood flow in the frontal temporal region of the brain,” reports Dr. Singh.

Another big factor is social engagement. Those who are closely connected to others, have confidants, and solid people skills, can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Learn new skills such as a foreign language or music, try new hobbies, and challenge yourself. Dr. Singh suggests that everyone follow the “twenty-second rule,” wherever they are, whatever their cognitive ability. “Before you leave your home, the restaurant, my office, take twenty seconds to scan the area to make sure you have all your belongings. It keeps you sharp, and you’re not running out the door and back in again to grab your car keys.”

Manage your stress by meditating, relaxing, having fun, being positive, spending time outdoors. Don’t smoke. Be mindful of alcohol use. While some people believe that doing crossword puzzles help prevent Alzheimer’s, Dr. Singh reminds us that those puzzles tap into long-term memory, not the short-term memory that is affected by the disease.

Sarah Milligan states, “With the current number of those affected and those who will be affected based on the present disease trajectory, everyone will know some one who has the disease. This is why it is so important for everyone to understand what Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is, the warning signs, and their potential risk of developing the disease. Especially given strong and growing evidence that maintenance and management of physical health and lifestyle factors is impactful in reducing risk.”

Note: Dr. Singh’s book, “How to Keep Your Memory Sharp in Old Age,” will be available early 2019.

10 Random Tips for Today

Here are 10 interesting tips for you. Perhaps at least one of them will help you have a happier day.

  1. As we age, the amount of acid in our stomach decreases. Drink most of your water between meals, and drink only minimal amounts (8 oz. or less) while eating, to aid in swallowing. This will improve digestion and help to avoid bloating and nutrient malabsorption. Eating slowly, spending about 20 minutes to enjoy your meal, chewing thoroughly, and being relaxed, will also help with healthy digestion.

 

  1. Father Mike Schmitz’ Bible in a Year hit the #1 podcast on iTunes for 2 consecutive years. Listeners are of every religious denomination, as well as atheists. In case you’d like to see the recent CBS clip about it, Here’s the link. This podcast may offer hope to you or someone you know. 

 

  1. In last week’s blog post, I mentioned that I was trying a sleep mask. I’ve decided that it does improve my sleep quality and have continued using it. Increasing melatonin with the darkness is a good thing.

 

  1. Easter is just a little over a week away. For those of you who assemble Easter baskets for loved ones, it’s time to begin collecting those special treats. If you need to mail them, best to do so sooner than later for on-time arrival.

 

  1. A generosity challenge: next time you enjoy a meal out, over tip your exceptional server and make his or her day. Notice how you feel when you do.

 

  1. Increasing your steps by 1,000 in a day, no matter how many you typically do, benefits your health. And don’t feel pressured to hit that 10,000 number. If you are currently doing about 3,000 and hit 4,000, that’s a win! Take the stairs, walk during a 5 or 10-minute work break, vacuum, park farther away from your destination.

 

  1. If your climate is still unpredictable and you have gardening fever, pansies like cold weather and would probably survive a big chill. 

 

  1. Have some goals but not feeling motivated to move toward achieving them? Take action first in order to drive your behavior. Even doing a little something builds positive momentum.  Here’s a worksheet to help you.

 

  1. Scheduling specific times to enjoy a serving of “junk food” may prevent binge eating and lead to long-term success when it comes to practicing a lifestyle of healthy eating. You don’t need to eat perfectly 100% of the time to make progress. Food restriction may lead to anxiety and stress. Work your way to eating nutritionally dense food 70% to 80% of the time and you’ll probably be in your happy place.

 

  1. Success is showing up. Congratulations!

Much love,
Health Coach Carol

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”– Arthur Ashe