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February 7, 2015

Writing Your Way to Health

For the past four years, I’ve been writing in a weekly class by means of a unique practice called Contemplative Writing. First we meditate for 10 minutes. Then we receive a prompt like Beginnings, or I am thinking about…, or What Will Never Happen Again?, or a favorite moment with a bowl of soup. Then, we put pen to paper. Go. We are guided to write for 20 minutes, without stopping, without editing, without looking back. I most often do it in a weekly group, but I also write this way in retreats and on my own.

Recently, in the New York Times Health Section, Tara Parker-Pope’s article, Writing Your Way to Happiness, connected the dots for me on just how healing the telling of our story can be.

The article calls it expressive writing – writing about oneself. "The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory."

Here is a recent expressive writing that I did with my writing group:

Time and I are wrestling, perhaps to the death. Some days, as the black coots dive below the great waves of the gray lake where I write, I am certain that Time has me gripped in a headlock, face down on the sandy shore, next to the stench of a dead carp.

Just the other day, I gave up. Time let go. As I sat on the sand with my back to a wall of rocks, I felt myself become those coots, that lake, the entire eternal moment.

Then, a bald eagle flew overhead. Now, Time and I were wrestling again. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the eagle swoop and swoop again towards those coots – those coots who were now elegantly, madly, and with great purpose, beating their wings, creating a room of water to surround.

Once Time realized the eagle might go hungry, she tossed me off so I could watch – could watch hunger and water and fear and grace meet. I sat again with my back against the rocks, along the shore of the gray lake and understood I was also empty and hungry; also afraid and wet. I went deeper within and felt time rush my body, pushing it against the rocks, forcing her whole weight against me. A rib cracked, a heart broke, a bird screamed.
As the eagle flew overhead with the coot in her beak, I remembered my pen and notebook. I carefully reached over and picked them both up, dusted off the sand and continued to write.

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Would you like to explore optimizing your health through writing? Join me on Blog Talk Radio to explore expressive writing and all other topics related to health. You can also e-mail or call the Optimal Health Network. Perhaps you’d like to be in a Contemplative Writing Group of your own!


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February 6, 2015

Essential Oil Use Holds Promise in Lowering Our Need for Antibiotics

Antibiotic resistance is a serious threat facing all of us today. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi."

For instance, "there are high proportions of antibiotic resistance (ABR) in bacteria that cause common infections (e.g. urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections) in all regions of the world. A high percentage of hospital-acquired infections are caused by highly resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria."

Key facts about antimicrobial resistance

Antibiotics are a foundational component of modern medicine, without which many of our current treatment modalities and medical procedures become exceedingly dangerous. We all need to be a part of the solution, using antibiotics as sparely as possible and encouraging others to do the same.

Fortunately, research investigating various plant extracts, hoping to find alternatives to antibiotic drugs, is extremely promising. Essential oils have potent antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Mounting research also suggests they may be powerful enough to address diseases like cancer. (Limonene is high in all citrus oils, like lemon and tangerine.)

A recent article in The Atlantic goes into great detail about how scientists and farmers are now looking to essential oils to keep people and animals healthy and discusses the experimental use of essential oils to combat disease in poultry.

The Atlantic article goes on to say that "in the lab, scientists have been testing all kinds of combinations of essential oils and antibiotics, and they’re repeatedly finding that the oils – used on their own and in combination with some common antibiotics – can fight numerous pathogens, including antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus (which causes staph infection), and other common types of bacteria. Results consistently show that combining essential oils and antibiotics significantly lowers the amount of antibiotic required to do the job. For example, two recent studies showed that lavender and cinnamon essential oils killed E. coli, and when combined with the antibiotic piperacillin, the oils reversed the resistance of the E. coli bacteria to the antibiotic. Another recent study found that basil oil and rosemary oil were both effective in inhibiting the growth of 60 strains of E. coli retrieved from hospital patients. Other research has produced similar results for many other essential oils, both alone and in combination with antibiotics. Researchers believe that one mechanism by which the oils work is by weakening the cell wall of resistant bacteria, thereby damaging or killing the cells while also allowing the antibiotic in."
Again, we all need to do our part to use alternatives to antibiotics, as often as possible, and to keep our body as healthy as possible in order to avoid the need for antibiotics.

If you need support with which essential oils you and your family might use, please call us at 608-242-0200 for general questions or to set up a personal consultation for an individualized health plan.

Here are a few of the essential oils that have been shown to have strong antimicrobial properties:
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • mint family – peppermint, spearmint
  • cinnamon
  • clove

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