BRING IT TO BARB Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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Dear Barb,

Is petroleum jelly bad for you? I need something for moisture and I have used Vaseline all my life. I have read there are some issues and side effects. Can you clarify this?

Signed,

Always a Jelly lover

Dear Jelly lover,

Check your average medicine cabinet, and you’re bound to find a jar of Vaseline. But is your trusty petroleum jelly really a “cure-all?”

Petroleum jelly, commonly known by the most popular brand name Vaseline, is a derivative of oil refining. It’s commonly used topically to cure everything from dehydrated flakey skin to diaper rash. Though generally regarded as safe, the components that are removed from the oil during the refining process of petroleum jelly are carcinogenic. For the record, Vaseline is highly-refined, triple-purified and regarded as non-carcinogenic. Petroleum jelly can create the illusion of moisturized, hydrated skin, all the while suffocating your pores. It’s water-repellant and not water-soluble, meaning it merely seals the barrier so that moisture does not leave the skin. What’s more, the thick texture makes it difficult to cleanse from the skin, so never slather Vaseline on an unwashed face if you want to avoid breakouts. People suffering from skin conditions like acne and rosacea should stay away from petroleum jelly altogether, since such thick emollients can aggravate those conditions. Those who rub Vaseline on dry, cracked noses to get through a cold might want to think twice, too. The product is recommended for external use only, which doesn’t include your nostrils. What’s more, a rare but scary potential problem occurs if the petroleum jelly moves from the nostrils through the respiratory system. If you’re looking for a dewy moisturizer, just opt for more natural alternatives and check the ingredients. Products containing beeswax, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and cocoa butter seal in moisture and don’t come with some of the risks of petroleum jelly.

Dear Barb,

As a woman I hate to admit I am getting older! The hardest part is seeing the visible effects of aging. I am not just speaking about crow’s feet but inflammation in my joints and my back that aches every day. I keep a happy attitude and ignore my pain throughout the day. What can I do to slow down this inevitable aging process? I am somewhat overweight so exercise is difficult for me. Please help me modify or slow this poor tired body.

Signed,

Hurting but Happy

Dear Happy,

Aging is unfair because it is different for everyone. Aging affects us on a genetic level as well. Besides thinning hair and other physical effects there are a few ways you can slow down the aging process, but it takes discipline to adapt new lifestyle changes. If you truly want to keep a youthful look through the golden years and resist the wear and tear associated with aging here are some things to consider. The first to consider is that studies suggest women who spend at least six hours a day in a chair, whether at work or home, are 34 percent more likely to die early. I realize it becomes an effort if you are carrying extra pounds, but did you know that just standing up every 30 minutes throughout the day can have similar health benefits as quitting smoking? The problem goes deeper than regular exercise, but pertains to prolonged periods of sitting. Count up how many hours you sit. Calculate car travel, watching television, waiting rooms or the office on a typical day. Our jobs obviously require us to sit at computers for sometimes eight hours a day. However, we can mitigate the damage our careers are causing to our bodies and get off our heinies 10 hours a day. It may surprise you that skipping the cheese can help too. Cheese and cod liver oil are both packed full of vitamin D, which is crucial for preventing inflammation, but which one would you prefer? Sunshine for at least 10 minutes or a multiple vitamin can accommodate the vitamin D requirement without eating cheese or cod liver oil. Fish oil or Omega-3 fats will also slow the aging process and inflammation. If you don’t eat fish often, better take one of those huge oversized fish oil capsules daily. Inflammation is painful, whether it be back, knee or wherever. What you may not know is inflammation causes disease. When inflammation is present it is damaging DNA in our bodies. When DNA repair mechanisms are functioning properly, any damage caused by inflammation is repaired before it can develop into cancer or disease. Continuous inflammation can damage DNA, which can develop into mutations, and studies show possibly lead to cancer. Do I have your attention now? This fact alone should create an urgency to eliminate any prolonged inflammation. Relying on a lifetime of medication like ibuprofen or pain medication alone will not improve your health and is merely a Band-Aid. Stay away from sugar! New studies show sugar causes inflammation and promotes faster aging. Limit (not eliminate) your meat, dairy, baked goods, flour products, and grains. The last lifestyle modification would be to consume more water. Water is the vehicle for all our chemical reactions in our body to flush out toxins. Proper hydration becomes paramount. This does not include caffeinated beverages and alcohol, but rather, clean, fresh water. I personally have added the spice called tumeric to my cooking. Tumeric is an anti-inflammatory as well as useful for depression, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and heart disease. Cinnamon, ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper also have anti-inflammatory properties. This may be daunting to adopt all these habits and patterns as your new normal, but why not start with just two changes. It’s not too late to start the new year investing in yourself and be pain free. Any of these habits could improve your overall enjoyment of life. What do you have to lose, except your pain?

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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