Viewing entries in
Wellness Wednesdays

Support Your Girlfriends

IMG_1580.JPG

There’s always a retreat popping up somewhere in the world. Retreats has become increasingly more popular and are beginning to replace standard vacations. Why? Because people are looking for ways to take charge of their own health on different levels: spiritually, mentally, socially and physically. 

Recently, I attended a wellness retreat entitled “Support Your Girlfriends” this past weekend in the island of Jamaica. The retreat was wonderfully organized by my publicist, Nikkia McClain. 

I was hesitant to attend initially. I didn’t know what to expect especially since this was my first time going to this kind of trip and finding out that I was going to share a room with a person that I didn’t know beforehand. I must say that the retreat was absolutely amazing! I was surrounded by 19 other women that were like-minded, seeking support and wanted to improve their lives. It was a great space for establishing new relationships and creating long lasting friendships. I was encouraged to write a blog in hopes of inspiring others to attend more retreats. 

IMG_1582.JPG

Here are my top reasons why you and/or loved one should attend a retreat:

1. Self-care is important! It helps clear your head, reset priorities, heightens your productivity and gain a little extra motivation to sustain optimal health. 

2. Retreats may help improve your overall health.

3.Most wellness retreats are designed to help educate and inspire you to return home with all the tools needed to take care of yourself. 

4. Great space for establishing new relationships and creating long lasting friendships.

5.Experienced improvements in spirituality, gratitude, self-love and anxiety. 

6. An inclusive group environment such as a retreat can provide great support.

7. Can make you feel relax, be at ease and be yourself!

I’m so glad that I attended this recent retreat. I was invited not only to speak at this retreat, but connect with women that are so open to love unconditionally, truly support one another and so I can let my hair down/be free/be myself. I connected with high power women that truly believe in investing in each other plus our community at large AND said “sista’ what do YOU need to get YOUR dream poppin’ into a reality because this what I will do to make it happen!” 

IMG_1583.JPG

There were so many testimonies, hugs and kisses given, and prayers thrown to the Universe because all of us realized that WE are struggling with some real life personal issues as Black Women no matter how famous or not, the title and successful we are. The prayers had us shouting to GOD with tears rolling down our faces while asking our Creator to help us with all that we are going through...meanwhile not feeling ashamed to be vulnerable in front of each other. 

I’ve gained more sisters and another squad in the name of women-empowerment, self-love, self-care, mental health, women entrepreneurship and wellness. 

Do your life a favor and go to a retreat for the sake of saving yourself. You won’t regret it! 

The Healthy Benefits of Eating Grapes

IMG_3320.jpeg

Did you know that yeast is one of the earliest domesticated microbes that occur naturally on the skin of grapes, leading to the discovery of wine? Up to 8,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, our ancestors recorded the art of cultivation of grapes via hieroglyphics. Approximately 72 million tons of grapes are grown each year worldwide AND mostly to produce wine! Because the world love wine, each year 7.2 trillion gallons of wine are produced! Grapes come in different colors and forms plus it is a very popular finger #food. I sometimes take a small ziplock bag of this fruit to work as a snack. The key nutrient in grapes that may offer health benefits is a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol. Grapes may shield #skin cells from the nasty effects of ultraviolet light radiation! Eating 1 to 2 cups of grapes per day can also rescue our body tissue from various chemical reactions that trigger inflammation. 

  1. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant and some researchers suggested may be able to slow or prevent the growth of skin cancer, leukemia, tumors in lymph, liver, stomach, breast and colon. 
  2. Grapes are 82% water. By eating these fruits can keep your skin hydrated!
  3. May help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure.
  4. According to the American Heart Association, increasing potassium intake while lowering our sodium intake improves blood pressure. Grapes has an excellent source of potassium, but eat in moderation!
  5. Keep bowel movements regular!
  6. May reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  7. May reduce damage to your eyes (retina), prevent against various eye problems. 
  8. Could help treat acne especially if used with benzoyl peroxide as a topical treatment. 
  9. Boost your immune system

There are some studies suggesting that grapes may help to alleviate symptoms of allergies because it contains an anti-inflammatory property called quercetin. BUT I suggest that if you have a history of allergies, that you seek your primary care doctor first and inquire about getting tested for a grape allergen. I certainly would not want you to have a severe allergic reaction to eating grapes. Safety first!

After they’ve undergone the fermentation process, they become vino and many scientific researchers suggest that regular consumption of wine can improve health overall. But please drink in moderation! Women are advised to drink no more than one drink a day and men no more than two per day. I want you stay safe and responsible while drinking. 

Time Out! Take a Vacation to save your life!

1bd3dc01-0d5f-47eb-81c9-6a799009a3ed.jpg

Taking time off from work or your daily grind not helps us to de-stress and feel happier, but it also helps with productivity and mood. For the past year, my hunny (the man of my life, Dwayne) and I hadn’t been traveling often like we used to. We would travel at least 4 times a year. But recently, we became so overwhelmingly consumed with balancing work, school, family matters and my brand. It has gotten so bad to the point I woke up early Sunday morning, got dressed and left from our apartment (while he was snoring away) to write this blog at one of my favorite parks in NYC. For me, this was a great mini getaway of a few hours to somewhere I truly enjoy being present and in tune with nature. 

Unfortunately for the past few months, I was stressed and burned out from life. I was more snappy at work, towards my family and friends. I found myself having constant body aches after leaving working and completing a podcast. I exercise regularly, but my energy during my workouts was down. The joys of life were being sucked right out of me. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of my friends vacationing on a Caribbean island on social media that I woke up and realized that I hadn’t taken a vacation in a long time. Did I mention that I even declined on going to some of those vacations with my friends because I had to much work to do and stressed about finances? Not good. One day, one of my friends sent me an email requesting that Dwayne and I celebrate her birthday in Mexico for Memorial Day Weekend. I didn’t respond initially, but I kept reading that email repeatedly for the next 4 days. I spoke with Dwayne about it and he said “Babe we need a vacation. We are tired and burned out. A mental break is due." She needed me to RSVP the following week. It was at that very moment a sleeping giant awoken inside my mind, soul, and body. Next thing I know, I clicked RSVP! I texted her the next day informing her that Dwayne and I will be there with her to celebrate her life. We purchased our tickets and hotel room the following day. And we left to Mexico for a four-day weekend. 

The mini trip to Mexico was glorious, relaxing and therapeutic. My soul, mind, and body experienced a different level of euphoria. I had finally escaped from the madness of everyday life in NYC. I don’t regret it because I deserve some rest and relaxation. According to a recent article on www.time.com, "many Americans don’t even take their allotted vacation time. Fewer Americans are going on vacation now than in the past…even when people are on vacation, more than 60% say they keeping working remotely.” My fellow Americans, this is terrible and alarming. I too fell into that mode about a year ago until I did something about it. I reminded myself that I only have one life to live and I better live it. The benefits of a vacation are clear; both physically and psychologically. For one, taking a break is extremely recommended for one’s mental health. But you got to know how to vacation. Poor planning can lead to more stress. 

You know what’s concerning about our country in comparison to other countries in Europe? According to a 2013 report by the Center for Economic and Policy research, “the U.S. is the only developed country that does not legally require a single paid vacation day…statistically speaking the average American left a billion vacation days unused last year.” In Europe, 20 paid vacation days minimum are required! France required 30 while Denmark, Austria and Belgium actually pay employees more when on vacation to offset the costs of travel! Maybe I should consider moving myself and family to Europe? Hmmmm…just a thought. In America, we earn 10 days of vacation a year or 2 work weeks. This means we as workers we have the lowest vacation days in the Western World. Yet many of still don’t take even half of their vacation time! In South America, Brazilians are granted 30 vacation days a year. Meanwhile down under, Australians receive 20 days a year. 

What are the health benefits of taking a vacation? 

  • Vacation reduces stress and anxiety. Don’t you feel happier while on vacation? Take notice of your mood.

  • Decreases depression

  • Improve productivity. People who take time off are more productive overall than those who spent time working. 

  • Helps your heart to stay healthy. According to a recent article published in the American Journal of American Medical Association titled “Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: Risk Factor Changes and Mortality Results” found that men who take vacations annually and frequently were approximately 32 percent less likely to die from heart disease in comparison those who don’t take vacations annually and/or do staycations.  Another study from Framingham Heart Study found that women took less vacations are more likely to develop coronary heart disease or possible a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations per year.

  • Vacations boosts mental health! People are less tense, possess higher energy levels, more satisfied with life and are much healthier while on vacation. 

  • If you are in a healthy relationship, a vacation can improve your relationship with your loved one. I can attest to that because Dwayne and I were at odds with each other due to the amount of stress we acquired plus not having to take a vacation in a long time. Upon returning from our vacation, we are feeling more connected, happier and refreshed.

So again ladies and gentlemen, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time off for a mental break. GO AWAY! LEAVE! Come back as a different person. You deserve happiness in your life. You are not a machine! Save your money and plan your trip in advance. As mentioned earlier, taking time off from work or your daily grind not helps us to de-stress and feel happier, but it also helps with productivity, keeps your mind and heart healthy, and elevates your mood. I know it certainly did for me! 

 

Eat good bacteria!

IMG_2087.jpeg

Do you know that there are bacteria aka “good bacteria” living in our intestines to help us digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms and produce certain vitamins? Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to have many health benefits. My gynecologist and friend, Dr. Lisa McLeod, recommends many of her patients to take Lactobacillus supplements daily to maintain normal vaginal flora. I take probiotics daily from www.natureal.com. But as an Emergency Physician, I often wonder how much do we really know about probiotics? Although a great deal of research has been done on probiotics, we still have a lot to learn. it still remains a mystery and it is not new! This is why I love science. For thousands of years, probiotics in fermented milk have been ingested by humans in the belief that they have health benefits. It has been advocated for the prevention and treatment of a wide range of diseases, but strong scientific evidence for the use of probiotics for most health conditions is lacking. However, there are few clinical studies that revealed evidence of their efficacy in the management of diarrheal diseases. Probiotics have a very good safety record, but they should be used with caution in certain groups such as preterm neonates or persons with immune deficiency. Before taking certain types of probiotics, people should take the time to understand the risks and benefits. Also, patients should be advised by their Physicians (MD/DO) before taking probiotic supplements in clinical practice. 

Are probiotics safe to use? It depends on your state of health. If you are generally healthy, the probiotics tend to have a good safety record. The only complaint I’ve heard so far from my patients, family, and friends that they experienced mild bloating and gas. However, there are many uncertainties with the use of probiotics and not enough research to prove the safety net of these probiotic supplements. There are some reports that demonstrated the severe side effects of probiotics in persons suffering from underlying serious medical problems such as the critically ill patients, post-surgery patients, people with weakened immune systems and sick infants. All we know is that the practice of taking probiotics is advocated to help increase the amount of good bacteria…pretty much help to bring a balance within in our bodies. As a matter of fact, here are some ways that probiotics might help prevent or treat certain conditions according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health such as:

  • Digestive disorders such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease and infectious diarrhea.

  • Periodontal disease and other oral health issues

  • Common cold

  • Eczema and hay fever

  • Liver disease

  • Prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in low birth weight infants.

Remember each probiotic can have different effects on our bodies. So please talk with your primary care physician before taking them! We want to make sure that you are receiving great care and avoiding harm to your temple. Ladies, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, I strongly advised that you talk with your OB/GYN specialist. But here are a few examples of how it may work for you: 

  • Maintain normal vaginal flora

  • Promote a healthy immune response to infections

  • Keep the undesirable microorganisms at bay

  • Helping the digestive tract to return to its original state after prolonged use of antibiotics 

So ladies and gentlemen, do your absolute best to talk with your physician and research on which probiotics are good for you. Understand the risks and benefits of taking probiotics. Do your absolute best treat your body right because you have the right to live.

All beans matter, but lentils matter the most!

FullSizeRender-1.jpeg

Eating healthy can help reduce people’s risk for heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, several types of cancer and maintain a healthy body weight. I absolutely love lentil soup. It is my second favorite soup after Jamaican chicken soup with dumplings. I enjoy eating lentil soup with or without meat. But I recommend lowering meat consumption by at least 15 percent. Why do I love lentil soup so much? Well my mother introduced this ancient bean into our diet early on during my childhood and made excellent lentil soup. So I fell in love! There are great some benefits to eating lentils that you may not be aware of. Lentils are a nutritious ingredient that is high in protein and fiber. They are a member of the legume family and come in red, brown, black and green varieties. These beans are an excellent source of folate, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium and calcium. Lentils are cheap to buy, quick and easy to prepare. 

You might ask yourself “what is the big deal about these beans? They are also a very good source in zinc, copper, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, and pantothenic acid. Did you know that lentils can also help prevent constipation? Remember when I talked about fiber intake in the last blog highlighting the importance of eating breakfast including oatmeal? Well it turns out that plant foods like lentils which are high in fiber also prevents constipation thereby promoting a healthy digestive tract. Dietary selenium comes from nuts, cereals, mushrooms and lentils! A number of recent studies implicated that selenium may prevent inflammation, chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes and improves our immune system. The fiber content in lentils is also associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. According to American Heart Association, an increase in fiber intake can reduce LDL cholesterol (low density lipoprotein) aka “bad cholesterol.” Also some studies reveal that it protect our hearts’ health. 

 

But ladies and gentlemen, have you ever thought to yourselves, “the older you are the more tired you become?” Well your fatigue may be due to iron deficiency. Lentils are a great source of hon-heme iron. One cup of cooked lentils contains over 1/3 of daily iron needs which is great for women aged 18 to 50 years susceptible to iron deficiency. Our bodies can easily absorb non-heme iron. Make sure to schedule an appointment to see your primary care physician about iron deficiency. You might need additional iron supplements and other dietary means to boost your iron levels. Ladies, if you’re pregnant please be aware that folate is very critical for preventing congenital disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is strongly recommended that all women during their childbearing years should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. It is found that one cup of lentils contain almost 90% of the required folate that needed per day. Please visit your Obstetrician for recommendations for folic acid intake. Every woman and her pregnancy is different. 

However, if you are planning to increase your overall fiber intake, please make sure to drink plenty of liquids to prevent constipation. Too much fiber may cause constipation. Be careful with consuming excessive amount of fiber because you may want to avoid the embarrassment of passing gas (flatulence)! 

But Doc! Why do I have to eat Breakfast?!

FullSizeRender.jpeg

So as a Physician, I have to remind myself daily to practice what I preach. After seven years of medical school in Havana, Cuba and 3 years of Emergency Medicine Residency training in Newark, NJ, I have now developed a really bad habit of intermittently skipping the most important meal of the day: BREAKFAST! I would dash out of the door for work in the morning with only a cup of coffee. Not good. When I don’t eat breakfast, I am a little cranky, not as focused and have less energy than usual. When this happens, I would take a quick 5-minute break and leave from the Emergency Department briefly to grab a toasted plain bagel with a little butter or cream cheese to curb my hunger. According to a recent study in www.consumerreports.org, “women who worked full time had a greater risk than those who worked part-time, possibly because job stress has been found to raise glucose levels.” That ladies and gentlemen, is a major problem. Eating a good healthy breakfast can jumpstart our metabolism and help us burn calories throughout the day. Eating within 2 hours upon awakening can make a great difference in the way we metabolize glucose (blood sugar) throughout the duration of the day. It also helps our temple (body) keep glucose and insulin balanced which has major effects on metabolism and health

But there is good news! The good news is that there are a few reasons why breakfast is the most important meal of day that we can all benefit from it.

  1. Several studies have linked eating breakfast to better processing and learning information, memory and concentration. I find this to be true. When I eat a hearty breakfast, I am more focused, very active, my energy level is increased, and my work is more efficient.

  2. Eating a well-balanced breakfast is linked to reducing the risk of obesity. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating or skipping meals do not have an effect on weight loss. However, skipping breakfast habitually may lead to overeating at other meals and excessive snacking throughout the day. When I was in residency, I had to work night shifts. Working night shifts are difficult because once you’re finished working, you may run home and go straight to sleep...skipping breakfast. My eating habits changed dramatically. I snacked on whatever I could find and overindulged on not-so healthy meals during the night shifts. Definitely led to a little weight gain and I was not happy about it.

  3. Not eating breakfast consistently may lead to cardiovascular diseases. So eat a morning meal, people! It may protect your heart and prevent clogged arteries!

Of course what you put in your mouth is important. Only drinking a cup of coffee and eating foods with high sugar content will eventually lead to a disaster. I strongly recommend that you kick-start your beautiful morning with a nutritious bowl of cereal. Why? Well breakfast cereal is a very quick and easy meal to prepare in a short period of time. My favorite bowl of cereal is oatmeal! I love my oatmeal thick with a little brown sugar and cinnamon to the mix. Sometimes I switch up and I add fruit and yogurt instead of brown sugar. It is a great breakfast dish. I always have to have a cup of tea and a bottle of water for hydration. I know...some of you are probably giving me the side eye about oatmeal. But eating a bowl of oatmeal each day has its benefits. For example, oatmeal contains a soluble fiber called beta glucan which helps to curb your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Recent studies show eating oatmeal is linked to approximately 7% drop in your bad cholesterol. The fiber in oatmeal helps with promoting good bowel movement (easing constipation) and control glucose levels. When I eat a bowl of oatmeal, I am full and I eat less later on through the day.

So ladies and gentlemen, do your absolute best to wake a little earlier than usual and treat your body to a hearty breakfast in the morning. Resist the doughnuts or any pastry. It is best to have a breakfast mix of foods that have protein, healthy fats, fiber and carbohydrates. As mentioned earlier, the fiber will keep you full while the carbohydrates will give you fuel and the proteins will provide additional energy. Smoothies made from low fat yogurt, fruit and a little bit of bran or a whole-grain granola bars are great breakfast options as well.