Except: Empty Plate: Food~Sustainability~Mindfulness By Tammera Karr and Kathleen Bell
In an equally real sense, researchers know that elasticity and adaptability during challenging events like pandemics, and life transitions; are a combination of how well-nourished the brain and body are — through mindful choices about nutrition and other behaviors. The conscious decisions to eat healthy foods, get quality sleep, spend time in nature, limit the ingestion of disrupting or harmful media/substances, or to take a moment of pause for gratitude — all constitute nourishment for our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Whole-brain perspective leads to renewed skills
Critical and whole-brain thinking, along with common sense, are often referred to as being not so common. The reality is that our modern education can be sorely lacking when it comes to past generations’ skills. Often, we are out of practice in using skills of common sense. Although we can look at history for clues on how ancient peoples survived and thrived, it doesn’t give us their expertise, nor the luxury to take the time to live as they did.
As we begin a new decade, our world is entirely different than ever before. Even if we might have the skill, time, and environment that supports a romanticized lifestyle of bygone days — we have to ask ourselves. Do we really want to work that hard? Can we give up the many facets of our modern world that define us now?
The incorporation of mindfulness and sustainability into the broader idea of nourishment for modern lives isn’t about turning back the calendar, politics, environmental agendas, or religious beliefs. It is about owning the choices we make and being the best version of ourselves, along with helping the next generation view their empty plate with open eyes of wonder and possibilities.
Bringing calm to chaos
Expanding ones perspective through the combined lenses of mindfulness; tradition, and science, it can allow for the best of all views to guide; and bring a balance between modern and traditional approaches to health, lifestyle, and nourishment.
Mindfulness is not solely limited to the practice of meditation; mindfulness also includes the ability to discern and make choices based on knowledge, facts, and intuition. Mindfulness is that moment of pause to recognize and acknowledge the present moment before moving forward, which may allow us to see both obstacles and the possibilities before us.
It is easy in the modern world to view ancient cultures and people with either idealism or disdain; believing modern society is somehow more advanced and superior to past cultures without pizza delivery, electronics, and central air. However, biases are not limited to only those of the past. There are times we pooh-pooh someone who lives in a metropolitan area for eating industrial fast-food instead of selections labeled organic; or roll the eyes over a modern homesteader making cheese and canning. How we view food, in particular, and the way people eat, is all about perspective.
The same is true about where diet and food fall into one’s thoughts about health. Clients may feel reading labels and buying health food is a waste of time and all a scam. Equally, clients can become so obsessed with the health and cleanness of their food they are practically paralyzed in the market; worse yet, it becomes almost impossible to enjoy a meal with them. This last part is so important because, as a species, we have shared a meal with others since the beginnings of evolution. This need to commune with others while eating plays a role in why restaurants are popular, especially for singles; eating with others allows for sharing ancient memories tucked deep in cellular mitochondria.
First, let’s be honest; the American food culture has been pretty messed up for over eighty years. There are real reasons to be concerned about food and water (we will look at water more later), especially where safety and quality are concerned. Part of the difference between the current generation and one’s great-grandparents began with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. By the 19th century with the assembly line’s initiation, canned and frozen foods began taking society from the farm or backyard to the Piggly Wiggly. It wasn’t until the end of World War II and the Agricultural Chemical Revolution that mega-corporations opened Pandora’s box of newly available chemicals for food crops and food manufacturing.
The late 20th century brought first-world countries (as defined by the UN following World War II) to a roundabout in healthcare approaches. The 21st century views on health care are a blended version of allopathic, integrative, traditional, and holistic models. These varied approaches can be at odds with each other, adding to consumer confusion and frustration. However, the silver lining of this moment-in-time is a growing acknowledgment and understanding of the priceless value that food from traditional and cultural sources provides.
Twenty years into the new millennium means four to five generations of individuals simultaneously alive today on the planet; some of whom have been taught to believe the Doctor Knows Best, Science is Good, Traditional Medicine is Quackery, and Better Living Through Chemistry. Additionally, the tech-industry is influencing food trends in ways that resemble bad science fiction. Bland or flavorless meal replacements like Soylent® are being touted as foods to prevent climate change — and better for the environment than eating livestock. Neither of these claims can stand up to fact-checking. The pandemic of 2020 revealed that airplanes, many industries, and fossil-fuel-powered vehicles were far more at odds with global climate conditions than cattle.
Thankfully, the younger generation of Millennials is embracing traditional agriculture, homesteading, gardening, and animal husbandry: along with artisanal and traditional food preparation. The authors cannot know for a certainty that generations following the Millennials will embrace and value sustainable lifestyles in the same manner — but we hope they do.
The pandemic of 2020 also brought about a return to the kitchen. With stay-at-home orders in place for months on end, individuals reacquainted themselves with the once mysterious room and unfamiliar activities of kitchen. The developments of 2020 gives hope that the growing challenges of food insecurity in the United States (due to affordability, availability, mobility, and multi-national food manufacturers controlling the type of foods available in many areas) can be ameliorated. A study released in 2018 on food insecurity in older adults found food insecurity was significantly associated with economic factors. The findings showed higher values for the prevalence of chronic diseases, poor management of chronic diseases, and decreased health-related quality of life in older adults living in communities. The cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease begins when an individual or family cannot afford enough nutritious food. The combination of stress and poor nutrition can make health management increasingly challenging.
Additionally, the time and money needed to cope with these health conditions strain the household budget, leaving little money for essential nutrition and medical care. This causes the cycle to continue, increasing the risk of worsening existing conditions. When food insecurity is present, sustainable health and mindful living are unattainable.
In the fall of 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported on the growing food insecurity in Latin American countries. It is easy to compartmentalize our thinking about food into what we see in the local market and be blind to the multitude of areas where food is affected by seemingly unrelated events in global economies. One area involves fossil fuels and transportation, as the Wall Street Journal article titled “Venezuela’s Food Chain is Breaking, and Millions Go Hungry” outlines. When gas, diesel, or canola oil-based fuels are unavailable or production is limited or halted, farmers are unable to fuel tractors or farm equipment to plant and harvest. When transportation of food falters due to fuel shortages, millions of tons of food spoil in depots, fields, and aboard cargo ships. What increasingly becomes available to consumers in countries like Venezuela are “junk” foods and non-edible items. Ana Nunes, a sixty-two-year-old retired municipal worker in western Venezuela, shared in the Journal article her meals consisting of a few corn-flour arepas (pancakes), and continued to say “instead of quality foods, the markets sell garbage like animal hides and rotten cheese.”
When individuals have access to community gardens or live close to food production; accessibility allows people to harvest and store foods while the nutrient content is at its highest. The availability and use of fresh foods provide quality nutrition, not empty calories. Historically, it has always been true that when humans have access to abundant food supplies; advances in culture, intelligence, and adaptability happen. When changes in local area economies involving increased availability of fresh foods occur, the population has a high capacity to produce positive, healthy changes that influence sustainability. This is a key component of humanity’s sustainability that involves the greater or lesser availability of fresh food. When vacant lots are revitalized into community gardens in large cities, people come together; and food insecurity in the elderly and in impoverished areas lessens, with the addition of countless other benefits.
During clinical practice, Tammera has had many clients who were children during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. A recurring comment from these elders pertains to food and hunger; “we knew we were poor, but we never went hungry; there was always a garden and food to eat.”
Something to think about.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Over the two weeks, I have heard countless clients complain over the time change. The following days have been the land of zombies in some folks minds. Additionally, spring is upon us and with that; tree, grass and flower pollen. Spring is a time of rebirth, and rebounding energy, or at least the energy is supposed to bounce back into our lives. But what if it doesn’t? Some individuals may feel like spring energy has passed them by and they are permanent members of the zombie community.
Spring is a perfect time to fast. Countless faith communities practice fasting during the days preceding Easter, other cultures practice fasting as a regular part of their diet. Today we have research on the benefits of fasting for brain and neurological health. Spring is also a perfect time to clean house in the o’l liver. Traditionally Spring brings with it bitter greens that help with detoxing and purifying the liver and blood. Along with fasting, we have foods designed by the creator to restore energy and health while improving brain function; clearing the fog, fatigue, and depression of zombie land away.
Brain food is a terrific example of what we can do every day and with every meal to change not only how smart we are but how likely we are to develop age-related brain dysfunction. Cultures throughout the world incorporate food into their “health care plan” since most of these countries have socialized medicine it is in the governments best interest to encourage “wellness care” versus “disease management.”
Spring Greens – dark bitter greens such as dandelion, kale, mustard, collard, endive, chickory, and spinach are all considered “bitter greens” and provide nutrients that improve liver and gallbladder function – even when you do not have a gall bladder, bitter greens improve pancreas function and bile production for improved digestion.
Blueberries—Research has found blueberries can reverse age-related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination. Blueberries have compounds that boost neuron signals and help turn back on systems in the brain that can lead to using other proteins to help with memory or other cognitive skills.
Wild Caught Fish— Researchers in 2011, reported people who eat baked or broiled fish at least once a week may be protecting their brains from Alzheimer’s and other brain degenerative conditions.
Coffee—Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other mental disorders. Coffee appears to increase blood levels of a factor associated with improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
Caffeinated coffee has also been associated with protection against Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s. A study of 29,000 individuals found one to four cups daily decreased the risk of Parkinson’s by 47% and 5 or more cups reduced the risk by 60%.
Nuts— walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans, contain properties that help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and sharp memory. Walnuts are rich in fatty acids while almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Eggs—Yes I know the news told you researchers are back to saying eggs are bad for you – once again we are encountering faulty or bad research modules that lead to bad science. Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient to improving memory function. B vitamins are a must for brain health, if you can’t eat eggs or don’t have a good free-range source for them, take a whole food B-complex.
Chocolate—Dark chocolate is magnesium and antioxidant-rich, it also improves focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, enhances memory and reaction time. (for you Marilyn, you can say ha to you know who now…)
Broccoli—Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. Broccoli is one of the most protective foods known to researchers today, it has been shown to activate more cell receptor sites – protecting your health, than any other single food next to pomegranates, and turmeric.
So there you have it the cure for zombie land and the time change is at your local farmers market or produce section. The more nutrient-dense foods incorporated into your diet, the better your energy and your allergies will be, then spring will have you bouncing like the lambs in the field.
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people
under the pretense of taking care of them.” — Thomas Jefferson
To learn More about Traditional Foods for Health Download your Copy Today!
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Our story begins with three men, heads together on a street corner, one wealthy and dripping with power, the next puffed chest, ingratiating smile and impotent and the last an obvious thug, muscle for hire. Down the walk enters a woman who looks at the world through rose-colored glasses, all is right, nary a problem. The thug steps away from his companions and escorts her away. She laughs and smiles as he tells her he will keep her safe and he knows best; All the while looking back over his shoulder to the other men, who nod in agreement. The thug takes her home and hands her a drink; she accepts is and drinks it without a word of concern. She is found dead the next day; it is deemed natural causes — a tragedy.
While this could be from a western novel, it more closely resembles a gritty Clint Eastwood seen; our actors are the Pharmaceutical manufactures (wealth), The Politics of the land (the impotent), the state service programs (the Thug) and Rosy Vision (our rights). The Poison for many comes not in a glass but a syringe filled with vaccines.
Real life: There is tremendous controversy over childhood vaccinations, once again legislation is about to be forced on parents in Oregon and Washington that strips vaccination exemption. Exclusion laws already exist in Oregon if an outbreak occurs, so why do we need a draconian law, that can lead to a loss of revenue for schools? It is estimated that 31,000 children in Oregon have exemptions if they are removed from the school systems; it could equal a loss of $412,920,000.00 annually. All of this has resurfaced from a similar bill in 2015 due to a measles outbreak predominately in Washington state.
Over the years, I have gotten hepatitis and tetanus shots before overseas travel. The difference here is, I am an adult, I am capable of determining if the risks outweighed the benefits. After our son made it through his first years of public school and it was time for booster shots, we as his parents evaluated the risks after many hours researching and praying we had a waiver signed for the school district. Keep in mind the number of vaccinations in the 1990s was considerably less than the number my grandson will be receiving this year.
The story will be very different in Oregon if House Bill 3063 and those that follow it – restrict/hinder parental choice over immunization. Not many people are willing to do a face off with a healthcare practitioner over cholesterol medication let alone a vaccine series for a child. Oregon’s bill would eliminate religious and personal or philosophical exemptions for all vaccines, a move intended to boost the state’s vaccination rate.
Lawmakers who support the bill say parents can still choose not to vaccinate — however; they will have to homeschool or find ways for children to go to school online. Isn’t this discrimination? What about low-income families who have a family history of autism or ADHD? If we make legal allowances for everyone else with a “special need” why are those not willing to vaccinate any different? Are they really a threat to public safety as stated by politicians? Whenever we cite science, we need to be sure of who paid for the science – and who is getting paid for citing it. How did we ever survive these normal and natural childhood illnesses before?
The cyclical outbreak of measles in the Pacific Northwest has prompted hundreds of additional residents to vaccinate this year over past years. I would like to point out it was a free choice, not a mandate.
School and state workers will and do believe they are working to protect children; Many families will choose vaccination because they believe in the system – which is their right. For others, they will make their choices based on beliefs, research, and medical history – which up until now has been their right. Ohh and just because you do not believe the science cited does not mean it is fake – it just means it is not following the politically correct party line.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen a bill that endorses vaccine instead of education,” said Rep. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, as he testified against the bill.”
Is this just a state issue? As I write this article, I have learned of a federal move to restrict medical freedom. “If states don’t tighten vaccine exemption laws, the federal government may step in, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said February 21, 2019”.
“Some states are engaging in such wide exemptions that they’re creating the opportunity for outbreaks on a scale that is going to have national implications,” the FDA head said in an interview with CNN.”
Lets put this in perspective; According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website:
In 2018, 372 cases of measles were reported in the U.S.. From Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, 2019, 127 cases of measles have been confirmed in 10 states.
Each year in the United States, about 1 million people have to seek care in a hospital due to pneumonia. The CDC says about 50,000 people die from the disease each year in the United States. Most of the people affected by pneumonia in the United States are adults.
I believe families should have the right to choose; I am not an anti-vaccinator anymore than I am a pro-vaccinator. My issue is about a local or federal government who takes money from pharmaceutical companies, mandating medical decisions. That is a conflict of interest and collusion.
To Freedom of Choice.
By Tammera J. Karr, PhD
All of us know someone affected by cognitive impairment, the words Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s seem to be synonymous with the ever-growing aging population in America today. The unfortunate part is the belief nothing can be done to prevent cognitive decline.
Maybe more than any other disease, severe cognitive impairments have the potential to unravel families. They drag on for years, and cognitive decline illnesses are not “lethal” in the ordinary sense. People with Alzheimer’s can lead long lives, the latter halves of which can get very difficult for everyone involved. There’s an entire body of literature devoted to studying the effects of Alzheimer’s on families and caregivers and discovering practical methods for mitigating the damage done. You do not get that so much with other diseases.
Most other diseases affect what we consider to be the peripheral tissues. Heart disease is about the heart. Kidney disease affects the kidneys. Cancer can strike anywhere, but it is usually in an organ or bone. Most diseases leave our person-hood intact. We are still us, even when we are riddled with tumors or on dialysis. However, with cognitive declines like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinsons, we disappear. We lose who we are, where we live, how old we are, and the name family and friends.
People define themselves by their intellect; our superior mind is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. When that goes, what’s left?
Well, there is a growing body of research supporting change – the earlier in life we make those changes, the healthier, including mental acuity we will have in the last decades of our life.
Here’s what researchers are showing makes the difference:
Take vitamin D and vitamin K2.
Quality DHA to support synaptic health (fish oil, fish)
Optimize mitochondrial function (CoQ10, zinc, selenium, other nutrients).
Use medium chain triglycerides (coconut oil, MCT oil).
A 2014 study reported nine of the ten patients showed subjective or objective improvements in cognitive function and performance within 3-6 months. The one failure was a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Of the six patients who’d had to stop working due to their cognitive decline, all six were able to return to work. In a 2.5 year follow-up, the patients had sustained and even improved on their results.
Neither the researchers or the study subjects worried about the dreaded boogyman “saturated fat” or “butter.” Only one subject stopped eating “meat.” others switched to grass-fed beef over conventional beef. The study did not require sodium restriction or statin medications – however, we know from additional research a whole fresh food diet is essential. You will not see results like this eating from cans, boxes, bottles or bags, neither will fast food restaurants do anything other then propel the decline in your health.
The researcher confirmed the protocol worked in ApoE4 subjects, the genetic variant with the highest likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. Even the cynics are cautiously optimistic about the research findings.
Today we have affordable DNA testing to alert us to many health challenges, providing time to make positive changes in our lifestyles primarily diet, which reduce the likelihood of genes becoming active and expressing unwanted illnesses.
The truth is all of us need to take better care of our brains and the bodies that go along with it. Researchers are shining the light brighter each day on the role of food and the prevention of chronic illnesses. Gone are the days when we must just give in to the wear and tear of time. With new health insights and return to the traditional use of foods as medicine, we can fight back against cognitive decline.
So now I ask you the more important question – Why wouldn’t you want to make changes that improve the quality of your health?
Here is to eating real food for the future – memories are worth keeping.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
An effective detoxification program will not ask you to make any dramatic lifestyle and dietary changes. Healthier food and lifestyle choices are generally made on a subconscious level. Once the body begins to eliminate toxins, it will naturally start craving foods that will nourish it at an optimum level. That said, there are undoubtedly many things you can do to maximize the benefits of the cleanse you’re on from day one, and certain foods will help maintain the benefits of the detox for much longer.
A detox diet is a short-term diet, often 3- to 21 days, focused on removing toxins from the body. Although detoxification is ongoing in the body, toxins and stress prevent us from doing it optimally, which eventually affects our health. A detox diet allows our bodies to focus on self-healing, with the goal being to raise energy levels, stimulate digestive health, clear headaches, remove bloating, improve concentration and mood, avoid getting allergies, regain our natural ability to ward off colds and flu and prevent premature aging and disease.
In natural health writings from the 1900’s, it was common to see articles on digestive cleansing with tonics, enemas, fasting, and herbs. Detoxification has been practiced for centuries by many cultures around the world — including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
The sad but undeniable truth is many are living in an environment toxic to their bodies, take a look at the following information:
How does detoxification work?
Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood. It does this by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph, and skin. However, when this system is compromised, impurities aren’t properly filtered, and every cell in the body is adversely affected.
Many health ailments–headaches, exhaustion, and muscle cramps–are coming from toxicity. Toxins have been implicated in everything from increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease to mental retardation and cancer.
A detox program can help the body’s natural cleaning process by:
10 ways to detoxify
Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined and artificial sugars, fake fats found in margarine, and unfiltered tap water all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to detoxifying. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.
Stress triggers your body to release stress hormones into your body affecting every metabolic pathway necessary for detoxification. While these hormones can provide the “adrenaline rush” to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts, they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Consider cutting out the news at dinner and bedtime add music that is around 60 beats per minute to calm the central nervous system throughout the day, all these are simple and effective ways to relieve stress.
People who are exhausted with low blood pressure may have adrenal weakness or fatigue. A detox diet is usually done after the adrenal glands have been replenished.
by Tammera J Karr, PhD
I love pomegranates, they are one of the few foods I can eat every day for months and never get tired of the flavor. When I was a kid, pomegranates were only available during the Christmas and New Year season in rural Eastern Oregon. Today they are available in fresh, cleaned seeds and juice forms almost year around. For those who grew up in southern California, you may have had a tree in your yard and remember the beautiful deep red jellies made by family members from the pomegranate fruit.
A little history
Pomegranate is one of the “seven kinds” mentioned in the Bible which Israel was blessed with long ago. An ancient legend, world religions, history and traditional medicine, have all celebrated the unique beauty and health benefits of the pomegranate. It is a fruit of legend and power – a sacred symbol of human civilization.
Mankind has revered the magical, mystical pomegranate since the dawn of recorded history. Ancient Greeks, Romans, and the peoples of China, India and the Middle East found its properties to be life-giving and invigorating.It grew in the region for thousands of years and is very much adapted to it. As befits a fruit with many seeds, the pomegranate is the traditional representation of fertility and seems to have its origins everywhere. The pomegranate was cultivated in Egypt before the time of Moses. It was found in the Indus valley so early that there is a word in Sanskrit for pomegranate.
The pomegranate is significant in Jewish custom. Tradition holds that a pomegranate has 613 seeds to represent the 613 commandments in the Torah. The design of the pomegranate was woven into the high priest’s robes, and brass representations were part of the Temple’s pillars. It is mentioned six times inch Song of Solomon.
The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The most important growing areas are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia.
The tree was introduced in California by Spanish settlers in 1769. It is grown for its fruit mostly in the dry zones of that state and Arizona. In California, commercial pomegranate cultivation is concentrated in Tulare, Fresno, and Kern counties, with small farms in Imperial and Riverside counties.
Pomegranate seeds get their vibrant red hue from polyphenols. These chemicals are potent antioxidants. Pomegranate juice contains higher levels of antioxidants than most other fruit juices. It also has three times more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. The antioxidants in pomegranate juice can help remove free radicals, protect cells from damage, and reduce inflammation.
The juice of a single pomegranate has more than 40 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Vitamin C can be broken down when pasteurized, so opt for homemade or fresh pomegranate juice to get the most of the nutrient. In addition to vitamin C and vitamin E, pomegranate juice is an excellent source of folate, potassium, and vitamin K.
Pomegranate juice made a splash when researchers found it helped stop the growth of prostate cancer cells. The antioxidants in the juice and their high concentration are believed to stall the progress of Alzheimer disease and protect memory. Pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation in the gut and improve digestion. It may be beneficial for people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Pomegranate juice is a potent anti-inflammatory due to its high concentration of antioxidants. The juice has been found to reduce inflammation throughout the body and prevent oxidative stress damage. Flavonols in pomegranate juice may help block inflammation that contributes to osteoarthritis and cartilage damage. The juice is currently being studied for its potential effects on osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other types of arthritis and joint inflammation.
Pomegranate was traditionally used as a remedy for diabetes in the Middle East and India.
Researchers believe the effects of pomegranate on diabetes may help decrease insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.
Pomegranate juice is in the running as the most heart-healthy juice. It appears to protect the heart and arteries. Small studies have shown that the juice improves blood flow and keeps the arteries from becoming stiff and thick. It may also slow the growth of plaque and buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. Drinking pomegranate juice daily may lower systolic blood pressure.
Between the vitamin C and other immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin E, pomegranate juice can prevent illness and fight off infection. Pomegranates have also been shown to be antibacterial and antiviral in lab tests. They are being studied for their effects on common infections and viruses.
These are just a few of the benefits research is finding – soooo here is to superfoods with vibrant red!
Taking Back Control of your Health, order your Foundation Package Today
Ferreira, Mandy. “15 health benefits of pomegranate juice.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 12 Jul. 2017. Web.
12 Jan. 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318385.php
By Tammera J Karr, Ph.D., FAAIM, BCIH, BCHN ©2016
Many of you may have childhood stories like my husband and father of baldfaced hornet encounters. When these stories are being told, there is always someone who steps in the nest first who walked away relatively unscathed, while others are repeatedly stung and attacked.
Dealing with difficult family affairs, especially those involving the elderly can hold these moments as well. What is the old proverb – good intentions pave the way to hell. Those dealing with difficult, at best seniors, siblings, spouses, or even live-in care providers, will have moments they question their sanity for agreeing to be the “responsible one.” There are volumes of unknown laws, considerations, and medical pitfalls for the elder person to live with and for the designated family members to navigate – often under extream stress.
This is a perfect storm for migraines, high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, insomnia, panic attacks, stroke, heart attacks and those are just the family members, not the elders. With seniors, it becomes easy for them to be over medicated, loss of appetite, outbursts of tears or anger, retreating into themselves, incontinence, or personal endangerment with erratic decision making.
The best-laid plans of mice and men, all of a sudden change, rapidly when you decide to bring mom or dad into your home. They actually go out the window if your elders are more than you can handle, and they must be placed in a memory care facility for medication and mental evaluation against their will. These are the times it is important for you to have documentation, be prepared for allegations of elder abuse, neglect or miss appropriations of resources; waged by other family members or even the elder in question.
Now, this certainly isn’t the case for everyone, but trust me there are those out there who have had their lives turned upside down by situations like these. Family caregivers begin reacting not responding to the crisis at hand, later regretting some of the decisions made in the heat of the moment. Relationships can be irreparably damaged. Some of this could be avoided with careful planning before saying yes to our loved one’s requests to care for them, or before asking someone to care for you.
Everyone reading this who has elder family members or spouses should begin with attending classes on planning for the senior years. Classes are often free and offered through churches, senior services, and the veterans administration. Learn how to set up medical information portals to review medical records including medication lists. Ask questions about credit scores and banking liabilities before agreeing to be involved with financial decisions. And if it is a married couple needing simultaneous care investigate conservatorships, powers of attorney, medical guardianship’s, and advanced directives; all carefully before a crisis happens.
Talking but not heard, may be the case for both the elder family member and for those caring for them. This was brought more fully to my attention by Therese Johnson, Gerontologist, and Senior Care Consultant. Therese stressed the importance of validation communication with older family members. She directed my attentions to the work of Naomi Feil and her book the Validation Breakthrough ; Validation is a way of communicating with older adults with Alzheimer’s-type dementia. This approach reduces stress, enhance dignity, and increase the happiness of the elder family member and those caring for them.
Since its inception in 1989, Validation has helped thousands improve their relationships with loved ones with dementia. Caregivers who use these techniques validate older adults’, rather than focusing on disorientation and confusion.
Research in the United States and Europe show trying to make older family members deal with the realities of what is happening, which can push them farther into disorientation and confusion, isn’t the best approach; it is better to talk to older folks in a different fashion, which allows them to come back to reality through validating their frustration, anger, fear and sense of loss. Many individuals in their seventies are then able to resume their lives with modest supervision.
Now I’m not known for my patience, which may mean my personality is not well suited as a caregiver. All the more reason to do homework before saying yes to that special older person.
When caregivers are under the hornets-nest-stress, they often look to foods to sooth, which in turn can create health problems for the care provider. Muddying ones ability to think clearly, support energy and healing ability of the body. Here is when others can be so invaluable to the struggling caregiver. Friends and family can provide nourishing food, and provide opportunities for caregivers to have safe conversations to detox from the problems of the day. Nothing can refuel the exhausted caregiver as efficiently as a nourishing meal with laughter .
Here is to transition without the sting.
We have had numerous road trips to central California since March 2016 to help elder family members. But in May, we brought the Aunt and Uncle home with us. During this time, our focus has been on their needs and helping them regain some of their mental and physical strength. The care of elder family members was not new to us, but, and that is a big but, everyone is different, and the experience was vastly different from our time with the Mother-in-Law.
I caught myself wondering if there was an owner’s manual to cover real life challenges for both parties of this story. Anne, a friend of ours in Texas said to me – “girl, you need to write a book on this.” Anne is now approaching her 50’s, and lives with her aging mother; she has lived through a multitude of life changes with family and clients. “No one has written about what it is like in the trenches,” she said to me…. “It is easy to see why family just dumps their older parents in care facilities, that way they don’t have to deal with the messy parts of aging.”
Some of the messy parts of aging involve adult diedies (diapers) as my Uncle calls them, then there is the other favorite “nose papers.” I learned the importance of providing my Uncle with a masculine carrier for his emergency needs – no man of his generation is comfortable carrying a flowery bag or shopping bag into a public restroom. It is hard for them to maintain their dignity when they are faced with incontinence, especially when they are slower moving and unstable. The length of time required for them to navigate to the bathroom, clean, change and straighten themselves is exhausting. The need to remain independent runs deep in many elder family members and the barging-in of an inpatient caregiver, to help them hurry up, in the bathroom is mortifying.
I selected a small easy to carry backpack in black for my uncle with a larger area for the diedies and flushable wipes. The outer smaller pocket was perfect for the medication or test kit he would also need, and the mesh side pockets kept water and smoothy bottles easy to access. Now he can walk into a public area prepared without embarrassment. Oh and I also stocked it with pocket-sized nose paper (kleenex) for the weepie dry eye or blueberry stain on his nose.
We learned the importance of having a trash can large enough to handle unmentionables with a lid in the home bathroom. This allowed for odor control, privacy, and convenience.
Change is never easy; it is especially hard for the elderly who have cognitive elasticity challenges (memory and anxiety), the change of purses, wallets, coats, shoes or suitcases may place your elder family members in a tailspin. The Aunt has used a black leather purse for decades, a well-meaning family member gave her and insisted she uses a bright flowery summer bag. For two weeks the Aunt searched each day for her purse where she knew all her valuable information and stuff was kept. Each day we would retrieve her new bag for her and remind her this was hers now. The anxiety was evident and potentially unnecessary. One day she couldn’t remember where her little Yorkies leash was (it was in her belly bag), it took until the next day for her to recover. For the first two weeks, the Aunt believed she didn’t have any clothes to change into because the suitcase in her room was green. Her suitcase was red, once we learned this, we quickly changed her clothes into a red suitcase we had on hand– she was fine after that.
Sundowners syndrome: making changes later in the day can be the hardest. For most of us, sunset isn’t a problem; it is a time to unwind and relax. For family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can be a time of increased memory loss, confusion, agitation and even anger. Witnessing this increase in symptoms of disorientation at sunset can be troubling, painful, frightening and exhausting for family and caregivers.
Common Sundowning Triggers:
Too Much End-of-day Activity: Some researchers believe the flurry of activity toward the end of the day may lead to anxiety and confusion. We personally saw this to be true.
Fatigue: End-of-day exhaustion or suddenly the lack of activity was also a contributor.
Low Light: As the sun goes down, the quality of available light may diminish, and shadows may increase, making vision even more challenging.
Internal Imbalances: Hormone imbalances or possible disruptions in the internal biological clock that regulate cognition between waking and sleeping hours is also a principle cause.
Winter: The onset of shorter days exacerbates sundowning, we also saw the changes in weather from sunny to stormy increased symptoms. Depression is a major challenge for those with memory issues.
Grace and Grit: Insights to Real-Life Challenges of Aging for Adult Children and Their Parents By Fritzi Gros-Daillon
How Hard Could It Be?: A Caregiver’s Story By Margaret Sheehan
How To Fold Superman’s Cape: A Woman’s Guide To Elder Care by James Burns Jr.
The complete elder care planner: For caregivers of aging parents or other family members by Joy Loverde
To a grace-filled elder life transition.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, BCIH
Two years ago, we said yes to an elderly family member when they asked if we would help them when the time came. We knew from past experience that this could mean trying times for both our elder family members and us, some of you like us may say – “what was I thinking?” There may be days when you repeat yourself twenty times or days you hear the same stories over and over, deal with tears and anger. These are the days when Gods grace and peace will be your closest friend – that is once you can take a moment to recognize it’s presence.
These are the times sleep may be the most elusive for both you as a caregiver and for your elder family members. The change in environment can bring about increases in insomnia, pain, listlessness, confusion and short tempers. When sleep is in short supply it has an effect on cognitive functions; words may escape you, forgetfulness and spaciness may be your daily or weekly companions. Along with this may come an increase in headaches, blood pressure and cravings for sugar, salt and even alcohol. These are all ways of self-medicating in an effort to relax. The downside is food just like drugs never actually provides the relief hoped for.
There is research available today showing the benefits of L-theanine for the support of sleep architecture. L-theanine comes from green tea; Theanine is a constituent believed to counter-balance the stimulatory effects of the caffeine content in tea. Theanine comprises approximately 1% to 2% of the dry weight of tea leaves; theanine is also present in Xerocomus badius (a type of mushroom).
Theanine lowers blood pressure in hypertension patients, prevent ischemic stroke and minimize memory impairment after the occurrence of stroke. Theanine increases alertness, is used in the prevention and treatment Alzheimer’s and various subgroups of dementia; L-theanine has been found to be useful in the treatment of anxiety; due to its ability to generate (relaxing) alpha waves in the brain and increase attention span.
We can’t overlook the food component of elder care. Food doesn’t have to be bland, but it has to be something our seniors are willing and able to eat. I like spicy food, my Aunts and Uncle do not. For them, simple peasant foods that are flavorful but not spicy are the better choices along with healthy protein sources and vegetables. Most seniors do not require three full meals a day, but rather small snacks and two meals. For those who are diabetic or concerned about memory challenges, selecting low glycemic foods and following a paleo dietary plan reduces inflammation and erratic blood sugar spikes. Don’t overlook the need for healthy fat; the diet should contain 15% saturated fats from real butter, animal and plant sources. With the remaining 15% coming from avocados, olive, nuts, seeds, and fish. Fat is crucial to blood sugar regulation and in maintaining weight for an elder who are borderline sarcopenia. Both fat and protein play key roles in the utilization of neurotransmitters necessary for cognition and memory.
As daytime temperatures increase, pay close attention to water consumption and sodium, low sodium levels and dehydration are common causes of memory loss and confusion. The standard of care is to restrict water for those with low sodium. However, this may be counter-productive and should be discussed with healthcare providers to be sure it is the best option for your senior and their health.
Minimizing inflammation is a huge part of dietary concerns for elder family members. While meat and potatoes may be the foods they want most, they can also be what is causing increases in pain for them. Gout is caused by sugar, processed flour, red meat and some fish like salmon high in purines. Here is when tart cherries come to the rescue for many. Cherries are highly beneficial for those with inflammatory illnesses, in side by side studies with prescription anti-inflammatory medications the cherries outperformed the prescription drugs and had no side effects to cause additional challenges.
While some may have a passionate relationship with the divine, others may be agnostic, or atheist. Often religious beliefs are varied within a family and can be a source of conflict. For me it isn’t about what church you go to but whether you have faith. During my mother-in-law’s final days, we knew she was set in her agnostic beliefs, instead of brow beating her or asking her to change her thoughts we prayed in quiet for a peaceful passing, which she had. A relationship with our maker is a private one; his grace is there for the asking, and you as the caregiver may be in the greatest need.
To a grace-filled elder life transition.
Check Out Our Online Course
Let’s Begin the Journey of a Lifetime!
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, BCIH
Life is ever changing, and with it are unexpected surprises and challenges. This spring has reminded me of this, as an elderly Aunt and Uncle have moved back to the west coast and have been needing help getting settled. This event has reminded me of the changes and challenges we went through when my mother-in-law moved in with us. The trials are never one-sided; they affect everyone in the caregiver/elder relationship. No matter how much you may love your family, no one can push your buttons like that of a parent or sibling.
Not everyone is well suited to being a caregiver, and often times those who are caregiver’s burnout or collapse from the “stress” of always being alert or vigilant to the needs of their charge. New parents go through this, then as time passes a balance – new normal settles in. This process isn’t quite so easy when it comes to our elder loved ones.
Our parents or older charges have lived life, been independent, functioning, and in charge for years, unlike children. They have moved and shaken business’, communities and shaped the world we live in. For them, the loss of independence is heartbreaking, frustrating and depressing. The realization they are in the final portion of their journey through life makes for anger, fear and confusion. As their bodies fail to answer their commands, their minds rebel – you see they mentally do not feel like an “old man or woman.” I distinctly remember my mother-in-law saying to me; “ it makes me so damn mad, my brain isn’t any different than when I was in my forties, but my body has betrayed me.”
When older family members move in with you, they have given up a big chunk of themselves in order to have your help and safety. They balk at “your rules” just like any normal adult would do, and while some may thrive on being “cared for” like a child others begin to resist and respond with anger. This creates confrontation and stress for everyone. The older family members have to change their schedule to suit whomever it is they are living with, and this is not always easy – years or decades of habits may be in conflict with what you as the caregiver feels is correct.
Equally, the caregiver has their privacy, independence, work schedule and life altered. Often times the caregiver is a family member in their early fifties, they were planning for retirement and all the things they have always wanted to do; or they are at the peak of their career and soon feel overwhelmed by the addition of care responsibilities – these responsibilities often come hand-in-hand with those already involving college-age children. As modern adults, we have a lot going on, sometimes too much, and it is impossible for us to wish for the good ol’ days because we don’t really have the same history as a different generation like that of our parents. My Aunt Linda shared with us the following – “Your memories are not the memories of those you are caring for”. If they are not correct by your recollection, it is ok; you can still enjoy them”. Frustration is not just reserved for the caregiver. However, there are times you will want to pull your hair out or wring a neck.
No matter how much you may love those in need, there are times the situation or person may be “toxic” to you; not everyone can be a care provider, and it is important to know and be willing to ask for help. My Aunt and Uncle have always been very independent and in charge of their life journey. Today may be a good day, or it may be a bad day, but it is their day just the same. It isn’t one I have to fix; it is one I am willing to share with them and help them through. As appointed caregivers we help family members find a compromise – whether it is in regards to the amount of support they need or finding the right place for them as individuals to live were full-time care is available. They need to feel they can trust, just as much as you need to feel you are doing the best for them. Be willing to allow your elder family to settle be involved with making the decisions in regards to their care and personal routine; don’t assume you know best and forced them to your will.
Our own fears over our family members wellbeing and safety will cloud our thought process and as care providers if we are not careful; irreparable damage to our relationship with our family may occur. I tell my clients; Consider carefully how you want to be remembered and remember your loved ones. The choice is all in your hands.
To a peaceful life transition.