Heal Is The Care

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Friday, July 3, 2020

July 03, 2020

On the Path to Self-Hypnosis

(Don't stare into that picture too long; you might find yourself hypnotized.)

Seriously, though, if you're metaphysically-inclined, there is a certain methodology you can apply to bring your dreams and desires closer to realization. It could be used for anything you wish to obtain -- perhaps it's losing weight, perhaps it's greater success in finances or relationships. What follows is a general outline of what may effectively be called "self-hypnosis," and how to go about employing it.

1. Know what you want.

In this crucial first step, you need to consider what you want versus what you don’t want, and you need to be able to distinguish between the form and the essence.

Instead on focusing on what you don’t want, it’s important to focus on what you would like to experience instead, because your subconscious mind says “YES” to whatever you focus upon. If you don’t want illness (assuming you don't'; some people subconsciously prefer to be sick, believe it or not), focus on perfect health. If you don’t want lack, focus on abundance. If you don’t want to experience stress, focus on experiencing peace, and so on.

Sometimes people focus on the “form," i.e., the physical thing, instead of on the “essence” -- the feeling they would like to experience upon obtaining the item of their desires. If you aspire to create or attract a specific thing into your life, ask yourself about the feeling you believe this thing would give you. By focusing on the “essence” of what you want, you massively expand your options. 

You may find that there are many other ways to experience that desired feeling even now, and by experiencing that feeling now, you further open yourself to attract the thing you seek.

Many times we chase certain things, only to discover that they didn’t give us the feeling we expected to obtain by having them. And even if the thing you originally had it mind does indeed bring you the desired feeling, this process may bring you further insight into many other different ways to enrich your life, such as to open yourself to many different opportunities that will allow you to experience even more of that desired feeling.

2. Claim what you want as yours.

Once you know what you want, imagine and FEEL that you already have the thing. Engage as many of your senses as you can and while in this almost trance-like state, vividly imagine yourself as if you are already enjoying the desired condition, thing, circumstances, etc. You may also re-invent your life, in your mind, imagining that you have always had this resource, quality, or thing you’d like to experience.

The whole point of the “depth” of self-hypnosis is to allow you to put your conscious mind and the awareness of the outer world aside just long enough that you are able to fully experience your desired experience as REAL for you NOW.

It's essential to remember that your subconscious mind does not distinguish between what is outside of you - what you may interpret as “real” - and what you experience only in the realm of your mind. The subconscious mind concludes that something is REAL, if it FEELS REAL to YOU…NOW.

3. Clear the obstacles in the way of what you want.

Successful self-hypnosis is very much akin to planting seeds. You decide what you would like to grow, you plant the seeds by imagining and feeling that you already have the desired outcome. You don’t have to concern yourself with how is the plant going to grow -- it is endowed with intelligence to fulfill its purpose, and if you try to meddle too much in the plant's growing processes, it won't get to develop as is necessary and natural to it. What you do need to do is pull out the weeds if you notice any.

When you plant seeds of your outcome in your subconscious mind, your doubts, fears, anxieties, conflicting beliefs etc. are to be thought of as "weeds" you have to uproot. If you believe that it's impossible for you to reach your goal, but you just want to try it, forget about even going any further with it -- it’s not going to work. The procedure requires your certainty that it will indeed come to pass, through one means or another.

If the goal seems to overwhelming, cut it down into smaller, achievable goals -- goals you believe are attainable for you now. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has accomplished. The only thing that matters is what you now believe is possible for you. Other peoples' accomplishments may inspire you -- but whether you’d be able to accomplish the same, or less, or more, depending only on what you resolutely believe to be possible for you, and on the action you're willing to take.

Sometimes people look for “proofs” and assurance outside of themselves, often (unfortunately) through asking other people for their opinions as to whether something is possible or not. This only serves to inform their subconscious minds that they are still filled with doubt – that they don’t really believe that they can experience the results they desire, so they usually don’t. 

The best place to look for “proofs” when using your subconscious mind is in your own experiences -- through conducting your own experiments.

It's entirely possible to get and create absolutely anything you may ever want to create through the power of your mind. However, to overcome your own self-imposed limitations, you either have to have limitless faith, or even better, to do some research and gain understanding as to why YOU CAN be or have whatever it is you set your heart upon.

This also brings us to the POWER OF DECISION. If you have ever DECIDED to experience something and if you can recall how that feels, you may become aware that at such times your mind was fully focused on your GOAL, and even though you might have been aware of possible obstacles on the road, they hadn't prevented you in reaching your outcome. When you truly DECIDE that you want something, you “cut yourself off” from any other possibility and COMMIT yourself to having the experience you desire.

You may already have heard a certain bit of prose by the Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray, which goes:

Until one is committed
there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative
there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills
countless ideas and endless plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
then providence moves, too.

All sorts of things occur to help one
that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
raising in one’s favor all manner of
unforeseen incidents and meetings and
material assistance which no man
could have dreamed would come his way.

Whatever you can do or
dream you can, begin it!
Boldness has genius, power
and magic in it.

4. Let go and trust in the process.

This is probably the hardest step for most people -- and it may take some practice to totally and completely trust in the wisdom and power of your mind, universe, God, your Higher Self, or Truth (pick the term you prefer) to be able to bring into your experience what you asked for.

You may notice that sometimes when you think about something and then you completely forget about it, not even giving it a second thought whether it’s going to pass or not -- the thing you thought about just miraculously happens. That’s because you have spontaneously let go, and by forgetting about it, your subconscious mind was able to take over and create that experience in your life.

Other times you may feel that you want or need something really badly -- so badly, as a matter of fact, that you can’t let go of the notion that you must have it. Ironically, as much as you want it, you are inadvertently not allowing it to manifest itself for you.

When something is really important for you to have, and you have no idea from whence whatever you need is going to come, trusting may feel as if you were walking on a tightrope. With practice, though, it does get much easier.

Practicing gratitude -- that is, feeling gratitude for what you need and/or desire as if you have already received it -- will help you to get your mind off the worry, and keep it focused on your goal.

In a manner of reiteration, gratitude will dramatically cut the time it takes to get what you desire, and it will dissolve a lot of obstacles toward getting the results you’d like to create using your own self-hypnosis.

You can thank your subconscious mind, your unconscious mind, God, universe -- or whatever you like to refer to, by name, as the power and intelligence within you and all around you that is able and knows how to bring into manifestation every one of your heart’s desires.

5. Recognize when you receive that for which you've asked.

Sometimes what you ask for may come into your life in a slightly different form than what you envisioned. Also, sometimes the "timing" of your receipt is a little off, according to your plans or whatever timelines you had fashioned. It is important to notice and acknowledge that what you asked for has in some form manifested for you, nonetheless.

Sometimes what you ask for may be even better than what you asked for (as per what was vividly imagined in self-hypnosis).

Sometimes what you ask for may be a far cry from what you wanted. It may be just a signal that what you asked for is on its way. Now is not the time to give up, but to keep on thanking that what you desire or even something better is on its way to eventually arriving in your life.

You may also want to re-examine your beliefs, doubts, worries, insecurities or feelings that you don’t quite deserve what you asked for, that it would be too good for you, or perhaps that, after all, you don’t really want what you asked for. As a guideline for distinguishing between something you only temporarily wanted (or, worse yet, a "want" that is more someone else's want than truly your own) and something you really do very much want, if it's something that frequently and repeated occurs to you independently of outside influences, such as when you're alone with your thoughts, then it's most likely something you really do genuinely want.

Remember that your outer-world experiences only reflect what’s in your mind, so if you don’t like what you’re experiencing, all you need to do is to change your mind about it. If you expect only the best in life, and keep on thanking your mind and the universe for giving you the best, in joyful expectation of these experiences, your outer-world experiences will come to reflect this.

Acknowledge that everything that happens in your life is forever moving you forward -- and, directly or indirectly, into the realization of your goals and desires.

July 03, 2020

Ways to Clearer Skin

At some stage in our lives we tend to want clearer, fresher, younger looking skin. Well, it can be achieved without spending a lot of money and it can happen through natural means, without cosmetic procedures. What you must do is persevere, and if you follow the forthcoming ten tips for a better complexion, over the course of three weeks your skin will begin to look fresher and clearer. Here are those tips:

1. Keeping your skin clean is your first priority. It's best to cleanse your face morning and night with a gentle, natural cleanser that not only rids the skin of dirt and grime but then finishes with an antibacterial ingredient like tea tree oil.

2. After cleansing the skin, pat it dry and then spray a fine toning mist over the face to cool and help close the pores while they are clean. Let this mist dry on the face. My own recommendation is to fill a small spray bottle with witch hazel, and use this as the mist. I don't think you'll find anything better, and certainly not at the minimal cost of witch hazel.

3. When the toner has dried apply a very small amount of moisturizer over the entire face and neck. Look for a moisturizer that is made for problem skin types and contains antibacterial ingredients like tea tree oil and lavender essential oil. These ingredients are gentle but very effective at clearing the skin from blemishes and pimples.

4. Obtaining the right amount of restful sleep your body needs nightly will reflect in the state of your skin. Seven hours is generally adequate. Not enough sleep over a period of time will result in problems that are hard to cure such as loose skin beneath the eyes and dark circles.

5. The food you eat is of the utmost importance for healthy, clear skin. Make sure you are getting a good amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, and be sure to include healthy fats (like avocado) too, as your skin needs these in order to remain supple. Foods that are easily digested will help your system keep your skin nourished and promote fresh, new cell growth. Drink lots and lots of water also, as always.

6. In addition to cleaning your face daily with a gentle, natural cleanser, add a weekly scrub to the skin of your body and face. When using a body scrub start at your feet and work towards the heart, this helps eliminate toxins. Doing it the opposite direction will push the toxins back into your system. Use a very gentle facial scrub on your face and neck as these areas can be easily damaged.

7. Try an aspirin face mask. This kind of inexpensive mask often yields fantastic results on those people with open pores, pimples and acne. Crush about 15 aspirin tablets to a powder mix to a paste with a little water, less than 1 teaspoon and then apply to a cleansed face. Leave for twenty minutes to work its way into the skin and then rinse off and apply a light moisturizer. Try this weekly, after a face scrub. By what mechanism does this work, you might be wondering? Well, aspirin contains acetylsalicylic acid, which is in turn made from salicylic acid. If you're not familiar already with salicylic acid, it's used in all manner of skin products, from skin toners to acne creams, and rightly so. It's a beta hydroxy acid and is one of the most "active ingredients" you're likely to find to benefit your skin. It tends to alleviate virtually any type of skin problem.

8. Once a month use a home steam treatment to thoroughly draw out impurities from your face. Add boiling water to a basin or bowl and add two drops of tea tree oil. Place your face over this with a towel covering and gently let the steam open and cleanse the pores. Be careful not to let the steam burn your face. Finish with a slightly warm face wash. This is also likely to clear out your sinuses a bit as well.

9. Get out into the fresh air and take a walk, swim in the sea, ride a bike or just do whatever in the backyard. The exercise will boost your system and your skin will love it.

10. Take a fish oil supplement daily. Cultures that eat a lot of fish have clearer skin and the fish oil helps eliminate toxins from the body, which by now you likely realize is fantastic for your skin. I can honestly say I've taken fish oil, of one variety or another, every day for at least the last 15 years, if not longer. The mainstream media may have sent fish oil on an ongoing roller coaster ride (one week it's great, the next week it does nothing, according to them), but it's always had a place among my many supplements.

These ten easy tips will help you get that clearer skin you so desperately want. Remembering to make the lifestyle changes you need means later enjoying the benefits that will come with these alterations. A fresher, clearer and more youthful-looking complexion awaits you.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

July 02, 2020

For Better Sleep, Consider These Things

A great many people experience difficulties falling asleep at night. Instead of sleeping and dreaming they end up tossing and turning in their beds trying to fall asleep. This can even go on for hours throughout the night, and the result is that the person is usually not rested enough by the time morning arrives and is tired all day. This, in turn, results in stress and less performance on the job or at home.to achieve better sleep. But here are a half-dozen things to consider which could be used to achieve a better night's sleep:

1) Room temperature. Keeping the temperature in your bedroom at 70 degrees Fahrenheit or below is recommended. Too often an overheated bedroom causes sleep problems. Scientific studies show that the body can better relax with temperatures at 70 degrees or slightly below.

2) Reduce caffeine intake. A recent study showed that caffeine is not metabolized efficiently and fast enough at night. The effects of caffeine last much longer than most people expect. The result is difficulty falling asleep. Studies have shown better sleeping patterns if no more caffeine is consumed after 6:00 PM (I'll openly admit, I ignore this suggestion, but then again, I've built up such a high tolerance to caffeine that I can drink it as late as the hour of 9 at night with no ill effects).

3) Avoid alcohol. Alcohol will keep the body from reaching the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its healing and resting. The result of drinking can be a very light sleep or even difficulty falling asleep in general.

4) Beds are for sleeping. If you're accustomed to watching TV in bed or, worse yet, working on a laptop, etc., while being in bed, you may find it much harder to relax and fall asleep. Remove the TV and don't do work in bed. Sleep requires your brain to slowly shutdown, and any distractions may cause sleeping problems. I've found no issue with the age-old practice of reading a book (yes, a real, tangible book) in bed, however. It has seemed to me that while your brain may be quite thus engaged, you remain sedentary enough so that sleepiness can still begin to overtake you.

5) Go to bed at around the same time every night. Don't change your bedtime back and forth. Have a certain sleep-time schedule developed, and it will be easier to fall asleep pretty much at the same time every night. A recurring schedule will help your body to get into a sleep pattern and make it easier to fall asleep.

6) Remove the alarm clock from your view. Staring at the time on the alarm clock will only create the feeling that you have to soon get to sleep, but the bottom line is, you're not sleeping, so it's not helping. And going on to worry about when you'll fall asleep will make it even worse. So, losing the feeling for time by not seeing what's actually on the display, and how long you have been awake, has  been shown to improve sleep. Incidentally, I had to obtain a new alarm clock at the end of 2019. I bought a suitable one, with nice blue numbers instead of red, and was pleased with its functionality. However, it seemed that the light of the previous one had faded after many years of use, and by comparison, this new one was so bright -- even with the "dim" setting activated -- that it easily kept me awake. It lit up a dark December night like you wouldn't believe. I procured some of this tan semi-transparent packing tape, and put a piece over the display. This has proved enough to dim it more suitably, but it's still a bit brighter than I would even like. Seemingly minor things like this can make a surprising difference in the quality of your nightly sleep.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

July 01, 2020

My "Super Skin Saver Formula"

I was originally going to actually publish the following information in the form of an E-book to be entitled, The Super Skin Saver Formula.  However, I've since decided to go ahead and just share it with all who might visit this blog, and thus give it away for free instead.  Rest assured, you're not likely to find what you're about to read in duplication elsewhere (unless someone reads it, paraphrases it a bit and posts it on their own blog, at which point I guess I'll be mildly flattered).

It's quite a lengthy article, necessarily, so grab yourself some coffee, or what have you, and then enjoy a substantial perusal...

Before I present to you this very special formulation, a bit of autobiography is fairly essential.  Ever since adolescence, I've had problem skin.  By problem, I primarily mean acne-ridden, but there have been some other assorted issues here and there along the way.  Like most teenage boys at that time (yes, it was in the days when the Internet was just becoming a familiar concept), I had little recourse on my own but to accept it as a part of the growing process in its latter stages, as I couldn't really do much research on my own except for what was available in library books -- some of which had only old outdated information to offer, not to mention "remedies" which were in much the same disappointing category.  

My acne was so bad around the time of my junior and senior high school years that I ended up using several prescription medications issued by a dermatologist to try to keep it under some control, which they did to some degree.  I've never been a fan of prescription-anything, and even back then I remember being concerned about whatever potential side effects might result from using those things for too long.  My graduation photos were heavily airbrushed anyway, so in the end, there was little record of my adolescent breakout bouts.  But in those very impressionable years, my memories of dealing with this old nemesis of mine, acne, became quite solidly ingrained.  My best guess is that a great many adults have remarkably similar recollections.

And I hold it as a given that, at this very moment, teenagers everywhere are experiencing much the same physical and psychological discomfort as I and so many others once experienced.

Now, most young men basically accept acne as an all-but-inescapable but mostly transient evil with which most, if not all, early adults must invariably contend as a sort of side effect of adolescence.  They generally come to see it as something which shows up with often very inconvenient frequency but which also seems to depart for somewhat unpredictable spans of time, leaving the sufferer with at least occasional periods of clear skin.  Furthermore, aside from using some dermatologist-prescribed medication (the notion thereof still makes me shudder with loathing to this day), the consensus is that, otherwise, there's not much you can do about it.

But I've never been what you would call typical, or, frankly, even normal.  Whereas most of my male peers apparently didn't care to even try to understand a bit about acne and what, if anything, you could do about it on your own, such has never been the case with me.  And since acne certainly didn't depart from my skin much once my high school years were over, I thenceforth began a long investigative -- and often experimental -- quest to deal effectively and reliably with my acne but without poisoning myself in the process.

My acne problem, from past to present

It didn't take long for me to realize that, before I could develop a sustainable course of action to take against my acne, it would be crucial to isolate and identify, if I could, the foremost factors which were continually causing my breakouts.  I'll spare you all but the most salient conclusions I've since reached; these, even still, are inherently tentative, but I do believe I've narrowed them down very substantially.

The hormonal factor is one which forever seems to lurk at least in the background, and perhaps further to the forefront if one has a lot of natural hormonal (i.e., testosterone) activity.  As an aside, there was a time, about a decade or so ago, when the mainstream health community was seemingly demonizing testosterone, insisting it was ostensibly detrimental to a man's health.  A lot of us had serious doubts about this, though, and opposing voices began to be heard.  When those opposite viewpoints started coming from the health mainstream itself, a reversal of sorts occurred, and most recently we've seen television ads for medications indicated for the condition of low testosterone.  I've never really believed that the same hormone that makes a man a man would eventually turn around and somehow attack him.

But my purpose is not to hotly debate any issues, especially when mostly tenuous conclusions are the only available ammunition.  No, my aim has always been to objectively define the primary factors which have caused my own acne, all the while recognizing that these same factors have likely resulted in the acne experienced by other persons as well.  The bottom line is, rather unavoidably, that there does seem to be a connection between hormones and acne.  To me, and in me, there's clearly a connection.  It would explain in part why teenage boys, with their boiling hormone production, tend to have a lot more acne than girls.  Girls, of course, do have acne as well...but note that they also have at least a small amount of naturally-occurring testosterone.  I may not sound very scientific in so saying, but as far as I've ever seen, if you -- man or woman -- have testosterone in production, you'll very likely have some amount of acne as a by-product.  However, I, personally, would never want to be without my testosterone, and I've also surmised that the hormonal factor is far from the only one responsible for acne.  There has to be other things to consider, and I've long figured there would still be something else a person could safely do to greatly minimize acne flareups.  Possibly, I've thought, the key could be found in maintaining a skin health that was less susceptible to acne's inception.

When I say that there would have to be other factors to consider as to the underlying causes of acne, I'd also say this is very obviously so because of the frequent localization on acne on the body.  There would have to be reasons why one's skin doesn't break out evenly everywhere, and why it tends to show up predominantly in fairly localized areas.  I'm referring to the so-called "T-zone," across the forehead and down the nose to the chin, and also to areas such as the back and chest, for a lot of us guys.  I mentioned that my own early research into acne was largely done at libraries, as at the time of my teenage years, the Internet was not at all yet commonly accessible.  I remember reading excepts from health books published back in the '60s, '70s and '80s which emphasized the need to both keep your skin clean and also to avoid eating fatty and greasy foods like pizza, potato chips and chocolate.  At that time it was believed that acne was the result of increased oil production in the skin during the teenage years, exacerbated along the way by bacteria, which festered when sebaceous (oil) glands became blocked and which tended to be spread by what amounts to very direct contact.  They hadn't made much of a hormonal connection at that point, as far as I had seen.  I do remember, also, that beyond the aforementioned decades, the medical community became leery of the pure blocked oil gland/bacterial aggravation theory, because you had too many cases of young adults in different parts of the world who did not consume our offending Western foods but who still had just as much acne.  Doctors, themselves, became unsure that these were the only acne-predisposing indicators -- much as I, over the course of my own self-observations, eventually became skeptical that hormonal production was the sole causal factor of the acne I experienced.

So, if you can't totally blame hormones for acne, but neither can you completely incriminate excessive skin oil and directly-spread bacterial contamination, what would be the answer?  Could it possibly be that all of the above play their own role, to some degree or other?  This is what I have strongly been led to conclude, and actually, there have been some comparatively recent scientific studies which support that this is actually the case.  It has even been theorized that it's really Nature acting in favor of continuing the species, and all other concerns are secondary at best.  There's been talk of certain enzymes in the body that can either be used for hormone production or the metabolism of fats, but which are typically in relatively short supply in the body of a young adult.  Hypothetically, Nature chooses that these enzymes be used for the ample production of hormones (likely leading to sex and reproduction), rather than to expend them in the cleanup of excessive fats from the body, which Nature's providence deems not nearly as important.

But if you don't want to tamper with your natural hormonal production, which I really don't think anyone should, and if you're not inclined to shy away from eating fat-heavy foods, would that leave nothing at all that you could do to combat acne, aside from taking some kind of nasty medication (which is often just a topical antibiotic anyway)?

No, there certainly are things you can do, as I've come to discover.  They don't require a prescription, don't cost much, and won't interfere with your daily routine much.  What's more, they may also possibly confer additional skin benefits independent of keeping acne at bay, though that alone makes them worth it, in my opinion.

Things I tried which didn't work so well

Before I ultimately divulge my simple "formula" which has come to help me the most effectively (and safely) of everything I've attempted to use in my battles against acne, it's best if I talk for a bit about some things I've tried but which I'll say, at best, didn't prove viable in the long-term, or perhaps even the short, in some cases.

I've already discussed how, in my acne-plagued high school years, I was prescribed certain medications by a dermatologist to try to fend off the very excessive breakouts I was having at that time.  There were three of them, and I was instructed to use these in combination.  One was a topical antibiotic; the second was an internally-taken antibiotic, and the third was a cream which was intended to rapidly increase the skin-turnover rate, such as to prevent potential acne scarring (this last medication was the least offensive of the three, I believe).  Back then, antibiotics were virtually handed out left and right, almost without much consideration, whereas currently, and more fortunately, greater restraint is issued.  The problem with antibiotics, whether applied topically or taken internally, is that they are very indiscriminate in their action.  They tend to wipe out even the good bacteria which resides in your digestive system.  The medical community is slowly become more and more aware of the need to keep one's beneficial bacteria intact; witness the popularity of probiotic supplements even just to boost overall health and wellness (incidentally, probiotics are now often actually prescribed after an antibiotic course is over to re-seed what was lost).

Needless to say, even in those early years, it quickly became apparent that prescription medications were far from the answer, at least for me.  I wanted nothing voluntarily to do with them, and still don't.  They weren't even very effective anyway, notwithstanding their potential side effects had I continued with them for very long, which I thankfully didn't.

At around that same time, it wasn't long before I made the correlation between spending time in the sun and a proportional decrease in my acne outbreaks.  While on vacation at the beach in the summer, I would take to laying in the sun, and I would notice that my skin cleared up more than I had ever previously experienced since I first started to have acne (not to mention ending up with a nice tan on top of it).  However, I found the acne was only absent when I was actively (and frequently) tanning.  If I didn't "recharge" my tan quite often, the acne would slowly start to reappear.  Living in a temperate zone, and in particular, one which is notoriously known for a relative paucity of sunny days, it became hard to acquire the kind of consistent sun exposure outdoors I needed, and I eventually took to using the ever-controversial services of indoor tanning facilities.  Aside from the substantiated health hazards of indoor tanning, it was always an expensive proposition.  And when I pondered how both outdoor and indoor tanning had staved off my acne for as long as I was engaging in the activity, I came to believe it was from the joint effect of the antibacterial action of ultraviolet rays and also from a literal drying-out of my skin, as per much of its more oily content. I've entertained the possibility that vitamin D, as can be obtained through direct sun exposure, might have alleviated the acne (along with innumerable other purported benefits), but I just couldn't know for sure.  I'd consider it hypocritical of me to condemn tanning altogether given my history with it, but it became apparent to me that it just wasn't a viable answer to my ongoing acne problem in the long-term.  In summation, the action was too superficial, too short-lived, and the drying action was far too all-or-nothing.  It might have applied a drying effect to my over-active oil production, but it did so at the expense of my skin's total moisture quotient (which, I've since found, is of paramount importance, as I'll later explain).  Now, I certainly do still tan, but now it's purely outdoors, and it mainly occurs while I'm engaged in various outdoor activities.  And I don't even need to do it now just to keep my acne at bay, as I have something even better (i.e., my formula, which I will ultimately reveal to you a bit later in this discussion).

After I was basically done with the prospect of using tanning as my primary anti-acne weapon, I took to experimenting with all manner of natural oils and similar substances.  I found some favor with the likes of coconut and jojoba oils, but they were too messy, far too greasy, and in the summer, I got the impression that they prevented my skin from breathing as freely as it wanted, which I couldn't imagine was a good thing at all, no matter how natural the oils were.  I would apply raw organic coconut oil all over myself at night, before bed, and then I would feel like a greased pig beneath the covers.  It couldn't be made a comfortable proposition, no matter what.  Coconut oil, in particular, did seem very effective against existing acne, and this is likely because coconut oil is known to be very anti-bacterial in its constituents.  Yes, there was a degree of an emollient effect, which is often claimed of these so-called biological oils.  But, as I learned, there is a danger of applying even the most natural of oils to your skin excessively, and the trouble comes in the form of what is termed a feedback inhibition loop.  In the case of frequently applying oil to one's skin, what can often happen is that the body detects the presence of oil in the skin, through the topical application thereof, and thus, it cuts back on its own oil production (or even virtually shuts it down altogether).  I've reckoned this can't be good in the long-term, and that it would eventually lead to chronically dry skin (with subsequent premature visible aging a likely adjunct to this).

And with reference to dry skin, it's taken quite some time for me to have eventually identified it as an actually very prominent factor in my acne troubles -- perhaps far more of an important variable than I had originally even suspected.  If I set aside the hormonal component for just one moment, and evaluate the acne itself, I'll invariably conclude that an acne bump, if you will, begins to occur when one of either my oil or sweat glands becomes blocked.  This, alone, won't necessarily cause acne, but when bacteria becomes involved, such as that it has become trapped under or within the buildup and multiplies, that is when the acne appears.

Naturally, the question arises as to why the oil or sweat glands becomes blocked.  Well, with my own oil glands, yes, they may effectively be in a state of over-production.  Recall, if you will, the enzyme theory I mentioned earlier as a possible answer as to why my skin oil is not kept more in check; it's as good a theory as any I've ever heard.  I do tend to be a very "clean" person, as those who know me well will readily attest.  I typically take at least two showers a day, with an occasional third one thrown in if I feel it's necessary.  Does this have a drying effect on my skin?  Why, for certain, it does to some degree.  But remember also the now-classic health manuals of yesteryear which advised you to keep your skin clean if you were prone to acne.  And I've learned to avoid too much of a sweat-on-sweat condition, as when I sweat significantly (outdoor activities, exercise, etc.) and then shortly thereafter go on to another perspiration-inducing activity.  I've noticed that acne often results if this is allowed to occur, so I'll take another shower (that occasional third shower) to clean my skin before engaging in sweat production again.

I've accepted that as long as my body engages in regular testosterone production (which I do hope it will for quite some time to come), there will always be the potential for acne to develop.  And by now, with all I've said, you may be led to believe my acne has essentially won, as at least several factors would seem to be actively working in its favor.  But not so fast.  I'm pleased to report that, on the contrary, I've made some significant additional discoveries in recent years, and I've reached a very specific formulation that has helped me beyond anything else I've tried.

My secret two-component formula

I'd hinted upon, very briefly in passing, the importance of moisture in one's skin.  When I say moisture, I don't mean the naturally-occurring oil in the skin; I mean aqueous moisture, as in, the skin's actual water content.  As is often statistically quoted, at least half to as much as three-fourths of the human body consists of water.  And also, please consider that the body's largest organ is none other than the skin.  I'm sure you see where I'm going with this.  If there isn't enough water in your skin, doesn't it stand to reason that some type of problems will result?

Returning back to the plant-based oils with which I was experimenting, I'll say that I still think they are enormously useful for skin health.  To this day, I still apply coconut oil prior to my outdoor activities, in which I'll be out in the sun for a while.  When I do tan this way, naturally, I do feel my skin is better protected from excessive drying (and burning), and the resulting tan has a nice bronze tone.  And if I'm going to be in a part of our property patrolled by ferocious deer flies, as they seek their warm-blooded prey (which could be me), before I apply the coconut oil I'll add a few drops of citronella or clove oil, and they'll surely steer clear of me.

For keeping my acne under control, however, I wanted to find something that wasn't so messy when applied, and which could be used at night in any temperature range (I've found that when you cover yourself with oil, you tend to heat up pretty noticeably, which isn't so great on a warm summer night).  Ideally, I also wanted to find something that wasn't expensive, so that I could replenish my supply thereof regularly at no obnoxious cost.

I stand resolutely behind simple experimentation as a problem-solving principle in life, and so I continued to try various substances and combinations for my skin.  And after considerably more trial-and-error, in the end, I did happen upon a certain two-component mixture which clearly seemed to work in the manner I had long sought.

The first ingredient of my two-part mixture is itself a combination of ingredients, but very seemingly, the sum of its parts somehow greatly exceeds that of its individual components.  And this over-the-counter wonder product is...Udderly Smooth Hand Cream.  I reliably find this product at local Dollar Tree stores selling for, yes, $1.00 for a 2-ounce tube.  I usually pick up as many as a half-dozen of these at a time when I visit the store, to keep myself in supply of this remarkable product.  As to what makes it so special, I'll expound upon some specific substances it contains which I think are among the most important for my purposes.         - Lanolin.  Lanolin was at one time believed to be a relatively common allergen, but due to gross misinterpretation of some data, it was found that the actual irritating potential was exaggerated many thousands of times.  Derived from sheep, lanolin is what allows these animals to shed water from their coats; effectively, it's an organic water-repellent.  Lanolin can be separated into lanolin alcohols and lanolin acids; even individually, these two building blocks confer extraordinary properties when used on one's epidermis.  The lanolin alcohols allow water to be emulsified (dissolved) within oils, including those oils which are native to the skin, thus essentially allowing water to be contained within the skin.  The lanolin acids, on the other hand, contain a portion of alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs), which generally need little introduction for those already familiar with skin care, as these acids greatly help in the removal of dry, dead skin to reveal the newer and more lively skin beneath.  Furthermore, if the grade of lanolin is high enough (which I strongly suspect is the case in Udderly Smooth), it can also assist in the healing of wounds.
- Glycerin.  Easily obtained from plant sources (hence the term vegetable glycerin), glycerin is a very hygroscopic substance, meaning, it readily absorbs moisture from the air.  It also draws moisture from bacteria, which causes them to die.  As visible acne commonly involves a minor form of infection in the skin, such as when an oil gland becomes blocked and ends with an over-proliferation of bacteria, which eventually causes it to fester into a pustule, I've concluded the glycerin in Udderly Smooth serves to not only increase the skin's available moisture but also applies enough of an antibacterial effect to help keep things under control all the more.
- Allantoin.  The allantoin used in cosmetic-type products is either obtained from the comfrey plant or synthesized in a safe and non-toxic form.  It encourages removal of dead skin cells, is very anti-inflammatory, it increases water content of skin matrix (along with lanolin and glycerin), and it promotes healing of skin by a number of additional biochemical mechanisms.

I firmly believe it's primarily these three ingredients found in Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion -- lanolin, glycerin and allantoin -- that confer its unique effectiveness toward my two-part formula.  Please note that I've tried other remotely similar creams and lotions in its place, but they just aren't the same as Udderly Smooth.  That trio of very active ingredients really does seem to equip the skin to moisturize itself, rather than just applying a lotion which is supposed to add moisture to the skin but to little lasting avail.  And when your skin is truly moisturized, it's unquestionably healthier in all regards.  This would include a lesser propensity for blockages of oil glands to occur -- yes, the kind of blockages that often encourage the beginnings of acne.

Now, the other ingredient is one which I also very inexpensively pick up when I'm at the Dollar Tree, but you can find it in any drugstore, or wherever any amount of skin products are sold.  And this second ingredient is ordinary witch hazel.  The pictured bottle is the actual brand and size I get at the Dollar Tree (yes, again, its a mere $1.00, for a 6-ounce bottle).  I've found that one of these 6-ounce bottles is enough witch hazel for two to even three batches of my mixture, which makes it highly economical, to say the least.  Yes, I combine Udderly Smooth Hand Lotion with witch hazel, and therein is my "Super Skin Saver Formula," in a nutshell.

But why witch hazel, you might ask?  Well, regarding this liquid ingredient, witch hazel refers to the extract from a plant, Hamamelis virginiana, found in North America and several other locations in the world through related species.  It's one of those innumerable things which has very little "official" support from the medical community but has nevertheless been used for ages as a sort of folk medicine, for both external and internal ailments alike.  The Native Americans have long valued its usage as a topical remedy for insect bites, rashes and other forms of skin irritation.  In modern-day applications, it's still used for those issues, and in addition, many acne sufferers do use it to favorable effect.  And this is why it has become the other component of my skin formula.  In fact, witch hazel, in solution (as per what is sold in stores), does in fact demonstrate astringent properties which seem mostly responsible for its anti-inflammatory actions.  As an astringent, it tightens tissues, and if there's an excess amount of oil in the skin (remember the theory about excessively-oily skin contributing much to the acne problem), it tends to counteract the oiliness.
In my experiments, I had indeed found that if I regularly used witch hazel, my skin was in better and more acne-free condition.  But the thing I didn't like so much about just using witch hazel was that it was hard to apply evenly without splashing it all over the place and wasting a lot of it in the process.  It dawned upon me to try to combine it with some type of lotion or cream to be able to use it more efficiently, and when I chose Udderly Smooth as that base cream, my "formula" was born.  I've not since found anything to supplant this mixture in terms of usability and effectiveness -- not just for problem skin because of acne, but for having nicer skin, period, whatever the time of year.  The Udderly Smooth and the witch hazel blend evenly, and they seem to complement each other almost perfectly as they together mesh as a skin healer, softener, rejuvenator and acne-therapy all in one.  The Udderly Smooth keeps the skin moist, and also works a great deal to heal any existing lesions.  The witch hazel likewise soothes and mends the skin of whatever might have compromised its equilibrium, and in addition, it also keeps surplus oiliness under appreciable control.

If I were to condense my findings into a "recipe," I would say, you'll need some kind of wide-mouthed jar with a well-fitting screw-top lid to mix and hold the formula.  I'd suggest a jar that holds around 12 ounces, and with a wide enough mouth that you can easily fit your hand into it to extract the final product for use.  To make what I'd call a batch of it, I'd get, say, four of the 2-ounce tubes of Udderly Smooth (to a total of about 8 ounces of cream, when squeezed out), and a bottle of witch hazel, which doesn't have to be a big bottle as you won't need a whole lot of it.  Assuming you already have a suitable jar on hand at home, if there's a Dollar Tree in your area and you buy the components for a batch therein, your grand-total cost should come to $5.00, minus tax.

Squeeze all of the Udderly Smooth out of the tubes into the jar as you can.  Then, when it comes to adding the witch hazel, I would say, aim for either a 70/30 ratio -- 70% Udderly Smooth, and 30% witch hazel -- or a 60/40 percentage, doing your best to approximate.  A 50/50 mixture is not advisable because it tends to get too "runny" in those amounts, and becomes far too difficult to cleanly use.  You could could mix the cream and the witch hazel together with a spoon, but I find it far more expedient just to screw the lid on tightly and shake the jar up vigorously for around 30 seconds or so.  It mixes itself together quite well this way.

I'll caution you against applying the mixture too close to your eyes, because it does tend to be pretty eye-irritant if you get a bit in there (but not hazardously so).  Otherwise, you can more or less use it all over the body if you like.  If you elect to try it, I hope you'll be as pleased with the "Super Skin Saver Formula" as I've been for a long while now.  Winter, summer, spring or fall, it's my go-to therapy for any time of the year and all atmospheric conditions.  It makes it actually feel pretty good to be inside your own skin.
July 01, 2020

3 Common Weight Loss Mistakes

There are times on your weight loss journey when progress can come to a halt. Days or weeks can go by without you seeing movement on the scale, and certainly, it can get downright frustrating. While many aspiring dieters end up merely mystified by the apparent cessation of desirable results, certain patterns often emerge that can cause this weight loss stoppage. Here are three of the most common of those such patterns:

1) Eating more than you think you're eating.

Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Zone Delivery Service, and other diet systems have one undeniable benefit to them – they define for the average person how large an actual “serving” ought to be, for them. Most of us underestimate the volume of food we eat (and consequently, we underestimate the number of calories we consume in a day). 

By fixing in your head what a serving size or “portion” of food looks like, we can better estimate (and consequently, evaluate and calibrate) the amount of food we eat at each meal. Keep in mind, when it comes to weight loss, you need to take in less calories than you burn each day.

Two good rules of thumb:

A portion of meat (3 oz.) is the size of a deck of cards. 
A portion of carbohydrates (1 cup) is the size of a tennis ball.

Please remember to fill up on non-starchy vegetables – they are full of nutrients, have very little impact on blood sugar, and contain little in the way of calories. 

2) Not eating frequently enough.

It is a social custom to eat “three square meals” a day. While this may do for social purposes, for weight loss, you will want to aim for more frequent feedings. It is recommended that you consume a minimum of 5-6 small meals each day. By doing so, your body gets the signal that food is abundant, and there is no need to conserve energy. 

Additionally, frequent feedings maximize your metabolism, as your body is constantly busy burning calories by digesting your meals. By not letting too much time pass between meals, you stabilize blood sugar levels since they never really get the chance to drop. By keeping your blood sugar stable, your hunger levels are minimized, decreasing the chances that you will be tempted to overeat at your next meal. 

3) Choosing to drink your calories instead of eating them.

This is a very common problem among those attempting weight loss, due to the abundance of “healthy” diet smoothies, protein concoctions, and weight loss shakes. There are two important factors to keep in mind when relying on these liquid meal replacements. 

First, many of the liquid diet shakes on the market and all fruit smoothies have an abundance of sugar in them. This causes an immediate surge in energy followed by a huge crash due to the release of insulin to control the blood sugar rise. This dramatic shift in blood hormone levels (particularly insulin levels) is something you want to avoid, both for health reasons and for weight loss. 

Secondly, most weight loss shakes are devoid of fiber. Fiber is one of your most precious allies when you are dieting. It helps you feel full and blunts the rise in insulin levels when all that sugar hits your bloodstream. While fruit smoothies do contain some of the fiber from the pulp of the fruit, a better strategy would be to eat the actual fruits contained in the smoothie. 

Lastly, the amount of calories that can be concentrated into a shake or smoothie is far greater than the equivalent volume of actual food. A 16-ounce fruit smoothie may contain as many as 600 calories, and will not fill you up all that much, unfortunately. On the other hand, eating 600 calories of fruit will prove to be much more than the typical person can manage as an allotment (unless you're suddenly possessed by some kind of massive craving, it's hard to imagine eating more than two pounds of bananas in a single sitting).

Think about it this way: when making major dietary changes, you want to get the most out of your calories. Wouldn’t you rather fill up confidently, rather than drink something and be hungry again soon after?

July 01, 2020

A Basic Primer on Vitamin C

Slice an apple into half, and it turns brown. A copper penny suddenly becomes green, or an iron nail, when left outside and exposed to humid conditions, will rust. What do all these events have in common? These are examples of a process called oxidation. If the sliced apple is dipped in a lemon juice, however, the rate at which the apple turns brown is slowed. It is because the vitamin C in the lemon juice slows the rate of oxidative damage. It thus functions as a natural preservative.

Ever since Linus Pauling blazed such a mighty trail for its many health-fostering applications back in the mid-20th century, vitamin C has come to be known as a “wonder worker.” Because of its role in collagen formation and other life-sustaining functions, vitamin C serves as a key immune system nutrient and a potent free-radical fighter. This double-duty nutrient has been shown to prevent many illnesses, from everyday ailments such as the common cold to devastating diseases such as cancer.

The water-soluble vitamin C is known in the scientific world as ascorbic acid. The term ascorbic actually means “without scurvy.” We depend on ascorbic acid for many aspects of our biochemical functioning, yet human beings are among only a handful of animal species that cannot produce their own supply of vitamin C. Like these other animals, including primates and guinea pigs, we have no choice but to obtain this nutrient through food or otherwise within our daily diet. 

Vitamin C can enhance the body's resistance from different diseases, including infections and certain types of cancer. It strengthens and protects the immune system by stimulating the activity of antibodies and key immune system cells such as phagocytes and neutrophils.

Vitamin C, as an antioxidant, helps reduce the activity of free radicals. Free radicals are by-products of normal metabolism which can damage cells and set the stage for aging, degeneration, and cancer. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that vitamin C is being used for cancer treatment. In large doses, vitamin C is sometimes administered intravenously as part of cancer treatment. And the therapeutic application of intravenous vitamin C was once again in the limelight a bit earlier this year when its use against COVID-19 was seriously examined for its beneficial potential.

Vitamin C prevents free radical damage in the lungs and may even help to protect the central nervous system from such damage. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron. In this state, they're highly reactive and destructive to everything that gets in their way. Although free radicals have been implicated in many diseases, they are actually a routine part of the body chemistry. 

As an antioxidant, vitamin C's primary role is to neutralize free radicals. Since ascorbic acid is water soluble, it can work both inside and outside the cells to combat free radical damage. Vitamin C is an excellent source of electrons; therefore, it can donate electrons to free radicals such as hydroxyl and superoxide radicals and quench their reactivity.

The versatile vitamin C also works along with glutathione peroxidase (a major free radical-fighting enzyme) to revitalize vitamin E, a fat-soluble antioxidant, via recycling it. In addition to its work as a direct scavenger of free radicals in fluids, then, vitamin C also contributes to the antioxidant activity within the body's lipids.

Optimal health requires a careful balance between free radical generation and antioxidant protection. One of the myriad important functions of vitamin C is to get and quench these free radicals before they create too much damage.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 30, 2020

Hoodia, Revisited

I remember about a decade or so ago when Hoodia gordonii, a succulent plant from the desert regions of South Africa, was all the rage in discussions of natural weight loss aids.  But then it seemed to almost fall off the map.  Or did it?

The hype seemed to originate from reports that this plant, which quickly became known in common parlance just as hoodia, has been used since time immemorial by Kalahari bushmen in the manner of a natural appetite suppressant.  They would consume it during very lengthy hunting forays, and it would sustain them throughout their grueling foot journeys.  I see no reason to doubt the authenticity of this otherwise anecdotal usage, as it certainly seems plausible that indigenous peoples would find a practical use for something which grows locally in their environment.  But beyond that, the story becomes muddled in a tangled mess of the usual exaggerated marketing claims, threats to native populations of hoodia from unregulated over-collecting, and evidently, some potentially very dangerous side effects.

You really don't hear too much about hoodia anymore from any media source, big or small.  Nonetheless, in my regular scrolling through supplement catalogs prior to making my own purchases, I've noticed that hoodia is still commonly offered for sale.  Furthermore, a casual search finds it for sale, apparently very lucratively, through the Internet's largest online retailer (I'm sure you can figure out who that is on your own).

Now, my own general assessment of nutritional supplements is that if a given supplement didn't work for anyone, and worse yet, made everyone who tried it sick, it wouldn't last long on the market.  With this in mind, my own researching into hoodia has let me to but a few tentative conclusions about it.

A major handicap (if not the major impairment) of hoodia's success as a natural weight loss aid seems to have much to do with its authenticity.  It seems than, unsurprisingly, a lot of what was sold when the initial hoodia craze exploded was far from pure, real hoodia; the supplements either had very little of it in their formulation -- or in at least one case charged by the Federal Trade Commission, no actual hoodia at all.  If hoodia does indeed live up to its traditional claims, its reputation has suffered enormously in more contemporary times due to the antics of the usual "vultures" of the supplement industry who circle overhead in search of opportunities to make a fast but shady fortune.

As a sidenote, there had been at least one major pharmaceutical company which took a great interest in hoodia many years before it was familiar in the mainstream, but when they found that its most active isolated component, called p57, was extremely difficult to synthesize, they more or less abandoned the entire project.  Furthermore, as Hoodia gordonii does not grow well outside of its native habitat, it was likewise realized that large-scale commercial growing of the shrub elsewhere was an unworkable proposition.

There are some indications that hoodia could cause blood pressure problems or liver problems in some people, but again, like many supplements, it's hard to find a lot of hard evidence that this has actually happened to anyone.  Since hoodia seems to function not only as an appetite suppressant but also a thirst-quencher, dehydration among hoodia users may indeed be a very real concern.  However, this could be easily rectified via the conscious decision to drink plenty of water every day (as we all should be doing anyway).

As with any supplement, it's a buyer-beware situation; an adult is assumed to educate him or herself on the potential hazards of taking a supplement, and/or consult with their physician to address any foreseeable contraindications.  Otherwise, assuming the substance is legal in one's area, if we opt to try the supplement, it boils down to our choice.  But for those choosing to obtain hoodia, the only dependable way to ensure that it's real hoodia which is being sold is through a vendor's presentation (or lack thereof) of their collector's license.  Like a number of herbs collected from the wild throughout the world, in South Africa, a hoodia collector is required to be licensed in order to legally remove it from its habitat.  So, if a seller has no such credentials, then one can only surmise that either it's real hoodia but illegally harvested (at great detriment to its native environment), or it's not even real hoodia but some ineffective or dangerous imitation.  To me, it seems like quite an unworthy gamble, but it's not a decision I can make for someone else.

(Hoodia gordonii photo courtesy Dick Culbert/Flickr.)