Posts made in July, 2010

Imagine there’re no….flashes

Posted by on Jul 18, 2010 in hot flash, mind-body therapy | 0 comments

It’s easy if you try?

Wow! What a concept, eh? Well, it might not be so far-fetched, at least according to researchers at Baylor University. Writing in the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, they say that cool imagery might actually reduce the incidence of hot flashes.

Two years ago, I wrote about Baylor research that showed that hypnosis could reduce hot flashes up to 68% in breast cancer survivors. This time, the investigators asked women who had survived breast cancer to participate in five weekly  hypnosis sessions and also, to describe mental images they would use for reducing hot flashes before undergoing hypnosis. Women who participated in the study were also taught self-hypnosis techniques and were encouraged to practice daily using their preferred imagery.

The results?

Overwhelmingly and not surprisingly, the women preferred cool over warm images. In fact, more than a quarter visualized something cool water-related such as a waterfall or rain or shower. Other images included cool air or wind, cool mountains, leaves and forests and snow.

The researchers say that while more study is needed, the findings might actually help to equate certain parts of the brain that are activated through imagery to those activated by perceived events.  Conversely, it is possible that in the case of hot flashes, “think” cool equals “feel” cool although I remain less convinced of this personally.

Regardless, I’d love to see more on this as Baylor researchers continue to delve into the brain mechanisms that control hot flashes with their minds. Imagine that…

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Why I bake. A guest post by Wendy Goldman Scherer

Posted by on Jul 16, 2010 in Inspiration | 2 comments

When I asked Wendy Scherer to take over Flashfree for a day, I didn’t know what she was going to write about. But I love this post. Because it demonstrates that escape from everyday stresses doesn’t always have to come from without, but rather, sometimes, the greatest joys and introspection can be derived even from mini-staycations. Baking as a staycation. Who knew?!

Please show my friend, colleague and family member Wendy Scherer, some FF luv.

I am not a cook. Ask anyone.

I don’t like to cook. And frankly, I’m just not that good at it. I don’t have the patience to cut things into similar sized pieces, nor do I care. I don’t like picking out just the right recipe, reading Cooks Illustrated, or having to time out components to a meal.

I’m quite fortunate that I have a husband who not only loves to cook, but makes terrific food. And considering that I do like to eat well, it’s a pretty cushy deal for me.

When Andrew is out for the night and I’m in charge, I admit I can cook a few things. Quiche, lasagna, chicken pot pie, spaghetti, scrambled eggs, hot dogs. That’s just the beginning of my vast repertoire, but think you get the picture.

Cooking stresses me out. The opposite is true of baking. I lose myself in it. Kneading bread is one of my greatest joys. I know what it should feel like and it’s exciting when it’s just so. Getting the crust to the exact right place before rolling it out. Now, there’s joy. Baking is precise in its proportions. I like that. It’s order. But it’s not science to make it wonderful; that is spirit, gut, instinct.

It just is.

I’ve always baked to relax. To de-stress. It’s like therapy to me, only much, much cheaper.  I mean seriously, what costs less than yeast and flour? And I don’t need an appointment, either. The kitchen is open 24/7. And the best part is that I don’t have to eat the goods. There is nothing easier than getting rid of a rustic French loaf, an apple pie, and extra challah, or baguettes. Trust me, it’s true.

I’ve always been this way. See me here at age 11. That’s when I decided that the first thing I want when I grow up is a Kitchen Aid mixer.

And when I lived alone, single in my twenties, there’d be nights when I made a half dozen pies only to drive around the next day delivering them to grandparents and friends.

And now, in the kitchen in my new home, baking has never been better. I have counter space galore and every rolling pin and baking mat has its place. But best of all, I have 3 teenagers to consume whatever I make. And they don’t even realize they’re doing me a favor.

About Wendy Scherer…

Wendy blogs at Finding Blanche http://findingblanche and photoblogs at and is on Twitter @wendyscherer.

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Make new friends, but keep the old…

Posted by on Jul 15, 2010 in Inspiration, Uncategorized | 4 comments

I’m heading West this morning. Way West. And way, way back in time. To 1961 in fact.

For the next six days, I’ll be visiting a woman who I’ve known since I was 3 months old. Long time, right? What strikes me about this particular vacation is that I am stepping back in time and yet, celebrating the now.

We lost contact in high school and reconnected after college. I used to see her regularly when I was living in NYC and she’d come for a month’s worth of painting and art classes.

She reminds of me the good things about my past. And the importance of friends and continuity as we grow older. And while we may live miles away and our daily lives are truly as different as night and day, she is a huge part of my fabric.

And she gets away with calling me ‘Lizzie Tish!’

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Wednesday Bubble: Is S-equol the next big thing?

Posted by on Jul 14, 2010 in new approaches | 5 comments

Last year I wrote a few posts about the potential of the isoflavone S-equol for addressing menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and mood swings.

If you are unfamiliar with S-equol, it is actually a metabolite of a one of the three soy isoflavone compounds (i.e. daidzein), and is produced by bacteria that live in the intestines. One of the most interesting things about S-equol is that is one of the principal types of isoflavones that are found in soybeans and most soy foods. However, up to 80% of the U.S. population and about half of the Japanese population (who consume inordinate amounts of soy) cannot manufacture S-equol on their own and need to obtain it in supplement form.

This month’s Journal of Nutrition has devoted an entire supplement to S-equol research, and I’ve been fortunate to take a more detailed look at the evidence supporting the role of S-equol for menopausal symptoms. Notably, some of the  researchers actually say that “to conduct menopausal medical care appropriately [which, in their opinion, should be geared towards a better quality of life on an individual basis), it is necessary to provide evidence-based alternative medicines as much as possible.” It is wonderfully refreshing to find such esteemed colleagues backing my view of how menopause should be approached.

Hence, without further ado, following is what you need to know about the recap of study findings, and what still needs to be explored before we all start taking S-Equol.

In three randomized studies conducted in pre-, peri- and menopausal Japanese women who were or were not able to produce S-equol naturally, researchers found specific benefits in three areas:

  • Mood improvement: 134 women who produced S-equol naturally and took a 10 mg daily S-equol supplement had significant reductions in anxiety; those who took 10 mg three times a day had significant declines in tension-anxiety and fatigue, and an increase in overall energy. Note that these women also limited their daily intake of soy products to no more than 20 mg/day.
  • Hot flashes and other symptoms: In 320 women taking 10 mg S-equol daily or placebo for 12 weeks, S-equol supplements reduced the frequency of hot flashes by as much as 58%. Decreases in muscle and neck stiffness were also reported.
  • Bone health: In 54 women who had undergone menopause within 5 years of the study, those who were able to produce S-equol naturally and took 75 mg  isoflavones daily supplement (mostly consisting of daidzein) lost a significantly lower percentage of bone in their hip area than women who were not able to produce S-equol naturally but also took the daily supplement. Researchers believe that S-equol actually mimics the action of estrogen in the body in terms of its ability to maintain bone mass and the balance between the build up of bone (bone formation) and the loss of bone (bone resorption). However, studies looking at how it acts in the body have only been conducted in mice and at relatively high doses. Information reported in the Journal supplement does show that at higher dosages, S-equol can negatively affect the tissues lining the uterus.

A few key take-away points to think about when we think about S-equol:

Researchers believe that the research in S-equol helps to show that soy isoflavones work best in individuals whose bodies are able to produce S-equol naturally. However, you’ve read the stats – the majority of people who live in the US do not produce S-equol naturally. Dosing and the exact type of S-equol may also influence outcomes. Likewise, They still aren’t sure how bacteria in the intestines influence S-equol’s effects and wonder if somehow, some other mechanism is at play. Further research is also needed to see if the beneficial effects of S-equol on menopausal symptoms can be extended to women who do not produce it naturally.

It’s too early to boost this bubble and I’m excited by this evidence-based alternative. Naysayers love to point out that alternative therapies are sham and snake oil. While this may be true of some preparations, it’s clear that researchers are taking natural substances to a higher level to see if they offer efficacy without the risks of hormone replacement.

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A bicycle built for…weight!

Posted by on Jul 12, 2010 in physical fitness, weight gain | 0 comments

I’d love to be writing to tell you that researchers have discovered a bicycle specifically built to boost weight loss.  However, better yet, it seems that any bicycle may be able to help you prevent weight gain during the premenopausal years. Moreover, the more you need to lose, the greater the benefits.

For some time now, experts have been telling us that daily exercise, even walking can help stave off weight gain. But is all walking created equal? And what about bicycling, which evidently, only 5% of the population over the age of 16, and mostly women, engage in?

Researchers report that among a pool of over 18,000 women studied between 1989 and 2005 (as part of the ongoing Nurses Health Study):

  • Increasing the amount of biking over the study period seemed to hold weight gain to a mininum even if that biking equaled only 5 minutes a day.
  • Women with normal weight who biked for more than 4 hours a week by the study weight had about a third lower odds of gaining about 5% of their body weight than women who did not bike at all.
  • Women who were considered overweight and obese had about half the odds of gaining weight if they biked for at least 2 to 3 hours a week.
  • Brisk walking was much better at holding off weight than slow walking — by about  a half pound.

The key take-away points of this study is that exercising is not created equal as we age. In this case, more is less is the rule of thumb, meaning that if you weigh more, you may gain less over time if you start bicycling at least 2 to 3 hours a week. If you are lean and mean, well, biking can still yield some significant benefits when it comes to weight gain.

Biking is definitely built for staving off weight gain. Go for it!

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