Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eczema cure? Doing THIS at the gym could treat the debilitating skin condition

Eczema, a common skin condition, can be debilitating and hard to treat. However, visiting the gym or a sauna could cure it, since sweating has been found to lessen its effect.

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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Eczema and psoriasis treatment: THIS therapy could reduce the need for creams and tablets

ECZEMA - a condition which causes the skin to become itchy, dry, and sore and psoriasis red, flaky skin, are often treated with steroid creams and tablets.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

PUMPING IRONY: Try Counting Sheep

British filmmakers in September will premiere what they’re touting as “the dullest film ever made,” an eight-hour epic starring . . . a flock of sheep. There’s no dialogue, no plot, and no purpose other than to lull viewers to sleep. “It’s better than any sleeping pill,” says executive director Alex Tew. “The ultimate insomnia cure.”

Baa Baa Land is noteworthy, I suppose, for its unambiguously boring portrayal of ruminant life, but it’s hardly unique among recent efforts to capture bits and pieces of an ever-growing market: sleep-deprived Americans. Researchers and entrepreneurs are trotting out everything from nap pods and sound-wave headbands to goggles and LED sleep bulbs, all designed to help us snooze more soundly.

My Lovely Wife will testify that I am not a candidate for any of these remedies, as I’ve been known to snore through disturbances that register on the Richter Scale. But I’m an outlier among those tossing and turning here in Geezerville. One 1995 study found that more than four in 10 people over 65 have trouble snoozing once they hit the sack. And this can lead to the sorts of afflictions — a weakened immune system, impaired cognitive function, and depression — that tend to take the luster from our golden years.

“Nearly every disease killing us in later life has a causal link to lack of sleep,” says Matthew Walker, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley.” We’ve done a good job of extending life span, but a poor job of extending our health span. We now see sleep, and improving sleep, as a new pathway for helping remedy that.”

In a review of sleep studies published in the journal Neuron, Walker and his colleagues describe the neurological forces that sabotage our slumber as we grow older. Our aging noggins gradually lose their ability to produce the proper combination of slow and fast brain waves that create deep sleep. We also have trouble regulating the neurochemicals (primarily galanin and orexin) responsible for stabilizing our sleep cycles, which may explain why MLW often awakens in the night and finds it difficult to get back to sleep.

Big Pharma has no answer to this conundrum, Walker notes. “Sleeping pills sedate the brain, rather than help it sleep naturally. We must find better treatments for restoring healthy sleep in older adults, and that is now one of our dedicated research missions.”

Walker and his crew have plenty of company as they search for this particular fountain of youth. As Penelope Green reports in the New York Times, researchers across the country seem to be competing to see who can come up with the most exotic solution. Walker is investigating direct-current stimulation as a cure for sleeplessness. Northwestern University scientists have shown that sounds synchronized to the rhythm of brain waves may hold some promise. At M.I.T., they’re focusing on everything from bedtime stories and lavender oil to hammocks and cocoons.

Meanwhile, a French computer scientist has invented a headband that emits sleep-inducing sound waves, and an Australian entrepreneur is working on a finger attachment that disrupts your pre-sleep drowsiness to help you sleep more soundly. Skeptical? This is the same guy who has sold 30,000 pairs of goggles that purportedly reset your sleep cycle by shining tiny green-blue lights in your eyes.

On the boredom-stimulation front, the makers of Baa Baa Land should be encouraged by the response to the slumber-inducing efforts of Jeff Bridges and Drew Ackerman. Bridges, best known for his role in the cult classic The Big Lebowski, recorded a spoken-word album in 2015 that Green describes as “quasi-bedtime stories, musings about death, and also a humming song.” The album reached No. 2 on Billboard’s New Age chart. Ackerman produces a podcast of “boring bedtime stories” designed to cure insomnia that attracts 1.3 million listeners a month.

I’m all for American ingenuity, but on those rare occasions when I find myself wide awake around bedtime, nothing sends me to dreamland quite so effectively as a few dense paragraphs from a 19th-century Russian novel. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev — any one of them will do the trick. And the story doesn’t even have to involve any sheep.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eczema warning: Why you should never do this in the shower

ECZEMA - also called atopic dermatitis - affects six million people in the UK, and the condition causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. However, popular bathroom products may be to blame.

Reporting from

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Day in My (Food) Life

How do I handle tricky eating situations? A friend who has yet to have kids recently asked me that, and I was hesitant to answer: Working moms usually don’t tell prechild women what’s really going on behind the curtain. We’re afraid of scaring them or revealing too much. But I’ll tell you.

I have two kids, and they have school, piano, choir, Zumba, photo-graphy, D&D, ballet, math club, soccer, yoga, birthday parties, Girl Scouts. These do not occur simultaneously, of course, but still. I work as a restaurant critic, which is wonderful, but I’m often out at restaurants for lunch and dinner. Healthy eating is a way of life for me, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

On weekdays, I usually rise between 4 and 5 a.m. and drink a big glass of water. Then I pour a cup of coffee and mix it with pastured milk (it has more brain-friendly conjugated linoleic acid than conventional milk) and a couple tablespoons of high-protein, amino-acid-rich collagen hydrolysate. I started taking this supplement after I wrecked my knee squeezing into a restaurant booth — true story — and the collagen made such an enormous difference that I’ve taken it ever since. It turns my morning coffee into a high-protein smoothie. I treasure this early, prekid time for writing. Me, my weird coffee-smoothie, a pen, paper, and the silent house.

An Unconventional Routine

At 6, I wake up my wonderful little people. They like to start the day with a cup of warm milk. (Are we French?) In the sun-starved winter months, they each get a vitamin D tablet and a Brazil nut (for selenium and magnesium).

My children have developed their own healthy-eating breakfast routines, and we’ve probably discussed glycemic loads and fiber more often than is reasonable. Recently, my fifth grader has been favoring pears, something or other made with whole grains, and his signature smoothie — kefir, a half banana, and lemon juice. He says it tastes like lemonade. I let him decide such things for himself.

My third grader has what she calls her corn bowl: one-third frozen corn, one-third frozen peas, and one-third rice-and-lentil pilaf that we make in big batches on the weekend. She likes it warm with butter and presented in thirds like a peace sign. Then she mashes it all together.

Once they’re on the school bus, I eat my own breakfast — usually a Brazil nut and a high-fiber something or other. I learned from Henry Emmons’s The Chemistry of Joy that it’s better to mix up your complex carbohydrates, so my breakfasts range from lentil soup and Indian bean dahl to black beans, salsa, and hot buckwheat groats. I know none of this sounds like breakfast, but I’ve always been more of a savory person.

Then I write for a while before peeling a few hard-boiled eggs and heading for the office.

What does peeling hard-boiled eggs have to do with going to work? Everything.

Here’s what normally happens in my work day: I drive to the office with a vision of a measured and thoughtful me gracefully moving from one insightful moment to the next. Then I arrive and all sorts of things occur — the phone rings, news breaks, coworkers pop by, and five hours vanish.

This sequence of events used to take me by surprise. I’d find myself ravenous at 3 o’clock, ready to eat whatever my hand met on its way to my mouth. It took many years to notice this pattern and adopt a plan. Most people check off certain items on their way out the door in the morning: phone, keys, wallet. My list includes eggs.

If I forget my eggs, all is not lost. My cubicle is stocked with bags of nuts, pop-top cans of tuna, and smoked jerky. If it’s 2 in the afternoon and I realize I packed no eggs, I reach for the tuna and eat it like a cat who happens to have a desk job — straight from the can. This is not remotely acceptable dining behavior, but it’s the kind of self-care I need when I’m in the trenches and ignoring my better intentions.

When I go out to lunch at work, I’m typically looking for something delicious to review, so I won’t dwell on that. If I wasn’t hunting the food trucks and restaurants for “news” in my fashion, I’m sure I’d eat a lot more Greek salads. The combination of fermented kalamata olives, sheep’s-milk feta cheese, tomatoes (antioxidants!), onions (phytochemicals!), and Romaine lettuce (vitamins A and K!) makes it one of the world’s most perfect meals, in my view.

There are two good Greek-salad spots near my office. The better one is both farther away (get those big muscles moving!) and offers a few more nutritious ingredients — shredded red cabbage (extra fiber!) and a second type of onion, this one marinated. How many onions do I eat at lunch? I pack a toothbrush.

Voldemort and Meatballs

Dinner usually has to be on the table less than an hour after my kids and I walk in the door. It’s important that we have some connection time, too, so we often settle on the couch for some reading and a beverage — usually a glass of milk for the kids — as soon as we’re home.

In the last few years, we’ve read the whole Harry Potter series and The Hobbit, and now we’re halfway through The Lord of the Rings. We can get a lot of reading done in 15 minutes or so before dinner, which leads to lively dinnertime conversations about various fictional conundrums, including what happens if you try to appease Voldemort.

These dinners mainly consist of two types of meals: dishes that have been reheated and foods that have been rinsed and cut up. Heated up are the things I make in big batches on the weekends; meatballs with spinach in tomato sauce, bean-and-beef chili, and chicken stew are all popular.

Rinsed and cut-up fare might include peppers, cucumbers, asparagus, snap peas, green beans, blueberries, apples, or nectarines. You get the idea.

Terrifying for a child-free millennial to contemplate? I fear yes. But I believe kids need enough sleep and plenty of whole foods to be healthy. And our straightforward weeknight meals also keep me from burning out on restaurant criticism.

Many food critics eventually grow tired of the circuit of martinis and the inevitable beet salad with lardons. But I’ll always be enchanted to find an oyster or Japanese tamago seafood egg custard on a plate before me. We just don’t eat like that at home.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Shifting Focus: Sahar Aker’s Success Story

I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life, though I didn’t realize it for a long time. When my mother died in 1997, I learned that she and some of her family had also suffered from the illness, and I think part of me knew then that I wasn’t immune to it.

I grieved deeply after losing my mother. A few months later, a friend who also suffered from depression told me that she’d seen some of the signs in me. That motivated me to seek therapy, which gave me the tools to process my mother’s death.

At the time, I was working as a health reporter for a local TV station. My job was my passion: I thrived in the spotlight. I was able to produce segments on topics that interested me, and I loved exploring my community and sharing information that could help others.

Despite my busy schedule, I still made time for myself. I exercised and connected often with friends; I thought I had created a good life balance.

But in 2004 my boyfriend, Paul, took a job in Seattle. Nine months later, we married and I joined him and picked up some freelance work. Three years after that, we moved to Columbus, Ohio.

Leaving everything behind and starting over was difficult. Since I worked from home, it was tough to meet new people, and when the recession hit, my contract work dried up. In 2009 Paul enrolled in law school and immersed himself in his studies. Suddenly, I felt even more isolated.

That year, I learned that the endometriosis I’d been battling most of my life had spread to my ovaries, bladder, and colon. I’d already had four surgeries to control it, each more -emotionally draining than the last. My fifth surgery triggered a case of lichen planus, a rash on my legs, arms, and torso. I felt hideous and insisted on wearing long sleeves anytime I left the house. I felt betrayed by my own body — like it was failing me.

Downward Spiral

Lichen planus takes 18 months to run its course, and it taxed my immune system. In 2011 I struggled through sinus infections, hip bursitis, migraines, and extreme vertigo.

I hated what my body was doing to me. Most days, I couldn’t get out of bed; I wished that I could just sleep for a few months to escape the pain.

Paul was still in school, so we didn’t have much time together. I had made some new friends, but I couldn’t talk about my depression — I worried that I would wear out my welcome.

Thankfully, I’d continued attending fitness classes when I could. After reading one of my instructor’s blog posts about how therapy had been helping her, I realized I once again needed to dig my way out. I asked for her therapist’s name and made an appointment.

A New Approach

The first question I asked my new therapist was whether my physical illnesses could be related to my depression. His answer was yes.

I had always known that mind and body are connected, but having someone tell me that it wasn’t in my head helped me internalize that connection. I felt comforted, knowing I had someone to help me heal. I started seeing him once a week.

Soon after, he introduced me to cognitive behavioral therapy and I felt that old health-reporter spark igniting inside me. I loved learning how you can change the negative pathways in your brain by reframing your thoughts.

This strategy has helped me become more self-aware. It wasn’t easy — for a long time, I was taking one step forward and two steps back. But eventually I was able to challenge my internal monologue. If I thought, Nobody cares what I have to say, I could reframe that to reflect reality: Some people might not care, but it’s not true that nobody cares.

After 18 months in therapy, I’d developed skills to help me cope with my depression. But winter was around the corner, and it was always the hardest time of year for me.

Out of the Shadows

In November 2013 my therapist shared some positive psychology research with me, explaining that people who try to notice beauty tend to find more joy in daily life. He suggested that I focus on something beautiful each day to help me get through the winter. Depression makes you prone to seeing the dark; this was a strategy for finding the light.

I wanted to give it a try. I’ve always been a very visual thinker, and I liked the idea of seeing all my pictures in one feed on Instagram — that’s how #IChooseBeauty was born.

On the first day I took a photo of a bush covered in snow. I loved the way the light reflected off the ice crystals and how the bush was still alive beneath the cover of winter. I started seeing that there was so much beauty that I’d overlooked before — even in the middle of a dreary season.

My mindset had shifted. I wasn’t cured, but I was noticing new things,  even in my own backyard, on a path I walked every day.

Now I’m in the habit of looking for things to admire, no matter how small they are. Some days, it’s really easy. There are also days when it’s difficult, and I struggle to see the world through my new lens. On those days, I’ve learned to create my own beauty by doing something I love.

When I hit the one-year mark with #IChooseBeauty, I wrote an anniversary post. To my surprise, a handful of people thanked me for sharing. That’s when I realized my posts weren’t just a life preserver for me — they were helping others, too.

Since then, I’ve heard from a lot of people about how #IChooseBeauty has helped them get through difficult times. I never expected that this project would expand my social network — or revive the part of me that loves sharing stories that help others.

When I recall where I was, I’m so grateful that I found a way out of it. I still have dark days, but #IChooseBeauty helps me remember that even in the midst of a lot of bad, there’s always something good.

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Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Boost Testosterone — Naturally

Male testosterone levels drop 1 to 2 percent annually after age 30 as part of andropause, or male menopause. But recent studies have found that the decrease is often more the result of lifestyle factors than it is the natural consequence of aging.

For example, a common risk factor for low testosterone is being overweight. For every one-point increase in body mass index, or BMI, a man’s testosterone decreases by 2 percent. That’s bad because testosterone calibrates libido, bone density, muscle mass, strength, motivation, memory, and fat burning.

The good news, however, is that testosterone is quite sensitive to lifestyle changes.

Weight loss is a good place to start, but it’s not the only avenue to upping your testosterone. Here are 10 ways to harness your body’s power to make more testosterone.

  1. Lose the Visceral Fat

The science is clear: Men’s body fat drains testosterone. We’re not talking pinchable back fat or squishable love handles. We’re talking classic belly fat. In medical parlance, it’s called visceral fat. Unlike fat that lies just beneath the surface of the skin, visceral fat nestles deep in the abdomen around the organs. It’s tenacious, dangerous, and hormonally active. The more visceral fat a man has, the higher his risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, insulin resistance, and colon cancer.

Visceral fat, which is often driven by consumption of flour, sugar, and the high-glycemic processed foods that contain them, depletes testosterone. Visceral fat makes aromatase, an enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen. “Men don’t realize their belly fat can steal their masculinity,” says John La Puma, MD, author of Refuel.

“I talk to men about how they need to lower their cholesterol and reduce their blood pressure,” he says. “But I don’t get their full attention until I tell them that if they don’t let me help them address their belly fat, their testicles will shrink, they’ll lose their erections, and their libido will disappear.”

If you’re wondering if your weight could be affecting your manhood, wrap a tape measure around your abdomen under your shirt, right at your belly button. Check the number. Ideally, your waist size is half your height. If your waist is more than 40 inches, says La Puma, “your belly could be turning you into a girl.”

  1. Up Your Vitamin D

Deficient vitamin D levels often go hand in hand with low testosterone. Get 15 minutes of sun three times a week to stabilize your vitamin D. If you can’t get enough sun, many experts suggest taking at least 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IU) of supplemental vitamin D daily. For best results, take vitamin D3, which is more active than D2.

Remember, megadoses of vitamin D can cause toxicity, so don’t get carried away. It’s always a good idea to know your current vitamin D levels, so ask your doctor for a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test.

  1. Eat More Zinc

Our bodies need zinc to make testosterone. Zinc also blocks the action of aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Oysters offer the highest amount of zinc per serving of any food. Just six oysters contain about 500 percent of the mineral’s recommended daily allowance (RDA). Other zinc-rich foods include lean meats and spinach.

  1. Crunch on Cruciferous Vegetables

Cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, watercress, and cauliflower are rich sources of glucobrassicin, which breaks down into a substance that lowers levels of visceral fat and suppresses estrogen in men.

  1. Choose Healthy Fats and Proteins

Cholesterol is the building block of testosterone, and eating healthy fats, including saturated fats, helps your body make “good” cholesterol while also supporting healthy hormone balance. Give your body a dose of healthy fats and proteins by consuming moderate amounts of meats from hormone-free animals, grassfed cattle, and wild-caught fish. Nosh on healthy-fat sources such as olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, and coconut oil.

  1. Consume Hot Chilies

Not only do spicy chilies and hot-chili powder help the body burn fat, they also contain high levels of antioxidants, which can cool inflammation.

Inflammation sets the stage for belly fat and insulin resistance, which precedes type 2 diabetes. Other anti-inflammatory spices include turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and oregano.

  1. Do High-Intensity Interval Training

Short bursts of timed intense activity — known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT — trigger the body to make more testosterone than less-than-intense aerobic or endurance exercise, says La Puma. Spurts of activity stimulate androgen-sensitive tissue, he explains, which tells the body to make more testosterone. Strength training has also been shown to increase testosterone.

  1. Get Better, Longer Sleep

Our bodies make testosterone while we sleep. In one study, men who got five hours of sleep a night had testosterone levels 10 to 15 percent lower than when they got a solid eight hours. The study, conducted by the University of Chicago, found that skimping on sleep reduced the men’s T levels by an amount equivalent to aging 10 or more years. While it can be challenging to change your sleep habits, says Natasha Turner, ND, you can “start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week until you reach your target time.”

  1. Stop Using Screens at Night

Backlit computer screens use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that contain short-wavelength blue light. This light significantly suppresses the pineal gland’s release of melatonin, an essential ingredient for restful sleep, and thus, for testosterone. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all offenders, so turn them off as close to dusk as possible.

  1. Clean Up Your Personal-Care Products

Most men probably don’t give a lot of thought to the chemicals in their soap, shampoo, and deodorant, but many personal-care products are rife with chemicals that interfere with hormone balance, including testosterone.

Check the Environmental Working Group’s searchable database at to find out whether your products are safe. The database rates personal-care products, including those specifically for men, with scores for overall hazard, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergies and immunotoxicity.

This originally appeared in “Testosterone Tweaks” in the November 2014 issue of Experience Life.

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