Siestas Are Good for You

siestas

Have you heard that siestas (AKA naps) are good for you? Apparently, they are, especially during the hot weather we have been experiencing. This is because our body temperatures lower automatically when we sleep.

Read all about the history of siestas to see how they made sense centuries ago and continue to do so today. What started off many years ago as a necessity is now touted to be highly beneficial to our health. Whether you are accustomed to heatwaves or not, cooling off with a midday nap might be the answer this summer.

Why Siestas are Healthy

Research has shown that naps are beneficial for boosting energy, increasing creativity, and even improving short-term memory.  Parents know children that who nap during the day can maintain better behaviour and energy levels until bedtime at night.  Apparently, adults can benefit from naps too; the question is how long should adults nap for maximum productivity.

How Long Should Adults Nap For?

The same source reveals that fifteen to twenty-five minutes is an ideal length for siestas. A mere 20-minute nap can boost energy levels without feeling groggy upon waking. For adults that is. Any longer than that promotes a deeper sleep which may cause brain fog, grogginess, and low productivity, totally defeating the purpose of midday siestas.

At one hour grogginess is reduced but short-term memory can improve.  One hour and thirty minutes of sleep allow for a full REM (rapid eye movement) cycle,  and improved creativity upon waking. Longer naps are especially beneficial when making up for a lack of sleep the night before.

Children and Naps

Of course, young children need longer naps to avoid the consequences of sleep deprivation. They probably benefit more from a minimum of 90 minutes of napping.   Parents probably benefit most from their children taking longer naps too, creating a win-win situation.

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Contrasting Colours in Gardens and Containers

Contrasting colours rather than complementary ones make a bigger impact in your garden. Most people tend to opt for complementing colors when choosing plants. I always tell my clients remember, you are not wearing the plants, they do not have to match!

Choose colours that are opposite (not next to) each other on the colour wheel to create some drama:

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Use Colour Contrasts in Containers Too

I love using coleus in containers for the wide range of contrasting colour in their foliage. Straight from the nursery, choose from the many options in contrasting colour combinations within the same plant! The chartreuse green of creeping jenny or sweet potato vines make the red tones of the coleus pop in your creations:

For full sun containers, I tend to go for purple, pink, red, blue and yellow for the “fillers” and “spillers.” Their bright colours look so summery and vivid against the various shades of green which are perfect backdrops for “thrillers” and additional “spillers.”

Choose Perennials with Contrasting Flower Colours but the Same Bloom Time

When choosing perennials for your garden beds, instead of picking matching colours, try selecting contrasting colours in plants that bloom at the same time. For example, this yellow ligularis in front of a purple clematis creates a much more eye-catching scenario than two yellow or two purple plantings.

contrasting colours
ligularis and clematis

Another great example in my yard is my collection of daylilies I have in a raised bed at the side of my house. From dark wine-red to pale peach, they are contrasting yet compliment each other beautifully!

Foliage with Contrasting Colours

Another trick to make individual plants stand out is to place contrasting foliage colours next to or in front of each other. An example here is the leaves of a purple smoke tree (that just had a haircut so will soon be much taller) behind (right now it looks like it’s inside) the bright green leaves of a hydrangea.

contrasting colours
purple smoke tree and hydrangea

Try some new contrasting combinations in your garden to create some drama. Be sure to send me pictures of your combinations.

Remember, forget the matchy-matchy look, you are not wearing the plants!

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Lectins: Toxic Proteins or Revolutionary?

Lectins: Toxic Proteins or Revolutionary Research?

Although lectins are proteins, they are not as good for us as one would think. They are beneficial in plants as they keep insects (kind of like a defense mechanism) away and contain nitrogen which is essential for plant growth. In the human body, however, lectins can be toxic!

Which Foods Contain Lectins?

These are the foods with the most lectins, in descending order:

  • legumes (peanuts, cashews, beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) with uncooked red kidney beans the worst. Butters (peanut butter, hummus) from these legumes also contain lectins.
  • wheat, corn, rice, oats, and quinoa
  • nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers)
  • dairy products containing casein A1 (most North American cows)
  • corn, soybean, and sunflower oils
  • squash family (zucchini, melons, cucumbers)
  • soy products (milk, beans, sprouts, tofu, oils)
  • many fruits, including bananas. See the list below for lectin-free fruit

Why Lectins can be Harmful

The reason lectins cause us so much grief is because they are incredibly sticky and therefore cannot be digested properly. Instead, they adhere to the cells in our guts so that vitamins and minerals do not get absorbed. They also stick to insulin receptors, blocking the hormone called Leptin, so your brain never recognizes when you are full. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Yes, lectins increase your appetite. Amongst other things.

Increased appetite means weight gain is at the top of the long list of bad things lectins cause. The rest of the list includes achy joints, indigestion, digestive damage, fatigue, brain fog, constipation, mood swings, immune system suppression, depression, and overall poor health.

Everyone has heard of gluten and how millions are avoiding it whether they need to or not. Gluten is a lectin, but there are many other lectins that cause just as much grief (or more) for people with food sensitivities. In fact, if you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, you should avoid all lectins.

People like myself that suffer from a wheat (but not gluten) allergy realize that it is a protein in wheat that triggers my reactions. I was never told however that it was a lectin or that I might be lectin intolerant. This probably explains why those without Celiac disease or a gluten allergy (like myself) who have eliminated wheat from their diets feel so much better.

Wheat germ lectin has been shown in research to impact the immune system by increasing inflammation within our bodies. Not just in our stomach or intestines, but all over our bodies. Have you heard of “leaky gut syndrome?” This happens because lectins punch holes in our intestines (hence the leaky gut) letting toxins and bacteria out of your gut to invade and cause inflammatory responses in many other organs.

This resulting long-term inflammation has been linked to many serious medical conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, uterine fibroids, breast and ovarian cysts, autoimmune diseases, and small airway obstruction (asthma) in the lungs. I was experiencing most of these health issues when I was first diagnosed with my wheat allergy. It took me persistence and quite a long time to figure this out.

The Good News About Lectins

Now for the good news! Lectins are not always bad. Recent research reveals that lectins have been shown to be beneficial in some revolutionary uses. I say revolutionary because the use of natural plant extracts instead of harmful and expensive chemical medication is just that. This is quite exciting, except perhaps for the mega-rich and powerful drug companies. Oops, sorry, I am digressing. Here are some of the revolutionary uses I spoke of:

  • Small amounts of lectins may help the good bacteria that live in the human digestive system.
  • Research suggests that lectins may be useful for helping to identify and diagnose cancer. Lectins are also being studied for their potential to slow down the rate that cancer cells multiply.
  • Researchers are even looking at lectins as potential treatments for illnesses caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Lectin-Free Foods

What foods are left to eat that are lectin-free you ask? If you don’t have any of the above health issues to try to clear up, don’t worry about them, lectins obviously don’t affect you. If you do feel the pain (literally), eat the lectin-rich foods (above) but ensure they are well-cooked and in moderation, and eat more of these lectin-free foods:

  • mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery, and carrots
  • broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus
  • leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc)
  • sweet potatoes (cooked)
  • cherries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, oranges, and lemons
  • pasture-raised (grass-fed) meat and chicken
  • sheep, goat, and coconut milk as well as South European (A2) cow’s milk
  • blanched (no skin) almonds, almond butter
  • olives and olive oil

To Consume or not to Consume Lectins

So, do you continue to consume foods containing lectins or eliminate them from your diet? Well, that depends on how badly they affect you. In my case I avoid wheat. Keeping a journal of foods (lectins) you eat and how they affect you can help decide which ones to eliminate from your diet.

The answer for those of you without an obvious reaction is to simply reduce the lectins you eat. It is not necessary to completely eliminate them, and there are ways to reduce the number of lectins you are putting into your body. Sprouting, fermenting, removing the seeds, or cooking the culprits well will severely diminish the lectins’ potency. Get your pressure cooker out and dust it off!

Intuitive Eating

The moral of this story is to listen to your body. That simple practice is called intuitive eating. If you suffer from many or any of the health issues listed above, maybe you are lectin intolerant! I wish I had this information ten years ago when I was going through my personal battle to figure out what was wrong with me. My doctor wanted to put me on antidepressants, but I refused, believing it was more complicated than that. I’m sure glad I did. I feel better now pushing 60 than I did throughout most of my 40’s and early 50’s!

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Moderation is Key, or is it?

moderation

Do you believe “moderation is the key” or do you live by the “you can never get enough of a good thing” motto? Hubby and I differ in our opinions here.

Too Much of a Good Thing

When you find a “deal” do you (or are you tempted to) buy more than you need? From food items to household products to clothes, I like to buy only what I need when I need it, especially things I have never purchased before. I like to test drive items before I buy in multiples.

Someone else in this household, however, (did I tell you we are empty-nesters?) is like “oh, these jeans are on sale, maybe I should get three pairs so I won’t have to buy any for years.” If I did this I would probably forget I purchased the other two (identical) pairs. Shoes are another item hubby buys in bulk, shoe boxes line his closet, all with the same shoes in them.

The only time I admit to (perhaps) going overboard is when I’m perusing the garden nurseries. In that case, I can never get enough, and too much doesn’t occur to me. Especially plant sales or clearances. I love to nurture sad-looking plants, as most on clearance racks are, back to health.

Things in Moderation

Many things are said to be best in moderation.

Red wine comes to mind for me. I regret drinking more than two glasses when the resulting pounding headache the next morning reminds me I had too much. I can however handle more than two margaritas, especially the “skinny” variety I love concocted with Bubly and no triple sec.

margarita

House cleaning is something else I practice in moderation. My mother was a clean freak, me not so much. I do enjoy a clean house, especially the smell of a clean house. I enjoy it even more so when someone else has done the cleaning. Way back when my sons were young and I was working two full-time jobs (because that’s what you do when you work outside the home and are a mom too) I had a cleaning lady. Tuesday afternoons I would come home to an awesome-smelling, clean home. What a treat that was! The biggest problem with that arrangement is that I would run around tidying up the house Monday evening…in moderation of course.

Sitting still is yet another thing I do only in moderation. I can sit and read a good book, or watch a good movie on TV, occasionally. I’m not very good at sitting through an entire movie though without getting up to throw in a load of laundry or folding said laundry.

Fortunately for me, and my waistline in particular, I enjoy junk food in moderation. Very sugary stuff I am not that fond of as sugar gives me a sore throat. Treats like ice cream and dark chocolate though are my favourite indulgences.

What do you enjoy in moderation or excess? Please share!

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Words of Wisdom

photo of woman looking at the mirror

Listening to the radio recently, I was reminded of some words of wisdom my mother shared with me years ago.

iHeartRadio’s Brooke and Jeffrey in the morning show were in the middle of a second date episode.  The pretext is this: if you go on a first date with someone and they ghost you (don’t contact you or return your calls, texts, messages etc), you contact the radio show to enlist their help to find out why. The funny part is that the ghostee is on the line listening to the ghoster’s reasons for their behaviour without the latter’s knowledge. After the dirty laundry is aired, both parties are then asked if they would be willing to go on a second date, at the expense of the radio station.

The young lady in this specific episode was (in my opinion) pretty high on herself…because (in her opinion) she’s really good-looking. When she only received a text from the ghostee within the next 24hrs, she moved on to the list of other guys she “swiped.”

You might think I’m wandering off-topic here, (I do that sometimes) but bear with me this time. I will get back to the words of wisdom from my mother.

Looks will get you the  First 5 Minutes

And after that, you’re on your own.

I heard these words of wisdom many times whenever I was primping (yes, I too was a vain teenager) in front of a mirror in preparation for an evening out.

What old-fashioned words of wisdom do you remember hearing that may not be so common today?

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Osteoarthritis, a Pain in the Hip

osteoarthritis

Is osteoarthritis ruining your life? It is mine, and I am not happy. For years it represented a minor annoyance when my right hip would click or hurt occasionally and for just a nanosecond. Recently though, the condition took a turn for the worse.

Osteoarthritis Flare-up

During Canada celebrations, I was standing around lots watching some of my grandchildren enjoy the fair-like rides. For some reason, my arthritic hip does not appreciate standing around. Within a span of an hour or so, my osteoarthritis went from a twinge once in a while to 8 out of 10 painful.

I can walk for miles, at least I could, prior to this flare-up. My hip also currently doesn’t like stairs or pivoting. Or cold. It never did like cold but today the freezer section of the grocery store made it throb.

Gardening Dilemma

I had already decided to reduce my gardening hours but now I might have to give it up completely! I hope not, will have to wait to see if the pain continues or subsides to its previous, manageable level. It has been a full week already since the flare-up occurred. Just when I think I am feeling better, it acts up again.

I realize too, that if you don’t use it you lose it. Perhaps my hip is bothering me more because I am not gardening (stretching, bending, squatting etc) enough. We (hubby and I) have also not been taking our evening, hour-long walks around the neighbourhood. We have been working at the cottage though, so that should account for something, shouldn’t it? Although, I am more of the gopher and consultant and he is the worker bee in those projects. So more standing around for me and less for him.

Treating the Osteoarthritis

Honestly, I have been taking it easy since the flare-up. In fact, I have read three books in the past week. I know that rest is the best way to alleviate the pain; I’m just not used to being sedentary. And, it scares me of what is to come.

Pain medication is not a great option for me as I react to most of them. I have been trying several herbal remedies instead but most of them take a while to take effect.

Anyone I know that has had hip replacement surgery for their osteoarthritis says they wished they had done it sooner. My problem is that my doctor retired recently and I have been unable to find a new one. I have x-rays from a year ago showing that my right hip shows moderate osteoarthritic changes. Also an issue is the waiting list for arthroscopic or hip replacement surgery here in Canada.

Arthroscopic Surgery

This would be the best option in my opinion but I’m not sure I am eligible. They can insert a tiny camera and instruments through a few minuscule holes to repair cartilage or bone malformations. This procedure can be performed in a few hours with much less downtime (as little as two days) than the alternative.

Unfortunately, hips already in the process of osteoarthritis (like mine) do not benefit from arthroscopic surgery.

Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement is much more complicated and invasive. The femoral head (the part of the joint that is supposed to be round but gets flattened/misshapen with osteoarthritis) and damaged cartilage are removed and replaced with a prosthetic (fake) joint. Doctor Domenic Carreira says these patients require a hospital stay (a few days) and the use of a walker or cane for up to four weeks after surgery.

osteoarthritis

I think I would be a great candidate according to my age, weight, activity level, lifestyle, and medical condition:

The results of total hip replacement vary depending on the individual’s age, weight, activity level, lifestyle, and medical conditions. Typically a hip replacement results in less pain and better hip function. The implants used in hip replacement do have a limited life expectancy. A joint implant’s longevity will vary in every patient, but they typically last about 20 years.

Dr. Domenic Carreira

I would love to hear from anyone that has gone through either process, especially the hip replacement surgery. Also, if anyone has any tips on how to get a doctor and on the waiting list, I would appreciate the advice!

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Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin, and Curry powder

Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin, and Curry powder

If you, like me, are confused about the difference between turmeric, curcumin, cumin, and curry powder, this post should help…

Turmeric

Let’s start with turmeric.  Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is a plant in the ginger family, native to southeast Asia and India.  It has a bitter but warm taste and is often used to color and flavor butters, cheeses, mustards, and curry powders.  Although the leaves are used to wrap and cook food in areas where it is grown, it is the rhizomes of the turmeric plant that are ground into a powder used around the world to color and flavor food.

The root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine to treat conditions such as heartburn, gallbladder disorders, diabetes, arthritis, stomach pain, headaches, cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel disease, lung infections, menstrual problems, depression, water retention, bronchitis, kidney infections, colds, fibromyalgia, skin inflammations, as well as both fungal and bacterial infections.  Current research is hoping to prove that turmeric is also effective against cancer.

Curcumin

Curcumin is the main component of turmeric rhizomes that imparts the typical bright yellow color.  It stains everything it touches, so be warned!

Cumin

Cumin is the dried seeds of a herb in the parsley family, mainly grown in India as well as other tropical and subtropical, frost-free areas around the world.  The seeds are used ground or whole as a spice to give flavor and aroma to food.

Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin, and Curry powder

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a spice blend containing primarily turmeric, cumin, coriander, and chili pepper.  A similar blend of spices is called garam masala in south Asia.  Some commercial blends of curry powder also contain ginger, garlic, fennel seed, mustard seed, cardamom, nutmeg, black pepper, and or cinnamon.

Turmeric, Curcumin, Cumin, and Curry powder

Well, I learned the difference between turmeric, curcumin, cumin, and curry powder while researching this post.  I hope it was helpful.  Try some of these spices soon to add flavor and color to your cooking while preventing or treating many health issues at the same time.

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Storm Recovery

Six weeks later, there is still storm recovery activity ongoing in my neighbourhood. It is simply amazing, beyond words, how much damage the derecho caused in our region of Ontario. Everywhere you look there are uprooted or broken trees. A few days after the storm our two-year-old grandson walked through our neighorhood pointing out all the “broken trees.” After the first few, the novelty wore off. Obviously, he did not recognize the fact that this was not normal.

Hazeldean Woods, Post Storm

Hazeldean Woods is a portion of NCC (National Capital Commission) property we are fortunate to live near. We frequent this beautiful, wooded, parkland setting lots, especially with our grandchildren. On our first post-storm visit we were devastated by the damage; all four of the extensive trails were impassible….

Storm Recovery Efforts

We have been back there a few times since the storm. Each time we are able to navigate through more of the trails. Today’s trip was almost unrecognizable due to the recovery efforts, AKA lack of trees. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures, shocked at the changes. Although it is great the work is being done, (I did not expect it to happen this soon due to the low priority of the area) the changes made it almost surreal. The trails are now passable, but lots of work still needs to be done. Trees scheduled for future removal are all marked with a big red X. Others have been cut down, with logs neatly stacked.

Mother Nature’s Plan

When so many old trees are destroyed and removed, is this Mother Nature’s plan for renewal? The amount of sunlight currently pouring into my neighbourhood woodland trails makes me wonder if new trees will soon be growing in their ancestor’s former homes.

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Expiry Date, Can we Predict Our Own?

expiry date

On what would have been my mother’s ninety-third birthday, I am pondering whether or not we can predict our own expiry date. Sounds morbid, I know, but this thought has crossed my mind many times since my mom passed away suddenly and much too early at the age of sixty-five.

How Much Does Genetics Count for our Expiry Date?

As mentioned, my mother died at the age of sixty-five. My father was seventy-eight although I believe he would have lived longer if my mother had. He was devastated upon her early demise and never really recovered. His broken heart gave out twelve years later.

So, is my own expiry date closer to sixty-five or seventy-eight, or somewhere in between? I realize there are many other factors involved, but I admit these thoughts have affected many choices I have made recently as I approach the dreaded sixty-five year marker.

Is Sixty the new Forty?

I certainly hope so. I think I am healthier and fitter than my parents were in their sixties. If this holds true, maybe my expiry date will be extended for good health. Although each decade seems to bring its own health issues, mine have been relatively minor, especially since I have the wheat thing figured out.

Early Retirement

One of the decisions made due to a potential early expiry date was to retire early, at the age of fifty-two. Well sort of. I accepted a severance package to leave my position within a hospital laboratory at that age but started a landscaping business the very next day. That was ten years ago already. Time does indeed fly when you’re having fun! This season I have cut back on my gardening services to spend more time with my recently retired husband.

Retirement Plans

With both of us retired, we are hoping to kickstart the cottage renovations we have been considering for several years now. Unfortunately, these renovation plans always seem to find a way to get postponed, with one delay after another. The latest delay was due to the recent storm and the ensuing and extensive cleanup here in Ontario.

Travel, something many of us have missed over the past few years during the pandemic, is also in our retirement plans. We may need more months and years to fit all the plans in.

Enjoying the Fruits of our Labour

Thinking about expiry dates only increases the urgency to accomplish items on our to-do list, including renovations. After all, it is important to enjoy the fruits of our labour!

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Dementia: Can You Prevent it?

dementia

As I get older, every time I forget something I wonder if dementia is imminent. Forgetfulness is common as we age, but just how forgetful is normal, and what level is more worrisome? We all joke about having “senior moments” but when do the jokes become reality?

What is Dementia

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes dementia as the following:

Dementia is not a specific disease but is rather a general term for the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interferes with doing everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. Though dementia mostly affects older adults, it is not a part of normal aging

CDC

Excess Protein in the Brain

Research is showing that excess protein causes a toxic, plaque-like buildup in the brain that kills off brain cells. Known medically as proteinopathies, the group of diseases that exhibit this protein accumulation includes the several forms of dementia.

Normal Aging

CDC assures that these age-related changes in our memory are perfectly normal:

  • Occasionally misplacing items
  • Struggling to find a word but remembering it later
  • Forgetting the name of an acquaintance
  • Forgetting the most recent events

This list also includes going upstairs for something, then forgetting why you went upstairs. Phew, I bet that’s a pretty common occurrence for many of us within my generation.

Worrisome Symptoms

As well as problems with memory, dementia symptoms include issues with communication, attention, problem-solving or judgment, and behavior or personality changes.

For example, if you get lost in a familiar neighbourhood, forget the name of a close friend or family member, find yourself unable to complete familiar tasks, organize or plan, notice decreased coordination, or start using inappropriate/wrong words in a conversation, you should seek medical help.

Warding off Dementia

Any activity that exercises your brain helps to keep dementia at bay. Referred to as cognitive engagement, this includes reading, puzzles, word games (like Wordle), and more.

Physical exercise also helps as it forces more oxygen into your brain. Low or inadequate levels of oxygen, medically called hypoxia, is defined by the National Library of Medicine (NLH) as:

Hypoxia, a condition where oxygen supply to tissue is inadequate, induces free radical generation leading to oxidative protein modifications and tissue damage [2427]. Oxygen supply also acts as a modulator of aging processes [28]. The cerebrovascular disorders and hypoxia-ischemia injuries in the brain are projected as a primary cause of protein pathologies that leads to cognitive impairment and dementia [2930]. In short, hypoxia-ischemia injury in the brain persuades DPMs that can lead to aging, age-associated diseases, and neurodegeneration.

NIH

Social interaction has also been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and slow down its progression if it does happen. Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure helps lower the risk of dementia as does avoiding/quitting smoking. Avoiding or reducing saturated fats, salt, and sugar is key to a healthy diet, which in turn helps maintain that healthy weight.

Do your part to reduce your risk!

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