Say What?: How Integrative Medicine Can Improve Wellness in the African-American Community

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Imagine a seesaw on a playground, where there is a teenager sitting on one end and a toddler sitting on the other end. Due to the differences in weight and size, you would expect the teenager to be sitting on the ground, while the toddler is floating in the air waiting to go down.

Now that doesn’t seem like an exciting activity for either of them, right?

Well just like in life, too much emphasis on one thing isn’t really effective. You would rarely see any sport played with only one strategy or any house built with only one brick.

In order to succeed at a goal, most times you must approach it from multiple angles and with different tools.

This same thinking should be used when we talk about the healthcare system. However, the healthcare system in the United States mainly practices what they call “conventional medicine”, which is known to focus on things like medication, physical rehabilitation, and psychotherapy to treat conditions in a “one-size fits all” kind of way.

Now we all know that America is known as the “melting pot” of the world, where millions of people from different countries, ethnicities, and cultures have made a home for themselves and their families. However, these unique differences aren’t taken into consideration when medical treatments are made.

Unfortunately, this hiccup eventually leads to people not following through on their healthcare provider’s treatments or they end up falling back into their unhealthy ways.

I believe that integrative health can possibly solve this problem.

What Exactly Is Integrative Health?

We’ve heard the terms holistic, integrative, and complementary health being thrown around these past few years in regards to a more natural, healthier living.

Automatically, you may think of a vegan doing yoga in the park, right? Well, not exactly.

There are far more elements to these lifestyles than that, yet they share a common theme of understanding that a person is more than just their condition or illness.

Say What?: How Integrative Medicine Can Improve Wellness in the African-American Community

For centuries, parts of the world like India, East Asia, Africa, and South America, have utilized alternative remedies like prayer, fasting, imagery, acupuncture, herbs, messages, etc., instead of just the conventional medication and surgery options mostly used in this country. Some even view the opinions of natural or tribal healers the same as (if not more than) licensed medical professionals.

Luckily, these practices have gained more of a following in the United States over the years, which eventually led to the development of a governmental agency called the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

According to the NCCIH, integrative health is a combination of conventional health approaches (like medications and rehab) and complementary health approaches (like acupuncture, yoga, and probiotics) used to treat the whole person, rather than just one thing.

How Does This Help The African-American Community?

Particularly in the Black community, there are many variations of cultures that make up a whole.

While many Black people in this country can trace their origin to the continent of Africa, many have migrated from several other countries in the Caribbean, South America, and Europe with their own set of unique traditions and customs.

Even if a family was born and raised in the U.S. for several generations, regionally there are also differences in Black cultures regarding food, music, fashion, language, and even how health care is viewed. For example, Southern culture is different than West coast culture, and so on and so forth.

In places like the South, where comfort food is known to be prepared with more seasonings or flavored drinks are prepared with more sugar, following doctor’s orders that limit these favorites may be more difficult.

Also, religion or spiritually often play an important role in healing within African American culture. For example, a local pastor or reiki healer may be called to pray or “cleanse” an illness out of someone with the help of their family or community.

When it comes to medications, some African Americans may also utilize herbs like turmeric, cayenne, garlic, etc. to reduce high blood pressure and inflammation, instead of using prescriptions from their provider.

These activities can be traced back to tribal healing practices and a longstanding distrust of Western medicine’s treatment towards Black people.

There are several other generalizations and traditions that conventional medicine may deem to be “unhealthy”, and the honest truth is that controlling conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes rely on restrictive diets, non-smoking, and regular exercise (excluding those that are born affected).

Think about it, if a person’s lifestyle doesn’t support regular exercising or cooking at home due to financial or environmental constraints, wouldn’t they be more likely to develop chronic conditions?

What about if they mistrusted the healthcare system so much that they chose to not get regular physicals or examinations until something was wrong?

The answer is yes.

Also, due to other unfortunate racial barriers to proper nutrition and healthcare within the African-American community, many disease like high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer exist in disproportionate numbers.

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

However, many studies have shown that using a combination of slow, progressive, and realistic changes in lifestyle with “non conventional” methods can have more of a positive, long-term impact than huge, drastic, and unrealistic changes.

For example, studies done by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs have revealed how the addition of hypnosis, meditation, and chiropractors helped veterans with spinal pain and mental health conditions. They found that those patients felt better and reduced their need for pain medicines that can often have serious side effects.

Black people are not all the same. However, it is important to recognize that spiritual healers, a supportive community, healthy nutrition, mindfulness, and other complementary treatments can not only be beneficial, but a vital part of wellness within the Black community.

So What’s Next?

Speak up. That’s it.

Now keep in mind that integrative medicine combines complementary and conventional medicine together. That means if a person’s blood pressure when they visit the doctor’s office is 215/110 (yes, I’ve seen it this high before), it may not be the best time to only use a favorite yoga chant to try and lower it.

Why not?

Well because while there may be some studies out there that support the use of yoga as a preventative method for lowering high blood pressure, it won’t be as effective in lowering that pressure realistically before stroke-like symptoms or cardiac damage start to occur.

Therefore, treatments including blood-pressure lowering medications, insulin, surgery, rehabilitation, and mental therapy are equally as important too—especially in emergency situations.

There are many modern, life-saving medicines and procedures that are absolutely necessary to the survival rate and quality of life for certain conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, etc.

So if you are a person who is looking for your healthcare provider to include cultural traditions and other holistic alternatives within their treatment plan, speak up. Or, if you are a healthcare provider who recognizes the importance of integrative health in caring for other cultures, speak up. Have a real conversation about combining traditional and non traditional methods together to make a realistic treatment plan.

If not, many people will continue to feel left out and unheard in something that should be a basic right to everyone—quality healthcare.

Photo by Angela Roma on Pexels.com

Diversity in Nursing?: A Brief Look At Why Black Nurses Are So Important In Healthcare

HAPPY BLACK HISTORY MONTH!

The care and contribution of the black nurse in the United States stems well over a century. Since the arrival to this country, African-Americans have received the brutal end of health care and health outcomes due to unjust and discriminatory practices. The path to becoming licensed healthcare professionals was no exception. Throughout this country’s history, African-Americans had to persevere to earn the same qualifications as their non-black counterparts. However, with relentless determination and despite countless obstacles, nursing pioneers like Mary Eliza Mahony, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Estelle Massey Osborne1 were able to blaze the way for future nurses of color through advocacy, education, and activism.

Diversity In Demand

Due to healthcare inequities, economic oppression, and systematic racism that plague black communities, these individuals are often underserved and underrepresented in professional roles, including nursing. Often times, African-Americans were simply denied access to nursing programs or were forced to be educated separately from their white counterparts, despite eligibility. For many years, the lack of presence of licensed black healthcare professionals led millions to feel excluded from a culturally incompetent healthcare system. Studies have even shown that African-American patients encounter biased medical treatment, increased disregard, and inaccurate research that often lead to improper care. Therefore, it is extremely important to have diverse and adequate representation within the nursing profession to help ensure health equity and patient advocacy.

Thankfully, there has been an increased number of licensed African-American nurses over the years. However, due to the barriers previously mentioned, as well as the slow progress in correcting those issues, the statistics have only risen slightly. Since the 1910 census, the number of black nurses have only grown from 3% to about 10%. However, possibly due to the need to pursue higher levels of education, African-Americans are more likely to obtain baccalaureate degrees (or higher) in nursing than white Americans. Additionally, with the increased nationwide nursing shortage, organizations like the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), and others have made initiatives to meet diversity goals, promote mentorship and retention, and prepare educators to increase minority representation within the profession.

The Path Ahead

From the enslaved local healers who provided the only care available to these communities, to the current advanced practiced professionals who have pushed healthcare forward with groundbreaking advancements and practices, African-Americans continue to transcend obstacles in order to provide one of the most basic human rights–proper healthcare. While there may be a long path ahead, their ambitious achievements and contributions to nursing are truly inspiring. African-American nurses have done tremendous work in public health, policy, medicine, education, and research. However, to truly reflect the diversity of this nation, equal access to healthcare, education, and leadership must be required to transform a system with a longstanding history of exclusion and injustice. Only then can we see the true success of healthcare in America.

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Got Maskne? Top 3 Ways to Reduce Your Mask Acne

Whether you’re a working professional or simply protecting yourself and others during the current health pandemic, pretty much everyone has had experiences wearing a face mask. Depending on your daily activities or work responsibilities, you may be wearing a mask all day long, which can take a huge toll on your skin. These changes in your skin can lead to something that we all thought we left back in our adolescence– acne, or better yet–maskne.

As we know, acne can result from bacteria overgrowth from either extremely dry, moist, or oily skin, which clog or irritate your pores and hair follicles. With prolonged use, friction from the mask, and these skin conditions, bumps and redness can erupt around the nose, mouth, ears, and eyes. Common skin issues caused by face masks include:

  • Rosacea
  • Allergic Dermatitis
  • Eczema

There are several ways to prevent maskne from occurring. Now if you have already been diagnosed with any of the above conditions by your healthcare provider, it is best that you consult with them for any treatment methods first. However, here are some preventative tips for keeping you skin clear from breakouts.

Just The Right Fit

It’s important to make sure that your mask fits correctly with each use. Wearing a mask too small can lead to increased friction and moisture from sweating and talking. On the other hand, wearing a mask too big can make it ineffective against harmful particles and germs. Particularly those with increased facial or head hair should take this into account as their hair can get in the way of a secure fit. Due to the need for a proper fit, it has even been a regular practice for men to keep a clean shaven face while wearing special masks, including the N95. Therefore, if the mask is intended for work, consult with your occupational professional for a proper fitting. If for personal use, be sure to minimize facial hair, gather head hair to a low or high point so that it doesn’t interfere with proper mask placement, and be sure that the mask isn’t too tight on the skin.

Just The Right Material

Face masks can come in a variety of materials, and choosing the right kind is helpful in reducing the inflammation and irritation of your skin. The more complex masks like surgical, N95s, and other respirators are made up of special materials designed to keep out the smallest droplet and airborne particles, so you may not be able to have a choice if your skin doesn’t agree with the materials. Alternatively, many of the cloth masks sold come in various designs and breathable materials including silk, polyester, cotton, and rayon, and can be a more fashionable way of protection. These breathable materials can reduce the moisture buildup and irritation within the mask. However, this alternative isn’t as protective against small airborne particles and viruses, and shouldn’t be the first choice if you’re in contact with these substances. Nevertheless, if possible, test out the material first and try to refrain from the ones that irritate your skin before long-term use.

Just the Right Surface

As mentioned earlier, the condition of the skin can help reduce maskne. Some people have naturally dry, moist, or oily skin that is only exacerbated by the use of face masks. Even those without abnormal skin conditions can increase their chances of getting maskne by their daily routine. For example, the use of excessive face creams or makeup can lead to unnecessary oily skin. Therefore, if you must use a moisturizer, use a lightweight one after you have washed your face (with a mild soap) and avoid wearing makeup. Moisturizers that are unscented, for sensitive skin, and/or contain vitamins E, A, and zinc are shown to help reduce irritation and improve acne scars. Some dermatologist even suggest lightly applying diaper cream (yes, you heard right) to irritated areas to help reduce moisture and chaffing! Also, make sure you are drinking water throughout the day. Not only does it help you stay hydrated, but your skin too!

Wearing a mask has become a way of life these days, even if you don’t need it for your profession. Most businesses are even making masks mandatory for entry. However, this doesn’t mean that we have to neglect self-care, including maintaining beautiful skin. With the help of your health provider and the few tips listed above, you can do your part and look good while doing it!

B Positive: How to Choose to Stay Positive During a Pandemic

We can all say that 2020 isn’t going as we planned. In fact, that would be an understatement to say the least. Coming out of 2019, we all had plans for us honing into our crafts, hobbies, and careers, with optimistic declarations of finally reaching our target weight loss goals, starting our own businesses, and living our best lives. However, it seems as if since this year started, there has been nothing but tragic news and setbacks from a global perspective. All of these unforeseen circumstances (I don’t have to name them–just look at the latest headlines) have led to consistent somber media coverage, social isolation, and financial turmoil for most.

Anyone with access to a phone or television who consistently consumes all of this negative energy or has experienced multiple losses (e.g., financial, death, etc.) is bound to develop some sort of mental illness. Whether in the form of anxiety or depression (or both), these states of mind can ultimately become crippling for not only yourself but your loved ones as well.

I initially found myself feeling these exact same emotions. As a nurse, daughter, and friend, the self-isolation and nervousness about what was to come totally exhausted me, almost preventing me from even wanting to reach out to others or perform well at work. It wasn’t until I woke up one morning on my day off feeling so depleted that I said to myself, “Enough is enough.” The first thing I did was get on my knees and said a prayer for strength, discernment, abundance, and coverage over myself and my loved ones. The next thing I did was shower, got dressed in my favorite casual outfit, and did my hair and make-up. Now before you say to yourself, “What does that have to do with what’s going on in the world?”, think to yourself the last time you did all of those things. Honestly, when was the last time to did your routine of looking and feeling good? When was the last time you felt a since of normalcy? Yes, I had nowhere to go due to the stay-at-home recommendations and the total shutdown of local businesses, but the point was to “feel normal”. The point was to not feel out of control, but to be in control of what was in front of me at that very moment. Yes, it was a small start–but it was a start, and it grounded me.

Over time, I begin to develop a routine again. Outside of work, I began cleaning my home, journaling, doing in-home workouts, sitting on my patio, cooking my favorite dishes (I’ve gotten so much better at cooking!), and even watching online webinars about hobbies or businesses that I’ve always been interested in but never found the time to consider. If you noticed, I didn’t mention drinking tons of wine, watching tons of TV, scouring social media, or purchasing items off of Amazon that I had no business buying. Now I’m not saying that you can’t do any of these things in moderation, but what I am saying is that in the long run, these things will serve no purpose for you or your health. With so much energy from external forces being devoted to fear, impulsiveness, and uncertainty, I found that consciously being aware of my own perspective and focus helped me tremendously.

In closing, I understand that anyone deemed as an essential worker has a different experience than most right now. We have increased exposure to the public when most are self-isolating, even in strenuous work environments. However, we must take care of ourselves mentally, spiritually, and physically first in order to be the heroes for others. Remember, were are in this together.

Leave a comment below on how you practice self-care!

Quote of the Day: Resiliency

 “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”

― Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

Has life ever presented you with a challenge so hard that you felt like giving up? Have you ever been placed outside of your comfort zone so much that you had no idea how you would be able to succeed? But what happened when you actually stuck it out through the ruff patch? You either triumphed or you learned something valuable in the end right? That is because every breakthrough in your life is proceeded by interruption and nothing new can grow in the same place where something is currently taking up space.

While we become familiar with the lives we live, whether good or bad, we often become resistant to change. However, change is inevitable as you grow, learn, and move within your surroundings, and you can’t approach new beginnings with old habits. Therefore, take on life with such fervor for the wisdom each day teaches you. For only then will you have captured the essence of living.