Our Blog

Suicide Prevention – Communities of Support

Everyone has been touched by suicide in some way, shape, or form. For some, depression or a mental disorder may prevent them from living their best life. For others, anxiety is part of their daily life. Or someone may have a family member, friend, or neighbor who is suffering. For those dealing with such feelings, it can feel immensely isolating and lonely.

This week, during National Suicide Prevention Week, we’re here to remind you that you are not alone. There are organizations, resources, groups, and communities dedicated to helping anyone who needs it. There’s the saying, “it takes a village,” and it couldn’t be more true. Life takes a village and there is a community out there for everyone to be a part of. Here are just a few of those communities that are accessible online, to anyone from anywhere.

Humans of New York (link: www.humansofnewyork.com)

Recently, an anonymous story (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/149002654491/%C2%BE-sometimes-my-anxiety-would-get-so-bad-that) shared on Humans of new York (Hony) has gone viral about the importance of therapy and seeking help. This man’s story has been shared all across the internet, hitting close to home for many who have been touched directly or indirectly by depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicide.

Photographer Brandon Stanton started Humans of New York as a photography project which quickly grew into a quirky, accepting community of not only New Yorkers but citizens of the world. Currently, Stanton is sharing stories of veterans affected by depression and PTSD and has partnered with The Headstrong Project (http://getheadstrong.org/) to bring awareness and help to the community.

Post Secret (postsecret.com)

Frank Warren, the keeper of secrets, created a community where people anonymously send in their secrets and share their most private, vulnerable thoughts with the world. Many have been touched by the secrets they’ve read or found connection through secrets shared. For some, reading these secrets helped them realize they are less alone than they think, and Post Secret has become an advocate and supporter for suicide prevention. New secrets are shared each week on Sundays and the secrets are often about depression and suicide. On Post Secret’s website, Frank shares a list of resources for those who are in need of help(http://suicideprevention.wikia.com/wiki/USA).

There are so many communities, resources, and people out there who want to help. If you or someone you know are hurting and need someone to talk to, you can safely call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) and speak to someone at any hour of the day.

Another long-standing community, especially for teens, is the non-profit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms (https://twloha.com/)or TWLOHA, dedicated to helping bring hope and help to those struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, or thoughts of suicide.

You Can Not Be Replaced (http://www.youcannotbereplaced.com/) is a community solely dedicated to building communities and strengthening communication in young people and their families to help prevent

It Gets Better Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/) is an organization dedicated to helping the LGBT youth around the world. This community helps provide a pathway to resources for LGBT youth struggling and in need of support, as well as a place to share hope, love and stories from other LGBT people.

The World Needs More Love Letters ( http://www.moreloveletters.com/) is an organization designed to build a community of love and support. Here, you can write letters of love and encouragement to make an impact to someone who needs a lift.

These are just a few of the many communities out there dedicated to helping a friend, or stranger, in need. Help us grow our list of communities by sharing your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

6 Women Saving Lives Through Their Work With Viruses

All too often, women in science are not properly recognized for their discoveries, instead having their work attributed to male colleagues, supervisors, or even husbands.[i] History has routinely divorced them from their accomplishments, excluding their names from textbooks and overlooking them as accolades for the work are bestowed upon men. (Perhaps the most famous example of this is Rosalind Franklin, who used x-ray crystallography to prove the double-helical structure of DNA, only to unwittingly have her work stolen by two male colleagues who were then awarded the Nobel Prize.[ii])

August is National Immunization Awareness month, so we’ve decided to honor the occasion by pushing back against the bias and acknowledging a few of the incredible women – past and present – who are rocking the field of immunology. Vaccinations save an estimated 2.5 million lives globally each year. It is because of immunization that smallpox is a plague of the past, polio is nearly eradiated, and measles kills fewer children than ever.[iii] Through their work, these women have contributed to millions of saved lives, and we think that’s something worth celebrating!

Dorothy Horstmann and Isabel Morgan[iv]

Despite the lack of press reporting it, each of these women played a pivotal role in the process of discovery for the Polio vaccine. Horstmann identified the pathogenesis of polio, showing that the virus circulated in the blood before entering the central nervous system. (This directed scientists to work on an intervention that targeted the virus in the bloodstream, aiming to neutralize it before serious harm occurred.) Morgan conducted experiments to successfully immunize monkeys against the disease – a precursor to human vaccination.

Polly Matzinger[v]

This scientist proposed a new model of the body’s immune response that has implications for the way we treat cancer, sustain transplants, and immunize newborns. Her so-named Danger Model argues that our immune system mounts a response when it receives signals from injured tissue, rather than responding “blindly” when it detects foreign invaders. Of her discover, she notes, “A few scientists still aren’t listening, but I’m not going to do the work to make them. The evidence is there.”

Margaret Liu[vi]

Liu earned the nickname “The Mother of DNA Vaccines” from her students. By injecting DNA to initiate an immune response to HIV, she is researching how to provoke the body into producing protective proteins against the virus. This could lead to more stable vaccines that can be produced quickly enough to keep up with the rapid mutations HIV undergoes (mutations that render other vaccine forms ineffective).

Flossie Wong-Staal

The first scientist to clone and map the genes of HIV, Wong-Staal made a crucial step forward in allowing scientists to develop a diagnostic test for the virus. Her work also helped prove that HIV is the cause of AIDS. She continues her work looking for new ways to treat AIDS and other diseases.

 Melinda Gates[vii]

Gates is the co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation. A key effort of this organization is to support and advocate for global health interventions, particularly immunization. The organization did not always appropriately acknowledge her role, originally calling itself the William H. Gates Foundation before adopting its current moniker. This foundation has given billions of dollars to the fight to eradicate diseases treatable via vaccination.

There are countless other women in science who deserve recognition for their lifesaving work. Who would you like to give a shout-out to? Tell us in the comments section!

[i] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130519-women-scientists-overlooked-dna-history-science/
[ii] http://www.biography.com/news/famous-female-scientists
[iii] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Vaccine-Delivery
[iv] http://articles.latimes.com/2005/apr/10/opinion/oe-oshinsky10
[v] http://discovermagazine.com/2002/nov/feat50/
[vi] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/14/durango-native-margaret-liu-is-the-mother-of-dna-v/
[vii] http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do

Summer Workout Tips for the Hot and Sweaty

Ah the Summer Olympics: the triumph, the drama, the glory…the heat. With average August temperatures in Rio de Janeiro hovering in the high 70’s, athletes from around the world will come together this week and begin competing not only against one other, but also against Mother Nature. These fiercely fit phenoms know how to keep themselves at peak performance regardless of weather conditions; meanwhile I’m over here wondering how anyone manages to wear light grey in August and if I should start bringing a second towel to yoga class.

Sadly, most of us mere mortals are only Olympians in our mid-workout daydreams. Still, we need to take extra care of our bodies when exercising in these hot and humid summer months. Notwithstanding the fact that overheating is dangerous, working out in the dead heat of summer can be downright discouraging. It’s hard enough to find the inspiration some days to get yourself moving, and now you have to do it with sweat pouring down your face before you even get started. To help you out, we’ve put together some workout tips to keep you safe, motivated, and maybe even feeling a little more Gold this summer.

Drink (and Eat) to Maintain Hydration

More heat, more sweat, more dehydration. Dehydration can put you at risk for heat stroke, or just make you feel drained and lose the enthusiasm to workout. But believe it or not, chugging too much water and becoming over-hydrated is just as (if not more) dangerous.[i] To prevent this, use your thirst as a guide to know when you need to rev up your fluid intake. It also helps to consume fluids before, during, and after you workout.[ii] Alcohol doesn’t count, so you may need to rethink that post-gym glass of wine (or at least pair it with plenty of water!)

What does count towards rehydrating your body is water, tea, coffee, juices, soups, and even fruits and vegetables. Water is the most obvious choice for a reason: it’s the best one. But these other sources will all help contribute to hydration. Fresh fruit and veggies will also help you get the nutrients you need – especially potassium – to stay healthfully fueled. One option you may want to pass up? Sugary sports drinks: the excessive calories and refined sugar essentially cancel out whatever gains you made in your workout. You’re better off eating mineral-rich foods to replenish the electrolytes you sweated out. Your waistline will thank you for it, and real food tastes better than those neon liquids anyway.

Mix it Up and Keep It Cool

Unlike Olympians, we pedestrians – thankfully – have options when it comes to how we get our exercise. Changing up your routine can be an easy and effective way to pull yourself out of a heat-induced workout slump. It can also keep you safe on days that are really scorching hot. Not looking forward to your usual 5-mile outdoor run when then heat index hovers near triple digits? Then don’t do it. Instead, opt for cooler activities like taking an indoor fitness class, working out in the air-conditioned gym, going swimming, or trying a new water sport. You’ll beat the heat and may just find a new fitness favorite by trying something different. If you really have your heart set on an outdoor activity, try to avoid the peak heat of midday, keep to the shade when possible, and follow the other tips in this article to stay safe.

When you do decide to sweat it out outside, don’t forget about sun protection. Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen will help prevent sunburn – which affects your body’s ability to cool itself. And remember to reapply sunscreen as you sweat and wipe it off. I’m also going to give you an excuse to go shopping: proper active wear can help keep you cool, too. Look for clothing made of lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric and choose lighter colors over dark. (I know, I know: we all love our black spandex, but it’s basically a magnet for the sun.)

Know When to Take a Break

Pushing yourself is an important part of achieving fitness goals, but it’s equally important to know when you need to back off. Listening to your body and having a good understanding of your limits is invaluable and can help prevent heat-related illness. Signs you may have pushed your fitness boundaries too far include: muscle cramps, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and fatigue.[iii] Recognizing these signs and taking action to lower your body temperature will help prevent them from progressing into heat stroke – a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.

How do you battle the sweat deluge during summer workout sessions? And how many towels do you have to bring to yoga? Share your sweaty secrets in the comment below!

[i] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trade-sports-drinks-for-water-201207305079
[ii] http://www.livescience.com/38553-staying-hydrated-in-the-heat.html
[iii] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167?pg=2

Simple Ways to Get More Fruits & Veggies In Your Diet

Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and obesity – all of which top the list of leading causes of death in the US.[i] But we all know this, right? Most of us could probably have a full-length conversation about kale without batting an eye.

Yet for the most part, we don’t seem to be letting this knowledge impact our dietary habits. We may like to talk about it, but when it comes to consuming plants, we fall embarrassingly short: fewer than 1 in 10 adults eat the daily-recommended amount of vegetables and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the daily-recommended amount of fruit.[ii] (The new recommendations can be found in the recently published and somewhat contested[iii] Dietary Guidelines for Americans.[iv])

Look, we’re not cows: we can’t spend 8 hours a day grazing on raw greens. So let’s talk about realistic solutions to upping our produce intake. Let’s talk about ways to bridge the gap between knowing we should hypothetically eat Brussels sprouts and actually having garlicky roasted Brussels sprouts instead of French fries with dinner.

Make It Taste Good

The huge discrepancy between recommendations and reality when it comes to eating produce suggests that we aren’t going to eat anything we don’t want to, no matter what our doctors tell us. So then if we’re going to eat more plants, it has to become something we’re not forcing ourselves to do. If everything we ate tasted delicious – if we enjoyed and savored every bite we took, including fruits and vegetables – I’m venturing we’d be much more inclined to eat them.

I’m not advocating ubiquitous deep-frying, but you can roast, grill, sauté, or smother it in sriracha. Herbs and spices are truly gifts from nature that can work miracles with a plant’s natural flavors. Or add olive oil, nuts, and seeds: it’ll really liven up that salad and research shows[v] it’s time to let go of our indiscriminate fear of fats. You can play around in the kitchen, learning how to remove fruits and vegetables from the category of dreaded food, and into the realm of cravings-worthy food you want to eat.

Trick Yourself

Another way to up your own produce intake is to use a similar idea popular with parents who want their kids to eat more vegetables because ironically enough, we’re just as guilty as the kids in avoiding them. Sneak them in. This is, in a way, the opposite approach from above: instead of working with a plant’s taste and texture, you disguise it. There are all sorts of ways to do this, from making cauliflower pizza crust to zucchini pasta noodles.

There are literally countless blog, Instagram, and Pinterest posts with creative ideas on this topic. One of the easiest ways to do it, especially when you don’t feel like cooking, is to make smoothies. You don’t need a fancy blender, just fresh ingredients. Blend up a bunch of spinach with frozen banana and peanut butter, and it tastes more like ice cream than salad.

Get Creative With Your Toppings

Nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day may sound like a ton, but getting to that number can become pretty easy once you get in the habit of incorporating them into meals. It can be as easy as sprinkling berries onto your yogurt, seaweed onto your soup, or sprouts onto your sandwich.

Putting stuff on toast is an enduring and inescapable food trend, so use it as a chance to make delicious plant-powered options. Have you eaten avocado toast yet? If not, you should make this delicious concoction immediately, preferably topped with as many fresh veggies as you can balance on the bread slice.

Have Them Around

Last but perhaps most importantly – and at the risk of sounding painfully evident – you have to have fruits and vegetables in the house if you want to eat fruits and vegetables. Simply by having them around, we are more likely to eat them. Research shows[vi] that apparently we are pretty lazy when it comes to food choices, tending to eat whatever is closest and most convenient to our outstretched hand. So do yourself a favor and have that closest thing be an orange.

All of the fresh fruits and vegetables available this time of year makes it especially easy and fun to eat more produce. Let us know your favorite way to eat your nine servings a day!

 

[i] http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/
[ii] https://healthfinder.gov/nho/SeptemberToolkit2.aspx
[iii] http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/19/441494432/the-u-s-doesnt-have-enough-of-the-vegetables-were-supposed-to-eat
[iv] http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
[v] http://time.com/4411754/fat-mediterranean-diet/
[vi] http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/09/21/kd.mindless.eating/index.html?eref=yahoo

Your Chromosomes Want You to Chill Out (and Other Healthy Aging Tips)

Pretty much as soon as humans figured out that aging was a thing; they started trying to avoid it. Over the years, we’ve employed some scary tactics, from lead, arsenic, and mercury to x-rays and radiation.[i] However, it would be a little easier to laugh at the silliness of youth-seekers-past if we didn’t still find some of these ingredients in our cosmetics,[ii] not to mention our penchant for using the likes of formaldehyde and neurotoxin to address our currently aging concerns.

Questionable quests for the fountain of youth aside; we’ve made incredible scientific advances to form a better understanding of the aging process on a genomic and cellular level. Read on to learn more about the how’s and why’s of aging, and what you can do to keep yourself aging healthfully.

What Aging Looks Like on a Micro Scale

A complex combination of factors contributes to aging and age-related diseases. For example, a key component includes the accumulation over time of damaged cells and misshapen proteins in the body; which can occur as a result of natural mistakes in the cell-making process, as well as from environmental factors like UV ray damage. This is magnified by the age-induced breakdown of DNA repair machinery and protein chaperones that the body uses to fix such malfunctions.[iii]

An especially influential element of aging comes in a surprisingly small package: in the tiny caps on the tips of chromosomes called telomeres. Telomeres shrink over time, as they lose a little bit of their length with each chromosomal division. Studies show that levels of telomerase – the enzyme that replenishes telomeres – along with telomere damage is associated with the speed and health of aging.[iv]

What This Means For Us As We Age & What We Can Do About It

This all may seem very distant, because we can’t see this aging process occurring in our cells and genes, but we certainly feel its effects. While there are still many questions left unanswered when it comes to understanding aging, the process itself and its link to certain diseases are undeniable. Among the top health concerns women in particular face as they age include osteoporosis, urinary problems (also related to vaginal atrophy), and cardiovascular disease.[v]

So if we don’t want to inadvertently poison ourselves in our attempts at slowing down the clock like our ancestors did, what can we do? For starters, we can relax: something cool about telomeres is that they are very sensitive to external stress: it can damage them, leading to more rapid aging.[vi] Now, this may sound like bad news, but remember that the reverse is also true, so I think it’s a perfect excuse – no matter where you fall on the relaxation spectrum – to begin integrating a de-stressing (and therefore anti-aging) ritual into your life today. Do a little exploring a find out what that means to you: maybe you start practicing more self care, begin a meditation practice, begin jogging, or saying “no” to activities when you’re feeling overextended.

Other lifestyle choices related to health and longevity are almost annoyingly simple: lack of smoking, moderate alcohol use, physical activity, healthy body weight, and diets rich in plant foods and healthy fats have been proven in multiplicity. [vii] It kind of seems like the more we study and learn the details about what it means to age, the more we realize the answer to doing it gracefully is right there in front of us. This is not the whole answer, as illness – especially serious illness that crops up as we get older – often needs further medical attention, but it is quite frequently the primary answer.

What healthy choices do you make today, to help yourself age more gracefully tomorrow? Let us know in the comments.

 

[i] http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/12/most-dangerous-beauty-through-the-ages.html
[ii] http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm294849.htm , http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productsingredients/products/ucm137224.htm , http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2009/02/09/Groups_want_lead_out_of_lipstick/UPI-12721234224388/
[iii] http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42280/title/How-We-Age/
[iv] http://embomolmed.embopress.org/content/4/8/691.long , http://www.jci.org/articles/view/66370
[v] https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/menopause-time-change/postmenopausal-health-concerns
[vi] http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n2/full/ncomms1708.html
[vii] http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e5568.short , http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=199485

How is Public Breastfeeding Even A Point of Discussion?

Looking through photos to accompany this article, I ran into an image of a woman sitting on a bench, breastfeeding an infant that was flagged with an “Adult Content Warning.” My jaw dropped. How could this sweet, simple picture warrant a warning? But then I realized: this bizarre occurrence is a perfect example of the conversation around breastfeeding in public that’s taking place right now. Should women (who choose to breastfeed versus use formula) be “allowed” to feed their children in public, or is it “too inappropriate”?

The problem is: this argument, at its crux, is ridiculous. The thought that the discomfort of some adults should in any way affect the nourishment of all newborn children within their line of sight is, quite frankly, preposterous. In case there’s any confusion, babies cannot feed themselves. They’re completely reliant on their mothers for life and nourishment. On average, newborns feed 8-12 times per day, taking up to 20 minutes per breast. That’s an average of up to 8 hours a day new moms can spend breastfeeding.[i]

Are we meant to say that new mothers should live in isolation in a nursery-cave, hidden away as to not offend the delicate sensitivities of a few strangers, doing nothing but function as human udders? Or, if they do dare venture out, they must be sure to pack enough pre-pumped breast milk for their little one, not to mention the pump itself in case they need to express? Or, or! Must they employ the ever-appealing option of feeding their child under a tarp, regardless of the baby’s temperature or comfort? Honestly, not even the baby will stand for that one most of the time.[ii]

This isn’t even a matter of breastfeeding rights, or boobie rights, or whatever other cute name you may hear it called: it’s basic women’s rights.

Policing how and when women feed their offspring is an act of oppression.[iii] It’s not the kind of oppression that is as obvious as child brides or unequal wages, but it’s the kind of subtle, insidious oppression that helps keep women marginalized. Shackled by obligatory nursing covers, breast pumps, or the need to run for shelter every 90 minutes or so, nursing women are not free to walk the world on equal footing as men.

Relatedly, telling women what to wear, how much to wear, and when to wear it is a tactic of control.[iv] This is seen again and again in cultures and religions across the globe. And it goes both ways: women are told to wear both less and more to be appealing. The incongruity of the messages is irrelevant; what matters is the way in which they control the recipients. (To be clear, I’m not condemning women who choose to wear certain coverings to honor their religion. I’m standing up for those who are made to wear things without choice.)

If you, as a mother, feel more comfortable covering up while breastfeeding or using bottles then please, do so. If you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in the privacy of your own home, do so. But you should never be confined to these rules or locations. The point is that women should be free to choose whichever solution best cares for themselves and their babies. Let’s end the judgment, the oppression, and the absurd regulations.

 

If you feel differently, by all means, let us know in the comments.

 

[i] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html#

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katharine-mckinney/breastfeeding-in-public_b_2814004.html

[iii] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/5/14/50-reasons-for-breastfeeding-anytime-anywhere.html

[iv] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/1/27/covering-up-is-a-feminist-issue.html

Self Care: The Me Time Revolution

Let me begin by stating the obvious: we face a lot of negative pressure these days. We’re supposed to do more, achieve more, have more, work harder, work faster…and for many, this leaves us feeling burnt-out, overwhelmed, unsatisfied, and exhausted. We learn to ignore our needs and come to feel that we are not enough, never enough.

But now let me remind you that this is utterly untrue: you are absolutely and completely enough, and there is a quiet resistance rising against this culture of speed and excess that makes us feel otherwise. It goes by the name of self care, perhaps more aptly titled self compassion. Lately this phrase has been buzzing around magazines and online, and the din only seems to be growing louder as it strikes a chord in the core of our overextended population.

Let’s Talk About What Self Care Is NOT

Before we delve in to the details of this little revolution, I want to clear something up. Sometimes you’ll see self care distilled down to some variation of “use a mud mask to fight depression!” (I’m exaggerating, but honestly not much.) That is not self care. Self care isn’t smiling through pain to trick yourself into feeling better; it’s seeking proper help and support when you need it. It’s not trying to buy happiness; it’s seeking out things or experiences that make you genuinely feel good and releasing those that make you feel bad. And it’s certainly not burying your head in the sand doing yoga on the beach while ignoring all your responsibilities. It’s the notion that, in order to be of service to anyone or anything, you must first be in a healthy state of mind and body.

So Then, What Exactly Is Self Care and How Do We Do It?

In the simplest terms, self care is an act of self compassion. It is you doing something for yourself that fosters loving kindness towards yourself, encourages tuning into your physical and emotional needs, and promotes your overall health and wellbeing. It can take many forms and means different things to different people, so get to know yourself and how to respond to your needs to nurture yourself. (Note: this can be incredibly challenging at first.) A loving, caring act could be anything from luxuriating in your morning makeup application to dedicating time to relax or exercise. It could mean taking three deep breaths at your desk at work or keeping a note on your phone listing every compliment anyone ever gives you so you can read it when you catch yourself being your own worst critic.

There really are so many ways to bring self care into your life. (For more ideas, check out this lovely list from Tiny Buddha.) Another point worth mentioning is that self care is a regular practice – it’s something you need to incorporate into your life consistently. Think about it: you don’t shower once and think, “Okay now I’m clean for the rest of my life!” It’s something you do over and over again, year after year. Self care is like showering. (And sometimes it can be – literally – taking a nice shower.)

If There’s One Final Thing You Take Away From This Article, Let It Be This

Repeat after me: it is not selfish, lazy, or self-indulgent to stop ignoring your needs. I will go so far as to say honoring your needs through acts of self care is pivotal to mental and physical health, and will ultimately make you a more giving, productive person. Many of us are familiar with Gandhi’s advice on how to change the world: first, we have to change ourselves. I don’t mention this to be trite, but I bring it up because for all the ways we contribute to the world – big or small, mundane or groundbreaking – it really does start with us at an individual level. Imagine how much more positive these contributions could be if, instead of feeling frayed and frazzled, we felt lovingly and wholly cared for? Our little, intimate acts reverberate outward into the world infinitely.

Think of it like this: you shouldn’t run around trying to put out fires if your own hair is flaming. You’re not going to do anyone any favors by this “selfless” act; you’re just spreading the blaze to them, too (and fanning your own). Before you go out into the world, you need to dump some water on your head (you can even make it rosewater, if you really feel like revving up the TLC). I promise you will feel better and be in better shape to take on all that life has to offer. Feeling good also makes treating others with kindness and compassion much more effortless, making self care ultimately sound pretty selfless if you ask me.

What are your favorite ways to show yourself love and care? Share them with us in the comments!

What to Know About Zika for Safe Summer Travels

If you were planning a summer getaway to some sunny South American destination, you may want to take a few extra precautions before you hit the road. The growing epidemic of Zika hasn’t quite garnered the public outcry of some others in recent history (remember Ebola?), yet the WHO has called it an “extraordinary event” and officially declared it a public health emergency.[i] Here’s a list of some Zika must-knows to keep you and your family safe this summer.

What It Is

 The Zika virus, most commonly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, belongs to the same family of viruses as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya, and dengue. An unfortunate distinction between Zika and the others is that there in no preventative vaccine or treatment available for the infection.[ii]

What It Does

 For those who contract the Zika virus, symptoms are often mild, or even nonexistent: 4 out of 5 people infected don’t show any symptoms.[iii] Because of this, Zika has been referred to as a silent epidemic. Its most prevalent danger is not to the ones infected directly, but rather to developing fetuses carried by those infected. The virus has been linked to miscarriage, microcephaly, and other serious birth defects. Frequently it is not until months after contracting the virus, if the person infected is pregnant and birth defects begin to emerge in the fetal screenings, that doctors discover the infection.

How It Spreads

 Of course, being bit by a carrier mosquito is one way to contract the virus. But another important thing to know about Zika is that it can be sexually transmitted.[iv] So, while you may think that pregnant women are the only ones that need to watch out, this is absolutely not the case: men and women both need to take precautions. The CDC states that a man with Zika, regardless of whether he’s currently symptomatic or not, can pass the virus to female or male sexual partners. (The CDC recently addressed the first reported case of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika[vi] to determine more about this pathway.)

This is especially important to know considering the conflicting advice out there. Jacques Wagner, chief of staff to the Brazilian President, said the following in regards to tourists visiting Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games:

If someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus, the damage is more dramatic if we are talking about a pregnant woman. If I am a man or woman, unless I’m pregnant, I would develop the antibodies necessary to fight virus in 3 or 4 days. Unless we are talking about a pregnant woman, there is zero risk — it’s zero in the sense of something major happening.

His nonchalance is a bit concerning, considering it does not take into account the very real possibilities of female tourists who do not yet know they are pregnant or male tourists who can transmit the virus to their pregnant partners – not exactly what I’d call “zero risk.” But he is not alone: the WHO recently rejected a call to postpone the Rio Olympics, to the dissent of the 150 health experts who called for the action “in the name of public health.” [v]

What to Do

While the conflict continues among experts and officials, you can keep yourself and your family safe by taking protective actions. As far as we know right now, Zika has not yet reached the US by means of local transmission. That is, reported cases have been brought back from travelers or spread through sex, as opposed to being contracted through mosquito bites. For now, most of the areas affected are relegated to South America, and the CDC advises couples that are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or could become pregnant to avoid traveling to those areas altogether. (See a map of local transmissions here.)

If you do travel to an affected area, make sure to use strict mosquito protection and follow safe sex guidelines with your partner. However, you may want to consider the risks and avoid certain areas even if you don’t think you fall into one of the above categories. Hey, even Rihanna seems to be playing it safe!

Most importantly, stay informed. As cases evolve and events surrounding the virus transpire, healthcare professionals are learning new information about Zika all the time. You can stay up to date and find more information here.

[i] http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/01/health/zika-virus-public-health-emergency/index.html
[ii] http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/26/health/zika-what-you-need-to-know/index.html
[iii] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/invisible-zika-virus-epidemic-frustrates-health-officials-n602811
[iv] http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/sexual-transmission.html
[v] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/world-health-organization-rejects-call-postpone-rio-olympics-n582051
[vi] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6528e2.htm

Covering Our Chins: The curse of Adult Acne

When our parents warned us that life isn’t fair, do you ever wonder if they were foreshadowing the experience of having – all at once – wrinkles, pimples, and unrelenting social media documentation of our faces? While we all hoped that zits were a nightmare of teenage past, unfortunately many of us – particularly women – find they’re still very much an issue well into adulthood. In fact, one study[i] found that 45% of women in their 20s, 26% of women in their 30s, and 12% of women in their 40s have clinical acne.

This is of no small consequence: the way we feel about our skin has a significant psychological impact. Research[ii] found that those who considered their acne to be bad – a matter of self perception rather than clinical measure – had their quality of life negatively influenced just as much as those living with chronic disease. Clearly, clear skin isn’t simply about beauty, it has deeper ties to confidence and overall wellbeing. The emphasis on pore-less, crystal clear skin in our airbrushed culture means that skin-deep judgments end up cutting to the core.

So if we’re well past puberty, what the heck is causing all this acne?

The short answer: hormones. Adult acne tends to be cystic and located on the chin and jawline, all indications that hormones are to blame. More specifically, hormones called androgens are primary culprits of our complexion woes. Androgens signal glands in the dermis to produce sebum (oil), which contributes to acne by clogging pores and giving Propionibacterium acnes bacteria something to snack on – causing infection and therefore, pimples.

Menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and going on or off birth control pills are all sources of hormonal fluctuations that can lead to the consequential hormonal acne flare-ups.[iii] PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a hormonal disorder and leading cause of infertility in women, is also associated with adult acne for those with the syndrome.

Some have looked to the increased instance of hormones in our food, particularly in dairy products,[iv] for links to the rising numbers of adult acne, but research is scant. (Still, if you’re facing skin challenges, it may not hurt to see if switching to organic dairy makes a difference for you, personally.)

We can’t treat adult acne the same way we did as teens

Considering its prevalence, there’s still a surprising lack of research on adult acne and its treatment, and many investigations only unearth more inquiries. Unlike the breakouts of our teen years, which tend to eventually respond to dermatological interventions, adult acne can be incredibly stubborn and complicated to treat.[v] Skin is drier and less resilient than it’s former adolescent form, causing amplified side effects from treatments. Once-effective options (like benzoyl peroxide, for example) are often now too harsh for our skin.

Even isotretinoin (Accutane), perhaps the toughest tool in a dermatologist’s toolkit, only seems to work temporarily on adults: come off the pill, and the blemishes return. On top of that, this drug is teratogenic (toxic to fetuses) – not exactly ideal for many adult women, who may be or could become pregnant.[vi]

One solid takeaway from all this is that our skin, our hormones, our entire physiology isn’t the same as it was when we were teenagers, so the way we care for our skin can’t be the same as it used to be, either. It’s important to use the right products for us, from gentle cleansers to non-comedogenic makeup to prescription treatments when necessary. Moreover, it’s important that we are developing the right skincare products and treatments for adult women, so they exist for us to utilize in the first place.

Have you found an acne treatment or makeup brand you love to use to care for your skin? Let us know in the comments!

 

[i] http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2010.2722?journalCode=jwh
[ii] http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0692X#close
[iii] https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/adult-acne
[iv] http://www.prevention.com/beauty/skin-care/best-treatments-for-adult-acne/slide/3
[v] http://www.racked.com/2015/4/16/8416837/hormonal-adult-acne-female-cause-treatment
[vi] https://www.drugs.com/pregnancy/isotretinoin.html