Brain and Body Health Connection – A Personal Moment About Gut Health

C1ADC179-8734-4E11-B6E5-086A79D2052B

I updated my original post because it felt empty after reading it. I provided my story, I needed to give you more of the why? Why is gut health important and what steps can you take to begin to get there. Starting with my own accountability to doing better.

The original…

I’ll be standing firmly on two feet soon (old pic) and while my foot’s healing, my system needs to as well. I’m speaking about “gut health”.

I have an intolerance to gluten. I’m not allergic, I can eat it, but it’s better for my system if I don’t. When the discovery was made years ago, I shared this with my then nutritionist, and she explained how this is a contributing factor to the slowing of my metabolism. I’d start off well, finding new alternatives to wheat which led to my love for Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but sure enough the old habits started coming back. Now years later having developed other issues, it all starts replaying in my mind.

Gluten isn’t the sole cause of my issues and being older ….and wiser, I’m discovering my on-again, off-again digestive issues such as Gerd and non-acid reflux, coupled with an inflammatory illness, can no longer be chalked up as a thing that happens after I eat certain foods. I’m learning how certain foods that I put into my body over time (along with hormones, and environment) have affected my system. I’m seeing a change with dairy products as well. I’m see that I’m headed towards being lactose intolerant; OK, who am I kidding, I’m probably there, but in denial.

I’ve come to accept that implementing change is more than reaching a goal on a scale, it’s about implementing lifestyle changes, that include getting educated and being consistent in what I do and eat. And I admit, I haven’t been good with consistency. Repetition begets a habit and I need to get into a habit of eating what’s healthy for my root, a new term that as I’ve learned. 

To paraphrase Dr. Vincent Pedre, a gut health expert; “in comparing our bodies to a tree you wouldn’t heal a tree by putting medicine on its leaves, you tend to it from the roots. Our digestive system/gut is the root of our bodies and that’s where our focus should begin. He says, “our gut lining is the biggest absorptive surface exposed to the outside world through what we eat. If we’re eating inflammatory foods, add in stress, GMO’s, food additives and coloring, it’s cooked up a leaky gut that leads to toxins, and more entering our system.”

The added…

Studies are showing the link between gut health, mental health, autoimmune diseases, endocrine disorders, skin conditions, cancer, and the immune system.

We’re in a new space of learning that our bodies have evolved to live in harmony and depend on bacteria, fungi, and viruses in and on our bodies—especially gut bacteria. And that there’s both good and bad bacteria that affects our guts. Bad bacteria can come from external influences such as food, environmental toxins and even from effects of stress on our bodies which can lead to an unhealthy gut impacting your mental health, weight, mood and a number of other digestive disorders. Good bacteria which our bodies depend on for essential metabolic functions, helps to:

  • combat obesity
  • improve symptoms of depression,
  • Improves mood and mental health
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Improves cholesterol levels
  • Regulates hormone levels
  • Reduces yeast infection occurrences
  • Improves oral health
  • Contributes to longer life
  • reduces or eliminates gloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea.

So if you’re like me, wondering what can be done to improve not only my gut health, but my whole-body health, as there is so much information in the universe to absorb; I’ve discovered a few tips that can be used as a baseline that will help as you continue to do your own research and easily incorporated into your everyday practice. And remember if you are having continual stomach and/or inflammatory issues it’s important to see a gastroenterologist.

Food Tips for Good Gut Health

  • Eat more veggies
  • Eat more fiber (whole grains, nuts, legumes)
  • Eat Pre-biotic Rich Foods* which are found in non-digestible foods such as:
  • Bananas, onions and garlic,
  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Apple skin
  • Chicory Root
  • Beans
  • Eat Pro-biotic Rich Foods* – which are found in fermented foods such as:
  • Yogurt – but avoid those with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial sweeteners
  • Kefir – a fermented yogurt-like drink
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso soup
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha – a tea-like probiotic drink
  • Soft fermented cheeses (like Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Gouda)
  • Cottage Cheese (only those labeled “Live active cultures”)
  • Buttermilk
  • Reduce junk, fatty and sugary foods
  • Drink more water

*There are also pre and pro-biotic supplements you can take but do your research first.

I know this is a marathon and not a sprint, but after going around like a hamster on a wheel, I say if now when, otherwise I’ll be continually discussing my issues instead of taking my conversation further into how I’m doing hence my changes. Taking it one step at a time.

 

Advertisements

World Alzheimer’s Day 2018 – Eliminating the Stigma

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day a day that may only be important to someone who is caring/cared for a loved one or knows someone with the disease, but it’s a day dedicated to raising awareness that nearly 50 million people worldwide are living with this disease and to challenge the stigma surrounding it.

I’ve had a brief writer’s block a lot due to life stuff, but I’m here and what better day to inject my words and address the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and dementia related diseases as well as to bring awareness to people of color on the high risk that we face.

There has been a shift within the past few years towards removing the stigma around mental illness and though Alzheimer’s falls under its own umbrella, those in this fight to end Alz can attest that it’s even harder to get people and businesses invested in, and talking about a disease that currently has no cure. But in rising awareness this is not a sprint it’s a marathon.

What keeps the stigma going?

Embarrassment, fear, culture, not speaking on illnesses, but it’s those fears that keep us close and stuck.

I’ve personally never had a fear of Alzheimer’s perhaps because I faced it with my maternal grandmother, but early on helping my mom, I definitely had moments of embarrassment where all I could do was to stand in that moment and react as best as I could. As I grew in my role as her caregiver, the embarrassment subsided, I had no time for it. I had to use my brain, my mind for the both of us and help her as she was experiencing changes that she had no control over.

As a caregiver you know that things are going to happen; I had to let them happen, I had to be as prepared as best I could be and when they (changes, words said, etc.) were going to happen, I knew that how I handled those changes was going to be key an most important.

I felt sorry for my mom and that empathy turned to my figuring out how to better help her and other caregivers. To begin to remove the stigma it began with talking and sharing and writing and becoming a voice for the voiceless.

As a woman of color, specifically a Black woman where our community doesn’t speak about health crisis as much as we should, raising awareness became increasingly prevalent.  Too often we sugarcoat things, or have feelings that something will subside; now bring in Alzheimer’s disease; a disease with no cure that changes the brain. Just because we don’t speak about something doesn’t mean it’s not going to show up in our lives and it also doesn’t mean that you or a loved one will get it, but we must begin to have conversations.

By staying silent about our medical history with love ones it only hurts ourselves. For instance, there is a link between hypertension and diabetes and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Blacks and Latinos are two times at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. And while genetic factors aren’t known to explain a higher-risk, conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes do. Even socio-economic disadvantages (income affects healthcare) also plays a role. This awareness on how physical and heart health is linked to brain health shows that we have to support one another and encourage each another to get support services and available treatment when needed.

How can you spread awareness and help to stop the stigma?

  • Use your voice and have conversations.

 

  • Use appropriate and respectful phrases.

 

  • Correct misinformation regarding Alzheimer’s disease.

 

  • Help someone you know who may be a caregiver to a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it’ll give you a first-hand view.

 

  • Encourage the individual to pursue hobbies, perhaps offer a list of activities they can do at home.

 

  • Consult a physician.

 

  • Attend an event or fundraiser.

On this day even if your life or a loved one’s life hasn’t been touched by Alzheimer’s perhaps you can say a prayer for the person living with AD, for a caregiver or former caregiver or contact your local government office to ask that resources are increased for research and medical care, and to keep everybody lifted whose life has been affected by Alz.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and Women and Alzheimer’s here are a few of the many organizations that I support:

Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement

Alzheimer’s Association

Us Against Alzheimer’s 

Bill Gates Announces $30 Million Fund for Alzheimer’s Diagnostic Tools

There is nothing for me to add to this story, the title alone speaks for itself. Bill Gates is becoming our number #1 champion against Alzheimer’s. On July 17th, he announced that he and Estée Lauder Cosmetics chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder and other philanthropists, including the Dolby family and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, will award $30 million over three years to the Diagnostics Accelerator, a venture philanthropy vehicle.

Gates and Lauder provided seed money for the diagnostics collaboration through the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), which was founded by Lauder. The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) aims to accelerate bold new ideas for earlier and better diagnosis of the disease.

Why diagnosing Alzheimer’s today is so difficult—and how we can do better

When I announced that I was investing in Alzheimer’s research for the first time last fall, I thought I knew what to expect. I knew I would get to engage more deeply with the brilliant scientists and advocates working to stop Alzheimer’s—and I haven’t been disappointed. The things I’ve seen over the last seven months make me more hopeful than ever.

What I didn’t see coming was the amazing response I got from the Alzheimer’s community at large. Because my family didn’t talk publicly about my dad’s diagnosis before the announcement, I had yet to experience how remarkable the support community is. So many of you have shared your personal experiences with me, both in person and online (including here on TGN). It helps to hear from others who are going through the same thing.

Alzheimer’s research is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life—both the lives of people who have the disease and their loved ones. I’m optimistic that we can substantially alter the course of Alzheimer’s if we make progress in several key areas. One of the biggest things we could do right now is develop a reliable, affordable, and accessible diagnostic.

Continue reading the full story here on Gatesnotes.

Becoming Certified in Mental Health

Names and dates have been crossed out for privacy purposes

Three weeks ago I took another step forward in my advocacy by taking a mental health training course offered through a local NYC chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; which I am proud to say is my sorority. I am now certified to recognize and respond to people experiencing mental health distress and substance misuse. And though I’m an Alzheimer’s advocate,it is still a branch, connected to the tree of mental health, and I want to do my part to become as well-rounded and knowledgeable as I can, to be able to assist others.

This training was offered by the City of New York as part of an initiative called “Sisters Thrive” created by NYC’s First lady Chirlane McCray. Within the first year, Sisters Thrive hopes to amplify the national dialogue about mental health awareness in the black Community.

First Lady McCray is taking on mental health wellness in collaboration with historically black women-led organizations. Her goal is to train 10,000 African-Americans in what she calls “Mental Health First Aid” (MHFA), a course that teaches people how to identify and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance-use disorders.

Her passion for mental health came from seeing mental illness and substance abuse challenges in her family and these abuses in the Black community. She choose to work with leading women-led Black organizations because in her words, “These women are very involved in their communities and champions of civil rights. They are caretakers. They are fighters….They help create leaders and back our leaders. These are women who are activists in the most serious sense of the word so if we train them, not only will they be able to take care of themselves and their families, they are going to do so much for our communities and so much for our city and world.”

The organizations she choose to partner with are Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., Eastern Area of The Links, Inc., and Jack and Jill of America, Inc..

I’m grateful to be a part of a movement that is a about mental health awareness and about seeking change and advancements in care. For more information on Mental Health First Aid trainings go to ThriveNYC.

If you’re struggling with depression, drugs or alcohol misuse or anxiety you can contact NYCWell,  NYC’s free, confidential support, crisis intervention, and information and referral service for anyone seeking help for mental health and/or substance misuse concerns, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.