When was the last time you did something for someone else? When is the last time you were kind? When did you do something for someone else expecting nothing in return? Kindness is so good for your health!
This is not just my idea. Kindness and thinking of others rather than always thinking about yourself is promoted by most of the world’s religions. All of the major religions encourage treating other people the way we want to be treated. If we would find something hurtful, then we shouldn’t do that thing to other people.
In my mind, if all of the major religions of the world agree to this basic principle, then it might truly be good for you!
Kindness is a choice
Good, beautiful things happen all around you every day.
Discouraging, annoying, negative things happen all around you every day.
Which do you notice more?
Is your first, natural reaction a kind one – or – a negative one?
We might tell ourselves that events are happening TO us, but the reality is, we get to choose our reaction. Our response is in our own control.
Maybe you haven’t always exercised that control, but you can choose kindness over a more negative response.
When we focus on other people, we both benefit!
Kindness and health
As I’ve researched this I have been amazed at all of the studies, literature, and measurements of the health benefits of kindness. Noticing, caring for, and being kind to other people has a positive benefit throughout our whole body.
Kindness is good for your mental and your physical health!
Here are just a few of the changes that YOU will experience when you are kind:
Less focused on your own pain, mood, worries
More positive outlook
Feel better about yourself
Decreased loneliness and helplessness
Sense of feeling connected
Kindness has also been shown to:
Help with weight control
Lower your blood pressure
Decrease your acid reflux in your stomach
Boost your immune system
Help you sleep better
Decrease your pain
Truly, there is so much to gain! When you are kind, the whole world feels like a brighter place.
I have seen medication use decrease, overall health increase, and people love their life so much more when they decided to practice kindness.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
If you are loving your neighbor as yourself, then you are good, kind, helpful, understanding, forgiving, and loving.
We all long to be loved. We all like when kindness is shared with us.
I propose we were designed to express and experience kindness as a key element of our lives.
How often have you reached for simple acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol®) in your life? It is the go-to remedy for so many symptoms. It will reduce a fever, help with a headache, and help with general aches and pains.
Note, acetaminophen is the generic name. The generic version works just the same as the brand Tylenol® version. It is sometimes abbreviated APAP. So, Tylenol® = acetaminophen = APAP.
#1 treatment of osteoarthritis
Do you have arthritis? I know I do. Most of us (about 90%) have osteoarthritis. This is a condition where the cartilage coating our joints has worn away. There is now pain where bone is rubbing against bone. Your main symptoms are usually pain when you use the joint, stiffness, weakness (from your tendency to use it less), and crackling sounds.
I know I can no longer sneak up on my teenagers when I climb the stairs. My gravely sound in my knees is easy to hear.
The American College of Rheumatology, the main group of specialist doctors who treat arthritis, recommends acetaminophen for osteoarthritis.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used for pain. They treat pain in a way just like acetaminophen, and they also help with inflammation.
There are three big risks associated with these that I want you to know about:
They can be hard on your kidneys. Be sure your doctor and your pharmacist know that you take these, how much you take, and which ones you take. They will monitor your kidney function and likely ask you to stop taking them if your kidneys show signs of injury.
They can be hard on your stomach. Your risk of stomach ulcer goes up when you take these. ALWAYS take them with FOOD. If you develop stomach pain, more indigestion, reflux, or burning, tell you doctor.
They can raise your blood pressure. This in turn can increase the stress on your heart. If you have high blood pressure or a heart condition, talk with your doctor and pharmacist BEFORE choosing to take an NSAID.
Risks of acetaminophen – not so simple
Acetaminophen is safe, but not completely safe. It has some risks. The biggest risk is when we take too much. And taking too much, is VERY EASY to do.
Sometimes people don’t realize that Tylenol® and acetaminophen are the same thing. When in pain, they take both thinking they are different medicines.
Many opioid pain medicines contain acetaminophen (APAP). Here are some examples:
Percocet® (oxycodone and APAP)
Roxicet® (oxycodone and APAP)
Endocet® (oxycodone and APAP)
Norco® (hydrocodone and APAP)
Vicodin® (hydrocodone and APAP)
Lortab® (hydrocodone and APAP)
Lorcet® (hydrocodone and APAP)
Tylenol #3® (codeine and APAP)
Tylenol #4® (codeine and APAP)
Many cough/cold/flu medicines also contain APAP. Some examples are:
Contac Cold & Flu
Alka Selzer plus Cold
Too much acetaminophen in a day can damage your liver. The most that should be taken in a day is 4,000 mg (8 Extra Strength 500mg tablets). A group of experts is supporting a change so people use 3,000 mg or less. This will decrease the chance of people taking too much if their combination medicines have some ‘hidden’ acetaminophen.
The other important factor is alcohol. It is best to not drink alcohol when taking acetaminophen. Both make the liver work hard. Each can damage the liver when the liver is overworked. It can hurt your kidneys, too. If drinking while taking acetaminophen, please not every day and not beyond 1-2 drinks.
Oh my, isn’t this also true of our Christian walk? The rules are ‘simple’ – Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.
Love, love, love!
It is good for you, it is good for others, it’s so simple!
I can give a list of the people I have hurt, offended, taken for granted, or overlooked in the last day or two. I get distracted, frustrated, caught up in work, or frazzled. There is no excuse. My intention is to spend each day expressing God’s love. And, each day, I fall short of my well-intentioned goal.
Paul describes his own struggle with this in Romans Chapter 7.
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual,soldas a slave to sin.I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c]For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work:Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.For in my inner beingI delight in God’s law;but I see another law at work in me, waging waragainst the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sinat work within me.What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law,but in my sinful nature[d]a slave to the law of sin.
Why can’t we follow this simple rule of love?
Living in love means turning away from fear and selfishness*. We are so hardwired to think of ourselves first and foremost. It is a true choice (sometimes a very difficult choice) to put other people first. True love as demonstrated by Jesus is not selfish.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Can you imagine our world if we all lived in perfect love, as we were designed to live? Can you imagine each person you see treating you with love and respect? Can you imagine a world without conflict?
It is coming!
* This is a reminder of a book I have been recommending that addresses this conflict between fear/selfishness and love. The God-Shaped Brain by Timothy R. Jennings, MD.
serenity as, ‘the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled’.
I have just returned from a trip of celebration with my Mom (70), me (50), and my daughters aged 18 and 16. We have been planning this trip for over a year. One of my favorite aspects was the serene places we found. While in the Redwood Forest it was awe inspiring and silent. Even though there were other people in the forest, somehow we couldn’t hear them if we weren’t beside them. To be in the midst of those giant trees and surrounded by giant ferns, it was so calm, awe-inspiring, and yes, serene.
The Redwoods were protected from excess logging by conservation efforts including the formation of the Redwood National Park in 1968. Then President Nixon dedicated a grove in the park to Lady Bird Johnson. Here is a quote on a plaque in that grove that struck me:
‘One of my most unforgettable memories of the past years is walking through the Redwoods last November – seeing the lovely shafts of light filtering through the trees so far above, feeling the majesty and silence of that forest, and watching a salmon rise in one of those swift streams – all our problems seemed to fall into perspective and I think every one of us walked out more serene and happier.’ Lady Bird Johnson, July 30, 1969
The part that grabbed my attention was, ‘all our problems seemed to fall into perspective…’
When was the last time you felt truly serene? How often do you slow down and allow yourself to just truly relax? What are the places or activities that bring you to that place of serenity?
Serenity and health
When you are calm, peaceful, and untroubled your whole body benefits. Your blood vessels relax, your blood pressure lowers, you breath more deeply, and your think more clearly. Your immune system is more active and you sleep more deeply.
I have been fascinated by the book, ‘The God-Shaped Brain’ by Dr. Timothy R. Jennings who is a psychiatrist and psycho-pharmacologist. He makes a compelling case that directly relates to serenity and health. He describes which part of your brain is working for you to think, reason, and plan. There is also a part that allows you to experience empathy, compassion, and love. When you are serene, these parts of your brain are fully operating.
When you are stressed, other parts of your brain take over. They put you in ‘fight or flight’ mode so that you are fully alert and ready to tackle the source of the stress. You were designed to have this stress alarm triggered only in rare truly life-threatening situations. However, in today’s society, so many of us are under constant stress. This system starts taking over our brain on a regular basis. As this stress system takes charge of your brain, your ability to think clearly, calmly, and to genuinely relate to others declines.
You have the power to give your stress signals a rest. As you do, and the more you do, the better your brain will function. You will be able to think through problems, plan, and prioritize. You will feel more connected to your own feelings, be able to manage them, and relate more to other people.
One of the best parts is that you will be free to think less about your own needs and more about the needs of others. That has been explored in previous blogs and will be explored again. There is a mountain of evidence that this is very good for your health!
The Role of Medications
There are many medications available to you that in some way target your mood, your anxiety, your depression, your anger, your emotions, and/or your reactions. These have a role. They cannot produce serenity. They cannot remove your stresses or your responses to them. They can help you cope. They are most effective when combined with therapy that can help you decrease the control of your stress response in your brain and let your thinking and loving parts of your brain resume control.
When medications are used, they should be used with great care and at the best doses. Your best medication and dose depend on several factors:
your kidneys and how they function
your liver and how it functions
side effects you might experience
interactions with your other medications and your other medical conditions
evidence (studies that have been done to demonstrate what works best in a situation like yours)
The Role of Meds MASH
At Meds MASH a medication-use expert who is specialized in people over age 60 will help you and your doctor make sure the best, safest, most effective medication is used and only for the time period necessary. Meds MASH specialists can also help you find the counseling component you need to go with your medications.
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I mentioned the book I have been reading, ‘The God-Shaped Brain’. Dr. Jennings focused the book on how our brain functions when we are living according to God’s plan of love vs when we are not.
We get further and further from God’s plan the more we focus on ourself. Pride, envy, harbored resentment, anger, judgmental attitudes, and lust are just a few of the ways we turn our focus to ourself and our own needs.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
It sounds so simple, but it is so hard to pursue and maintain. It is a daily, moment-by-moment decision to love and keep the focus turned outward. God is with you each of those moments ready to guide you and enable you to make those positive decisions.
I know you want to feel good. I’ll bet you have a whole list of experiences in your plans for the future. You might be feeling great these days. You might be struggling with some health issues. You might be navigating some transitions in your life or some emotional conflicts.
I want you to be the healthiest version of you, in your best health! As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve broken a process into steps. I’m hoping by following these steps, your health continues and gets even better.
Steps to your Best Health
Pay attention to your body. Remember when a new symptom starts; what makes it better; what makes it worse; how long it lasts; what you think caused it.
If it is severe, scary, or won’t go away, be sure to tell your doctor.
Before you see your doctor, make a list of the items in #1 so you won’t feel pressured to remember. Write your list and make 2 copies – one for you and one for your doctor.
Take to all healthcare visits a complete list of all medicines and other substances you take, how you take them, and when you take them. This includes your vitamins, supplements, recreational substances, and over-the-counter medications. Include even the ones you only take for a stomachache, allergies, or a headache.
Take notes during your visit. We all know how easy it is to miss something, forget, or get it all confused when trying to remember it all from memory.
Make sure it all makes sense to you and you clearly know what you are to do next before you leave. It is ok to ask to hear it all again until you really understand. Once your doctor explains what is causing your symptoms and recommends a plan, ask when you should feel better.
Too many times I have asked people what their doctor said and heard, ‘I have no idea; I couldn’t understand him/her.’
If you receive a prescription for a new medication, make sure you know the name, what it is for, how to take it, and what you can expect. All medications have the potential for side effects, at least right at first, so know what these might be. Know if you will be taking it for a short time or a long time. Ask your pharmacist to be sure this new medication is not going to interact with your current medications. (Be sure your pharmacist knows everything you take.)
Keep track of your original symptoms and any other changes you notice after you start your new treatment. If you don’t feel better in the timeframe the doctor told you, call and report that. If you feel worse when you start a new medication, let your doctor and pharmacist know. Either of them can help you determine if your new problem is caused by the medication and what you should do (do something to stop the side effects or give you a different medication).
Take care of yourself! Once you are feeling better, make an effort to take even more healthy steps such as healthy eating and regular exercise. I know we hear that all of the time. That is because these are the changes that will truly help you feel your very best.
What is the link between medications and your best health?
You’ll note that some of the steps specifically include medications. Medications can:
Control medical problems
Make symptoms better
Depending on the medical condition and the medication, any of these four good purposes or the bad effect can occur.
Medications are prescribed for at least one of the positive effects of medications. Your doctor and your pharmacist want the medication to play a direct role in you reaching your best health.
Medications can interact with other medications. The ONLY WAY your doctor or pharmacist can check for this is if they know absolutely EVERY medication you take. Medications can interact with other medications, with food, or with other medical conditions. That is why you want your healthcare team to know everything about your prescription medicines, your over-the-counter medicines, your supplements, you herbal remedies, your vitamins, and any recreational substance use. It is all important!
This is one of the key services we offer you at Meds MASH. If you want someone to very carefully evaluate all of your medications, your symptoms, and things you think might be caused by your medications, we can do that!
To get started, contact us at 410-472-4078 or www.medsmash.com/contact. Let’s talk about how we can help you reach your best health!
I am reading a book that led to an interesting insight as I have been thinking about the stepwise approach to best health. The steps outlined above are each important to reaching your best health.
What about your best spiritual health? After all, true health has physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components. Nothing outranks your relationship with Christ.
The book I have been reading is related to our brain. A neuroscience physician has studied the brain and its function in the light of both science and the Bible. If you haven’t read, ‘The God-Shaped Brain’ by Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., I highly recommend it.
In a very insufficient summary, our brains are at their peak function when we are in a secure, peaceful, loving environment. The brain is a very adaptable organ. There is one part of the brain that drives our ‘fight or flight’ response. This is what happens when we sense we are in danger. When this part of the brain is functioning, all deep reasoning is blocked. All brain effort is focused on primal survival. It is when we are more relaxed that other parts of our brain creating deep thoughts, logical decision-making, and empathy can function.
I was in high school when Pac-Man was first available. We had to go across the state line to another nearby town to play it in a pizza restaurant. The object is to maneuver Pac-Man through a maze to eat as many ‘points’ as possible. Some of the turns lead to danger for Pac-Man or to dead-ends.
Strangely enough, living in love, peace, and harmony made me think of our life like Pac-Man. Picture, if you will, a large canvas with a circuitous, clear path that has no obstacles that you can see when you look down on the entire canvas. This path is full of points, many points. Surrounding this path, at every turn, there are obstacles. Many of these obstacles are distractions. They are things that feel good, things that look good, or things that feel necessary. From within the maze, you can’t see the clear path. You can only see what is right around you. Those distractions look so good! They often seem to be on the easiest route. They promise you lots of points. So, you easily get off track with the distractions.
Our brain, our life, and our health are at their best when we are on the clear path. And yet there is not one human on the planet who has not left the path and made mistakes. Not ONE! Only Jesus was ever able to do that.
We can each be so much more at peace and living in love when we stay on the path. There is only one tour guide. Jesus can and will tell you step by step which way to turn. He will tell you which items are distractions and which are on his planned path for you. Your brain will be functioning at higher levels as you live in peace and love.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
God knew from the beginning, as soon as Adam and Eve ate the fruit, that we would be on this path with many distractions. Eden, before that fruit eating, was the only place where people ever lived in perfect harmony, peace, and love. As soon as those first people used their own will to go outside God’s command, everything changed.
To allow your brain to operate in its most effective way, and to live in love and peace, let Jesus be your tour guide.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
When was the last time you made and acted on wrong assumptions? It is so easy to do. You see something from your perspective and your mind fills in the details of the who, what, when, how, and why. It’s often long after you have acted that you are provided with a different perspective that makes the entire situation look different.
A quick, fun example is in this picture. Another proof that I am a geek. I get such a kick out of these pictures. If I believed my eyes I might run in to help the poor guy being lifted into the air.
This happens in healthcare, too. Keep in mind, the provider that is making decisions in the emergency department or the hospital usually knows VERY LITTLE about you. Any information you or a loved one or friend can give is all they have at first.
One day, hopefully soon, these providers will be able to access your medical records and make much more informed decisions. Right now, your doctor has to be contacted then the information sent to the hospital. If it is the weekend or an evening, that can take hours to days. The information then needs to get to your hospital provider from the fax machine or the electronic messaging system. Even then, there might be important information about you that is not even in your doctor’s record.
This leaves those of us making decisions about your care to rely heavily on what we see right now.
I have seen SEVERAL examples in the last few weeks of an older adult reaching medical care confused. The quick wrong assumption has been that the person has dementia. When confused, behaviors often change. A confused person can yell, pull at catheters and IV’s, try to get out of bed, and generally not cooperate. Since the assumption has already been made that dementia is the cause, calming medications are given. These then assure further confusion (but calmer) and make it very hard for the person to get to a point of no confusion.
Emergency contact information – name, phone number(s)
If you are accompanying someone to the hospital who is newly confused, explain this to the medical team. Help them understand what this person was like before this event. They need to know the ‘baseline’. If this person was living independently, driving, managing their finances the team needs to know that. If this person was unable to do those things and was getting frequently confused at home, the team needs to know that.
Share any known history about the current event. If you have been feeling worse and worse for the past three days, make sure they know that. If you have been having pain, explain that including what it feels like, how often you feel it, what makes it better or worse.
If you have been taking different medications for the past few days, make sure they know that. This often happens when we are in pain or have a cold. We take over-the-counter medications or left-over medications from prior prescriptions. These can cause confusion when mixed with our normal medication regimen.
Again, I have seen several instances in the past few weeks where assumptions are made when someone gets to the emergency department or hospital that make a situation worse.
In one instance the person’s confusion started as soon as a particular medicine was given. The family member noted that but didn’t speak up. Then medications were added to treat the confused behaviors. We are still trying to taper off of those medications and get this person independent again.
In another instance, the person had a urinary tract infection. These are famous for making older adults confused. But since no one was there to explain how odd this confusion was for this person, the team assumed this was normal and didn’t find the infection for a while. By then, a couple of medications had been added to treat the confused behaviors. It will take us weeks to taper her back off of these medications.
In a third instance, the collection of pain medications given after a surgery left the person sleeping most of the day and unable to think clearly. The spouse was dutifully giving the prescribed medicines around the clock. The wrong assumption made here was that this very healthy person over 60 could handle these medications like someone in their 30’s.
One more instance involved using a medication to treat the side effect of another medication. The second medication (the one used to treat the side effect) is on a list of medicines to avoid in people over 60. Rather than treat the side effect, it made the person nearly unresponsive. In this case, as in several of the others, rather than treat the underlying issue, wrong assumptions were made and actions were taken to treat the symptoms without understanding the back story.
Why ‘Bad Medicine’
Just a side disclaimer. When I was contemplating this blog I saw it as a chance to use the terms, ‘Bad Medicine’. I am a big Bon Jovi fan. I am also a pharmacist. So, I have to admit I love the song, ‘Bad Medicine’.
For more information about how to protect yourself from wrong assumptions leading to bad medicine, contact us at Meds MASH at 410-472-5078 or www.medsmash.com/contact.
I can think of a lot of bad assumptions leading to bad decisions in the Bible. One of the first is Eve’s decision to eat the apple. The Israelites made bad assumptions continuously. A few that come to mind are thinking slavery would be better than ‘suffering’ in the desert; people in lands they were to conquer were too mighty to overcome; Moses was not going to return so a golden calf was needed. The list goes on.
So, how often do you make bad assumptions? I suggest we all do it every day. We don’t act on all of them. I don’t think we realize most of them.
I am consulting right now in a place that serves a highly diverse and unique population of people. Assumptions about gender, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, or just about anything will quickly lead you down an incorrect path. It has been an adventure of constant striving to avoid any assumptions.
These verses are good ones for me to remember each day:
Civility, caring for other people, conflict management, self-control, integrity are constructive traits. I am disappointed and dismayed by the negativity in society right now. As we near our national election there is blame, ridicule, slander, questionable integrity, and division. Candidates and regular people on the streets are tearing each other apart. These wounds can be hard to heal. Consider what love, patience, and goodwill could do to aid healing in our society right now.
Healing skin wounds
Do you have any scars? The body’s primary defense mechanism and largest organ is the skin. Any breach in the skin’s integrity can allow bacteria and infection into the body, alter the body’s ability to regulate temperature and water storage, and it usually hurts. The skin is a very sensitive organ.
Any cut, tear, wound results in an influx of parts of the immune system to start healing the wound.
If the wound is small enough, the skin on either side of the cut can rejoin, sometimes without even a scar.
If the wound is larger, the gap is too big to allow the two sides of the skin to reattach. In that case, granulation tissue forms to fill the gap. New small blood vessels grow in to the area, fibrin ‘scaffolding forms’ and cells build in around the fibrin. Then, more small blood vessels are formed, more fibrin ‘scaffolding’ forms, and more cell fill in the area. This continues until the whole space is filled with granulation tissue. This appears as a scar. The space where the wound left a gap that was filled with granulation tissue is noticeable. That skin will not be or look the same. Granulation tissue contains fewer cells and blood vessels compared to normal skin.
Healing relationship wounds
This scar tissue is only 60-85% as strong as normal tissue. So although the body heals itself, it is not like the wound never happened. That is so true of our emotional scars as well. It’s too easy to let words fly when we’re angry. In a rage, your objective might be to win and tear the other person down. This might feel ‘good’ in the moment. But what happens later? What about the guilt and shame? What about the damage done to the relationship? Some things can’t be completely undone. But much healing CAN be done, and a 60-85% healed relationship is better than no relationship at all.
It can distressing to see so much negativity all over the media. It seems to be adding to the negativity in the workplace, the community, the church, and the home. I encourage us to take a deep breath and focus on our one stable source of hope and joy.
Our interpersonal differences can lead to cuts and wounds in families and groups. If those cuts can be identified and resolved quickly through skilled communication and love, they can often heal without so much as a scar.
But, when they are left unaddressed or allowed to get worse and worse, the healing process can be messy and less effective than it would have been if handled quickly. This is not to say that healing is impossible. Just as the human body is amazing in its resilience, with mediation, healing, communication, and forgiveness, relationships can heal and grow. They may not look the same, changes may occur, but reconnection and resumed integrity can be achieved. Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. 1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
May your wounds, your relationships, your faith be strong.
Do you have any scars? The body’s primary defense mechanism and largest organ is the skin. Any breach in the skin’s integrity can allow bacteria and infection into the body, alter the body’s ability to regulate temperature and water storage, and it usually hurts. The skin is a very sensitive organ.
Any cut, tear, wound results in an influx of parts of the immune system to start healing the wound.
If the wound is small enough, the skin on either side of the cut can rejoin, sometimes without even a scar.
If the wound is larger, the gap is too big to allow the two sides of the skin to reattach. In that case, granulation tissue forms to fill the gap. New small blood vessels grow in to the area, fibrin ‘scaffolding forms’ and cells build in around the fibrin. Then, more small blood vessels are formed, more fibrin…
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is finally becoming a topic that is discussed – in public. It finally has ‘a voice’ and several avenues of treatment to address it.
I was fortunate to serve about seven years of my career in the Veterans Affairs system. I worked alongside some of the best, most caring providers and the most robust interprofessional teams. These teams consisted of physicians (geriatricians who focus on people over 65, in my case), nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and every level of trainee – students, residents, and fellows. Together we provided care to aging adults in the clinic, the acute care hospital, the intermediate unit, long-term-care (nursing home), and the domiciliary. The ‘dom’ was long term, independent housing for veterans who did not have a family to live with after the war.
I am thankful for every veteran that has served our country in one of the countless ways our uniformed services care for this country every day. The stories I heard during those years were enlightening, empowering, endearing, and sometimes gut wrenching. I have heard others say this: In my experience, those who talked the least about their service saw the most ‘action’ and devastation.
One day I was in clinic with a student. It was a very normal day. As the pharmacist, my visits mostly pertained to medications – why, how, when they are taken and the result. On this day, during a normal pharmacy clinic visit, one of our veterans told his story. It forever changed my life. Here is a paraphrase. I will leave out the specific war, because the story could fit any of them.
“I was assigned the night guard shift for my platoon. It was my duty to walk around the perimeter of the base to look for anyone (of the enemy) who might try to attack at night. It was typically uneventful. One night, as I rounded a corner, I was face-to-face with a man from the ‘other side.’ In a split second I thought about my family – my wife and children. I thought about how I just want to go home to them. I thought I don’t know this man. I don’t hate this man. He probably has a wife and children waiting for him at home, too. We might even be friends in other circumstances.’
We all sat and cried for a long time.
After this event, this man, this veteran had a mental breakdown. He was sent to an island where soldiers not able to function in combat were stationed during that war. While there he started trying to stop reliving the event through alcohol. When he finally got home to his wife and children, he was an alcoholic. He had posttraumatic stress disorder. But, it wasn’t recognized, diagnosed, and treated as it is now. I certainly don’t know all of the details, but he and his family were not able to reunite and stay together. It broke my heart to see what had happened. I wonder if his wife and children ever knew what happened? I wonder if knowing could have changed the outcome for their family. No doubt he would be forever changed after an experience like that.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is a condition where there is stress and symptoms for more than three months after a trauma or highly stressful event (or series of events). The stress and symptoms disrupt regular daily activities and are distressing. PTSD can result from war (as in the example above), natural disasters, sexual or physical assault, horror, accidents, or other terrifying event. PTSD can present in about four different ways.
Reliving the event – nightmares, flashbacks, triggers
Avoiding any reminders of the event – driving if in a car crash; crowds if they cause insecurity; fireworks if associated with gunfire; movies related to the event
Negative feelings or changes in feelings about the world and the future; suppressing or forgetting parts of the event
Treatment has multiple components. Understanding PTSD is an important step. Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy can help. In cognitive behavioral therapy, people can become aware of thoughts and feelings, and that allows them to be processed and better understood. Then skills to face those feelings and make changes in a way that allows them to have less impact are developed. For each person, this process is different. There are highly trained, experienced therapists who will work with each personal individually.
For medication treatment, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most commonly used. These are medications that are also commonly used to treat depression and anxiety. They are unlikely to resolve symptoms alone. They are an important part of the multiple components of treatment.
Other components might be exposure therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and more.
A recommended site to learn more about PTSD is through the VA.
Again, there is a growing number of resources available to anyone who might be experiencing PTSD. If you or someone you know might have PTSD, please seek help right away. To suffer alone is not the answer. Alcohol, drugs, and suicide are not the answer. Help is available!
PTSD is a real disorder. It is estimated about 3.5% of adults in the US have PTSD. Over 9% of people ages 50-65 have now or have experienced PTSD.
It can be hard to think rationally when suffering from PTSD. The terror, stress, and anxiety can keep the brain in ‘fight or flight’ mode. When in this mode, reflection, perspective, and problem-solving functions are very limited.
So, how can you support someone suffering from PTSD? Understanding the disorder and being a source of compassion and love are good places to start.
No platitude or Bible verse makes PTSD go away. Some Christian leaders have implied PTSD is something that can be chosen or can be avoided with a focus on God. I strongly disagree. Sinful people can hurt, traumatize, and destroy other people. Even people who know and love God can be traumatized.
But as people of God, we can support people who have suffered. If you have PTSD, know you are not alone. If you know someone who has (or you suspect may have) PTSD, approach with God’s unconditional love. Support through the many stages and steps of recovery and learning to cope. PTSD doesn’t just go away at some point; it might take a lifetime of coping and skill building to live in spite of past trauma.
There are many stories of violence, war, and crimes in the Bible.
These are followed by God’s restorative grace and mercy.
There are many verses about love, strength, deliverance, and rest for our soul.
In time, with treatment and a strong support network, these conversations can be had.
Until then, in the more acute phases when the brain is so busy with ‘fight or flight’ mode, prayer, presence, and unconditional love are ways you can start the story of grace.
Be on the lookout for people who may have PTSD who are not yet receiving treatment. Pray for the many people in our world who are PTSD victims. Love and care for those with PTSD in your life.
My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
Is it too late to turn your health around? Although we were raised certain ways we can still make a U-turn, or at least navigate a big curve. I was raised with dessert every day, lots of processed foods, little to no access to seafood, and limited fresh vegetables beyond summer. Meals were built around meat and potatoes. As for exercise, anyone who knows me can attest to my utter lack of athletic ability. So, should we settle for life-long habits and figure it’s too late to make changes now?
Actually, there is a LOT of evidence that changes, at all stages of life, still help you. Below are just a few of the most common habits/choices that can be changed in a way that really makes you feel better.
Exchange some of your red meat meals for fish (your grocery store meat section will likely have instructions on how to prepare whatever is on sale or available in the meat section).
Try nuts for snacks over sugary snacks.
Drink more water or unsweetened beverages in place of sugary soda or fruit juice.
Eat smaller portions of your dessert, as a starting point to cut back.
Get moving – it helps with more than just weight control.
Decrease joint pain and strain, especially your lower back.
Get stronger and be more resilient against small strains and sprains.
Be more flexible.
Decrease your risk of a fall that could injure you.
Stay healthy and independent longer through fitness.
Have more energy and stamina.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or playing a sport.
Get up and move around during commercial breaks on TV.
Park farther from the front door.
Go for a walk with a friend.
Window shop in all of the stores at the mall before making a purchase.
U-turns are allowed in your life. No matter your age and for how long you have been doing things a certain way, make a change. Turn your health around. See how much better you can feel with very small changes starting today.
For more information about healthy choices and making a U-turn, contact us at www.medsmash.com.
Are you drowning in your negative self-talk? Are you always striving to do better? Or, are you constantly making excuses and blaming others for your weaknesses?
These are such easy routes to take! They are such easy ruts to fall into.
Will you ever be at peace and feel that all is right in your world? What would that take?
My understanding of the Bible is that the peace and promise you’re seeking is available to you RIGHT NOW.
There is nothing you have done that God doesn’t already know about. You can’t hide. Rather than being terrified by that, realize you are loved. You are loved and accepted and forgivable. Absolutely nothing you have done could make God turn away from you.
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
Not only can you take a U-turn in your daily physical health choices, you can take a U-turn in your spiritual health. Stop hiding. Stop beating yourself up. Embrace this love that is completely yours. You are forgiven as soon as you let go and give your all to God who loves you with no conditions.
The fourth of the four components of health is emotional health. True health requires health in all four components. Over the last three weeks we covered physical, mental, and spiritual health. Striving to attain health in all four areas enhances your overall health.
Emotional health refers to how you deal with life and its ups and downs. Everyone goes through difficult trials. The specifics are different between people. Even for you, there will be a wide variety of difficult times you experience. Everyone has good days. These can be peaceful, contended days; days where you reach a goal; days where you are celebrated; and days when you feel loved and secure.
Your feelings play a big role in your emotional health. People express their feelings in many different ways. Some people are more visibly emotional. Other people keep their emotions carefully hidden from view. Either way, emotions can impact our behaviors. How we act, how we respond, how we treat people, and how we feel about ourselves can all be affected by our emotions.
Why does my emotional health matter?
When looking at the differences between healthy people and not so healthy people, researchers have found emotional health to be a key factor.
How do you handle your anger? How kind are you to yourself in your ‘self talk’? How do you express your joy? What is your response when someone criticizes you? How often do you put other people’s needs before your own? Do you feel like the world is out to get you? How do you respond when your car breaks down? How do you feel when you forget to send a birthday card on time? What makes you happy? What makes you sad?
Studies have shown that prolonged stress and negativity make you age faster. There are actually measurable changes in your brain (shorter telomere length and less activity). This stress can also make you more susceptible to other diseases. Your blood pressure can go up, risk of heart disease goes up, and risk of diabetes goes up.
Improved health does not come from lack of negative situations. It comes from how you handle those situations.
The research has shown that the people who are more emotionally healthy have:
Friend(s) to talk to
People who care about you
A sense of self-worth
Ability to give and receive forgiveness
Conflict management skills
A desire to be giving toward others
Concern for others
As you can see, these are not things you are born with. They are skills and attitudes you can develop. They are choices you can make. They are best navigated with friends and supportive people around you.
Similarly, other researchers found that keys to overall health are:
Thinking kindly of people
Supportive friends & family
Ability to bounce back
Making healthy choices
Being grateful for all you have
I found it interesting that the findings are so similar. Other studies have supported these important areas of emotional health. When you feel good, your thinking of more creative and flexible. You see problems with more possibilities and solutions.
So, I encourage you to take a personal assessment of your current emotional health. Consider the things that delight you and the things that upset you. Where can you incorporate more of the listed items that are shared among people with more emotional health?
Medications can help on a short-term basis when circumstances have you so upset you can’t function or sleep. Long-term emotional health, however, is gained more through self-insight, positive choices, and self-development.
If you would like citations for the studies mentioned or have any questions about the role of your emotional health on your overall health, contact us at www.medsmash.com.
(Note, severe abuse, neglect, and trauma are much different than daily negative situations. This blog is not intended to cover the health effects of these experiences that usually involve severe mental illness of the perpetrator.)
Our emotions can guide so many of our behaviors, especially if we don’t have an anchor of hope. Resilience is the result of knowing God’s love and mercy never fail. No matter the situation, you are not alone, and you have the ultimate resource walking with you.
Throughout the Bible we are assured that bad things will happen. Since sin entered the world, this has been a basic fact. Throughout the Bible we are assured there is hope and joy that can get us through any situation.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As we go through difficult times, either big life-altering events or short bursts of anger or frustration, we are encouraged to give those over to God. We aren’t meant to figure it all out or deal with it on our own. Actually, when we do try to handle things ourselves, we often get into trouble.
There can be several reasons you are cold or hot more than the people around you. One of those reasons can be your thyroid. If your thyroid is underactive, you could have hypothyroidism.
Normally, your body has this ingenious feedback loop that keeps your thyroid hormone levels just right. The two key hormones produced in your thyroid are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). When these are at the correct levels, your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) controls their production. When more is needed, it stimulates more. When no more is needed, it does not stimulate more.
The most common thyroid medical condition is hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. In this case, the TSH keeps going up and up but the needed amounts of extra T3 and T4 are not produced.
Some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
feeling cold all the time
feeling sluggish or tired
brittle nails and hair
The most common and very effective treatment for hypothyroidism is levothyroxine. A common brand name is Synthroid. It is T4 that is given to replace the T4 your thyroid is no longer producing. Giving T4 in this form is enough to bring your TSH back to normal levels. It is not necessary to take both T4 and T3; several studies have now demonstrated this. Each dose has a different color. This helps you and your prescriber keep track of exactly what dose you are taking.
When you are first started on levothyroxine, your prescriber will probably have you get blood drawn to check your TSH about 2 months after you start therapy, every 3-6 months until your dose has your TSH right in the goal range, then it will be checked at least yearly. It is common for your dose to change several times, in the first year especially, until the correct dose is identified to keep your TSH at the target level.
When you take levothyroxine, you should take it either first thing in the morning about an hour before breakfast or at the last part of your day at least 3 hours after your last meal. There are several foods and other medications that can interact with levothyroxine. Keeping it separated from your other medicines and meals helps to avoid these interactions.
Note, you especially to do not want to take it near milk or other dairy products, vitamins, or some cholesterol medicines. Taking levothyroxine too close to some of these foods and medicines can make the levothyroxine less effective.
A common question is about brand versus generic when taking levothyroxine. Either is truly fine. What you don’t want to do is switch back and forth. There can be a very tiny variance (2.5%) between medicine made by different manufacturers. For most medicines that makes no difference. Levothyroxine is a ‘narrow therapeutic index’ medication. This means the range from too little to too much is very small. So, the tiny variation between products can make a difference. I recommend generic, but ask your pharmacist to always give you the generic from the same manufacturer.
If you suspect you might be hypothyroid, please talk with your doctor. The most common age to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism is in your 40’s and 50’s, but it can be identified at younger or older ages.
For more information about your thyroid and medications to treat thyroid conditions, contact us at www.medsmash.com.
We just read about the amazing feedback loop of the thyroid gland. It is a perfectly designed system that keeps itself in constant check. (Unless it is harmed by disease or other outside influences).
This makes me think of a feedback loop described by Paul. It is not necessarily a comfortable feedback loop, but I know I have seen the truth of it in my own life. And, when I look at those people that have been big spiritual mentors to me, I can definitely see the realities of this feedback loop in their lives. I have yet to find a spiritually mature person who hasn’t experienced this feedback loop more than once.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
The part that we sometimes miss is that this is a continuous loop. It’s just each time you go through it, the better you are able to ‘REJOICE’ in the suffering knowing that the love is continuous. The loop always involves suffering – something bad is happening to you. But, the more you embrace the love that is yours no matter what, the braver and more joyful you can be with each time around the loop.
So buckle up. The next round is coming! Experience it with the joy that God’s love never fails.
Image Source: National Library of Medicine; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services