Monday, October 31, 2011

The Smart Way to Deal with Zits

This post was moved to: The Smart Way to Deal with Zits. Please read it and other posts on this topic there.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Having Insurance is a Bad Thing

Please visit Good Works Wellness to read this post and others on this topic. That is my permanent website. All posts from this site have been moved there. Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When Patients Become Body Parts Instead of Humans

Please visit Good Works Wellness to read this post and others on this topic. That is my permanent website. All posts from this site have been moved there. Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Make Your Own Age-Defying Cream

Today I want to share the recipe for a cream that has amazing anti-aging effects and that is incredibly easy to make. When I created the formula for this cream, it soon became the hottest seller in my organic skincare business. A friend of mine was heartbroken when I closed the business, because she had come to depend on this cream to keep her skin looking young and radiant.

If you enjoy making your own skincare products, be sure to check out my post on how to make your own hand sanitizer: Hand Sanitizer Alternatives.

The base formula for Wonder Creme only uses two basic ingredients. I share suggestions of ingredients to add to bolster its effectiveness or to customize it for specific needs at the end of this post. The recipe is easily increased or decreased, so you can make a tiny amount or a huge amount based on need. It is best used within six weeks if not kept in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly when choosing how much to make. When making your own facial and body products, please use fresh ingredients and please thoroughly cleanse your work space and all containers and utensils used. Wiping everything with an alcohol wipe or with a bit of Tea Tree Essential Oil is a good way to ensure cleanliness. The recipe follows ...

Wonder Creme Recipe

  1. Two Parts Liquid Oil (1 cup)
  2. One Part Aloe Vera GEL (1/2 cup) - note that this is the gel and not the liquid. The product in the link is my favorite because it uses seaweed as a thickener instead of chemicals. It is organic and has a few herbs added which are wonderful for skin health. Most aloe vera gels contain a preservative to inhibit bacterial growth. This product uses a very tiny amount of a more natural alternative.
When choosing which oil to use, use the following guidelines. I've included links to additional information on Amazon for each oil. (On a side note, Amazon has some of the best prices I've found for oils.):
  • Jojoba Oil: One of my favorite oils. Jojoba oil is actually a wax that is liquid at room temperature. Jojoba is known to be anti-inflammatory and to be mildly antimicrobial. One amazing fact about Jojoba oil is that its chemical structure almost exactly matches that of the skin's own sebum, making it a very healing oil that is readily absorbed and which penetrates many layers of the epidermis. In my experience, Jojoba oil is great for reducing wrinkles but is also a "safe" oil to use in moderation with acne due to its antibacterial properties. It is a great "go to" oil for any skin type, but it also known to be a great oil for use on the hair. (If you want to pamper yourself, use Jojoba as a hot oil hair treatment.) Jojoba oil is very easily absorbed, but is a bit heavier than other oils. I love to use it straight or as a bath oil or in creams during the winter to keep my skin moisturized.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed is a much lighter oil than Jojoba but is still very easily absorbed. It is known to be a very soothing oil and to have mild anti-inflammatory properties. It is high in Vitamin E, Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. Grapeseed is known to be highly moisturizing, is known to help repair the cell structure of the skin, and is known to be great for acne because it is lightly astringent. It is commonly used in products for older or damaged skin. It is a great oil to use during the summer months because it is so light.
  • Meadowfoam Seed Oil: Meadowfoam Seed Oil is an amazing oil. It penetrates more layers of the epidermis than almost any other oil. This makes it a wonderful choice for carrying healing herbal extracts or essential oils into the skin. Meadowfoam Seed Oil is known to be extremely high in antioxidants and to contain an extremely high amount of fatty acids. It is known to be wonderfully healing and regenerating.
  • Shea Butter: Shea Butter is solid at room temperature, so be aware that it will need to be melted over VERY LOW heat before being blended into the cream. (Shea Butter will crystallize if heated to too high a temp, so please heat very, very gently in a double-boiler. It liquifies in contact with the skin, so it doesn't take much heat to get it soft enough to blend.) Shea Butter is amazingly emollient and has been used in Africa for thousands of years to reduce wrinkles, heal cracked skin and as a barrier to protect the skin from damaging products. The unrefined variety has the most healing properties, but also has a slight smoky odor. The odor is easily covered by essential oils, but be aware that using Shea Butter will impart a very slight odor to the product if essential oils are not added.

Combine oil (melted if using a solid oil) and aloe vera gel in a glass container. Blend using a fork to whisk the ingredients together. In about five minutes, the consistency will change to a consistency resembling apple sauce or watery tapioca pudding. If adding other ingredients, add them at this stage, but only if the cream is starting to thicken. Continue whipping product. After about five more minutes, the product will suddenly transform into a gorgeous white, fluffy cream. Transfer to a clean container (glass preferred) and store for up to six weeks. (The preservative in the aloe vera gel will help inhibit bacterial growth.) Trust me that this cream will receive rave reviews if you give it in a decorative container as a holiday gift.

Optional Ingredients:

The following ingredients may be added as desired.
  • Essential Oils: Essential Oils can be added to add fragrance to the produce or to add healing benefits. Lavender essential oil is a great option. Please always thoroughly research your chosen essential oil(s) before using. Some do have contraindications. Please do not use essential oils at too high a concentration. Essential oils are best used at a dilution of 3%. This equates to 9-10 drops per tablespoon. For the recipe shown above, the recommended amount would be 1 - 1.5 teaspoons of essential oils.
  • Herbal Extracts: Herbal extracts such as Calendula (wonderfully healing), Chickweed (great for itchiness), or Comfrey (wonderful regenerative properties) may be added if desired. Please thoroughly research before using. For the recipe shown above, I recommend adding 60-90 drops.
That's it! If you make this, please let me know your results. Have fun with it!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Candy Alternatives for Halloween

This site was moved to my website. It may be read in its entirety there by visiting:

Thanks much!

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Protect Yourself or Your Loved Ones During a Hospital Stay

I've spent a lot of time in a hospital the last week while my dad has been receiving treatment. While there, I've been blessed to see numerous dedicated professionals caring for my father. I've also been reminded that it is important for every patient to either be or have an advocate standing by their side to help protect them and to help ensure they receive the best care possible.

One of the easiest things to do to ensure the best care possible while in the hospital is to always carry a list of your current prescription medications (including dosage, frequency and who the prescribing physician is), a list of medication allergies AND a list of food allergies. Having that list with you or easily accessible on a smart phone or via Internet makes it very easy to share the information. Hospital stays tend to be fairly emotional, so keeping important information handy makes it easy to share with medical staff without having to rely on memory.

Iatrogenesis is defined as: inadvertent and preventable induction of disease or complications by the medical treatment or procedures of a physician or surgeon. In simple words, iatrogenesis refers to death or injury caused by physician error or hospital error. We shudder to think such a thing exists, but it exists in much higher numbers than you might think. In 1999, The Institute of Medicine cited extremely high rates of iatrogenesis in hospitalized patients as a result of medical error and negligence that largely resulted from system failures. Reviews of multiple studies done on hospital safety found that up to 36% of hospitalized patients suffer complications or additional illness from iatrogenesis and that 50% of those events could be prevented. It is also estimated that 6.5% of iatrogenic complications result in permanent disability or death. (For an in-depth look at iatrogenesis, please read my friend Andrew Robbin's book, Licensed to Kill: The Growing Epidemics of Iatrogenic Disease And Bureaucratic Madness.)

Although most people receive excellent care while in the hospital, these numbers are significant enough that we should all use some common-sense precautions while in the hospital or caring for someone who is. My recommendations follow.

    1. Don't Hesitate to Ask Questions: I think many people desperately want to trust their doctors, so they fail to ask the questions they should be asking. I personally experienced this while my daughter spent two weeks in neonatal intensive care. She suffered an extreme level of malpractice resulting in severe iatrogenic complications simply because I so desperately wanted to trust that her specialists knew what they were doing that I didn't ask questions that should have been asked. In my case, I didn't do what was needed until a specialist from another hospital who was called in as a consultant pulled my husband aside and told him ... and I quote ... "You need to get your daughter out of here." I understand that sometimes people aren't willing to ask questions simply because they want to trust that their family member is getting the very best care possible. I've been there. It is still acceptable and necessary to ask questions even when your loved one is receiving the very best care available. If you don't understand what procedures are being done, or are curious about why they are being done, please ask. Your medical team has a responsibility to ensure you understand everything being done to help your loved one. If you have questions or if anything is even mildly unclear, ask them to clarify. Please don't feel rushed. Take your time and ask as many questions as you need to. As questions come to mind after the doctors leave, write them down and ask them the next time a doctor is present.

      Also take advantage of the knowledge your nursing staff has. Nurses have an amazing wealth of knowledge and are happy to share information and answer the questions they are legally allowed to. I have friends who are nurses who have said they often wish patients would ask more questions. Please also don't hesitate to openly share if you aren't sure a procedure should be performed.  If you question the necessity or timing of a procedure, do your research and openly share your concerns. Remember that you are a customer, not just a patient, and that you can choose to accept or deny any service or provider offered. Most hospital services are obviously necessary and should be accepted, but there are times that asking the staff to dig deeper before performing a procedure is perfectly fine. Be aware that you have the right to refuse a procedure or to request a different doctor if you are uncomfortable with anything related to the procedure. This leads us to my next point ...

    2. Know Your Rights: Be aware that you are not a "prisoner" of the hospital and that you are guaranteed certain rights. Top among those rights is that you are legally entitled to see your file/chart or the chart of your family member without having a doctor present. Spouses are allowed to view spouse's files, and other family members can view charts with the patient's approval. Many hospitals twist HIPAA laws and try to make it impossible for you to view your own file. A common tactic is to say that your file can only be viewed in the presence of a physician. This is, quite simply, illegal. HIPAA laws are in place to guarantee patient rights, not to make it impossible to review your records. If you ask to view your file or your spouse's and are refused access, let the staff know you are aware of your rights and politely but firmly demand access. If you are still refused access, call the hospital's HIPAA office and speak with someone to request access. If you are still not allowed to view your chart, call an attorney. Your medical information is, quite simply, legally yours and you are legally entitled to have full access to it. Period. If you are denied access, persist until you are granted access. Another trick they use is to say they cannot provide copies of test results until after the patient is discharged, at which point they charge up to $5/page for the copies. Don't let this happen. Demand they grant your legal rights. Some people choose to get around the hospital red tape by having all records sent to their primary care physician and then getting copies from that doctor. This method takes much longer, but can be easier if you are not comfortable being assertive.

    3. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor: I want to very  clearly state I commend the doctors and nurses who work in hospitals. They face incredible stress and pressure on a daily basis and manage to rise above it to provide top-notch service and care. As much as I admire them, it can't be denied that they are human. Humans sometimes make mistakes. I am thankful that multiple checks and balances are in place to ensure mistakes don't happen in medical settings, but they still do. I know medication errors happen because I've had it  happen ... twice ... in two different hospitals. I was brought the wrong medication on two different occasions. Had I not asked what I was being given, I would have taken the wrong medication. In one case, the error could have been deadly. The problem with medication errors is that they create the potential for a cascade effect. If you are given someone else's medication, it creates the chance the other person will also be given the wrong medication, so on and so forth. ALWAYS ask what medication is being administered before taking it. Always. This includes asking what bags are being hung on IV poles and what medication is being injected into IV tubes.

      This is especially important if you have medication allergies. Always, always ask before taking anything or allowing it to be added to your IV. If you have medication allergies, hang a sign on your IV pole clearly indicating your allergies. Please also monitor your meal tray, especially if you have food allergies. Also be careful if you are taking a medication that should not be taken with some foods. For instance, people taking Coumadin are typically advised not to eat broccoli, yet broccoli is often served in hospital meals without regard for medications being taken. I've seen it happen. Be careful. Also monitor the timing of medications. If a medication is supposed to be administered every four hours, you may need to request it. Give the nurses a 10-15 minute window of good faith, then politely request the medication if it has still not been administered.

    4. Bring Your Own Food: I'm not kidding. Hospital food is basically the same as what is served in fast food restaurants. It is highly processed, not organic and is laden with chemicals. It's also just plain NOT healthy. Since it doesn't taste good, bringing your own food shouldn't be an issue. It amazes me that mainstream doctors admit whole foods are healthier, yet the food given to patients who are at their most vulnerable and who need the purest form of nutrition for healing is the farthest thing from whole food. Salads are made with iceburg lettuce, which is nutritionally void, all bread and breading is made with white flour instead of whole grain flours, and white sugar is added to almost everything. They also serve Splenda as a sweetener, which I think is criminal. Read my post on why you should never use Splenda here:

      One hospital tray I was recently "privileged" to view contained EIGHTY grams of carbs in a single meal. In my opinion, the highest number of carbs advised in any single meal is 30-45. (That's 2-3 servings of carbs. MORE than enough.) Eighty grams of carbs in a single meal is enough to guarantee high blood sugar and obesity in a short time. Hospital food seems to be designed to guarantee that people eating it become repeat customers. Bring your own food and ask family members to bring whole, organic foods as gifts. You'll heal more quickly as a result. 
What steps do you take to protect yourself and your loved ones? I'd love to hear them!

On an interesting side note, I failed to take my home made hand sanitizer with me, so I was forced to use the hospital's. Check out my post on Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer: for more info on why this concerned me.
A related post is one that could potentially help keep you out of the hospital: Top Three Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request:

iatrogenesis. Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary. Merriam-Webster, Inc. (accessed: October 17, 2011). 

Patrick A. Palmieri, et al. (2008). "The anatomy and physiology of error in averse healthcare events". Advances in Health Care Management 7: 33–68. doi:10.1016/S1474-8231(08)07003-1

Brennan TA, Leape LL, Laird NM, et al. (1991). "Incidence of adverse events and negligence in hospitalized patients. Results of the Harvard Medical Practice Study I". N. Engl. J. Med. 324 (6): 370–6. doi:10.1056/NEJM199102073240604. PMID 1987460

Institute of Medicine. To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000.

Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force. Doing What Counts for Patient Safety: Federal Actions to Reduce Medical Errors and Their Impact. Washington, DC: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2000.

Szasz, Thomas S. Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America. Westport, CT: Praeger Trade, 2001.

Tassano, Fabian. The Power of Life or Death: A Critique of Medical Tyranny. Oxford: Oxford Forum, 1999.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Top 3 Blood Tests Almost Everyone Should Request

One of my favorite activities in my practice is helping explain the deeper meanings of blood test results. I love being able to explain what may have caused an abnormal reading and to show connections between abnormal readings in different body systems. While doing this, I'm often surprised that blood tests I consider "standard" are frequently not ordered. What I find more surprising is how shocked people are when I tell them they should request specific blood work. We seem to forget that our doctor is our customer and that he or she needs to listen to our requests. If you wish to have specific blood tests done, please ask your doctor to order it. There may be times s/he may resist due to concerns insurance won't pay for it, but most docs will listen to your desires and order it. If you have a doc that refuses to listen to your concerns, perhaps you should consider finding a different practitioner.

Please note this post only mentions the top three blood tests I feel are most often overlooked. There are a multitude of blood, urine and stool tests that may be beneficial to helping predict or identify a health issue. Please work with your practitioner as a team to determine which tests will be best for you.

Although I identify these tests as being good for people carrying a bit of extra weight, it can be helpful to request these tests as part of a yearly physical in order to establish a baseline and spot early changes. Anyone who has health issues, is overweight or has had trouble losing weight, or has unexplained fatigue, headaches, etc. should always request the following blood tests:

  1. Insulin: Most doctors order a blood glucose level, and some may order a Hemoglobin A1C which provides an "average" of blood sugars over a period of about three months. However, I rarely see insulin levels ordered by anyone other than a holistic MD. Fasting insulin level shows how much insulin your body is producing. High insulin levels are an indicator the body has developed insulin resistance, which may lead to Type 2 diabetes. This test is important to request because people with pre-diabetic conditions or with Metabolic Syndrome may have fasting blood glucose levels that are normal, but often have high insulin levels. Most labs identify levels of around 5-17 as "normal." I like to see levels below 8-10. If someone has levels above 8, I typically start a revised eating plan with appropriate supplements if necessary.

  2. Full Thyroid Panel: When thyroid disorders are suspected, many doctors order a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test, but do not order tests to measure the specific levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. The TSH test measures the amount of TSH hormone being secreted by the pituitary gland. The thought is that you can measure the health of the thyroid gland by measuring whether or not the body is trying to increase or decrease its function. In my perspective, this is somewhat similar to checking the oil level in a car that's overheating instead of actually measuring the fluid level in the radiator. I believe there is value in the TSH test, but only when combined with tests that measure the actual amount of thyroid hormones in the blood stream. Two of the most commonly run tests to measure thyroid hormone levels are Free T3 and Free T4. (Those are two of the most important hormones secreted by the thyroid gland.) If thyroid issues are suspected, PLEASE insist your doctor order the Free T3 and Free T4. I know from personal experience that many docs are unwilling to order these tests. The true health of your thyroid gland cannot be adequately assessed without them. It can also be helpful to request an Antithyroglobulin test to determine if thyroid issues are caused by an autoimmune condition. I share a bit more detailed information in a prior post, Thyroid Hormones & Bone Marrow Biopsies: Please visit Stop the Thyroid Madness for in-depth information about thyroid issues and recommended blood work.

  3. High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP): I am pleased that many more doctors are ordering a hs-CRP test for their patients. C-Reactive Protein is a protein produced by the liver in response to inflammation. A regular CRP test may be done after surgery or during various treatments to evaluate the level of inflammation in the body. The High-Sensitivity CRP is currently used as a possible predictor of potential heart disease. The hs-CRP can detect lower levels of inflammation. It is thought these levels often result from inflammation in the tiny blood vessels and other tissues in the heart. Although elevated hs-CRP levels do not guarantee heart disease, studies have found a definite connection between elevated hs-CRP levels and heart disease. I typically begin addressing cardiovascular issues when I see an elevated hs-CRP level. The CDC identifies levels below 1.0 as indicating low risk level; 1.0-3.0 as indicating a normal risk level; and levels above 3.0 as being high risk. These levels are obviously more of a concern when extremely high levels of triglycerides and/or cholesterol are present.
I can often tell quite a bit about a person's health from abnormal results in these tests, especially when combined with other blood work. These tests obviously all need to be used in conjunction with other blood tests and other assessment techniques.

My other encouragement related to blood work in general is to not become concerned by abnormal blood work before discussing it with your practitioner. There are many reasons for abnormal levels in some of the more general tests, so please do not jump to conclusions and assume the worst before discussing the results with someone who knows how to interpret them.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tips for Traveling with a Freak of Nature

We returned from a trip to Florida last night. We had an amazing time together and with our son! Having a flat tire on the way to the airport, returning home to find it flat again, and spending a total of almost two hours sitting on various tarmacs due to air traffic control software problems (!!!!!) was mild compared to my experiences going through TSA with all the accoutrements I carried. Let me state that the following is a bit tongue-in-cheek and somewhat sarcastic. I know TSA agents are merely doing their job and I do respect that. Following are a few tips for traveling with a freak of nature:
  1. Leave early to get a good TSA pat down: When I say "early," I mean REALLY early. This is because most of us who choose to protect our health will opt-out of the x-ray scans used by TSA. (A list of links follows as to why we opt out. I encourage you to do your research.) Opting out of the scans means you get treated to a TSA pat down. I've had several of these. They're bothersome, but not as invasive as you may have heard. On a side note, I travel with vials of insulin and B12 that I also won't allow to be x-rayed. Requesting a visual check of these items also slows down the security process. The agents ignore the syringes but often seem convinced that B12 serum is a danger to national security or that I'm "hiding" a potion for world domination in those tiny syringes. This leads us to point 2:
  2. Label & package clearly: When carrying unusual items (such as kefir grains or liquids pre-loaded into syringes), it is important to package them so that TSA agents can easily view them and can easily examine them. In the case of my two B12 injections, I packaged them in a travel container typically used to store a toothbrush put inside the bag containing the prescription label. This kept them labeled, sterile, and guaranteed the plunger couldn't accidentally be pushed during travel. It also made it very easy for me to open the container to display the syringes to the agents.
  3. Leave early so that TSA can unpack your suitcase: Plan ahead for unusual items to be examined. I travel with water kefir grains and natural sugar in separate zippy bags tucked into a small jar so that I can continue my habit of brewing and drinking probiotic-rich water kefir while I travel. TSA agents in Tampa ignored these items; TSA agents in Indianapolis took them out of their protective baggies and had a million probing questions for me.  I'm not familiar with C4 explosives ... do they look like kefir grains? (See pic. Do they????) Were they afraid I'd gain control of the plane by improving the pilots' digestion? Such a mystery! One TSA agent was a bit skeptical when I said the powdered substance in the baggie was sugar used to "feed" the kefir grains, but thankfully chose not to call for drug sniffing dogs. Oddly enough, on our return trip, the water kefir grains went unnoticed, but four small bags of artisinal rice garnered many questions. I'm not sure how rice could compromise national security, but apparently it's a questionable item. Who knew? The bottom line is that if you are taking anything unusual with you while traveling, plan ahead for delays caused by TSA agents doing their job by asking questions about items and ingredients they don't recognize.
  4. Plan for TSA agents to freak out if you take off your insulin pump: This is the third time I've had a TSA agent INSIST I put my insulin pump back on after I took it off to have it inspected. Most insulin pumps do not set off metal detectors; mine does. I therefore turn if off, take it off and request a visual inspection because I've jumped through TSA hoops about my insulin pump one too many times. Here's what I was avoiding: When the pump sets off the metal detector, they insist on scanning me head to toe to figure out what metal I'm carrying. When they isolate the insulin pump as the source of the metal, they then insist that I show them my insertion set, the location where the catheter needle is injected into my body. This is typically in my lower abdomen. (I don't know about you, but I try to avoid unzipping my pants and baring my abdomen to strangers. It's just a thing I have.) They then typically force me to unhook the insulin pump ANYWAY so they can test the pump's software and prove to themselves it's an insulin pump and not a detonator. I therefore typically turn my pump off, remove it from the insertion set, request a visual check, and move on because that is faster. Or, it's faster until a TSA agent decides that if I remove my pump myself it's dangerous, but if he orders me to remove my pump it's perfectly safe. Go figure.
  5. Never lose your sense of humor: I anticipated most of the challenges we had with TSA and was ready for them and the delays they created. Running late because of a flat tire destroyed our schedule, so I was feeling a bit rushed. However, I had decided in advance to smile my way through it and crack as many jokes as I could. (I didn't attempt humor with the TSA agents and don't advise it. Cracking a joke about the C4 explosives hidden in your suitcase won't end well. Trust me.) I was successful at maintaining a positive attitude, laughing at the developments, and avoiding any expenditure of negative energy.
There you have it. If traveling with a freak of nature, plan ahead, keep smiling, and know that you're better of because of it! I think here is the appropriate place to mention that God rewarded our delays and travel challenges by blessing us with a red Mustang as our Priceline "economy" rental at $19/day. It was all very, very worth it. Have a great day!

Resources for information on radiation from TSA scanners:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hand Sanitizer Alternatives with Recipes

This post was permanently moved to my website. It may be read in its entirety there by visiting the link that follows:

Following is a list of my recommended alternatives to chemical hand sanitizer...

This post was permanently moved to my website. It may be read in its entirety there by visiting the link that follows:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Why You Should Never Use Hand Sanitizer: The Dangers of Triclosan

This post was moved to my permanent website and can be viewed in its entirety at:

While you're there, also read my post containing recipes you can use to make your own hand sanitizer:


Let me start this post by saying I strongly encourage everyone to maintain good hygiene during flu season by using frequent hand washing. Although the use of hand sanitizer seems to be a great way to avoid bacteria when you can't wash your hands, there are many dangers associated with OTC hand sanitizers...

This post was moved to my permanent website and can be viewed in its entirety at: