Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: September 2011

Apple Cider Vinegar May Lower Blood Sugar, Help Type 2 Diabetes, Reduce Ab Fat

Apple Cider Vinegar May Lower Blood Sugar, Help Type 2 Diabetes, Reduce Ab FatStudies suggest a substance in apple cider vinegar can reduce blood sugar in type 2 diabetics, lower blood pressure and decrease hunger & fat accumulation.

Researchers have uncovered a signaling mechanism that occurs within the excess abdominal fat of obese people and is associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fatty liver disease however, may be more likely the root cause of these metabolic disorders, an earlier study suggests.

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Supported by Research 

While it may be too early to make vinegar a weight loss staple, the evidence is promising. A study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry(1) found that vinegar helps prevent the accumulation of body fat.

Lab mice fed a high-fat diet along with acetic acid, gained significantly less body fat (up to 10 percent less) than mice fed a high fat diet without acetic acid. Researchers believe acetic acid turns on genes that produces proteins involved in breaking down fats, which in turn suppresses body fat accumulation.

Lower Blood Sugar

Several small sample studies showed that vinegar lowers glucose levels in the body and increases insulin sensitivity, issues of particular concern for people at risk for or managing, type 2 diabetes. Insulin sensitivity is the body’s ability to handle excess sugar after eating high glycemic index foods, foods that cause sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar. Insulin sensitivity is one measure of someone’s risk for heart disease; the more sensitive someone is, the lower their risk for heart problems.

Results from a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition(2) found that vinegar lowered glucose and insulin levels in healthy subjects and increased their feeling of being full.

In a study published in Diabetes Care conducted by the Arizona State University’s Department of Nutrition(3), researchers divided 29 subjects into three groups: people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes; prediabetics; and healthy subjects. Each group consumed vinegar before eating a high carbohydrate test meal. Subjects in all three groups showed improved blood glucose levels and increased sensitivity to insulin compared to the control group who did not consume vinegar.

Researchers in the 2009 study, “Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus,(4)” compared the affect of the acetic acid found in vinegar, a dill pickle and a commercial vinegar pill on hemoglobin A1c in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Hemoglobin A1c is a measure of how much sugar has been around in the body for the preceding three months, a more accurate measure of sugar levels than the finger stick. Results showed Hemoglobin A1c values dropped with the vinegar but increased with the commercial vinegar pill and the dill pickle.

Reduce Blood Pressure

Gamma-aminobutryic acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in creating a state of focused calm, has been shown to also decrease blood pressure.(5,6). In a study conducted in Japan,(7) researchers measured the effect of adding GABA to vinegar on people with mild or moderate hypertension (high blood pressure).

After a pre-treatment period of two weeks, subjects with mild or moderate hypertension drank fermented drinking water with vinegar mixed with a flavoring base of fish flakes (dried bonito), with or without GABA added (in the form of sodium glutamate). Blood pressure rates dropped in both the GABA and the non-GABA groups, suggesting vinegar was the compound that lowered the subjects’ blood pressure.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Form, Dose & Warnings

Dr. Mercola, a physician, health and nutritional expert, suggests in his article, “Apple Cider Vinegar: Healing Wonder or Hype,” that people use apple cider vinegar, and in the form that is murky and brown. “Organic, unfiltered and unprocessed apple cider vinegar has a tiny, cobweb-like substance floating in it, called the “mother,” which indicates good quality,” Dr. Mercola explains. “Since the benefits of the apple cider vinegar are still being studied, there is no clear-cut guide on how to take it.” One or two tablespoons before a meal is generally the reccomended dose.

Dr. Mercola warns that because apple cider vinegar is extremely acidic to dilute it with water or juice. Straight cider ingested over time can harm tooth enamel or the tissues of the mouth and throat. An excess can also lead to low potassium levels and lower bone density.

While more research needs to be done on the health benefits, dosing and long term effects of vinegar, studies suggest the acetic acid in vinegar can lower fat accumulation, reduce blood pressure, hunger and glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity, issues of importance to pre-diabetics and people with type 2 diabetes.

Photo credit: Andy Roberts Photo
Sources:

Kondo et al. “Acetic Acid Upregulates the Expression of Genes for Fatty Acid Oxidation Enzymes in Liver To Suppress Body Fat Accumulation.” Journal of Agricral and Food Chemistry, 2009.

E. Östman, E et al, “Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005.

Johnson, CS, Kim, CM, Buller, AA, “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes,” Diabetes Care, January 2004

Johnston CS, White AM, Kent SM, “Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus,” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, May, 2009.

Inoue K, Shirai T, Ochiai H, et al, “Blood-pressure-lowering effect of a novel fermented milk containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in mild hypertensives,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003.

Hirata H, Kimura M, Nakagawa S, et al. Hypotensive effect of fermented milk containing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in subjects with high normal blood pressure,”Journal of the Japanese Society for Food Science and Technology, 2004.

Tanaka H et al, “The Effects of gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, Vinegar, and Dried Bonito on Blood Pressure in Normotensive and Mildly or Moderately Hypertensive Volunteers,”Journal of Clinical Biochemical Nutrition, July 2009.

Mercola, Joseph, DO, “Apple Cider Vinegar: Healing Wonder or Hype,” http://www.drmercola.net/search/label/vinegar, June 12, 2009.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

 

 

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Triple amputee Ironman: journey and humility inspires

Regardless of our differences, shared stories leap across our muddy rivers of misunderstanding and meet in streams of friendship ~ Laura

rajesh durbal, world's first triple amputee to compete and Ironman, inspiration, overcoming obstacles

Rajesh Durbal’s website – Live-free.net

A couple years ago I heard an extraordinary young man share his message in a non-extraordinary way, that is with humble tones tucked inside a truly remarkable story.

Rajesh Durbal, the world’s first triple amputee to complete the Ironman, spoke to the Seminole County YMCA Prayer Breakfast without pomp or projecting his voice.  He wasn’t a particularly dynamic speaker except for a brilliant smile he showed easily.  But the volume of his voice didn’t matter.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta knew how extraordinary Rajesh was when he interviewed him on CNN. The city of Orlando understood when they created a “Rajesh Durbal” day in his honor. Despite the national fanfare Rajesh told our small YMCA Prayer Breakfast that morning, a room with no more than 150 people, how grateful he was to be exactly where he was.

Image credit: Live-free.net

Rajesh stammered from time to time, confessing that he was used to talking to groups about his physical hurdles, not his faith, but that he was excited to have the rare opportunity to publically share how Jesus saved his life.  He didn’t sound preachy or insistent, his words felt like an intimate testimony for how his faith carried him through seeming insurmountable challenges.

I can’t imagine bringing my faith forward without stumbling all over myself.  Because for every inch of my extroversion, spirit is unquestionably a power that mutes my vocal cords, as much because my beliefs are unconventional as for how spirit can move through even the loudest people in the most whispered, private nudges.

When Rajesh was born he had several bones missing from both legs and his right arm was partially developed.  Doctors amputated both his legs when he turned one and put him in a full body cast for 3 months.

Image credit: Live-free.net

After his cast was removed he was fitted for leg prosthetics and began the grueling process of learning how to walk.   For years he struggled with agonizing pain, feeling alienated from his peers and depression. Rajesh often thought about suicide.  Eventually he began to pray and in time he connected with Jesus.  Through his faith and hundreds of hours of training for races (Rajesh created his own prosthetics for his triathlons) he finally felt free within himself.

When he spoke to us that morning Rajesh was supremely humble about his accomplishments. After he finished the Central Florida YMCA CFO, a bold, confident New York edged guy who easily commands an audience, walked up to the podium and announced that while he wasn’t scheduled to speak, he had to say a few words about how Rajesh inspired him.

Motivated to keep going by a smile

Mark told the audience that over the years he’d competed in a number of races but that his finishes had slowed thanks to some new aches and pains. During one event he was struggling more than usual and was in so much pain he wanted to quit.  When he looked up he saw a young man with two prosthetic legs run by him, beaming.

Rajesh’s perseverance despite his challenges inspired him to keep moving.   And beyond that, Mark said, I want to share that when you move about your day realize something as small as a smile can have a profound effect on someone, something so insignificant can impact someone’s life in a positive way, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

As I listened my friend Alicia looked transfixed, her own story likely weighing on her heart.  Alicia is a personal trainer who runs a triathlon training business. Several years ago she finished her own Florida version of an Ironman, coming in so much faster than she expected that her family (who took a dinner break) missed her finish.

A few years ago Alicia was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that over time leads to muscle-wasting. She’s had to stop running because her feet go numb now and her balance is wobbly.  Alicia can’t bike her usual 80 to 100 miles and she gets more tired than she used to.  While she’s a couple paces slower; she’s not stopping.

She still looks like the poster woman for the fit, zero body fat premier athlete.  Doctors credit her extraordinary fitness level to slowing the disease’s progression.  Alicia told me she tries to strike a balance between doing too much and not enough, but that there’s no definitive way to tell when her fitness activity is helping or setting her back but by trial and error and how she feels.

After Rajesh finished speaking Alicia said she was going to her car to get one of her company training shirts for Rajesh because she hoped he would  “do her the honor” and wear it during one of his events.  A few minutes later she waved me down, a shirt bunched in her hand.  She was clearly excited and nervous.

When we walked up to Rajesh he was politely listening to a man talk about some business deal or another. Likely this was the thousandth time Rajesh had heard a pitch from someone hoping to promote a product through his story. When the man left Alicia stepped forward and introduced herself.  She told Rajesh she was a certified tri trainer and that she hoped he would do her the honor of one day wearing her company shirt during a race.

With a flat expression Rajesh said, “No sorry, I only wear extra small.”

Alicia looked startled but managed to mutter something about how it was fine, she could get him another size.  By then my exalted view of the triple amputee Ironman was gone. “Even someone in a wheelchair can be an asshole”  I once told my husband, spewing one of my home spun philosophies on human nature.

“I’m just kidding” Rajesh said and laughed, his smile spread across his face.

Alicia and I laughed. I moved forward, said hello and nervously shook his hand.  Rajesh wasn’t an ounce intimidating but for some reason the power some people have to overcome the worst and still remain soft can be so overwhelming, their exalted image swallows me.

Alicia is just as humble about her accomplishments and ability to overcome her health challenges. I needed Rajesh to know this.  After she handed Rajesh the shirt I blurted out in one breathy sentence, “Alicia finished her own Ironman in Florida she’s really amazing and inspires her clients all the time she has some health stuff going on but she still keeps going. ”

She smiled and shook her head, brushing off the attention. Behind me one of Alicia’s training clients who had been listening stepped forward.  She told Rajesh that yes it’s true, Alicia is a great trainer and motivator, that many, many people appreciate her inspiration.

Alicia usually so careful to keep her emotions tucked in started to cry. This “wasn’t about her,” she insisted repeatedly.  Rajesh smiled a little and then silently let the moment move over us.

The day before I saw Rajesh speak I told my 13 year old daughter Tara all about him. This guy is something isn’t he I said? Now that’s inspiration. Tara asked me to take his picture.  I told her I’d gauge if it was appropriate because I didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable.  But Rajesh didn’t seem to care, he casually leaned in for pictures with the lines of people waiting for him without any impatience or awkwardness. When it was my turn for a picture I told him, “My daughter would have come but she’s a teenager so this was way too early to get up.”

Rajesh laughed and muttered that the only way to get a teenager up in the morning was to throw water on them.

Triple Amputee Finishes Ironman, Rajesh Durbal.

These are the people who elevate me the most in life.  Those who have earned the right to bellow their accomplishments a little and yet without false modesty,  stay grateful and humble. Men and women who overcome blows and still rise with optimism, with humility, with easy laughter and inspired tears. They cry with you and you smile with them. In these moments if we’re lucky we find the sacred, inside a silence that understands.

 

 

Afterword:

In 2009, Rajesh took, writes the bio on his website live-free.net, “his first leap of faith by running in the City of Orlando corporate 5k. He didn’t even come close to finishing first, but he finished.  That inspired him to challenge himself even further.  He decided to do something no one had ever attempted.  He was going to compete in the Ford 2010 World Iron Man. His peers did not believe it was safe for him to do.  But Rajesh was determined to prove that all things were possible through Christ that strengthened him. He trained day and night, hours at a time running, biking and swimming.  He spent the late nights building his running shoes from an old pair of Nike sneakers. Four versions later of the same sneaker he was able to run a Half Marathon race on his walking legs. Determined to progress, he visited Home Depot to build his own bike legs, often spending multiple hours on the floor in the aisle piecing together his creation.”

Rajesh Durbal’s website – Live-free.net

 

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Marriage After Baby – At Home Date Nights & More Tips to Gradually Re-ignite

marriage after baby, marriage after kids, when partners become parents

It’s natural for new parents to settle in at home with their baby, to “cocoon,” too exhausted to go out and too anxious to leave their child with a babysitter or even trusted parents and in-laws.

As priorities re-order couple time often gets pushed aside. Yet often putting the marriage on the back-burner becomes a permanent pattern in the family and over time, the relationship suffers, the kids notice.

Children can sense when their parents begin to seem emotionally distant.  The unspoken hostility, (or spoken), the disconnect between the couple creates a family “climate” that can feel off-balance.  This marital “gap” can start very gradually (see my post on divorces due to “low conflict” marriages) and over time widen into a great relationship chasm.

And it’s really no surprise.

New mothers rarely have the time, energy or interest to do much more than keep up with the growing demands of their baby and new demands. In addition a new mother’s body and biochemistry is often still re-adjusting which affects mood, stamina and sleep.

Sleep understandably becomes mom’s best friend, watching television the easiest and least expensive entertainment. Exhaustion and the added responsibilities of combing parenting with all other aspects of her life, particularly for a woman whose husband doesn’t share her load, can begin to create quiet, simmering disconnect in the marriage. The husband’s might begin to feel resentful that while he and his wife are deeply grateful, and the baby is the new love of his life, the baby also takes center stage, replacing the attention, intimacy and connection he once shared with his wife.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

As a result, I suggest new parents begin re-connecting as soon as possible, starting small, but making a mindful effort to nurture their relationship from time to time.

What’s Good for the Parents is Good for the Children 

“Kids whose parents’ relationship has cooled are more likely to have behavioral or academic problems than kids of happy couples,” says Philip Cowan, PhD, in the Parents.com article “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.
“Dr. Cowan and his wife, psychologist Carolyn Pape Cowan, PhD. have studied families for decades “Even if you can’t see yourself going out on a date for yourselves, do it for your kids,” says Dr. Cowan.

And while there’s no timetable for when new parents should get their marriage back on track particularly because the physical and life transition can feel different for each woman, there are simple ways couples can gradually begin to re-ignite their pre-baby relationship.

Making an effort to make the marriage as important as parenting sets the priorities for the future of the relationship, particularly once the kids are out of the house and the couple faces an empty nest.

Dating Again: Bistro in a Bag for Nervous First Time Parents

While spit up and dirty diapers are hardly props for a romantic evening, even small sporadic moments can help couples re-connect.  At home date nights, while not ideal when a child is young and in constant need of attention, can set the stage for couples to put their relationship as priority.

It doesn’t take much to create a spontaneous romantic setting if the baby is asleep. Parents can set up the following in a pleasant area of the home such as the front or back porch or on a blanket in the family room by the fire.

The at home date night might include:

  • Table cloth
  • Small blanket (for picnic style)
  • Two elegant placemats and cloth napkins
  • Candle in a protected candle holder (aromatherapy is ideal)
  • Lighter Small FM radio or CD player
  • Relaxing, upbeat or romantic CD
  • Flowers from the garden, or inexpensive bouquet from the grocery store
  • Soothing or energetic aromatherapy air spray.

A no-hassle delectable plate of finger foods can be an easy and fun dinner, raw veggies, frozen appetizers, cheese, salami, crackers, crusty breads with dips, olives, essentially an Italian antipasto platter that makes for a flavorful, interesting meal with easy clean up.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

“Relationship re-entry” as I call it, is reason enough to pull out the good china, letting the dirty dishes soak overnight, taking a break from clean up. Even small efforts like these that put the focus back on couple time, while seeming impractical for parents trying to juggle a baby, send a message to the brain, “our relationship matters.”

No matter what the couple does for an at home or outside date night, the point is to put the focus back on the relationship on a regular basis.   If going out for wine and a gourmet meal or setting an elegant table at home isn’t what feels right, then taquitos and takeout with some good conversation is fine.  It’s not what the couple does, only that from time to time, they focus on each other.

Flexible Fondue for Home Date Night

Who doesn’t love food drenched in melted cheese or rich chocolate? Fondue offers a convenient way for parents to create an impromptu romantic dinner that can hold up to interruptions. Baby starts to cry? Turn off the pot and re-light later. 


Inexpensive fondue pots are available online or at local discount retailers (sometimes these are only seasonal during the holidays).  Dippers can be very inexpensive and include anything that tastes good covered in cheese or chocolate (almost everything), a loaf of crusty French bread broken it into bites, some cauliflower and broccoli florets, sliced carrots, pretzels, strawberries, mini brownies etc.

Pre-made cheese and chocolate fondue packages are available at most grocery stores and while the cheese packets can be pricey, it’s easier and more affordable than buying the assorted grated cheeses, wine, and Kirsch (often used in fondue) and trying to mix the perfect pot.

Regular Communication Keeps Parent Connected

Parents often move to autopilot, moving from day-to-day, joyful and appreciative for their child and each other, yet unaware of what they may be leaving behind, communication and couple time. One of the most important habits new parents can adopt for their family’s long-term emotional health is to regularly  talk about how they feel.  

Ideally couples might try sitting down once a week, putting on calm music and talking, disconnecting cell phones, letting the answering machine pick up, because while the world can wait, the relationship can’t.  If parents get interrupted because the baby is awake or needs attention, the effort alone sends a positive message to the couple and over time, to the children. Kids who see their parents making their own relationship as important as the children’s’, receive, in my personal opinion, powerful and positive messaging.

As the family grows and the demands exponentially increase, making couple time a regular priority becomes a juggling game and a matter of choice, but doing so is critical to maintain a healthy long-term marriage.

Couples should try to keep the conversation honest yet non-defensive and constructive, steering away from “You never, you always” and instead explain what he/she appreciates, then what they need. For example mom might say,  “I really appreciate that you do (x,y,z) and you’re a phenomenal dad, but when you come home from work and want to decompress and I’ve been with the baby all day I need you to either take over with her, make dinner or pick up dinner so that I can get some time to myself, go for a walk, whatever.”

Couples Benefit from Informal Climate Survey 

One way to foster positive communication that’s a little more goal-oriented is to do an informal “climate survey” after the baby is about three to six months old, when the massive changes begin to settle into a “new normal.” A climate survey is a process companies use to measure employee satisfaction and to spot potential red flags. And while it sounds formal, the concept is something I use to simply describe couples making a habit of touching base with each other, with getting a feel for the overall tone in their family.

To begin, parents ask each other how they generally feel in their lives, then about their expectations and short and long-term goals, noting how these areas have changed since becoming parents. Some questions might include:

  • “How do you feel physically and mentally?” (Mom needs to pay special attention to her physical and emotional health).”
  • “What has surprised you about the changes that come with parenting? What are your unexpected joys and disappointments?”
  • “What realistic changes can I/you/we make?”

Couples should strive to be non-defensive and completely honest. They should avoid statements like “You always, you never” and instead say “I feel that” and “I would really appreciate if.” The goal isn’t to sugarcoat, stuff feelings or to avoid conflict, but rather to foster communication in a non-defensive manner, to provide useful constructive feedback for the health of the marriage, and to build a solid family foundation based on regular communication.

Click for Marriage after Baby Books

While re-igniting the marriage after a new baby is inherently challenging as priorities dramatically shift, couples who take a gradual and realistic approach to reconnecting with each other as soon as possible, communicating regularly and creating date nights, are building a healthy dynamic and model for their relationship and for their children’s future relationships.

Children only know what they see and what they sense. Twenty years from now will your kids see a parents who were (for the most part), emotionally connected or parents who were living under the same roof but slowly drifting apart, parents who lived for the lives of their kids, but forgot about the life of their marriage?

Sources

Robinson, Holly. “Happy Parents, Happy Kids,” Parents.com (accessed March 2, 2010).

Photo credit: Photostock 

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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DHEA Improves Stress Resilience & Depression – Anti-Aging Hormone Offers Mood Benefits

stress, depression, dhea, dhea for mood, dhea for depression

 

DHEA, a natural steroid and precursor hormone produced by the adrenals, has been shown to provide several anti-aging benefits, and research suggests DHEA may also improve mid-life onset depression in people who don’t respond to first line depression therapies, as well as improve resilience to stress.

DHEA Improves Stress Resilience 

DHEA levels tend to peak around age 20 and then gradually decline with only about 20 percent circulating in the body by age 70.
 (Click image)

Referred to as the “mother hormone,” DHEA is a precursor to all major sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone with its molecular structure closely related to testosterone, according to Marcelle Pick, Ob & Gyn NP for Women in Balance.org in an article on DHEA.  While more research needs to be conducted to understand DHEA’s role in regulating other hormones, there is evidence DHEA may improve depression and the ability to cope with stress in some people.

“It’s likely that DHEA and adrenal function are related to neurotransmitter-release rates, based on the mood elevation our patients report after just two weeks of adrenal support.” Marcelle Pick.

A report by ScienceDaily cites a study conducted by Yale University and the VA National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder where researchers examined the biological mechanisms that contribute to a person’s level of resilience when under extreme stress, such as that experienced by soldiers, police, and firefighters.

(Click image)

Researchers worked closely with Special Forces Underwater Warfare Operations Center to study special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Results showed that soldiers with higher levels of DHEA did better during the final underwater navigation exam than those with less DHEA.

The ability to navigate underwater relies on an area of the brain called the hippocampus that is sensitive to the negative effects of stress. Dr. Charles A. Morgan, a researcher on the study said, “Animal studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain. These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress.”

DHEA and Mid-Life Depression 

In addition to adrenal synthesis, evidence also indicates that DHEA and DHEAS are synthesized in the brain, further suggesting a role of these hormones in brain function and development.

A study published in the February 2005 issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry found that 23 subjects in a study on DHEA and depression had a 50 percent or more improvement on their depression rating scale.

Click here for DHEA lab test

Researchers studied 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. Six weeks of DHEA treatment contributed to significant improvements in depression and sexual functioning compared to the subjects’ baseline scores and the placebo subjects.

Peter J. Schmidt, M.D., and his colleagues from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. wrote, “At present, there are no predictors of response, and with a 50 percent response rate one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition. However, in the 50 percent of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatment, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression.”

Owen Wolkowitz, M.D. with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of San Francisco, has extensively researched the effects of stress and stress hormones on the brain and behavior, as well as the identification of mechanisms underlying depression, including DHEA’s role as an antidepressant in middle-aged and older individuals. Wolkowitz’s research has “consistently shown that DHEA supplementation improves mood [in these groups].”

DHEA Dosing and Safety

Because hormones are extremely powerful chemicals, people considering supplementing with DHEA should have their baseline and subsequent levels evaluated by a physician. The National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates there is sufficient evidence for the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, depression, induction of labor, and systemic lupus erythematosus. The NIH provides their recommendation for dosing, safety and side effects.

“Many of the DHEA supplements I see at my local store have very high dosages — way too high for most women (often as much as 20 times what I start my patients on!). While there’s no way to tell how much of that you might actually absorb, I think it’s especially unwise to experiment with DHEA at these levels without medical supervision.”  Marcelle Pick.

There is little research on the long-term effects of DHEA. DHEA may however, cause higher than normal levels of androgens and estrogens in some, and therefore increase the risk of prostate, breast, ovarian, and other hormone-sensitive cancers.

(Photo credit, Ambro)

Sources

Washington University School Of Medicine (2004, November 17). Abdominal Fat Decreases, Insulin Action Improves When Elderly Take Hormone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 24, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/04111623

Charles A. Morgan III et al. Relationships Among Plasma Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate, Cortisol, Symptoms of Dissociation, and Objective Performance in Humans Exposed to Underwater Navigation Stress. Biological Psychiatry, Volume 66, Issue 4 (August 15, 2009)

Peter J. Schmidt, et al., “Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression,” Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:154-162.

Pick, Marcelle, Ob & Gyn NP, “Dhea and the Adrenal Glands.” Women to Women.org, Accessed September 13th, 2011.

Wolkowitz OM, et al,”Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment of depression,”Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Feb 1;41(3):311-8.Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine 94143-0984, USA.

Footnote

A few years ago I consulted with a hormone and mood specialist, a former Ob/Gyn who told me after years of working in her field she grew tired of women receiving inadequate or ineffective treatment for a number of hormone-brain-endocrine changes, including peri and full menopause, PMS, anxiety, depression, etc.

In addition to answering a long questionnaire to measure my symptoms (the result of a pituitary disorder I have called Empty Sella Syndrome), the doctor ordered a saliva hormone and urine neurotransmitter test.  The results indicated my DHEA levels were extremely low. Instead of prescribing her usual 5mg per day for women, (men can take higher levels) she recommended 10mg daily.

As someone who believes in becoming our own health manager, while it’s tempting to throw supplements at an issue and see if they work,  it’s important to be very careful particularly with hormones, endocrine agents that impact a wide range of processes in the body and as a result, can have a cascading positive or negative affect.

“Without a comprehensive medical test it’s impossible to know what your DHEA levels are. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t automatically mean you’re deficient. Remember, this is a natural substance — our bodies can produce more or less of it depending on our nutrient support, metabolism, hormonal balance, activity level and emotional state.” Marcelle Pick.

Test, track and monitor your symptoms carefully under the supervision of a holistic (preferably) health care practitioner. 

Click here for DHEA lab test

I reccomend ZRT labs for a number of key saliva and/or blood tests. You can order these online or with a prescription from your doctor.

(Click image)

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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My September 11th Tribute: For the Fallen and Left Behind

September 11th
Through our despair and hurt and pain rises a light that burns brighter than the darkest moment we ever felt, ever saw, ever feared. The light of hope and faith and compassion and love are the strongest forces in the universe that will prevail up against the very worst they try to do.

 

 Photo: Stuart Miles

We will always rise, we will always expand to greater levels, we will always stand in victory, and then — we will smile once again, so loudly that our hearts will drown the sorrow that once shadowed our lives and leave in its healing wake, the glistening drops of peace.  My tribute for September 11th. – Laura O.

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Preventing Breast Cancer: Multiple Modality Screening Best Approach

breast cancer, breast cancer screening, mammography, thermography, breast cancer screening options

Breast thermography is accurate, offers early prevention, avoids radiation

 

After reading about some of the negatives of mammography and doing a tremendous amount of research on breast thermography I opted out of getting a mammogram last year (after doing them for 14 years) and had a thermogram with a certified thermographer.

Just recently however, Dr. William Amalu, a chiropractor with 19 years experience in thermal imaging and I had a conversation over the phone after he read an article where I cited him.

Dr. Amalu explained that to prescribe on screening over another is dangerous to the patient.  A mammogram detects 80% of all breast cancers, thermogram 90%.

With 1 in 8 women predicted to develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime and with 10-20% cases missed, the question we have to ask ourselves Dr. Amalu says is:

What number of breast cancer deaths is acceptable?

Given the margin of error with our CURRENT screening guidelines – too many. What number of deaths should be acceptable? NONE. 

“Certain types of cancers, Dr. Amalu writes on his website, “will not be detected (approximately 20%) by mammography for various reasons, but some of these cancers will be discovered by DII (digital infrared imaging – thermography).”

Mammogram is NOT the answer but neither is thermography – by itself.

The ideal, best practices approach to breast cancer screening should be a three prong approach.  In a perfect world this means doctors prescribe the following exams for women:

  1. Physical – Doctor’s exam. Detect observable and structural abnormalities by manual examination.
  2. Functional – Thermogram. Looks at functional, physiological changes. Highly sensitive, detecting 90% of all breast cancers vs mammogram at 80%. Thermography offers the earliest detection, detecting vascular changes, inflammation, and functional abnormalities in the breast caused by the highly dangerous “estrogen dominance,” one of the leading causes behind breast cancer.
  3. Structural – Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Structural imaging examines the anatomic basis of changes caused by disease. Yet, most women don’t have access to this perfect breast screening protocol because the current screening guidelines don’t support this three-pronged approach, unless a woman is high risk, or shows signs of a high risk abnormality in her first line screening.*If and MRI isn’t possible, (most doctors will NOT write a prescription for and MRI even with risk factors), Dr. Nelly Yefet, an IACT (International Academy of Clinical Thermology) Board Certified Medical Thermographer, CTT, specializing in women’s breast health (who did my thermogram),  says try to get an ultrasound in lieu of a mammo.

Best Breast Cancer Screening Approach, For Now

Most doctors are not yet prescribing this three prong approach, or at the very least, the next best protocol, a thermogram as adjunct (in addition to) a mammogram for a woman’s first line breast cancer screening.

“The consensus among health care experts is that no one procedure or method of imaging is solely adequate for breast cancer screening, writes Dr. Amalu. “The false negative and positive rates for currently used examination tests (including Digital Infrared Imaging) are too high for the procedures to be used alone. However, DII may pick up many of the cancers missed by other test.”

Current Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines 

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised the long held American Cancer Society’s (ACS) breast cancer screening guidelines, bringing them in line with the European Guidelines which screen women age 50-69 every two years. ACS however, states that “yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health.”


After analyzing Norway’s large national database the committee found that breast cancer will sometimes regress and is not always life-threatening. *In response, the task force suggested re-evaluating the use of routine mammography for breast cancer screening.

The dialogue surrounding the new guidelines focused on re-assessing the value of breast self exams, physician breast examinations, and the age and frequency of mammograms.

In the wake of the debate a renewed interest in alternative approaches to breast cancer screening and prevention surfaced, including the use of thermography. Thermography offers advantages over mammography in number of areas, including earlier detection, avoiding r but by itself will not detect 100% of all breast cancers.

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Approved by the FDA in 1982 as an adjunct (done in conjunction with) to mammography and other breast cancer screening tools, proponents of thermography cite large, longitudinal studies to support its use as a highly sensitive, breast cancer detection tool. Advocates say research indicates thermography offers an advantage in early detection over mammography and physician evaluation because it can detect small tumors sooner.

Opponents however, cite high error rates and say thermography can’t pick up deeply imbedded breast tumors, although proponents insist these concerns are based on widespread misinformation as well as a misunderstanding by clinicians of the now highly sophisticated assessment capabilities of thermography.

Breast Thermography Offers Distinct Advantages Over Mammography

Breast thermography uses special infrared-sensitive cameras to digitally record images of the variations in surface temperature of the human breast, recording images of the heat patterns. The recorded images are called thermograms. Its use in cancer screening is based on the concept that cancer gives off more heat than normal tissue.

This technology detects functional changes in the breast tissue before tumors form or before they’re large enough to be detected by other secondary prevention techniques like a clinical breast exam or mammography, say advocates.

“Difficulties in reading mammograms can occur in women who are on hormone replacement, nursing or have fibrocystic, large, dense, or enhanced breasts. These types of breast differences do not cause difficulties in reading digital infrared scans.” Dr. Amalu, Breastthermography.com

Blood vessels, cysts, other benign sources, and metabolic processes such as growing breast tumors all radiate heat from within the breast. A portion of the radiated heat reaches the surface of the breast where it composes a stable thermal pattern.

A breast thermography examination records these thermal patterns and interprets them according to a strict and complex analytical procedure. When analyzed properly by trained individuals, the images disclose various pathological and abnormal processes.

Where a mammogram looks at anatomical changes in the breast and detects masses or lumps in the tissue, a thermogram picks up vascular changes in the breast by detecting blood flow patterns, inflammation and asymmetries. Thermography is used extensively in other countries including Japan, France and Sweden.

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Early Thermography Technology Flawed – Now Highly Accurate 

Dr. Amalu reviewed the history of thermography studies in breast cancer detection in 1995 and concluded in his report that The Breast Cancer Detection and Demonstration Project (BCDDP) formed in the seventies should not have dismissed thermography as a viable breast cancer screening tool.

Many of the studies included in the committee’s review, he writes, suffered from serious methodological errors, unrealistic expectations and flaws, that at the time were the result of infrared technology still in its infancy. Since then, new generations of thermography technology have emerged and the accuracy and sensitivity for breast cancer detection has greatly improved.

“Thermography has the unique ability to “map” the individual thermal fingerprint of a woman’s breasts. Any change in this map over the course of months and years can signal an early indication of possible tumors or other abnormalities. In fact, studies have shown that an abnormal infrared image is the single most important indicator of high risk for developing breast cancer.” Dr. Amalu.

In his review Amalu summarizes findings to support thermography’s use for breast cancer screening:

  • Breast thermography has undergone extensive research since the late 1950’s.
  • Over 800 peer-reviewed studies on breast thermography exist in the index-medicus literature.
  • In this database, well over 300,000 women have been included as study participants.
  • The numbers of participants in many studies are very large — 10K, 37K, 60K, 85K …
  • Some of these studies have followed patients up to 12 years.
  • Strict standardized interpretation protocols have been established for over 20 years.
  • Breast thermography has an average sensitivity and specificity of 90%.
  • An abnormal thermogram is 10 times more significant as a future risk indicator for breast cancer than a first order family history of the disease.
  • A persistent abnormal thermogram caries with it a 22x higher risk of future breast cancer.
  • An abnormal infrared image is the single most important marker of high risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Research has shown that breast thermography significantly augments the long-term survival rates of its recipients.
  • When used as part of a multimodal approach (clinical examination + mammography + thermography) 95% of early stage cancers will be detected.

Dr. Mercola and Others Against Mammography

Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leading natural health advocate strongly opposes mammograms.“Unfortunately mammograms use ionizing radiation at a relatively high dose, which in and of itself can contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Mammograms expose your body to radiation that can be 1,000 times greater than that from a chest x-ray, which we know poses a cancer risk. Mammography also compresses your breasts tightly, which could lead to a dangerous spread of cancerous cells, should they exist,“ he writes in his online article, “Stop! Read This BEFORE You Get that Mammogram” (Mercola.com, June 27,2009).

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The Ideal Breast Cancer Prevention Screening Approach: Multi-Modality

In a 2009 review of thermography for breast cancer detection, researcher DA Kennedy and others recommended using thermography in combination with other modalities to increase screening accuracy.

“No single tool provides excellent predictability; however, a combination that incorporates thermography may boost both sensitivity and specificity. In light of technological advances and maturation of the thermographic industry, additional research is required to confirm the potential of this technology to provide an effective non-invasive, low risk adjunctive tool for the early detection of breast cancer,” write the authors.

The American Cancer Society does not endorse thermography to replace mammography, “No study has ever shown that it is an effective screening tool for finding breast cancer early. It should not be used as a substitute for mammograms.”

“There is a great deal of literature concerning the thermal imaging field in medicine. In fact, it is one of the most studied imaging technologies in the past 20 years. Politics, lack of regulation and misuse of the technology have gone a long way in keeping thermography from the mainstream.”  Dr. William Cockburn, Breastthermography.org

Patients interested in pursuing thermography for breast screening need to be aware of unscrupulous practices warns Dr. Cockburn, a pioneer and long time educator in Medical Thermal Imaging.

Patients interested in pursuing thermography should consult with a licensed practitioner who is certified in thermal imaging through a recognized agency (AAT, AMIT, AAMII, AMIA, IACT, ITS). In addition, the rating system the technologist uses to assess the breast readings vary; some producing a higher than average false positive rate.

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Footnote: My experience with a thermogram, cold but tolerable.  

After my thermography I received via email incredibly detailed images and a written risk assessment report. My results were normal, low risk with some mild “mottling” (areas of vascular changes attributed to years of (synthetic) hormone replacement therapy due to a pituitary disorder diagnosed decades back). I remain on hormone replacement but bioidentical vs. synthetic. 

I plan a one year follow-up with the same practitioner, but NOW, after talking to Dr. Amalu, I will also get a mammogram, UNLESS I can convince my doctor to prescribe an MRI instead (not likely with an “all clear” on my thermo.

This is a Catch 22. If you’re not high risk (how do I know, I’m adopted?), you can’t get an MRI. While I have had breast ultrasounds (they were negative) after an abnormal mammo, I’ve never had an MRI and frankly, these are cost prohibitive in many cases.

So what was my thermogram like?

Similar to the immodesty inherent in the mammogram that flat irons your breasts under “plexiglass” while the tech moves them like putty this way and that, during my thermography standing semi in the buff for about 10 minutes (with a woman practitioner) was mildly awkward.

And admittedly, putting my hand in ice water for a full minute (to lower my body temperature for the reading) was more than a bit unpleasant (a six), but it was fast, it was handled very professionally and I’m glad I did it.

Ultimately my credo is that everyone has to make their own informed health decision, but the key is, make it informed.Until today I was hell bent on ditching the mammo and only going with the thermogram, now? I’ll do both until one day I can opt out of the radiation the mammo gives off and go with the MRI.

Sources

Gautherie M, Gros CM.. “Breast thermography and cancer risk prediction.” Pol Arch Med Wewn March 2010.

Jay, Edward, Thermogram Assessment Services, “Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer.”

Kennedy DA, Lee T, Seely D. “A comparative review of thermography as a breast cancer screening technique.” Integrative Cancer Therapies,2009 Mar;8(1):9-16.

Plotnikoff G, Carolyn T. ”Emerging controversies in breast imaging: is there a place for thermography?” Minnesota Medicine 2009 Dec;92(12):37-9, 56.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

 

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Secrets to Happiness Don’t Change. Timeless Wisdom Prevails.

Philosophers, spiritual leaders, self-help gurus, even scientists profess to know what makes a person happy, yet the core principles remain unchanged.

happiness, joy, dalai lama, secrets to happiness
The theories behind what creates happiness have been dissected, discussed and debated since the beginning of time. New disciplines are blended with ancient philosophies in an attempt to understand the nature of positive emotion. Humans inherently strive to feel good physically and mentally, to seek joy. While the pathway is highly individual, the desire for joy is rooted in universal longings.

As the ideas surrounding individualism emerged throughout history, some philosophers argued that pursuing personal joy was self-centered, non-altruistic and hedonistic. Yet some argue that placing the pursuit of joy as a central goal in one’s life doesn’t necessarily diminish others’ goals. Cultivating joy can, in fact, become the engine that drives a person towards expressing deep, genuine compassion and kindness.

The formula for happiness is dependent upon a person’s beliefs, experiences and cultural, generational and familial expectations. Yet, the core principles appear universal, invulnerable to social trends or to the inherent differences that exist among people.

Happiness as a Choice and Daily Discipline

In the 2007 LiveScience article “The Keys to Happiness, and Why We Don’t Use Them,” Robin Lloyd writes that while psychologists continue to discuss the “keys to happiness” with patients, many continue to adhere to habitual ways of negative or irrational thinking. It’s believed that people can only change chronic patterns of thought when they actively, with intention, decide they want to. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Individuals can begin by adopting a firm, unwavering belief that they deserve to be happy, and not by taking defensive stances like, “That lucky SOB always gets money, girlfriends and promoted. I deserve that, not him.” Happiness can come in addition to others’ good fortune, not in lieu of it.

A person must also change the commonly held belief that others “make” them happy or unhappy, e.g. “If he would be more attentive,” “If my boss would only give me a raise,” etc. People can’t make another person happy, but they can add to the collective pool of joy that’s available to everyone.

A person can choose to accept with peaceful conviction that they deserve to be happy simply because they do, for no other reason or justification. Some people associate this brand of thinking with being entirely self-serving, and in fact – it is. To joyfully serve self however, means others will be served in the center and the wake of another’s happiness. A joyful parent is more emotionally present, more patient, more fulfilled; children sense this. A joyful spouse is more attentive, loving and appreciative, and as such, more likely to receive the same in return.

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Establishing a daily discipline of journaling, prayer, and/or meditation helps foster a mindset that intuits that joy is natural and deserved, rather than something to be earned. Next, individuals can write a point by point action plan to move towards accomplishing their goals no matter how unrealistic they seem at the moment. Establishing a mindset of deserved joy and expressing the words around what joy means to an individual sets in motion the manifestation of those dreams and goals.

The Dalai Lama on Happiness

The Dalai Lama, in a book he co-authored with psychiatrist Howard Cutler, titled The Art of Happiness, says that transforming one’s mind toward achieving happiness is a gradual process and a lifelong commitment. He says that on a daily basis, individuals should consider and contemplate “reminders of how to speak to others, how to deal with other people, how to deal with problems in your daily life, things like that.” The characteristics of a happy person, he says, include sociability, creativity, flexibility, a loving attitude, and forgiveness.

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The Dalai Lama also believes that showing compassion towards others helps unify the common goal people have of achieving happiness. Cutler gleaned great insight from this new knowledge. “I’m trained in medicine and science,” he says, “I probably wasn’t aware enough to realize the importance of kindness and compassion. And these qualities are critical. I’m now able to see people differently, that they are the same as me, striving to be happy. It’s about human connection, you know?”

And while following a spiritual path is deeply rewarding and some believe essential to create authentic joy, one particular religion is not the key to happiness, says the Dalai Lama. “There are five billion human beings, and in a certain way, I think we need five billion different religions. I believe that each individual should embark upon a spiritual path that is best suited to his or her mental disposition, natural inclination, temperament, belief, family and cultural background.”

Healing, Happiness and Health through People, Nature and Animals

Most people understand the intrinsic value of connecting with others or the feelings of awe and joy that come with appreciating nature’s boundless beauty. Owning a pet it turns out, can also foster emotional and physical well-being.

A growing body of research is showing the benefits of human-animal bonding for child development, elderly care, mental illness, physical impairment, dementia, abuse and trauma recovery, and the rehabilitation of incarcerated youth and adults.

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Dr. Froma Walsh and her colleagues conducted a study that showed bonding with pets strengthened human resilience through crisis, persistent adversity, and disruptive transitions, such as relocation, divorce, widowhood, and adoption. Pets increase well-being and healing through their relational benefits, with stress reduction and playfulness, loyal companionship, affection, comfort, security, and unconditional love.

“The powerful meaning and significance of companion animals is underestimated,” says Walsh. Mental health professionals however, rarely consider the value and implications of human-animal bonds. Deep pet attachments after the loss of a pet are often marginalized, seen as abnormal, or ignored in theory, training, and practice.

Money Boosts Satisfaction But Other Factors Create Daily Happiness

Money can buy happiness, sort of.

Ed Diener PhD and Robert Biswas-Diener, a father-son research team, conducted research on the origins of happiness and found that a large income was more directly related to a strong sense of happiness than any other factor. Overall, people who said they had a great life reported higher income.

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Yet, having a larger salary did not mean people felt happier on a day-to-day basis. Possessing “psychological wealth,” the ability to adapt to both good and bad events in order to move forward in life, was a key factor. “Essentially, we have two forms of prosperity: economic and psychological,” said Diener. “I don’t know if one is better than the other. But what we’ve found is that while money may make people lead more comfortable lives, it won’t necessarily contribute to life’s pleasant moments that come from engaging with people and activities rather than from material goods and luxuries.”

In a follow-up study, the team looked at a long list of attributes of respondents, including their income and standard of living. Participants answered questions about positive or negative emotions they experienced the previous day, whether they felt respected, whether they had family and friends they could count on in an emergency, and how free they felt to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do “what one does best.”

Like previous studies, the researchers found that life satisfaction rises with personal and national income. But positive feelings, which also increase somewhat as income rises, are much more strongly associated with these other factors:

  • Feeling respected
  • Having autonomy
  • Having social support
  • Working at a fulfilling job.

This was the first happiness study to differentiate between life satisfaction, the philosophical belief that one’s life is going well, and the day-to-day positive or negative feelings that one experiences, Diener said. “Everybody has been looking at just life satisfaction and income,” he said. “And while it is true that getting richer will make you more satisfied with your life, it may not have the big impact we thought on enjoying life.”

The “secrets” behind happiness are likely the intersection of psychological, physiological, spiritual and meta-physical occurrences in an individual. Yet, the answers behind feeling positive emotion, behind experiencing daily happiness and joy appear timeless and universal to all humans.

Click here for: Amazon’s Highly Rated Books about Happiness 

Sources

C. J. Boyce, G. D.A. Brown and S. C. Moore. “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction.” Psychological Science, 2010.

E Diener, Ng Weiting, J. Harter and R. Arora . “Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2010.

F. Walsh et al. “Human-Animal Bonds I: The Relational Significance of Companion Animals.” Family Process, 2009.

A.J. Oswald and S. Wu. “Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-Being: Evidence from the U.S.A. Science, 2009.

Copyright Laura Owens. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.
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Low Conflict Marriages Cause Most Divorces. Solutions Are Simple.

marriage, divorce, communication, conflict

Most Divorces Due to "Low Conflict" Marriages

It’s not big explosive conflicts such as a spouse cheating or an addiction that finally comes to head that destroy most marriages.

Pamela Haag, author of Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Under-sexed Spouses and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules (Harper),says it’s “low conflict marriages,” the low simmering erosion of the relationship that leads to couples calling it quits.

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In an article published by Tribune papers, “Till tedium do us part,” (September 1, 2011), Heidi Stevens writes:”Up to 60 percent of divorces in the United States, in fact, stem from “low-conflict” marriages, Haag writes in her book, citing a study by marriage researcher Paul Amato.

Marriages that aren’t marred by abuse, addiction, repeated infidelity or other “high-conflict” issues, in other words, actually account for the majority of divorces.” Edward M. Hallowell, director of the Massachusetts-based Hallowell Centers for Cognitive and Emotional Health and co-author of Married to Distraction: How to Restore Intimacy and Strengthen Your Partnership in an Age of Interruption (Ballantine Books) says there isn’t one tipping point that sends these low conflict marriages spiraling down, it’s a decline fueled, among other things, the perpetual noise, buzz and constant distraction couples face today.

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“The ambient noise of life takes over,” Hallowell says. “There’s no big conflict; couples have just lost touch with each other, lost the fun, lost the moments of sustained attention because we live surrounded by this buzz.” Couples are so busy trying to keep up with their lives, bombarded by electronic, digital and day-to-day stimuli they hardly have the time or energy to notice their marital relationship is fading to the background.

The good news is that because these are low conflict issues the remedies aren’t complicated. Hallowell and his wife list 40 tips in their book, and reading over a few of the standouts Heidi Stevens listed in her article I’m reminded that the most useful solutions for resolving conflict seem to boil down to common sense and courtesy, that is once the issue comes to light.

Tips to tackle low simmering marital conflict

  • Be attentive.  Make an effort to tune in, ask your spouse how he/she is doing. Listening is caring and a sign of intimacy.
  • Avoid eye-rolling and any sign of contempt as this fuels more of the same.
  • Split labor into more “attractive” piles. If the wife doesn’t mind doing laundry (as much as her spouse hates it), but hates cleaning the kitchen to the nth degree, divide duties so she does more laundry and he does more kitchen duty.
  • Take a half hour to talk about general things that don’t agitate. Leave out conversations about work, money, chores and conflicts. Connect with each other with light chatter that amuses or inspires, rather than agitates or stresses.

If you you have to ask, there might be a problem

Halwell recalls thinking after a woman asked him if it was bad that her spouse left his Blackberry next to them while they were having sex, “I don’t know which is odder. That he’s doing it or that you have to ask.” My list in life of “If you really have to ask that, you probably already know the answer” could go on for sometime, and this one clearly makes the cut.

When an electronic device is spooning you, you might need to unplug the device, and plug in yourself.

In truth I see signs I need to monitor in myself but nothing like having my Iphone perched on my pillow. My husband and I sit on the porch each weekend listening to music and drinking coffee and wine into the wee hours, yakking up life from A to Z. This is a ritual we’ve done for decades but without any hand-held devices to distract us from the music or our conversation.

Back B.E.D.D (Before Electronic Diversion Disorder) our entertainment on the porch was our chatter and cassettes, then it became CDs, then the radio, now our Ipod. Somewhere along the way, my Iphone and Ipad made it’s way onto our porch. NOW relaxing into the early part of the evening, we sometimes kick back in our chairs with our Iphones glued to our faces and get silent for up to an hour. I’m not sure how that’s connecting, except that we’re in the same room, listening to the same music, sharing the same air.

Fortunately if I get swept into email, websites or Facebook (which I’m more likely to do than my husband), he pulls me back, unphased that I was mentally disconnected, guilty of his own Iphone app diversion, pages of ESPN or Fantasy football. When I read a book in bed, an actual hand held paper book, he reads sports articles on his Iphone which is fine with us because neither is interested in talking to the other when we’re tired, so the distractions of choice don’t disrespect us.

little mindless digital distraction soothes, too much and in lieu of connecting through personal conversation and I can see symptoms surface for a slow simmering spiral down for a marriage.

Photo credit: Ambro

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