Dry Brushing Your Skin

While at my Sister’s house on Christmas Eve this last year, I saw a woman whom I know, who looked fantastic. When I asked her what had she been doing to look so good, she said that she had been working with a nutritionist who had her on a strict diet, supplement regimen and she was dry brushing her skin every day. I had never heard of dry brushing before. She said she did it twice a day which took about 45 extra minutes to get ready in the morning.

When she first explained what it was, my first reaction was how self-indulgent. But I went home and did some research on it and was sufficiently intrigued to try it. I have been dry brushing for about a month now for only 5 minutes once a day before my shower and I can tell you it is a fantastic thing.

Below are seven benefits you can expect from dry brushing your skin:

1. Stimulates Your Lymphatic System
In your body, your lymphatic system is the system responsible for eliminating cellular waste products. Hundreds of miles of lymphatic tubules allow waste to be collected from your tissues and transported to your blood for elimination, a process referred to as lymphatic drainage.
When your lymphatic system is not working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick. Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. By stimulating your lymphatic system and helping it release toxins, dry skin brushing is a powerful detoxification aid.

2. Exfoliation
Dry skin brushing removes dead dry skin, improving appearance, clearing your clogged pores, and allowing your skin to “breathe.”

3. Increases Circulation
When you dry brush your skin, it increases circulation to your skin, which encourages the elimination of metabolic waste.

4. Reduces Cellulite
Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. This may help to diminish the appearance of cellulite.
Dry brushing is also said to help reduce cellulite by removing toxins that may break down connective tissue, although some believe the effect is temporary (and mostly a result of skin become more plump and swollen after brushing).

5. Stress Relief
The act of dry brushing has been described as meditative (especially if you do it in a quiet space) and may reduce muscle tension, calm your mind, and relieve stress. Many compare it to a light whole-body massage.

6. Improves Digestion and Kidney Function
Dry skin brushing may go even deeper, helping to support your digestion and organ function.

7. It’s Invigorating
I have become “addicted” to dry skin brushing (in a good way) because it simply feels so good. Along with glowing and tighter skin, I feel invigorated after a quick 5 minute session.

Dry Brushing your skin is very simple to do and there are many internet resources and YouTube videos to show you exactly how to do it.

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First you’ll need a high-quality dry brush. Look for one with bristles made from natural materials. They should feel stiff but not overly so. Ideally, choose a brush with a long handle so you can reach your entire back and other hard-to-reach spots.

Dry skin brushing should be done daily for best results, or even twice a day if you like. Try incorporating it into your normal daily routine, such as brushing before your morning shower and then again after work (avoid doing it too close to bedtime, as it may leave you feeling energized).

When brushing, always brush toward your heart, which is best for circulation and your lymphatic system. You can brush your entire body (including the soles of your feet). Start at your feet and work your way up your legs to your arms, chest, back, and stomach. Avoid brushing your face (unless you have a special brush designed for this delicate skin), your genitals, or any areas with irritations or abrasions (including varicose veins).

The pressure you apply while brushing your skin should be firm but not painful (avoid “scrubbing”). Your skin should be pink after a session (not red or irritated) and you can brush for as long (or as little) as you’d like. An average dry brushing session may last between two and 20 minutes.

Science Behind Health

With the start of each new year come many health claims. Frequently they promote this diet or that: low carb, no carb, high protein, no fat and so on. What has started to change is incorporating science into these trends. Here’s some of the latest from David Zinczenko, the author of the, “Eat This, Not That” series and of the new book, “Zero Belly Fat”:

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Take a brisk walk before breakfast: exposure to sunlight in the morning reduces weight gain by synchronizing your metabolism. You’re also burning calories in a fasted state.

Start the morning with oatmeal. It contains insoluble fiber which reduces cholesterol and helps control hunger. It also produces butyrate, which reduces inflammation.

Choose red fruit over green. The higher level of flavonoids calm the fat storage genes. Add avocados to your diet: they add healthy unsaturated fats, fight hunger and prevent the storage of belly fat. Make protein shakes with plant protein, which reduce hunger and supply ample nutrients without the inflammation issues associated with commercial shakes.  Add eggs to your diet. They contain choline, which fights your body’s trigger to store fat.

Drink lots of water embellished with citrus fruit: anti-oxidants which help flush toxins out of your body.

Make your own trail mix. Many health benefits from fruits and nuts and seeds. Without additives from commercial products.

Mini workouts can be as effective or more than trying to find hours to commit to exercise.

Try to get as much of your vitamin and mineral intake from food rather than supplements. Mega-dosing can trigger fat genes.

For dessert: try blackberries and chocolate. Anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories.

Eat wild salmon over farmed. Mostly omega 3’s and minimal less-healthy omega 6’s. Eat real peanut butter over commercially processed brands. Contains genistein, reducing the body’s ability to store fat.

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Eat a big, green leafy salad before a meal. It fills you up with the good stuff so you eat less of the not-so-good stuff.

Fad trends and diets are becoming a thing of the past. Good advice based on science is becoming more vocal and in the forefront. Seems sensible and about time.

Cleaning Up

As we begin the new year, one project I’m really looking forward to is cleaning up. What I really mean is de-cluttering. Lightening our load. Mostly giving things away but also throwing some away. Because lately I’ve been feeling like we have a lot of stuff.

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The Inspiration

Around the holidays when there is so much consumerism, I look around and think – do we really need more stuff? Where are we going to put it? In addition, having two recently grown children who now have their own places but still have rooms full of stuff in our family home, it feels like enough belongings for five although there are really only three of us here.

Into my life came a book I discovered sometime in the middle of the holidays and it spoke to my malaise: “the life-changing magic of tidying up/the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing,” by Marie Kondo.

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I am not one who generally needs inspiration to de-clutter. I do it regularly and actually enjoy it. However, I think of it as more of a necessary or focused project (as in, “I’m going to clear out this one closet!”) Ms. Kondo’s approach, coined, “The KonMari Method,” focuses on a category by category method of assessing which items “spark joy” and which, of course don’t. Her three-month waiting list to consult on her method speaks to her popularity in Tokyo where space is at an all-time premium. And the additional benefits of a tidy home include the inspiration of a calm, motivated mindset.

Testimonials

I just started reading this book but was struck at the beginning by the testimonials.

“After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child.”

“Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.”

“Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.”

“I’m delighted to report that since cleaning up my apartment, I’ve been able to really increase my sales.”

“My husband and I are getting along much better.”

“I’m amazed to find that just throwing things away has changed me so much.”

“I finally succeeded in losing ten pounds.”

WHAT? I’ll take any of those! It sounds kind of silly but I think I get it. All that stuff we carry around that feels like extra weight, weighs us down in more ways than we know. That rings true for me. And I assume many of the other 2 million people who have purchased this book.

The Progress

Well, Ms. Kondo – I am happy to report that although I am not too far along in your book as of yet, I did make some progress on my clutter today.

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I tackled a few boxes of mine and found many craft projects and supplies. They date back to my youngest son’s first Halloween costume and he is now sixteen! Although I don’t have most of your methodology in my arsenal yet, I did keep in mind to think if each item brought me joy. That was tremendously helpful.

I realized I often keep things out of guilt:

I didn’t wear it enough.

There’s nothing wrong with it.

I can use this someday.

There are starving children in Africa …..

Realization

That last message … “there are starving children in Africa …” was so revealing. This is where the guilt comes from! Lessons taught as a child. To eat everything on your plate. To waste nothing. And the intent of the message is not bad but the execution can be. To overeat. To hoard. I rethink the lesson as: is it not better to give away things we’re not using? And donate both time and resources to the causes we believe in? Because how is keeping objects that we’re not using out of guilt helping anyone?

I will document my progress as I go forward in this process. And I look forward to spending more time with Ms. Kondo and her potentially life-changing philosophy and to sharing it with you.

Staying Connected

During this busy time of year, I am reminded how important it is to stay connected to your friends. As we get older it becomes even more important to reach out and make an effort to stay in touch with friends. In a city like Los Angeles, where everything is so spread out and commuting 10 miles can take hours, maintaining a close relationship with friends can be a challenge. But there are other strategies you can incorporate to retain friendships. Pick up the phone and call someone. Make sure you have your friend’s e-mail addresses and use technology to contact friends either by e-mail, Skype or social media. Write cards and even letters. I love reading a letter or card. I text a lot with my friends because it is so immediate and I can get my questions answered instantly. Lunch is always a better bet for me than trying to schedule a dinner with friends unless my Husband and I have mutual friends and we make it a couple thing or a small group of friends. During warm weather months, we love to entertain friends with a dinner party or lunch and a hike.

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Author and psychologist Carlin Flora’s book, Friendfluence, explores all aspects of friendship in a thoughtful and engaging way. In the book, she gives many reasons that friends are important to our lives. Here are a few of them that really stuck with me.

Friends affect you in more ways than you think
Whether you realize it or not, your friends have shaped who you are today. You are even the product of the friends who are no longer your friends.

Friends can give you vital life skills
There are many perks of friendship include sharpening your mind, making you generally happier, knowing yourself better, becoming inspired to reach your goals, advancing your career, helping you meet romantic partners, and living a longer and healthier life.

Close friends support you through thick and thin
To take the most advantage of friendfluence, put effort into your closest friendships. Although being friendly can get you more friends, you don’t need hundreds to help you through life. You may have to prune your friendship tree as you get older to be sure that you give enough attention to the ones who will really matter for your well-being.

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Friends can give you a reality check
Because friends know us so well, they are able to see things that we can’t, and aren’t afraid to share their dose of reality with you.

Couple friendships can help your own relationship
You can benefit both from maintaining your separate friendships, but also from sharing with the couples who are experiencing transitions such as becoming parents, raising teenagers, and helping older family members. Friends can also help you alleviate your work-related stress.

Even though you may be stretched to the limit time-wise, the investment you make in your friendships will be worthwhile to your overall quality of life.

Interpreting My Test Results

Blood-Test

I recently viewed my most recent lab results on my health care website and wondered what the results meant. I could have called my doctor and found out what each test result meant but I didn’t want to be charged for my doctor’s time so I went online and found a website called Lab Tests Online which gives information about each test and what they diagnose or evaluate. Below are the results of some of the markers of my blood test and a couple of explanations about what each marker means. The results indicate that in all areas I am in the acceptable ranges. Hopefully if anything were way out of wack, I would have heard from my physician. I won’t bore you with the all of my results but it is good to know that if you want to have a clearer understanding of your health and what your test results mean it is easy to access online.

White Blood Cell Count  

My Result 7.0  Standard Range 4.16 – 9.95

The White blood cell count (WBC) is used as part of a full complete blood count (CBC)
screen for a wide range of diseases and conditions including diagnosing an infection or
inflammatory process. It helps to determine the presence of other diseases that affect
WBCs such as allergies, leukemia or immune disorders. It monitors the body’s response
to various treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy that are known to affect WBCs.

Red Blood Cell Count  

My Result 4.42  Standard Range 3.96 – 5.09

Red blood cells circulate in the blood and carry oxygen throughout the body. They are produced in the bone marrow and then released into the bloodstream as they mature. RBCs have a typical lifespan of about 120 days and are continuously renewed and replaced as they age and degrade or are lost through bleeding. A relatively stable number of RBCs is maintained in the circulation by increasing or decreasing the rate of production by the bone marrow.

Some conditions affect RBC production and may cause an increase or decrease in the number of mature RBCs released into the blood circulation. Other conditions may affect the lifespan of RBCs in circulation, especially if the RBCs are deformed due to an inherited or acquired defect or abnormality. If RBCs are lost or destroyed faster than they can be replaced, if bone marrow production is disrupted, or if the RBCs produced do not function normally, then a person will become anemic, which affects the amount of oxygen reaching tissues.

If too many RBCs are produced and released, then a person can develop polycythemia. This can cause decreased blood flow and related problems.

Hemoglobin  

My Result 12.6   Standard Range 11.6 – 15

The hemoglobin test may be used to screen for, diagnose, or monitor a number of conditions and diseases that affect red blood cells (RBCs) and/or the amount of hemoglobin in blood. It is often used with a hematocrit as a quick evaluation of the number of RBCs or is performed as part of a complete blood count (CBC) as an integral part of a health evaluation.

Hematocrit  

My Result 38.5%  Standard Range 34.9 – 45.2%

The hematocrit may be used to screen for, diagnose, or monitor a number of conditions and diseases that affect the proportion of the blood made up of red blood cells (RBCs). It is often used with a hemoglobin level as a simple and quick evaluation of RBCs or is performed as part of a complete blood count (CBC) as an integral part of a health evaluation.  This test screens for, diagnoses, and evaluates the severity of anemia and dehydration.

Getting Enough Sleep

I was visiting with a friend recently who is from Shanghai, China. When I mentioned that I didn’t feel that I was getting enough sleep, she recommended Ginseng Tea from Korea. She promised it would do wonders.

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How Much Sleep Do We Need?

In reality, there is no magic number of hours of sleep we need and it varies by person. Some people need 9 hours of sleep per day while others can get by with 6. A general guideline for older adults is between 7 and 8 hours of quality sleep per day. As people get older though, their sleep satisfaction often declines.

On doing a bit of research, I learned that sleep satisfaction for older adults mirrors our general health. And sleep is particularly affected for those with conditions related to the heart such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. As someone who inherited hypertension in my mid-40’s, that makes sense.

Sleep trends have shown that American adults get less sleep now than they did 40-50 years ago. In the 1960’s – 70’s, the average adult got 8-8.5 hours of sleep per night. Today adults average 7-7.5 hours of sleep per night, or less.

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As we get older, other issues also interfere with our sleep. Aches and pains associated with aging – sore back, aching knee – frustrate our sleep. And we also tend to wake up more during the night, which is why older adults often nap during the day.

And here’s the kicker: for older women, there’s menopause. After we’ve sacrificed sleep up to this point to raise our kids and work at our jobs, now when we actually can sleep a bit more, menopause causes women’s sleep patterns to go haywire. Rates of insomnia and apnea for women during this period go through the roof. As a perimenopausal woman, this is another piece to the puzzle.

What We Can Do

In addition to trying my friend’s Korean Ginseng Tea recommendation, there are other things we can do to improve our sleep. Breathing exercises, yoga and creating a good sleep environment are natural remedies to addressing chronic sleep issues. As adequate sleep affects our overall health and wellness, I will be trying all of these natural remedies to offset the progressive sleep issues that come with aging. And although I’m not yet needing a nap during the day, when that day comes I will embrace it!

Mixing Up The Exercise Routine

As we get older, it is highly recommended that as active adults we vary our exercise routine. Although we may have favored running or biking, skiing or tennis in our younger years, over time the wear and tear on our body parts encourages us to mix it up to make the best of what we have moving forward.

For me, after many years of running and while training for my first (and only) marathon, I found that I had a moderate wear-and-tear injury to my right knee. Formally known as osteoarthritis, but more commonly understood by me as a deterioration of my meniscus due to poor alignment (who knew?), I really had no choice but to modify my exercise regime.

Physical Therapy

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Attending appointments with my physical therapist 2 times per week, I learned to strengthen the muscles around my compromised knee, adjust my poor knee alignment and work on my balance. I now do these exercises on my own at home, 3 days per week.

Treadmill

This was my exercise of choice before my injury and it continues to be after my injury. However, I cannot rely solely on this. I have reduced my use of the treadmill for my cardio training to less than 50% of my weekly routine.

Stationary Bike

I purchased a stationary bike after getting serious about my knee injury. The truth is, if I ignore the knee, I will end up with a knee replacement. I am too young for that. So an offset to the treadmill is a stationary bike. I prefer the recumbent style and I am able to get a similar workout as I would on the treadmill but with less stress on my knee.

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Pilates

I recently started taking a Pilates class twice each week. Pilates is excellent in improving core strength, which I sorely need. I found a studio nearby and work with an apprentice trainer for a reduced hourly fee. This works a completely different set of skills and muscles than my other exercises and improves my posture and presence in every moment. I love it!

Hiking

One or two days each week I trade my indoor equipment for outdoor. I absolutely love hiking and being in nature and I exercise while hiking trails in my local mountains. It feels like there is absolutely no work involved and it can be a great social activity when I hike with friends or family.

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Yoga

Another addition to my work out regimen in the recent past has been yoga. I have taken classes at a local studio that I like and I also have several home yoga videos for beginners that I have yet to try. I like the peaceful, stretching movements of yoga and the bits of meditation. The benefits I receive from yoga last long after I leave a class. I plan to work yoga back into my weekly routine not only for the exercise benefits but also for the peace of mind I receive from it.

Just For Fun

Occasionally I also play tennis, take long neighborhood walks or walks in my local park, downhill ski and attempt to play golf! All of these activities complement my regular routine and not only help me balance taking care of my body, but are a lot of fun. Raquetball? Basketball? Zumba? The list of possibilities is endless. I hope to add more interesting and active choices to my routine in the coming year.

5 Reasons I Take Supplements

Let me just say that I am not a good pill taker. But about 4 years ago my nutritionist put me on a regimen of pharmaceutical grade supplements based on some nutritional deficiencies she identified in my profile.

Why I take Supplements

1.  While I try to eat a well balanced and nutritional diet, the fact of the matter is that is not always the case especially when we are traveling.

2. It seems I am always on a diet to counteract the weight gain I usually incur while traveling. A protein supplement helps to provide extra protein that may be missing from my diet as a result.

3. As I have gotten older, insomnia has become a chronic problem for me. I take a Magnesium supplement to help me stay asleep longer.

4. I am pretty physically active and workout 5-6 days a week. I take amino acid supplements to increase my energy levels during training and help reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

5. During my last bone scan test, my doctor said I have the bones of a 16 year old. Glad to know I have still have something like a teenager. This is a result of the Calcium and Vitamin D supplements I take.

Here is an inventory of the specific supplements I take and what they are for.

OptiCleanse

Opticleanse

It is a comprehensive, fructose-free, low-allergy–potential dietary supplement designed to support gastrointestinal function, balanced detoxification, and a normal, healthy response to inflammation which I get from time to time.

ActivEssentials

ActivEssentials

Is a proprietary multivitamin/mineral blend that supports improved nutrient intake and provides Antioxidants.

OsaplexOsaplex

Is a comprehensive dietary supplement that supports healthy bones, cartilage, and ligaments with Calcium and Vitamin D.

CurcuPlex

circuplex

Is a phytochemical obtained from turmeric and a patented black pepper extract. Turmeric is believed to be an effective supplement to combat inflammation.

OptiMag

OptiMag

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.  Apparently, many people to not have enough magnesium in their bodies.  It participates in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth; the metabolism of carbohydrates, blood glucose, fats, and proteins and for those suffering from insomnia will help you stay asleep longer.

If you would like to improve your overall health and do not feel you are getting the maximum nutrition from your diet, I encourage you to consult a nutritionist about the supplements that are right for you,

An Anti-Aging Secret

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I have a beauty secret. It is something I have been doing for about 20 years now and I am convinced it is one of the major reasons I look younger than my age. It is facials. I started getting facials when a girlfriend mentioned that she was getting them and her skin was and still is like peaches and cream. She referred me to her facialist who was an older man that was retired from working in the movie industry and was giving facials out of his home. I went to him for about 6 years until he retired again and moved away. Then I was referred to another aesthetician by my hairdresser and was diligent about going to her every 8 weeks until she decided to go out of the business and concentrate on doing only makeup.

I felt a little lost and went about trying to find another facialist for about three months and after trying different ones, found Camille at Skin Addiks in Studio City.

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Although Camille never pushes products or therapies on her clients, I have found as I have gotten older that my skin is needing some additional attention. So I have started going to her every four weeks rather than spreading it out to eight weeks and have undergone some more intense facial therapies. I find it to be a more pleasurable alternative and a lot less expensive to going under the knife for cosmetic surgery. Besides I believe once you start experimenting with expensive injections and surgery it is addictive and a slippery slope.

I never have been someone who has been diligent about getting manicures or other personal care procedures other than getting a hair cut and color every six weeks. But facials are something I swear by and will continue until maybe I get to an age that I won’t care anymore what my face looks like.

Lentils and Indian Spices

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Did you know that lentils are good for you? Before traveling to India, I was not that familiar with them but they are a staple in India. About 30% of lentil’s calories come from protein. Lentils contain dietary fiber, folate and B1 vitamins. They are quick to cook and easy to store. And they come in different varieties, colors, shapes and sizes.

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Indian spices also have many health properties. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is being studied as a remedy for diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cancer. Cumin is an excellent source of iron, aids in digestion and may have anti-carcinogen properties. Coriander has been used to treat skin inflammation, lower cholesterol, aid in digestion and lower blood pressure. Fennel seeds contain anti-oxidants, are a rich source of fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals. There are many, many spices used in Indian cooking, each with their own beneficial qualities.

Recently I put these healthy ingredients together in a simple dal (lentil) dish. Using red lentils or masoor dal, they were simmered with turmeric and seasoned with salt. They were finished with asafetida, cumin seeds and red dried chiles that were quickly fried in ghee before being added (olive oil can be subsituted). The result was a warm, earthy and comforting dish that was filling and satisfying.

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