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Posts from the ‘health’ Category

Stop and smell the roses

Yes, stop and smell the roses and other flowers.

When was the last time you decided to do so?

Just yesterday? Today? Congratulations. It’s not true that you don’t have time for that. Believe or not, there is time enough for anything: even with long commute (which is most often our choice), even with small kids and no grandparents or nannies, even when studying or being a workaholic.

Having no time is a habit and lack of focus. Having no time for smelling flowers and recharging is a bad habit.

Are you saying: yah, right? I would like to repeat that it is a bad habit and it comes from chaotic and scattered attention management, or rather, attention non-management.

Being and feeling rushed with everything causes nervousness, unplanned actions and loss of time. We have to pretty much stick with our daily routine, and that means: if you can spend just 1 hour in front of TV, do not make it 4 hours at the expense of your sleep, or if it’s responding to an e-mail, we cannot make it scrolling through all Instagram or Facebook feeds and new posts. We have to stay on the path.

We don’t do that always, do we?

I am convinced that we are experiencing a chronic feeling of always lacking time. Realistically, we should have more time because there is so much help with housework, shopping and lots of other daily chores; there is automation and so many devices are replacing manual work.

Where does the time disappear?

It evaporates with unexpected, unplanned and also forgotten things. There are so many distractions with anything we just were about to start doing. Time over-consumption is also caused by unreliable and chaotic people who we have to be in touch with. Therefore, I am very convinced that it makes a lot of sense not to deal with people who never have time: either for you, for responding to you or for anything in their life; who cancel things because they never intended to do something in the first place, who are always late, who love talking too much or texting too much, or who do not even listen to what you are saying.

Having time for stopping and smelling roses eventually comes down to discipline. First of all: that is self-discipline. It’s not the case that we are always perfect and we never get lost in our good intentions. No human is 100% perfect, and life is never perfect. So, whether we have time for ourselves and whether we can make it for smelling flowers also requires some flexibility in executing our daily tasks, even small ones, and it requires so much more flexibility in tackling the big ones.

Late autumn, but everything in full bloom

Gentle, delicate, beautiful

When my daughter was just 8 months old, her father passed away. So, I was alone. I got German language teaching job at a countryside school because they provided with a free apartment. However, the free apartment had absolutely no conveniences. I needed wood for heating the stove on which I had to cook and also the heating oven in the other room. I had to take to a high second floor every bucket of water and afterwards I had to take it out. We didn’t have easy to use diapers or formulas these times yet, therefore, I had to manually wash everything since I did not have a laundry machine and I had to cook for daughter something she could consume, which was liquid porridge type of thing most often. There was no heating, so every time when I needed to warm up her food I had to get stove going.

My teaching job was full-time. That happened in the ancient soviet times, so, we didn’t have any nannies. There was no free spot in the kindergarten either if somebody would take such a small kid. I took my daughter to classroom which wasn’t far away, but just in another building. The school principal didn’t mind because they really needed a German language teacher. My daughter was either sitting or sleeping between students. She actually started to speak in full sentences extremely early and she also started to walk just at nine month.

My biggest problem was getting the wood: they showed me large logs which I was allowed to use, and before I could utilize them for heating, I had to split these large logs. I had seen my dad splitting wood, and it looked quite easy. I borrowed a huge axe and got to splitting. That was really tough, especially until I grasped how one tries to hit the right spot on the log. Next thing was to get that wood to the second floor storage. I decided to organize a help team from anybody who was around, and I was very lucky that some older teens and a few other teachers assisted in taking the wood to the second floor.

Salaries were miserably small, I mean, really small. I was doing sewing for people who wanted some outfit. After daily lessons I gave at school, I was sewing wedding dresses, suits, jackets, skirts, dresses, blouses, you name it. Some people offered produce and products instead of money. Well, I didn’t refuse.

I was in the fourth year at the University; I studied foreign languages at that time. Later at night I was preparing my test works, research works, etc. It was a lot of work for one person, however, I managed to read books, go to concerts or dancing to a local club whenever there was something on, too.

I have been thinking a lot: how did I manage to get this done? Practically on my own: full-time job, studying at University, small kid, home chores: wood, water, laundry, cleaning; sewing to make some additional money? People quite frequently don’t have to do even half of that and they are saying there is no time for anything.

The answer is extremely simple: I did not have a TV. Internet wasn’t invented yet. I didn’t have any phone. Nobody was dreaming about something we call smart phone now. I mean, there were practically zero distractions.

It’s impossible to avoid from all distractions with everything going on at once nowadays, however, there is a line which we can draw. We also learn how to say “No”. We sort out priorities and start with the most difficult mandatory tasks, then we move to easier things, and then we enjoy the time we have saved. It shouldn’t be at the expense of sleep, definitely not.

So, we are now free to go and smell and enjoy flowers.

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Worth writing a novel about

Please make sure you check out the gallery pictures closer to the end!

Latvia is a place I come from. Most of my family still resides there but I went for a chance to change my life dramatically a bit more than 13 years ago and relocated to Canada. Everything was different, I had to adjust myself, learn a lot and, basically, I can say I’m fine by now. It feels like I started fresh at the age of 46 again.

Time passes so fast, but there are things which I miss a lot while in Canada. I definitely miss my mom, my daughter, grandchildren, my sister and also friends. The other thing which is quite important and which I miss every time I go to the grocery store is Latvian food. I miss the huge variety, the very natural produce, wild mushrooms, wild berries, endless salads, soups and deserts. I miss dairy products and the huge selection of fresh-water and salt-water fish which we do not have in Canada, and it is hard to live without their cakes, pastries, pies and all the stuff that comes on the table just rarely, but makes all the difference. For instance, black or rather grey peas with crunchy bites of Latvian bacon and kefir, or thousands of dishes made of Latvian cottage cheese which is always excellent quality compared to what I have when I can find it in Canada. I mean the raw, nothing added, nothing removed cottage cheese. Their daily bread selection is worth writing a novel about: from dark rye and carrot bread baked using ancient Latvian recipes to all kinds of white, dark bread made with or without seeds and from all kinds of grains. The freshness is breathtaking, and so is the taste. I have always hard times finding a good quality bread at home, it goes bad and stale next morning, and it usually falls apart. My guess is: it consists of hardly anything, but costs a lot.

Therefore, I try everything Latvia can offer, and that is plenty. Neither I want, nor I intend to avoid such a delicious pleasure: it is a feast from the day 1 of my stay here until the dinner before my flight back home.

As I walk along the Central Market (I came here with just one intention: to take a few pictures because this is sort of very large farmer’s market, the largest in Europe), my eyes run all around and it’s great I’m not hungry because otherwise I’d end up buying too much stuff. Most people, however, prefer the ecologically clean product stores. Prices are quite high in stores which offer organic, biologically and ecologically clean produce and all kinds of other foods, and frequently above the affordable level, but still: Latvians take food seriously and they can certainly choose something great even when the wallet is not that full.

There is something else: traditionally Latvians do gardening, even these who live in the downtown of Riga, usually have some out-of-town place where they can grow something. Latvia did a lot of farming in the soviet times, and it was actually quite agricultural outside the biggest cities. The first Latvian Republic before the World War II was famous for its fantastic dairy products, bacon, butter, meats and produce. Although, agriculturally used land and the number, as well as size of farms have decreased, the need for good quality food is the same. People know what is good, Latvians know what delicious and fresh means, and therefore, the food quality standards remain high.

If you are wondering what I mean with all this praising, I do suggest you stop by in Latvia for the greatest and cleanest foods one can try. It’s worth it. I did not notice where their fast food places were, I know there are some, but people who think about their health won’t eat in such places. I personally never learned loving fast food, I don’t think they are popular here because everything is geared towards healthier, fresher, cleaner and less processed.

I have taken pictures also of smoked fish and meats, and these are certainly not for daily consumption, they are not part of a healthy diet, however, small bit here and there cannot harm. They taste incredibly good. If you have never tried, you won’t know how delicious these things are: smoked fish and chicken especially, and I miss such treats a lot. Some fishing villages still smoke fish like Latvian fishermen did 200, 300 and more hundred years ago.

Caraway seed cheese is my favorite, it always has been. When I was 12 or so I worked at a dairy plant during the summer (all kids worked). I had to help by preparation of caraway seed cheese. It was warm and so yummy that I never forgot this taste. The only place I get it as I like is Latvia. I tried to make my own in Canada, but milk and cottage cheese were totally unsuitable: they are too processed and do not have the same properties, so, I did not get very good caraway seed cheese. Dairy products are definitely bad and low quality in Canada. I sometimes wonder: why wouldn’t they go to Latvia, for example, and learn how to achieve greatness in dairy products. It’ s not going to happen because their profits come always first.

Well, wild mushrooms and wild berries are something Ontarians do not get to see or taste. Some might, but it’ s not everybody by far. Mushrooms are still in season, but there are less and less berries in the forest because fall sets in sooner in Latvia than in Canada.

mouth-watering Latvian dairy products

Meats and smoked meats

Fresh, live and smoked fish

A few veggies (because they looked so nice) and some wild berries and mushrooms

I actually wanted to publish separate posts about separate food groups, but time is really short, so I will leave you with these pictures and I am going back home soon.

Health or trouble from the grocery store?

Can we trust any food-producing company and take their word as a guarantee for healthy and harmless food? I know that you are aware we cannot. We should not.

I’ve seen recently organic sour cream which wasn’t a cream, but a mix of different thickeners, taste enhancers and some other things. Hey, cream should consist only of cream! Shouldn’t it? That’s how it always was: when we separate the fatty layer from milk, we get cream. Not nowadays. Dairy products are the most chemically enhanced food, quite often: surrogate food. Dairy products are easy to replicate using all kinds of substances.

Can we trust anybody who swears their produce is organic, grown in organic soil without the use of non-organic fertilizers? Absolutely not. I have suspicion certificates do not land only on organic farms. Some former employees point out such issues. Only after multiple claims, food inspection would do something about it.

How healthy are they?

Where do they come from?

Look at the grocery store shelves: long rows of vegetables. Some are not that great looking (organic since so small?), some are as if from a colorful food commercial (these are the GMOs: the taste and flavor is sacrificed to longer shelf time and more attractive look), some are frequently soaked in the water or they call this process: sprinkled with water to appear greener and fresher. In other words: these green leaves are slowly rotting straight before your eyes.

Leafy vegetables and greens cannot tolerate such soaking: dill, parsley, coriander, lettuce, spinach and other greens start losing nutrients and getting damaged right after they are harvested. They rot literally on the shelf. How much vitamins and minerals have they managed to preserve that way? I bet not much. Especially, when we take into account how unstable some vitamins and amino acids are, for instance vitamin C. I also do not like how these greens practically disintegrate very soon even in fridge. They lack flavor, as well.

I believe selling unwashed potatoes, carrots, beets and similar root crops would feel offensive for aesthetically refined clients, but anybody who ever has grown some vegetables knows that storage time of root crops decreases dramatically after washing them. I just bought a bag of new potatoes. They were most likely packed wet, so some are already damaged. What happens after a week? They are all rotten.

Root vegetables have a protective layer which keeps them undamaged in the soil. When this layer is washed off, this vegetable becomes sensitive to any harmful bacteria and environmental issues. Washed root crops must be consumed fast. Also: avoid potatoes with visible green parts: that is effect of toxins due to improper storage or handling. When peeled, that should be ok, but generally, green color potatoes should not be consumed.

The other issue is too good-looking fruit and vegetables. If vegetables look very neat, are all the same size, have flawless shape and even color: they are most likely genetically modified.

We should require such food to be labelled, but Health Canada, for instance, does not think we should know that. They also emphasize that GMOs do not cause any problems, issues or concerns. Short sighted? More than that: they are protecting farmers that use GMOs in order their profits would not decrease. Insects and animals die out, but they are of no concern for human use, sure!

While greens and vegetables along with fruit that contain only naturally intended things are good for us, especially, if they are not stored for weeks or they haven’t been travelling to the point of sale for months, packaging material matters, too.

As we walk around the grocery store, we can see lots and lots of greens packaged in plastic bags, containers: baby greens, especially, pre-cut vegetable and fruit salads, lots of them. Generally speaking, it’s bad news. Whatever vegetable: it needs to breathe. Believe or not: they really do. When such greens are packed in a plastic container that is practically sealed, vegetables have no other way but to get damaged faster. So, they are washed. They are pre-cut for salads. They are pre-packaged. Who knows when they were harvested? That is all bad news. Such vegetable already loses nutrients in storage. Even without cutting, washing and handling. After washing these vegetables with special dirt removing mixes (it’s not clean water, believe me, because it wouldn’t be able tore move all stuff from leaves) they are dried and then placed in plastic bags or containers. Whatever way you look at it: I cannot see how they would possibly still have nutrients. Not to mention there is nothing fresh. Fresh, in fact, is: straight from the place where it was grown. There is no other fresh. Plus, toxins from plastic packaging, plus, handling with tools (cutting): that causes rapid losses of good things and fast increase I bad things, e. g., bad bacteria.

If you have access to a food lab, please test the vegetable for essential nutrients 2 times: straight from the garden and after a week in fridge. I don’t think you will ever use any pre-cut salads again.

It is too bad that large cities provide with so much life and entertainment, but getting really good food is such problem there because most often we are eating illusion about healthy food.

Congratulations if you can grow something in your backyard and you are in a driver’s seat if you can grow most of stuff which goes on your table.

Please, stay away from plastic packaging. Salad that is not prepared before the meal has practically lost not only its flavor and taste, but also most of nutrients.

While we do not have a decent food labeling system, we will never know what we are consuming. Never. Heavy metals, toxins, pesticides, chemicals: it greatly depends on soil, on farm, its location, climate and soil characteristics, greenhouse location, applied methods, processing plant, its location, its processing techniques and methods and storage and packaging facilities. This matters to a great extent. To a huge extent. Not to mention whether a product comes from a genetically modified seeds and plants. I can see at the present moment only: product of the USA, product of Mexico, product of Ontario. There is no sign of a specific harvesting date or location, nothing. I personally think this has to change. Our health very directly depends on the process of harvesting, sorting, washing, cleaning, transporting, storing and processing foods. Especially, that refers to foods that are deemed to be so healthy and nutrient-dense.

Cucumbers and tomatoes doing not well: try this

If it is too late for this growing season, these simple steps will help you have great tomato and cucumber plants next spring; you will also enjoy a rich harvest.

The bad weather we had this growing season opened my eyes. I would never imagine that there is such an insane difference between plants one grows from seeds and between plants we buy at garden centers and nurseries.

It was raining for more than a month, and we did not have any single sunny day. My garden was practically immersed in water. I tried digging deeper ditches along the plant beds to make the rain water go away, but every time when it rained again, all plants were practically floating.

Fortunately, this soaking ended, but the next period came with extreme and intense heat which meant that plants were literally boiling in the hot soil that had become heavy and did not allow plants breathing since in such a soil there is hardly any space for oxygen.

I did what I could; helped plants as much as possible with loosening soil and adding dry soil here and there, but the scene did not look that pretty.

I discovered that tomatoes required simply replanting after shaving off the yellow leaves. It was quite late in the summer, but I noticed they did not mind. They recovered approximately after two weeks. The key is to disturb the root as little as possible. I use a big shovel and take the tomato plant over to a quite deep hole which I prepare in advance. I replanted some tomatoes in large pots. Every single one recovered once it was removed from the previous spot. Even that one recovered which I literally tore out because I was already tired with all this wilting and rotting, and my energy was getting low. I just put it in the closest empty spot and loosely covered with some soil. Whatever, I didn’t care. To my surprise, it started doing so well after a few weeks that I could not believe what I saw.

Cucumbers do not love replanting that much. They will die off anyway. The best we can do is to cut off all the damaged leaves and even damaged parts. I know it feels like we should preserve whatever we can, but if there are any signs of mildew, mold or other similar damage, just cut if off and see what happens. Most cucumbers recovered after a big struggle and efforts from my side.

The plants that seemed to be having no bad weather impact were the ones I had grown from seeds. I was under impression that it is safe to buy plants at garden centers just like we were frequently doing in Europe. That is not the case here in Canada. I can see now that they most likely push out the plant with all kinds of root boosters and fertilizers, so that when this in a controlled temperature and under controlled light kept plant gets out into the garden and in naturally rough conditions it has no way, but to get all plant diseases and suffer from sensitivity to heat, temperature change and intense sunlight. So, I suppose, this is bad news for garden centers: I will not buy any plants from garden centers and nurseries next year. It makes no sense, because all plants which I started from seeds were and still are doing fine: there is no mildew, rotting, wilting or any other issue with them.

We could compare such a plant with a child who has been watched closely and has grown up in a strictly controlled environment, sometimes even sterile: once this kid gets out in the real world with all its disasters and impacts, this kid will get diseases and become sick from any germs that are around and completely harmless to these who have developed immunity gradually. Gradually means being in touch with outdoors and indoors, with anything that comes along.

Therefore, my main observation is: if you want your cucumber, tomato and other plants to be strong, resistant to plant diseases and weather conditions, start them from seeds. The best is also to use seeds which haven’t been genetically modified or processed using chemicals. Naturally strong plants just like humans need everything natural, not enhanced, not improved, not overdone: just naturally beneficial.

One more observation for extremely diverse climate where temperatures can go from very low to very high rapidly or where long rain periods are followed by lots of exposure to direct sun: let the cucumber plants go wide and allow them expanding on the soil without putting them on trellis, strings that go up, I mean, do not raise them up vertically because they will have more chances to do great close to the ground; and the weather impact will be not that harsh.

Think pink: how to return to life after a long treatment

A few suggestions which work for me

If you just took the last pill, are still struggling with the treatment medications, are just getting in or out of a long treatment, I know where you are coming from.

The treatment of my current health issues lasted for 1349 days so far. It hasn’t ended yet, but I am getting back to life and back to normal everything. 1349 is just a number. It is just a number that has resulted from many months, weeks, days, hours and minutes spent trying to feel better. Did you know that every minute in pain lasts longer than an hour doing pleasant things?

I have tried everything. I am not saying that my personal experience is going to work for everybody, but some parts might.

The inevitable side effects

Many people go through very long treatments and use medications that also destroy them along with a cure. Side effects manifest on our body and on our mind in many very different ways. The cure of bad issues and severe conditions always comes with undesirable effects. Always, that is the nature of chemicals which can be extremely harsh at times.

I just downloaded some beautiful pictures of flowers and could not resist sharing them. I attached them below text.

Looking at, thinking of and seeing beauty in nature helps me relax and makes me forget pain and bad feelings. Does the beauty have the same effect on you?

If it does, you should put yourself together as much as you can and get out there and look at flowers, trees, listen to bird songs and watch wild animals like squirrels or rabbits, chipmunks or similar creatures. Watching undisturbed flow of a very simple life supports the weak, recovering body and certainly gives more strength.

The first suggestion is: do not put pressure on yourself. Just don’t do that. Treatments are always accompanied by strict schedules, doctor’s appointments, nurse visits, meal times and sleep hours. Everything is scheduled. When we start feeling better and when it seems we are strong enough to do absolutely anything and embrace the globe, we should take things easy. Especially at this moment. We should move step by step, not rushing, not exhausting ourselves even more.

With recovery and as the undesirable effects wear off, we are experiencing unusual additional energy. Small bit of willingness to open our eyes. A desire to breathe very deeply. An intention to walk without concerns about getting dizzy and shaky. Wow! That is success!

That is the hugest success we can only imagine. We never think it is such a pleasure to simply walk without pain. Well, it is. I know how it feels to suddenly wake up after long months of being in a subdued mood, blundering around half-asleep, having no willpower to even want something. Recovery after a long treatment is similar to being reborn.

Colors regain brightness. Sounds become clear. Light is blinding. Sun is so intense. Yes, we probably have to wear sunglasses.

The other suggestion is as follows. Many medications require specific approach: staying out of sunlight, not consuming some particular foods or drinks and so on. We cannot forget about these warnings after the last dose of medication because its activity may continue way beyond this point. Being cautious is a good habit when starting or discontinuing medications. Alcohol does not work with any medication: it either inhibits the positive side or enhances it. I believe staying away from alcoholic drinks is a basic when recovering or while using meds.

The most often observed side effect must be nausea and feeling sick. It is unfortunately that our body wants to alert us, and we know we are wrong and the body is right, but we have to continue with meds. I had extreme episodes of nausea. To the point when I could not even think clearly. Nausea did not allow sleeping or resting either. I somehow found aloe vera juice. The stuff that worked for me was with pomegranate flavour. I am extremely sensitive to any substance, and regular anti-nausea pills never did what they were expected to, but with aloe vera juice I achieved a state when I was feeling practically normal. I took it after quite a lot of water on empty stomach and then as prescribed: 4 full large spoons.

The third suggestion is moderation. Moderation in everything. No extreme foods or entertainments, no extreme physical loads or exercises. Living around the neutral zero isn’t that bad at all. Overdoing with physical exercises can through you back, so can eating out too much or having too many drinks.

It’s a heavy work for the body to return to normal daily routine without strong pills, injections, i/v pumps or i/v lines. While it is such a relief to get off meds, there is an in-between period. It is better to get back to life slowly than destroy everything that was achieved through so much suffering.

Meanwhile, the last suggestion is think pink! Soft and dreamy colors in the environment work their magic. Pictures drawings and paintings of beautiful things in calm colors do the same: relax the tension, make our mind happy and that’s when we are really back on track.

Think pink: create happiness

Think pink: troubles go away

Think pink: send and receive love

Think pink: beauty has so many faces

Think pink: recovery is just a step away

Think pink: no other color speaks so loudly about feeling good

Think pink: this is how we win

Think pink: it is a good color to make face and soul look fresh

Dream vacation … is not happening, how to get over the disappointment

Dream vacation is something I wish you, me, and everybody.

Every human being needs a vacation here and there: from routine, from work, from health problems, from pain and from people who get on our nerves. While I lived in Europe, I practically never had a vacation. Theoretically, every teacher had a very long summer vacation over there, but what do you do for 3 months without any money? That was reality. Salaries were so miserably small that after receiving the vacation pay, usually for almost 3 months at once and paying off debts that one had accumulated over the winter months, there was nothing left. So, the situation is like this: I have now fairly good weather, all kinds of free time and zero money for 3 months or a bit longer until the first salary rolls in. What do you do because you still want to eat and need some basics to survive?

I loved to pick mushrooms, gardening and since early childhood I have been sewing and designing outfits. I was getting up at 5 am, quickly run around the forest to get enough mushrooms for selling on the Riga Central Farmer’s Market, tried to sell them as fast as possible because there was only 1 train going back to where I lived. During these a few hours I also needed to shop for things I was out and then I had to literally run head over heels to catch the train.

If I had some sewing order I would do sewing. If I had somebody interested in private classes, I’d teach also during all summer. I could also do some gardening afterwards to put more food on my table. That was having a vacation, but still working harder than even during the work months.

Once I relocated to Canada I learned that everybody goes on vacation: one time in winter and for 2 weeks in summer. Nice! I mean, 2 weeks is a very short time period to do something meaningful, but still: one probably can catch the breath. Luckily, my husband loves traveling. We tried camping, too, but I find it sometimes scary and sometimes too time-consuming because the sun goes down very fast and after that it is really boring. Darkness. Silence. For night owls like me, that is tough. Sleep runs away, it feels that all insects are straight after me and I also hear some strange steps behind the wall of tent. Not to mention sudden rain, getting lost, not being able to find a decent campground and so on. We usually got products and all camping gear and ended up sleeping over in a motel until we finally gave up the idea about camping without a camper that provides a safe shelter.

Dream vacations happen rarely. There is always something: no time, no money or no health. The last 4 years have been troublesome for me. I would so much love to take a vacation from all pains and health issues. I feel like I totally deserve that.

So, how do you get not upset about some could-be-way-better vacation? How do you get over disappointment that it is not possible again to just leave everything behind and go away for a dream vacation? By making expectations more realistic and down to the Earth. By simply living through the summer and experiencing the best of everything available.

It is a good start not to scroll through social media sites where people share their real or polished up vacations, resorts, beaches, fancy foods, fantastic outfits, extremely exciting foreign cities and far-away lands, best summer destinations what money can get and so on. Keep it simple and enjoy what is within reach.

You might have a very pleasant vacation just a year later.

Secondly, there is something happening locally, too: fairs, food fests, music festivals. If you are a fan of crowds, that is a place to be. What if you are not happy being among lots of people and would rather be on your own? In that case, you could take longer walks, see exhibitions, go to the theatre or some smaller scale musical or art event.

Gardening is the best pass-time for any age, any health condition and any marital status. It comes with an added bonus in a form of freshest veggies possible.

Thirdly, there are plenty of people who are restricted by their health. It can be very tricky to get away when somebody is after surgery or on strong medications. It can be not in your best interest to take a long trip when there are certain life-threatening conditions that require ongoing medical attention.

So, what do you do? Get all crying and in tears because you know you won’t get away? Become angry and nasty because “everybody goes on vacation, only I cannot”? Send sad messages to friends or relatives painting yourself in black mood and feeling like a victim of circumstances? We can certainly do all of the above, and it won’t make us feel one small bit better.

I know that these who wait long enough receive what they are longing for. It might be not the next week or next month, but it will happen. It is true that vacation feels very different at the age of 30 and at the age of 60 or 80. Do you want to wait? Do you feel like it is worth waiting? No, it’s not worth killing oneself about what could have happened, but didn’t because of … all kinds of things. It is not worth trying to figure out why everybody is so lucky and happy and you are not. That is life. Life gives us vacations when it wants, not when we require. With the best case scenario, desires match opportunities.

Well, I always hope that the next year will be better than the previous one. I am going, though, to see my mom, my daughter, my sister and my grandchildren, as well as friends at the end of August. The weather is not going to be splendid in Latvia around that time, it never is, but the best part is meeting people who I love at least once a year. If you have somebody who you haven’t seen for ages, maybe it is a good time to go and pay a visit?

Finally, there are hundreds of great things that don’t require any extra huge spending.

There are numerous new books which wait to be read.

Sketchbook invites to add something new. Maybe you are in coloring? Fashion designing? Maybe make something new for yourself or your home? Maybe spend much more time with your closest ones? It sometimes feels everything else comes first and our direct family can wait. It should be straight the opposite: we have to make many other things wait in order to give our best part to the family. I hope you have a nice summer!

Can gardening save your life?

I know people who have survived thanks to gardening.

So, are you the lucky one with a garden?

That could pretty much be an answer to many of your health problems and even save your life, because doing gardening will make your life so much more enjoyable and even support you financially and save money.

It just said on the news that one-third of the world’s population was obese.

That is the most recent statistics. When we imagine how many places on the Earth cannot provide people who live there with any food or clean water, it becomes very clear that so-called developed countries are the ones mostly suffering from this disaster. It’s no surprise it comes as a combo of all kinds of cancers and dementia, plus diabetes and cardio-vascular fatalities. Diseases are getting younger. We thought stroke was more likely to happen after 40-50, it’s affecting now people 16 years old and even younger.

This happens due to food production which is very distant from the way we were having food even 50-60 years ago. With every year, more newly discovered chemical combinations, supplements, taste enhancers, coloring and thickening agents, preservatives and so on and so forth, have been replacing natural food. Not to mention 90 types of artificial sweeteners which replace sugar.

When we think dairy, do we imagine pure chemicals in the container with a label organic cream? We don’t. Yet, it isn’t even a cream, but some mix of things that make this substance look and to some extent taste like cream. The whipping cream isn’t a cream, and milk that comes from powder or egg mix that doesn’t have real eggs in it: that’s all processed already. Cheese is the most affected because it’s easy to replace real ingredients with chemicals in cheese. Your breakfast flakes: they are already processed, if they were not you’d have raw grains. Natural and good fats such as organic butter have been replaced with chemically created fats for some 80 years. That refers to any margarine, oils of not organic origin and obviously all pastry includes that: bread, bread type of snacks, etc. since it really needs some fat or it goes stale the next day.

So, what difference does the produce you have grown on your own make?

Huge. If you have ever tried freshly picked cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini or peppers from the backyard, you know how much richer the taste is. At some point, it’s impossible to compare garden produce with fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Greens and herbs such as green onion, dill, parsley, basil, thyme and sage from the grocery store wilt right away and they never feel really fresh because they soak them in water by spraying all the time at the store.

Farmer’s market is a good place, however, sometimes prices are extremely high (at least in Whitby, Ontario) and the produce does not look that great.

By growing our own vegetables and fruits we know what they contain.

I love that I know exactly how my vegetables are grown: what water I use, what soil, etc. Small gardens can be easily weeded manually; there is no need to use chemicals to conquer weeds. It’s also easier to control any pests in case they would appear with simple household supplies.

It makes an incredible difference for me: I just walk outside and choose whatever I feel like having for meal. Being in fresh air and having so much stuff for eyes to enjoy is definitely an added bonus.

Plus, one does not need any gym to stay in a good shape: thankfully garden work involves all kinds of moves, exercises and tasks.

I know that not everybody can live in a house with a decent size backyard. I live here also because we rent this place. Yet, there are millions of people who only have lawns everywhere: in the front and in the back. If we would start with lots of people growing healthy chemical-free vegetables and fruits not only for themselves, but also for a few other people, we might end the cancer, cardio-vascular, diabetes and obesity epidemic. We might just also have better mental abilities because of that; and some garden work is always useful as opposed to scrolling through screens or snoozing in front of TV.

This is how gardening will make you healthy:

You will get lots of exercise without paying fees for gym or designating specific time for it;

You will be rewarded with crops that are clean and contain many times more nutrients;

Naturally occurring minerals, vitamins and other good substances are only found in FRESH garden produce;

You will avoid harsh chemicals by using in your gardening only natural fertilizers and composted plant food;

You will have something to take care of and you’ll never feel lonely;

You will have peace of mind, place to relax and ability to clean the bad energies when being in contact with the soil;

You will save money on organic herbs, fruit and vegetables which we really need, but which are not in a good shape at grocery stores and very expensive;

Kids find gardening attractive because we can monitor the steady development and growing;

Gardening is suitable for any age or condition: we can always find ways to do things easily;

You don’t have to travel far to be surrounded by the nature;

Garden can become the most inspiring thing for writers, artists, designers and other creative folks;

By doing gardening and consuming only fresh and chemical-free produce you will literally help your body and brain fight diseases and manage easier the existing conditions.

So, gardening might save your life, especially if gardening becomes your passion.

Please enjoy the purple blossoming in my garden!

Chives in bloom

Purple iris

Close-up

Lovely faces of pansies

Isn’t it pretty?

The many shades of beauty

Easy to grow, always smiley

 

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!

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.

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