Monday, December 17, 2007

Making Stress-Free New Year's Resolutions

Your New Year's Resolution is supposed to help you help yourself in some way. You often use them to break a bad habit, or to promise to make some improvement in your life or lifestyle such as eating healthier or exercising more often.

The goals and ideas and promises are always good, so why do New Year's Resolutions often cause so much stress or fail after the first couple of weeks in January?

Here are few of the pitfalls and how you can avoid them. If you do these things between December 26 and December 31, you will be well prepared to follow through and successfully accomplish your resolution goals.

1. The goal is too vague.

Many people say they want to lose weight, find a better job, spend more time with their family. Here is one I am seeing quite a lot now: Resolve to reduce stress!

All of these are great goals for sure! You are on the right track for wanting to pursue them, but my first questions are how, where, when, what?

Lose how much weight? Where are you going to look for that better job? When are you going to spend more time with the family? What are you going to do to reduce stress?

Without specific details, numbers, directions, times and dates, plans of action, you are setting yourself up for failure (which, by the way, causes more stress!).

Sit down now and make a detailed plan. The act of writing it down actually helps to make you goals and plans real, too. Some people go so far as to make it look like a written contract. Words on a page solidify the ideas in black and white (or whatever colors of ink and paper you use), and makes them real. A written contract with yourself, or even just a list that you frequently review, will help keep you on track so that you may successfully fulfill your promise to yourself.

Another important point: Do review the list or contract, or your goals and efforts may be forgotten in the shuffle of everyday living!

2. The timeline is unrealistic.

Losing ten pounds in three days probably isn't going to happen. Spending more time with your family at the busy time of year for your business probably isn't going to happen.

Making resolutions that you know you can't keep is a big source of stress….huge source of stress….and though your heart is in the right place, your head has to be on board for the plan, too.

While I am completely in favor of following through with intuitive goals, those sparks of ideas that hit you like a bolt of enlightening lightening (which are often messages from your body telling you what you need to be healthy), you do need to follow some logic and reasoning in fulfilling the goal.

If you make a plan as outlined in #1 above, you will avoid the pitfall of trying to do much too fast or too soon, and avoid the disappointment of missing your goals.

3. You need help.

Sometimes the help you need is as simple as a reminder to keep you on track, so write that list or print that contract with yourself and post it where you will see it on a daily basis. Enhance it, make it pretty, frame it and hang it on a wall! The more it attracts your attention, the more energy you will put into it, the more likely you are to succeed at your goal!

If you need ideas on how to fulfill your goal, check it out online. The internet is an incredibly diverse research tool. You can find many practical suggestions not only on this blog, but other websites, message forums, and even discussion groups through Google and Yahoo, MSN and others.

If you like (or need!) to be around others, pursuing your goals with friends or other like-minded people could help keep you on track. Being part of a group is a very powerful motivator and energy enhancer that should not be underestimated or overlooked. See my previous article on the benefits of group practices: Qigong Group Practice: It Does A Body Good!

You might need the input of a professional if the "how to" of your goal is still elusive. See a nutritionist if you need to, contact a personal trainer, a life coach, or a stress management consultant like me! We are here to help you. We have many techniques available for all sorts of people and lifestyles. We want to help you overcome your challenges and reach your goals.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Antibacterial products and probiotic supplements: save money and your health – don’t use them

Probiotic Bacteria…Yum!

Some people are going to be surprised at the advice to avoid antibacterial products and probiotic additives and supplements, but there are several very good reasons to do so.

What prompted my interest was the first line from this news story: "Bugs in baby food? Microbes in your milkshake? Relax, this is not the latest tainted food scare — it's a growing trend in foods designed to boost health, not make you sick." ("Products with good bacteria get popular" By LINDSEY TANNER, AP Medical Writer, Mon Dec 10, 2007)

The vision that popped into my mind was one of a young mother, tv advertising in the background, spraying her baby with the newest antibacterial product safe enough to use around baby, and then feeding her child with this expensive, and unnecessary probiotic baby food to replace all the bacteria in her child she had just killed with the antibacterial product.

Do you see where this is going, and why I am against using both these products?

First, what do they mean by probiotic and antibacterial? Call this "Bacteria 101."

Pro – for, supportive of
Anti – against, opposed to
Biotic – of or pertaining to living organisms (i.e. bacteria)

So, probiotics support bacteria, and antibiotics kill bacteria.

Now that you know what you are looking for, take a look at probiotics. This excerpt is from the "An Introduction to Probiotics" page of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

"Probiotics are live microorganisms (in most cases, bacteria) that are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut. They are also called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria."

Yes, folks, bacteria, that very same stuff you pay top dollar to kill with antibacterial soaps, wipes, and sprays.

Here are two of their Key Points:

· "There is limited evidence supporting some uses of probiotics. Much more scientific knowledge is needed about probiotics, including about their safety and appropriate use.

· "Effects found from one species or strain of probiotics do not necessarily hold true for others, or even for different preparations of the same species or strain."

Some foods that contain naturally-occurring "friendly bacteria" are fermented items like yogurt, some cheeses, and sometimes pickles.

However, the experts do not agree that supplemental probiotics are effective at all, and they don't agree on which bacterial strains may be effective in delivering the proper amounts of "friendly bacteria" to your body.

There is one very large, red letter, bell-ringing question that everyone should be asking. I am. Are you? What is the "proper" amount of "friendly bacteria" you should be taking? No one knows, and you may be doing far more harm than good by ingesting these untried and possibly untrue supplements.

Now, why do you think you need these products in the first place?

Probably because you believe your body is low or lacking in the friendly bacterial you need to be healthy.

Why is that?

Probably because it is being killed by antibacterial products that destroy all bacteria, not just the unhealthy, disease-causing bugs. Not only that, by killing all bacteria in your environment, you are not giving yourself the small amount of exposure you need to build your immune resistance to bacteria.

Some exposure to environmental bacteria acts like a natural vaccine. When exposed to a small amount of bacteria, your body builds antibodies that will rid you of any disease-threatening bugs. If you are never exposed to a germ, you build no natural resistance. When you are then exposed to bacteria that you have built no resistance against, you get sick.

There are four things happening here:

1. stress suppresses the immune system

2. you are not giving your immune system the opportunity to build resistance to unhealthy bacteria

3. you are using antibacterial products that kill the friendly bacteria you do need to be healthy

4. antibacterial products probably contribute to the evolution of "super-bugs," germs that are resistant to antibiotic treatments.

Antibacterial products in everyday, home use is actually unhealthy, and one expert from John's Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health advises most people to avoid them.

Here are a few answers to questions on antibacterial (antimicrobial) products from Rolf U. Halden, PhD, PE, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Excerpts from "Cleaning Up Antimicrobial Hand Soaps" Please read this carefully and share it with your friends and relatives!

Office of Communications and Public Affairs: What are some of the concerns over the use of antimicrobial soaps?

Rolf Halden: One concern is that antimicrobial hand soaps may contribute to the rise of germs that are resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Most antimicrobial soaps use either triclosan or triclocarban as an ingredient to kill microorganisms. Triclosan is labeled a biocide, which means that it uses a non-specific mode of action to kill microbes. It is thought to destroy biological structures at random. [It kills good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. ~M~] Triclocarban resembles triclosan in structure and function.

Non-specific cell damage is not the only mode of action, however. Recent investigations demonstrated that triclosan also targets a specific site in the fatty acid synthesis of microorganisms. These studies can help to explain why laboratory bacteria exposed to triclosan were observed to develop cross-resistance to 7 out of 12 antibiotics evaluated—a finding interpreted by some scientists as a red flag and a harbinger of more drug-resistant microbial infections in humans. [I found this shocking….over half the antibiotics evaluated no longer kill the bacteria! ~M~]

OC&PA: Do these chemicals have negative environmental impacts?

RH: Triclosan has been detected in fish and in breast milk. This is not a big surprise since it shares similarities with other chlorinated organic pollutants, such as dioxin, PCBs and DDT. My laboratory group has detected triclosan and triclocarban in surface water, aquatic sediments and in municipal sludge, a sewage treatment by-product that is used extensively as agricultural fertilizer. Due to their persistence, both chemicals are widespread environment pollutants, detectable in about 60 percent of U.S. streams.

Triclosan is a pre-dioxin. It contains small quantities of toxic dioxins and can be converted to form additional dioxins when irradiated with sunlight. Triclocarban is a suspected carcinogen that can disintegrate to release two carcinogenic substances for each molecule converted. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: If these compounds are harmful, why would they be allowed in soap?

RH: When assessing the health risks of antimicrobial chemicals for use in cosmetics and other personal care products, we usually look at dermal exposure, absorption through the skin, which is very limited and thus considered safe given the data available today. However, since these chemicals are persistent environmental pollutants, other potential routes of exposure may exist. Antimicrobials may function as "chemical boomerangs" that, following disposal into wastewater, can come back to us contained in food and drinking water. This route of exposure is less well understood and needs to be studied further. While the “useful” lifespan of these compounds is measured in seconds or minutes, their environmental half-lives extend to weeks, months and even years, depending on whether they reside in water, soil or sediment. Unless chemical production is being reduced, we will continue to detect these compounds in the environment as well as in food and breast milk. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: What did the FDA panel conclude?

RH: Concentrating on product efficacy, the panel concluded that use of antimicrobial personal care products offers no benefit over use of regular soap and water, based on the available science. Studies conducted to date were either inconclusive or not properly designed to show a true benefit from these products. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]

OC&PA: Is there anything you would like to add?

RH: We as consumers buy antimicrobial products to stay healthy. In our desire for protection from potentially harmful germs, we often fail to consider the risks inherent in both the chemical exposure we voluntarily subject ourselves to and the potential increase in antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our household, workplace and the environment. In the absence of a known benefit, it is difficult to justify taking any additional risks. Regular soap and water have worked for centuries and there is no scientific evidence that this winning combination will lose its punch anytime soon. [Bold emphasis added by Michelle]


Friends, you don't need to spend your hard-earned money on probiotic foods and supplements that are of questionable value. Instead, find healthy and holistic ways to reduce stress so that your immune system functions at peak efficiency. A healthy immune system is the answer to probiotic and antibacterial use.

Avoiding toxic, antibacterial products will not only save you money on the products and the supplements you buy to reverse the effects of random bacteria killing, they will save your health and the health of the environment. Without them, your body will work holistically, as Nature intended, to build resistance to disease as well as generate the friendly bacteria you need to be healthy.

For non-toxic, natural ways to clean your home, read my article on the "Health Hazards of Housework and Chemical Cleaners" which contains a list of environment-friendly and people-friendly cleaning products.