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Monday, March 31, 2008

the lowdown on D

Lately I've been fascinated by recent findings associated with the health benefits of Vitamin D. Called the "sunshine vitamin," it needs sunlight to do its magic. Most of us know that D plays a role in bone health, "milk for strong bones." (Vitamin D is not easy to get in foods which is why milk is fortified with it.) But evidence has been steadily emerging to tell us that D helps keep our immune system functioning properly and may help prevent the growth of cancer cells, too.
Now that we're all convinced sunlight is the equivalent of the modern day antichrist when it comes to the skin cancer prevention, we may have swung the pendulum too far. Less sunshine, less risk of skin cancer, yes, but too little sunshine and we have a greater risk of developing other types of cancers: breast and colon, for example. Autoimmune disorders may result from too little sunshine as well, such as multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Sunlight and Vitamin D may play a role in depression as well. Seasonal Affect Disorder, or SAD, is believed to occur when people get too little sunshine. It is especially prevalent in places like Alaska and Seattle. I believe my own depression was related to getting too little sun. I belong to a gym and for years got my primary workouts indoors. A few years ago, however, I went back to playing tennis (after long hiatus). My indoor gym workouts were replaced by sunshine supplemented workouts. Very quickly I found myself feeling much better: more energy, better moods, improved sleep patterns. I may not be getting the same quality workout, but I feel better and that quickly became more important to ME and my everyday functioning.

SAD experts recommend 15-30 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily as a natural "antidepressant." Take a morning walk, sit outside and read the paper or take your work break outside. Make it a part of your daily routine, for sunshine's sake. For a more detailed look at SAD, read here.

The Harvard School of Public Health's Nutrition Department publishes The Nutrition Source, a website talking about various health and nutrition topics. If you want to read more on Vitamin D, here is a good place to start. Their overview of guidelines and good stuff found in multi-vitamins can be read here.

And one more healthful offering: Oprah's experts, Drs. Oz and Roizen, put together an antiaging checklist which includes the recommendation to take 1000 units of D daily to keep us looking and feeling young. Dr. Oz was mentioned in a comment by Jeanne of knitresolution blogfame, sharing that he recommends splitting multi-vitamins and taking half in the morning and half in the evening to get maximum benefits.

Friday, March 28, 2008

supplements for suppleminds

I'm a fan of nutritional supplements. Each morning my bathroom vanity is populated by a colorful array of tablets and capsules ready to be gulped down with my morning glass of water. Breakfast first, as many vitamins and supplements don't work as well on an empty stomach. But which ones need to be taken on a full stomach and which ones work better on an empty stomach?

Figuring this out and which supplements to take for what problem often involves winding through a maze of internet sites. I want reputable, research based advice. I want to avoid unreliable claims from commercial sites, for example, that are trying to sell their product. I want to know what supplements have been researched and what the research says.

The University of Maryland Medical Center's Complementary and Alternative Medicine Index is a great resource that covers all the essential bases. Here you can browse specific supplements and herbs and find out how to take them, for what purpose, and at what recommended dose. Or you can start with a particular condition, such as Depression, and read about recommended nutritional strategies and alternative treatments (St John's Wort, for example). Supporting research references from peer reviewed journals are listed as well as potential complications and interactions with medications.

So what are some of my daily supplement choices? A multi-Vitamin for the broad spectrum approach. A B-complex for general life stress. Magnesium glycinate for the prevention of osteoporosis (my grandmother had it) and as a wind-down-to-sleep aid. Melatonin on nights when I have trouble falling asleep because my sleep cycle has been irregular (my preferred cure for "sunday night insommnia"). Fish oil for Omega-3 Fatty Acids because, as the UMM site tells me,

"Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation."

So what are your favorite nutritional supplements and why? Any preferred sites for researching alternative medicine?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

feeling prickly


for a prickly pear cactus margarita ... and with a little luck I'll be drinking one on the Riverwalk tomorrow. 87 degrees expected temps. I can feel that icy liquid already... Slurrrrrrrrrrrp!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

because one is never enough




Feeling the sunshine on my skin, having such beautiful nature around me, watching my kids play and explore, these are all a small slice of heaven in their own right. But.. having my kids playing far enough away from me that I can't hear "Mom! .. Mom! ... Mom !!!" Now, that, by goddess, is NIRVANA.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

if spring break could last til summer


this is where I'd be sitting. from now til june. in a cold spring fed river. searching for the perfect skipping stones. but spring break does not last til summer and i will have to content myself with a picture on my blog. sigh.

she doesn't look back


If you're an art lover, especially the kind you can wear, you will want to enter a fun contest and explore a couple of cool, artsy blogs. You could win a cool pendant, too. Start here at ebeckartist's blog. "e" will instruct you to view some fun artwork and pick your favorite saying from her friend allison's etsy site. My favorite was the forward looking little, star studded birdie, titled, "she doesn't look back." What's yours? Post it back here, too.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

four horsemen of marriage


One book I really, really like to recommend for couples, one that has helped me in my marriage, probably more than any other, one that my husband buys into (important) is The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PhD. It's very easy to understand. He uses very common everyday speak. Its largely research / outcome /evidence based advice (instead of touchy feely abstract unituitive bullshit that leaves readers feeling good after they finish but without any explicit tools to apply to their relationship to have any true lasting impact). The book deals quite a bit with anger and how the degree of anger can negatively impact a marriage, whether its externalized - such as yelling, stomping, having an affair; or internalized - stewing, turning away, silent treatment, self blame, martyrdom.

The portion in the book I refer to most often and use myself are the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" -- four things to strive daily to eliminate from your relationship:

1. criticism (i was a big abuser of this one, dh never criticized me, but I frequently would phrase things in a way that clearly says he is defective in this or that way, instead of phrasing it that i wish he would do this instead, or I would like it if we did this or that)
2. contempt (again, moi, always saying things with a shitty tone)
3. defensiveness (dh -- super defensive, no matter what I brought up he had an over reaction and we got lost in defending and counter defending)
4. stonewalling (shutting down verbally, refusing to talk, walking out or storming out, staying gone... again, hubby's schtick, he never wanted to talk about ANYTHING that smells of conflict)

Gottman has been doing research on marriages for more than twenty years, looking at what helps marriage last and what is associated with divorce. He's been able to predict what factors are most likely to bring a couple to divorce court and excessive anger is one at the top of the list. Myself, coming from a family with a lot of anger, I was often looking for validation that anger is healthy, anger is good to express. This book cut right through my justifications and helped me prioritize expressing my wants and preferences instead of my discontent. It helped show dh that disagreement is healthy. In fact, Gottman points out that marriage with the least amount of conflict are also at risk. Conflict is natural. Communicating in a healthy way isn't always natural and easy. In a world full of marriage books, this one is a keeper.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

spring back to energy savings

I'm ambivalent about daylight savings. I love the longer daylight in the summer months but I despise dark mornings. I love that extra hour in the fall, dread losing an hour of sleep in the spring. But, I embrace the good, tolerate the bad. I figure the government hacks know what they're doing, right? Wrong. Maybe.

I grew up with the idea that daylight savings was prompted to help the farmers get their work done. Nope. Energy conservation. The idea being we will all be outside more in the evening hours, turning on fewer lights. But a recent study done in the state of Indiana suggests the opposite. Why Indiana? Because until 2005 it was a county by county thing. Some counties abided by daylight savings, others didn't. (Now I get why they're called Hoosiers: Hoo let THAT happen?) The study found that post-daylight savings uniformity, Hoosiers used MORE energy than they did when they weren't turning their clocks back. Confused? Read about it
here. Basically, heating and cooling seems to be the culprit. We're supposed to be outside in the evening hours enjoying the extra daylight, right? But it turns out we're still inside sucking up more AC longer. Who woulda thunk? And in those dark mornings, we're turning up the heat to keep warm.

So my ambivalence meter has taken a shift toward the bah humbug side of the daylight savings debate. Back to the whimsical period when we didn't have to go around changing every single timepiece in the house and office, when we didn't miss a plane because we forgot to change our clocks, when we didn't have a convenient excuse for why we're late two monday mornings each year, when our sleep/wake cycles remained undisturbed. And think - we may never have a need to fiddle with that pesky digital display on our dashboards again! Yeah, I can go for that.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

women helping women


Inspiring. A program run by women for women, single moms receive training and job placement in higher paying and male dominated skills such as welding, pipe fitting, and copy machine repair. Where indicated, they receive psychological counseling. Better yet, supportive friendships are forged among these struggling moms so that they have each other to lean on. Read about it here. Or visit their website, Climb Wyoming. And thanks to my friend M for sending the link.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008