Friday, July 29, 2011

How Sweet It Is: Use Medicinal Honey For Wound Care

Since ancient times, honey has been used to treat infected wounds, burns, skin ulcers and scrapes.

But honey fell out favor as a wound dressing when antibiotic dressings were developed during World War II. New research, along with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, is introducing a new generation to honey’s many medicinal uses.

Twenty-first century laboratory tests show that honey has a strong anti-microbial action against a broad spectrum of bacteria and fungi. This is good news for anyone suffering from diabetic ulcers or hard-to-heal wounds such as pressure ulcers (bed sores) as well as boils, abscesses or necrotising faciitis (flesh eating bacteria syndrome).


Honey helps wounds by providing a thick protective barrier. It also contains hydrogen peroxide that is slowly released to kill germs in wounds. Honey has a natural capacity to hold water and attract water and is acidic in nature. Thus it prevents bacteria from colonizing and helps to dry up wounds.  Most microorganisms won’t not grow in pure honey because of its low water activity.

And honey even makes wounds smell better, possibly because when bacteria in wounds eat honey's sugars, they give off sweeter-smelling gases.


In the past decade, several companies have developed and marketed wound products such as honey-based dressings. In 2007, the FDA approved Derma Sciences Inc., to produce Medihoney, a dressing saturated with manuka honey, a potent type of honey from Australia and New Zealand.

But you needn’t buy specialized products. Anyone can use organic honey to treat simple wounds such as cuts, scrapes and other non-critical injuries.

Here's how:

*Spread a light coating of organic honey over a sterile dressing (a typical proportion is 1 oz./25 grams of honey on a 4"x4" dressing) and apply to affected area.

*Cover the initial dressing with a sterile waterproof secondary dressing to prevent honey from oozing out. You can also use adhesive tape to hold the dressing in place if you do not apply a secondary dressing.

*If applying honey to abscesses, cavities or depressions, fill the depression with honey first before applying the dressing.

For more information about medicinal honey, visit

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our Bodies Are Hardwired to Move...At Any Age!

Children need to run, jump and play not only to burn off energy but to enable their brains to grow. If children don’t get enough locomotor play, it affects not just their coordination, but also their ability to learn.

Physical movement is the basis of a great amount of academic, social and emotional intelligence. Renowned neuroscientist Dr. Rodolfo Llinas, author of “I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self,” tells the story of the lowly sea squirt. These primitive organisms contain just 300 brain cells. On the first day of its life, the organism swims until it finds a permanent place to attach itself. Once it’s anchored, it does not move for the rest of its short life.

Here’s the fascinating part: the sea squirt has a primitive nervous system while it’s in motion. Once it finds its permanent anchor, it eats up its brain since it no longer needs it once movement has ceased. According to Dr. Llinas, the reason we have brains is so we can move, grow and develop.

In short, our bodies are hardwired to move.

Movement is critical for brain health at all stages of life. Even in old age, the brain can grow new neurons. Most age-related losses in memory or motor skills result from inactivity and a lack of mental and physical exercise and stimulation.

It's important to challenge your brain to learn new and novel tasks, especially processes that you've never done before. Examples include square-dancing, chess, tai chi, yoga, sculpting, making pottery or any other tactile process.

Working with modeling clay is an especially good way for seniors to grow new brain connections. It helps develop agility and hand-brain coordination, (like controlling the computer mouse with your opposite hand).


Neurobics is a unique system of brain exercises using your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways that encourage you to shake up your everyday routines. They are designed to help your brain manufacture its own nutrients that strengthen, preserve, and grow brain cells.

Created by Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center, Neurobics exercises are simple and can be performed by older adults of all abilities.

Here are some examples of Neurobics:

Try to include one or more of your senses in an every day task:
*Get dressed with your eyes closed

*Wash your hair with your eyes closed

*Share a meal and use only visual cues to communicate. No talking.

Combine two senses:

*Listen to music and smell flowers

*Listen to the rain and tap your fingers

*Watch clouds and play with modeling clay at the same time

Break routines:
Go to work on a new route

*Eat with your opposite hand

*Shop at new grocery store

For more information about Neurobics and other brain exercises visit:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Zinc-based Denture Creams Linked to Neurological Damage

Did you know that many denture creams contain zinc? 

While zinc is an important essential trace element, in excess it can cause numbness, gait disturbances, tingling in hands, metallic taste in the mouth, low blood pressure, yellow eyes and skin, nausea and vomiting.

A study published in 2008 in the journal Neurology found that excessive use of denure creams containing zinc could result in serious neurologic disease

These symptoms occur because denture adhesive users swallow small amounts of zinc during the course of a day (this is especially true for people who use large amounts of adhesive). When zinc levels reach 40mg a day or higher, zinc begins to displace copper (another essential trace element), and central nervous systems dysfunction occurs.

Zinc also interacts with medications some antibiotics (such as Cipro and tetracycline).

Zinc can reduce the absorption and action of penicillamine, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. And zinc can also interfere with diuretics such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton).

Manufacturers are not required to list zinc or zinc toxicity on product lables. So it is up to health care providers, family members and concerned individuals who wear dentures to pay attention to unexplained neurologic symptoms or abnormal blood test levels or zinc or copper.

Some zinc-free denture adhesives include:

*Secure Denture Bonding Cream
*Secure Denture Adhesive Cushion Strips
*Sea-Bond Denture Adhesive Wafers

For more options visit

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Just One More Step, Dad....

Helping my dad go to the doctor was a major undertaking for both of us. He was disabled and dreaded leaving his wheelchair. It was always a delicate negotiation between us. Sometimes the love between a father and daughter comes out in strange and unexpected ways.

Listen to my audio essay about driving my dad from WFDD's "Real People: Real Voices" series.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tai Chi: Go Slow to Improve Cardiovascular Health

You’ve probably heard the old adage, slow and steady wins the race.

Practitioners of Tai Chi, the ancient form of mindful exercise, know that by moving slowly through specific, simple movements, they can increase longevity and significantly improve heart health. Tai Chi has been used in China for millennia as a form of exercise that is especially suited for seniors. Today, Tai Chi is a medically accepted form of holistic exercise with benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure to potentially staving off Alzheimer's disease.


Tai Chi is based on the Eastern mind-body philosophy that chi (the vital life force--pronounced chee) flows throughout the body. If the flow of chi is interrupted, a person’s health becomes unbalanced. Imbalances result in disease and illness. Restoring the balance of chi is the goal of Tai Chi.

Derived from martial arts, Tai Chi is made up of slow, deliberate movements accompanied by deep breathing techniques and meditation. Tai Chi exercises encourage practitioners to move from their center of gravity. This enhances balance, agility, strength, flexibility and stamina—especially in the joints. All major muscle groups get a gentle, but thorough workout.

Tai Chi’s gentle, low impact movements have an added benefit: they burn almost as many calories per hour as downhill skiing.

But Tai Chi’s benefits go deeper. Through maintaining deep breathing during Tai Chi, practitioners build lung capacity, improve over all blood circulation to the brain (thus helping to prevent dementia) and decrease stress levels that lead to cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.


In a study published in the Journal of Biomedical Gerontology, men and women 60 and older who practiced Tai Chi for 20 minutes a day lowered their blood pressure and heart rate, as well as significantly reducing the activity of their sympathetic nervous system—the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response.

An excessively stimulated sympathetic nervous system leads to serious alterations in cardiovascular health and is responsible for metabolic conditions such as diabetes and renal failure.

Tai Chi also helps practitioners get better sleep— a key component to heart health. People with chronic heart failure often have insomnia and impaired breathing while sleeping—key factors the lead to dangerous heart rhythm disturbances.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, just two weeks of Tai Chi training helped patients with sleep disorders significantly improve their sleep stability and quality of life.

To view a Tai Chi class for seniors click here:

To get a free Tai Chi lesson, find a Tai Chi class and find out more about World Tai Chi Day (coming April 30), visit

Monday, March 28, 2011

Yoga Postures Help Bone Health: The How and the Why

In previous posts on we’ve noted that yoga is a great form of exercise for promoting bone health. Yoga postures are easily adaptable to all levels of flexibility and health making it an ideal exercise for seniors or anyone looking to build bone health.

But don’t just take our word for it.

How Yoga Helps Build Healthy Bones:

Like jogging, walking weight lifting, yoga is a type of weight bearing exercise. Simple yoga poses use the weight of the body up against gravity. The form of resistance training puts a mild stress on bones that encourages new bone growth.

But unlike other forms of weight bearing exercise, yoga doesn’t stress cartilage or damage joints. Yoga postures lengthen muscles and hold them in place. This creates tension on bones and helps to realign muscles, ligaments and tendons.

"Yoga helps grow bone mass, but because yoga poses pull and stretch the bones from every conceivable angle, yoga also may stimulate the formation of a bone structure that is able to resist greater amounts of pressure, as well as many different types of challenges," writes Loren Fishman, MD, co-author of Yoga for Osteoporosis

“That pull of muscle on bone is the single major factor in bone strength,” writes Sara Meeks, a physical therapist who specializes in osteoporosis and a yoga teacher. “By putting tremendous pressure on the bones without harming the joints, yoga may be the answer to osteoporosis.” (see the May 2011 edition of Yoga Journal to read the full text of “Good to the Bone”).

In a 2009 article published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, a study of people with osteoporosis with an average age of 68, showed that people who practiced yoga for as little as 10 minutes a day gained bone in their spine and hips.

Like any form of exercise, yoga needs to be practiced wisely and certain yoga postures should be done with caution for people with osteoporosis.

Dr. Fishman cautions people with osteoporosis that simply practicing yoga, without proper attention to alignment, may do more harm than good

If you’re new to yoga, go to a beginner class. You can always talk to the teacher before class if you are unsure if the class is right for you. Or you can ask to observe the class.

Here are some yoga posture suggestions for building bones:

*Standing postures such as Warrior I and II
*Tree pose (standing on one leg posture...use the wall or a chair for balance!)
*Bridge pose
*Gentle twists on your back (avoid seated or standing twists)
*Seated forward bends (use pillows, blankets or other props under knees and gently round the back-- NEVER force forward bends!).

For more information about how people with osteoporosis and arthritis can safely practice yoga, visit Dr. Loren Fishman visit

To read more about Dr. Fishman's study about yoga and bone health read:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holistic Approaches to Prostate Care...Why You Should Ignor the PSA Test


One of the most controversial cancer screening tests for older adult men is the PSA (prostate specific antigen). Since its introduction in 1986, doctors have used this test to screen men for prostate cancer.

While the test may be useful in detecting early cancers in men 50 or younger, studies have increasingly shown that the PSA test is remarkably ineffective for men in their 60s and beyond.

In a groundbreaking statement, Dr. Thomas Stamey of Stanford University School of Medicine, the man who invented the PSA test, has called for the PSA test to be retired.

“The PSA [prostate specific antigen] era is probably over for detection of prostate cancer in the United States” declares Dr. Stamey.

Dr. Stamey has good reason for calling a moratorium on the PSA. According to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institution’s Prostate Bulletin, false-positive PSA results can be caused by urological difficulties such as prostatitis—and extremely common condition among older men—along with urinary retention and other common infections of the urogenital tract. Even prostate biopsies themselves can raise PSA levels.


According to Dr. Aaron Katz, MD, Director of Holistic Urology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, a diet high in fresh (preferably organic) produce along with lean protein is the cornerstone of prostate health. Consumption of green tea, pomegranate juice, selenium (an essential trace mineral found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, eggs and plants grown in soil rich in selenium), and lycopene (a bright red antioxident chemical found in tomatoes, watermelon, carrots, papaya and other red fruits) are essential prostate and urogenital system health.

Katz also advises men to make healthy lifestyle changes such as getting regular and appropriate exercise to boost overall immunity and wellbeing.

“Unfortunately, the majority of urologists rely solely on surgery and pharmaceuticals,” says Katz. “They fail to advise their patients on lifestyle changes, diet, exercise and the use of science-backed nutraceuticals [food or food products that provide medical benefits] as a means of prevention or complementary therapy.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bone Mineral Density (BMD): Not the "Gold Standard" for Predicting Fractures

Doctors use the term Bone Mineral Density (BMD) to describe bone health and use it as a benchmark to prescribe prescription medications such as Boniva and Fosamx—powerful drugs that claim to protect against osteoporosis by strengthening BMD.

But dense bones are not necessarily more fracture-proof than less dense bones. Think of a piece of chalk: it has very high calcium density, but that won’t prevent breakage when you drop it on the floor!

Several important studies show that BMD does not always predict who is at risk for fractures.

A 1996 study in the British Medical Journal found that BMD accounted for LESS THAN HALF of the risk factors for hip fractures. 

In a systematic review sponsored by the American College of Physicians in 2008, the authors estimated that lumbar and hip Bone Mineral Density only predict, at best, 44% of fractures in elderly women and 21% of fractures in men.

Writing in the Spring 2011 Issue of the Journal Holistic Primary Care, John Neustadt, ND, author of the best-selling book "A Revolution in Health through Nutritional Biochemistry" states:

While Bone Mineral Density is important, other factors such as how flexible bones are better predictors of bone health. Mineral density is  important only if the mineral content is well-supported by a strong, supple collagen matrix. The collagen in bone is what gives it the springiness to absorb shock and stress, and prevent fracture. Like Bone Mineral Density, collagen quality and quantity also decline with age. 
How can you ensure that bones stay flexible as well as strong?
Nutrients such as vitamin K improve bone flexibility (ask your health professional about dosing).

Foods rich is vitamin K include:
Green leafy vegetables, whole fat organic dairy products and whole grains.

Read more about vitamin K and bone health on Dr. Neustadt's homepage.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Water, Water Everwhere and Some of It to Drink

Dehydration is common problem for most adults, especially older adults who often restrict water because of concerns over incontinence. 

Older adults are at risk for dehydration because they tend to lose their sense of thirst. Dementia can contribute to dehydration (people can "forget" to drink).

Lack of proper fluid intake can cause symptoms ranging from headaches to false hunger pains (often when we are thirsty we think we are hungry!).  Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), also called cystitis or bladder infections, are an issue for many older adults who do not drink enough to flush bacteria out of their systems.

While the benefits of proper hydration are clear, it's not necessary to force 8 glasses of water a day. Ironically, drinking TOO MUCH WATER can throw off the body's electrolyte balance which can lead to cardiac disorders.

Here are some tips for proper hydration:
  • Sip room temperature (not iced) water in between meals. Never gulp water, especially cold water. Drink filtered water whenever possible.
  • Don't force fluids.
  • Don't restrict fluids. 
  • For UTI or bladder infections, drink unsweetened cranberry or blueberry juice (make sure you do not add sugar which can feed the bacteria that cause infection). Licorice tea and taking herbal remedies such as uva ursi--also called bear berry-- help with bladder infections and urinary tract issues.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Healthy Aging and Yoga: Why You Don't Have To Be A Contortionist To Benefit From Yoga

You've seen the men and women in impossible body contortions on the cover of magazines, on TV and on the Internet. Yoga postures that look like something out of the circus rather than a means for everyday people to strengthen their bodies and calm their minds.

The truth is that the 5,000 year-old practice of yoga has nothing to do with being a "poser." Yoga is a personalized approach to finding and maintaining health and acceptance for people of all ages, abilities and beliefs.

Just ask "First Lady of Yoga" Lilias Folan, a 74 year-old yoga teacher, author and expert on healthy aging. For decades, Lilias has been bringing yoga to millions of people; first with her TV show "Lilias!" and then through her book, videos and CDs that include the popular series "Lilias! Yoga Gets Better With Age."

"Nothing softens the aging process like yoga," Lilias says. Especially for seniors, Lilias recommends yoga geared toward simple, weight-bearing postures to keep backs, legs and hips strong.
"Age gets better with yoga and yoga gets better with age," Lilias says. "At 65 you can see dramatic results, even in your very first yoga class."

Keeping your yoga practice soft, simple and satisfying is the key.

To get you started, try this easy posture aligning exercise from "Lilias! Yoga Gets Better With Age."

The Sacred Mountain Posture
This simple posture strengthens the legs, straightens the spine 
and focuses and relaxes the mind

  • Remove shoes and sock and stand tall with your big toes touching or your feet hip-width apart. Keep knees straight but not locked.
  • Align your torso by gently pointing your tailbone downward and pull your navel toward your spine by engaging your core muscles.
  • Pull your shoulders down your back and lift your heart.
  • Place the palms of your hands together at your heart then nestle the knuckles of your thumbs into the indentation in your breastbone (called the "lake of tranquility").
  • Soften your eyes and slightly bow your head.
  • Breathe evenly in and out through your nose for 1 to 2 minutes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Don't Fear Fats...Consume the Right Kinds of Fats for Better Health and Wellbeing

Did you know that American eat too LITTLE fat? Too little of the right kinds of fats, that is.

Fat is a nutrient, just like protein, carbohydrates, minerals and water, and is a part of every cell in the body. Without adequate fat intake, our bodies can’t assimilate vitamins A, D, E and (known as the fat-soluable vitamins). Fat also helps the body regulate temperature, while insulating and protecting internal organs.

Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats has been associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are actually good for you.

Studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association  indicate that Omega-3 fatty acids—a type of polyunsaturated fat found mainly in cold water fish—not only promotes cardiac health, but also helps with mood disorders such as depression.

Omega-3s  are termed Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) because they are critical for good health. However, the body cannot make them on its own. For this reason, omega-3s must be obtained from food, thus making outside sources of these fats "essential."

Omega-3 fatty acids are also natural blood thinners, reducing the "stickiness" of blood cells (called platelet aggregation), which can lead to such complications as blood clots and stroke.
Studies of large groups of people have found that the more omega-3 fatty acids people consume, the lower their overall blood pressure level is. 

Foods that are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids:

Atlantic salmon, herring, sardines, bluefish, tuna and mackerel. Fresh fish oil capsules can also be substituted.

Flaxseed oil, ground flax seeds, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables such as kale are excellent sources. * Be sure to check expiration dates of any oils you purchase as out of date oils or rancid oils can be potential carcinogens.

Fat contributes to feelings of satiety and satisfaction. That means it can lead to fewer food cravings. And fats also help keep us on an even energetic keel by providing concentrated, slow-burning calories, especially important during the cold weather months. So next time you think fats aren't good for you, be sure to consider how essential the right kinds of fats are.

Fat Facts and Myths:

Fact: The brain is 60% fat

Myth: Using body lotions containing fat can make you gain weight

Fact:  The average American consumes almost 40% of his/her calories from fat

Fact:  A Starbucks Grande Caramel Frapuccino has nearly as many calories and saturated fat as a McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Massage Therapy Brings Relief for Chronic Pain and Eases Anxiety for People with Alzheimer’s disease.

When we think of massage, it’s usually as part of a pampering spa treatment to work out the minor aches, pains and strains of too much, or too little exercise.

But for the elderly, massage therapy can do much more than bring relaxation to tired muscles: it can help alleviate chronic pain and assist in maintaining and rebuilding the nervous system.

For older adults, pain is an all-too-common problem. According to the National Pain Foundation, getting out of pain for older adults, in particular those in long term care facilities, often means taking powerful prescription pain killers that don’t always help and can have unintended side effects.

Massage therapy, one of the oldest forms of healing touch, has recently been integrated into nursing homes to help patients with pain related to osteoarthritis and peripheral artery disease, as well as to manage symptoms of anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Geriatric massage practitioners will often spend more time on the hands and feet rather than having clients lie on a massage table. Hand or foot massage enhances body awareness and sensation, improves circulation, decreases muscular stiffness and helps decrease inflammation in joints, tendons and bursa sacs. By invigorating the whole circulatory system, massage also helps with conditions such as asthma and emphysema.

But the benefits of massage therapy for older adults are more than skin deep. For depressed seniors or those in long term care facilities (where a sense of isolation and loneliness are all too prevalent), the joy of human touch is critical to healing. Careful massage can help provide the elderly with symptomatic relief and enables seniors to extend the vitality in their lives.

According to an October 1, 2003 article in the journal Nursing Homes,
 “Massage therapy benefits the elderly not only by relieving pain, but also by protecting their overall well-being. It maintains and rebuilds the nervous system's response to stimuli, enabling seniors to resist physical and mental declines. In particular, elders with Alzheimer's disease respond well to massage therapy as another form of communication and as a source of strength and intimacy.”

To find a massage therapy practitioner who specializes in massage for seniors, contact the American Massage Therapy Association.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Herbs for the Elderly: Drawing on Nature's Pharmacy for Health and Wellness

Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Ailments

For centuries, herbs have been used to successfully treat a variety of diseases and ailments, from high blood pressure to hay fever. Herbal medicines are still used extensively worldwide — more than 80 percent of Earth’s peoples use herbs for some aspect of primary care

Our grandparents and their grandparents knew that nature is the best pharmacy. Especially for the elderly, medicines can be harsh agents, especially when used in combination with other prescription drugs.  Herbs, when taken under the supervision of a professional, provide a gentle and time-tested substitute or adjunct for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Many of today’s widely prescribed prescription medications are part of nature’s bountiful pharmacy, including the heart medication digitalis, derived from the leaves of the foxglove plant; and salicylic acid, the origin of aspirin, derived from willow trees. Of the nearly 500 new chemical entities approved by regulatory authorities around the world in the past decade, nearly half were from natural sources.

Under the supervision of a professional herbalist or a physician with training in herbal medicine, herbs can be a complement to a healthful regime and provide a cost-effective way to treat many diseases and conditions common to the elderly.

Because the metabolism of the elderly is often slow, doses of herbs may need to be lower than for younger adults. Too great a dose can create toxicity. “Herbs are, essentially, natural dilute compounds,” notes professional herbalist Kevin Spelman, PhD, of the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, Maryland. 
“As such, they often provide a gentler approach to the geriatric system.” Spelman advises anyone considering embarking on a herbal regime to consult a professional herbalist first.

To locate a professional herbalist in your area, contact the American Herbalists Guild ( or the Herbal Medicine department at the Tai Sophia Institute ( Be sure to talk to a professional herbalist or physician with training in herbal medicine about the correct dosage of herbs for your loved one.
Here Are Some Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Conditions:

Late-onset diabetes  
Suggested Herbs:
  • Fenugreek (reduces urine sugar levels)
  • Bilberry (antioxidant)
  • Gymnema sylvestre (shown to reduce cholesterol and blood glucose)                                           

Suggested Herbs:
  • Cascara sagrada (use with caution; this can be irritating for some systems).
  •  Triphala (an Ayurvedic remedy with gentle laxative properties)
Suggested Herbs:
  • Ginkgo biloba (stimulates blood flow to the brain)
Anemia/Iron Deficiency
Suggested Herbs:
  • Stinging Nettle (rich in iron and vitamins A, B and C)

Suggested Herbs:
  • Curcumin (extract of tumeric. Very useful as an anti-inflammatory)
  • Bromelian (enzyme from pineapple with anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Glucosamine sulfate/Chondroitin sulfate (stimulates components for join mobility)                 

Suggested Herbs:
  • Eat a diet high in foods containing antioxidants (found in brightly-colored foods such as blue berries, kale, red cabbage, grapes, peaches and cranberries). Best to consume organic varieties.
  • Bilberry (noted for antioxidant activities for eyes).