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The Language of the Microbiome

Posted By Heather Holmes, Thursday, August 23, 2018

We have been conditioned to be afraid of bacteria (microbes).  Countless news clips and articles scare us with pictures of harmful bacteria that has been found on dirty surfaces; companies that make bleach and disinfectants have been conditioning us with advertising for over fifty years – telling us to disinfect, sterilize, and wipe away what we cannot see.  Some people obsess over these small creatures, yet others are able to push them out of their minds. But, no matter how you view bacteria, the simple truth is, they’re always there. 

Our ancient ancestors were resourceful enough to figure out ways to heal wounds and eat in healthy ways, working with nature and the bacterial world around them. With the invention of antibiotics and our extensive overuse of them, we have turned our bacterial world upside down, creating complete imbalance in us, on us and around us. In fact, we are at the point where the bacteria are so resistant that we have few to no antibiotics left to treat us anymore, even for a simple wound. www.cdc.gov

Bacteria will always dictate whether things are clean or dirty, healthy or sick.  Microbes always have the last word no matter what products you use. This means that you cannot kill or clean away enough bacteria on any surface to make it clean (including, skin, teeth, nasal passages and the air). When you kill bacteria, you just allow it to take revenge on you. 

How it is then that microbes get to determine what beneficially lives on a surface or what makes us sick?  They do this through language.  Microbes actually communicate with other microbes through something called quorum sensing. They speak their own language to attract groups just like themselves, and they speak a universal language that allows them to communicate with different species in any given environment.  This ability to communicate is what allows bacteria to increase their numbers and send a message of balance and order (clean and healthy) or chaos (dirty and unhealthy). 

When the number of bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria, the bad bacteria will form a microscopic substance called biofilm. This biofilm is actually on your counters, on your skin, on your teeth and even up your nose. It protects bad bacteria and makes it impenetrable and impervious to any product you currently have under your sink or in your medicine cabinet. E.coli can multiply in a biofilm at such a rapid rate that you could stack it to the sun and back 100 million times in 24 hours. According to the NIH, biofilm is the source of 65-80% of all infection and disease! 

To make bacteria work in your favor, you need 10 good bacteria for every 1 bad bacteria. This will help you create a balanced bacterial environment – a balanced microbiome. it is imperative to introduce beneficial microbes (probiotics) into an environment.  These probiotics, when applied in the right combinations and the right amounts, give you the exact microbial communicators you need to keep any surface truly clean, healthy and free of biofilm.  In other words, probiotics are nature’s way of keeping all 100 trillion microbes in us and on us balanced. By incorporating them into your daily home cleaning, shower or bath, teeth cleaning, air purification or pet’s drinking water, you create a naturally healthy and protected environment against germy invaders. 

It is important to note that all probiotics are not created equally. Lactobacillus and acidophilus some of the most commonly know probiotic bacteria. These plant-based strains are not ideal outside the digestive track, and there is more evidence to show that the amount plant-based probiotics you need in order to make it past the bile system is so exponential that no one could consume enough of them. This leads to the discussion on spore-based probiotics, commonly referred to as the Bacillus strains.

When thinking about the internal microbiome, it’s important to consider the external microbiome, as well. Collectively they both impact our health. 


Internal Probiotics

For digestive probiotics (plant-based), it’s important to have live cultures; products such as, kefir, kombucha and kimchi, and even some yogurt, with numerous strains, are beneficial.  Probiotic supplements containing plant-based probiotics are traditionally heated, which destroys the efficacy of the probiotics. Therefore, the probiotic supplements lining retails shelves and sold on line are not ideal. You need billions of many different strains for plant-based probiotics to have effect. Additionally, a prebiotic should be consumed when taking a digestive probiotic, as prebiotics act as a delivery mechanism to help the probiotics survive the bile system. 

Spore probiotic supplements have been around for several years, but they are difficult to stabilize in products. This is why very few companies have entered into the spore probiotic space; however, this is changing. Spore supplements are preferred for the following reasons: 

  1. They make it through the bile system.
  2. They build the number of probiotics already in the gut.
  3. They reduce systemic inflammation and repair leaky gut.
  4. They are immune to antibiotics and can act as antibiotics when needed.
  5. They lay dormant when not needed and can come alive when they need to help your gut/body.


External Probiotics

There are even fewer companies in the environmental probiotic space. Some companies have produced probiotic cleaners, odor control products and pet products that contain plant-based probiotics – these probiotics require sugar to stay alive, so you commonly see molasses on the label. Do you really want to clean your counters with sugar or put sugar into your pet? Additionally, the probiotics used in these cleaners cannot clean away biofilm, which is paramount for a truly clean, balanced and protected surface.

You will also find plant-based probiotics in skin care products. Again, these products do not contain probiotics strong enough to eliminate biofilm, but it is a good marketing gimmick. One company, in fact, is making erroneous claims about curing all sorts of disease and on the probiotic bandwagon with less than infection states. This is concerning for many reasons, but the point here is that the probiotic market is set to explode. Thus, an understanding of probiotics is important, especially as less than efficacious products with great marketing flood the marketplace and create confusion. 

As previously stated the external microbiome is equally as important as your internal microbiome, and it can actually have a direct effect on your gut microbiome. Fortunately, there are spore based environmental probiotic products that help you properly clean, balance and protect all of the surfaces and air in your home or office, as well as coat your skin and your teeth – and even help you pet’s digestion, teeth and skin. These are the probiotic products that will make a difference in your client’s/patient’s life and truly impact their health because they remove biofilm and are able to control the bacterial environment wherever they are applied. This means you stay healthy!

Stay tuned for more information about biofilm and probiotics…

Heather Holmes is the President and CEO of P2 Probiotic Power. She passionately embraces the full product line in her daily life and demands the highest quality products for her customers that assure protection of surfaces, barriers to harmful bacteria and healthier lifestyles. She has served in leadership roles in both large, multinational companies, like Medtronic and STERIS, as well as in many early stage companies. Heather’s years of experience working in medical devices and with hospitals, with seven of those years focused on infection control, have prepared her to make her company a leader in lifestyle, health and wellness products. Heather has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Ohio Wesleyan University with a major in International Business and a minor in Economics and has studied in Geneva, Switzerland and American University. 

Tags:  antibiotic  microbiome  prebiotic  probiotic 

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Self-Care As Self-Love and Transformation

Posted By Krissy Mulpeter, Friday, August 17, 2018
Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2018

We have so many ways of fooling ourselves—of disconnecting our inner needs/desires from the thoughts that we tell ourselves or the words that come out of our mouths.

Women especially, but all people, are conditioned in so many ways to set aside what we want, what we need, in order to meet the demands that are placed upon us. For some this starts in early childhood when family dynamics encourage us as kids to set a need aside in order to cope with the situation, whatever it is. For others it is later when the "shoulds" start to set in. The expectations that society places upon us i.e. who we should be attracted to and date, what we should study, what job we should have, the list goes on and on. And everyone living in a capitalist economy and political system has demands placed upon us as people in order to survive, to work, to pay bills. Somewhere in there, some of us get tied up, blocked, stuck. Some of us get SO used to this position of external accommodation that we never really learn how to make ourselves happy or how to fulfill our own needs. And for some, it is almost uncomfortable to do something so far outside of our "normal" like an act of self-love.

With all of these pressures upon us, whether just from the demands of being human, from our relationships, or the pressure we put on ourselves, acts of self-care can be transformative, however small. Sure, as a therapist, I could dive into the therapeutic benefits of self-care, the way certain self-care activities can take ourselves from a place of trauma and stress to a place of processing, slowly allowing a reconstruction of sorts to occur. But in its most simple form, self care allows us to be whole. It is a reminder of what we are worth and that we are literally perfect just the way we are in that very moment.

It is easy to forget that taking care of ourselves is primarily our job as adults, not primarily the jobs of the people around us, our parents, our friends, or partners, etc. Sometimes the need for self-care can sneak in and disguise itself for:

1. Irritability
You are just generally pissed off. You aren't sure quite why, but all of a sudden every little thing your partner, boss, or grocery store clerk does is just not ok.

2. Blaming
The stressors you are faced with are only other people's fault right now and you are having trouble accessing your own power in coping with the situation.

3. Turning negativity onto yourself
Whether this shows up as low mood, worry, or self-destructive thoughts, you are carrying more than you need to and it is getting you down, and possibly keeping you from doing the things you normally do.

Sometimes when these things are happening, it can be so easy to dive into the specifics; to focus on what your partner did that made you mad, what isn't fair right now, or ruminate on your anxious thoughts that are seemingly unrelenting. It is so easy to let these things fools us, letting us believe that they ARE us. What I am suggesting, because it works for me, is instead of letting these things fool us into thinking they are an opportunity to exacerbate the negativity in your body and mind, use them as indicators that it is time for some self-care, whether it is gardening, painting, or going on walks (my three faves), or calling a friend, taking a bath, doing your dishes/laundry, or just putting on sunscreen.


Acts of self-love, however small, are transformative.


Krissy Mulpeter is an individual, couples & family therapist, yogini, and seeker of stories. She writes to explore topics in wellness, whole-hearted living, and healthy relationships to self and the ones we love. Krissy graduated from the University of Oregon with her M.S. program in Couples and Family Therapy and is early in her career as a therapist. When she is not doing therapy or writing, Krissy enjoys caring for her plants, cooking, going for walks, and practicing yoga.

Tags:  Self-Care  Self-Love  Transformation 

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I Have No Time to Spare. What a Relief.

Posted By Nicholas Alchin, Friday, August 10, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I’ve been watching the classes of 2018 as they have been sitting their IB and IGCSE exams, and watched my own daughter as she revises and prepares. It’s quite a tough thing, to have a few weeks with exams dotted around in them - sometimes with long empty days in between, without a fixed timetable. It’s not just the exams that can be disorienting, but also the jarring lack of structure when students suddenly leave behind a school schedule with its built-in classes, activities, and time with other people. Adjusting to this is as much of a challenge as anything. 

We parents can say ‘create a schedule’ and of course most students do exactly that. Perhaps, though, this raises more interesting questions about the ways we spend our time. It’s easy to appeal to time-management skills; but does this really make sense? I am not so sure; in fact I would agree with Dan Rockwell and Rory Vaden who have written there is no such thing as time management. Time can’t be managed. It simply is. Nothing you do changes time. This simple re-phrasing strikes me as a simple, profound truth - but one that is far from obvious.

It seems to me that self-management is so much more profound that time-management because it foregrounds the essential point that our choices are not just about what we do with our time, but also about what we do with our lives. As we spend our hours, so we spend our days, so we spend our decades; so we create our selves. 

Though the rather self-enclosed exam period brings the topic to our attention, it applies, obviously, to us all. Approaching her 81st birthday, the great writer and poet Ursula le Guin, wrote a beautiful mediation on this notion of time:

"The opposite of spare time is, I guess, occupied time... [but] I still don’t know what spare time is because all my time is occupied.  It always has been and it is now; it’s occupied by living. None of this is spare time... I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare."

This moved me more than I can easily say; because it spoke of a way of living a life that is, to her, clearly suffused with meaning and intensity. The idea of a life so occupied by living that there is no spare time seems to me to be such a worthy goal, and so much richer than any notions of work-life balance or of ways to protect our time. There should be no such thing as spare time - as if we would just give it way because we have no use for it. It's a real contrast to the idea of a life that seems to be largely occupied in the same way as territories are occupied; that is, by hostile forces. Only then would any unoccupied territory (spare time) be celebrated and cherished. Well, I’m never against a good celebration, but wouldn't it be better to have no such time at all, but to be so clear about what we want and value that our lives would be overflowing; stuffed to bursting with great things? In what is often a short-term, bottom-line, hyperlinked, disrupted, quantifiable working life, and indeed working world, I worry we are losing this notion.

For myself, I know I have sometimes fallen into the spare time paradigm, or it’s even poorer cousin, the balance paradigm - usually when unhappy with work. Perhaps focusing on filling time with the right things would be a better approach; it emphasizes the importance of making wise choices. For the class of 2018, entering college and the workplace, this is worth stressing, for sure. But I think it applies to all of us; le Guin asks the question for a retired person, but she wisely notes it is one for all:

"When all the time you have is spare, is free, what do you make of it? And what’s the difference, really, between that, and the time you used to have when you were fifty, or thirty, or fifteen?"


Le Guin, U. K., (2017) No time to spare; thinking about what matters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Neiman, S., (2017) Why Grow up? Penguin Random House

Rockwell, D., (2018) The #1 Thing That Most Improved my Productivity Leadership Freak Blog

Schwartz, B (2016) The Paradox of Choice

Nicholas Alchin is a Sino-Celt who has been working in K-12 International Education for too long to remember. Father of three and wife of one; currently Deputy Head at UWCSEA in Singapore. Avid reader and traveller; keen and competent breadmaker; keen and incompetent uni-cycler. 

Tags:  Self Management  Time Management 

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Cultivating a ‘Culture of Health’ in Your Organization

Posted By Anne Marie Kirby, Friday, August 3, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Health and wellness used to be considered the sole responsibility of employees. If they didn’t exercise on their own time, bring healthy food to the office, or get up from their desk every hour or so to avoid “sitting disease,” their own lack of discipline was often to blame. 

However, that perception is changing.

More employers realize the role they can and should play in encouraging and enabling employees to improve their own health and wellbeing. A growing body of research shows that a workplace of healthy, happy employees boosts productivity and contributes to its overall success. Consider a 2013 Rand study that found, for every $1 spent on a wellness program (fees of the program vendors and costs of screening employees); employers could expect an overall Return of Investment (ROI) of $1.50  – a return of $1.50 for every dollar that the employer invested in the program. 

A study published in 2016 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that a healthy and safe workforce results in higher performing companies, and positively correlates with the company’s ability to provide positive returns to shareholders. The study also found that a direct correlation between health and safety metrics based on the “Corporate Health Achievement Award” evaluation process merits inclusion with existing measures for market valuation.

The non-profit International Corporate Health Leadership Council (ICHLC) says a “culture of health” can greatly enhance health and wellness strategies.  This more all-encompassing or holistic approach is increasingly popular among employers. In 2016, 69 per cent of multinational companies had a global strategy for health promotion, up from 34 per cent in 2008, according to a Xerox-sponsored report.  


Effective employee health programs

Still, it’s not enough to simply adopt a health program and recommend employees to eat right and move more. Organizations need to embed health and wellness into their policies and programs and give employees the right environment and tools — such as healthy food choices in the cafeteria and fitness trackers that monitor activities — to empower and engage them. A 2014 Gallup study showed that 60 per cent of employees were aware of their employer’s health and wellness program; yet only 40 per cent participated.  

Increased engagement can only come from a stronger health and wellness culture. “A culture of health within an organization, not unlike a culture of safety, can serve to enhance employee engagement and encourage long-term behaviour change,” the ICHLC says in its report, Creating a Culture of Health for a Global Organization.  According to the report, many U.S. based corporations have begun efforts to enhance corporate culture to include and emphasize health and wellness, and in some cases, are developing metrics to measure the benefits of such a culture.

Apart from engaging employees and providing them with the right tools, employers also need to measure the progress and impact of their health and wellness programs. In addition to participation, measurement should be done across a number of metrics, including absenteeism and “presenteeism” – both of which impact productivity. 

Outcomes assessment is an essential part of a culture of health framework. The results can be used to assess progress and effectiveness, as well as to encourage action and collaboration.


“Culture of Health” program challenges

There are many challenges with setting up and embedding a “Culture of Health” in an organization. The struggles include (but are not limited to) finding additional resources — time and money — to administer and track the program. Effective and ongoing communication is also required across the organization to ensure the program is well understood and is the right fit for employees. 

Management buy-in is also critical to ensuring programs meet their intended goals. In fact, leadership support is “one of the essential pillars necessary to define and disseminate a clear vision for a healthy and productive workforce,” says the ICHLC report. It notes that management support can be challenging in bigger companies with a global footprint, given the different leadership layers and varied cultures. 

It’s another reason why a culture of health is needed.

“A strong organization-wide culture of health can serve as a foundation for leadership support and in turn must be supported and nurtured by leadership,” says the ICHLC report.  It cites the review of current culture of health efforts, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2012, which suggest organizations with engaged leaders were almost four times more likely to report significant improvement in employee health and 2.5 times more likely to report significant improvement in medical cost trend. 

There are also challenges to running a global well-being program, including the need to consider issues and cultural sensitivities unique to a particular jurisdiction, according to Lisa Beichl, CEO of Transparent Borders, a global consultancy dedicated to helping companies make informed health and wellness decisions. An example is a resources company with employees in North America and Africa. In North America, major health issues are often obesity and type 2 diabetes, while in Africa the focus might be on HIV education, or perhaps a bus that can safely deliver and return workers to their homes. 

Understanding the local perspective helps companies identify the right offerings. For example, in India within the past decade, only seven per cent of the population wore eyeglasses, even though an estimated 65 per cent needed them.  Providing access to eye care could result in important productivity gains at companies where eyeglasses are not a covered benefit. In another example, Procter & Gamble India recognized the growing interest to help employees balance work/life issues and introduced reduced work schedules.  

“Organizations need to be aware of the local health literacy levels. Creating awareness and education in the importance of health promotion is the foundation of any successful venture,” says Beichl.   

Data privacy is also a concern for companies and consumers, given the growing number of cyber security breaches that have been making headlines, and especially for those companies operating in different countries, where there are varying regulations in each jurisdiction. Organizations operating in different countries need to build a core program with easily modifiable components that can be adapted based on various factors such as language, holidays and religious observances, local foods and differing health values.


Takeaway: Why Health and Wellness Efforts are Worthwhile

Health and wellness have become key pillars of corporate responsibility within organizations around the world — and an important part of their culture and success. There are countless examples of organizations that attribute their high performance to the strong health and well being of their employees. 

For example, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) began a wellness journey in 1978 with its “Live for Life” program, which has a strong leadership commitment to wellness.  Its programs range from health risk assessments for employees to providing access to on-site health clinics. To measure the impact of the program, J&J defined global standards, policies and minimum expectations. The programs are measured annually, which helps set benchmarks and provides lessons across different geographies. According to J&J’s 2015 annual sustainability report, 92 per cent of employees completed a health risk assessment and were aware of their key health indicators, which was 12 per cent higher than the company’s stated goal.  The report also found that 73 per cent of employees were characterized as low risk based on employee health results, still below J&J’s stated goal of 80 per cent.  

While creating a supportive health and wellness environment is not without numerous challenges: management engagement; resources to administer and track the program; communication to employees; data privacy; and, cultural sensitivities and differences in companies operating globally. The results are clear: Having a culture of health is the right thing to do for both employees, and the employer. 

 Anne Marie Kirby is the founder and CEO of CoreHealth Technologies - A leading corporate wellness platform trusted by wellness providers, including corporate wellness companies, insurers, health facilities, benefits brokers, EAP providers and HR consulting firms, for 2+ million employees worldwide.

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NWI Member Spotlight — August 2018

Posted By NWI, Thursday, August 2, 2018

Sandy Queen – Allied Health Professional, Wellness Educator, Lecturer, Humorist, Founder/Director of Lifeworks, Inc.

I‘ll start with, "Who doesn’t know Sandy Queen?" Sandy has been an ambassador for the National Wellness Institute and the wellness community for over forty years.

Sandy Queen grew up as Sandy Bort near Bethesda, Maryland, and currently resides in Columbia, Maryland. She is the mother of three, grandmother of five, and great-grandma to a wonderful little girl, who considers Grandma Sandy as her “best friend.” She is the oldest of three sisters and the daughter of a preacher. 

In the late 70s while working during the day for St. Joseph Hospital in Towson, Maryland, Sandy attended Towson University in the evenings, earning her Bachelor of Science in psychology (summa cum laude) with a heavy concentration on anatomy and health, as well as sign language.  During the day she directed an outreach program for the hospital, which was actually a very early version of a community wellness program, serving the general community, schools, and senior centers within the hospital district. Sandy created and implemented programs with help from the student nurses at the hospital, and during that time wrote her popular Wellness for Children: A Programming Guide that was used for years throughout the country as the primary source of wellness education for the K-12 Community. It was at this point that Sandy developed her school-based health program, serving seven parochial schools; the program continued until 2015. 

One day, in early 1981, a flier came across her desk at the hospital advertising a “wellness” conference at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point during the third week in July. She attended that conference in 1981 and the rest, as they say, is history. Sandy returned the following year with her Wellness for Children book and led her first workshop on children’s wellness. Thereafter here life was measured by the third week in July in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Sandy left the hospital and started her own business, Lifeworks, in 1982, serving as adjunct faculty of Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, and adjunct professor at Towson University, while continuing her existing work with wellness education in schools.

Because of the contacts made at the National Wellness Conference, Sandy has traveled to all 50 states, all territories, and around the world, including Australia, Singapore, Europe and the Arctic Circle (as high as you can get in this world!) with her two important messages: “You are Good Stuff!” and “Lighten Up!” She estimates that she has spoken to over one million children and youth, and probably twice that many adults in venues from teepees to huge convention centers. Many of those young people, now adults, still keep in contact with Sandy to let her know about their lives and their careers.

Her work, although initially heavily based on children’s and youth wellness, expanded over the years into other fields, most importantly humor, which is what she is primarily known for around the world, presenting serious topics in a lighthearted way. She has worked for over thirty years in the field of recovery and sobriety, presenting at drug and alcohol schools throughout the country, and has worked extensively with the WillowTree Teen Institute in New Jersey for drug-free youth. Sandy has presented at the Early Childhood conference at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, for the past 23 years, along with training camp counselors and directors for the YMCA of Canada throughout all provinces and into the Territories. 

Sandy has received many honors during her career, including the prestigious Halbert Dunn Award, the most prestigious award presented by the National Wellness Institute and regarded as one of the highest honors in the health promotion and wellness fields. Recipients of the award have shown a dedication to wellness over the course of their lives, making many significant contributions and offering leadership that has furthered the field of wellness. 

Sandy has also been honored as Teacher of the Year by the Baltimore Kiwanis, and has received awards from the Archdiocese of Maryland, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the State of Maryland. Her most valued award? A Lifetime Membership Award given to her by her middle/high school students in Voices 4 Change, a youth action group in her home county. Sandy has worked with them for the past seven years, identifying and addressing issues that are important in their local community — and she’s the only adult allowed to speak at their conference! 

Sandy has completed six marathons as well as four 350-mile bike rides for AIDS awareness. She still runs regularly, and competes in 5Ks. She serves on several local boards and has directed a week-long camp for inner city girls for the past 18 years. Being a life coach and wedding officiant also keeps her busy. Sandy is an active member in her church, conducting satellite services for folks from a local retirement home who are unable to attend services.

In the quiet times…there is knitting, and cats (five of them). 

Sandy subscribes to Zora Neale Thurston’s adage, “If you ask me why I came into this world, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” But her greatest self-statement is on the bumper sticker on her car: “Outrageous Older Woman!”

Sandy Queen can be contacted at sjqueen@verizon.net or (443) 812- 6853

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