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Category Archives: wellness

Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm (The Spleen)

http://www.livescience.com/26983-lymphatic-system.html

What do you think of when you hear about the immune system? I visualize the immune system as an army fighting to protect the body from alien invaders. But understanding the intricacies of the system is a little more complex. The truth is the immune system is a whole system of organs that work together to keep you healthy, http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/immunity/immune-detail.html. So if you are trying to dodge the getting sick “bullet” know that you must keep the whole system of organs in good condition.

What is important to know from a nutritional standpoint is:

  1. “One of the more damaging food components to our immune system is sugar. In one study, the ingestion of 100 gram (roughly 3-1/2 ounces) portions of carbohydrate as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and pasteurized orange juice all significantly reduced the ability of white blood cells (neutrophils) to engulf and destroy bacteria. In contrast, the ingestion of 100 grams of starch had no effect. These effects started within less than 30 minutes after ingestion and lasted for over 5 hours. Typically, there was at least a 50% reduction in neutrophil activity two hours after ingestion. Since neutrophils constitute 60-to-70% of the total circulating white blood cells, impairment of their activity leads to depressed immunity”, http://doctormurray.com/health-conditions/low-immune-function/.
  2. Proteins are an intricate part of the immune system aiding in the creation of antibodies, helping to strengthen cell walls and manufacture interferons (protein produced by the immune system in response to an infection).Eat adequate protein to help support this function.

Last week’s blog, “Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm”, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/beat-the-battle-of-the-perfect-sick-storm-skin-deep-part-1/, started this series and discussed the role of the skin as part of the immune system. Internally, it is the lymph system (spleen, thymus, lymph nodes containing lymphocytes which are white blood cells, gut and bone marrow) that protects you from getting sick and these organs will be addressed next.

Starting with the spleen (an organ you do not hear much about even though it is very important to the body’s defense system);  it is small, about the size of your fist, located in your stomach under the rib cage and above the kidney. The spleen is part of the lymph system (a network of organs that make up the immune system). It filters germs such as viruses, bacteria abnormal cells from the blood. When an invader is detected your spleen and lymph nodes, jump into action creating lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that produce antibodies in order to fend off infections.

Support Spleen Function:

  1. Eat small frequent meals consisting of warm foods and beverages like tea, soup and stews.
  2. Use herbs, spices and supplements: ginger (contains the enzyme zingibain an enzyme that can help strengthen the immune system), maitake mushrooms (or supplement with maitake D-fraction), black and chili pepper, basil, turmeric, cilantro, parsley, cardamom and cinnamon.
  3. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests consuming onions, leeks, fennel and garlic to “help increase the body’s digestive fire”.
  4. 4. Select protein that may help to cleanse the spleen like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, halibut), beef, chicken, turkey or lamb.
  5. Beta carotene rich foods can also help give your immune system a boost: tomatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, cantaloupe, pumpkin and peppers.

Three down: the skin, the spleen and the lymph; next week completes the immune series with the thymus, bone marrow and gut.

 
 

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Beat The Battle of the Perfect “Sick” Storm (Skin Deep Part 1)

Why do you think most people get sick during the fall and winter months? More germs floating around than other times of the year? The cold temperature? Low immune system? The answer may not be so simple.

Getting sick stems from several factors that stir up the right storm and then wham you get ambushed with the flu, a cold or just plain feel awful as you try to fight off the bugs that invade you. Throughout this season,  lifestyle shifts into hyper mode with all the usual responsibilities and pressure of daily life plus the stress of the holidays.

There is little time to breathe forget about focus on yourself and being healthy. The build-up of holiday expectations, preparation and coordinating plans with family, adds to stress and contributes to less sleep and more nutrient-less eating and drinking. The “sick” storm is in gear.

Eating right, sleep and exercise all contribute to a healthy immune system. Stress, alcohol, and nutrient-less food takes a toll on an immune system that is being challenged with cold, flu and other respiratory bugs. The cold weather doesn’t help much either. During these health challenging months, beat the odds and keep your immune system strong and in fighting shape. The organs involved in supporting the immune system are: the skin, gut, spleen, thymus, bone marrow and lymph nodes.

Weighing in as the largest body organ (at about 8 pounds) and providing a physical barrier against germs is the skin.  As the body’s first line of protection it signals internal defenses, creates an environment that supports healthy bacteria while secreting anti-bacterial warriors that summon white blood cells to attack germ “invaders”.

During the winter months the skin can become dry and cracked weakening its protective ability. So keep skin moist with healthy lotions and skin “caring” foods, keeping in mind nutrients or toxic chemicals can be absorbed through both the skin and the gut.

Skin Deep Wellness

Use products that contain:

· Hyaluronic acid- found in the skins connective tissue, it is used to treat wrinkles.

· Retinol- a form of vitamin A  has proven to improve the skins hydration level and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

· Ester C (PH neutral vitamin C)- stimulates collagen production which is important to anyone who is getting older because collagen decreases as you age. Vitamin C also helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

·  Ceramides-  are fat molecules that help keep skin tight. They are found on the surface of the skin within the its’ cells and are active barriers to substances that try to infiltrate the skin while helping maintain skin hydration.

· Copper Peptide- increases the production of elastin and collagen helping to keep skin soft smooth and firm.

· Alpha Lipoic Acid- an antioxidant that helps prevent skin damage lessens wrinkles and boosts vitamin C levels.

Avoid skin and sunscreen products that contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity and many more health consequences:

·         Parabens

·         Phthalates

·         Triclosan

·         Toluene

·         Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

 

There are more, check out this chart for details, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5971/12-Toxic-Ingredients-to-AVOID-in-Cosmetics-Skin-Care-Products-Infographic.html

 Speak to a skin expert who can help you make the right choices for your particular skin needs.

Keeping skin, especially your hands and face,  hydrated and healthy during flu season will help you stay in a “sick free” zone but there is more. Next week learn how to feed your immune system and keep it strong from the inside out.

 

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WTE on a Healthy Balanced Diet?

anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid

Dr. Weil’s food pyramid, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02995/Dr-Weil-Anti-Inflammatory-Food-Pyramid.html,

USDA_MyPlate_green

The United State’s Department of Agriculture’s, “MY Plate”, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.

bg_food-pyramid3 The Atkins Food pyramid, http://www.atkins.com/Science/Atkins-Food-Pyramid.aspx 

On the heels of “WTF am I eating”, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/wtf-am-i-eating/, I thought it would be nice to also shed some light on WTE (what to eat) on a healthy balanced diet. There are so many different nutrition philosophies out there, so much confusion about what is healthy, and, not so healthy to eat and way too much controversy on what really is the “perfect” diet for you.

Take a look at the pictures above. Different food suggestions, different ideas of how to eat healthy. Yet, they have one big similarity.  There is no mention of chips, cookies or ice cream. Sure it is ok to dabble a little bit once in a while but junkie convenience foods have crept their way into daily eating and for some of us desserts are a staple after each meal.

These three diets (shown above) are examples of  the anti-inflammatory diet, the low carb diet and the calorie controlled diet; just a few of the hundreds of thousands of different ways to feed yourself. With so many diets out there, which is best? What food plans work and how are you supposed to know WTE?

A balanced diet, or food plan, is not the same for everyone. By definition, balanced eating  would apply solely to consuming a balanced ratio of nutrients from carbs, protein and fat (1:1:1) where calories are distributed evenly across the board at about 33% of total calories for each macronutrient.  You should understand that most “healthy” plans do not emphasize this balanced equation. Also, personal situations may dictate and override a general balanced diet formula.  A healthy diet will be different for everyone based on their own special circumstance. For example:

  • Being athletic can change the nutritional playing field. Athletes may benefit from eating a balanced ratio of nutrients but the formula may need a little tweaking to account for their goals to fuel,  recover and repair from the stress of long bouts of physical activity and the additional specialized needs for any particular sport.
  • Hippocrates, 460 BC377 BC,  is noted for his famous quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. This means that if you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, polycystic ovarian syndrome etc… a “balanced” diet may require tipping the scales more towards certain nutrients like healthy fats and away from others, like carbohydrates, to assist the body in equalizing the medical imbalance of that particular health condition.
  • If you are healthy, exercise and within your goal weight, eating an equal amount of calories from protein, fats and carbs should be the goal.

There is a lot of information out there on WTE. My best advice is to understand what your personal needs are and mold a healthy balanced nutrition plan that will work for you.  Nutrients can act in your favor or against you. It is your choice. If you need to use these general plans to jump start your healthy eating use them but long term, strive to “balance” and personalize your eating, tailored just for you.

 
 

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Ready, Set, Go! Make A Change

Changing behavior is one of the most difficult things to do in life and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Although “change” is a simple word, the process of change is complicated, no matter what you are trying to change. If you have diabetes (or any medical condition that can improve with lifestyle changes), wish to lose weight or want a better relationship, your readiness to change will make the difference in your long term success.

Desperately wanting something does not get you to “ready”. Trying your best or even going through the motions will not change behavior. In order to get on the right track to reach your goals, you must get “ready” to change your behavior.

READY” is defined as, “completely prepared” or “in condition for immediate action”. Therefore one of the best ways to ensure you will achieve your health goals is to get ready.

Determine what your goals are and prepare for action. Make weekly appointments with yourself. Set a date and time, put it on the calendar or you may never get the time you need to take care of yourself. This is all about Y-O-U! So, you will be the best person to determine what your goals are. No one else can tell you how to prioritize your life. You do not have to do this alone you can enlist a friend, family member or healthcare expert to help. I think it’s best to get as many people who are willing to support you on board as possible. Be honest with yourself; make sure those who support you provide unconditional help.

Be prepared to deal with those who are not supportive in any way necessary.

GET SET:

List your goals.

List specific actions that must be made.

Describe how you will execute your plan.

List behaviors that will contribute to success.

Think about the barriers you will have to overcome and plan on how to change your behavior to achieve victory.

Learn from mistakes and plan for success the next time you experience a pitfall.

Accept the fact that changing behavior is not easy and you will experience setbacks.

Ask yourself:

How will I learn new behaviors and let go of poor behaviors?
How can I anticipate a behavior relapse?
How can I maintain motivation?
What are the benefits?
What are the drawbacks of my changes?

GO:

No one else can do this for you but you. Denial and avoidance will get you nowhere. Take the bull by the horns and GO for a healthy lifestyle, improve a diagnosis or relationship. It will likely be an opportunity for improved quality of life and good health not only for you but everyone around you.

There is no quick fix in life. Get ready, get set and go for it! No matter what it is, you can make a change for the better by taking these steps and exchanging poor behaviors for positive actions. It may take time but it will be well worth your efforts.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in behavior, weight loss, wellness

 

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Renew or Re-Do Your “New Year’s” Vow

February 2013 Calendar (Oaxaca Trees)

February 2013 Calendar (Oaxaca Trees) (Photo credit: planeta)

If you made a vow to yourself on December 31 st or any other day. Keep it. Instead of a once a year pledge, make a real commitment. Set an alarm, mark your calendar for the end of each month and re-visit your  goal to determine if the goal is realistic. If you set a general goal, it is likely you will fall into the 25% of those people whose “diet” will fail. Whether diet or lifestyle or any goal, if you stick with it, you will succeed.

Do you want to lose weight or just be healthier this year? You want to succeed? The goal and strategies you set must be front and center on a daily basis.  What is your goal? How will you accomplish it?

For example, your goal might be: I will lose 2 pounds/week.

How are you going to achieve this goal? Specific behavior strategies that you choose to assist you with daily challenges.

Strategies:

1. Switch my low nutrient snacks for real foods that nourish (100 calorie snack pack out, celery with peanut butter in).

2. I will track my foods for accountability (use an app to track daily food).

3. I will not deprive myself when I’m hungry.

Allow yourself three and a half weeks to determine if the set goal is realistic or you need to change it so that it is attainable.

Renew your vow if your are successful, it’s working for you. Add a second goal with 3 new strategies for detailed actions in February. Do this each month.

If you have not achieved your goal in 3 weeks, re-do your vow so that  it is more attainable.

Example of  a resolution “re-do”:

I will lose one-two pounds each week

Strategies:

1. If I eat a 100 calorie snack pack at work, this will be my only desert of the day.

2. I will track my foods for accountability (use an app to track daily food).

3. I will identify real hunger vs. eating when bored.

Just because your initial attempt at weight loss or better health does not work, it does not mean that within six months you throw in the towel. There is more than one way to get things done. It may take a little time to find your comfort zone. But, you will be on track to accomplishing your goals.

At the end of each month, set a time when you check-in, evaluate your progress, or lack of progress. Learn to accommodate your lifestyle, your food preferences and any other hiccup that might interfere with your goal in order to identify what works for you. When you individualize your own plan, you will beat the odds and find a lifetime of success.

So ask yourself, how did my plan go in January? Which strategies worked? What changes will need to be made to next months plan?

 
 

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Immunity Boosters

English: Various cells that participate in imm...

English: Various cells that participate in immune functions. Note that even though hematopoietic stemm cell, erythrocyte, maegakaryocyte and platelets are found in the blood, they do not participate in immune functions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you stay healthy and fight sickness? Your immune system, its’ job 24/7 is keep you well. It wrestles with  fungi, viruses, bacteria, battles pathogens and any foreign invaders while cleaning up cellular debris. Sounds exhausting and it is, that is why as we age the immune system loses its steam. Nourishing the immune system will keep it strong and you healthy.

Eat:

All vitamins, 5 main minerals (zinc, copper, selenium, manganese and iron), all protein but especially arginine, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/6/1681S.abstract, and glutamine, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/131/9/2515S.full, fat (lower Omega 3 and 6 ratio to less than 1:4) and fiber.

In order to consume all these nutrients, you must eat a variety of low glycemic fruits, a colorful assortment of vegetables, protein from whole eggs (The yolk has choline a precursor to phosphatidylcholine which helps repair cell damage.), fish and grass-fed beef (also contain more Omega 3 essential fatty acids) turkey, sources of arginine (pumpkin/sesame seeds and almonds/cashews) and glutamine (cottage cheese and plain 2% Greek yogurt).

Drink:

tea-white (anti-bacterial and viral), elderberry and green

water with lemon

Green drinks, http://greensplus.com/index.php, any that contain sea vegetables

Practice:

Healthy habits and hygiene. Washing your hands and brushing your teeth is as important as keeping active and avoiding obesity as a study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine found that in comparison to normal weight mice obese mice were unable to fend off flu and other types of infections, http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/apr05/beck040405.html.

Stress reduction techniques can also boost immunity.

Understand:

Just because these nutrients are immune enhancing, does not mean excess amounts will be helpful. In fact, too much omega 6 fat, iron and vitamin E will actually have detrimental effects on your immune system. The same is true for some medications, such as antibiotics or corticosteroids.

Supplement Foods with Herbs and Spices

Herb and spice supplements boost immune system and protect against aging too.

Curcumin, cloves, basil, garlic, oregano and ginger all ward of sickness and can specifically help in preventing colds and flu.

Reminder:

Avoid consuming products that have been shown to weaken your immune system like soda, alcohol and sugar (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published results of a study that found lowered immunity for up to 5 hours after eating 100 grams of sugar or 3 cans of soda).

Maintain gut acid-base balance with proper foods (vegetables) or a probiotic supplement

Avoid allergic or sensitivity reactions as they produce inflammation

Stay healthy!

 

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Holiday Indulgence Guide For Guiltless Eating

160 reasons to be glad the holidays are over (...

160 reasons to be glad the holidays are over (168/365) (Photo credit: reallyboring)

Who doesn’t gain weight during the holidays? Dieting or not, the holiday season is jam-packed with food and “FULL” of complaints about gaining weight. Five months filled with family and social gatherings  focusing on nothing but food and drink.

So what I’m about to say might be surprising but it provides important details on weight gain during the holidays.

A study tracked 165 middle age culturally diverse men and women about 40 years old to identify actual weight gain during the holiday season. Results suggest that weight is the main factor in determining the amount of weight gained over the course of the holiday season.

People who weigh more gain more.  The results showed a 1-5 or more  pound weight gain over the course of the holidays. For many, damage done during the holidays was not that bad,  only about a pound of weight gain. For others who are overweight or obese, maintaining weight was more challenging.  More weight, was gained (greater than or equal to 5 pounds) by individuals who were overweight or obese. And, this pattern held true in different studies for children too.

If that was not enough to swallow, sink your teeth into this.

Holiday indulgence is not just an isolated event, you will be amazed to find out what happens after the holidays. You might think that as time goes on and all the foods associated with the holidays are no more, New Years‘ resolutions are made and preparations for bathing suit season begin with diets and other weight loss tools, that the weight gained during this time frame would melt away. Yet to the contrary, this study suggests that holiday indulgence may be more powerful than you realize.

It seems that fat gained over the holidays is stubborn and participants in this study had not lost the seasonal weight that was gained. Something to think about as Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day approach. The authors also admit that although their methods helped produce reliable results, there are demographic groups that may not be represented and that people who are not as health conscious or those who fall into a lower socioeconomic group may have different more dramatic results.

Over indulging during the holidays is not benign, it can be fatal to long-term dieting and good health. Consider this in planning your diet strategies over the next month or two. Of course, there is no reason to deprive yourself this season but there is a difference between indulgence and over-indulgence. Keep the odds stacked in your favor, follow these “Holiday Rules” or create your own.

How To Indulge Without Over Indulging

1. Ask yourself, “Is one or five days worth a lifetime of being heavier?”

2. Commit to losing a few extra pounds before or during the season

3. Follow a 3 teaspoon taste rule: One spoon because it is a special holiday food. Two, because you know you want seconds and three is “one for good luck”. An incentive to stick with the plan. Then the rest is given to someone else or thrown out.

4. Do not deprive yourself. Pre-select the foods and the amount of food you will eat on each of these holidays.

5.  Pace yourself and take specific intervals of time between eating

If your weight has not budged or has only moved in the wrong direction, try sticking to a nutrition plan over the holidays as a self commitment promise knowing that the same foods will be waiting for you next year when you weigh less.

Some tips that can help get you through the holidays

http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/three-holiday-tips-to-maintain-control-of-your-goal/

http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/30-days-30-ways-to-stick-with-your-meal-plan-during-the-holidays-or-anytime/

http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/10-winter-warm-and-healthy-low-carb-foods-and-beverages/

Eat to make a change, eat to lose weight and be healthy. Eat during the holidays just do not overeat. But if you do, if you gain weight, how will you prioritize the weight loss so you can prove this study wrong and lose the seasonal weight gain?

 

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