Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Bring Out Natural Curls in a Dry Climate

I had the best hair of my life when I lived in Texas because my naturally-curly hair sopped up all of Texas' glorious humidity. (My skin was radiantly awesome too!) I loved that I didn't have to try very hard to have nice hair! To illustrate, see the photos taken in Texas (below), 2012. I think I spent maybe 10 minutes a day doing my hair...I was in utter hair bliss!

My husband, Greg, makes me so happy...

...I adore him!

Sadly, when we moved back to Utah, my hair went through a dry crisis! I had forgotten how limp, flat, and un-curly my hair was without humidity in the air. My hair had most definitely been pampered in Texas for two-and-a-half years! I was so grateful to be living in Utah again, but I mourned my terrific Texas hair! :(

It took me nearly a year of washing and styling my naturally-curly hair in various ways to finally get my curls back! Okay, my curls will never be exactly how they were in Texas (or Napa, for that matter), but I feel they're much better than they were even three months ago!

Without further ado, here are my suggestions for bringing out natural curls in a dry climate:
  1. Wash your hair with Dove Intensive Therapy Shampoo.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Condition your hair with Dove Intensive Therapy Conditioner. Leave it on for as long as you can manage.
  4. Rinse well.
  5. Towel-dry your hair.
  6. Gently brush through your hair with a ceramic/tourmaline/ionizing brush. You can use any brand, but I really like Goody's Finish Gel Cushion Brush.
  7. Comb through your hair with a wide-toothed comb to encourage your hair to curl by itself. I use Conair's anti-static Style & Detangle comb, but you can use any brand.
  8. Scrunch up your curls all over your head. Start with your scalp and work all the way down to the ends of your hair. Reverse the scrunching from the bottom and go back to the top.
  9. Finish getting ready however your choose. Just don't do your hair right away—give it several minutes to dry. This allows your hair to not only start curling on its own, but it will be ready to soak up the spray gel in step 10.
  10. Spray Garnier Fructis Curl Shaping Spray Gel into your palms, rub your hands together, then smooth the spray gel all over your hair. Repeat until you've put enough spray gel in your hair for your liking. Your hands will feel sticky, but you can wash them. *It's important to spray the gel into your hands and not directly on your hair, because then you have better control of where the gel goes. **I absolutely prefer Garnier's spray gel because it's not as heavy/crunchy as other styling gels tend to be. Believe me, I've tried more gels than I can list!
  11. Spray your newly-gelled locks with water. Don't drench them, but get them fairly damp. Use a spray bottle that creates a fine mist. *I fill my empty/old Garnier Fructis Curl Shaping Spray Gel bottle with water and use that as my spray bottle. I replace my water spray bottle every time I've emptied another Garnier spray gel bottle.
  12. Bend over so your head is upside down, and scrunch your hair while remaining upside down.
  13. While your hair is still upside down, blow-dry your hair with a diffuser on high heat, and scrunch your hair continuously while drying.
  14. If your hair feels crunchy because the spray-gel is concentrated in one area, hold the blow-dryer on that spot until it gets hot, but don't burn yourself! The heat softens the spray gel and makes your hair hold its style, but it's definitely not crunchy. Repeat the heat-concentration steps until your hair is soft all over.
  15. Once your hair feels not crunchy and is completely dry, turn your blow-dryer's setting to cold. Blow your hair with cold air to set it in that position.
  16. Stand upright, flip your hair, and put your locks into the position you like.
  17. You'll most likely have some stray hairs, or flyaways, but just wet your fingertips and smooth them into place.
I took this selfie two weeks ago to document my dry-climate naturally curly hair. While my hair isn't as lush and curly as it was in Texas, it's much better than it has been in dry Utah!

P.S. Obviously, one of the easiest ways to bring out natural curls in a dry climate is to cut your hair shorter than its current length. That said, I'm enjoying my longer hair and have no plans to cut it anytime soon. I'm happy to say that my husband is thrilled with my decision! :)

Friday, July 18, 2014


I am an opinionated person, but I don't think I was always this way. When I was very young (from my earliest memories around age three, until about age seven), one could say I just went with the flow. Because of my free-flowing personality, I felt utterly happy.

As I grew, however, I became aware of people and situations I most certainly did not agree with. And because I love feeling connected to others, I wanted them to change their minds and agree with me—which seemed perfectly logical! I sadly realized that trying to change others' minds didn't work very well. I learned through varied life experiences that speaking up about my differing opinions could cause problems in relationships. So, I tried my best to just fit-in and not make waves.

After several years, I realized that my fitting-in actions were causing frustration and conflict within my soul. I decided it was time for me to just be who I was and not worry about what others thought of me.

During my late-teenage years, I was strong in my "my opinions are okay" stance—most of the time. Yet there were times when I would relapse into my fitting-in ways, simply because my soul couldn't take the rejection of others. You see, people were (and are) very important to me. Like everyone, I didn't like the feeling of being unliked, unwanted, unanything.

Thus, as a very young adult, I felt quite accomplished the day I decided I was okay with the possibility of being "un"! :) I was relieved to determine that my opinionated self was not something to be ashamed of. Those feelings solidified when I was married and sealed to my amazing husband for eternity. I love how my handsome husband has always respected what I have to say, even if we disagree. It means so much to me that after 16+ years of marriage, he continually seeks my opinion (and vice versa). He is such a gift to me!

When I became a mother, I was thrilled to have/be my opinionated self! My strong soul made me capable of doing what needed to be done for my children, without being blown this way or that from every opinion on mothering. I love how mothering brought out my strongest side! :)

As an adult, I've come to understand when it's appropriate and important to keep my mouth shut. Yes, there are many times when I've held my tongue to keep the peace. This quiet-mouthed knowledge came through several not great experiences, and I fully apologized when I realized my opinionated mistakes.

I could go on, but after many years of needlessly worrying what others thought of me, what I'm saying is this: It's okay to have our opinions. It's okay to stand up for what we believe in, as long as we aren't destructive in our delivery. It's okay to politely disagree with someone. And if we are literally fighting for our lives, we can emphatically, firmly, and powerfully disagree with those trying to harm us.

Today I read this lovely quote in an Ensign article, "Get Informed, Get Involved", that inspired me to write this post on opinions,
"The man who cannot listen to an argument which opposes his views either has a weak position or is a weak defender of it. No opinion that cannot stand discussion or criticism is worth holding. And it has been wisely said that the man who knows only half of any question is worse off than the man who knows nothing of it. He is not only one sided, but his partisanship soon turns him into an intolerant and a fanatic. In general it is true that nothing which cannot stand up under discussion and criticism is worth defending." – Elder James E. Talmage, "Christianity Falsely So-Called," Improvement Era, Jan. 1920, 204.

Reading Elder Talmage's wise words reminded me of the other point I wanted to make: I don't write willy-nilly about anything. Any topic I write about is done with much forethought. I thoroughly research topics to the best of my ability. For as we all know, no one has endless hours to research millions of websites about a particular subject! Yes, I completely agree with Elder Talmage. I don't share my opinion if I don't know the full story. If I feel opinionated about a subject—but I'm not entirely sure I'm right—I will research the subject until I'm positive I'm right, or have been proven wrong.

I hope we'll remember that it's okay for everyone to have differing opinions. Even when we disagree with others, we can certainly be respectful and speak kindly to one another. Besides, we just might learn something new if we're open to others' opinions! It doesn't mean we have to blindly follow an opinion, but it doesn't hurt to research a new idea...not one little bit. Knowledge is power!

It would be wonderful if everyone would follow Dr. Steve Maraboli's enlightened advice, and look for the good in everyone we meet and respect their journey. Put another way, we should follow the good Samaritan's example and be kind, regardless of what others think, say, or do. :)

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him..." – Luke 10:33

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celiac Disease: Gluten Cross-Contact

This is the fourth post in my series about celiac disease.

One of the most significant issues for people with celiac disease is cross-contact of gluten into or onto gluten-free foods. As a reminder, gluten is: protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is made up of two other proteins known as gliadin and glutenin. It's the combination of those two proteins that are responsible for the elastic texture of dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. Gliadin is what enables bread to rise properly, while glutenin is the major protein in wheat flour, making up 47% of the total protein content. (I created this definition of gluten from three different websites...sadly, I can't remember which ones!)

I used to refer to cross-contact as cross contamination (the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effect), but after researching celiac disease further, I feel cross-contact is the proper terminology. Cross-contact occurs when an allergen is inadvertently transferred from a food containing an allergen to a food that does not contain the allergen. Cooking does not reduce or eliminate the chances of a person with a food allergy having a reaction to the food eaten. *Definition taken from the FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) website.

I feel the need to point out the seriousness of gluten cross-contact. Gluten is a very sticky protein that clings to pretty much everything. Thus, a person with celiac disease must be very careful that anything they eat hasn't been touched by gluten. If celiacs want to ensure their food is truly gluten free, they also have to make sure the foods they buy have been manufactured in true gluten-free processing facilities. *Later, I'll explain the precautions that must be taken to avoid cross-contact during food preparation. (Several paragraphs below.)

Gluten cross-contact used to be a much bigger problem in the US. Thankfully, cross-contact occurring in manufactured/processed/packaged foods is something celiacs don't have to worry quite so much about. On August 2nd, 2013, the FDA gave a press release that included their new regulations, i.e., a standard definition as to what constitutes a food or product being gluten free. The FDA also stated on their page, "What is Gluten-Free? FDA Has an Answer":
"As one of the criteria for using the claim 'gluten-free,' FDA is setting a gluten limit of less than 20 ppm (parts per million) in foods that carry this label. This is the lowest level that can be consistently detected in foods using valid scientific analytical tools. Also, most people with celiac disease can tolerate foods with very small amounts of gluten. This level is consistent with those set by other countries and international bodies that set food safety standards. 
"In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA will allow manufacturers to label a food "gluten-free" if the food does not contain any of the following:
  • an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
  • an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
  • an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten
"Foods such as bottled spring water, fruits and vegetables, and eggs can also be labeled 'gluten-free' if they inherently don't have any gluten."
While I applaud the FDA's efforts, and I am truly grateful for their updated regulations, it doesn't take away every cross-contact issue for celiacs. I still have to frequently and consistently check manufacturers' websites, or call them directly to find out if a product is truly gluten free, i.e., no cross-contact has occurred. Sometimes when I call some manufacturers, I'll find out they indeed have gluten-free products, but for whatever reason, those manufacturers chose not to label their product "gluten free". While I'm happy for the gluten-free good news (!), it's a bit annoying that they didn't just label it "gluten free" in the first place!

I would love nothing more than if every manufacturer would clearly and honestly label their product one of two ways, "Gluten Free" or "NOT Gluten Free". See how simple that would be? It would literally save me hours every week in my search for gluten-free products! :)

*Now, onto gluten cross-contact during food preparation. Celiacs must make sure all items in their kitchen haven't been used for gluten-containing foods without thoroughly washing everything first, or they will have problems with cross-contact. I researched this topic thoroughly, and after avoiding gluten cross-contact for the past three-and-a-half years, here are my recommendations :

1. Cooking or baking with stainless steel, glass, thick non-scratched aluminum, or porcelain kitchen wares are the best options for keeping your foods gluten free.

2. Don't use plastic, wood, silicon, or non-stick-coated cooking/baking dishes/utensils that have previously had gluten in/on them. The gluten is nearly impossible to clean off, especially if there are scratches in the dishes/utensils, and you know how easy it is for plastic or non-stick coatings to have scratches! It's impossible to remove gluten from wood, so don't even try. ;) That said, if you have personally bought completely new kitchen wares—i.e., they haven't been used for cooking/baking by anyone—and have dedicated them to only gluten-free cooking/baking, you can feel safe in continuing to use them.

I gave away my non-stick kitchen items, which included: one sandwich maker; two waffle makers; one large griddle (I really miss it!); two muffin tins; three cake pans. I gave away my aluminum baking sheets, as they had multiple scratches that gluten could hide in. Years ago, I had given away my plastic kitchen items (you know, when we found out about the dangers of BPA in plastics) which included lidded plastic storage containers, cups, plates, bowls, utensils, etc., but I ended up giving away my large cutting board just recently. I also gave away two silicon heart-shaped cake molds; several wooden spoons; one wooden rolling pin; and several pairs of bamboo chopsticks.

3. Don't use toasters that have had gluten-containing breads in them at all, for you will encounter cross-contact. Either buy a new toaster specifically and only for gluten-free bread, or use baking sheets in the oven and broil your bread until it's nice and toasty on both sides. Plus, it smells really yummy! :)

I gave away my darling 1950s-looking toaster and didn't buy a new one. Instead, I toast all of my family's bread in the oven—it's quick and works perfectly every time...as long as I don't forget to flip the bread!

4. Don't use strainers, sifters, or slotted spoons that have had gluten in/on them, as you can't fully clean out the gluten in their tiny spaces.

I bought a new strainer for our gluten-free pastas, kept our old strainer for our gluten-containing pastas, and keep those strainers separate from each other. I only use our slotted spoons for gluten-containing pastas, and use solid stainless steel spoons for our gluten-free pastas. I never previously used our sifter for anything with gluten in it, so I happily kept it! :)

To update the rest of my gluten-free kitchen (which already included stainless steel pots/pans/bowls, porcelain/ceramic bowls and platters, and glassware baking dishes), I bought the following: two thick aluminum muffin pans, cake pans and baking sheets; two thin stainless steel baking sheets and pizza pans; one stainless steel stove-top griddle (cooks four standard pancakes at one time); one large stainless steel frying pan (doubles as another griddle when I want to cook more pancakes at the same time); two new cutting boards (one large, one small); one stainless steel rolling pin (I SO love it!).

5. Be certain not to use any condiments/toppings/spreads that have been previously used on gluten-containing foods, as they could have easily touched gluten, or a utensil could have touched gluten and then dipped back into the jar.

I bought all new condiments/toppings/spreads and labeled them "GF". I'm so strict when it comes to keeping our condiments/toppings/spreads gluten free. We never double-dip from a gluten-containing food back into a gluten-free jar of anything. I wash off every utensil I think might have been contaminated with gluten. We also have two sets of butter: one gluten free, one regular.

6. Keep all food preparation surfaces, i.e., counters and tables, clean.

I constantly wipe down our counters, unless I'm certain they don't have any gluten on it...which is hard to ensure! I also change our table cloth every two to three days (I have three that I wash and rotate through), depending on how messy/crumby it is.

7. When making a gluten-free meal and a gluten-containing meal simultaneously (we do this frequently because of the high cost of gluten-free foods), it's absolutely essential to prepare all gluten-free foods first. If, while making the gluten-free portion of the meal, your hands accidentally touch gluten, make sure you rewash your hands before touching the gluten-free foods again.

I'm constantly washing my hands to make sure I haven't transferred gluten. My hands are frequently dry (There is even gluten in lotions!), but the dryness is 100% worth my peace of mind. :) My youngest son who doesn't have celiac disease, always has to wait for his gluten-containing food—you know, because I have to prepare the gluten-free foods first. I'm sure this is quite trying for my darling son's soul. That said, my baby boy is one of the most patient, understanding, and strongest souls that I've ever met. Because of his strong soul, it's like my youngest son was specifically saved to be the last child of our family. Still, I'm constantly looking for ways to make sure my non-celiac-disease baby feels appreciated, loved and special. :)

8. Separate your gluten-free foods from gluten-containing foods to the best of your ability. If you can't separate your foods, put the gluten-free foods on the upper shelves so no gluten crumbs/dust fall onto or into the gluten-free packages.

I have a separate corner cupboard where I keep the majority of our gluten-free foods. Sadly, it's not large enough to keep everything separated. Thus, Ziploc plastic bags are some of my best friends! ;) I literally Ziploc bag every gluten-free item that doesn't fit into my gluten-free cupboard. And I wash my hands before I even touch a gluten-free-food-containing bag. The same applies for fridge items. Although, most of the time, I use plastic wrap to cover dishes. It's not a perfect system, but it's the best I can do without remodeling my entire kitchen!

9. If you're going out of your house for an extended period of time, i.e., school, or family/friend activities, make and take food with you. Trust me, it's worth the time you spend making gluten-free food. Then you won't have to worry about the effects of gluten cross-contact.

10. Don't use gluten-containing flours at all. I used to keep a "mixed" kitchen (e.g., gluten-containing and gluten-free foods) that included regular flours, but then I read that regular gluten-containing flour can float around in the air—contaminating everything in the kitchen—for up to two hours after you've finished baking! Thus, now I only bake with gluten-free flours. Gluten-free flours are more expensive, but again, healthy children and my sanity are worth it! :)

11. In my church, we partake of the sacrament in sacrament meeting. This is traditionally done with bread and water. Obviously, we don't have to worry about the water, but we do have to worry about the bread. Thus, my husband and I send two Chex cereal pieces in a plastic baggie that the Aaronic Priesthood holders place on the sacrament tray. The Chex pieces are blessed (by holders of the Aaronic Priesthood) on the sacrament table exactly like the rest of the bread and water, but then we are ensured that no gluten cross-contact occurs. Whew! I remember the day my Texas bishop showed me the letter from our church's headquarters, stating it was acceptable to use a bread substitution for those church members with food issues/allergies—it totally made me smile! :)

12. When saving left-overs, be sure to use approved/safe containers that can't transfer gluten onto your food, i.e., glass/porcelain dishes with new/unused plastic wrap, or a stainless steel pot with a lid, or a new/unused plastic Ziploc baggie, or wrap it in new/unused foil, etc.

Honestly, keeping my celiac-diseased children free from gluten cross-contact feels like a part-time job. And I have the gluten-free shopping/organizing/cleaning hours to prove it! ;) Preventing gluten cross-contact is on my mind from the minute I wake up in the morning, until my children are tucked safely into their beds at night. At first, this way of thinking really wore me out. I frequently felt overwhelmed and tired from constantly worrying about my babies' safety. Yet, it only took me about a year-and-a-half to really internalize all of my above suggestions and turn them into daily habits. Now, my gluten-cross-contact prevention is second nature! :) The only time I really start worrying, is when I have to think about my children eating somewhere other than our house.

My family's gluten-free reality has definitely taught me a lot of patience.

At the end of the day, I'm grateful for all the knowledge I've gained to keep my children healthy. I'm beyond grateful for my wonderful husband who works tirelessly alongside me to ensure our children's physical safety. Greg is 100% as dedicated as I am in our family's gluten-free quest! Also, we have been blessed with extended family members, friends, and church members, who are also concerned with the well-being of our children. Their genuine caring and support means more to me than they'll ever know.

Celiac Disease: Gluten Free is NOT a Fad

This is the third post in my series about celiac disease.

While researching celiac disease for my series, I came across different articles that talked about how eating gluten free is just a fad, or unnecessary, or laughable, or simply a money-maker for manufacturers. I've also seen many movies, skits, commercials, TV shows, and read magazine snippets, where people actually make fun of others for eating gluten free. That way of thinking irks me to no end!

Yes, there are people out there who eat gluten free even when there's no legitimate medical reason to do so. So I can almost understand where the jokes are coming from. Almost. What I wish I could say to everyone who makes fun of gluten-free anything is this,
Stop it! You never know who is truly suffering from celiac disease. It's not your place to judge if someone should be eating gluten free, or not. Leave the gluten-free peeps alone! 
Not to mention, I greatly appreciate the fact that when more people choose to eat gluten free, more manufacturers are enticed into the gluten-free market! Thus, more competition brings down the price of gluten-free products! 
Besides, who would actually choose to spend twice to three times as much money on their food just so they can eat gluten free?! Not me! Not my family! We do not buy gluten-free food just so we can drain our bank account as quickly as possible! Ugh.
But to cover the other side of the gluten-free coin, I'd like to say this to people who can eat gluten, but choose not to,
Gluten is yummy! :) I love gluten! (As long as it doesn't contaminate my children, of course.) If it weren't for my children's gluten-free needs, I'd have a gluten party at my house every day! ;) 
For most people, gluten is an inexpensive and good protein source. If there's no medical reason for you to avoid gluten, don't fear it! If you can eat gluten, you should!
Here are just a few of the articles I found about how eating gluten free is just a fad. I will try to contain my frustrated feelings. :-|

Monday, July 14, 2014

Just Don't Drink Alcohol

This morning, I came across two recently published articles on the dangers of consuming alcohol. The first article, "Contribution of Excessive Alcohol Consumption to Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States," is from the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention). The second article, "WHO calls on governments to do more to prevent alcohol-related deaths and diseases," is from the World Health Organization (WHO).

After reading both articles (and a third and fourth article—I recommend reading both), I'm more convinced than ever that I've made the best health decision of my life by not ever consuming one drink of alcohol—not even one! I'm not bragging. I'm just sincerely grateful that my body has never ingested or processed alcohol in any way.

Thus, I have a deep desire to share what I've learned with anyone who takes the time to read this post. (Thank you for reading!) Oh, how I wish our world could be free of alcohol, for I know our society would be so much better without it. Since an alcohol-free society isn't a reality (Remember Prohibition?), I dearly hope people will study the statistics I've included in this post and continue to research alcohol's dangers for themselves. Hopefully, scientifically-proven logic will win out over physical desires or weakness.

I highly recommend reading both articles in their entirety—but for those of you who don't have time, here's my ESPN version.

Important points from the CDC's article:

"Excessive alcohol use is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States and costs $223.5 billion, or about $1.90 per drink, in 2006. Excessive alcohol consumption includes binge drinking (ie, ≥5 drinks on an occasion for men; ≥4 drinks on an occasion for women), heavy weekly alcohol consumption (ie, ≥15 drinks/week for men; ≥8 drinks/week for women), and any drinking by pregnant women or those younger than 21 years. Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption, usually results in acute intoxication and is responsible for over half of deaths and three-quarters of the economic costs of excessive drinking. Excessive drinking is also responsible for many other health and social problems."
"An average of 87,798 AAD (alcohol-attributable deaths) and 2,560,290 YPLL (years of potential life lost) occurred in the United States annually from 2006 through 2010. Overall, 44% of the AAD and 33% of the YPLL were due to chronic conditions, and 56% of the AAD and 67% of the YPLL were caused by acute conditions. Most AAD (71%) and YPLL (72%) involved males. [That said, in the other article from the WHO, they pointed out that, "...there is evidence that women may be more vulnerable to some alcohol-related health conditions compared to men. In addition, the authors note that there is concern over the steady increase in alcohol use among women."] The most common cause of chronic AAD was alcoholic liver disease, while the most common cause of acute AAD was motor-vehicle traffic crashes. 
"A total annual average of 4,358 AAD (5%) and 249,727 YPLL (10%) involved those under age 21 years from 2006 through 2010. Similar to the findings for adults, about 78% of the AAD and 76% of the YPLL in those younger than 21 involved males. However, in contrast to the findings for adults, all of the top 3 causes of death for those under age 21 years —specifically, motor-vehicle traffic crashes, homicide, and suicide —were acute conditions. In fact, motor-vehicle traffic crashes alone accounted for 36% of the total AAD for those under age 21 years."
"From 2006 through 2010, excessive alcohol consumption accounted for nearly 1 in 10 deaths and over 1 in 10 years of potential life lost among working-age adults in the United States. Furthermore, an average of 2 out of 3 AAD and 8 out of 10 alcohol-attributable YPLL involved working-age adults." 
"This analysis illustrates the magnitude and variability of the health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States, and the substantial contribution of excessive drinking to premature mortality among working-age adults. More widespread implementation of interventions recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, including increasing alcohol prices by raising alcohol taxes, enforcing commercial host (dram shop) liability, and regulating alcohol outlet density, could reduce excessive alcohol consumption and the health and economic costs related to it."
Important points of the WHO's (World Health Organization) article:
"Worldwide, 3.3 million deaths in 2012 were due to harmful use of alcohol, says a new report launched by WHO today. Alcohol consumption can not only lead to dependence but also increases people’s risk of developing more than 200 diseases including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. In addition, harmful drinking can lead to violence and injuries." 
"'More needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption,' says Dr Oleg Chestnov, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. 'The report clearly shows that there is no room for complacency when it comes to reducing the harmful use of alcohol.'" 
"In addition, the report shows the need for communities to be engaged in reducing harmful use of alcohol."
To support the WHO's and CDC's research-based recommendations, I'd like to share this informative video about Utah's alcohol laws that the Mormon Newsroom created. (And no, I didn't know that the M.N. just blogged about this same topic. I simply remembered watching this video months ago and wanted to share.) Every state and country should consider what Utah's alcohol laws are, and see if they can implement them into their own.

*I also found the WHO's Key Facts from their Alcohol Fact Sheet to be very informative. I strongly suggest reading the article in its entirety.
"–Worldwide, 3.3 million people die every year due to harmful use of alcohol, this represents 5.9% of all deaths.
–The harmful use of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
–Overall 5.1% of the global burden of disease and injury is attributable to alcohol, as measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs).
–Alcohol consumption causes death and disability relatively early in life. In the age group 20–39 years approximately 25% of the total deaths are alcohol-attributable.
–There is a causal relationship between harmful use of alcohol and a range of mental and behavioural disorders, other noncommunicable conditions as well as injuries.
–The latest causal relationships have been established between harmful drinking and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as the course of HIV/AIDS.
–Beyond health consequences, the harmful use of alcohol brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large."
All of that said, there are numerous folks all over the world who love alcohol, feel completely in control of their consumption of it, and disagree with the information I've included in this post. To them, I say this:

Don't drink alcohol even once. If you are in the habit of drinking alcohol, stop. Just because the aforementioned statistics include mainly excessive or binge drinking, don't think that you couldn't get to that point of alcohol dependency—for it could happen to anyone. We never know what our bodies and mental states are capable of. Why gamble with your body? We never know who will react poorly to alcohol; two drinks in one person might act like six drinks in another. Why put your body through the damaging effects of any amount of alcohol consumption?

If you don't believe me, please study the table in the CDC's report for detailed information on how alcohol negatively affects the body. For another perspective, check out this short article "Alcohol's Effects on the Body," by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Here is the NIAAA's link to their PDF "Beyond Hangovers" that discusses even more negative effects of alcohol on the body—it's most definitely worth reading!

*Although, I completely disagree with the NIAAA's PDF where it states that some people benefit from drinking alcohol. If people want the polyphenol benefits found in wine, I say drink grape juice! Here are three articles stating that drinking grape juice provides the same benefits as drinking wine, without all the negative effects of alcohol:

If those statistics don't convince you to stop drinking alcohol, think about all the money you'll save by abstaining! :) Put the money you save by not drinking alcohol towards: a vacation somewhere in our beautiful world; your favorite charity; updating your wardrobe; starting a new hobby; etc. The spending options in an alcohol-free lifestyle are endless!

Life is short enough as it is without adding the physical, mental, emotional problems that come with consuming alcohol. Please use your time wisely on this earth! Put the time you would have spent drinking alcohol—and recovering from its negative effects—towards making this world a better place. Find ways to serve others! Mentor someone. Listen—just listen—to those around you. People are suffering; find a way to help alleviate their pain.

Ask someone to do something fun with you! Climb a mountain! Swim! Dance! Fish! Run! Walk! Clean! Go to the gym! Watch a movie! Play an instrument or write a song! Go shopping! Organize your house! Paint! Write a book that tells your story or shares all of the wisdom you've accumulated during your lifetime! Go on vacation! Create a new meal! Everyone has differing opinions of what constitutes fun, so think about what fun means to you—without consuming alcohol—and do it! :)

Be honest with yourself. If you aren't able to stop consuming alcohol for yourself, thoroughly think about how your alcohol consumption affects your family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. Do what is best for the greater good—which includes yourself!

Lastly, remember that every soul/spirit eagerly awaited the opportunity to gain a physical body. Some souls followed our Heavenly Father's plan and received their body. Yay! Sadly, some spirits erroneously followed Satan and were forever denied the wonderful opportunities a physical body affords. Alcohol consumption hinders the soul's ability to be in control of the body. Thus, the soul is not able to accurately fulfill its mission here on earth, which is exactly what Satan wants. Would your pre-earth-life excited-for-a-body spirit approve of your alcohol-consuming actions??

One of our greatest opportunities to prove ourselves is by showing loyalty to our Heavenly Father. If we follow His desires for us—which include following the Word of Wisdom—not only will we live happier and healthier lives, we will be able to confidently face our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ when we return home to Them.

I'm not perfect and I don't have all the answers, but I hope what I've written makes sense. I dearly want everyone to see the infinite value that comes from our souls being in control of our bodies. It's never too late to begin healing! :)

Update: 07/05/16: As this blog post has steadily moved up Enthusiastic Fantastic's "most read" ranks, I decided it was time to create a fun typographic design to go with it! We really are our own heroes when we choose to keep our bodies and minds healthy! #beahero! :)

For more of my thoughts on the importance of the spirit/body connection, see my post, "Super Strong Souls."

Update: 03/13/17:

To back up what I present in this blog post, I just read a great article in Scientific American about the dangers of alcohol. The author, Dr. Kunmi Sobowale, is a psychiatry resident at the Yale School of Medicine, so he really knows what he's talking about! I highly recommend reading, "We Must Raise Alcohol Taxes."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Celiac Disease: Diagnosis...Accepting What Is

This is the second post in my series about celiac disease.

I remember when my oldest son was first diagnosed with celiac disease. It was simultaneously a relieving and sad day for our family. My husband and I felt major relief because we finally had concrete evidence that, yes, our son had celiac disease, and, yes, there is absolutely a way to treat it—through not ingesting gluten. Yet, we felt sad in that same moment because we knew that a diagnosis of celiac disease meant our our son's life would change forever.

*Side note: Over the course of three years, I asked two pediatricians to test my oldest son for celiac disease. Unfortunately, both pediatricians totally blew me off. I'm guessing they thought I was just a hypochondriac mom who had read too many things online. What they didn't know about me is that I have always been fascinated with all-things medical. I've read and studied about the human body for as long as I can remember. Thus, I wish I could have helped them understand that there is no way I would want my child to have any ailment I had researched! But that's neither here, nor there. They were convinced my son was fine and wouldn't test him. A year later, after doing even more research, I strongly insisted that our third pediatrician test my son. When he realized I wasn't leaving his office until my son was tested, he did a phone consultation right then and there with a pediatric gastroenterologist. Thankfully, she (pediatric gastroenterologist) authorized the test and the rest is history. All three pediatricians practiced in different states. Side note concluded.* ;)

Fast forward five months to when our daughter was also diagnosed with celiac disease. That was a major shock to us, as I truly didn't think she had it. She definitely did not exhibit the same symptoms as our older son. Although, while researching further after my daughter was diagnosed, I found symptoms she had that we didn't know could be attributed to celiac disease. In the end, it all made sense, but I was still in semi-denial that she tested positive.

While I dearly wish neither one of my children had ever been diagnosed with celiac disease, I'm so grateful they have each other to endure this trial with. They are a comfort and strength to each other.

The rest of my family (my youngest son, my husband, and I) don't have celiac disease, and for that we are beyond grateful.

*So...if you (or someone you love) have (has) recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, here are some of my thoughts:
  • While celiac disease is a hard diagnosis to receive—and you'll probably cry about it at some point (or many points) in your journey—please know that it is an absolutely doable/livable disease. Sure, eating gluten-free without cross-contact is hard to do, but it can be done, and the health benefits completely outweigh the inconvenience.
  • You'll spend a lot of time researching foods, ingredient labels, and manufacturing policies. Don't feel badly about this new time filler because in order to keep yourself healthy, researching must become a part of your life. *In a future post, I'll share the resources that have helped us the most.
  • You might feel frustrated while establishing what foods you can eat. Give yourself time to grieve your favorite foods you can't eat anymore. Then, do your best to find suitable substitutes. There are many great gluten-free options out there! :)
  • Wait at least six weeks to feel better after going completely gluten free without cross contact. While it is essential to continually be strict in your gluten-free diet, those first six weeks are crucial. Do not cheat yourself by eating even the smallest bit of gluten. It's not worth it!
  • People around you (family, friends, acquaintances, strangers) will, at first, most likely not understand the extreme caution you must go to in order to keep gluten completely out of your system. Don't let this bother you. I've discovered this not-fully-understanding reaction is very natural and quite universal.
  • In order for people to "get" where you're coming from in your endless gluten-free preparations, you'll probably have to explain your situation multiple times. This is where patience comes in handy. :) Again, don't let it bother you. People simply don't understand what it means to live completely gluten-free, unless they have delved into a celiac's world. Also, please remember that we all forget things. Scientists have proven that our brains really do hold a limited amount of information. If something doesn't apply to us, it's easy to forget about!
  • Once people truly understand your diagnosis (this could take a while), they might forget or make mistakes when preparing food around you. It's totally normal, and you should not take offense.
  • Try to see the positive: things could always be worse. Think of all the problems in the world. Be thankful that this particular disease has treatment that works. Ideally, someone, somewhere will eventually find a cure for celiac disease...I pray for a cure every night!
Lastly, something that really helped me in dealing with my precious babies' celiac disease diagnosis was a scene from "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken". (By the by, Wild Hearts is one of my favorite movies ever. I loved it from the first time I watched it, and I never tire of it. I've probably seen it at least 20 times!) Sonora Webster had recently received the diagnosis that she was blind, for life. Sonora was in denial at first, until her fiancee, Al Carver said to her,
"You are a human being and there are limitations. You can't run away from it. You can't hide from it and you can't change it. It simply is."
Those words bring tears to my eyes because they are so true. I believe the best way to cope with something that's hard to deal with, is to see it for what it really is. I mean, stare celiac disease in the face. Really come to know and understand what it is from every angle. Once you know what you have to deal with—and fully accept that your situation is not going to change, you can do the necessary work to make your body healthy.

I hope every celiac disease patient can get to the place of truly accepting what is, and move-on to live their lives happily and healthily!

Celiac Disease: Resources for Understanding

This is the first post in my series about celiac disease.

A simple Google search of celiac disease will yield approximately 15,700,000 results! There is simply no way to research all of those millions of links. Thus, I will share some links that helped me in learning about celiac disease.
If you're not interested in reading all of my helpful links ;), here's the basic summary of celiac disease—I edited the information (a little) taken from the Celiac Support Association.
"Celiac disease (CD), also known as celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathy, is a genetically linked autoimmune disorder that can affect both children and adults. In people with CD, eating certain types of grain-based products sets off an immune response that causes measurable damage to the small intestine. This, in turn, interferes with the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients in food, leading to malnutrition and a variety of other complications. The offending amino acid sequences are collectively called 'gluten' and are found in wheat, barley, rye. Related proteins are found in triticale, spelt, and kamut."

For more information about Autoimmune Diseases, of which celiac disease is one, please visit the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. website.

*A word about oats: Many websites say oats cause problems for patients with celiac disease. Here's the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center's take on why uncontaminated oats are safe for CD patients to eat. Yay!
"A large body of scientific evidence accumulated over more than 15 years has proven that oats are completely safe for the vast majority of celiac patients. Oats are not related to gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and rye. They don’t contain gluten, but rather proteins called avenins that are non-toxic and tolerated by most celiacs (perhaps less than 1% of celiac patients show a reaction to a large amount of oats in their diets). 
"Oats can be in a celiac’s diet provided they are selected from sources that guarantee a lack of contamination by wheat, rye or barley. 
"Some who add oats to their diet may experience GI symptoms. This may actually be a result of the increased fiber that oats provide instead of a reaction to the oats themselves."
Now that you know where to go for information on celiac disease, allow me to introduce you to this excellent presentation on recent CD research.

Lastly, please watch this short video to understand how serious celiac disease really is. Celiac disease is no laughing matter, it is nothing to trifle with. It's not one of those dietary inconveniences that one can choose to treat, or not, depending on how they feel that day.

To gain further understanding of celiac disease, check out my next post, "Celiac Disease: Diagnosis...Accepting What Is". :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Word About Internet Use

This morning, I read several articles on Facebook's experiment of 2012. I narrowed those articles down to my two favorites. One is longer and more detailed. One is shorter, but every bit as valid and interesting to read. Here they are:
The shorter: Furor Erupts Over Facebook's Experiment on Users (The Wall Street Journal)
The longer: Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment (The Atlantic)
To summarize what happened, Facebook manipulated its users' news feeds to see if/how they would react emotionally when composing their own status updates. While many people are upset about this online happening, I look at it differently: I'm not surprised.

Had this information come out in, say, 2009, I would have been livid! Alas, nothing relating to the information gleaned from the internet surprises me anymore. From Google saving our search information, to what we post on our personal blogs or Google+, to what has been shared on Twitter, to what the sneaky NSA has done, to all of the online directories and background check websites, to Facebook's ridiculous algorithm (they create what they think we want to see in our news feeds, based on our prior Facebook activity), or its new mobile apps having access to our smart phone's microphones, nothing is private on the internet anymore. NOTHING.

I take the stance that anything we post online can be used against us.

But in all seriousness, I don't care what a website's or app's privacy policy states. They can spew legal jargon all they want, but in the end, I believe all of our online content (emails, posts, searches, chats, status updates, photos, tweets, comments, likes, complaints, etc.) is not safe. I believe every bit of content we post online will be out there, somewhere, F.O.R.E.V.E.R. (That's a reference to one of my favorite movies, "The Sandlot.") And anyone can gain access to our content if they have the right connections, or are great hackers.

Thus, we must take care in what we post. If we don't want someone to find out our thoughts, don't even think about typing the words! Anywhere!

Another way I look at it, is this: Be who you are. Be authentic at all times. Don't worry about so-and-so or such-and-such finding out this-or-that about you. Be happy being you. Own every bit of yourself. If there is something about yourself that you'd be terrified if someone found out, find a way to own up to it, or do the hard work to change yourself so you won't be concerned anymore. :)

One could say I pretty much live my life as an open book. I probably share way too much about myself for many people's liking. Yet, I don't care. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings with others, and vice versa. If I really think deeply about myself, I have only one secret that I wouldn't share with anyone. That secret will go with me to my grave. Is it happy/sad/bad/good? No one will ever know, and I'm perfectly fine with that! :)

If I had my wish, the world (i.e., corporations, government, society) would quit their annoying internet behavior. All websites would keep their users' information private—unless those people wanted their information known. Facebook would stop using their silly algorithm. (Can you tell I have an issue with Facebook's algorithm?! Yes, I really have an issue with Facebook's algorithm.) Instead, Facebook would show whatever our friends post in our news feeds, in the order they post. Society (people everywhere) would respect others' opinions, even if they don't agree with them. Everyone would be more kind online. :)

The reality of our world is that the internet is completely out of control, and my internet wishes will most likely never come to fruition. I've decided I have to be okay with that. If I ever become not-okay with how our internet functions, I'll get off of it. But for today, I've chosen to stay electronically connected with my wonderful family and friends! :)