Posture as Health

Bringing the Alexander Technique to Wilmington, NC

Sara is delighted to share the Alexander Technique with the Wilmington, North Carolina region. Her studio is located right in Wrightsville Beach which affords beautiful vistas and opportunities to breathe in the spaciousness of the ocean. If you are new to the Alexander Technique and curious about its benefits and applications, contact Sara at 804 389-3340.

Stress Relief Workshop Coming Soon on Sept. 10

Gentle, upright posture improves breathing, circulation and mood. Finding balanced breathing and easy posture soothes the nervous system and calms tension. You can learn a lifetime of postural skills in just 30 minutes! Come for an evaluation and gentle instruction with Sara Sommers, Alexander Technique Teacher, Mindfulness and Posture Coach.

Location: Zoe Therapy Services

                  2201 Libbie Ave. Suite 200

Date: Tuesday, Sept. 10

Time: 6pm-7:30pm

Cost: $ 10. Registration required.  Call Zoe Therapy or visit front desk-

804-303-9622

Instructor:  Sara Sommers 

Zoe Therapy sponsors The “Live Your Best Life” series which encourages learning & personal growth in a compassionate and supportive environment.

Strategies for Safer Sun Protection

With chemical sunscreens in the news due to the FDA’s call for more safety data on their primary ingredients, many of us are left wondering how best to protect ourselves and our families from the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can cause sunburn, long-term skin damage and skin cancer. Oxybenzone, a primary ingredient in chemical sunscreens, is a suspected endocrine disruptor that has been found in the blood, urine and breast milk of people who use sunscreens regularly. Though chemical sunscreens haven’t been proven unsafe, we wanted to explore some proven safe alternatives that will protect you from the sun’s rays without potentially causing other health hazards.

The Two Types of Sunscreen

First, it’s important to understand that there are two basic types of sunscreen: Chemical and Physical.

  1. Chemical sunscreens are those which you rub into the skin and are easily absorbed. Their active ingredients act like a sponge to absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays, preventing your skin from absorbing them and thus preventing sunburn.
  2. Physical (also called mineral) sunscreens are those which you rub onto the skin but aren’t easily absorbed. Sometimes these sunscreens leave a trademark white residue on your skin. That’s because the minerals they contain—usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—sit on top of the skin, acting as a physical barrier to block the sun’s rays from being absorbed by your skin.

Mineral sunscreens have been proven to be safe. Their active ingredients are not absorbed into the human body through the skin, and can be washed off at the end of the day.

What’s the Safest Sunscreen for You and Your Family?

The Environmental Working Group’s 2019 Guide to Sunscreens lists the safest and most effective sunscreens on the market today. You can find a detailed summary of the best specific brands of sunscreens on the market for you and your family here.

One interesting note: many sunscreens available in the United States wouldn’t pass Europe’s more stringent standards for blocking the sun’s damaging UVA rays. While UVB rays cause sunburns, the more prevalent UVA rays are linked with the development of basal cell carcinoma, melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancers. For this reason, it’s critical to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Consider Sunscreen As Your Last Line of Defense

While sunscreen is a great way to protect yourself when you have to be out in the sun, with a little planning and some wardrobe changes, you can reduce your overall exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays.

Here are some tips for minimizing UV exposure:

  1. Avoid the sun during peak hours: 10am –4pm. Plan early morning or early evening outings to avoid sun exposure during its most intense times.
  2. Invade the shade: Find a shady spot to enjoy the outside—trees, buildings and overhangs provide great shade for you to enjoy. No natural shade? Bring your own portable shade in the form of an umbrella!
  3. Hat’s on! A wide-brimmed hat is a smart way to avoid excess UV rays on your head, face, neck and even shoulders.
  4. UPF clothing: With an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of up to 50+, clothing with built-in protection blocks up to 98% of broad-spectrum UV rays.
  5. Long sleeves: Yes, even in summer. While a typical white cotton shirt only has an SPF of 7 (when dry) and SPF of 3 when wet, darker colors and tighter weaves offer additional protection.

If you want to protect yourself and your family from the sun’s damaging rays without exposing yourself to potentially toxic chemical ingredients, strategize a smart combination of scheduling outside activities early or late in the day, sticking to shaded areas mid-day, wearing UPF clothing with a wide-brimmed hat, and using mineral sunscreen on exposed portions of your skin.

Small adjustments like these, performed daily, can have a significant impact on your overall health and the health of your family for years to come!

Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients

Are Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients Potentially Harmful

Ah, summer! The sun is shining, school’s out and there’s a good chance you’ll soon be dipping your toes in a lake, ocean or pool.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays do miraculous things: They provide us with warmth and light, nourish plants and food crops, and trigger a reaction in our bodies that produces Vitamin D, an essential ingredient for good health–boosting the immune system, strengthening teeth and bones, healing some chronic skin conditions and enhancing mood.

But too much of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause a sunburn. In addition, long-term UV exposure is proven to lead to photo-aging and skin cancer.

Because of these dangers, for at least 40 years, most of us have been quick to apply and reapply sunscreens that prevent the sun’s damaging rays from reaching our skin and thus prevent sunburn. There are clear benefits to this practice, as sun damage is dangerous and irreversible.

The Many Chemicals in Sunscreens

Many sunscreens rely on chemicals including oxybenzone, octocrylene and avobenzone to filter and block the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays from reaching the deep layers of our skin. There is recent controversy over the amount of these chemicals that is being absorbed into our bodies and what unintentional results that may cause.

In May 2019, the Journal of the American Medical Association published results of the FDA’s exploratory trial on the maximum usage of sunscreens to learn whether the chemicals in sunscreen are absorbed systemically. The conclusion was that, of 24 participants applying four commercial sunscreens at the maximum use conditions, results were that the blood plasma concentrations of four commonly used chemicals in sunscreen—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule—were found to exceed the FDA threshold for waiving toxicology studies.

FDA Orders More Safety Testing for Chemical Sunscreens

In other words, we need more clinical testing to determine if the levels of these chemicals in the bloodstream are unsafe when individuals use the maximum recommended amount of sunscreen each day. The FDA has changed its regulatory requirements around sunscreen and is asking sunscreen manufacturers for additional safety data on 12 ingredients the test found were being absorbed into the body at higher rates than previously thought.

It’s important to note that both the FDA and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend that consumers continue using sunscreen. None of the 12 ingredients that merit further testing have been proven unsafe; the FDA has simply called for additional safety data.

Oxybenzone: Suspected Endocrine Disruptor

The Environmental Working Group suggests that oxybenzone, one of the most common chemical sunscreen ingredients, is a suspected endocrine disruptor, and may cause skin allergies.

Endocrine disruptors are substances that impact bodily functions including development and reproduction by affecting hormones—in this case, thyroid hormones. However, most of the data about oxybenzone and reproduction are based on animal testing, so it’s impossible to state with certainty whether these chemicals have a negative impact on human health.

There is data around the human health impact of oxybenzone levels in the blood and its impact on pregnancy: Research indicates that pregnant women with higher oxybenzone exposure have shorter pregnancies when carrying male babies, and the chemical may impact birth weight.

An Alternative to Chemical Sunscreens

Again, protecting yourself from the sun’s damaging UV rays by using sunscreen remains critically important.

If you’re concerned about chemicals in sunscreen and their possible side effects, consider switching to a mineral sunscreen. While chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and absorb the sun’s rays, physical sunscreens contain minerals—usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide–that stay on top of the skin and act as a physical block to prevent ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin.

Mineral sunscreens are “generally recognized as safe” and provide an effective alternative to chemical sunscreens.

In our next post, we’ll explore mineral sunscreens and additional chemical-free alternatives to sun protection.

What are the Benefits of PEMF?

What are the Benefits of PEMF?

As we age, our cells slow down. But what if you could reset your cells, restoring them to full power as easily as you swap out the batteries in your TV remote? Thanks to a non-invasive, alternative therapy called PEMF, you essentially can.

What is PEMF?

PEMF―short for pulsating electromagnetic frequencies―is a non-surgical therapy used to heal damaged tissues, stimulate organs, and relieve pain. PEMF operates similarly to the way rechargeable batteries work, but on a cellular level.

The longer we’re alive, the harder our cells have to work to keep up with the daily assault of environmental pollutants, inflammation-causing foods, stress, and bodily injuries. But by treating the cells of the body with short bursts of low-level electromagnetic radiation, research has shown that the mitochondria within cells (where energy is stored) get a boost. In essence, they’re recharged, which supports cells’ natural repair mechanisms and encourages healing.

What Conditions Does PEMF Treat?
Originally pioneered by NASA as a treatment for the bone loss and depression experienced by astronauts, PEMF was approved by the FDA in 1979 to improve bone healing. Today, PEMF has been deemed safe to treat an incredibly wide array of issues and injuries.

Treatments can help boost the immune system, improve sleep, speed up healing from injuries and reduce depression. More specifically, research studies demonstrate that PEMF helps reduce pain and swelling after surgery, encourages fractures to heal faster, and alleviates the pain of arthritis and fibromyalgia. Studies are ongoing, but animal trials even suggest PEMF may be useful in liver regeneration and treatment of nerve and spinal cord damage.

During a PEMF session, specialized pads, mats, rings, or paddles are applied to the skin. Electromagnetic pulses are then pushed through these mechanisms to deliver energy to your cells. PEMFs can heal a slight imbalance or problem quickly; repeated sessions can also bring about more substantial change. Once the main issues have been addressed, many who receive PEMF choose to continue treatments in a maintenance fashion to support overall health and wellness.

But―EMFs are Dangerous, Right?

While you may have heard EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies) are bad for you, you can rest assured PEMF is perfectly safe. EMFs encompass a wide spectrum; the EMFs emitted by satellites aren’t of the same frequency as those produced by your wireless headphones, and neither of those frequencies is the same as what’s emitted by your microwave oven.

The EMFs that are dangerous are high-frequency. For example, X-rays register frequencies in the hundred quintillion-hertz range (no typo there; just a really, really big number). Frequencies this high are ionizing, meaning they are powerful enough to break electrons off of atoms. Such electron damage changes the way your cells work. Your microwave oven is somewhat better, registering only ten billion hertz in frequency. But though the frequency is not high enough to be ionizing, ten billion hertz is still high enough to disrupt your DNA.

PEMF falls on the opposite end of the frequency spectrum, about as far from X-rays as you can get. PEMF’s low-level electromagnetic waves mirror the frequencies found in nature. Treatments usually fall between 5 to 30 hertz; that’s less than you’re exposed to during a thunderstorm. Furthermore, most PEMF sessions are short in length, lasting only 10 or 20 minutes, and treatment is administered in short bursts, avoiding constant exposure. So there’s no need to worry about EMF damage from PEMF.

Where Can I Get PEMF Therapy?

Given its widespread uses, you might find PEMF treatments available at your physical therapist or functional medicine practitioner’s office. Because PEMF is still considered an alternative therapy, your insurance may not cover the cost; it’s always a good idea to call and confirm first.

Even if insurance won’t cover PEMF treatments, it may be worth exploring to finally heal a lingering shoulder injury, treat depression, or reduce the pain of osteoarthritis.

Sources:

https://blog.bulletproof.com/pemf-therapy/

https://www.magnawavepemf.com/non-surgical-treatment-for-herniated-disc-with-pemf-therapy/

https://www.oskawellness.com/blogs/blog/10-facts-about-pemf-machines-and-what-they-can-do-for-you

What is Cold Laser Therapy?

If you’re looking for an alternative approach to pain relief and tissue repair, you may find your answer in cold laser therapy. For over 50 years, doctors, dentists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, and other medical professionals have been using cold laser therapy―also called Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT)―to treat a surprisingly wide range of physical ailments ranging from acne, burns, and rashes to fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel.

LLLT is used to reduce swelling, treat slow-healing wounds (such as those related to diabetes), promote soft tissue and joint repair, and relieve pain, so it’s no surprise its applications are diverse. Sports medicine practitioners frequently offer LLLT as a treatment for tendonitis, bursitis, tennis elbow, and muscle strains. Physical therapy offices also use the technique to help those with neck pain, knee pain, or low back pain. And acupuncturists sometimes use cold laser therapy in place of needles because the laser beams can stimulate acupoints the same way needles do, without piercing the skin.

How Does Cold Laser Therapy (LLLT) Work?

Invented in the 1960s by Hungarian physician Endre Mester, clinical studies of LLLT began in 1967. Since then, over 2,500 studies have been published, some of which included double-blind, placebo-controlled testing. Though many of these studies were conducted on animals, not humans, and methodologies have been critiqued as inconsistent, overall study results indicate cold laser therapy is effective for pain relief.

During an LLLT treatment, a compact, handheld laser is placed over the injured area for a short period of time, ranging from 30 seconds up to several minutes. The intensity of the laser and the size and type of injury being treated determine the duration of treatment.

While the treatment is happening, the non-thermal photons of light emitted by the laser pass through the layers of the skin, penetrating anywhere from two to five centimeters below the skin’s surface. When the targeted cells absorb this energy, it kicks off a physiological reaction, encouraging the cells to heal, repair and normalize damaged tissue. The result? Reduced pain and inflammation and faster healing times.

The Downsides of Cold Laser Therapy

While there are far fewer dangers associated with cold laser therapy than the heated lasers used for surgery and ablations, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. First, never look directly at the light of the laser. Second, never use LLLT around the thyroid area. And last, irritation can occur if cold lasers are applied to the same area for too long or too often, so it’s best to proceed under the care of a health professional.

Beyond these risks, it’s important to note that cold laser therapy isn’t an overnight cure-all. It may take up to a month of treatment (with up to four sessions each week) before seeing results. Though LLLT stimulates healing in a variety of cells ranging from cartilage and ligaments to muscles and nerves, results vary by person.

Finally, because cold laser therapy is still considered an alternative medicine treatment, not all insurance companies will cover the cost. Do your due diligence, and give your insurance carrier a call before diving in.

Is Cold Laser Therapy or PEMF Better for my injury?

While cold laser therapy offers an alternative way to treat pain, there’s one more option you may also want to consider: PEMF, or pulsating electromagnetic fields. Whereas cold laser therapy certainly has its place in treating injuries or issues close to the skin’s surface, PEMF is more broadly applicable―you can even receive a whole-body session. PEMF can also boost the effects of LLLT when used pre- or post-session. Both claim to deliver pain relief, but of the two, PEMF offers a deeper healing result and, in certain instances, may even be a surgical alternative. For more information, check out our next post, later this month, about PEMF.

Sources:

https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-management/cold-laser-therapy-pain-management-treatment

https://www.healthline.com/health/cold-laser-therapy#purpose

https://www.devicewatch.org/reports/lllt.shtml

http://blog.pulsecenters.com/differences-pemf-laser-therapy

How to Prevent Tick Bites and Tick-Borne Infection

Ticks carrying blood-borne pathogens that can infect humans with serious diseases including Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are present in all 48 contiguous United States. April through September is prime season for tick bites.

It’s critical to prevent tick bites on yourself and loved ones, including children and pets. Here are some best practices:

Prevention is Best

If you enjoy outdoor adventures including gardening, hiking, camping or fishing, be aware that you are heading into prime tick territory. Ticks frequent grassy, brushy or wooded areas and are even in your backyard, thanks to the birds, rodents and deer that bring them. And our beloved pets may even bring ticks inside to you. Ticks are creatures of opportunity with many pathways to making a warm-blooded human like you their next host! Don’t let them.

How to Avoid Ticks and Prevent Tick Bites

 

  1. Avoid grassy, wooded or brush-filled areas where ticks are found, especially tall grass and areas covered in leaves.
  2. When hiking, stay toward the center of trails to avoid contact with trees and brush.
  3. It’s true that wearing long pants and sleeves are better than shorts or tank tops, but ticks will crawl as far as necessary to find and attach to a fold of skin. Long pants and sleeves deter but don’t prevent ticks. Tucking pants into socks is helpful, but it’s more effective to treat clothing with tick preventive products.
  4. Treat clothing, boots and gear with a product that contains 0.5% permethrin, a compound produced from chrysanthemum flowers that repels ticks and kills them on contact. Permethrin-treated clothing will continue to protect through several washings. You can also buy pre-treated clothing and gear.
  5. Use insect repellents registered with the EPA that contain DEET, picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), IR3535, 2-undecanone or para-menthane-diol (PMD). The EPA offers a search tool to find the ideal product for your needs. Never use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age and never use OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  6. Consider EPA-approved natural repellents: 2-undecanone, garlic oil, nootkatone and mixed essential oils including rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, thyme and geraniol.

Perform Mandatory Tick Checks When You Come Indoors

Ticks position themselves on grass and brush, standing on their back legs with front legs in the air, ready to grab potential hosts as you walk by. A thorough tick check upon coming inside is the only way to be sure you’re not their next meal. Here’s how:

  1. Check your clothes. Remove clothing and check it for ticks. If you find any, flush them down the toilet. Put dry clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks. If clothes are damp, dry them even longer to ensure any ticks are killed. If you need to wash your clothes, use hot water, as cold or warm water won’t kill ticks.
  2. Check gear and pets. Ticks will hitch a ride on anything they come in contact with, including backpacks, tents and pets.
  3. Shower ASAP. Showering soon after coming indoors may reduce your risk of contracting Lyme or other tick-borne illness. The water helps wash ticks off and provides a good opportunity for a thorough tick check.
  4. Do a full-body tick check. Use a hand mirror to view all areas of your body. Remember: ticks bite with an anesthetic and can’t be felt, enabling them to nestle in for a long blood meal. Seeing or feeling for them topically is the only way to know they’re there. Check your and your children’s bodies, especially in these areas:
    1. In or around ears, hair or hairline
    2. Under your arms
    3. Inside your belly button
    4. Behind the knees
    5. Between legs and in pubic region
    6. Around your waist

How to Remove an Attached Tick (Hint: Carefully)

Even with preventive measures, you still may find an attached tick. Ticks have evolved to feed on mammals stealthily, without us knowing. It happens. Here’s how to minimize potential disease implications:

  1. Remove the tick immediately, but do so strategically. Never scratch, burn or pull a tick off with your fingers. Don’t douse it in alcohol or Vaseline. Those are urban myths that will likely cause more harm than good.
  2. To properly remove an attached tick, use a pair of fine-tipped tweezers and apply gentle pressure as close to the tick’s head and your skin as possible. Don’t pull. The goal is for the tick to loosen its grip on its own, closing the channel between its gut—where bacteria that may carry Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever reside—and your body. Slowly pull the tick up and away as it disengages and put it in a tightly sealed plastic bag or jar with a moist towelette, keeping the tick alive so it can be identified and tested for parasites or bacteria if necessary.
  3. If you’re unsure whether you removed the entire tick, see your health care provider. If a tick’s mouthparts remain in the body, or you squeezed too hard and the tick regurgitated, there is a higher risk for disease.
  4. Closely watch the tick bite area for at least 30 days. Take photos and document any rash. An Erythema Migrans (EM) rash—also called a bulls-eye rash—is diagnostic of Lyme Disease. If you develop a rash, it may grow in size over time. Take daily photos as it progresses. See your health care provider—having a bulls-eye rash after a tick bite is diagnostic for Lyme Disease. That means the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease is present and you will require medical treatment.

The Role of Prophylactic Antibiotics After a Confirmed Tick Bite

If a tick was attached to you, document the exposure timeline and note any changes to your health. Symptoms of tick-borne infection may take from days to weeks to appear. Common symptoms include stiff neck, headache, night sweats, migrating joint pain, fever, new onset fatigue or flu-like symptoms. If any of these develop, see your health care provider.

Discuss the possibility of a prophylactic long course of antibiotics with your clinician. The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society recommends a course of four to six weeks of the antibiotic doxycycline for cases where a confirmed tick bite caused an EM rash.

Tick-Borne Illness

5 Questions about Tick-Borne Illness and Lyme Disease

Ticks are tiny arachnids, 3 mm to 5 mm in length—poppy seed size to sesame seed size–that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Many species transmit diseases to both people and animals due to the tick’s lifecycle of feeding on three main hosts—one each in nymph, larval and adult life stages.

Ticks that bite humans are present in all 48 of the contiguous United States. Late spring, summer and early fall are when most tick bites occur.

  1. What role does the tick life cycle play in tick-borne illness?

Because ticks attach to various host animals and feed on their blood, ticks harbor multiple bacteria and infectious diseases. These blood-borne bacteria are easily spread from the first host – often a rodent or bird― to the second host, a dog or deer, from which the tick may pick up additional microorganisms. All blood-borne bacteria from the tick’s first two hosts are transmitted to its final host, which is sometimes a human.

One unique type of disease-causing bacteria that ticks carry is called a spirochete. It’s shaped like a Slinky and can curl in on itself, forming a protective ball of dormancy to survive when conditions are unfavorable―such as when antibiotic treatment is attempting to kill it. When conditions change, the spirochete bacterium unfurls itself and continues ravaging its host—sometimes months or even years after dormancy.

  1. Why is tick-borne borreliosis called “Lyme Disease” in the US?

The most common tick-borne infection globally is caused by a spirochete bacterium known as Borrelia. The black-legged tick carries it in the US. In other countries, infection with this bacteria is called borreliosis.

However, the illness was first identified in the US near Lyme, Connecticut in 1977. This discovery occurred when a group of teenagers complained about aching joints after experiencing similar bulls-eye skin rashes seasonally. A parent who worked in Public Health brought together investigators that determined the condition was due to seasonal surges in tick bites. The studies, mostly done in Lyme, Connecticut, pinned the name “Lyme Disease.”

The telltale bulls-eye rash and aching joints (sometimes misdiagnosed as juvenile arthritis) aren’t always present. The Borrelia bacterium may attack the host’s immune system or exploit other weak areas in the body, with symptoms that can include brain fog, headaches, hallucinations, flu-like symptoms, liver inflammation, rashes, fever, muscle pain, meningitis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia-like muscle aches, and―in advanced cases left untreated―neurodegenerative disease and muscle paralysis.

  1. Is there a medical test to verify Lyme Disease or other tick-borne illness?

The various bacteria transmitted from ticks to humans are difficult to diagnose. Because ticks bite with an anesthetic, you can’t feel them and may be unaware that a tick has bitten you. The wide array of tick-borne illness symptoms makes diagnosis even more challenging.

One surefire way to confirm Lyme Disease is if you get a skin rash after a tick bite, whether it’s a “bulls-eye” rash or solid red or pink in presentation.

A bulls-eye rash itself is diagnostic of Lyme Disease. That means no further testing is needed. If you develop such a rash, take photos and document its progression (it will likely enlarge over time)―and seek medical attention. Common misdiagnoses are fungal infections and spider bites, so photograph and document well in case you need a second opinion.

However, not all tick bites result in a bulls-eye rash, and without the rash, tick-borne illnesses can be difficult to diagnose.

Another diagnostic is a blood test for antibodies that indicate your body has encountered the bacteria. However, since some people suffering from tick-borne illness have compromised immune systems that may not be capable of effectively producing antibodies against the bacterium, such tests fail 40% to 70% of the time.

Bottom line: It’s very difficult to diagnose Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses.

  1. How long after a tick bite might you see symptoms?

Adding to the diagnosis difficulty, the incubation period for tick-borne illness varies. Symptoms may appear from four weeks up to several months after the bite.

One red flag for tick-borne illness is flu-like symptoms in the summer months. The flu virus is not present in North America in the summertime, and such symptoms can be a telltale sign of tick-borne illness.

Because it’s so challenging to identify, tick-borne illness can go undiagnosed for years, during which time the spirochetes reproduce readily and attack various systems of the host. In addition, there may be more than one tick-borne infection present, which complicates the diagnosis and treatment and can mean a multitude of symptoms that don’t align with a single diagnosis.

“I presented with immune weakness and autoimmunity, which affected my hormones, gut and nervous system. After two years of illness, I was tested for Lyme Disease,” said Krista Hewlett Keegan, a neuroscientist who left medical school due to her disability with undiagnosed Lyme Disease.  “My initial Lyme test wasn’t positive, so the bacteria spread for several more years and my symptoms kept getting worse.”

  1. How is tick-borne illness treated?

As with many diseases, the sooner you treat tick-borne bacterial infections, the better. If someone has a classic bulls-eye rash and is diagnosed early, the antibiotic doxycycline, given in a long course over four to six weeks, may cure the disease effectively.

For infections that linger undiagnosed for months or years, treatment takes longer and becomes much more comprehensive due to complications.

For example, adults experiencing muscle aches or leaky gut symptoms who were treated briefly for Lyme Disease in childhood may still have an active tick-borne infection which went dormant in the presence of antibiotics but has since re-emerged. Many such people may become labeled with Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome later in life.

There are conflicting standards of care for the treatment of Lyme Disease cases where a faulty negative diagnostic test is suspected.

The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) also has a recognized standard of care for tick-borne illness. ILADS-trained clinicians recognize that Lyme and its related co-infections can be difficult to diagnose, and can go dormant when antibiotics are present.

“Lyme-literate” clinicians who follow the ILADS standard of care prescribe multiple rounds of antibiotic treatment spaced apart over several years to target hidden reservoirs of dormant bacteria that re-emerge after each round of antibiotics, with the ultimate goal of eradicating the infection from the body.

In addition, integrative medical practices may be incorporated into treatment of long-term tick-borne infection, including full bodily support for cellular detoxification, liver support, a clean diet, herbal antimicrobials, and botanicals that target the organisms in their hiding places.

Suspect you or a loved one may have borreliosis? Visit the ILADS frequently asked questions page for more information.

Rethinking Drinking: 7 Strategies that Work

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s a good time to ask yourself: what’s your relationship with alcohol?

Alcohol offers zero health benefits, yet people across the globe continue to consume it. Though it’s addictive and highly toxic, it plays an integral role in many aspects of American life: celebrations, dinner parties, even sporting events.

Alcohol can be detrimental to every bodily system, disrupts sleep and affect how your skin looks. It costs money, can negatively impact relationships and lower your job performance.

You don’t have to suspect an abusive relationship with alcohol to be curious about how drinking less might impact you. Maybe you only drink four drinks per week. Maybe drinking is a habit you’ve developed, maybe you want to improve your health, maybe you’ve said something to a loved one while under the influence that you now regret.

In the United Kingdom, there’s a trend toward Dry January, a 31-day alcohol-free challenge to help reset your relationship with alcohol. Of participants, 71% report better sleep, 67% had more energy, 58% lost weight and 88% saved money.

The thing is, when you decide to stop drinking, societal and peer pressure can destroy even the best of intentions. That’s why a community of support can be so empowering.

Ruari Fairbairns is an entrepreneur who successfully reset his relationship with alcohol after challenging himself to a 365-day break from drinking. For him, the key was having a good friend tackle the alcohol-free challenge with him. The two weren’t abusing alcohol when they decided to take the challenge—but enjoyed going out to pubs two or three nights a week.

After 12 months without drinking, Ruari found his new freedom from alcohol so enlightening that he took the community support idea and started One Year No Beer, a project offering support and encouragement to those who want to stop drinking for a specified time period, to discover how it will affect their lives. Those who participate in alcohol-free challenges realize some fantastic things:

  • 92% are much happier
  • 73% enjoy dramatically improved sleep
  • 73% lose weight
  • 74% reduce anxiety levels

They also boosted productivity and motivation, looked better and had more money in the bank.

One Year No Beer is aimed toward a different audience from Alcoholics Anonymous. The goal isn’t to quit drinking forever, although some people may choose that path. The purpose of an alcohol-free challenge is to reset your relationship with alcohol by taking a break from it to develop healthier habits and ways to relax and socialize with friends.

After completing a 90-day alcohol-free challenge, you will learn a lot about yourself, your friends, your health—and will likely never drink the same way again.

Use the following 7 strategies to reduce the influence of alcohol in your life:

  1. Start an Alcohol Journal

Got a notebook, calendar or cell phone? Start writing down how often and how much you drink. Sometimes this small change can reduce your number of drinks per week—knowing you’ll need to record it can make the difference between “just one more” and “I’ll call it quits for the night.” Small, incremental changes in reducing alcohol intake can make a big difference in your health.

  1. Set a Quota

Determine in advance how many nights a week you will drink, and how many drinks you’ll consume. And stick to it. While no amount of alcohol is beneficial to your health, a reduction in current intake will be an improvement.

  1. Know the Standard Drink Sizes

Giant wine glasses and growlers can make calculating actual alcohol consumption tricky. Familiarize yourself with standard drink sizes, and do the math when it comes to alcohol content and healthy pours. When you cheat, you’re only cheating yourself.

  1. Establish an Alcohol-free Timeline

Recruit a friend to undertake this journey with you, and set a specific goal: 28 days? 90 days? 365 days? If you’re seeking a community, consider joining One Year No Beer, a membership-based program that provides mental hacks, social strategies and encouraging suggestions on temporarily abstaining while you build new, healthier habits.

  1. Explore Alternative Activities

If you typically visit bars or breweries to socialize, break those habits by expanding your options. Join a sports league and play kickball or compete on an adult swim team. Take a cooking class or dance lessons, host a game night, form a mountain biking club or invite friends to Saturday morning coffee. Here’s an Aha! moment: Pretty much any activity that you can do while drinking alcohol can also be done without drinking alcohol.

  1. Identify your Triggers

Certain situations, places or people can increase your urge to drink even when you’ve decided not to. Avoid these, especially as you embark on your challenge. If you typically have a drink after work, schedule another activity at that time: go to a movie, go to the gym or spend time with your kids.

  1. Plan Ahead with Drink Refusal Skills

Pressure to drink from friends or colleagues can be tricky. Recognize and identify these situations, avoid them if possible, and plan ahead with coping mechanisms to outmaneuver them when unavoidable. When you’re going somewhere where alcohol will be served, practice a firm, “No, thanks!” as a response when you’re offered a beverage. Or “stealth drink” by ordering seltzer water with a lime wedge. If pressure becomes overbearing, remember that you’re free to leave. Here’s a handy tutorial on building your drink refusal skills.

By tackling a 28-day, 90-day or 365-day alcohol-free challenge, you will change your relationship with alcohol, and then it’s up to you to determine whether you’ll continue to drink. Consider this fascinating fact from One Year No Beer: After completing the 90-day challenge, 87% of members choose to continue an alcohol-free lifestyle. Are YOU up for the challenge?