7-1-2016 3-26-01 PMIt’s time for another 3-day summer weekend! Independence day is now upon us, and many of us have plans for how we will spend our extra time off work. For many people, it is a time to get together with friends; to eat, drink, and be merry, hang out by the pool or beach, and watch fireworks shows.

Increasingly, more people are doing their own displays rather than travel and deal with crowds and traffic. However, it is imperative that we remember to be safe as we enjoy our holiday. Each year, people wind up in hospitals due to injuries from fireworks and other summer activities.

Here are some tips to enjoy your holiday weekend plans, yet stay safe while doing so.

According to the Red Cross, the safest way to enjoy fireworks is to attend a show put on by professionals. If you choose to go this route, stay at least 500 feet from the area where fireworks are being ignited. If you choose to shoot your own fireworks at home, be aware of your state’s law regarding which fireworks you can legally enjoy in your own back yard. Some states outlaw various types of fireworks, while others do not.

If you choose to shoot off your own fireworks:
• Never give fireworks to small children.
• Adult supervision is required at all times, even with teens and older children.
• Keep water nearby in case it is needed.
• Wear eye protection when lighting.
• Light only firework at a time, and NEVER re-light a dud.
• Store in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. Also, do not store in direct sunlight as this could ignite firework.
• Never throw or point at people, vehicles, homes or other buildings, or flammable materials.
• Never mix fireworks and alcohol. Save the alcohol for after.

Never stay in an area where unsafe practices are used. In addition to being dangerous, it could also be illegal.

Grilling injuries are common, especially during the summer months when more people are enjoying backyard barbeques.

A few safety tips specifically pertaining to the grill:
• Never leave grill unattended.
• Always use grills outdoors.
• Keep children, pets, and any unnecessary people away from the grill while in use.
• Grill in an open area away from tents, trees, houses, decks, or anything else that could be flammable.
• Use tools made for grills that have long handles so as to avoid burns.
• Never add additional starter fluids to charcoal bricks that have already been ignited as this could cause a flare up, and burn the user.
• Follow manufacturer’s recommendations while using the grill.

A few food safety tips:
• Thoroughly cook meats; consuming raw or undercooked meats could increase your chance of food borne illnesses, especially with chicken or pork.
• Don’t re-use platters or utensils for after cooking due to potential for contamination.
• Make sure items requiring refrigeration are cooled appropriately. Do not leave these foods sitting out for extended periods of time. Bacteria replicate more rapidly in heat.
• Use hand sanitizer frequently when hands are not visibly soiled. Wash with soap and water when handling raw meats, or when hands are visibly soiled.

Beach/Water Safety
If you are planning a trip to the beach that will include swimming in the ocean, make sure you and anyone you are with is able to swim. Never swim in an area without a lifeguard present. Always follow posted regulations.

Other tips include:
• Stay alert to weather conditions. Watch for flags and other postings regarding safety.
• Avoid alcohol while swimming in open water.
• Swim with a buddy.
• If you have young children or inexperienced swimmers, utilize life jackets in open water or other floatation devices if in a pool.
• Protect your neck and back. Don’t dive into shallow waters, especially headfirst.
• Adult supervision is necessary when children are around water. It is easy to fall and drown, especially with small children.
• Be aware of known and potential plants and animals in the water. Some may be dangerous. Others can wrap around limbs causing injury or death.
• Be aware of current patterns and potential for rip currents. If caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until you get out of the current, then swim toward shore. If unable to swim, float or treat water until out of the current, then head for shore.
• Stay away from piers and jetties as rip currents often exist in these areas.

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Sun Protection
Sun exposure can be hazardous. Not only is it linked to skin cancer, it can wreak havoc even in the short term and lead to illness, injury, or even death.

Some tips for soaking up some sun safely include:
• Limit exposure between peak hours of 10am and 4pm.
• Wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen, and reapply at least every 2-3 hours.
• Drink plenty of water, and often, even if you don’t feel thirsty in order to avoid dehydration.
• Avoid caffeinated drinks as they can further dehydrate. Instead choose water, coconut water, or electrolyte infused drinks without excess sugar.
• Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
• Wear shoes to avoid burning your feet on hot surfaces.

If outside for extended periods, especially in the very young or elderly populations, monitor for symptoms of a heat stroke which include red, hot skin, changes in consciousness or confusion, rapid, weak pulse, and rapid, shallow breathing. If you or someone else has these symptoms, call 911 and move them to a cooler place if possible without injuring yourself or them. Begin to cool them with slowly by misting with cool water or placing cool cloths or towels on exposed skin. Keep them lying down and watch for issues with breathing.

Stay safe this holiday weekend, and all summer. Happy Independence Day; may we never forget what others sacrificed to make this country great, and what this day is all about.
By: Rachel Clark, RN BSN

6-18-2016 12-18-05 PMIt’s that time of year again! School is out, warm weather abounds, and families flock to various vacation spots. Many families choose the beach or a cruise, while others go on road trips, to Disney World, or other attractions. One thing that often suffers during these trips is nutrition and fitness. We become tempted to think that because we are on vacation, we can neglect our normally healthy diet, exercise, hydration, and sleep patterns. These 4 core principles are essential to maintaining our health throughout the summer months and beyond.


If you are taking a trip this summer, pack healthy snacks to go along rather than junk foods that are full of processed sugars and fats. In addition to being better for you, they will help save you and your family money.

Some good examples of healthy snacks include:
• Dried fruits and vegetables
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
• Raw or roasted nuts
• Homemade trail mix
• Granola

If you are going to be staying in a rental home or condo, go grocery shopping once you arrive so that you can prepare your own meals rather than eat out every meal. This will also save you money, as well as build your health while having fun. If you are taking previously prepared food with you when you leave your rental property, make sure you are able to keep it cool so that it doesn’t spoil. Food poisoning is a sure fire way to ruin any vacation. If you do go out for meals, choose healthier options such as lean meats/fish/poultry, steamed veggies, and rice.


Just because you will be out of town, that doesn’t give you a pass on moving your body. One of the laws of physics states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion while an object at rest tends to stay at rest, including the human body. Taking a week or two off from exercise makes it extremely hard to begin again once you return home and to your normal activities. You don’t have to do your normal routine, especially if you use specific equipment. However, getting in physical activity can be a fun part of the experience. Rather than drive, walk or bike short distances. Go hiking if you are in a location where this is feasible. Swim. Take a walk on the beach. Anything you can think of to get and keep your body moving. Additionally, if you are driving long distances, make sure to get out of the car and stretch your muscles and walk at least every 90 minutes to 2 hours. Driving or sitting in a car for long periods puts stress on the muscles and joints due to immobility.

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This is also important to staying healthy. It is easy to get so wrapped up in activities that you forget to drink water, especially if you are swimming or playing in/around water. Heat combined with exercise can leave you dehydrated, which you may not notice when you are in and out of water because you do not realize that you are sweating. The best thing to drink is water, or coconut water, rather than sugary drinks or alcohol, which can dehydrate you further.

Symptoms of dehydration include:
• Thirst
• Headache
• Dry, sticky mouth
• Decreased urinary output
• Dark, concentrated urine
• Fatigue
• Dizziness/lightheadedness

Minor dehydration can be remedied by drinking water. More severe dehydration requires evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional. Symptoms of severe dehydration include rapid heart rate, inability to produce sweat or tears, weakness, fainting, breathing rapidly, or confusion. If you or a family member experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately, as this is a medical emergency.

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You may be tempted to skip sleep while on vacation in order to take full advantage of all the activities you want to do. However, sleep is important to regenerate. During sleep your body releases human growth hormone, which helps to restore and repair our bodies. In children, it helps them grow and mature. In adults, it helps maintain healthy cells and tissues. Also, sticking to a similar sleep schedule on vacation will make it easier to readjust to normal activities when you return home.

So, enjoy your summer vacations, make a lot memories, and stay healthy while you do!
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

6-6-2016 12-40-29 PMObesity has become an epidemic in the U.S., but not in the traditional sense of the word. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an epidemic as “an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.” Usually, it refers to an infectious disease of some sort, but the term is now being redefined to include such chronic diseases as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity as well as infectious diseases.

6-6-2016 12-40-38 PMAccording to the America Heart Association, 78 million adults and 13 million children deal with the health and emotional effects of obesity. Part of the problem is that our bodies aren’t getting the cues that trigger hunger and fullness. Another issue is the reward system in our brains promote eating, such as the olfactory and optic systems which prompt us to eat, whether we are hungry or not because we smell or see something pleasant. Yet another is the lack of healthy dining options for people and families on the go. We all lead busy lives, and it is so easy to drive through the pickup window of your local fast food chain. Other issues include larger portion sizes, sweet/sugary drinks, unhealthy fats, and refined grains.

Given that the average American spends at least 40 hours per week at work, the workplace can either be a catalyst to healthy living or a derailment of a healthy lifestyle. I know that for me, there are all kinds of temptations at work, including copious amounts of caffeine, soda, donuts, and candy of all sorts. Another major temptation is to work straight through my 12 hour days without a lunch break, or worse, eating quickly so I can get back to work.

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Below you’ll find some tips for healthy meals at work, and ways to stay active in jobs that require a lot of sedentary activities.

Healthy Meals and Snacks
1. Pack a lunch the night before. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy. A turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with cheese, lettuce, and tomato (on the side so the bread doesn’t get soggy) is a great way to get protein, dairy, and veggies in. Another creative option is a salad in a jar. Pack it so that dressing is on the bottom, along with diced peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. You can also add in grilled chicken or other protein sources. The, add your greens to the top. When you dump it on a plate a lunch time, your salad is still as fresh as when you packed it. This is a great way to make several pre-made lunches for the week that you can grab and go without having to think about it. Another easy and time saving solution is leftovers from a healthy dinner you had the night before.

2. Take a protein shake for breakfast. This is the most important part of my day. The night before every work day, I use my Vitamix to make two shakes for the following day; one for breakfast in the morning and another for a healthy snack later on. I use almond milk and/or coconut water, berries of some kind, greens, an avocado or banana, and Juice Plus Complete (a plant-based protein powder that is gluten and dairy free, low glycemic, vegan, and rich in fiber).

3. Pack a snack (or more than one if you need to). I often pack a granola bar of some kind (usually one of my favorites from the Juice Plus Company, either Tart Cherry and Honey or Dark Chocolate and Fig), nuts, cheese sticks, grapes, clementines, apples, or other fruit. This will often curb my craving for something sweet, without all the unnecessary calories that come with candy and other sweet treats. It is also important that snacks be balanced. In addition to your fruit, eat protein. So if you have grapes, have a cheese stick as well. If you have apples, dip them in peanut (or almond, or other nut) butter. Have some nuts with your clementine.

Staying Active
1. Park at the farthest end of the parking lot, and walk.
2. Skip the elevator, and take the stairs instead.
3. Walk around your office during conference calls. Use your wireless device to capitalize on the opportunity to get out of your chair.
4. Stand up at least every 60-90 minutes and stretch your muscles. Sitting for long periods puts stress on muscles and joints. You could also set up a workstation where you can stand rather than sit.
5. Take your lunch break outside. Use at least 5 minutes of it to walk around, soaking up the vitamin D, breathing fresh air, and stretching your legs.

Get creative with ways to improve your health at work. Form a group that takes daily walking breaks together. Encourage each other. But most importantly, take control of your own health. You’ll be glad you did, and you might even inspire the same in someone else.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

5-20-2016 3-07-58 PMI heard about homeopathy a couple years ago from a friend. At first, the only thing I tried was Arnica, which is typically used for bruising. I’d banged up my knee, and she gave me the remedy and told me to take it, and see what it did. The bruise never did reach the skin surface. From then on, every time I banged up a part of my body (which I do regularly as a nurse), I took Arnica, and haven’t had problems with bruising.

In January, I had a traumatic event in my life, and the same friend began searching her books of homeopathic remedies. She found one matching my symptoms, so we tried it. Within 30 minutes, my symptoms had subsided and I was no longer in a panic attack and flashing back to the event. Since then, I’ve kept Aconite in my bag so that it was on hand for any potential issues.

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Then, I decided to take a leap of faith: I made an appointment with a homeopathic doctor for a chronic issue, and saw him six weeks later. As timing would have it, when I went to see him, I was battling a terrible cough, which I was pretty sure was pneumonia. I felt terrible, but I kept the appointment to see him. Turns out, I was right. And the pneumonia wasn’t the only thing I was battling. I spent 3 hours in his office, experienced an unusually high level of individualized patient care, and came away with three different homeopathic remedies.

So what is homeopathy? It is a complementary and alternative treatment focusing on on stimulating the individual’s own ability to heal using treatments from specific symptoms. It is based on the principle that “like cures like,” meaning that the appropriate remedy is selected, and initiates the body’s own healing response. This similar “medicine” acts to stimulate a response, thus giving the body the information it needs to heal itself. Another principle in homeopathic treatment is “minimum dose.” This means that you give only the amount needed to stimulate an initial response, which the body will carry on itself.

The practice of homeopathy has been around for over 200 years, and is extremely popular in Europe, India, and South America. It was developed by Samuel Hahnemann, who was born in Germany 250 years ago. Homeopathy practice is based upon science, but its application is an art, just like any other of the healing arts. It treats the individual, rather than collection of disease labels. More and more people are looking for something more than modern medicine has to offer, and are finding that the traditional disciplines like homeopathy are exactly what they are looking for.

According to a physician and researcher at the Royal London Hospital for Integrative Medicine, Dr. Peter Fisher, homeopathy is safe, and reduces the need for antibiotics. He also said in the British Medical Journal that alternative therapies are often misunderstood, and pointed out studies showing that integrating homeopathy with conventional medicines improve clinical outcomes, without increasing costs. It also reduced the use of potentially hazardous drugs.

I’m willing to test out homeopathy for myself, and see if it is too good to be true. But I’m looking forward to being pleasantly surprised, yet again, by the healing power of the human body. Given that the option is good enough for even the Queen of England and her family, I figure it’s worth a try for myself.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

5-6-2016 10-51-36 AMThis is the title of a presentation coming to Athens State University on May 10, 2016 at 11:30am. In it, Dr. Monica Williams-Murphy will use her unique sense of humor to entertain you as you listen to her lecture on death and dying. I know you might think that sounds morbid, but humor is the key to many stressful situations in life, and the death and dying process is no different.

Dr. Murphy is the author of “It’s OK to Die,” and a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor. She currently practices at Huntsville Hospital, where I met her in October of 2014. She attended medical school at the University of South Alabama, and completed her ER residency at the University of Virginia’s Charlottesville campus. As we were talking about her upcoming presentation, I asked her why she went into emergency medicine, especially given how gifted she is in the area of death, dying, and grief. She told me she had always wanted to be a doctor, and that she had considered oncology, but found that she had no desire for the pace. It also didn’t fit her personality, which is always on the go. She doesn’t slow down, and I’ve seen that in action on more than one occasion. She told me she had read the works of Elizabeth Kubler- Ross (a famous Swiss-American psychiatrist and pioneer in the study of death and dying) prior to going to medical school, and it resonated with her.

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She knew there weren’t enough doctors out there talking about the hard things like death and dying, and since she’s never been one to shy away from difficult topics that others aren’t comfortable talking about. She figured if “someone has to do it, why not me?” Emergency medicine also fit because every person who comes into the ER that is truly sick is in a time of crisis and transition, and she knew that she was called to that. Also unique to Dr. Murphy is that she can take these difficult topics and talk about them in a non-threating manner, and still be emotionally present. She’s not the type of doctor who breaks the news that your loved one is dead or near death, and then walks away. She takes the time to sit with patients and families, answers all their questions, and connects with them on a deeper level. In the ER, there is a “joke” that if Dr. Murphy is working, you can pretty much bet that there will be at least one case where you can see her in action, working her own special magic.

One of the things that she will be discussing at the event, which will be a community luncheon held in the Athens State University Ballroom, is the importance of a plan for end of life care. One thing that she believes to be instrumental is talking about your wishes before the issue ever arises so that there is no question of what you want if they do. She is passionate about educating people regarding the different types of advanced care plans and end of life care options. We talked about how to create these documents and what they entail.

I asked her about the difference between palliative care and hospice care. She told me that they are basically two sides of the same coin in that hospice is holistic management of a disease in its final stages (typically the final 6 months), whereas palliative care is for any person anywhere on the continuum of chronic and/or terminal disease. It includes more than just medications, although they are a part of the process as well. Palliative care focuses on the emotional, family interactions, and spiritual care of all involved in the process, especially the patient.

I asked her why someone my age would want an advanced directive, why that would be important. Her passionate response was “Anything can happen to anyone at any time; 10% of Americans die unexpectedly. You don’t want to displace the decisions for your care to someone else without having informed them of what you would want. Make those decisions for yourself, so they don’t have to.” She also told me that it is important to have these documents on file with yourself, your surrogate decision maker(s), and in your electronic medical record at your physician’s office.

“What a different world we might have if doctors weren’t afraid to talk about death, if we had these conversations annually, right along with your routine physical,” she said. But we don’t have those conversations, partially because we aren’t trained to handle it well. And the media doesn’t help; instead TV shows like House, Grey’s Anatomy, and Code Black portray medicine as miraculous and glamorous. In reality, it’s anything but. “As nurses and doctors, it’s our job to lovingly lower the expectations at the end of life if the miracle doesn’t happen,” she told me.

I encourage you to register for the free event as soon as possible given that seating is limited to 200 people. You can register by calling 256-233-9122. Come and hear Dr. Murphy speak as only she can about how to prepare for peace at the end of life. You won’t be disappointed; you might even be delighted.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

4-15-2016 5-31-22 PMOver the last several years, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome have been frontrunners in discussions regarding health and education in children. So much so that since the 1970s, April has been deemed National Autism Awareness Month according to the Autism Society. This month is recognized in the United States as a special time to educate the general public about both Autism and issues in the Autism community (www.autism-society.org).

Even as prevalent as this discussion has become, there are still many people who are not aware of Autism and Asperger’s, and all that they entail. Basically, Autism is more than a single, identifiable problem. According to www.autismspeaks.org, Autism is a general term for “a group of complex disorders of brain development . . . characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.” In 2013, the DSM-V diagnostic manual merged all of these various disorders under one, more general diagnosis labeled “ASD” or “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” While the difference between Asperger’s and autism is both subtle and complicated, those with Asperger’s typically do not exhibit a delay in communication skills.

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Statistics from Autism Speaks claim that ASD affects over 2 million people in the U.S. and tens of millions around the world. Findings published on their website indicates that roughly 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have been identified as being on the autism spectrum. This is “a ten-fold increase” over the last 40 years. Studies have also shown that autism is more common in boys than in girls, 1 in 42 as opposed to 1 in 189.

Now that you know what autism and Asperger’s are, you’re probably wondering what causes them. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this question. Just a few years ago, most people would say that scientists have no idea. However, there is now better research as to the links to this spectrum of disorders might be. There is no “one single cause,” just as there is no “one single type of autism.” A few possible causes might include genetics, environment, and nutrition. There has also been great controversy over a possible link to vaccine administration.

Autism is generally diagnosed when children are still very young. Many times parents are the first to notice that something just doesn’t seem right and they can’t figure out what it is. Some of the more common signs or symptoms that children exhibit include but are not limited to social challenges, communication difficulties, and repetitive behaviors.

Social Challenges:
By nature most babies are very social and interactive with parents and caregivers. In contrast, most who develop autism show signs early on that there is an issue. Signs might include not responding to their name, lack of interest in people and failure to engage in babbling and “baby talk.” It is also common for individuals on the autism spectrum to misinterpret what others think or feel and gestures such as smiling or waving often convey no meaning. It is also difficult to see things from the perspective of another.

Communication Difficulties:
By the time most children are 3 years old, they are able to form a few words and/or simple sentences. They can convey like or dislike, respond to their names, and indicate desire for something. Children who are autistic or have Asperger’s syndrome are often delayed in these communication skills. Sometimes, infants will develop autism later but have previously demonstrated the ability to communicate. Others will have significant delays in learning to speak and communicate from a very young age. Many learn to communicate with pictures, sign language, word processing software, and speech generating devices.

Repetitive Behaviors:
Often, children on the autism spectrum will exhibit use of a set of repetitive behaviors, which is “one of the core symptoms of autism”. These repetitive behaviors may include but are not limited to such activities as “hand-flapping, rocking, jumping and twirling, arrangement and rearrangement of objects, and repetition of sounds, words, or phrases”. If someone attempts to stop or discourage these behaviors, children will often become very upset. Those children and adults on the autism spectrum often benefit from order and consistency on daily routines, with even minor changes to that routine deeply affecting behavior.

“Children with autism also exhibit a higher than average occurrence of genetic changes, GI (gastrointestinal) issues, seizures, sleep dysfunction, and sensory processing disorders.”

Throughout my lifetime, I’ve had the profound honor and privilege to work with multiple children and adults who are on the autism spectrum, some more so than others. These amazing people have given me the great gift of their presence in my life and I am forever grateful for it.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

4-1-2016 12-28-27 PMBeing from down South, many of us grew up in churches. We have read the various portions of the Scriptures which tell us to fast, and about people who fasted. Some of the most familiar stories include such times as when Daniel ate no meat or sweets for 3 weeks (Daniel 10), when Moses was with the Lord on Mt. Saini and ate no food or drank no water for 40 days and nights, and when Christ was in the wilderness for 40 days and had fasted prior to his temptation by Satan. But many of us wonder, is fasting healthy, and should we still do it today?

One of the things I’m finding that I love the most about science is that it is beginning to catch up with Biblical truth, in more areas than one. Medical science is no exception, given recent studies on brain science. While doing research for this article, I found an interesting study published by Cell Metabolism, a peer-reviewed journal about molecular biology. In their findings, authors Longo and Mattson found that fasting helps “reduce obesity, hypertension [high blood pressure], asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.” They also found that it has the potential to delay aging, and help treat and prevent diseases.

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What Is Fasting
Fasting is defined as a period of time in which one consumes no food or drink, with the exception of water. There are several variations on fasting which do allow for food, so long as it is less than 200 calories per day. Typical fasts range in time anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks. Some fasts, though not common, are done for longer. If you are new to fasting, start slowly, and work your way up to the desired goal.

Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between a fasting state and periods of eating, typically giving a narrow window of time (usually 6 to 8 hours) in which you should eat, saying nothing about which foods in particular you should consume, versus which foods you should avoid. However, it should be noted that a healthy diet is one that is high in fruits, vegetables, berries, legumes, and lean protein sources. In order to maximize your results from intermittent fasting, changing dietary patterns would be helpful. Some popular recommendations include the 16/8 pattern (16 hours of the day that you don’t eat and a shorter window of time, such as 10am to 6pm, for consuming foods), the 5:2 diet in which you choose 2 non-consecutive days of the week to consume a restricted 500-600 calories per day, and eat normally the other 5 days. Additionally, there is the Eat-Stop-Eat pattern in which you eat dinner one day and consume no food until dinner the next day.

Many laboratory tests require that you fast beforehand. It is understood that fasting can help your body to do a “reset,” which gives accurate numbers on test such as cholesterol, hemoglobin A1C, and blood glucose. Hormone levels are also affected by fasting, which can alter your metabolism and patterns of gene expression.

Some possible benefits of intermittent fasting include but are not limited to:
• Fat loss
• Muscle gain
• Cellular repair
• Changes in genetic expression
• Reduced insulin resistance and lower blood glucose
• Decreased inflammation
• Reduced cholesterol and triglycerides
• Prevention of cancer
• Prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
• Rebuilding of nerve cells
• Longer lifespan

Though more studies are needed to look at these effects, early research in these areas is promising when combined with a healthy diet and exercise program. The important thing to remember is that it starts with one simple change, and this is one of the simplest changes you can make for your health.

For more information and ideas about making changes to your lifestyle, you can visit my website http://rachelclark.juiceplus.com/content/JuicePlus/en/one-simple-change/one-simple-change.html.
As always, check with your healthcare provider for recommendations before beginning any lifestyle changes. Any information provided above is the personal opinion of the writer, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any health issues you may have.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

3-18-2016 11-24-59 AMIt’s that time of year again: Spring! The trees are budding, the flowers blooming, and the warm sunshine beckons us out of our homes. Though we did have some bitterly cold days this winter, it was relatively mild, all things considered. Many people count that a blessing; however it does pose a potential problem. Usually, winter is a time when pests and bugs are killed off. With the warmer temperatures we enjoyed may come the unintended consequences of having to deal with more mosquitos, ticks and other such pests.

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According to Yale educated midwife-turned-doctor Aviva Romm, “Lyme disease is no longer a rare condition affecting people who live out in rural Conneticut (Lyme disease originated in Lyme, CT); it’s something we all need to think about if we spend any time outdoors, have pets, or even if you or your kids just play in your suburban front yard.”

The Center for Disease Control statistics indicate that reported and confirmed cases of Lyme’s are increasing rather than decreasing, to the tune of 320%, mostly in the Northeast. But, there are also increases in numbers in other geographic regions. In the last few years, at least two people that I care deeply about have been diagnosed with Lyme’s, one in Florida, and the other right here in Alabama.

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The best treatment for any disease is prevention, and Lyme’s is no different.

Tips For Prevention:
• Keep grass cut short around your home
• Treat pets for ticks
• Tuck pant legs into socks when hiking
• Wear long sleeves
• Do thorough tick checks on a daily basis if you are outside
• The use of essential oils like peppermint may help deter ticks

What To Do If You Find A Tick:
• If you find it crawling before it has bitten, flush it down the toilet or destroy it by some other means (as a child, my grandmother preferred burning them)
• If the tick has latched, remove it by grabbing with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight up with firm but gentle pressure. Twisting can leave fragments under the skin, setting you up for infection. Likewise, squeezing, puncturing, or crushing the tick can allow potentially infected fluids into the skin or bloodstream. Afterward, disinfect the skin with either rubbing alcohol and/or soapy water.
• If you have to remove a tick, observe the area around the bite for at least 30 days for the classic bulls eye rash that most often accompanies Lyme’s.
• Removing the tick before the first 48 hours after a bite may be key in preventing the transmission of Lyme’s.

As many as 50% of people never develop the rash, and some don’t even realize that they’ve been bitten. Other symptoms of Lyme’s include fever, headaches, body aches, and increased aching in the joints. Traditional Western medicine prefers to treat tick bites of potentially infected persons with a course of Doxycycline, an antibiotic. Some people respond well, while others do not. Talk with your healthcare professional to determine what will work best for you.

A percentage of the population may also struggle with what’s known as Chronic Lyme’s, which occurs when it is not promptly diagnosed and treated. It is difficult to diagnose at this point because it manifests in so many different ways, effectively sending the clinician on a “wild goose chase” to expose the true problem. The spirochetes can “go into hiding” in various parts of the body, lingering for weeks, months, or even years. These patients may experience a wide range of symptoms including numbness in the fingers or toes, problems with digestion, circulation, the reproductive system, the central nervous system (brain, nerves, and spinal cord) and the skin.

A few alternatives to antibiotic therapy for Lyme’s Disease include herbal therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, nutrition therapy, infrared sauna, and the “Rife machine” which uses frequencies matched to those of the microbe that vibrate it until it falls apart.

Enjoy your time outside, but remember to keep an eye out for ticks, preventing this potentially devastating disease.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

3-5-2016 10-21-19 AMImagine you (or a woman that you deeply care about) have recently moved to Alabama and discovered that you are pregnant. You’ve already decided that you want an experience that involves a care provider who promotes low interventions, a healthy pregnancy, and continuity of care throughout the entire process. Your last birth was at home with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), and you want to go that route again. You begin to do your research, only to find that CPMs are illegal in Alabama. Your only option is to go over the state line to Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, or Florida. So you begin to look for birth centers, only to find there aren’t any of those in Alabama either. Then you expand your research options, looking a Certified Nurse Midwife in the hospital setting. You find that there are only 3 full-scope midwifery practices in the state, and none of them are close to you. What do you do? Drive across the state line to birth with a CPM, or drive hours to Anniston, Montgomery, or Mobile to one of the full-scope CNMs?

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For well over a decade, organizations such as the Alabama Birth Coalition (ABC), Alabama Midwives’ Alliance (ALMA), and Safer Birth in ‘Bama have been working hard to educate consumers, healthcare providers, and legislators about the safety and necessity of the Midwifery Model of Care. The hope is to also repeal a law passed in 1975 that makes the practice of midwifery by a Certified Professional Midwife illegal and a class C misdemeanor.

Why is this so important, you ask? And what does it have to do with cornbread and shrimp? In 2014, a bill passed the Alabama House of Representatives to make cornbread the state bread. In 2015, legislation making the brown shrimp the “State Crustacean” of Alabama passed. And yet, issues like the decriminalization of Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) were ignored. This year, legislators will have a midwifery bill on their desks again. Consumers like Hannah Ellis (who came up with the terms “choking on cornbread” and “strangled by shrimp”) have begged legislators to consider this bill, and stop wasting time and money voting on frivolous bills like the two mentioned above, and instead focus on bills that really make a difference to people in our state.

The word “midwife” means “with woman,” and there are different types of midwives. Currently, Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are legal in all 50 states of the U.S., but in Alabama, there are only 3 state-wide who have the opportunity to practice to the full extent of their training, meaning that they can deliver babies in the hospital setting, as well as practice primary care for women. Among them is a new graduate from Frontier Nursing University, Sara Hellwege, who works with Dr. Joshua Johannson in Anniston, AL. The other two are located in Montgomery and Mobile.

Certified Nurse Midwives are nurses with an advanced practice degree from an accredited institution, who have completed degree requirements and passed certifying examinations by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Their expertise includes all aspects of women’s health, from puberty to menopause, and beyond.

Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) are legal in 28 states, and are educated via accredited midwifery programs or an educational pathway that meets national certification standards. They are trained specifically in what is called “out of hospital birth,” and provide care specifically during the childbearing cycle. They must pass the certifying examination through the North American Registry of Midwives.

So, why seek out a midwife? Midwives can bridge a gap that currently exists. There are approximately 2.2 million women in our state, and only 470 OBGYNs. Of the 67 counties in Alabama, 37 don’t have obstetrical services in their local hospitals. For low-risk mothers, midwives are an option to improve the outcomes of birth in this state. Currently, we receive an “F” rating by the March of Dimes on prematurity. We are in the top 4 for infant mortality in the country, which only 3 other states have worse records than we do. Despite the fact that the March of Dimes recommends breastfeeding for the first year, only 60% of infants in Alabama are ever breastfed, and only 14% continue to be by 12 months of age. Midwives are able to spend more time with clients, educating them about lifestyle, breastfeeding and nutrition, health screenings, and other issues pertaining to women and babies.

Please contact your senators and representatives, and tell them you want midwives to be able to practice in this state again. Consider joining organizations such as ABC and Safer Birth in ‘Bama. Also get involved with events like “Miles for Midwives,” a walk in various towns across the state which demonstrates solidarity with the midwifery profession, educates communities, and raises money for grassroots campaigns.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN

2-19-2016 12-21-12 PMFeeling tired all the time, yet have trouble falling asleep when you lay down at night? Are you more irritable, or get angry easier than you once did? Do you crave sugar, carbs, fat, salt, or all of those things? Do you find that you need that extra caffeine in the afternoon that you didn’t used to? Are you beginning to gain weight, particularly around your middle (a muffin top, or spare tire)? Are you getting sick more often than you once did, and staying sicker longer? Are you feeling anxious, or depressed, and aren’t really sure why? Having problems focusing, not getting your work done? Experiencing mood/hormone swings, or difficulty with fertility? Is your digestive system all messed up?

According to renowned midwife, herbalist, and functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm, M.D., the above listed symptoms are the top 10 indicators of adrenal fatigue.

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The adrenal glands sit at the top of the kidneys (about midway down the back) and control many of the automatic responses of our daily lives. Most people only relate them to to “fight or flight” response, which is one of their main functions, but they affect so much more, including blood pressure, stress response, immunity, weight, and blood sugar regulation. When the adrenals are activated by a situation, our normal response is to either get away from it or defend ourselves. In this response, we pump out cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that sharpens our thinking, mobilizes blood sugar, and gives us energy. The rate of breathing increases, heart rate goes up, and senses are heightened. Once the threat is gone, the system normalizes and all is well again.

However, we now live in crisis-mode most of the time. There is no time for our bodies to process the first threat before another is upon us, and yet another after that. Our lives are in a constant state of stress, without the time to recover. Eventually, if we do not interrupt the cycle, our adrenals will be overloaded, and not function properly. We will continuously pump out too much sugar and insulin (which is a hormone excreted by the pancreas to get sugar out of the blood stream and into the cells where it can be used for fuel/energy), and can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. This is followed up by cravings for salt and fat, which is necessary for the reaction to occur.

So, how do we prevent our bodies from getting overworked and protect our adrenal glands? One thing to realize is that perfectionism creates a stress response, similar to other types of chronic stress. It is also an addiction, because we are driven to more and more success. Perfectionism is a precursor for all kinds of mental and emotional disturbances, such as anxiety and depression. When we are no longer driven by the need to overachieve and say “yes” to every opportunity that comes our way, we can be truly present in our own bodies and begin to combat pressure.

If you are already experiencing adrenal fatigue, here are some practical tips to help you begin to bounce back:

• RELAX! Find an activity that you enjoy doing that doesn’t put any pressure on you, and then do it. Read, hike, go on a trip, get a massage. Whatever you choose, do something that will help you unwind.
• Sleep hygiene. Your body needs 7-8 hours of sleep to repair itself. Skip that 4pm cup of coffee. Take the TV out of your bedroom. Turn off your phone and other electronic devices after 9pm (or at least an hour before going to sleep). Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day to keep your circadian rhythm in balance. Take a hot bath. Drink some herbal tea (chamomile or lavender are great options).
• Keep blood sugar balanced. Don’t skip meals. Eat a high protein breakfast. Skip sugary foods and drinks during the day. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and good quality fats.
• Reduce or eliminate caffeine intake. Caffeine is a drug, and it allows you to push past your body’s natural limits and perpetuates the vicious cycle of stress you are trying to break.
• Exercise. Move your body. It will give you more energy by releasing endorphins. But be careful not to over do it, as that can also contribute to further issues.
• Talk to an herbalist. They may be able to suggest options that will help you support your body as you try to make the necessary changes to take back your health.

Stress is a reality in life. However, you are in control of how much you allow it to control your mind, body, and spirit. Take back your life, and nourish your adrenal glands.
By: Rachel Clark, RN, BSN