Thursday, April 15, 2010

Artificial Sweeteners - A Sweet Deception

By Michelle M Dillon, ND

Diet sodas, diet desserts, diet candy, low carb this and that. When dieting one may seek out these food products thinking they are actually good for you, or at least that they can't hurt. However - beware. When something is diet it simply means that the sugar is taken out and replaced by a chemical. I have done some investigating into artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda and the affect they have on our bodies. I have also looked at some natural sweeteners like Stevia and Agave Nectar to determine whether or not these are safe. The bottom line result of my research: if you can not find it in nature, then you might as well steer clear of it as anything synthetic should be avoided!

Symptoms reported to the FDA as reactions to aspartame are as follows: headaches, dizziness, mood swings, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures or convulsions, memory loss, fatigue, rash, sleep problems, hives, change in heart rate, numbness and tingling, difficulty breathing, menstrual problems, and oral sensory changes. So, as you can see, there are a variety of very common complaints that could be caused by a chemical that is purposely placed in food to produce a sweet taste. This sweet deception is ridiculous, and is a main cause of a number of complaints.

As a Naturopathic Physician I strive to find the cause of many health ailments, many of which could be attributed to the artificial sweetener craze. After eliminating the chemicals, many health complaints go away. Imagine if treating the cause was not the motive, then with a complaint of a headache you would be placed on a pain killer, or if nausea was the issue perhaps another medication to mask the symptoms. It just doesn't make sense!

Splenda also known as 'sucralose' is another sweetener used by millions each year, it's side effects include: bloating, nausea, diarrhea, various skin irritations like rashes, hives, and swelling, breathing difficulties, like wheezing, runny nose, coughing, heart palpitations, itchy eyes, migraines, blurred vision, and emotional effects like anxiety and depression, mood swings, and sudden onset of anger. Apart from these there are also a number of physical effects of sucralose or Splenda such as: enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, decreased fetal growth rate, extended pregnancy, and even decreased red blood cell count.

Healthier Alternatives

So are there healthier alternatives? Anything that is naturally found in nature would be the answer. For example Stevia, an herb used by natives in South America for centuries, would be a very healthy and fabulous alternative. This is simply a plant that is 300 times sweeter than sugar; it does not affect insulin levels, and is not inflammatory to the body. It is not man made and therefore a lot safer. Its God made and, of course, God knows what He is doing. :)

Agave nectar is another sweetener that is becoming popular. Again, it originates from a plant and is therefore a safer alternative to chemical sweeteners. (Keep in mind that overuse of any product, natural or not, is probably not good for you. Any sweetener should be used in moderation!) Most things that come without a label are a hundred times safer than what is not found in nature. If God wanted us to have aspartame or Splenda he would have made a Splenda tree or bush.

Bottom line: if it is not found as a whole in nature, don't consume it as the body was not designed to metabolize it! And before you make a trip to the pharmacy, eliminate all the artificial sweeteners, or any other chemicals you are consuming as there is a good chance that the chemical is causing the problem!

Michelle M. Dillon earned her doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. She specializes in women's health, using all natural alternatives to conditions like PCOS, infertility, and weight loss. A mom herself she understands the implications of what women put themselves through as mother's and how it plays a role in their health. She feels that her practice is God's calling for her life and feels blessed to be able to do so. Her private practice is in Charlotte, North Carolina where she lives with her husband and daughter. Visit her website at for more information.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Quick and Easy Ways to Prevent Flu and Colds

By Michelle M. Dillon, ND

Don't Freak Out! Stress actually decreases your ability to fight infections. You can literally worry yourself sick instead of finding a way to constructively process these very real feelings. Go for a walk with a friend. Give your worries to God in prayer. Get a massage. Watch funny movies - laugh! You may not be able to control the viral realm of the world, but you can help your body and mind be strong in the face of any viral challenge.

Avoid the Sweets! As tempting as it may be, avoid reaching for starchy and sugary snacks to soothe negative feelings. Studies indicate that consuming large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar can drastically lower the activity of neutrophils. Neutrophils are the first responders and look similar to Pac man, but instead of munching on cherries; Neutrophils munch on unwanted invaders like bacteria or viruses. Just one teaspoon of sugar can decrease these neutrophils for up to 5 hours!

Get Your Zzzz's! When in the midst of an illness the body often demands more sleep, simply because sleep helps strengthen the body's defenses. The same is true
when trying to stay well. The key is to get adequate sleep (usually between 7-9 hours) in a completely dark environment. Darkness is necessary in order for the brain to produce adequate/optimal levels of melatonin, which may be responsible for some of the immune-boosting effects of sleep.

Get out in the fresh air and sunshine! Make sure you take the time to open up your house and air out the reused air inside. This is especially important when a family member is at home sick, you do not want to be re-breathing their air. Open the windows and get outside for some fresh air and sunshine.

There is a growing body of evidence that vitamin D, which you get from the sun, is imperative for optimal immune function. You can prime your body's immune system by getting regular sun exposure. The key is to spend time in the sun during the morning and evening hours so as not to get sunburn. I recommend 15 minutes or more of "smart sun exposure" several times a week. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) so you can be assured a consistent and adequate supply of vitamin D, especially as we head into the winter months!

Protect yourself with food using Food as your Medicine! Fruits & vegetables will give you the best protection when it comes to supporting your immune health. They are rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and phytonutrients that will powerfully support your body's health.

Increase your immune system with this easy homemade remedy: Immune boosting tea is easily made and works well to help prevent illness along with shorten the duration of any sickness. Just peel and chop up 8-9 cloves of garlic. Then boil in 2.5 cups of water for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Then a dash of honey for taste. The combination of the three (garlic, vinegar, and honey) are medicinal and help to increase the immune system along with kill any bacteria or virus' that are causing problems.

Michelle M. Dillon earned her doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. She specializes in women's health, using all natural alternatives to conditions like PCOS, infertility, and weight loss. A mom herself she understands the implications of what women put themselves through as mother's and how it plays a role in their health. She feels that her practice is God's calling for her life and feels blessed to be able to do so. Her private practice is in Charlotte, North Carolina where she lives with her husband and daughter. Visit her website at for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don’t Fight the Mask

by Melissa Nesdahl

“No! No! No, mommy, no!” With hot tears streaming down her red, swollen face, my tiny two year old, Hannah, thrashed her body from side to side in desperate attempt to break my hold. As she sat on my lap inside of the loving but firm embrace of one hand, I struggled to use the other to place the mask that would deliver life-giving albuterol to her sick, RSV stricken body. Desperately wanting the best for Hannah, I encouraged her to quit resisting the doctor’s order because it would restore health to her weak body.

I love being a mother. When God blessed my husband and I with our firstborn, Grace, I welcomed the opportunity to stay home with her, investing all my time and energy into raising this beautiful girl God entrusted to us. Shortly after her first birthday, God surprised us with another pregnancy. Hannah came just two days after Grace turned two.

To care for myself, I rose about two hours before the girls, allowing time to exercise, get myself ready, and enjoy some Bible study. I felt spiritually full and ready for my day when the girls awoke. Life changed, however, when the girls grew into toddlers. Suddenly I heard “mooommy!” just as I would get out of bed. Energetic and anxious for the day’s activities, Grace and Hannah ran out of their room to greet me with their morning hugs and kisses. And my morning routine was gone.

Feeling as though I had no “me time,” I found myself struggling. I so desperately craved the exercise and Bible study squeezed out by the needs of the day, but there didn’t seem to be time. I woke up tired, cared for my girls, spent quality time with my amazing husband, volunteered in the community, was present for my family and friends, and then crashed hard at night. From sun up to sun down my day was jam-packed with activity, and I was running on empty.

Snappy and out of shape, I broke. Something had to change. I couldn’t keep operating this way and still be the person that God created me to be.

In my youth, I learned 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, which reads, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you are bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (NIV). Although I’d always considered it in relation to modesty, premarital sex, alcohol, and drugs, I unexpectedly found the verse creeping through my mind time and time again.

God was convicting me. When I envision temples, or a place of worship, I picture a pristine structure commanding reverence. But I was doing anything but respecting my body. Life’s busyness had sucked the discipline of exercise completely out of my life.

During Bible study, I requested prayer for wisdom. My husband and I considered purchasing an elliptical machine, but space and the safety of our children were concerns. The other possibility was joining a gym. Not surprisingly, I found challenges with that as well. My girls were never cared for by anyone other than family. Would they do okay with a stranger in a playroom? And, would I honestly have the ambition to leave the comforts of exercising in my own home to get myself and the kids loaded into the car each day, drive to a facility, unload the kids, get sweaty, reload the kids, drive home, unload the kids yet again, and get myself ready?

No! No! No, God, No! And in that moment, I became to God what Hannah was to me. She wanted physical health without the albuterol mask and I wanted physical, emotional, and spiritual health without needing to alter my routine. She flailed around pleading for me not to give her the treatment and I placed an agitated heart before God begging to be released from my situation. I said, “Please Hannah, just do this, I know it will make you well,” and my all-knowing God voiced the same to me.

Eventually Hannah gave up the fight. Trusting my words, she allowed me to place the mask against her face and very quickly her shallow, constricted breathing slowed into relaxed, fulfilling breaths. Likewise, I submitted to God’s voice. Confident that He was calling me to a gym, I pressed forward and purchased a membership.

God surprised me. Although the first few separations were rough, the girls adapted quickly and now they actually desire going to the playroom each day. Meanwhile, I get to bike while reading my Bible study, walk the treadmill as I listen to scripture, and run on the elliptical while enjoying Christian music – not to mention sharing meaningful fellowship with others.

What spiritual discipline has been put on the back burner in your life? What changes do you need to make to better honor your God-given temple? I beg that you don’t fight the mask. Please listen to His voice, because when the Great Physician writes a prescription it will always breathe life into your longing body.

Melissa Nesdahl is a wife, mother, volunteer, and independent Christian writer striving to foster faith development in the life of her readers. Previous publications include the Chicago Tribune, Pam Stenzel’s “Love Lessons: Purity is Possible” CD series’ leaders guide, and “Surviving China” in Kyria. Catch Melissa twittering at

Welcoming Overnight Guests: Hospitality Tips

By Karen Ehman

Sometimes the very word sends shudders up our spine as doubt invades our brain. “Host others for a meal or even overnight? No way. Not me!!! Too difficult and almost downright scary!”

Fear not, sweet sisters! There are simple solutions to your hosting dilemmas. With a little forethought and creativity, you can offer hospitality with a smile and with ease.
Although we’ve never had company live with us for an extended period of time, we have had our fair share of overnight guests. My husband’s parents have always lived nearly three hours from us and have come to stay several times a year. We have missionary friends and college buddies who also spend the night with us. And then there are our kids’ friends! Each month of the year finds us hosting an assortment of sleepy-eyed teenage girls or bright-eyed and bushy-tailed boys up at the crack of dawn ready to go pester squirrels with their BB guns. Yep, hospitality means sometimes guests spend the night.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to remember when hosting overnight callers:

Decide where they will keep their things, even if there isn’t space in the room where they will sleep. Show them the spot and make sure others respect their personal space and property.

Have a pleasant place for them to lay their head for the night. It doesn’t have to be a real guest bedroom. At our former house, company slept on a hand-me-down pull-out sofa we had in our unfinished basement. We purchased a new slipcover for it and made sure it was outfitted with warm, flannel sheets as the room was sometimes chilly. We found a dresser at a yard sale that they could use to put their things in. We painted the walls white to lighten the room and would set out a bouquet of fresh flowers, or leave chocolates on their pillows like a real inn would.

Stock their room with needed items. A lamp for evening reading, a mirror for getting ready, and a working alarm clock are the basics.

Show them the bathroom. Have a space cleared on the counter or in a cabinet for them to place their toiletries. Roll a few wash cloths and tie with a ribbon. Place them on top of the bath towel they will use. Fill a small basket with other items they might possibly need: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, etc. Look for these items in special scents and trial sizes. Or, if a hotel says you can take them, then by all means, bring them home!

Let them know the laundry facilities are available to them. Check each day to see if they need anything washed and dried or ironed.

Have a pitcher of water and glasses in their room. Have the refrigerator well stocked with juices, spritzers, or teas for them to enjoy if they are thirsty.

Consider placing a basket of fruit or shortbread cookies and chocolates in their room. Tailor it to their liking. Include anything that says, “Welcome! We were thinking of you!”

If a coffee lover will be staying with you and you don’t drink coffee, consider purchasing a small coffeemaker that they can use in their room.

Let them know your schedule and be aware of theirs. Discuss breakfast the night before. Let them know when supper will be served and make sure it works in their schedule.

Before they come, discuss dietary restrictions.

Pet- and child-proof your guest’s room. They will appreciate the protection it will provide their belongings. Also, before arrival, find out if your guests have pet allergies. Rid your place of pet hair and try to keep your animals away from them as much as you can.

Let them know if there are any quirks to how things work at your house. Does the hot water take a while to run? Does the front door lock need a little push to the right in order to open?

If you can’t always be home when they will be returning, give them a spare house key.

Treat them like both guests and part of the family. People feel uneasy if you seem to be begrudgingly putting life on hold just to entertain them. As a rule, go about your daily routine, but make them a part of it.

There you have it! Now, don’t feel as if you need to invite a whole host of folks to spend the week with you. Start small. In no time, you will be in hostess heaven and your guest will feel right at home. Enjoy your company!

For more great hospitality tips, check out Karen’s book “A Life that Says Welcome.”
Karen Ehman is also a member of the P31 Speaker’s team. Click here to learn more about Karen.

Greater Love: An Easter Miracle on Main Street

By MaryBeth Seal

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“Mary, can you help us move this weekend?” asked my friend Yola.
With some trepidation I replied, “Of course we can help you move.” Yola was my new friend from work.
I hesitated because it was going to be on Easter weekend and I had a lot of grocery shopping, baking, and meal preparation to do for my family. I was sure it would be a huge inconvenience. “Somehow I’ll manage to do it all,” I told myself. Doing it all myself was a lifelong trap, and I still fall into it more than I like to admit.
This particular holiday, I planned to make an atypical Easter dinner-not the traditional ham, potato salad, and yams we were used to. I discovered a recipe for a unique way to serve sliced ham and turkey, layered with Swiss cheese and spinach. These ingredients would then be baked in the middle of rolled pastry dough. These sliced pinwheels made for a great presentation on a decorative serving platter. I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and begin my food art work!
There was one traditional food that I was not going to forgo, and that was the lamb cake. My mother always made lamb cakes as I was growing up, and now I always make one for my own family. It is basically pound cake batter baked in a lamb form pan. After it’s cooled, it would be iced with vanilla frosting and finally smothered with snow white flaked coconut. I would use black jelly beans for the nose and eyes. Carefully placing a red ribbon around its neck, the lamb would be positioned on a bed of Easter grass and become the center piece for our table.
As a child, I thought lamb cakes were cute. As an adult, I understand that Jesus is the Lamb of God; that he was slain for the forgiveness of sin for all mankind, and for me personally. He was the incarnate sacrificial Passover Lamb. The beautiful lamb cake that would be our centerpiece would be broken, slashed and served after our meal.
Soon, the holiday weekend roared in and I charged out the door to go help my friends move. After all, we had the truck, and my husband and our teen son had the muscles. I did my share of carrying boxes down the flight of stairs to the truck and up three flights of stairs to their new apartment.
Later that afternoon upon returning home, my “charge” had expired. I felt like I was wearing a bell diver’s suit. I trudged into my kitchen to begin the preparation for my Easter dinner. My food art work was looking more like hard work. Before starting my list, I had to unload two bags of food that Yola had sent home with me from her place. They were going out of the country for a month, and didn’t want it to be wasted.
As I packed her things into my refrigerator, it was as though I was putting a puzzle together. Yola had no way of knowing of my dinner plans, so this dinner puzzle was quite surprising. I took out a package of sliced ham, then one of sliced turkey, and in the mix, a package of Swiss cheese! To my absolute astonishment, I pulled out a box of freezer pastry dough, just exactly what I needed to make the dinner from the magazine recipe.
Just then there was a knock on our door. My future daughter-in-law stood in the doorway holding a dish on which sat a beautiful lamb cake!
I knew God was blessing us for helping our friends that day. He laid down his life for his friends; and asks us to do the same for others. When we sat down to dinner on that extraordinary Easter Sunday, we enjoyed an amazing “grace,” the grace of a miracle. Our hearts were filled with gratitude.

MaryBeth Seal is a nurse and a She Speaks graduate. Speaking to women’s groups and Bible studies has been part of her ministry as well. “A Life to Overcome” is one her favorite presentations. MaryBeth recently had her first book published “Valley Girl….the Valley of Trouble Leads to a Door of Hope,” and it is available at MaryBeth can be contacted at