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Burnout syndrome? Chronic fatigue? Turn to the nature

Popular assumption is that burnout is the result of excessive stress. Stress management system of the body is a very complex multi-action trigger and response system that involves both branches of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic, the brain and the HPA axis (the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis), as well as other pathways.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome are quite difficult to diagnose because when somebody experiences frequent headache, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of interest in anything, hormone imbalance and irritable bowel symptoms: these symptoms do not immediately make us think about low cortisol and a suppressed HPA axis which have eventually resulted from stressing oneself to the maximum over long periods of time. Physical and mental exhaustion manifest as similar set of symptoms, therefore, overdoing with inappropriate physical activities, overloading one with duties or studying and learning until complete exhaustion occurs is not a good idea.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome may seem to be very different, but they are quite similar, in fact. The same hormonal abnormalities are present in both conditions, as well as similar complaints about physical symptoms. It could be that the brain has decided to shut down the HPA axis activity in order to prevent us from damaging our body completely. If we did not experience tiredness, sleepiness and exhaustion, we would probably work until our body is permanently damaged and unable to recover. Research suggests that the brain, and the HPA axis may be responsible for the fatigue experienced during burnout and with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Our body loves balance, so that all mechanisms and systems can work in a well-adjusted, well-balanced way. We certainly want to be safe and rich, and have no financial struggles. Many people go for 2 jobs or work even at 3 places. Nobody has cancelled family or kids; that takes our condition to the point when every single day is too short. When we start feeling worse and weaker, we can get done much less, so one wonders how that was possible I studied and worked and still had time to go out and enjoy? This pretty much affects any tasks we have to deal with: whether work or relationship related, and it does not stop there. Burnout causes to lose any motivation and interest in the job or activity which could have been even exciting and good opportunity when we started out.

It is not always work which causes somebody to burn out. It is usually a combination of things. That can be job that has become very difficult to cope with, too demanding boss or too many tasks; sick parent who needs daily care; kids’ education that needs attention, difficult and worsening relationships with spouse or friends who were there to support before, so on and so on. Loss of somebody very meaningful, especially if this person was more or less associated with anything we do. Stressful situations and events just pile up and we seem to have less and less control over them and less and less power to manage everything.

The worst part is that these emotions and feeling completely ill are like a vicious circle: they will not go away until the cause of never-ending stress is eliminated. It is easy to say: quit the job or leave the family, move to another city or town, or place your parent in old folks home. Most often the financial situation and debt are the most stubborn issues. Still, if you reach the point when it is almost impossible to keep doing that job or fighting with duties or people, you will have to quit it. Your health will demand it. In burnout syndrome, mental issues prevail; chronic fatigue manifests more as a physical illness.

Feeling good and healthy makes everything else happen.

My personal recipe before one turns to brain-affecting medications or drugs and alcohol is being in the nature. Being with it, in it and having oneself immersed in the nature. That is why these who have a garden or backyard are better off.

The soil and grasses have huge power: as you touch soil with your hands or stand bare-foot on a fresh, green grass, the bad energy flows out and energetic imbalances return to normal. We have so much electricity in us that sometimes it just needs to be unloaded. Give it to the soil, return into natural circulation. Doing garden work is good in any regard and no gym can ever compare to that. Don’t do this to become the world’s best gardener: do gardening for yourself and as much or as little as you can.

The other thing that makes time and everything else disappear is art. Meditation with pencil or brush. How wonderful is that? Drawing flowers or scenes where everything is included and balanced. Peaceful soul reaches out to the beauty of nature. Be careful, though, if you do art for achieving the status of the best artist ever, but not to relieve your stresses, there won’t be results. I am talking about activities which are completely different from your daily duties. Who cares what your drawing or painting is like? Nobody, as long as you have let stresses go for a while.

If you are an artist or writer who feels completely exhausted and swallowed down by the competitive world, you will have to choose nature for walks, forests for discoveries and gardening for making brain and body more saturated with simplicity.

Simply switching activities can help, too.

The worst way to gain more time is depriving oneself of sleep. Sleep has to be made a big priority. Cannot sleep? Drink chamomile with honey, lemon balm (if you do not have low blood pressure because it lowers blood pressure a lot), literary: smell roses and lavender.

Late night is not the time to resolve anything. Morning always knows better.

Why am I suggesting such simple things for extremely complex conditions? Because I’ve been through this. The last stretch of 4 years was horrible. I have made through it without falling apart completely only because of nature, garden, work in fresh air and art. It is not that easy to paint or draw after a bad fatigue episode when everything hurts. It is not easy to get back to life after being exhausted or depressed. If we don’t do anything, nothing good can happen either. Change is hard work, but we need to find strength within ourselves. Nature is smart, way smarter than we admit. It is very rewarding to find a part of our strength in the nature.

This is what heals me

The fantastic fragrant air raising from apple blooms: it works like a medicine

Lilac beauty and fragrance therapy

The spring blossoming this year was so intense that I could not resist taking a few more pictures.

Enjoy the blooming!

Warm spring greetings to my blog friends

I am completely in migrating my art blog inesepogagallery.com  to a WordPress website. It hasn’t been a smooth ride so far. I am still waiting for quite a few responses from support team, but I have lost all followers (almost 2000) because of this move and there obviously no likes under my imported posts yet. The most terrible part is that I do not have even the simple one-click “Follow” button which appears to be a nightmare to generate. I haven’t gotten that done yet. The site is being added features and lost parts every day, but still, it takes a lot of time.

I would greatly appreciate the former followers stayed in touch by either following this blog or by renewing subscription to the newly created website.

All tutorials and instructions describe such a move as an easy breeze, but it was nothing like that. It seems one also needs quite a lot of money for such a move (which I wasn’t prepared for).

Well, my head is spinning already, and I haven’t even made up a normal menu yet, just trying to republish the lost posts.

Meanwhile, the weather is getting better and the planting season is approaching fast.

Therefore, my blog migration feels at a wrong time, but since it’s done, I will have to just move forward and hope for the best.

 

Why to declutter your life now: the many powers of spring

Do you feel happier also just because it feels like the cold and snow seem to be gone? I do for sure. It is difficult to explain how much the dullness and darkness can affect us. It does this in so many ways: I hear people engaging into comfort foods, some just sleep over or hibernate and some other try to do their best to accomplish something. I belong to these who try to accomplish something, but it is so tough. I have to put pressure on myself all the time during winter months.

Why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? The timing is simply bad because we still have in us the ancient need to save energy for the spring awakening. That is nature; these are genes and our personal clock which dictate that.

Spring arrival is in so many ways better than the New Year: we finally get to do things that were postponed due to the cold and nasty weather outdoors. That includes even such routine chores as throwing out garbage or things we will never need, but are keeping “just in case”. Decluttering only our living and work space is not enough. We definitely have to declutter our mental space and mind also.

That is the energetic power of spring!

Chives: green despite the snow we had just 2 days ago!

We can go ahead with all the health ideas we have, in particular, because we will be able to put on our table the greens and early veggies we have managed to start and accommodate in tiny, small or larger back yards, balconies, front yards and anywhere where we can plant something. It does not have to be big in order to give as a huge spring vitamin boost. NO synthetic supplements can ever replace the nutrition from real sprouts and baby greens.

Therefore, your spring greens will not only make you healthier, but also give plenty of pleasant emotions. While we watch the seed germination and sprouting we become so aware that something tiny can have an insane power. The growing power.

What are the easiest and fastest things to start with? Any herbs, any green onions, chives, radish, lettuce and similar plants. They practically require very little care: we have to only provide them with sunlight and water after planting or seeding.

Strong and bright green nettle leaves; in fact, they can be added to the spring mix

It is a huge relief when the weather forecast puts us in a better mood: birds are singing so gladly and loudly, the sun is painting shadows on tiny grass stems, and there is a promise of warmer days being here soon.

It is also time to reorganize everything from our attitude and blog to contents of our wardrobe and different garbage hiding spaces in our living space. Decluttering is such a big matter because stuff just grows around us and we need to make space for fresh air to get a brain functionality boost also indoors.

You might consider reading the blog posts of your fellow bloggers instead of just clicking on “like” from your READER this spring. That is a wonderful blogging habit, and it not only shows your respect and interest in others, but helps discover different opinions and views on the same subject. You’d be surprised how many more returns via blog traffic and personal friendships one can make just by being an attentive blogger and leaving a comment here and there. I would imagine most bloggers are like me: if you never comment on my blog, I most likely will not engage in the comment section of your blog either. Think about that: blogger community is a place where mutual interaction is appreciated.

This is the best time to start with physical activities also because there will be less side-effects and it will happen seamlessly. It feels very natural to walk more and work outdoors in spring.

This is the best time to engage in new eating habits and to get rid of our bad habits. The seasonal change to a better weather makes any swift changes easier tolerable.

This is the best time to start loving oneself because we can change our outfits, switch to nicer colors and use some lighter make-up.

Tulips are getting ready to go, as well

All inspiration we need is right before our eyes: squirrels and chipmunks running around like crazy, birds singing, plants budding and grasses sprouting. Daffodils, bluebells, crocuses, wild anemones and tulips are up. That is a genuinely new beginning. Do not miss that.

Patch of sweet compliments on broken promises

How many broken promises are necessary to turn a believer into a skeptic?

For some: just a few, for others: hundreds and even more.

“I am going to check it out for sure,” the wide eyes look at me with such a genuine honesty. She seems to be really excited. However, I know that’s just her being polite. I also know that most people do not do what they say. By now I have learned that.

“I really love this work; it’s so beautiful and vibrant. I will certainly come back to pick it up some time later today,” once again a genuine interest in face and very promising nodding of head. To emphasize how sure she is that I can rely on her readiness to purchase the art. People who are serious usually do not stop at promise. They take some steps right away. I have learned to distinct that by now, as well.

“We will definitely come to your event. We love this type of activity”. And they never do. I believe, since I relocated in 2004, I have been misled with polite, but empty promises for at least a few thousand times. That has resulted in doubting everything until I really have a proof of that particular thing being true. Terrible, right?

When I just arrived in Canada, I took all promises for true. I was used that people would only say something like that if they meant it. I learned after some 5-7 years here, that this practically means nothing in Canada. There are occasions when somebody really does what they told they would, but most often these are just pleasing phrases to get out of situation. Why do we need that? Polite, kind, hearty, misleading promises?

I am usually asking at the end of each session: please, let me know if you are or are not going to continue. There is usually a huge excitement: that was so much fun, I learned so much (even those who did not that well), I am definitely going to be back. I am more adapted to the pleasing kindness of this country now, so I don’t expect much of this to come true. Most often it does only at a rate of 10%.

That makes things complicated. What would happen if they told: well, I enjoyed it this far, but I cannot make it back because I think my progress is too slow or because it takes much more time and efforts than I expected. Or even: I don’t like it, or I feel it isn’t what I thought it would be. I have rarely heard people saying: this is terrible, this is not for me, I am not interested at all, I don’t really care, etc. Instead, it always is how pleasant, beautiful, wonderful and amazing whatever is, and how much they love it.

If I had done my medical writing promising clients that I would meet any abnormally tight and impossible deadlines, I don’t think I would have kept these clients. I have learned over many years while being self-employed that one should only promise what they are sure they are capable of doing. Period. I haven’t missed any single deadline within more than 35 years of doing medical translations, writing and editing not because I am a super-diligent and obsessive writer, but because I take the worst scenario and calculate time required for whatever task. I can still get myself into troubles and it’s possible I would need to work very late at night into the next morning, but that excludes major disasters. Life is life. Power can go out, we can get colds, etc., but the most important aspect is that my promise includes my ability to deliver whatever I have promised on time.

Trust is a big deal. A normal human would at first trust if there are no big bells ringing that there is something wrong with this person. It is almost like our predefined settings dictate to at first trust somebody and only doubt their actions and words when there appears to be a heavy reason for that.

I read that somebody wrote in their blog post: we all make promises we don’t keep.

Well, that is wrong. It is wrong at least from my perspective. Not all of us make such promises.

There are people who won’t compliment when there is nothing to compliment for and there are people who will honestly refuse, decline and turn down invitations, requests, calls for helping out and similar things. I look at it this way: nobody pressures me to apply for everything, to be present everywhere and to carry out every possible task there is. Why would I agree to do something which doesn’t fit in my schedule or goes against my principles? I don’t think that saying “no” is impolite.

From a very early age, I was taught to keep my promises realistic and tell the truth in cases when I expect delays. That included also telling why I don’t want or cannot do some particular task. That includes telling people some things do not fit in your schedule and priorities are priorities.

Telling truth does not mean necessarily offending somebody. It is much better that putting a patch of sweet compliment on big lies.

What do I gain by taking everything with a grain of salt? A lot. I save a lot of disappointment; I don’t have false expectation and unrealistic hopes. That allows being happy when things unexpectedly turn out better and when everything goes smoother than anticipated.

I personally appreciate honesty and truth. That means there are people who I trust completely. For instance, if my daughter or my sister say I look terrible in some outfit, my make-up is bad or my hairdo is wrong, I do not get upset or angry. I go and change my outfit; I correct my make-up or hairdo because these people would tell me TRUTH. I am lucky to have a husband who is very honest and whose opinion I can value and trust.

I wish business relationships were as honest. I don’t think one can ever get over the small lies which happen again and again. Broken promises hurt. It doesn’t matter if that is a promise to show up at a certain time or a promise to lend million bucks. Be honest and stay real: that’s not much to ask, or is it?

The happy women come from a place called appreciation, respect and love

March 8th is my most favorite spring day and celebration. Not in a political and feminine rights way, but in the way which says that every woman has to experience some time how beautiful, loved and appreciated she is. Bring me tulips and daffodils; bring me wild anemones with their blue smiley faces, bring all the spring flowers so that I can be proud and happy once again that spring has arrived and I am so happy to be a woman! I always was, and I could imagine not being a woman ever.

I believe self-aware, self-confident, mentally strong and creative women come from families where the feminine side is greatly appreciated. Where helping with each step and idea is always supported by the masculine strength; where the stability and long-lasting genuine love is the basis of a relationship. I happen to have a fantastic family. My mom is always the soul and my dad always was the responsible and supporting part of our family. My husband is everything I could wish for: not only in what he says, but especially in what he does.

Real appreciation and love mean fixing one’s broken wings so that they can fly again, that means being a shelter in a rainy and stormy day since we rarely have only unshaded and undisturbed sun flowing over us. That might mean creating and giving someone completely new wings when the old ones are not any longer repairable.

Women can do everything, they can wear everything and they can be anything they want in 21stcentury. The only chains we put on ourselves are our inability to leave abusive workplace, abusive relationship and abusive partner.  We sometimes overdo with equality and that can harm us. The echo and the response are based on what we do and say. Allowing humiliating one means giving more power to the abuser.  It can be very tough at times to just pack and walk away since there is always hope that we can fix anything, and that is not true. There are people who will never change, never improve and never love anybody else, but themselves.

No money can buy genuine love, honest appreciation and respect. We have to earn respect and respectful attitude by being confident and persistent with our principles, choices and intentions.

I don’t see why in places like Canada women would need to march for their rights: we are entitled to have any job, any position, to live as and where we wish. We have rights to have and express our opinions. Women’s right are really well present here.

In soviet times, it was strongly emphasized that there should be no difference made between men and women, hence, that is discrimination. This was understood or rather misunderstood as women drinking Vodka from large 200 g glasses in line with men, women riding tractors and heavy machinery and smoking and swearing like the roughest men. Women construction workers with a Vodka bottle and hammer in their hands. That picture was sad, and I can recall some images of those so-called very masculine women who had drunk themselves to the bottom. Lots of that has changed by now, but alcoholism among women remains a big issue around the world since it often takes hidden forms. Some addictions are much more difficult to cure in women than in men, and medications do not actually work the same way, too.

Woman’s DNA is completely different, and the life-long program set by the female DNA and epigenetic factors result in many distinctive body and mind processes throughout the life. That does not mean only the genetic inheritance, but also includes all chemical reactions, hormone activity and inactivity periods; how and when genes are turned off and on. That shows in appearance, skin and bone structure, specific features of body systems, etc. There are lots and lots of physical distinctions which definitely have impact on mental processes, as well. However, it is well overdone nowadays just by making only the apparent distinctions important: woman is so much more than a dress, make-up and high heels.

Woman is the muse, the flight of thought, the germination of idea and the continuation of human race. Woman is a witch and a goddess, woman is a mother and a daughter, and woman is the one who keeps fairy-tales alive by telling them through thousands of years. Woman is the wise great-grandmother who has seen it all. Woman is the intuition and inspiration; she is the one who puts flowers in a vase while her husband takes home the daily bread. Old-fashioned point of view? Maybe, but it has proven to be working so well.

I wish every single woman experienced some time how appreciated and loved she is! I certainly have. I’m also very proud and happy to be a woman. Happy International Women’s Day!

Healthy lifestyle habits that put you at risk for undesirable side effects

We live in a global environment: any news flies around the planet in seconds and that includes fake promises, expectations and lies about healing miracles. It is quite difficult to distinguish between scientifically proven truth and assumptions on which many potential cures are based.

Why does that happen? We have to understand that in nowadays profit-taking world it is not consumers’ health that always comes first. While many companies which intend to manufacture health promoting products start out honestly, there are also very many companies that use the consumers’ trust in miracles in their favor. TV and media advertising do not promote only good and well-tested products: they will advertise anything that looks like it might be true and brings in money.

Considering the epidemic obesity rates, which include early childhood and young age obesity, abnormally high numbers of patients with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular, as well as heart diseases, not to mention cancer epidemics, people need something promising. TV, phone, laptop and computer screens scream to us: vitamins and supplements are the answer!

This era is also characterized by extreme efforts trying to maintain youthful look and energy, as well as live and stay active longer. There was no long-term research present when the first statements about the beneficial use of synthetic vitamins and supplements as our daily routine were made publicly available. Since the naturally occurring vitamins, amino acids and minerals played such an important role in functioning of our body and mind, it was simply believed that more of these nutrients are better. It was believed that the source of these nutrients was not the most important aspect.

adjustment-and-vitamins-017

For how many decades now have you heard from your doctor: just take some multivitamins, use omega-3 or fish oils, don’t forget vitamin C and E; obviously we all suffer from lack of vitamin D and calcium, so these should not be forgotten either? That has become such an indisputable healthy life-style feature that you will find hardly any person in the developed countries who hasn’t been on lots of vitamins and supplements at some moment of their life.

The CONCERN ABOUT OVERUSE OF SYNTHETIC VITAMINS and SUPPLEMENTS is growing with every new clinical trial that has been carried out to observe whether there are any significant benefits from such synthetic supplement use. The findings are shocking at some point. While almost everybody knows by now that multivitamin use did not result in any health benefits, not everybody is still aware that over-the-counter supplements do not do what they are supposed to, as well.

Millions of people reach every day for their calcium or vitamin D3 pill, or combination thereof.  Here is a quote from Science Daily (summary of a clinical trial): “Taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective, say researchers at conclusion of their study that analyzed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

Almost everybody over 50 believes that taking calcium supplements will aid in avoiding bone fractures and loss of bone mass and its mineral density: osteoporosis. That is not the only review; there are quite a few clinical trial conclusions that state the same: calcium in the form of a synthetic supplement does not provide with the same effects as consumption of dietary calcium, calcium naturally occurring in food products.

Meticulous testing showed that most of calcium taken as supplements did not even get to the bones: it was partially excreted with urine (hypercalciuria was quite common among calcium supplement users) and also calcium spikes were observed which does not happen with calcium-rich food intake. Judging by tests which showed no improvement with bone density, researchers believe that the other part of synthetic calcium dose is absorbed by soft tissue which explains arterial plagues and calcification of arteries. Calcium spikes were also responsible for heart conditions. Strokes and coronary artery blockages occurred much more frequently in those taking high doses of synthetic calcium supplements. Moreover, there was not observed decrease in fractures or osteoporosis.

Journal of the American Heart Association  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

Quote: “Because of the widespread awareness and treatment of osteoporosis with calcium supplements among older adults, this population would appear to be at greater risk of developing the adverse consequences of positive calcium balance, including vascular calcification.”

 “Calcium may be involved in pathogenesis of CVD (cardiovascular diseases) through multiple pathways, including through influences in lipid metabolism, insulin secretion and sensitivity, inflammation, thrombosis, regulation of body weight, and vascular calcification.”

The same goes for so much widely popularized omega-3 or healthy fatty acids. The evidence from many clinical trials exploring different conditions, such as omega-3 effects on cardiovascular and heart diseases, strokes and heart attacks, impact on brain function and delays of age-related dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and quite a few others, is very unconvincing. The widespread assumption that fatty acids may help delaying onset of some heart conditions, eye degeneration, brain malfunction and prevent cancers has no strong scientific evidence. It was noted that people who lived far north and consumed mostly fish suffered less from the above mentioned conditions. It wasn’t taken into account that their physical loads may be way different or their environment might be almost pollution-free. Therefore, it was soon assumed (and that was based on the facts that human body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids, therefore they have to be consumed) that synthetically processed omega-3 might contribute to higher levels of absorbed omega-3 fatty acids. We know by now that more is not better. MORE SUPPLEMENTS that exceed the daily allowance for such doses can cause significant health risks. Omega-3 fatty acids interact with medications, as well. If you are taking fish oil, especially fish liver oil, vitamin D and vitamin E, you are at significantly higher risk for bleeding. When all these supplements are combined with blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) that many people take to prevent thrombosis or heart attacks, the outcome might be seriously bad because the blood clotting will be significantly affected.

None of the previously carried out clinical trials about benefits of supplemented omega-3 use has provided with statistically significant proof that such use is beneficial for any of these conditions, but healthy life style and consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from clean food sources is. Therefore, it is much more advisable to eat good food and stay away from supplements, unless your doctor has prescribed them. That might be a drug form that is different from the over-the-counter form and, therefore, it might work for you. Uncontrolled use of any kind of supplements when somebody is already on prescription medications can be DANGEROUS  and it CAN AFFECT THE WAY YOUR PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION WORKS. Always consult a doctor, assuming your doctor is aware of the newest scientific discoveries and follows up on developments in the area of synthetic vitamins and synthetic supplements.

US National Institute of Health publication https://nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm

The truth is that synthetic supplements have a different chemical composition; it is not the same respective vitamin or mineral which we are absorbing from food. Therefore, the metabolism pathways and the way this supplement or vitamin act and behave in the body are not completely known. It is also believed that vitamins and minerals from natural sources work the way they do because food usually contains a set or combination of minerals, amino acids and vitamins in their natural form which is recognized by the body; and this recognition is due to the program which is set by our very individual DNA.

Next articles will review the problems with synthetic antioxidants, vitamin E (the only synthetic form which is available at pharmacies: alpha-tocopherol), vitamin C and some other supplements. If you do not know where to look for supplement and vitamin recalls (there are quite a lot of them), google Health Canada and FDA websites. Such lists are publicly available.

 

 

Are you wasting your money for supplements and vitamins without experiencing any benefits?

The multibillion industry of non-prescription food supplements and vitamins is most likely operating on assumptions. How so?

Absence of controlled clinical testing

Prescription drug has to undergo many stages of clinical trials: to obtain statistically significant trial results there has to be a sufficient research population, control groups, dose safety and tolerance testing and also estimates of benefits versus harm. That is why placement on the market of a prescription drug might take quite many years. When studies in animals have proven potentially safe use for humans, healthy volunteers will try the drug before it is assigned to people with a particular condition or disease. First phases are blinded and double-blinded when neither treating doctor, nor patient knows what they are receiving placebo or the active substance, and the effects of study drug are compared to placebo. Placebo is a drug that looks like the active treatment drug, but has no active substance. That allows excluding false improvement cases and accessing the success rate. Next phases (assuming that the drug has gotten so far) will compare doses or combination treatments. There can be both: dose safety testing and testing in combination. Only when the obtained results from controlled studies (controlled means the indicators and values are taken at baseline and periodically throughout the clinical trial and at the end of it and all results are appropriately documented and patients are monitored) can reveal significant benefit versus risk ratio, as well as statistically significant improvement, the drug would be approved for marketing and selling it.

That’s not the case with supplements: they are left on conscience of producer and manufactured at discretion of a company. Clinical testing and clinically proven in such cases might mean a small population with not properly recorded baseline indicators and improper monitoring throughout the testing period. The outcome of a study always depends on study subjects; that’s why there are meticulously elaborated inclusion and exclusion criteria in real clinical studies. Many supplements usually bypass the multi-patient testing since it is time-; labor- and cost-consuming.

As soon as the first synthetic vitamins were created and as soon as we realized the role and importance of these organic nutrients, it was assumed: there were no risks, but only benefits with their consumption for everybody.

The global market for complexes of vitamin compounds, minerals, herbs with vitamin compounds, enzymes, synthetic proteins and similar substances has become an uncontrollable, huge profits gaining monster. Can you trust a clinical testing that is carried out and paid for by the manufacturing company? That is a very doubtful testing for results because we are talking about billions of dollars in potential profits.

What is the danger?

Unlike any advertisement tells, it is by far not as safe as we believe to take supplements and vitamins, especially in the absence of proof of authenticity (buying online or from not certified provider). Virtually, anybody can manufacture non-prescription supplements because the regulations and standards for this type of products are not sufficiently regulated and controlled. The medical authorities become aware of harmful substance or risks associated with the use of some product ONLY after they receive reports about serious side-effects, illnesses caused by these products or even lethal cases. Do you really want to be the healthy volunteer who goes for it?

Supplementation is important for the treatment of certain health problems, especially clinically significant deficiencies that cause chain reactions in the body by inhibiting some processes; however, there is little evidence of nutritional benefit when used by otherwise healthy people.

The supplement market assumes we are all the same

Overdose or unnecessary consumption of such products can result in side effects. What global market of vitamins and other supplements does not take into account is the individual condition of a person, individual medical history, climate where one resides, nutrition or malnutrition history, specific genetic inheritance and so on, specific conditions and so on. We differ in any aspect: patient A could be absorbing some supplement very well, patient B experiences neither improvement, nor worsening with it, and patient C has side effects; and these differences will be due to their personal metabolism and thousands of other factors. Therefore, it is WRONG to assume that any supplement or vitamin will make you healthier. Vitamin A and E supplements do not only provide any health benefits for generally healthy individuals, but they may increase serious health risks. The wide-spread opinion that omega-3 supplements help maintaining heart health and overall health is somewhat doubtful, too; at least clinical trial (6 years long, in more than 12,000 patients) showed no efficacy as compared to placebo group. We also have to remember that under influence of health maintaining goals, lots of food products have added all kinds of synthetic supplements and vitamins, especially vitamin D and calcium.

Dangerous vitamins and supplements

The safest way to find out our body’s necessities

We need to know and we need to be aware on how our body works, what we are short of and what we have enough. The assumption that life time long consumption of supplements will make us disease-free and increase the life expectancy is not based on strong clinical proofs. It is based on assumption that more is better. We are becoming more knowledgeable thanks to quick lab tests, but once again: the body and mind love BALANCE. Not more, not less, but as much as needed. We receive this in a dose that is suitable for us personally when we consume balanced, nutrient-rich, fresh and organic food. The problem with organic food can be also a misleading labeling, well, use your common sense.

The only way to find out where we are standing is to ask your doctor for tests. If there is a clinically significant deficiency, you might need completely different form of this particular substance, not the over-the-counter version. Repeated testing will show whether you are absorbing any of this supplement or not. There are cases when people take iron supplements for prevention of anemia, but these supplements do not work at all because body does not recognize them in a form they are provided, and that is the main issue with all synthetically produced supplements and vitamins: it is not always that we will be making any use of them, even in case when no harm happens.

Are you obsessed with health issues?

If you are, you should be aware that consumption of supplements won’t have any benefits if you have a good health already. Consumption of nutrient-rich food will provide you with everything in a balanced and proper way. Whenever possible, we have to use the most natural, nothing added and nothing removed products.

wasting-money-for-supplements

I will continue with clinical trials, dose-dependent harms or benefits and explain why some supplements do not work as expected or do not work for every person in the next article.

Preventable accidents and coincidences: a few hospital stories

If we knew where we fall, we would put down a pillow to save us.

Sometimes, the guardian angel does this for us: I mean these situations when somebody is very unlikely to make it, but they do.

Guardian angel

Painting by Murillo, public domain image

There are moments when we have done everything we could, but the disaster happens regardless of that because we are at a wrong place at a wrong time.

The sad consequences of life threatening accidents

I am a survivor of such an accident. I believe I survived due to my spiritual and mental strength, fighting power and love to life, but for the main part: due to the knowledge and devotion of the treating physician. There was 24/7 monitoring and all 9 surgeries went well.

One is never completely new after being fixed. Whatever our injuries, they leave after-effects, and they can be devastating. Chronic pain and anxiety are just one side of such post-accident experiences.

However, it is not that we cannot prevent the regular daily troubles by putting down such a pillow: preventing accidents, injuries and diseases from happening.

The unforgiving negligence

The reality is such that if there is chance for something bad to happen it most likely will. Placing hot items on the edge of any surface is lack of caution; that refers to hot coffee cups and other dishes with boiling hot liquids. Leaving harmful liquids in inappropriate containers or easy to access places is dangerous. I witnessed while practicing at hospital how a man had gotten major stomach injuries because he had been preparing pickled fish and also was having a glass of drink at the same time. He accidentally drank the highly concentrated vinegar by taking a big mouthful from the glass. Kids use to grab anything and try its taste whenever something is available for them to reach: kids have been hospitalized with laundry soap intake, vinegar and alcohol intake, not to mention after eating a lot of strong medication. In those, cases prevention would have been easy: just do not leave anything out there and within their reach.

Drunk driving and aggressive behavior of addicted spouses and friends

The major and absolutely preventable accidents are caused by driving drunk or high. Human perception changes to abnormal extent under the influence of alcohol and substances that alter brain chemicals. It’s needless to say, nobody should ever do that, but we are witnessing this again and again, and there is no end of people who put their and other peoples’ lives at risk.

I spent almost a year in a hospital. I had quite a few fellow patients, and their stories were sad. A young woman across my bed was thrown out of window from the 5th floor by her husband. It’s hard to describe the feelings she was going through when she woke up after surgical treatments. Some accidents mean: the one who was super healthy, will be partly or completely immobilized for life and having major health consequences.  However, when I had already recovered to some extent, I went to see her, and guess what? She was back with her offensive, aggressive, drinking husband, and I could see they continued the same what had been the cause of her very long hospital stay. I asked her: why didn’t you go somewhere else? Anywhere? She said she couldn’t walk and there was no place for her to go or work and so she couldn’t support herself. Well, this wasn’t any better or easier.

The fact of the matter is that the aggressive behavior when it is caused by addiction to substances rarely changes. The only hope would be in case somebody gives this up completely. However, there is always a risk of relapse with such people.

I have seen and read a lot of stories how people can recover from addiction, but that happens only when that person genuinely wants it, is ready for it and can replace the addiction with something that fills up the emptiness which occurs after they have given up their terrible habit. Art groups, social clubs, interest groups, sports and church groups are very good thing to start with.

She needed a new face: victim of drunk driving

The other woman in my hospital room didn’t have her real face any more. She was driving and got hit by another car; it was nose-to-nose crash at a high-speed, so the upper part of her car got literally taken off. Doctors restored her face as much as it was possible which meant creating a new nose and putting in place cheek bones, jaw bones and implanting new teeth. When she was that far that she could look at herself in a mirror, she was in shock. There was a scary silence for a while. It’s not me, she screamed. What do I do now, nobody will recognize me and my kids will not believe it’s me? Her kids were 4 and 6, two girls. They had kept these kids away from hospital for a while, just to get more time and to put off the unpredictable and potentially upsetting first time meeting in person. That couldn’t go on forever, so kids were taken to the hospital to meet their mom approximately 6 months after the accident. Everybody was crying: this lady, her daughters, every doctor and every patient in the room. At that moment, girls did not recognize their mom, they couldn’t believe and accept that was her because that was virtually a completely different woman in the hospital bed, not the one who was residing in their memories. It took many meetings and long time until everybody found peace of mind and re-established their relationship. This tragedy was caused by a drunk driver.

drunk driving victims

Public domain image

Physical and mental abuse: things that cannot be straightened out

People also usually do not take into account that racial, national and cultural diversities can be a problem exaggerating and issue causing aspect. Although, we are all humans, our background is very distinctive. Things that are very acceptable and very appropriate in some country, community or family, can become a subject of never-ending arguments, and eventually cause the relationship to go toxic.

As we were diagnosing patients in the urgent surgical care department at a hospital, the professor who was taking us around warned before we entered an intensive care unit: “This lady didn’t listen to her parents who told her not to engage with this particular man who is in custody at the moment. Dear girls, do not marry people who have completely distinctive background!”

The sight was extremely shocking: there was practically no face or something one could recognize as a human face, hence, it was some kind of extremely swollen dark blue, black and purple-read smashed raw meat. Eyes were not visible; they were somewhere deep under the swelling. The person could not speak, swallow anything, and not even water because of broken jaw bones. The professor lifted sheets and, as far as it was visible, the body was in exactly the same condition: bruises, hematoma at many spots, swollen limbs and torn wounds, huge five-finger imprints in bright dark purple color around the neck told that she was also been choked. Stabbed with sharp, but luckily not too wide kitchen knife which occurred to be of a flexible metal and that practically had saved her from more serious internal injuries. Her recovery took about 18 months and included fraction cure, sutures, treatment of neuroses, anxiety, abnormal physical pain and series of restorative surgery. They were successful with fixing her, and this was a case which had a happy end. Not all do.

Her husband came from a Russian family with a long history of alcohol abuse, imprisonment, family fights, strange concepts about marriage and trust, and he used to interpret the reality in a way that was severely distorted by prison moral. He was pathologically jealous, and every episode of alcohol use in excess caused him to become extremely aggressive. The closest target was always his new wife who was a young student, just relocated to start studies at the university. How do such people meet? Easy. At a bar, at a concert, and these aggressive manipulators can pretend being the nicest people on the globe when they want or have to.

Cutting off a toxic relationship

We should listen to people who care about us and warn us. We should take into account the harsh reality and advice that comes from people who have gone through hell. Do we? I did not listen to my parents and suffered for 19 years. Why? Who knows, I believed I could fix and straighten out anything. My daughter initially did not listen to me and my parents. These toxic relationships are lost time, it is time we have stolen from ourselves. Thankfully, my daughter and I found great, rewarding relationships after years of struggles. These valuable relationships contribute daily to our well-being and personal growth.

We have to learn cutting off a toxic relationship straight where it starts, not allowing to evolve into something more serious and destroying. I don’t mean only spouses and closest relatives. We have to avoid and, if necessary, immediately walk away from toxic relationship that hurts, abuses and exploits. That is the best prevention from any more serious mental and physical suffering. It is not worth it. There are so many nice people out there, and it makes sense to keep reaching out for them.

How to feel good and survive the dullness of depressing winter days

Do you have your favorite recipe for surviving dark, cold, nasty winter days?

I’ve seen and heard from a lot of people recently who are in cold and bad winter weather areas that they don’t feel well. Sneezing, coughing and aching is nothing new in winters when we change rapidly from minus 20 and move up to plus 7 degrees within a few days. What do you do not to stress out your body and yourself even more?

Most people assume stress comes from outside: too much work, too many interruptions, inability to do any task properly because of so many obstacles and disturbances, emptying and exhausting relationships, impact from energetically draining people with bad attitude around us, failure to implement our plans and goals and so on. In fact, most stresses come from inside the body, hence, we have so many adaptive mechanisms and so many systems that try to regulate the processes inside the body and mind in order to bring us back in balance.

This is certainly a period when we should nurture ourselves. Be easy and loving towards ourselves. Be patient and take one step at a time. My personal favorite tools for surviving winter come from my grandmother, my mom uses the same things, I continue using these simple remedies, and my daughter doesn’t mind them either.

Cold or heat: our body systems have to take on any stresses. That can cause mood fluctuations and add to discomfort, especially if we are already having some condition. Brain chemicals sound complicated and so they are, however, there are nice extremely uncomplicated things which can help them return to balance. Once the digestive and immune system are properly taken care of, headaches and heart aches disappear, anxiety and nervousness evaporates, blood pressure and blood glucose levels normalize, and having no inflammation is the best thing that can happen to us. Inflammation within the body causes most of our troubles.

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Tea will not only warm up, but also provide with numerous health benefits.

Rose hip tea for toning ourselves in the morning: it is a strong antioxidant, rich in vitamin C, helps digestive and immune system and decreases inflammations in the body, it helps fighting all diseases caused by inflammation, and almost anything can be related to inflammation. I know an older man who would never miss his morning dose of rose hip tea. He said it was really boosting his energy and activating his defense mechanism to take on any difficult tasks he has to face that day.

Chamomile tea for calming, warming and healing: relieve your stress, anxiety. Enjoy a cup and it will also reduce pain and any kind of stomach disorder, as well as take care of good sleep and your immune system.

Mint is always handy for keeping us in good shape because it improves digestion, reduces pain, eliminates inflammation, relaxes the body and mind and boosts the immune system.

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Did you know that you can test any tea putting it in cold water to see if it is really natural? If putting tea in cold water results in color which could be only achieved with very hot water, it is clear: coloring agents are added.

Do people with strong immune system also get colds or only those ones who have some underlying conditions?  If you are mainly healthy and still young, such cold periods should be shorter and affect you less. Cold is not flu, but it is caused by multiple viruses, especially rhinovirus. We all know how to treat colds, but when cold is persistent and doesn’t go away with over-the-counter remedies; we have to see the doctor in order to avoid all kinds of complications.

SAD? Seasonal affective disorder, I mean? We can become sad, sluggish and start feeling drained, definitely. It often seems that alcohol could be just the right cure from this sadness, upset and depressed mood, but, in fact, alcohol is a bad company for winter time, especially when one is heading outdoors. Feeling hot is very misleading because we get such sensation due to widening blood vessels. We do not feel how cold the air in reality is, and that can have serious sequences. Secondly, alcohol makes depression, anxiety and stress worse. For a moment one can be uplifted and flying in clouds, not that much later and the next morning when all bad experiences return with double force. We are already fragile in frequently changing weather conditions due to lack of fresh air and outdoor activities. Why to add more stress to our sensitive self?

You will have heard most likely about vitamin D supplements. The sunshine vitamin. Much less daylight can affect us, no doubt about that, however, if you are a person who always believes more is better, remember that we still need to be tested for vitamin D levels in order to know how much and if to take it. Overdoing a lot with vitamin D will cause kidney failure. We have nowadays all kinds of things added to regular foods, so take into account in how many combinations you’re already getting it supplemented.

We cannot go wrong with vitamin C since it is very difficult to actually consume it in levels that we could talk about overdose. The only important thing is that artificial vitamins and other substances will not be absorbed in the same way as the ones from natural sources. That means, naturally occurring amino acids and vitamins are much more effective because your body cells recognize them and know how to use. The absorption level usually varies and depends on plenty of other nutritional components; however, absorption level of an artificial supplement is never 100%.

We are drinking less water when it is cold, and when temperatures are so low it is very easy to overlook dehydration. Also, if your home or work place isn’t that cozy and warm it is extremely tough to make one consume some half a liter of water in the morning. People who are not diabetics can try hot water with honey and lemon. Diabetics should still stick to water. One bottle of water before anything else on empty stomach makes huge difference.

The other very useful, healthy and nutritious way of helping ourselves is replacing heavy dinners or big lunches with soup. Like all Latvians, I love soups, as well. Normal Latvian family can have a soup dinner a few times a week. We make soups from everything what is available, but very often beet soup, fresh cabbage borscht (definitely our family’s favorite!). We make beet soup with any type of meat. We love all kinds of vegetable soups, melted cheese soup with paprika, Latvian style meatball soup, obviously chicken soup, pea soup, smoked salmon soup, sauerkraut soup, bean soup with smoked ribs, many kinds of sweet fruit and dumpling soups … The list is endless since it is possible to cook a very warming and delicious soup using just basic vegetables, bones and meat. Soup is an extract of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Everybody can adjust it to their taste and preferences. Soup heals, warms up and recharges. Plus, it’s not going to give your stomach digestive issues.

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Winter is a time when we should be really taking good care of ourselves. I do not deny the importance of being physically active and engaging in physical exercises, but for lots of people the main part of surviving winter will be as basic as: how to keep ourselves healthy. Making a cup of herbal tea is so hilariously easy! Just do it; a few times a day and one more time before you go to sleep. Even these who do not feel well can manage that.

It is also important to have plenty of light whatever light one prefers: soft light, warm light, bright light for hobbies, candle light for soul and good thoughts; it doesn’t matter. We need a lot of light until the sun moves higher up in the sky.

Happiness is moody: life lessons

The New Year has walked across the globe by now.  Although, it is just a date, a reference mark along the way, we meet the January 1st as if it is a new beginning, a new way of life, a new hope and a new happiness which awaits just behind the next bend. Or does it?

I don’t think I can go through one more year like the last one. I will do my best not to, that is for sure. I look around, and I am much surprised how I actually have got done so many things. I sometimes cannot believe I did that because there were so many days in the last year I was unable to walk, to sleep, to feel somewhat ok. I certainly hope the 3 year-long terrible suffering is over and, hopefully, the issue is resolved. It should be. Will it?

Many years ago, a Latvian poet wrote some sad lines: “When the pain will stop, when it will completely end, everything else will end, as well.” That is exactly what it is since pain is a sign of us still being capable to take on new struggles and to prove we can resist it and get over it. It is difficult, indeed. I’m not talking about physical pain only which can be so strong that nothing more exists: it surrounds one as a thick cloud leaving no space to breathe. I’m talking about life that runs away like sand in an hourglass. Lost time, lost opportunities and lost days. So many.

My current condition was caused by negligence of quite a few physicians: GP who quit the job later, a few others who were supposed to come up with correct diagnosis, but didn’t, and, finally, the surgeon who took everything the light way: everything is fine. Right. Any of this could be avoided if the doctor ever paid attention to what patient says and knows. Yet, they don’t. I have heard so much nonsense during these years that I have all rights to say: the health care system in Canada is broken, and it is very hard to understand how some doctors without any competence in complex medical matters can be employed as such.

Well, I am hopeful because the hope is always there: the next day will be much better, the next month will be much easier, the next year will be much nicer to me. It should be. It better be. Or otherwise what? Nothing. It’s about time I return to things that make me happy.

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As a young kid I had to walk to school for quite a distance every morning. I hated mornings because I was usually reading all night, and it was extremely difficult to get up. We used to live on a high hill. As I walked, and sometimes the weather was just really nasty, I could see another hill, far away. That hill always seemed to be sunny when it was windy, cold and rainy or snowy where I was. I have no explanation for that, but the sun just loved the distant hill. I often thought: I’m going to get to this other hill. I’m going to live my life on that sunny hill. Years passed by, but the other hill remained in quite a distance. I moved to a place from another side of planet across the ocean. I left that hill there, in Latvia. I don’t even know if it is visible anymore because any landscape changes a lot over 50 years. I am still on the way to that hill. Am I any closer? Maybe. I just know I’m not on it, I haven’t reached the point where I want to be, to live, to stand, to exist yet. Will I ever? Does anybody ever have it all? The truth is: we get something and we pay a lot for it. We sometimes pay more than we ever imagined was possible.

The truth about anything that doesn’t kill us and makes us stronger is only in that regard that we know we are not giving up that easily now. Is it necessary to become stronger this way? Not at all. So much energy goes to waste which could be used for way more rewarding things, things that actually make one’s life relevant and significant.

It was sunny during the day. That might be a good sign. A sunny year? How wonderful that would be!

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Wishing everybody to avoid unnecessary struggles and to reach your sunny hill whatever way you take in 2017!

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