Why Women Are More Likely To Get Autoimmune Diseases

Did you know that autoimmune diseases are much more prevalent in women? Since 75% of autoimmune diseases affect women and 25% affect men, it seems likely that estrogen is involved in some way. Let’s review what we know.

We know that estrogen affects the immune system, because all immune cells have estrogen receptors and these hormones also encourage your immune cells to begin to make too many antibodies.
The role of estrogen in autoimmune diseases has been well studied in women with lupus, where research has shown that birth control pills and post menopausal hormone replacement therapy (both of which increase the estrogen in a body) increased the risk of lupus.
Also, women are less likely to get lupus after menopause, when estrogen levels decrease. Symptoms of lupus are also worst when estrogen levels climb, for example, during the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.
We’re beginning to understand that there are different kinds of estrogens in the body and they each have different effects on your cells and health. The idea that toxic  estrogen metabolites made in the liver could be responsible for triggering lupus or making it worse has been supported by many human clinical observation studies and experimental animal studies.
What can you do to help your liver make “good” estrogens, instead of “bad”? Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Eat plenty of cruciferous veggies.  
Some good ones to include: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, and brussels sprouts.
2. Add ground flax seeds to your diet. 
I usually recommend 1 to 2 tbsp. each day sprinkled in granola, yogurt, or breakfast smoothie.
3. Avoid pesticides.  
they contain chemicals that act like “bad” estrogen when they enter your body.  These are called xenoestrogens.  Eat organic when possible, and don’t use pesticides on your lawn or in your house
4. Consider supplements. 
You can take a supplement called Indole-3-Carbinole (I-3-C), or Diindolylmethane (DIM) to help your liver make the “good” estrogen.
5. Get hard data. 
You can get a simple urine test to look at your different estrogen metabolites, and then change your diet and/or take supplements to improve your levels.  This is helpful for preventing and treating not only autoimmune diseases, but breast cancer, too. This approach is reviewed in detail in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan:  A Doctor’s 4-Step Program for Treating Autoimmune Disease.

What Everyone Should Know About Thyroid Disease

Have you noticed that many people you know have been diagnosed as having a low functioning thyroid, or hypothyroidism? And have you also noticed that they all have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease?

The conventional approach is to prescribe thyroid hormone medication, and this has become so common that no one really thinks twice about it. However, taking the medication does nothing to address the Hashimoto’s and what might be causing it. This is very familiar to me, because 14 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I made it my mission to find the cause and cure the disease. Within one year, my Hashimoto’s was gone.

In the last decade, I’ve become more concerned because this problem seems to be affecting our children now, too. More and more of my patients are bringing their kids in to see me because they’ve recently been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. We’re experiencing a startling increase in the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s in all age groups, so I wanted to share some valuable information on treatment options.

What is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

This disease occurs when the thyroid gland tissue becomes inflamed and damaged because the immune system produces damaging antibodies that attack the gland. Think of it as having an allergy to yourself; thus the word autoimmune. For a long time, the thyroid gland itself might function just fine, making its hormones despite the inflammation.

Eventually, though, the gland becomes damaged, and the thyroid starts to fail — then comes the diagnosis of hypothyroidism and a prescription for hormone replacement. From a functional medicine perspective, you can prevent the need for medication if you fix the autoimmune issue before the thyroid gland becomes irreversibly damaged.

There is another autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid, called Grave’s disease. With Grave’s disease, antibodies actually stimulate the gland, causing hyperthyroidism. Again, in functional medicine, we approach the treatment for Grave’s the same as with Hashimoto’s.

In order to cure this disease, we first need to look at what causes the problem at the root. Here are the three most common causes of Hashimoto’s:

1. The thyroid gland gets damaged from toxins.

These can include mercury from fish and silver fillings, and pesticides in food and on your lawn. The thyroid is very sensitive to these toxins and absorbs them very easily, causing an immune attack on the gland. To treat this, you must detoxify your body and your environment.

2. Gluten triggers an immune reaction that produces antibodies that cross react and target your thyroid gland.

There are many studies looking at the association between gluten and Hashimoto’s. Gluten also damages the gut lining and can cause malabsorption of essential nutrients, like selenium, needed to protect the thyroid gland from damage. To treat this easily, remove gluten from your diet.

3. Due to poor digestive health, the immune system becomes dysfunctional.

Seventy percent of the immune system is in the intestinal lining and an overgrowth of harmful microbes like yeast, bad bacteria and parasites can cause the immune system to “misfire.” It then makes a mistake and damages tissues at distant locations in the body, such as the thyroid. There is also an important relationship between stress and microbial overgrowth. Fixing the immune system by healing the gut is an important part of the program.

In my medical practice and in my book, The Immune System Recovery Plan, we work through these steps to cure the Hashimoto’s and all autoimmune diseases. I know it can be done, because I did it for myself. Today I feel better than ever and am committed to sharing this treatment program with as many people as possible. Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease are both indeed, curable.

Fibromyalgia: What It Is & How To Heal

 

Do you ache all over? Are you tired? Can’t sleep? You might have fibromyalgia, and the good news is: you can heal your body with nutrition!

Fibromyalgia affects major control areas of the body and can manifest as a myriad of seemingly unrelated symptoms. People have widespread pain in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue areas. In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia also suffer from digestive problems and insomnia.
The cause of fibromyalgia is uncertain. Some cases are caused by a physical or emotional trauma from which the individual has not healed. There’s a dysfunction in the way the central nervous system processes pain, leading to increased pain and increased stress.
Fibromyalgia is usually associated with periods of high stress, insomnia, hypervigilance, anxiety and worrying. Energy depletion causes health problems and health problems cause energy depletion, thus making causation difficult to determine without a holistic perspective.
Conditions of fibromyalgia include:
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Pelvic pain
  • Food reactivities
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
Research indicates that individuals with fibromyalgia exhibit cellular mitochondrial dysfunction and therefore their body does not have enough energy to carry out all actions.
Additionally, dysfunction of the hypothalamus, a brain region that requires high amounts of energy, results in hormonal, sleep, and autonomic control issues.
Reduced muscular energy creates shortening and pain that can often prevent deep sleep. Consequently, disrupted sleep contributes to the muscle pain and inability to clear away inflammation.
Individuals with fibromyalgia have symptoms, including:
  • Muscle stiffness upon waking, pain eases throughout the day, pain worsens at night.
  • Cognitive decline
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Fatigue
  • TMJ
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Tooth grinding
How Is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is typically diagnosed if the individual has experienced widespread body pain for three months and demonstrates pain at 11 of 18 tender points on the body.
These points are located on the shoulders, neck, chest, rib cage, buttocks, lower back, shins, knees, thighs, and elbows.
How is fibromyalgia treated?
The allopathic approach to fibromyalgia is to treat with antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anti-seizure drugs, sleeping pills, and pain medications such as anti-inflammatories, and even opiates for severe cases.
Physicians may also use exercise and behavior therapy in conjunction with medications. The allopathic belief is that fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder and that patients will deal with their pain and symptoms for the rest of their life.
Doctors believe healing is unlikely, although may recommend eating a “healthy” diet, avoiding caffeine if they have trouble sleeping, and getting plenty of sleep. The patients will also have to remain on medication permanently in order to treat the symptoms.
Unfortunately, the patients exhibit disabling psychological effects from the psychotherapeutic drugs and heavily addictive and toxic opiate pain relievers. Often, the people will not be able to be contributing members of society. They will fall into a depression, stay at home, and live in an environment unfit for healing.
What does the holistic approach do differently?
Thankfully, there is hope for individuals suffering from fibromyalgia. The integrative approach to healing is to look for underlying causes of the pain and correct them with diet and lifestyle changes.
Lifestyle changes include stress management techniques like acupuncture, massage, meditation, journaling, deep breathing, etc.
Healing through nutrition is also a key facet of the integrative approach to fibromyalgia. Balancing nutrients and hormones while reducing inflammation is the underlying foundation of all healing therapies.
Another idea is to consider supplements. Nutritional deficiencies, especially B12, iron, CoQ10, and magnesium are common in individuals with fibromyalgia or similar conditions. Without proper nutrients, mitochondria are less efficient at producing energy. Nutritional testing and organic acid test can help understand the client’s nutritional needs.
Increasing sun exposure is another good idea because Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread health issue and is especially prevalent in individuals with fibromyalgia.
Sensitivities should also be assessed in a holistic treatment. Consider factors such as nutritional sensitivities, toxicity, yeast infections, parasites, and food/environmental.
Testing for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, adrenal and hormonal saliva tests, food allergy testing, and heavy metal toxicity may all provide insight into a client’s symptoms and help develop a healing protocol that will target the underlying causes of the client’s pain.

11 Things You Need To Know Today (December 2)

1. Demi Lovato’s #Confident Confessions video is for the fans.

After the release of her hit song “Confident,” Demi Lovato invited her fans to share what makes them feel confident. The results are heartwarming and inspiring. (Refinery29)

2. The first certified organic fast food restaurant opens in Northern California.

The Organic Coup serves chicken breast (fried in organic coconut oil, of course) on salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Though there’s only one location now, the brand is hoping to open up 25 new stores next year. (Co.Exist)

3. A woman received a fat-shaming card on a London train. WTF?

While riding the Tube on Monday, a young woman named Kara Florish reported on Twitter that she was handed a card with the word “Fat” written across the front and a long decree against “fat, ugly human[s]” on the back. (mbg)

4. New diabetes cases have finally started to fall.

The rate declined by about a fifth from 2008 to 2014 — the first big drop in about 25 years. Although the news is encouraging, experts say they aren’t sure if it’s thanks to public health efforts or because the disease has simply peaked in the population. (NYT)

5. A new Tumblr captures the last message people received from loved ones.

A 15-year-old student launched The Last Message Received, a Tumblr where users can anonymously submit and talk about their last exchanges with people. (mbg)

6. Despite industry statements to the contrary, doctors say it’s never safe to use crib bumpers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has advised parents not to use any crib bumpers (not even breathable ones), though they are still available in stores. The logic? Any injury caused by a hard surface will likely not be fatal, while crib bumpers can easily cause fatality. (CNN)

7. Salt content to appear on restaurant menus today.

Chain restaurants in New York City are now required to list the sodium content of dishes if more than 2,300 milligrams. The National Restaurant Association plans to sue the New York Department of Health, claiming it’s an attack on small businesses. (Politico)

8. Women’s Running Magazine’s new cover girl is a runner with autism and epilepsy.

Kiley Lyall, a 24-year-old runner, was chosen from more than 4,000 submissions to grace the cover of this month’s issue. (mbg)

9. Cannabis coffee K-cups might be a thing.

Canada’s medical marijuana supplier, CannTrust, has applied for a license to sell the popular coffee pods laced with cannabis. (Eater)

10. Can an aspirin a day keep the doctor away?

Aspirin has long been credited for preventing cancer and heart disease, and now a new study found that it can add Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s to the list. (Medical News Today)

11. Young adults who exercise regularly might live longer.

According to a new study, higher levels of fitness in early adulthood were associated with lower risks for cardiovascular disease and lower death rates. (JAMA)

What I Wish Everyone Knew About Endometriosis

Imagine a disease that takes about eight years to diagnose after visiting five different doctors. A disease that feels like you’re going through labor, but which you have to endure every month (or for some unlucky women, every day). A disease that family members and doctors tend to brush aside as “just” menstrual cramps—or worse, suggest the pain is “all in her head.” It’s an invisible disease that few feel comfortable discussing; it can interfere with all aspects of life, and can lead to a loss of fertility.

Of the women I meet through my online support group, some endured pelvic pain for more than 20 years before finally receiving a correct diagnosis of endometriosis, and often that’s only the first step. It can sometimes take years and multiple failed treatments before a woman finally receives the care she needs to relieve her of her pain.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a disease that few have heard of yet it affects millions of women worldwide. It’s observed when areas of tissue that are somewhat similar to the endometrium (the lining of the womb) are found in places outside the womb. The most common location is the peritoneum, a saran-like wrap which lines the pelvic cavity (the space that houses the uterus, ovaries, tubes, bladder and intestines).

This “rogue” tissue is stimulated by the body’s hormones, and the immune system responds by producing inflammation and swelling, which can cause severe pain, scarring and adhesions (where organs and other structures in the pelvis stick together).

Endometriosis does not discriminate against age, career choice, or ethnic background.

An estimated 1 in 10 women have this disease and come from all walks of life. The cause is unknown, although there are theories in abundance, some more imaginative than others. What we do know is that:

  • Symptoms can affect women of all ages, despite prior pregnancy and even post-menopause.
  • The disease tends to run in families
  • The locations in which it’s found follow specific patterns, suggesting a possible origin during development of the embryo. (In fact, one studyexamining the pelvises of 101 stillborn infant females reported endometriosis in just under 10%.)

Many believe this is an acquired disease, but evidence is growing in favor of a developmental origin, meaning that the disease is there all along, way before the onset of symptoms.

In any case, the puzzle is far from complete.

While this disease can cause severe pain, pain and the disease are not the same thing.

Some women have extensive disease, yet only mild symptoms, while others have minimal disease and crippling pain. Until now, we do not know how or why this is. Something we do know is that pelvic pain can have many origins, so solving one problem may not solve all aspects of the patient’s pain.

Keyhole excision surgery to remove all areas of endometriosis is an effective treatment for many women, often resulting in long-lasting relief without recurrence. It is regarded as the “gold standard” of endometriosis treatment. Unfortunately, only a few surgeons around the world offer this surgery and have the skill to treat all forms of the disease, so not all patients are lucky enough to access effective surgery.

For those for whom excision surgery is not available or who have persistent pain despite surgery and other medical therapies, other lifestyle changes may help moderate symptoms and give the woman a sense of control over her situation.

Lifestyle changes can help manage the pain.

Many patients with endometriosis explore dietary changes, take part in support groups to share and gain emotional support, and explore various forms of relaxation and alternative therapies, such as yoga, massage, reiki, acupuncture and meditation. While the pain is very real and has a biological origin, the experience of pain and the ability to deal with it can often be moderated in various ways. Alternative therapies and lifestyle changes will not make the disease go away, but they may make living with this disease easier.

Reducing stress and improving overall mental and physical well-being help us to deal with life’s trials and tribulations, including the burden of suffering from a debilitating and often chronic condition.

While in my case, surgical excision of the disease has brought about a vast improvement, when I previously suffered from pain I’d find that what helped the most was distraction, such as going for a rigorous run or a bike ride in the rain.

When the pain was at its worst, however, the best I could do was apply heat, try to relax, breathe deeply, and allow my mind to go some place else; a peaceful, tranquil, safe place as removed as possible from my immediate experience.

For women reading this who are experiencing pelvic pain: while this pain is common, it is not normal.

Often people mistakenly think that something so common must be normal. If your pain is interfering with your daily activities, seek the help of your doctor and be persistent until you get the help you need. You are not to blame for your pain and you are not alone in feeling the way you do. Women all around the world, from all walks of life are dealing with the same problem.

You can be your best advocate by taking the time to research your symptoms, keeping track of them in a pain diary, and finding the best care available to you. There are effective treatments for this disease and even in cases of severe endometriosis there is hope for help and relief.

Another way of taking back control of your situation is by exploring both medical and alternative therapies to achieve the best quality of life you can. Remember: it’s your body and your decision as to which treatments you choose. You and your doctor are a team and should work together in deciding upon the best treatment for you.

Lastly, if you have the courage to do so, turn this experience into something positive by educating others (your friends, family, and physicians) about this misunderstood disease so that other girls and women need not suffer in silence and can live out their dreams.

For more information, visit:

7 Signs You Could Be Suffering From Depression

It’s normal to go through a number of ups and downs over the course of our lives, but it’s important to recognize when you’re feeling something more serious.

In our society, the way we talk about these “down” moments says a lot about what we expect from people when they’re feeling this way. “Be strong,” “Keep moving,” “Choose hope,” “Never give up.” We’re often expected to make the best of a bad situation, but what if the solution isn’t so easy?

For those who are suffering from depression, it’s more than just feelings of temporary sadness. If you identify with several of the following signs, you should consider getting screened for depression this National Depression Screening Day, October 9:

1. Your sleeping habits are far from healthy.

Those with depression often first consult their doctor because of sleeping disturbances they’ve experienced. These can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or even sleeping throughout the day.

2. You can’t concentrate.

Individuals who are depressed often report difficulty with focusing when giving or receiving direction, comprehending what they’re reading, and an inability to remember specific details.

3. You feel hopeless.

Although feelings of hopelessness are common among individuals with clinical depression, they can be some of the most difficult feelings to experience. This can include feelings of dissatisfaction, failure, and a belief that nothing will get better.

4. Your eating habits have changed.

Individuals with depression often experience a distinct change in their eating habits. Some lose their appetite completely and experience dramatic weight loss, while others feel like they can’t stop eating.

5. Your tolerance level is low.

You feel like everyone and everything is getting on your nerves. Agitation and a short temper are common feelings of those with depression.

6. You feel worthless.

Depression can increase your feelings of self-loathing, worthlessness and guilt. Depression can make you extremely self-critical for real or perceived mistakes.

7. You have unexplained aches and pains.

Depression is very much a physical reality as well as a mental one. You may notice an increase in muscle aches, headaches, and back or stomach pain.

Depression can cause the same amount of pain, can interfere with your daily life, and most importantly, can be treated just like physical illnesses can. If you think you may be suffering from depression, take the first step toward healing with a free, anonymous depression screening here.

Why I’ve Been A Surrogate Mother Three Times (It Wasn’t Just For The Money)

In our new Realtalk series, we’re sharing personal stories about fertility and family planning. We hope they offer support and inspire honest conversation about an incredibly tough topic.

I am a faith-based person, and I believe that God puts us on this earth to serve one another in some capacity. I enjoy helping others with what I can: I’ve given a kidney to a cousin, and I became an egg donor in 1999.

And so when, in 2006, I started learning more about surrogacy, I felt a similar calling. It seemed like an important way to help a family in need. And as a mother of four myself, I understood the parents’ deep desire for a child.

But when I first discussed becoming a surrogate with my husband, his initial response was no. In fact, it took me about a year and a half to get him to agree. That’s because at first he simply didn’t understand the different types of surrogacy.

There are two ways a woman can become a surrogate. The first is a traditional surrogate (TS). A TS uses her own eggs and carries the baby, so the baby is genetically related to her. The second option is a gestational surrogate (GS). A GS doesn’t use any of her own genetic material, so there’s no biological relationship between the baby and the surrogate. She’s solely the carrier.

Personally, I felt traditional surrogacy wasn’t for me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry around a child genetically related to me that I wouldn’t be keeping.

So after I explained the option of gestational surrogacy, my husband agreed. And in 2008, at the age of 33, I started my first surrogacy journey.

I knew that even though I was nurturing these babies, they weren’t really mine.

I’ve now completed three successful surrogacy journeys. And each one started with a similar grueling process: extensive medical screening consisting of general medical health, ultrasound scans, reproductive health screening, and STD tests for both my husband and me. We also had to complete a psychological evaluation, including a personality assessment and a consultation with a psychologist.

Once I was cleared medically and psychologically, we then moved on to the legal agreements, which are completed by a reproductive attorney.

The specifics vary from state to state, but these contracts generally go into extreme detail about what the parents and the surrogate can and can’t do during pregnancy (for example, some surrogates have travel restrictions or are required to abstain from sex during certain time periods, including about three weeks after the egg transfer), the rights and responsibilities regarding the child, and of course, the compensation. Compensation varies widely, but a surrogate can expect to receive up to $50,000, depending on the situation. The future parents cover all the expenses, every medical appointment, medication and attorney fees, as well as the surrogate’s compensation.

One thing I think it’s important to note is that money was never the driving factor for me. Unfortunately, there are people who feel that anyone who chooses to be a surrogate is desperate for money. I can’t speak for everyone, but that was never the case for me. I’m a highly educated woman with an MBA. I felt that this was the right decision for me.

Overall, that screening and legal process took about three months per child.

Three Different Families, Three Different Blessings

When I first started researching families to work with, I knew I wanted to work with a couple in the Atlanta area, where I live. But there was no local surrogacy agency at the time. So I decided to find the parents on my own and landed upon a classified ads website that listed parents seeking surrogates.

I also decided from the beginning that I wanted to help a family who didn’t have any children already. But besides this, each of the families I ended up working with were unique in their own way.

The first couple was a heterosexual couple and the intended mother was a cancer survivor. My second couple was also a heterosexual couple, but the intended mother had life-threatening medical issues that prevented her from carrying a baby. My last couple was a same-sex couple.

For the first couple, we had to try three different times due to embryo quality. The third cycle resulted in the successful delivery of twin girls. For my second couple we also had to attempt three cycles, with the last attempt resulting in a healthy boy. My final couple, in 2014, was successful on the first try with a healthy baby girl.

All three experiences were true blessings that will live with me forever.

 

I have four children of my own, three boys and one girl. But I learned that, for me, the surrogacy pregnancies felt much different. I knew that even though I was nurturing these babies, they weren’t really mine.

When each of the babies I delivered was born, I truly didn’t feel a loss. Instead, I was elated that I had been able to do this for these families. The joy I felt was indescribable.

All the parents were present for the births. They were able to see their babies being born, and the dads cut the cords. All three experiences were true blessings that will live with me forever.

What I Wish More People Knew About Surrogacy

In 2008, I decided to form my own third-party reproduction agency, which later evolved into Family Inceptions International in 2013. As I mentioned, there had been no surrogacy agencies in the state of Georgia when I started. But I knew there were many people in the area, like me, who wanted to work with a local agency.

I also wanted to provide an experience that was as physically, psychologically, and financially stress-free as possible. And because I have served as both an egg donor and a surrogate, I knew I could share my firsthand knowledge with surrogates, egg donors, and intended parents. I’m truly proud of the work I’ve done.

But that doesn’t mean I think surrogacy is the right choice for everyone. I think it’s important to stress that if you’re considering becoming a surrogate, you can’t rush your decision. You have to be 100 percent comfortable with your choice: You’ll be carrying and delivering a baby — but you will have no say in any decision pertaining to that child.

You must be emotionally OK with the eventual separation. This is not your child. Personally, I suffered no emotional setbacks or postpartum depression. But this isn’t the case for everyone.

It’s also vital to remember that surrogacy is a family affair — everybody is involved directly or indirectly. If you have children, you’ll need to talk to them and explain that mommy is going to have a baby but that the baby won’t be coming home. During my second surrogacy, my youngest son told complete strangers, “Mommy is having someone else’s baby, because their mom’s belly is broken and my mom’s isn’t!”

And of course, your partner has to be on board with this decision. After all, he’ll be required to do testing, psychological evaluations, and sign legal contracts as well. Not to mention, he’ll be helping you throughout the pregnancy.

Surrogacy isn’t perfect. There are also potential struggles that you should be prepared for. For example, I had to take my first set of intended parents to court because they failed to pay some medical bills. I also ended up with Bell’s palsy after that first pregnancy. On the other hand, my second and third surrogacy journeys were joyous. In fact, I’m still very close to the parents. I speak to them often, and even get to see the babies from time to time.

You can’t always predict what will happen. But I wouldn’t trade the amazing feeling of surrogacy for anything.

My Son Has A Mental Illness. Here’s The Conversation I Wish We Were Having About Mass Shootings

On the night of the latest mass shooting, I made beef stew and cinnamon rolls with my children. After dinner, we gathered on the living room floor to play Haikubes, a poetry game where players compose haikus with prompts from rolled dice. We laughed uproariously at each other’s silly poetry.

After I put my children to bed, I turned on the news. That newscast could have been the same one I watched on April 20, 1999, or July 20, 2012, or December 14, 2012, or September 16, 2013, or May 23, 2014, or June 17, 2015. And these are only the most deadly of the numerous mass shootings that have played out on our screens since Columbine.

As the mother of a teenager who has bipolar disorder, a mother who once worried about my own son’s violent behavior, I see mass shootings differently. I see promises broken, a society that has failed to help our most vulnerable.

Nothing has changed since Newtown, since Columbine. This is the price of our silence. I see the price of our silence around mental illness, and worse, the price of our collective failure to act. In the inevitable connection of mental illness to these incomprehensible acts of violence, I also see stigma — the perpetuation of fear and ignorance that leads to ongoing and pervasive discrimination against families like mine.

I see mass shootings differently. I see promises broken, a society that has failed to help our most vulnerable.

As a nation, we only speak about mental illness within the context of these horrific national tragedies. And yet consider these facts:

  • Mass shootings constitute a very small percentage of overall gun violence. Some stats put it at less than 1%.
  • When treated, people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general public. In fact, they are more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.
  • The largest percentage of deaths by gun violence in America are suicides, at60%.

There’s currently a bipartisan bill in Congress, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” which would provide vastly expanded treatment options for people with serious mental illness. It would clarify confusing privacy laws and end arbitrary restrictions on hospital beds and days of treatment.

We would never tell someone with cancer that they could only spend 180 days in residential treatment — but that is exactly what we tell people with serious mental illness. People blame parents and say we should have gotten help for our children before it became too late. But what they don’t understand is that we can’t get help for our kids. In most cases, it simply does not exist.

In the face of sorrow, we must learn to embrace the stranger. We must choose hope.

Opponents of mental health reform speak about patients’ rights. As a mother of a teenager who has bipolar disorder — and whose treatment has restored him to a life of mainstream school and friends — I ask, what about the right to treatment?

Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are largely diseases that affect the young. By failing to provide early interventions and timely treatments, we’re condemning too many bright young people to a life in prison, or on the streets.

Timely treatment could have helped Chris Mercer, and all the notorious young men who preceded him in committing senseless violent acts. Mercer apparently blogged about people who are “all alone and unknown,” people like him. What could we have done to help him?

We have a duty to speak up. When we see someone suffering, we should help. If a friend or a loved one’s behavior suddenly changes, if he or she becomes hostile, suspicious, or pushes us away, we should push back and seek help. With early intervention and treatment, many people who have mental illness can live happy, productive lives.

In the face of sorrow, we must learn to embrace the stranger. We must choose hope.

DIY Foot Reflexology: 7 Pressure Points To Relieve Seasonal Allergies

 

Has spring greeted you with sniffling, sneezing, congestion and runny, itchy eyes, nose and throat? Experts say that this allergy season is more intense than usual, dubbing as a “pollen tsunami,” especially in the Northeast.

After a long, wet winter, everything has seemingly bloomed all at once. Beautiful, yes, but if you have sensitivities to pollen like I do, you’re probably suffering from allergies right now.

Allergies are your immune system’s overreaction to pollens and other substances.

While they’re not necessarily dangerous, for those with asthma, allergies can trigger more serious reactions.

You may have also noticed that if you’re experiencing a lot of stress when allergy season arrives, the symptoms can worsen. Anything that relieves stress will therefore help reduce allergy symptoms.

So before you reach for those over-the-counter antihistamines that will often leave you feeling drowsy, plus other unpleasant side effects, there’s a powerful, natural way to find relief.

Reflexology calms the nervous system and transports you to a state of deep rest and relaxation by stimulating reflex points on your feet, hands, face and ears. There are thousands of nerves in these areas — 15,000 in your feet alone! This is why a reflexology session is so very soothing and nurturing, leaving you feeling clear and energized.

While releasing tension and stress, reflexology also affects your organs, glands and pretty much every other part of your body, because each part has its related pressure point/area on the feet, hands, face and ears.

The chart above indicates some reflex points/areas on the feet that when stimulated, will help you breathe easier. Using your thumb or index finger, simply press and hold for five seconds on each of these seven areas:

  • The sinuses (balls of the toes) open up clogged sinus cavities.
  • The pituitary or “master gland” (center of big toe) stimulates and balances hormone secretions of all other glands.
  • The thymus gland (upper inner edge of ball of foot) strengthens your immune system.
  • Your chest, lungs and bronchials (center of ball of foot) release congestion.
  • The solar plexus/diaphragm (under ball of foot at center) reduces stress and relaxes breathing.
  • Your adrenal glands (just above center of foot near inner edge) produce cortisone/cortisol to reduce inflammation. Adrenalin boosts your energy level, often depleted by allergy symptoms.
  • The ileocecal valve (lower outer edge of foot) regulates mucus production.

Stimulating these points will help to strengthen your immune system, balance the flow of your energy, promote overall wellness and benefit both seasonal allergies and chronic asthma.

You can also use the power of your mind to help you feel better, both during and after a reflexology session. It’s becoming more known that our thoughts and visualizations can have a direct affect on the world around us — and especially our bodies.

In the deep state of relaxation you experience during reflexology, you are very receptive to suggestions you give yourself — much like hypnosis. What a great opportunity to imagine yourself breathing easily and comfortably with clear sinuses!

For an even more powerful experience you can try an affirmation such as, “The Universe is providing me with ease, grace and an abundance of breath.”Since allergies are our body’s response to our environment, you could also use, “I am at peace and in harmony with my surroundings.”

Spring is such a beautiful time of renewal and new beginnings, so let’s spend these glorious days feeling great and breathing easier. Reflexology is a great tool to help you make the very best of the sweetest of seasons!

DIY Foot Reflexology: 7 Pressure Points To Relieve Seasonal Allergies

 

Has spring greeted you with sniffling, sneezing, congestion and runny, itchy eyes, nose and throat? Experts say that this allergy season is more intense than usual, dubbing as a “pollen tsunami,” especially in the Northeast.

After a long, wet winter, everything has seemingly bloomed all at once. Beautiful, yes, but if you have sensitivities to pollen like I do, you’re probably suffering from allergies right now.

Allergies are your immune system’s overreaction to pollens and other substances.

While they’re not necessarily dangerous, for those with asthma, allergies can trigger more serious reactions.

You may have also noticed that if you’re experiencing a lot of stress when allergy season arrives, the symptoms can worsen. Anything that relieves stress will therefore help reduce allergy symptoms.

So before you reach for those over-the-counter antihistamines that will often leave you feeling drowsy, plus other unpleasant side effects, there’s a powerful, natural way to find relief.

Reflexology calms the nervous system and transports you to a state of deep rest and relaxation by stimulating reflex points on your feet, hands, face and ears. There are thousands of nerves in these areas — 15,000 in your feet alone! This is why a reflexology session is so very soothing and nurturing, leaving you feeling clear and energized.

While releasing tension and stress, reflexology also affects your organs, glands and pretty much every other part of your body, because each part has its related pressure point/area on the feet, hands, face and ears.

The chart above indicates some reflex points/areas on the feet that when stimulated, will help you breathe easier. Using your thumb or index finger, simply press and hold for five seconds on each of these seven areas:

  • The sinuses (balls of the toes) open up clogged sinus cavities.
  • The pituitary or “master gland” (center of big toe) stimulates and balances hormone secretions of all other glands.
  • The thymus gland (upper inner edge of ball of foot) strengthens your immune system.
  • Your chest, lungs and bronchials (center of ball of foot) release congestion.
  • The solar plexus/diaphragm (under ball of foot at center) reduces stress and relaxes breathing.
  • Your adrenal glands (just above center of foot near inner edge) produce cortisone/cortisol to reduce inflammation. Adrenalin boosts your energy level, often depleted by allergy symptoms.
  • The ileocecal valve (lower outer edge of foot) regulates mucus production.

Stimulating these points will help to strengthen your immune system, balance the flow of your energy, promote overall wellness and benefit both seasonal allergies and chronic asthma.

You can also use the power of your mind to help you feel better, both during and after a reflexology session. It’s becoming more known that our thoughts and visualizations can have a direct affect on the world around us — and especially our bodies.

In the deep state of relaxation you experience during reflexology, you are very receptive to suggestions you give yourself — much like hypnosis. What a great opportunity to imagine yourself breathing easily and comfortably with clear sinuses!

For an even more powerful experience you can try an affirmation such as, “The Universe is providing me with ease, grace and an abundance of breath.”Since allergies are our body’s response to our environment, you could also use, “I am at peace and in harmony with my surroundings.”

Spring is such a beautiful time of renewal and new beginnings, so let’s spend these glorious days feeling great and breathing easier. Reflexology is a great tool to help you make the very best of the sweetest of seasons!