Chagas Disease From “Kissing Bugs?”

There have been new reports of concern about rising risk of a parasitic illness in the United States.  The illness is called Chagas disease, and it is transmitted by a certain type of insect.  Chagas disease has typically been found in Mexico, Central America and South America, but the carrier insect has been moving into the southern United States.

Triatomine Map

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi which is carried by a number of insects of the triatomine family.  The map above shows the states in which triatomine bugs have been found.

Triatomine bugs are called “kissing bugs” because they bite the lips and faces of sleeping people, dogs and other animals while they are sleeping.  They are generally found in poorly-maintained homes especially those made of adobe or those that have thatched roofs.  Modern American homes with plaster walls and well-sealed doorways don’t have much risk that these insects will get inside.  (Although stink bugs are only a little smaller than these triatomine bugs and they still get in my house.  So there’s that…)

The insects are a little larger than an inch in length:

Triatomine Stages

Here’s a better close-up photo of the insect:

Triatomine close-up

These insects are spreading into the US, but documented cases of Chagas disease transmitted INSIDE the United States are rare.  There are estimated to be about 300,000 people with Chagas disease in the United States, and almost all of them were infected in Mexico or South or Central America.

Chagas disease is rare.  In almost 20 years I’ve only ever seen one patient with it.  It starts with a bite from one of these insects that is infected with the T. cruzi organism.  When the insect bites, it also passes feces, which contains the organism.  When the bitten person wakes up and scratches or rubs the bite, they often spread the infected feces into their eyes.  This can cause swelling of the eyelids, called Romaña’s sign.

Romaña’s sign

Most of the time the body clears the infection without any trouble or illness at all.  However, if the infection becomes chronic it can cause problems with the heart and with the digestive tract.  It’s estimated that 20-30% of infected people will have medical problems related to the infection at some time in their life.  The infection can also lie dormant and reactivate, like shingles or tuberculosis, if an infected person becomes immune suppressed.  This is a potential concern in HIV-infected people or those who undergo chemotherapy for cancer or an autoimmune disease.

Chagas disease is treated with medication.  Because it is rare, typically an infectious disease specialist would be involved with treatment.

So for those who are seeing alarming reports about this “kissing bug” invading the US, there’s no need to panic right now.  The vast majority of these rare cases of Chagas disease are not caused by triatomine bites here in the United States.  If you’re not worried about malaria or Zika virus, you shouldn’t be worrying about Chagas disease at this point.

PS – Most of the information in this post comes from the CDC website.  You can visit and read more about Chagas disease here.

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Update From Shaklee Global Conference

Hello Shaklee family!  This week I’m in Las Vegas for our annual Shaklee Global Conference.  Three days of training, team-building and renewing connections with others who care just as much about health and wellness as I do 🙂

August also marks my sixth anniversary of this website!  I started blogging and wrote my first post in August 2012.  Interestingly enough, that year’s Shaklee Global Conference was in Las Vegas as well.  The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Product Changes

There are big changes to a few of Shaklee’s key product lines this year.  The first one is a reformulation of Shaklee’s Life Shake.  It has always been an effective protein supplement and central to the Shaklee 180 weight loss program.  Shaklee is always working on improving products though, and they have been hearing feedback that our customers feel the shake has too much sugar.

Not anymore!  The new Life Shake has ZERO added sugar and less than 1 gram of carbohydrate per serving.  It is a great choice for those on the ketogenic diet and all of our Paleo friends.  Shaklee has stopped adding probiotics to the shake (more on probiotics later) but it has a new ancient-grain-based prebiotic fiber blend to continue to support gut health.  In addition, there are digestive enzymes added to also support healthy and comfortable digestion.

The Life Shake is still gluten free (all the weight loss products are) and now is completely plant based, because Shaklee was able to find a plant source of the amino acid leucine which is critical to protecting muscle mass during weight loss.  It is available in soy and non-soy-based versions, four delicious flavors, and was taste-tested against the leading retail brand of protein shake, and WON.  9 out of 10 tasters in a blind taste test preferred the taste of the new Shaklee Life Shake 🙂

Several of the people who have been secretly testing the newly formulated Life Shake said they had less bloating and lost inches around their waist without really trying.  One man WAS trying and lost 36 pounds in 9 weeks!  Wow!

We also have four new additions to the YOUTH skin care line.  I had a number of customers try the YOUTH Anti-Aging Regimen and have to stop because it irritated their skin.  Shaklee has unveiled the YOUTH Hydrating Collection for those who have sensitive or dry skin or who aren’t as interested in anti-aging products!  These products are also available as a package to start and as individual items to replace as you use them up.

Clinical testing is part of how Shaklee rolls, and the Hydrating products are no difference.  Women had a tripling of the measurable hydration of their skin after one application of YOUTH Moisture Activating Serum.  There is also a new YOUTH Moisture Lock Day Cream to lock in the moisturizing effects.  Want to try it yourself?  I’ll be hosting after-conference events, watch your email for your invitation!  The first one will be Sunday, 8/26 at 9 AM at the Coffee Club on Broadview Road in Broadview Hts, OH.

If you enjoy pampering yourself with a facial every now and then, you’ll love these next two products.  The YOUTH Hydrating Gel Mask applies soothing deep hydration, and the YOUTH Purifying Clay Mask removes impurities to reveal healthy skin.  I haven’t used them myself, I’ll be able to try them when I get home.  Can’t wait!

As always, Shaklee’s products are backed by an unconditional guarantee.  Also, our skin care products are free of 2500 harmful or questionable ingredients so you can be confident our products are safe for your skin, responsibly sourced, and gentle for our environment.

One last product to tell you about, and that’s Shaklee’s new Optiflora DI.  This is a brand new probiotic supplement that has grown out of the explosion of recent research on the effect of our microbiome on our health.  Our microbiome consists of the trillions of bacteria that live in our digestive tract, oral cavity, genital tracts and on our skin.  They outnumber our own cells ten-to-one and influence our health in countless ways.  The research is moving FAST and it’s clear that just about every system from our digestion to our brain is affected by the health of our microbiome.

Optiflora DI contains healthy bacteria proven to support healthy digestion AND healthy immunity.  With 70% of our immune system living in our gut, a healthy population of microorganisms helps keep our immune system healthy.

Business Changes

Shaklee has also has made big improvements to our business support that will help business people like me keep connected to our customers while on the go.  Better follow up will help keep my customers supported in meeting their health goals!

If you’re one of the over 50% of people age 21 to 65 who would like to work to build your own dream instead of someone else’s, who want more time freedom or just want a side gig to earn extra income, please let me know.  Shaklee’s business opportunity may very well not be right for you, it’s not right for everyone!  But we won’t know until we talk it over 🙂

QUESTION: Which of Shaklee’s new products is most interesting to you?  Are you interested in learning more about Shaklee’s business opportunity?

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3 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling

Greetings from Las Vegas!  My family and I are in HOT and sunny Nevada right now having some fun.  Shaklee’s Global Conference begins in a few days and I can’t wait to find out about all the new products and services Shaklee has for our Shaklee family 🙂

Earlier this week I had asked myself what I should write about this weekend and, since I’m traveling I thought I would write about ways to stay healthy while traveling.  It’s not easy to keep your routines up while on the road!  Getting OUT of your normal routine is a stressor, and as you know stress lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to pick up germs.

So how do you keep your immune system strong while traveling?  There are 3 major ways to stay healthy while traveling.

Get enough rest

Yep.  We tend to burn the candle at both ends while traveling.  Isn’t it funny how we go on vacation to rest and rejuvenate, then cram our schedules full of activities and must-do lists!  This is normal and natural, but you have to make sure to leave enough time for healthy rest.

You should ideally try to stay on your normal sleep schedule while traveling.  For those with kids, that means doing your best to stick to their normal wake-up times, naptimes and bedtimes.  You know your kids, and you know how flexible they are.  My own kids can sleep anywhere, anytime.  (They are related to their Aunt Becky who once slept through the whole car ride from Cincinnati to Hilton Head, only emerging for meals and rest stops.)

Traveling to the West Coast time zone made me think a little about jetlag.  I’ll be here for about a week, so I won’t be able to avoid shifting my sleep cycle.  If it were just for a few days I’d do my best to stay on East Coast time.  Unfortunately for this length of trip it’s just too hard to fight my brain’s response to daylight and dark.  When I get home I’ll have to just be extra careful about my sleep so I don’t let myself get run down.

Eat and drink healthy

When you’re traveling it’s easy to eat crap.  Fast food, junk food and unhealthy restaurant fare are quick and convenient.  Some of us overindulge in alcohol if we don’t have to drive or get up for work the next day.  And often if you’re going to be trapped in an airplane seat you don’t want to drink as much water as you should.  Trust me, I get it!  Airplane lavatories are NOT where I want to spend my whole plane flight.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you don’t FEEL well when you don’t EAT well.  And it’s not hard nowadays to find healthy alternatives.  Even at O’Hare I have been able to find a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich (without cheese!) at a little Mediterranean place.  Salads, whole-grain breads, and unprocessed foods are not too hard to find, you just have to look for them.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, make sure to adjust your water intake accordingly.  The climate is very dry in Nevada which of course means I need to pay more attention to my fluid intake.  If I were going on a hike or doing something physically challenging I would be sure to get advice from a local about how much water I would need.  Dehydration contributes to fatigue, can make motion sickness (like seasickness on cruise ships) worse, and can make you prone to mistakes.

Take supplements

This is not nearly as important as the other two!  However, even though it is a distant third I felt I should mention it because it.  This can definitely contribute to feeling well and keeping your immune system strong.

You should pack and take your high-quality multivitamins, of course.  You wouldn’t leave home without your prescription medication, right?  Well you should bring along your normal supplement regimen too.  Vitamin C and echinacea are two supplements that help to support the immune system.

Here are some examples of immune-support supplements you might consider.  I brought my Vitalized Immunity with me, along with all the other supplements I take daily!

It’s easy to get out of your routine when traveling.  Burning the candle at both ends with fun activities, not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, overindulging in alcohol, skimping on water, and forgetting your supplements are common enough and can put you and your family at risk of getting sick.  With a little discipline and foresight, though, you can arrive back home after your trip with only great memories and WITHOUT any unwanted souvenirs!

QUESTION:  Is there anything else you do to stay healthy while traveling?

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Back To School Health Concerns

It’s that time of year again!  Have you got kids going to school this fall?  Me too!  We’re shopping for school supplies and clothes and shoes just like everybody else.

Are your kids ready to go back?  There are a number of things you can do to set your kids up for success this school year!

Good Sleep

Did your kids get off their school sleep schedule this summer?  Don’t worry, if they did you should have plenty of time to get them back on-track before school starts.

Elementary school children need about 10 hours of sleep per night.  For instance, our kids’ bus came at 7:30 AM last year.  Since they got up between 6:30 and 7:00, that made our bedtime about 8:30 so that they were asleep by 9.

You will want to give plenty of time to adjust a child’s sleep schedule.  Move bedtime by no more than a half-hour per night, every few nights, to let your child adjust.  If they’ve become accustomed to sleeping in, start instituting a set wake-up time.  In the adjustment period if they seem tired let them take a short nap.

There are plenty of things to adjust to in the first few weeks of school.  Fatigue and sleepiness and battles over going to bed and waking up are things you just don’t need to deal with.

Doctor’s Visits

Are your kids playing sports this school year?  Summertime is a good time to get their sports physicals out of the way.  Don’t worry, the physical is good for a year and is covered by health insurance.  Make sure to bring along any medication administration forms (for asthma or other meds your child will need to take at school).

If your child will be heading into kindergarten or 7th grade, they will need vaccines prior to starting school.  You should have gotten paperwork from the school already if your child is affected.  Remember that although your rising 7th grader is required to have the DTaP, the meningitis and HPV vaccines are also recommended at this age.

I get a lot of questions about the HPV vaccine and dove a little deeper into that topic in this post.  Please discuss the vaccine recommendations with your child’s doctor in detail.

After the 7th grade shots, your child will be done with tetanus shots until after college (unless she hurts herself, gets bit by a dog, etc) but she will need a meningitis shot booster at age 16.  Other than annual flu shots those are all the shots your child will need.

Nutrition

My younger son participates in a summer day program every year that does not provide lunch.  We were a little concerned at the beginning that packing lunches would be a big hassle.  To our pleased surprise, it has been a very positive experience.

Our lunch planning guidelines have been that our child needs a sandwich (with deli meat and cheese) and a fruit, a vegetable, and a starch for his lunch.  We read labels and used a food scale to explore portions for the starch (often pretzels, corn chips or a granola bar).  Here’s a website with interesting school lunch ideas.

Now after several summers he makes his own lunches like a pro.  Even better, when we go to the market and our kids want to try a different food (like barbecue potato chips) we can look at ingredients and talk about what’s in there, portion sizes and how they’re manipulated, price versus value, and other good topics.  We’ve even gotten them to try some new vegetables!

From a health standpoint, heading back to school can be stressful from a health standpoint.  With a little planning your youngsters can transition into the school year happy and healthy.

QUESTION:  What back to school health concerns do you have that I didn’t discuss?  I can always talk about them next week, LOL!

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