10 Tips for Supporting Caregivers

Unless you’ve done this work of caregiving, there’s no real understanding of the limitations, the complexity of difficulty, or the toll it takes on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being of the caregiver.

Direct care: an affordable health care option?

Holistic health recognizes that self-care comes in many forms and access to affordable health care is one of them. Some people even gather to pray for it! So if you are one of the millions of Americans without health coverage growing tired of the health care debate and just want to be able to see a doctor, affordably, keep reading.

For years now, there’s been a quiet buzz stirring about Direct Care (aka Flat-rate Primary Care, Concierge Medical Care, Direct Primary Care, DPC), a private member-based solution to primary health care. DPC isn’t your typical health spending account, HMO, or insurance plan. It’s more like a health club membership.

Using this model, doctors see patients for primary care which according to the Direct Primary Care website “spans preventative care (such as immunizations and check-ups), routine treatment of common injuries and complaints, and maintenance for ongoing health issues”. Patients pay an initial enrollment fee, then a flat monthly fee directly to the provider for unrestricted access to visits. No co-pays, no insurance forms, no in-/out-of-network providers, and perhaps best of all, no denial of benefits based on pre-existing conditions.

The general philosophy behind direct care is that when people have health concerns, they visit their doctor who is able to diagnose, consult and treat most problems. While specialists and hospitals are available for more serious or complex illnesses, the need to use them is not as likely as routine care. Yet the current health insurance model forces consumers to pay for the occasional unexpected, expensive treatment all the time. By cutting out health insurance companies, the direct care model allows private practitioners to lower their overhead, reduce paperwork and stop charging patients for expensive care they may or may not receive. The result is an holistic approach that encourages consumers to choose what doctor they employ, see that doctor as little or often as needed and pay less for low-cost services (plus minimal charges for generic medications, complex lab work, etc).

So what about insurance for a serious injury, surgery or ongoing treatment for a life-threatening illness? A catastrophic health insurance plan can cover those medical necessities. Deductibles are normally higher. And although rates vary depending on individual’s medical history and type of plan chosen (supplemental or comprehensive), they are typically much lower than traditional health insurance premiums.

Qliance is a leading direct primary care provider based in Seattle, Washington. Founded by Norman Wu and Dr. Garrison Bliss, Qliance offers affordable medical care that includes in-office visits, phone and email support to manage ongoing chronic conditions of its insured and uninsured patients. Recognizing the occasional need for additional services, they also partner with local medical service providers, make referrals and coordinate specialist care. With five clinics in Seattle, they plan to expand in the state next year.

The bottom line is that comprehensive health care is out of reach for many Americans, leaving them uninsured. For them, and especially for families with children, direct primary care is an alternative option for affordable health care. Having a medical system focused on patient care should fill at least one of the huge gaps left by our current system.

For more info: Forbes article

7 practical uses for peppermint essential oil

Peppermint grows with ease and abundance in many regions. One can often find a wide variety growing in backyards, neighborhood and community gardens, sold at farmers markets and natural food stores. To tell if a live plant is fresh, gently rub a mint leaf between your fingers to release the oils and inhale the wonderful aroma. Ahhh.

A favorite of many for centuries, peppermint is one of the most useful essential oils. Its variety of therapeutic uses has found application in many commercial products. The oil blends well with other oils such as lavender, frankincense, lemon, sandalwood, orange and ylang ylang.

Although generally regarded as safe (GRAS), peppermint can cause skin irritation. Therefore, pregnant and lactating women and young children should always seek the counsel of a health care or holistic health practitioner before using.

Peppermint is easily incorporated into the home and lifestyle and can even replace many common over-the-counter remedies used to …

  1. Soothe. Apply peppermint topically to sooth itching and reduce swelling of mosquito or spider bites, and bee stings. Along with lavender and frankincense, peppermint can help to drain the sinuses, relieve headaches, and even relieve migraine pain.
  2. Breathe. Peppermint instantly opens the sinuses and bronchial airways, improving breathing for allergy, hay fever, asthma and bronchitis sufferers.
  3. Invigorate. Peppermint’s ability to arouse mental alertness and concentration makes it useful as a quick pick-me-up to combat sleepiness, dizziness, faintness, fogginess, or general dullness.
  4. Calm. Just as peppermint invigorates, it also soothes and relaxes. It can reduce the symptoms of hysteria, shock, anxiousness, restlessness, insomnia and stress, especially when combined with lavender.
  5. Deodorize. Peppermint is a powerful freshener. It’s commonly used in the laundry, bathrooms (add to cotton balls), foot deodorizers (add to creams or oils), toothpaste, and mouthwash. One drop under or at the back of the tongue is a great breath freshener.
  6. Digest. Even just the fragrance of peppermint is known to stimulate the appetite, ease digestion, alleviate nausea, and relieve irritable bowel and motion sickness.
  7. Flavor. A few drops of peppermint essential oil can be used to flavor homemade toothpaste or mouthwash, or added to teas and salads.

Due to the powerful nature of pure, therapeutic essential oils, a little goes a LONG way. There is no need to overuse oils. That said, essential oils can be …

  • Diffused into the air. There are several ways to diffuse essential oils and many commercial diffusers are available. The goal: accessing the oils’ beneficial properties.
  • Applied or massaged directly into the skin. Diluting with carrier oil is recommended. Always test on a small patch of skin first to determine potential skin sensitivity.
  • Ingested. Caution: only certain oils can be consumed. Find and consult with a registered aromatherapist for details.

*Peppermint should be avoided altogether if you have mint allergies.

Did you know?

Therapeutic grade oils are distilled or cold-pressed in a way that maintains the integrity of the plant’s effectiveness. Not all essential oils are created equal. 

For more info on certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) essential oils, check out An Intro to Essential Oils

[Full Disclosure: Aqiylah Collins is a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate]


Image: Mint Leaves by Kham Tran is used here with permissions granted under the GNU Free Documentation License

Managing Moods

Moody.
1. Given to frequent changes of mood; temperamental.
2. Subject to periods of depression; sulky.
3. Expressive of a mood, especially a sullen or gloomy mood
— www.thefreedictionary.com/moody
Image: Mood Mix by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.

Image: Mood Mix by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.


Image: Blood Brain Barriere by Ben Brahim Mohammed is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Osteoporosis: are you at risk?

Osteoporosis has been called the silent disease. As we age, particularly beyond menopause (for women), it's not uncommon for bones to thin, weaken and fracture without warning.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, those who meet the following conditions are at greater risk:

  • female
  • advanced age
  • Caucasian
  • a history of fractures
  • a small thin frame
  • alcohol and tobacco use
  • family history of osteoporosis
  • surgical ovary removal
  • early menopause
  • a low calcium diet or poor absorption
  • lack of weight bearing exercise
  • long term use of certain medications (steroids, anti-convulsant drugs, HRTs)
Image: Age and Bone Mass by Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Website is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Image: Age and Bone Mass by Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Website is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license


But there's good news! Osteoporosis is preventable. Even though some factors can't be altered (gender, ethnicity, family history, etc), others can. Prevention begins with doing what you can to minimize the risks. Even if you've already been diagnosed, these steps can slow down the progression of bone loss. Start now and do what you can.

Get serious about giving up tobacco. See your medical doctor for advise. If traditional methods aren't successful, try hypnosis or neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Calcium is crucial to building and maintaining solid bone mass and density. Up to age 50, the average adult needs 1000 mg per day. For women over 50 or at the onset of menopause, and for men older than 70, the requirement increases to 1200 mg per day..

Beyond dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), be sure your diet includes plant-based calcium-rich foods such as fresh leafy greens like collards and cabbage, sardines, salmon, soy, almonds, and pistachios. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and may be lacking in certain regions or during winter months when sunshine is minimized. Also, salt intake interferes with calcium absorption, so lowering your intake may be helpful.

Begin a regular routine of walking, running, jumping rope, aerobics, take a Zumba class, or find a tennis partner and dust off the racket. Any exercise that requires you to use the weight of your body increases bone density.

Detecting Osteoporosis is as simple as getting tested. The test, called a bone mineral density scan (or DEXA) can identify early osteoporosis and monitor treatment. For convenience, many radiology centers can schedule a scan at the same time as your annual mammogram.

Best of all, the test lasts about 30 minutes and is simple, painless and non-invasive.


Image: Human Hip Bone by Patrick Siemer is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Another word on avocados

Every time I go food shopping I'm tempted to buy avocados to add to salads, accompany beans, make guacamole, or mixed with lime juice and salt atop corn thins. The body loves all the healthy fats and fiber in avocados too. In fact, in people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels, the monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower LDL (bad fats) and raise HDLs (good fats).

Between the versatility and health benefits of avocados, who can buy just one? Certainly not me!

Unfortunately, if you don't eat them fast enough, they go bad. And refrigeration doesn't really help. So, my dilemma became what to do with really ripe avocados. Inadvertently, I found a solution: pudding. Yes, pudding ... made from avocados. 

Of all the recipes I tried, Louisa Shafia's 5-Minute Carob Pudding (get the printed recipe here) has become my favorite for the following reasons:

  • It's vegan - no dairy or eggs
  • It uses carob instead of chocolate (which I can't have)
  • Avocados + Carob = Super Nutrients
  • It requires minimal and natural ingredients
  • It makes two satisfying servings
  • It refrigerates nicely for the next day
  • Clean up is a cinch
  • The resulting texture and flavor are enjoyable
  • And most importantly, it is quick, healthy and delicious!

Here's how mine came out ...

Image: Avo-Pudding by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.

Image: Avo-Pudding by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.

Let's face it, when you want dessert, you want it right then, not in 30 minutes, but now! Although Shafia's recipe claims to take 5 minutes, I find that to be true once you have all of the ingredients assembled and measured out. So in reality it's more like 10 minutes, which is still a short time to satisfy a craving for something decadent ... and healthy!


Image: Avocado FruitnFoiliage by Geographer is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license

Verbal energy

Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. -Pearl Strachan

A while back, a friend shared that she was about to receive her college degree. I asked what her major was and she replied, "Art History, but I could only go part time so it's just an Associates degree".  

Say what?! ONLY? JUST?? 

Uh last time I checked, earning a college degree was a huge accomplishment in and of itself, so it's a pretty BIG DEAL for a single 37-year-old mother of 2 with a full time job

I clearly remember a special day many years ago. My grandfather woke me early so we could shine our shoes before gathering round the dining room table for my grandmother's homemade breakfast. Then we donned our Sunday best and piled into the family car. Everyone was smiling as we headed to my mom's graduation from the local community college. I was 9.

Being present when Mom received that Associates of Science degree in Political Science remains one of the highlights of my life! For 3 years, I lived with my grandparents during the week so Mom could attend night school after working all day at her full time job, to earn that darn piece of paper. This day represented triumph over the history, obstacles, and the naysayers. Mom was the first in our immediate family to both attend AND graduate from college.

Yet the real success rested in reclaiming HER personal dreams and writing her own story rather than succumbing to perceived notions of a young single woman of color raising a child in a world that deemed her future as limited. That day, I learned many great lessons about being a strong, resilient, determined, goal-oriented woman, as well as the necessity of a powerful support system.

Today, I feel the impact of those two small words - JUST and ONLY - in diminishing the hard work and sacrifices we make to achieve a dream or reach a goal or shine from within or simply function. As a health coach, I personally witness people giving away their power, their energy: "I only ate 3 vegetables today" or "I'm only 23 so no one is going to take me seriously" or "I'm just a paralegal" and "I'm just working out 3 days a week". 

Using these two words, in this way, is an unconsciously learned behavior that is rooted in our history. The practice sucks the life out of our accomplishments, and all that went into achieving them. It's an unintentional dishonoring of how we've spent our time and our energy, which is the stuff life is made of, truly. 

The good news is that we can choose to energize our lives by honoring our efforts! And let me be clear that this is not bragging but rather stating what is AND not making excuses for it in the same breath.

My challenge to you is to take the 3-day Words Have Power Challenge by committing to:

  • being more conscious about the words you use
  • spreading the word about self-limiting vocabulary

Start whenever you want or whenever you can. If you forget, start again. Make it fun by engaging a partner. No rules. Just be more mindful of your own vocabulary and inspire others to do the same in a loving and gentle way. I hope you'll share how you are embodying this new verbal energy. Your words have power, so use them wisely!

Much ♥


9 natural UTI prevention tips

A urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection occurs when harmful bacteria take up residence in the bladder or ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder where it is stored until emptied via the urethra). Urination is a natural process that flushes bacteria from the body.

Although infection can be caused by many things, women are at greater risk for UTIs than men. A shorter urethra and closer proximity to the anus, making them more likely to develop infection following sexual activity. Women who use a diaphragm, are pregnant, or have entered menopause seem to be more susceptible as well.

Other risk factors include diabetes, loose stools, extended periods of immobility, bowel and urine incontinence, surgery, having a catheter, advanced age, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, problems emptying the bladder, or anything blocking the flow of urine.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning when urinating 
  • Foul smelling urine 
  • Cloudy urine or traces of blood in urine 
  • Frequent urination or inability to hold small amounts of urine 
  • Weakness 
  • Excessive tiredness 
  • Back pain or pain below the rib cage 
  • Pain or pressure in the rectum (men) 
  • Pain or pressure near the pubic bone (women) 
  • Mental confusion, refusal to drink water, or loss of appetite (elderly) 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Fever or bleeding, if the infection has moved into the kidneys or bloodstream 
Image: lllu Urinary System by Arcadian is used here with permissions granted under the U.S. Public Domain (original works of the Federal Government)

Image: lllu Urinary System by Arcadian is used here with permissions granted under the U.S. Public Domain (original works of the Federal Government)

Sadly, I've been down this road enough times with folks to know that the healing modality depends on the particular bacteria strain. A urine culture will reveal the strain of bacteria you are dealing with, and most doctors will tell you if a UTI can be managed without antibiotics. Something like ecoli (yes, you read that right) requires a remedy more powerful than what's discussed here. If you cannot take antibiotics or prefer not to, consult a qualified herbalist.

As for prevention or early first sign of UTIs, consider the following ...

  1. Practice good genital hygiene. Avoid unclean public toilets. Keep a squeeze (perineal) bottle with warm water by toilet and use to wash front and back after eliminating, and be sure to ALWAYS wipe front to back. 
  2. Always practice safe sex, exercise caution during sexual activities, and bathe afterwards. Be sure to properly clean intrauterine devices (IUDs). 
  3. Cranberries contain hippuric acid which create an acidic environment, making the urinary tract unattractive to bacteria, and helps to inhibit their growth. Use a pure cranberry juice or tablet. For recurring UTIs (aka RUTIs), select a high dosage cranberry tablet with a non-acidic vitamin C (I favor Ester-C with Cranberry by American Health). 
  4. A probiotic designed to reach maximum effectiveness in the lower intestine. (I highly recommend Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics). 
  5. Drink LOTS of fresh water. 
  6. Avoid cheeses, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, chocolate, alcohol, yeast, and cigarettes to inhibit bacterial growth. 
  7. Increase garlic, tumeric, clove and other spices with antibacterial properties, prunes and plums (for their hip pubic acid), plus grains, corn, beans, lentils, walnuts, and peanuts for their acidic value. 
  8. Mix equal parts of tea tree, frankincense, bergamot, and juniper essential oils with EVOO or fractionated coconut oil and massage over bladder. Can also diffuse the essential oils into the air. 
  9. Eat foods high in Vitamin C. A list of the best choices can be found at World's Healthiest Foods

Note: A bladder infection is a serious condition that left untreated or improperly treated can lead to severe complications, kidney damage, and even blood poisoning. Please consult a medical or naturopathic doctor if you suspect or develop an infection.


Image: Pyuria by Bobjgalindo is used here with permissions granted under the GNU Free Documentation License

Life's not-so-little reminders

Funny how we plan, and then another Plan comes into play. You know the One. The One we never take into account when we are doing what we do. The One we conveniently forget about as we move-n-shake our way through life. Yeah that One. The Ultimate Plan.

While it is true that we can manifest what we want in our lives, it is also true that life is interconnected. And every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It's the domino effect.

So, in the words of my grandmother, "be careful what you manifest. Think it through, yet know too that there exists what you cannot see or know or plan for, so be prepared for life to throw you a curve when you least expect it, but most need it". Wisdom.

Recently, a bout of severe pain, chills, fever, exhaution, a trip to the emergency room, and a diagnosis of pneumonia, brought my Nana's words rushing back to me and everything of real importance into clear focus ... again, because we get off-track. And I am reminded of a few observations to share:

  • Slowww dowwwn
  • The healthier the body, the harder it fights to maintain homeostasis, and the faster it heals
  • After 3 days of self-treatment with no improvement, seek medical care
  • A strong tolerance for pain is NOT a permission slip for needless suffering
  • Allow those who love you and can see what you can't, to advocate for you
  • Doctors are great diagnosticians and symptom-solvers
  • Sometimes the immediate benefit of drugs outweighs the potential harm
  • 'Healing' is a personal commitment we make to ourselves every day
  • Strengthen the use of foundational wellness tools (like prayer, Reiki, healing affirmations, essential oils, fresh water, fruits and veggies) at every stage of dis-ease and every stage of wellness
  • Get with a health coach to improve daily wellness choices to cleanse properly, boost the immune system, and regain strength
  • Give thanks - good health is a precious, delicate, beautiful gift

Peace and good health!


What do juicing and breastfeeding on-the-go have in common

The other day, I was coaching a postpartum mom who is currently weaning her one-year-old off of breastmilk and is considering doing a juice & raw food cleanse to get back to her pre-pregnancy diet. 

Her challenge: With a demanding job as a corporate attorney, how to juice during the day? 

Ironically, this was the same question she had asked after returning to work as a breastfeeding mama ("how do I breastfeed and work full time?"). Her question created an AHA moment for both of us! 

Me: How did you solve the problem of nursing your baby during work hours?

Her: I pumped and bottled my milk so it could go with her to daycare.

........................................... Silence ..........................................

Her: Ooh, maybe I could do the same thing ... juice in the morning, bottle it and take it with me?

Me: That sounds like an idea!

Her: But I've heard that fruits and veggies lose vitamins and minerals once juiced and so you should drink them right away rather than refrigerate for later use. Is that true?

Me: Hmm, does that happen with pumped and bottled breastmilk? What do you think? 

Her: Well, pumped and bottled milk probably loses some value nutritionally, but the real value lost in not nursing directly from the breast is the soul connection ... lovingly holding your baby, looking her in the eye, that close skin-to-skin bonding time. It just can't be replaced. 

Me: Does that mean that pumped and bottled breastmilk is not valuable? Or that you don't get to make that connection with your baby at other times?

Her: NO! It's still considered the next best thing to actually feeding AT the breast. I mean, even doctors will verify that it's still better than formula in most cases. And I still nurse her on the breast at night time plus as she gets older we are creating new ways of connecting.

Me: Indeed. And when you pump your milk, is it with the same love and caring for your baby that you have when feeding at the breast directly?

Her: Oh yes!

Me: So, how does this all translate to produce and juicing?

Her: I guess once you cut into veggies they do begin to lose some of their nutritional value. That happens when we cook too, but we still eat cooked foods, right?

Me: Yes. How can you put that same caring and love into juicing?

Her: Hmm, maybe by choosing, washing, handling, storing, and preparing my fruits and veggies with a mindfulness for its connection to wellness and healing my body?

Me: Sounds like you are saying that your mindset and the interaction with your food is important to the energy of your food, and what value it has for your body.

Her: Yes! Exactly!

Me: So what can you conclude from this discussion?

Her: Well, I have to work. And I want to be healthy. So just like I pump my milk and send it with my baby, I can juice my fruits and veggies and carry them to work with me. It's not ideal, but it is the best in our given situation. Plus I get to choose the quality and determine the care that goes into the preparation ... something I have no control of outside my kitchen.

Me: Wow. Sounds like you've made a decision and feel good about it!

Her: YES! I have. Now all I have to do is find a fabulous portable container to store and carry my juices in. Thank you for helping work through this!

Me: You are an amazing advocate for your own health.


How I came to love chia seeds

In the midst of an experiment to see how certain foods effect my health, I decided to eliminate gluten-rich foods (that's wheat, including durum, graham, kamut, semolina, and spelt, plus rye, barley and triticale) for 90 days. Today is day 52.

Living without gluten breads, pastas, and baked goods hasn't been difficult, in fact, it's much easier than I expected. Being more conscious of where gluten might show up unexpectedly requires a little more thought but not enough to be bothersome. Mainly, i've just steered clear of anything that might be breaded, dusted or mixed with flour, and decided not to indulge any of the numerous gluten-free breads on the market.

There's something about elimination that begs of new discoveries, and so this month began my exploration of a food I've noticed from afar for quite a while - chia seeds. Other than adding them to an occasional smoothie, I hadn't really thought much, in the past, about what else could be done with these teeny tiny seeds. 

Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

My research led to a week-long chia seed obsession. I experimented with adding chia seeds to smoothies and soups and stir-fry and oatmeal, making fruity chia seed puddings, sprinkling over salads, and even mixing the seeds with water to see if they worked as a vegan egg substitute in baking (they do!). What I discovered is that I LOVE CHIA SEEDS. With barely a flavor of their own, they hide/mix well in just about everything. It's a bonus that they are easy, delicious, and each little seed is loaded with amazing stuff (vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, soluble and insoluble fiber, complete protein, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, ...) that's good for you. So chia seed has become a staple in the Qi To Wellness kitchen!

Chia seed pudding topped with maple syrup & berries

Up next on the gluten-free (GF) journey:

  • My adventures with Polenta! 

In the meantime, I'm enjoying life without gluten and it feels great! Do you have a gluten-free story or recipe to share? Please do so in the comments section below or email me. I love learning from YOU!

How to use essential oils

Essential oils can be used in many ways. Incorporating multiple methods throughout the day are most effective for healing. Here are a few methods.

AROMATHERAPY

Essential oils are powerful, so in most cases a few drops are all that's needed (more is not better!).

How: add a few drops to a bowl of hot or warm water. Bend over the bowl, placing a towel or other cloth over your head, creating a tent. Breathe slowly and deeply to inhale the vapors. 

How: essential oils can be diffused in several ways. There are many types of diffusers on the market, however, the ones that do not involve heat are best as heat can destroy the oils properties. My favorite is an electronic diffuser. 

SKIN CONTACT

When using an oil for the first time, always test on a small patch of skin for reaction. Oils can be diluted with a good quality carrier oil (like fractionated coconut), if desired.

How: rub one or two drops on the desired area. The soles of the feet often produce great results for children.

INTERNAL

Only some essential oils can be taken internally. Many cannot. Be sure to know how the oils you have can be used.

How: place a few drops in a glass, add water, and drink. Or place a 1, 2, or 3 drops under your tongue.

*For healing, be sure to use pure essential oils. As always, experiment slowly and do what works best for you.

Did you know?

Essential oils are powerful and as such only small amounts are needed in an application. Anyone using an oil for the first time, should do sensitivity testing a small patch of skin prior to general use. Additionally, a carrier oil may be necessary and beneficial to dilute the oil if it not tolerated well. For more information, consult a certified aromatherapist (CA) or naturopathic doctor (ND).


[Full Disclosure: Aqiylah Collins is a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate]