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Tick Talk

I live in the woods at the corner of two dirt roads. I was drawn to this area by all the fun outdoor activities right in my back yard.  Being outside makes me happy.  It nourishes my soul.  And yet… I’m concerned about ticks!  When it comes to tick born diseases, knowledge is power.  Lyme disease can feel scary. However, if caught early, it is a condition that can be treated fairly easily.  This is why it is so important to take measures to both prevent Lyme disease, and to recognize and treat it early.

Check yourself for ticks

It is important to check yourself thoroughly for ticks on a daily basis during the spring, summer and fall.  This is especially important if you spent time outside.

Lyme disease and co-infections are carried on blacklegged (deer) ticks and lone star ticks.  Please see below for pictures of these ticks.

 

Photo Courtesy of the CDC

If you find a tick on yourself, remove it carefully following these steps (from the American Lyme Foundation) http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml#removal)

Using a pair of pointed precision* tweezers, grasp the tick by the head or mouthparts right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.

Photo courtesy of capek9cardio.com

Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.

Put the tick in a zip lock bag or small plastic vial with a small piece of moistened paper towel.  Be sure the container is firmly sealed.  Send the tick in to be tested for Lyme disease.  Umass Amherst will test ticks, and the fee is often subsidized depending on where you live.  For more information, see www.umass.edu/tick.
*Keep in mind that certain types of fine-pointed tweezers, especially those that are etched, or rasped, at the tips, may not be effective in removing nymphal deer ticks. Choose unrasped fine-pointed tweezers whose tips align tightly when pressed firmly together.

If your tick tests positive, visit your doctor ASAP

Know the symptoms of acute Lyme disease

Many, but not all cases of Lyme disease have the classic “bull’s eye rash” known as

Photo courtesy of the CDCerythema migrans.  There can also be other more diffuse rashes that are not at the site of the initial tick bite.  If you develop a rash visit your doctor immediately.

 

erythema migrans.  There can also be other more diffuse rashes that are not at the site of the initial tick bite.  If you develop a rash visit your doctor immediately.

Acute Lyme disease typically present with flu like symptoms.  These include (but are not limited to): fatigue that makes it hard to do anything but lie on the couch, body aches, headaches, fever, stiff neck and neurological symptoms such as Bell’s Palsy.  If you experience any of these symptoms, visit your doctor immediately and inquire about a test and/or treatment for Lyme disease.

The tests that most medical doctors use to identify Lyme disease are not all that great.  A positive test means you do have the disease, but a negative result does NOT necessarily mean you do not have it.  This is for a number of reasons that I will not go into here.  Many physicians will treat for acute Lyme disease in the the absence of a positive test result if the symptoms match a diagnosis of Lyme disease.  If you believe that you have Lyme disease, and are not getting the care you feel you need, you may need to seek out a second, or even a third opinion.

Remember that up to 50% of people with Lyme disease do not remember being bitten by a tick, and many never developed a rash.

Protect yourself from ticks

If you are spending time in the woods, tuck your pants into your socks (make it a New England fashion statement!).  Wear light colored clothing so that you can more easily see ticks.  If you are out for an extended period of time, consider a DEET containing bug spray as well as treating clothing with the insecticide permethrin (note: permethrin is for clothes only).

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.   If you prefer to speak on the phone, you can set up a free 15 minute phone consultation by clicking here.

How Much Water Should I Drink?

The general rule of thumb, according to the Institute of Medicine, is that women need 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) and men need roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids per day.

 

You’ll need more if you exercise a lot, live in a place that is warm, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

 

The best way to know if you are drinking enough water is to pay attention to the signs in your body.  If you are well hydrated, your urine should be clear or pale yellow (note: if you are taking B vitamins, or a multi-vitamin with B vitamins, your urine will be bright yellow no matter what).  Are you constipated?  Most people who are constipated need more water.

 

The good news is that if you eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, than you’ll get about 25% of the water you need from the food you eat.

 

You can also spice up the water you do need to drink by trying one of these suggestions:

 

  • Add in a splash of lemon juice or other fruit juice in your water

 

  • Put in sliced cucumbers, lemons, limes or other fruit in your water

 

  • Put a flavorful herbal tea bag in your water

 

  • Try carrying around a water bottle with you and filling it up as needed.

The Marijuana Question

 

The Super Bowl

Have you heard the jokes about the upcoming Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos? The “Stoner Bowl” the “Weed Bowl” the “Super BOWL.”  With teams from the two states who recently legalized marijuana facing off, the puns abound.

Marijuana is in the news these days, and on people’s minds.  Is it a good idea for it to be legal? Is it dangerous? Is it addictive? How addictive?

Now, too much of anything kills white rats, and there is evidence showing both the dangers and the benefits of marijuana.  Wherever you stand on the legalization issue, when it comes down to it, we are asking ourselves the wrong question.

Sneaky Addictions

Whether marijuana, sugar, or another substance or activity, the deeper question becomes how to be free of addiction.  We are living in an addicted society.  Sometimes this is obvious— when you or someone you love is an alcoholic or a drug addict.  But there are many more subtle and socially accepted types of addictions.

Two of the most common that I see in my practice are sugar addiction and internet addiction, but there are others.

You get addicted to things like sugar and the internet because they stimulate reward or pleasure centers in your brain.  For example— sugary food causes your brain to release dopamine.  Dopamine is also released in response to sex, enjoyable music, marijuana heroin, alcohol and cocaine.

For an short explanation of sugar’s effect on the brain see this TED-Ed video.  http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-nicole-avena.

Checking Out

Part of why you become addicted to behaviors, foods and chemicals that stimulate the reward centers in your brain is that they allow you to “check out” when things get overwhelming.

When life feels like it’s just too much, I may run to the chocolate and consume enough to make myself sick just so I don’t have to feel what is going on.  Perhaps you check you facebook feed obsessively (I’ve done that too).  Anything to take a break from the present situation and all of the thoughts and feelings associated with it.

Give Yourself A Break

If you find yourself repeatedly “checking out” into behaviors or foods that you know are bad for you, and ultimately make you feel worse, it can be a subtle sign of addiction.  It is very common.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do this sometimes.  It is a basic human need to check out when things get too intense.  Sometimes you just need a break!

What you can do is find healthier ways to check out.  Practices that can give you a break from the intensity and overwhelm of life without the negative backlash.  The first step is to notice that you are checking out.  Even if you can’t stop yourself at this time, are you aware of what is going on?

I don’t like that I smoke so much.  I am eating sweets to the point of being physically ill.  I am checking things on the internet when I know I need to go to bed.    

The second step is to stop, and do something else to give yourself a break.  Something that is easy to do, makes you feel good, and can let your mind rest for a bit.  For example, taking a walk, playing with your pet, dancing around the living room, taking a bath, playing a musical instrument, etc…

It can be helpful to come up with a list ahead of time, and put it in a place where you can easily find it. When you are feeling overwhelmed glance at the list, and give yourself a break that is nourishing rather than depleting.

Back to the Super Bowl 

The legalization of recreational marijuana in the home states of the two Super Bowl teams has sparked an interesting national debate. Much of the talk has centered on the effect that marijuana has on human health.  While this question is important to consider, there is a deeper inquiry that is necessary if we really want to improve our health as a society.

What we need to be asking is what we are addicted to and how we can be free of it.  Everyone needs to check out sometimes when life gets overwhelming.  If you can notice your inclination towards whatever it is you use to check out, and to instead do things that nourish rather than deplete you, you will feel happier and more peaceful.

 

Is It Spring Yet?

I know that it is not spring yet. I can see the dusting of snow on my car, and feel the chill as the wind dips the temperature into the teens. Yes, it is February and it is clearly still winter. And yet, I am starting to feel Spring in my body. It is a subtle, but persistent feeling. It always starts around this time of year, as the snow melts quicker and the days get longer. Deep under the snow, the seeds that have lay dormant all winter are getting ready to sprout, and I can feel my body and my spirit waking up. Winter is a time to rest and to dream. It is a time to nourish ourselves in the way we only can in the deep quiet and stillness that winter affords. And after the rest of winter, comes the movement of spring. Spring is the time to take those first tentative steps towards actualizing those dreams that we have been dreaming all winter.

Inside me I am feeling the stirrings of action in both my body and my mind. I am also gearing up for a Spring detox. Spring is the perfect time of year to nourish ourselves in this way. Please click here to read an article I posted in 2011 about how to do a simple at home Spring detox. 

I have some exciting offerings this Spring that I’d like to share with you. Please click on the links for more details.

Growing Toward the Light: A Day of Self Care. Co-taught with Leslie Cerier & Nini Melivin. This is a full day workshop that includes a hands on cooking class, instruction on using food as medicine, and movement therapy and self shiatsu. Early registration deadline is March 2nd, and the class will take place on April 21st.

Guided Detox Program. Co-taught with Dr. Anna Abele. This is a six week program that includes weekly group meetings, as well as a one on one consult with myself or Dr. Abele. Please click here to contact me for more information.

Heat Wave!

Pioneer Valley residents and Vermonters are a hardy folk.  The temperatures are creeping up into the 90’s this week, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who will head to the garden to do some weeding and planting in the late afternoon sun.  Or go for a jog.  Or take advantage of any number of the fabulous outdoor opportunities this area has to offer.

This time of year I tend to notice an increase in the number of people complaining of leg cramps, restless leg syndrome and headaches.  All of these things can be caused by dehydration and/or a minor imbalance in electrolytes in the body.

Electrolytes are positively and negatively charged particles in our bodies, such as the components of table salt, sodium (Na+) and chloride (Cl-).  We need electrolytes to keep our bodies functioning properly.

In the hot sun we tend to sweat a lot, which can decrease our amounts of both water and electrolytes.  This is why sports drinks such as Gatorade are so popular with athletes.  My problem with these drinks is that they are full of sugar, and high sugar diets can lead to a myriad of health problems (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, increased inflammation, decreased immune function, etc….).

I recommend making your own electrolyte solution which is tasty, low sugar, and gives you the basic replenishment you need.  

Simply mix together:
1 liter of water
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1/4 tsp of baking soda
1/4 cup of fruit juice (if you have problems with blood sugar, you can decrease the amount of juice, or use a squeeze of lemon juice instead)

In addition to staying hydrated, but sure to wear a hat if you are out in the sun, and apply plenty of sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Acupuncture Happy Hour!

This February, do something good for yourself

Nurture your body, mind and spirit with a relaxing acupuncture session

What: Low cost acupuncture offered in a community setting

When: Fridays from 4-6pm.  February 10th, 17th & 24th

Where: Market Street Healing Collective
26 Market Street in Downtown Northampton

Cost: Sliding scale fee $15-$45.

Walk-ins welcome as space allows

For more information, or to reserve a space, please contact Dr. Shwartz at:
(413) 341-3364
Dr.RebeccaShwartz@gmail.com

During the Community Clinic acupuncture will be offered in a group setting.  The appointment will consist of a brief intake with the doctor, followed by an acupuncture treatment.  During the treatment you will be sitting in a chair in a room with other people receiving similar treatments.

This is a great way to try out acupuncture and refresh and relax at the end of the week!

Acupuncture sessions that are not part of the community clinic occur in a one on one setting, and allow for a greater depth and focus of treatment.