Sleep is Medicine Friday, Jul 23 2021 

Perhaps Americans should start putting sleep on their calendars and to-do lists. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one in three Americans are sleep-deprived. More than 35% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night. Shockingly, one in 20 has fallen asleep while driving in the past month!

Sleep needs vary from one person to another. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However, some are fine at 6 hours while others require up to 10.

One of the interesting factors regarding sleep is that deprivation can result in illness and illness can contribute to sleep deprivation. For example, due to at least two illnesses, I’m one of those people who experiences a cycle of pain and fatigue. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel and visa versa. I’m at a point where I can do anything as long as I allow rest times after physical activity.

Dozens of factors contribute to sleep deprivation including a too-busy schedule, too much caffeine or alcohol consumption, anemia, hypothyroidism, jet lag, unhealthy diet, anxiety, cancer, chronic infection, inflammation, and pain, kidney disease, concussion, COPD, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, physical or emotional trauma, hormone imbalance, grief, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and sleep apnea.

On the other hand, lack of sleep may result in other health problems. Researchers find that lack of sleep makes it more difficult to lose weight and poses an increased risk of diabetes, heart problems, depression, substance abuse and a decreased ability to focus, remember new information, and perform at optimum levels.

There’s also a connection between sleep loss and memory loss. Chronic sleep deprivation causes injury to parts of the brain that are essential in maintaining attention and forming and storing memories. In addition, it’s believed that our brains clean out substances while sleeping that otherwise interfere with its ability to transmit messages.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME and ME/CFS), is a particular problem with fatigue that is predominately diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses. Symptoms include fatigue that worsens with physical or mental activity, doesn’t improve with rest, and may also include difficulty with memory, focus, concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, unexplained muscle or joint pain, and headaches.

The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.

If you feel that fatigue is a daily concern for you, it may be best to consult your physician.

*Have you seen my post, “Eat Well. Live Well?

*For information on caregiving to loved ones with dementia, you may find these books helpful: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Photo: Lily Pad, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL, 6/12/21

Fungi in Every Breath You Take Tuesday, Jul 13 2021 

The topic of fungus may not be the most entertaining one you read about today, but it is fascinating. And if you read this post through to the end, you’ll find fungi can also be scary.

Fungi include microorganisms such as yeasts, molds, mushrooms, rusts, smuts, and mildews. They are not plants or animals. They belong to their own kingdom. However, they are more like animals than plants because they gather their food. Most fungi are so small they are invisible to the human eye, yet they play a significant role in our health as well as the environment’s.

Although often thought to be interchangeable with the word mushrooms, mushrooms are actually a small percentage of fungi. Fungi live everywhere including soil, sand, air, on rocks, and on plants. It’s estimated that there are more than 5 million species of fungi. They are adaptable little things, sitting dormant for decades and growing when exposed to prime conditions.

Fungi play an important role in medications such as antibiotics, anticancer drugs, and cholesterol inhibitors. They are significant in cleaning up the environment, decomposing carbon-based materials that have died. In addition, they can absorb and digest environmental contaminants such as petroleum and pesticides. Fungi also are used to make yeasts for alcohol, bread, and cheeses and can be consumed as a meat substitute and protein source.

Depending on our location, we may breathe in up to four spores with every breath and as many as 92,000 each day. This can be a problem for people like me who are allergic to several forms of fungi.

One type of fungi is the stuff of horror movies. The zombie fungi, fungal genus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, can infect ants and take over their behavior. It directs the ants to move to a location that is best for the fungus and then consumes the ant from the inside out while spreading spores to infect more ants so that the cycle continues.

For more information see this page on the University of Oklahoma’s website where much of this information comes from.

*Help your caregiver friends with loved ones with dementia with the books that will answer their daily questions: Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving.

*Have you read my last post on Mary K Doyle Books, “Eat Well. Live Well“?

*Photos: 1. Giant Puffball, 2. ?

Summer-Fresh Herbs Thursday, Jun 3 2021 

One of the prime factors in cooking the tastiest dishes is to use fresh, quality ingredients–fresh herbs being particularly important in most recipes.

Purchasing herbs in your local grocery store offers a convenient but expensive option. However, these herbs are only as fresh as the harvesting and transporting allows and are handled by multiple people. Also, we typically only use a portion of the packet and toss the rest.

The best alternative is for us to grow our own herbs. We then know the quality of the soil and seed, especially when choosing organic products, and likely are the only ones to touch these herbs. Most significantly, we can pick the exact quantity we need for a dish.

In the Midwest, cilantro grows best in spring conditions. However, most others grow well throughout the summer. Rosemary is said to be the easiest herb of all to grow.

A sunny window can offer space for a mini-indoor garden, if your herbs can get at least four to six hours of direct sunlight. Use pots with drainage holes to avoid over-watering.

I have limited garden space, so my herbs are planted in pots on outdoor shelves. I prefer purchasing small plants rather than starting my herbs from seed. This allows me to beginning harvesting within a couple of weeks. This year my herb garden consists of the end of the cilantro and lavender, mint, parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. These are ones I know that I will use and work within my allotted space, but there are so many more from which to choose.

In addition to cooking with herbs, I also toss a few leaves in my iced and hot tea, lemon and limeade, and water. The hint of flavor and fragrance of the herbs transforms a normal beverage into a special treat. They also offer numerous health benefits. For example, sage and rosemary can improve brain function and memory. Peppermint relieves IBS pain and reduces nausea.

*

Inspired Caregiving was written for the caregivers in your life. It’s a gift book with lovely photos and manageable bits of information and inspiration.

You can see all my books on my website.

Have you seen my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books? Posts relate to my published books.

Celebrate the Small Stuff Thursday, May 13 2021 

Life is built on baby steps. We may pause to note the milestones—major birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, or an award, but we can’t get to the big stuff without the little accomplishments along the way. An improved test score, eating a healthy meal, extending a kind word to a stranger, completing a troubling work project, or a clean kitchen at the end of a hectic day is what it’s all about. These little achievements are cause to celebrate.

Our daily challenges demand our attention. The disasters and struggles shout for us to respond. Yet, in the most trying times, we continue to have moments of joy, moments to commemorate. Focusing on these gains, no matter how minor, keep us positive and hopeful. We recognize that good things are happening all of the time instead of being stuck in sorrow.

We also remain in the present. We’re not mourning the past or fearing the future. We are powerful in the moment. And all those strong, happy moments lead to bigger successes.

*

“Honoring Mary, Our Blessed Mother”

Have you seen my website, Mary K. Doyle?

COVID Relief Thursday, Mar 25 2021 

My friend, Patricia, says it’s been a year of Lent. Patricia’s correct in the fact that there’s been a lot of sacrifices since the beginning of the pandemic. The difference is that during Lent, we choose what we want to give up. Few of the changes and challenges we experienced during this time was the result of a personal choice.

It’s been a very long year. I’ve followed the guidelines in regard to mask-wearing, social distancing, and hand-washing. I forfeited traditional holiday celebrations and gatherings with loved ones in exchange for the avoidance of contracting the COVID-19 virus.

My doctors warned that I was at very high risk of hospitalization and death from COVID. From the beginning, I vowed to do my best to avoid the virus. Most of all, I didn’t want a long-term disability. I was considerably more concerned about lasting side effects from the COVID-19 virus than any risk from the vaccine.

I’m relieved to be fully vaccinated. A weight has lifted, and I can’t help but smile. I now have more freedom to be with loved ones, hug them, and enjoy our special days together.

Scheduling vaccination appointments is finally getting easier as more vaccine becomes available. Mass vaccination sites, as well as local pharmacies and pharmacies within grocery stores, are also expanding appointments.

None of the authorized and recommended vaccines contain live virus. Therefore, these vaccines cannot cause someone to develop COVID. Any symptoms we may develop is the result of our bodies developing immunity.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines do not interact or alter our DNA. There are two types of US vaccines authorized for use.

1. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA is located. It cannot affect or interact with DNA.

2. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. This is a modified version of a different, harmless virus (the vector) that instructs our cells to produce antibodies to protect us from future infection. Instructions are delivered in a form of genetic material but do not integrate into a person’s DNA.

It’s believed that these vaccines will prevent serious illness or death from this virus. However, it is uncertain how well these vaccines prevent spreading the virus or how long they are effective. For these reasons, we are encouraged to continue to wear masks and remain 6 feet apart while in public places and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently.

***

“Celtic Cross and God’s Everlasting Love” and “Underground Ancient Symbols of Faith” are posted on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Inspired Caregiving. Weekly Morale Boosters is a helpful and encouraging gift for the caregivers in your life.

Photo: Light house, Fabyan Park, Batavia, IL

Dip It Friday, Mar 5 2021 

Creamy onion dip and crunchy, salty potato chips. Back in the 70s, this appetizer was a party standard. Packages of Lipton powdered soup and sour cream were always on hand to whip up this yummy chip topper at any moment.

I’m a dipper. I love dipping veggies, pretzels, and chips of every kind. Most dips are high in fat, sodium, and calories, so I offset my cravings with healthier alternatives whenever possible. Today we have low-fat and low-calorie choices in our local grocery stores. Hummus in a variety of flavors, including chocolate; chunky and smooth salsas; guacamole, plain and with other fruits and vegetables; vegan “cheese” sauces; and dips made from vegetables such as cauliflower, are pre-made, ready to grab and go.

Most of these dips can easily be prepared at home with a few ingredients. Transform old favorites into healthier alternatives by substituting items, such as plain yogurt for sour cream. One cup of sour cream has 492 calories and 48.21 grams of fat and only 7.27 grams of protein as opposed to one cup of yogurt at 154 calories, 3.8 grams of fat and 12.86 grams of protein. Yogurt is also a better choice for those with lactose intolerance, and it is rich in calcium and vitamins B6 and B12.

Vegetables can make some of the tastiest dips. White Bean, Black Bean, Avocado and Edamame, Spicy Edamame, and Babaganoush dips may be your family’s newest favorites. Nuts also add an amazing twist to dips. My daughter, Erin, is a master at turning cashews into her children’s favorite “cheese” sauce. These recipes take a little more time, such as this one for Vegan Nacho Cheese, but it is so much lower in fat and cholesterol and contains more vitamins, so she isn’t concerned about how much her children want to use.

Here are a couple other recipes for you to try. I’d love to hear your suggestions.  

Avocado Hummus

2 garlic cloves
1 (15-ounce) can of garbanzo beans
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 tablespoon tahini
2 avocados
Salt
Olive Oil
Paprika

1. Place garlic cloves, garbanzo beans, lemon zest and juice from the lemon and tahini in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Salt to taste.

2. Add two avocados and blend just until smooth. Salt to taste once more. Transfer to a bowl. Top with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or vegetables.

*

Cranberry Salsa

  • 1 (12 ounce) bag of cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 3/cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt

Combine cranberries, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno peppers, lime juice, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Chop to medium consistency refrigerate immediately, Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or over cream cheese.

***

Have you read my newest book, Inspired Caregiving or post on my other blog, “Pray It to Pieces?”

Natural Humidifiers and Air Filters Friday, Feb 12 2021 

With the frigid winds fiercely blasting across the Midwest, inside air quality tends to be shockingly dry. Houseplants offer a natural way to not only humidify but clean the air, as well. They increase humidity through transpiration acting as organic antibacterial humidifiers.

Researchers found that plants can remove dust, mold, and allergens in our homes. In fact, rooms with plants have 50-60% less mold spores and bacteria than rooms that do not.

Dr. Bill Wolverton, the principle investigator of the NASA Clean Air Study, proved the ability of houseplants to filter waste products produced by humans. In an attempt to protect themselves, plants release phytochemicals which likely repel irritants. When we are near these plants, we also are protected from the mold spores and bacteria they fend off.

In addition, they make us happier. The greenery produces a calming effect, improving mental and physical well-being. Plants also are found to improve sleep when placed in bedrooms.

When choosing a plant for the home, it’s a good idea to consider the following:

  • Where will this plant be placed?
  • Is there enough room for the plant to grow?
  • How much light does this plant require?
  • How often do we want to water the plant?
  • Is this plant harmful to children or pets if ingested?

Most plants require little care. We tend to overwater which breeds gnats in the soil and promotes root rot. Many plants can go weeks or even months without water. A little dead-heading and dead leaf cleanup, proper watering, and sunlight goes a long way.  

***

See the post, “Price of Protection from COVID in Memory Care Homes.”

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Traditional, Complimentary, and Alternative Remedies Thursday, Feb 4 2021 

The older we get the more we discover the magnificent workings of the human body. We learn, not because our interest is naturally peaked, but rather, as parts weaken and wear, we come to know the normal function of a particular muscle, joint, organ, or system.

We take much for granted with our health. We expect to step out of bed in the morning and continue running until the end of the day. When a shoulder or knee aches, hands don’t grip like they used to, or chronic back pain slows us down, we realize how much was going on inside of us with little previous appreciation.

My first therapeutic choice is to seek one that is natural and less invasive. Vitamins and herbs; essential oils; and breathing exercises such as through yoga, meditation, and qi gong can be effective in addition to or replacing a pharmaceutical drug or conventional therapy. This is not to say that conventional medicine can be replaced entirely. Often, it is the appropriate solution. I simply prefer to try something else first.

After months of debilitating fatigue with minor physical exertion, constant leg cramps, dizziness, shortness of breath, and overall nerve tingling, my cardiologist believed the culprit was microvascular resistance which affects the small blood vessels. I had tests to look at the heart and larger vessels but couldn’t test smaller ones because I also have fibromuscular dysplasia. Probing the vessels risked tearing them.         

My doctor suggested I try taking either nitroglycerine or L-arginine to improve blood flow. He said if it worked, we could be reasonably certain it was indeed microvascular resistance. I chose the arginine (an amino acid available over the counter), and soon found tremendous relief. I no longer needed a nap after walking down my street or was up all night with leg cramps. The arginine also lowered my blood pressure which was running high even with medication.

Technically, there is a difference between the terms complimentary and alternative therapies. Complementary remedies are disciplines used with conventional medicine while alternative ones are used in place of it. For example, as when dealing with irritable bowel, diet may be used to work with traditional medicine, to compliment it, or as an alternative to any pharmaceutical prescription.

Many of these therapies such as Ayurveda, acupuncture, and reflexology have been around for thousands of years. They’ve been a trusted solution for an array of medical issues. However, practices do raise concern when there is a lack of federal regulation. Many therapists, such as those administering massage and chiropractic medicine, are regulated, while many others are not.  

Similarly, the quality and potency of over-the-counter remedies can vary greatly between brands. 500mg of calcium can be very different from one company to another or even one bottle to another of the same brand depending on the credibility of the supplier. And yet, we all know ineffective physicians and generic drugs that differ from others, as well.

When choosing any practice or remedy we should remember that they all pose a level of risk. Consumers must do their research and weigh the benefits, side effects, and potential risks before moving forward.

***

Want to know the honest truth about an author’s potential for profit? See my post, “The Reality of an Author.”

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Recipe for Inner Peace Tuesday, Jan 12 2021 

Yoga, meditation, and lots of prayer. These are a few of the ingredients in my personal recipe for inner peace. When I’m stressed, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated, I center myself. Still and quiet, peace comes to me.

Historically, humanity doesn’t remain peaceful for long. Eruptions arise within our inner circle and the world at large more often than not. Between COVID, political unrest, and domestic terrorism, this certainly is one of the more intense periods of disruption we’ve seen in the U.S. for some time.

How can we remain calm and peaceful with so much going on? I believe we can outweigh the negative with positivity and goodness. The more peaceful we are within ourselves, the more we extend that tranquility far out beyond us.

Here are a few suggestions for promoting personal peace. Focus on one or mix them up for a relaxing cocktail. I’d love to hear what you can add to this list.

  • Begin the day with a positive thought.
  • Practice daily relaxation in a quiet setting.
  • Meditate.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.
  • Accept what can’t be changed.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Exercise.
  • Breathe consciously.
  • Forgive and ask to be forgiven.
  • Let go of petty disputes and disappointments.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter or food pantry.
  • Avoid books, movies, and online activities that include violence, inequality, cruelty, or profanity.
  • Surround yourself with gentle, loving people.
  • Attend in-person or virtual church services
  • Avoid gossip and unsubstantiated posts.
  • Give thanks for your many blessings.
  • Smile at strangers.
  • Treat others respectfully.
  • Check on elderly neighbors.
  • Read inspirational books and other writings.
  • Pray for peace.

***

If I say I will pray for you, I really will. See my latest post, “Praying for Those on Your List,” on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.

Have you checked out my latest book, Inspired Caregiving?

Exploding Squash Friday, Nov 20 2020 

It was a quick dinner—spaghetti squash with oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. And I wanted to make it quicker by baking the squash in the microwave. After washing and pricking the small squash, I placed it in the microwave for about 7 minutes. It inflated and sizzled, so I pricked it again with a fork. The squash exploded in my face.

Small burns covered my forehead, eyelids, cheeks, and chin. I ran cold water on my face and placed a cool compress on it. Even minor burns keep burning for some time, so it took about an hour before I could apply fresh aloe vera from a plant I keep in the house. I continued to dab aloe on the burns for several days. Vaseline also helped, especially on my eyelids.

Aloe vera has incredible healing properties. By the following morning, the burns were significantly better, and at day two there are only a few pink spots on my face. One area on my forehead blistered and opened, so that one may take a little longer to completely heal. Also, the impact of the explosion on my forehead and right eye caused throbbing for a couple of days.

To avoid risk of serious burns and squash seeds and pulp imbedded in your hair, skin, and clothes, follow the standard rule—carefully cut open the hard squash before baking. The problem with cooking since I was a young girl is that I know all the shortcuts and am not as careful as I should be. This incident is a good reminder that the few extra minutes to do things correctly can save a lifetime of needless suffering. I was very fortunate not to have more serious burns or damaged my vision.

Mayo Clinic recommends treating minor burns (no larger than three inches in size) by holding the burned area under cool (not cold) running water and applying a cool, wet compress on the area until the pain subsides. Absolutely do not break blisters. Should blisters break on their own, clean the area with water and apply an antibiotic ointment. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment. Once the burn is completely cooled, apply a lotion containing aloe vera to prevent drying. Cover the burn with a loosely wrapped sterile gauze. If needed, take an over-the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or Tylenol.

***

Have you read my last posts on my other blog: “New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease” or “Compassionate and Devout Saint Margaret?”

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