Seasonal Allergies and What to Do About Them

Is your medicine cabinet stocked with anti-histamines and allergy medications around pollen season? And do Paul Simon’s ‘Allergy’ lyrics ring true to you?

“Maladies, remedies,.. still the allergies remain….”

Most people assume pollen is responsible for allergies but foods, insect bites, domestic pets, mold, chemicals and smoke can all trigger a histamine response. Histamines are a type of immune cell that gets released when your body comes in contact with an allergen.  Conventional medicine can treat the symptoms of histamine release (like over-the-counter anti-histamines) but do not address the underlying cause to prevent it.

In this blog, I’ll share some tips on reducing the allergy disorder that many of us suffer from this time of year.

Keep your liver clean – Normally, your liver can process annoying allergens but in the toxic world we live in, it’s VERY easy to overload your liver – hence, the sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Did you know that bitter foods are like a gym session for your liver?  Bitter foods stimulate the liver to produce bile to optimize digestion and keep it functioning optimally. Some bitter foods to add to your diet include: a stiff cup of black coffee, dandelion greens, radicchio, bitter melon (you can buy this in the Asian markets), and green tea. In addition, you can try herbs like milk thistle, burdock and dandelion in tea form or as a supplement. Here is a powder blend I buy to add to coffee in the morning:

Eat a clean, gut-healing diet – Were you aware that more than 60% of our immune cells are in the gut? So it’s no surprise that an inflamed gut leads to more allergies. Focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet that’s packed with nutrients will enable your body to fight off these invaders:

  • Greens, cruciferous vegetables and polyphenol rich foods: broccoli, swiss chard, cauliflower, berries
  • Raw honey: evidence has shown the benefits of honey as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Try adding a tablespoon of honey several times a day to your diet to reduce allergy symptoms. I suggest local honey – it’s easy to find at farmer’s markets and many grocery stores.
  • Apple cider vinegar: great as an antioxidant drink and to keep mucus at bay. Add a teaspoon to your morning glass of water and also to your neti pot to flush out your nasal passages.

AVOID gut-inflaming foods like corn, wheat/gluten, dairy, sugar, bad oils and processed foods.

Consider supplements – In addition to having adequate vitamin D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, here are 2 others that I add to my regimen during allergy season:

  • Stinging nettle – The leaf of stinging nettles has been shown to bind to histamine receptors and inhibit inflammatory responses. It can be taken in tincture of tea form. Here’s an extract from a reputable herbal company to try:

 

  • Quercetin – this powerful antioxidant found in foods like onions is known for inhibiting histamine production. Consider a supplement to get a strong enough dose to keep sneezing under control – here’s one that’s been third-party tested:

Clean up your environment:

  • Avoid fragrances and perfumes which are loaded with chemicals – there are many fragrance-free (or natural fragrance) soaps, cosmetics and personal care products to choose from. Here’s a cosmetic line that is free of parabens, chemicals and synthetic fragrances and dyes: https://hanscc.com

  • Use EWG-verified (Environmental Working Group) cleaning products for the home and avoid harsh bleaches. Actually, one of my favorite cleaning agents is just hydrogen peroxide. I buy the 12% food grade concentrate and dilute it 4:1 with clean water and use it to clean hard surfaces like bathrooms and countertops. To make your own, pour ¼ cup of 12% peroxide into a clean container. Then add ¾ cup of distilled, reverse osmosis or clean spring water to dilute. It’s very inexpensive and extremely effective! Here’s the 12% peroxide I buy:

  • Avoid pesticides/herbicides around the home: We have a lush weed-filled yard which my dogs and family enjoy without worrying about chemical exposure. Stick to non-chemical pesticides or traps if appropriate to manage critters and unwanted guests.

  • Get rid of mold and make sure areas inside and around your home are dry to prevent growth. If you think you may have a mold issue in your home, you may have to call a mold remediation specialist but you can purchase kits online to check first. Here’s a DIY mold test kit I bought:

  • Vacuum regularly – how about a robotic vacuum? I am obsessed with how much dirt/dust this small robot picks up. Here’s one I use.
  • Get an air purifier for areas where you spend the bulk of your time (i.e. bedroom, home office). There are many to choose from and they do not have to be expensive to do the job. Here’s one I bought. Just don’t do what I did – I was in such a rush to turn this purifier on that I forgot to peel the plastic cover off the air filter so it ran for months doing absolutely nothing!

The Importance of Self-Care Part 1

We all know that the choices that we make, even seemingly small ones, can have a big impact on our health. Incremental efforts add up like little steps which over time can amount to skyscraper-height changes!

The key to making these positive, lasting changes is patience (sprinkled with kindness). If you’re making the shift towards a healthier lifestyle, you have to be patient and commit to caring for yourself (first) so you have the health and vitality to care for those around you.

And self-care doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It can be a rewarding and luxurious experience, all while on a budget! So, in the next several blogs, I’ll cover some simple self-care tips that will help you stay on track with your wellness goals.

Building a Foundation With Nourishing Foods

You’ve probably had people advise you to stay out of the “inner” aisles while at the grocery store, as this is where most of the processed, sugar-laden foods hang out.

While that’s fantastic advice, it’s also intimidating. But focusing on fresh vegetables and whole foods doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor.

Instead, try thinking of it as an opportunity to experiment!

  • How about adding in a new spice each month? These days, most basic chain grocery stores have large seasoning sections with inexpensive options.

  • If you see a spice that you’re unfamiliar with, try looking it up to see what recipes it’s traditionally used in. This is a great way to get inspiration, keep your home-cooked meals from getting boring, and to learn about new cultures.

  • Try out new ways of working with produce. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have flavorful, roasted, caramelized broccoli than mushy bland steamed broccoli. Check out this recipe that packs an explosion of flavor with just a couple of ingredients:         

Do You Wake Up Feeling Rested?

Getting a good night’s rest is more than just managing fatigue. Sleep plays a crucial role in all sorts of bodily processes. Research has shown that those who have poor quality sleep are at an increased risk for numerous health issues.

Some of the potential short-term consequences of sleep disruption:

  • Decline in cognition, memory, and performance
  • Difficulties with emotional regulation

Some of the potential long-term consequences:

  • Increased risk of hypertension
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus

Not to scare you, but evidence shows that practicing good sleep hygiene is imperative to any good self-care routine. So, if you aren’t sleeping well at night, it’s best to consult with a professional to get to the root of the underlying cause. However, if you suspect that it’s simply a matter of being stressed out or not being able to “shut your mind off” at night, there are some things that might help you out. And even if you are sleeping well at night, these techniques are great for relaxing in general and could make a great addition to your stress management toolbox.

Breathwork

Guided breathwork is a beginner-friendly way to practice mindfulness. If you’re like me who’s tried meditation but rather than being present, you’re busily putting together a to-do list, then following a guided video could help you ease into a calm state. Guided videos give the brain something to listen to and make it easier to stay focused on the exercise.

Several studies have shown promising data on how deep breathing exercises could improve mood and anxiety.  

How about this guided video with several tips to try:

How About a Massage? No Spa Required!

Treating yourself to an at-home massage could be just the thing you need to facilitate relaxation at the end of a long day, or even in the morning if you find yourself waking up “on the wrong side of the bed”.

There are many techniques for self-massage, but rest assured that no fancy oils, equipment or uncomfortable twists and turns are required to give yourself relief!

Have you heard about the Vagus nerve? The Vagus nerve is a main nerve that connects our brain to our organs in the body. This nerve also activates our rest and digestive system (parasympathetic). By stimulating simple points within our ear, this Vagus nerve massage technique can help reduce stress and anxiety. Give it a try:

It’s All About What Works for You

Everyone’s circumstances are unique. A part of what makes self-care enjoyable is finding little ways to nurture yourself that mesh well with your needs.

The suggestions mentioned here are only meant to serve as inspiration for your journey. Always be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new regimen, and most importantly, have fun!

Cada respiración que tomas: 5 formas de mantener la calma

Has escuchado el consejo, “respira hondo” en momentos de ansiedad, incertidumbre y estrés. Las técnicas de respiración activa se han utilizado durante siglos para calmar el sistema nervioso (activando el sistema parasimpático) y reducir el ritmo cardíaco. La belleza de la respiración es que estos ejercicios sutiles se vuelven más efectivos con la repetición y la práctica, por lo que son mejores que los tranquilizantes (¡que pierden eficacia con el tiempo!)

Estudios han revelado la eficacia de las técnicas de respiración profunda para reducir el estrés fisiológico y psicológico, así como la presión arterial. Además, ¿sabías que existe una relación directa entre la respiración nasal y las funciones cognitivas? Este estudio encontró el impacto que tiene la respiración profunda en la modulación del procesamiento cognitivo y el comportamiento.

Entonces, en este blog, compartiré algunos consejos de respiración (también llamados pranayama o “control de la respiración”) para ayudarlo a mantenerse mentalmente en forma, mantener la calma y continuar (que todos necesitamos hoy en día).

Respiración igualitaria (Sama Vritti)

Esta técnica de respiración fácil se puede hacer en cualquier lugar y es excelente a la hora de acostarse para guiarlo hacia el sueño.

  • Inhala y exhala por la nariz mientras cuentas hasta 4
  • Si puede durar más tiempo, intente de 6 a 8 conteos por respiración.

Respiración Abdominal

Prueba esto cuando te enfrentes a una situación estresante:

  • Pon una mano en tu pecho y la otra en tu vientre y respira profundamente por la nariz (tanto como puedas) y exhala lentamente por la boca. Intente durante unos 10 minutos entrar en un estado parasimpático calmante.

Respiración alterna de las fosas nasales (Nadi Shodhana)

Se dice que esta respiración alterna une los lados derecho e izquierdo del cerebro para brindar equilibrio, calma y concentración, por lo que es mejor hacerlo durante el día.

  • Sostenga su pulgar derecho sobre su fosa nasal derecha e inhale profundamente a través de su fosa nasal izquierda. Cierra la fosa nasal izquierda con el dedo índice en el pico de la inhalación. Repita el mismo patrón de inhalar con la fosa nasal derecha y exhalar con la fosa nasal izquierda.

Respiración estimulante (respiración de fuelle)

Como su nombre lo indica, se usa para aumentar el estado de alerta y la energía y debe sentir esto en el diafragma, el pecho y el abdomen.

Con la boca cerrada, inhale y exhale rápidamente (3 inhalaciones y exhalaciones por segundo) por la nariz. Intente esto durante 5-10 segundos y luego respire normalmente. Repita hasta que pueda hacer esto por hasta un minuto. Mira este video para un tutorial: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/the-stimulating-breath/

El ejercicio 4-7-8 (o respiración relajante)

Esto es como un tranquilizante para tu sistema nervioso y se puede hacer en cualquier lugar sin recibir miradas extrañas de las personas que te rodean.

  • Comience colocando la punta de la lengua justo detrás de los dientes frontales superiores.
  • Exhala por la boca, haciendo el sonido de exhalación.
  • Cierra la boca e inhala por la nariz contando hasta 4
  • Aguante la respiración durante 7 cargos
  • Exhala por la boca durante 8 tiempos haciendo el sonido de exhalación.
  • Repita el ciclo 3 veces más para un total de 4 respiraciones

Aplicación de respiración

Si le va mejor con una imagen, descargue esta aplicación de respiración GRATUITA: ofrece seis ritmos de inhalaciones/exhalaciones (2:3 a 5:7) y muestra una pelota con un sonido relajante que se infla y desinfla al ritmo.

Consejos de prevención de COVID amigables con los pulmones

Incluso si ha tenido COVID-19 y ha recibido la doble vacuna, no lo hace a prueba de balas contra el virus, ya que estas protecciones disminuyen con el tiempo. Además, siempre surgen nuevas variantes, como Delta y la última, Omicron. Entonces, a menos que quiera vivir en una burbuja, necesita formas de apoyar la inmunidad natural de su cuerpo y prevenir infecciones (o reinfecciones). Usted sabe que controlar el estrés, mantenerse físicamente activo y dormir lo suficiente son importantes, pero aquí hay algunas otras cosas que puede hacer para ayudar a mantener a raya las infecciones.

Vitamina C y D

Muchos de nosotros tenemos deficiencia de vitamina C y D y no somos conscientes de ello: un multivitamínico no es suficiente para que nuestro cuerpo alcance los niveles óptimos. Tanto la vitamina C como la D son reguladores inmunológicos cruciales, por lo que es importante tener cantidades adecuadas. Puede consultar con su médico para que analice sus niveles. Estos son absolutamente “imprescindibles” para mí, especialmente durante los meses más fríos.

Nebulizador con peróxido de hidrógeno

Dadas sus propiedades antiinfecciosas y oxigenantes, el peróxido de hidrógeno nebulizado se ha mostrado como una buena terapia profiláctica para los pulmones. Tengo un nebulizador de mesa y lo uso en casa antes y después de reuniones/viajes.

Esta es una receta para mezclar la solución y llegar a una concentración del 0,1 % para el nebulizador: Hasta ¼ de cucharadita de peróxido de hidrógeno de GRADO ALIMENTARIO al 3 %.

Agregue 7 ¼ de cucharadita de solución salina; puede comprarlos en paquetes y medir lo que necesita.

Mezcle justo antes de usar el nebulizador, agregue no más del nivel máximo de líquido en la máquina nebulizadora y respire por la nariz y la boca durante 10 a 15 minutos. Es un poco complicado configurarlo, pero una vez que lo domines, se convertirá en una rutina.

Alimentos saludables para los pulmones

Los siguientes alimentos son una gran fuente de antioxidantes (carotenoides, polifenoles), minerales como magnesio y potasio, grasas saludables y vitaminas:

  • Aguacates: buena fuente de ácidos grasos monoinsaturados y potasio
  • Bayas (moras, arándanos, cerezas, fresas) – polifenoles y vitamina C
  • Verduras y verduras crucíferas (brócoli, coles de Bruselas, repollo, coliflor, acelga, col rizada, col rizada): antioxidantes, carotenoides y vitamina A, C, E
  • Pescado graso (salmón, arenque, anchoas) – Ácidos grasos omega-3
  • Semillas de lino: ácidos grasos omega-3, fibra y proteína.
  • Ajo y cebolla: propiedades antiinflamatorias
  • Jengibre – propiedades antiinflamatorias
  • Té verde: polifenoles y flavonoides
  • Frutos secos: grasas saludables
  • Aceite de oliva – grasas monosaturadas, polifenoles, vitamina E

Aquí hay algunas recetas simples para incluir alimentos saludables para los pulmones en su dieta:

Repollo salteado

Dore el ajo picado (2 dientes) y la cebolla picada con 1 cucharadita de pasta de anchoas (o varias anchoas en lata) y 3 cucharadas de aceite de oliva. Mezcle ½ repollo rojo en rodajas, agregue sal y hojuelas de pimiento rojo al gusto y cocine hasta que estén suaves.

Acelga salteada

Dore el ajo picado (2 dientes) en aceite de oliva (3 cucharadas), luego agregue el jengibre picado (1/2-1 cucharadita) y 1 manojo de acelgas. Agregue salsa de soya y hojuelas de pimiento rojo al gusto. Revuelva hasta que las acelgas estén blandas. Cubra con un puñado de piñones.

Batido de proteína

A una cucharada de multicolágeno (5 tipos diferentes), agregue medio aguacate, ½ taza de bayas congeladas, 1 taza de espinacas crudas y 1 cucharadita de linaza. Agregue agua, hielo y miel o stevia al gusto.

Lung-friendly COVID Prevention Tips

Even if you’ve had COVID-19 and been double vaccinated, it doesn’t make you bulletproof against the virus as these protections wane over time. Plus there’s always new variants emerging such as Delta and the latest, Omicron. So unless you want to live in a bubble, you need ways to support your body’s natural immunity and prevent infection (or re-infection). You know that managing stress, staying physically active and getting proper sleep are important,  but here are some other things you can do to help you keep infections at bay.

Vitamin C and D

Many of us are deficient in vitamin C and D and aren’t aware of it – a multi-vitamin isn’t sufficient to get our body to the optimal levels. Both vitamin C and D are crucial immune regulators so it’s important to have adequate amounts. You can check with your clinician to get your levels tested. These are an absolute ‘must’ for me especially during the colder months.


Here’s what I take: Liposomal Vitamin C:

Vitamin D (5000IU):

Nebulizer with hydrogen peroxide

Given its anti-infective and oxygenating properties, nebulized hydrogen peroxide has been shown as a good prophylactic therapy for lungs. I have a tabletop nebulizer and use this at home before and after gatherings/travel.

Here’s a recipe for mixing the solution to get to 0.1% concentration for the nebulizer: To ¼ tsp of 3% FOOD-GRADE hydrogen peroxide

Add 7 ¼ tsp of saline – you can buy these in packets and measure out what you need.

Mix right before you use the nebulizer, add no more than maximum fluid level on the nebulizer machine and breathe through the nose and mouth for 10-15 minutes. It’s a bit complicated to get it set up but once you get the hang of it, it will become routine.

Healthy lung foods

The following foods are a great source of anti-oxidants (carotenoids, polyphenols), minerals like magnesium and potassium, healthy fats and vitamins:

  • Avocados – good source of monosaturated fatty acids and potassium
  • Berries (blackberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries) – polyphenols and vitamin C
  • Cruciferous vegetables and greens (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Swiss chard, kale, collards) – antioxidants, carotenoids and vitamin A,C,E
  • Fatty fish (salmon, herring, anchovies) – Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Flaxseeds – Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein
  • Garlic and onions – anti-inflammatory properties
  • Ginger – anti-inflammatory properties
  • Green tea – polyphenols and flavonoids
  • Nuts – healthy fats
  • Olive oil – monosaturated fats, polyphenols, vitamin E

Here are some simple recipes to get lung-friendly foods into your diet:

Stir-fried cabbage

Brown chopped garlic (2 cloves) and diced onion with 1 tsp of anchovy paste (or several anchovies in can) and 3 TBSPs of olive oil.  Toss in ½ sliced red cabbage, add salt and red pepper flakes to taste and cook until soft.

Stir-fried Swiss chard

Brown chopped garlic (2 cloves) in olive oil (3 TBSP) then add chopped ginger (1/2-1 tsp) and 1 bunch of Swiss chard. Add soy sauce and red pepper flakes to taste. Stir fry until Swiss chard is soft. Top with a handful of pine nuts.

Protein shake

To a scoop of multi-collagen (5 different types), add half an avocado, ½ cup frozen berries, 1 cup raw spinach and 1 TSBP flaxseed. Add water, ice and honey or stevia to taste.

Every Breath You Take – 5 Ways to Keep Calm

You’ve heard the advice, “take a deep breath” during times of anxiety, uncertainty and stress. Active breathing techniques have been used over the centuries to calm the nervous sytem (activating the parasympathetic system) and reduce our heart rate. The beauty of breathing is that these subtle exercises become more effective with repetition and practice so they are better than tranquilizers (which lose efficacy over time!)

Research has shown the effectiveness of deep breathing techniques on reducing physiological and psychological stress as well as blood pressure. Also, did you know that there is a direct link between nasal breathing and cognitive functions? This study found the impact that deep breathing has on modulating cognitive processing and behavior.

So, in this blog, I’ll share some breathing tips (also called pranayama or “breath control”) to help you stay mentally fit, keep calm and carry on (which we all need nowadays).

Equal Breathing (Sama Vritti)

This easy breathing technique can be done anywhere and is great at bedtime to guide you into sleep.

  • Inhale and exhale through your nose for a count of 4
  • If you can go longer, try 6-8 counts per breath

Abdominal Breathing

Try this when faced with a stressful situation:

  • Put one hand on your chest and the other on your belly and take a deep breath through your nose (as long as you can) and exhale slowly through your mouth. Try for about 10 minutes to get yourself into a calming parasympathetic state.

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

This alternate breathing is said to unite the right and left sides of the brain to bring balance, calm and focus, so it’s best done during the daytime.

  • Hold your right thumb over your right nostril and breathe in deeply through your left nostril. Close off your left nostril with your index finger at the peak of inhalation. Repeat the same pattern of breathing in with your right and exhaling with your left nostril.

Stimulating Breath (Bellows Breath)

As the name implies, it is used to increase alertness and energy and you should feel this on your diaphragm, chest and abdomen. 

With your mouth closed, inhale and exhale rapidly (3 in-and-out breaths per second) through your nose. Try this for 5-10 seconds then breathe normally. Repeat until you can do this for up to a minute. Watch this video for a tutorial:

https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/the-stimulating-breath/

The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise

This is like a tranquilizer for your nervous system and can be done anywhere without getting weird stares from people around you.

  • Start by placing the tip of your tongue right behind your upper front teeth
  • Exhale through the mouth, making the exhaling sound
  • Close your mouth and inhale through your nose for 4 counts
  • Hold your breath for 7 counts
  • Exhale throught your mouth for 8 counts making the exhaling sound
  • Repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths
  • Watch this tutorial to do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: https://www.drweil.com/videos-features/videos/breathing-exercises-4-7-8-breath/

Breathing App

If you do better with a visual, download this FREE Breathing App – it offers six rhythms of inhales/exhales (2:3 to 5:7) and shows a ball with a calming sound that inflates and deflates to the rhythm.

Natural Detox Strategies

Did you know that there are over 15,000 man-made chemicals that are in our environment that our body doesn’t know what to do with? As humans, we have not evolved enough to deal with the bombardment of these toxins from the air, water, ground and the atmostphere. We know that toxins are harmful to our biological function so what to do? Thankfully, there are a number of ways to mitigate the risks even though we may not be able to eliminate them completely. So, in this blog, I’ll share some tips on ways to keep your body optimal so it can repair and detox itself.

Clean Air

You need to note what is going into your body that is contributing to your toxin load. One of the most important is the air you breathe. Did you know that air pollution was linked to a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 in the US? If you’re a city dweller, it’s especially important to prioritize clean air in your living space. You may want to invest in an air filter for the areas where you spend most of your time – at least get one for your bedroom so you have clean air to breathe while you sleep. There are plenty of good air filters to choose from in many price ranges. Here are several to consider:

Clean Water

Even if you get tested city water where you live, the drinking water can be contaminated with disease-carrying organisms and toxins leaking into your water source from run-offs from industrial plants, factory farms and even fracking. You can search for the quality of your water in the EWG’s tap water database. Put in your zip code and it will show you which chemicals are above acceptable levels. You can also request a report from your water source on the quality of the tap – keep in mind that only certain contaminants are tested so you won’t actually know what’s in there. So, if you’re not up to solving a mystery, how about opting for a whole house filtration system if the quality of your water source is not up to par? If you cannot afford a whole house filter, invest in a reverse osmosis filter system to put under your sink for drinking/cooking and a shower filter to minimize contact with your skin. Here’s what I use:

Sweat

When you sweat, your skin’s pores open up to eliminate toxins including heavy metals and foreign chemical substances. As your body’s largest organ, the skin can flush wastes out through sweat thereby putting less burden on other organs like the liver, intestines and kidneys. So get a good workout and work up a good sweat. If you are like me and don’t sweat easily (nor want to do a lot of strenuous exercise to get there), you may want to look into a sauna. I like infrared saunas as they don’t require any special hook-up in your home. The infrared saunas use electric and infrared light to create heat waves which are absorbed by your skin. They only go up to about 150 degrees but they do a great job of penetrating through your skin to get you sweating like a pig in no time!

There are many infrared saunas out in the market today – they used to be very expensive but now they have ones for every budget. Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, try one of the sauna blankets – this one got top ratings on Amazon.

Here’s the one I have at home – it’s an investment but it will last at least a decade with proper use.

Clean Food

Eat Organic – Organic food has more nutrients and are rich with natural antioxidants and disease fighting chemicals. If you have your own garden, you are well on your way to feeding your body with optimal nutrtion. If you cannot afford all organic, how about avoiding these dirty dozen that are the most pesticide laden?

Avoid GMOs – Many grains, grain by-products and produce are genetically modified, so always look for the “Non-GMO” label when purchasing. Here are the most prevalent genetically modified products: Soy, Corn, Canola Oil, Mik, Sugar, Zucchini, Yello Squash, Papaya

Grass-Fed or Wild Meat – Grass-fed and wild-caught meat get their diet from natural sources (not corn and other foods that these animals are not meant to eat) and as a result, have a favorable profile of nutrients and essential fatty acids. Same goes for fish – opt for fish choices like wild salmon to minimize contamination over farmed salmon.

Natural Sweeteners – Did you know that artificial sweeteners like aspartame can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and actually promote obesity by altering the function of the bacteria that’s in your gut?  With most people trying to lose weight rather than gain, this sounds like a bad idea. But you don’t have to give up the sweets – just stick to natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, allulose and erythritol. They even make tasty sodas from these sweeneters. Here’s the one I drink when I’m craving soda.

Minimize Gluten – Gluten has been linked to intestinal and neurological disorders but it’s in almost everything we eat – bread, pizza, bagels, baked products. Wheat flour being grown today has been hybridized to maximize gluten content to satisfy western tastebuds. Steer clear of gluten if possible – if you are eating out/traveling and find it impossible to avoid, take some digestive enzymes with your meal. Here’s one to have handy.

Artificial Colors and Additives – Did you know that according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are more than 10,000 additivies that are allowed in food? It’s mind boggling what you need to know to avoid as these additives are linked to chronic health issues.  For example, studies have shown a correlation between consumption of artificial food coloring and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children. There has been controversy on the safety of these artificial colors so it’s best to avoid them even if they are considered ‘safe’. The most common ones to look for are Blue No. 1, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6.

Here’s the dirty dozen of food additives you want to steer clear of.

Sleep

Your body powers down at night so it can get to work on cleaning up all the waste that’s been accumulated in your body and brain throughout the day. So, make sure you are getting adequate and proper shut-eye.

Minimize EMF

Were you aware that EMF radiation can negatively impact sleep quality as it reduces the amount of melatonin your body produces at night? So keep that cell phone powered down and away from your bedroom. If you need a device (iPad) to wind down at night like me, download the podcasts and episodes and watch them on airplane mode. I’ve got to have my nightly podcast but with the app, it’s easy to download all the sleepy material to put me under. 

Avoid Plastics

Plastics are not only littering our oceans and harming sea life, they’re harmful to our health, too. A commonly-used plastic additive called Bisphenol A is a known endocrine disruptor leading to hormone dependent cancers and metabolic disorders. Switch to glass (Pyrex is heat and crack-resistant) and or metal containers and bottles. They retain the thermal quality of the food/drink WITHOUT chemical plasticizers and other additives. 

Avoid Chemicals in Cosmetic and Personal Care Products

Were you aware that most personal care and cosmetic products sold in the US are not regulated by the FDA and do not require safety testing of ingredients as they are ‘generally regarded as safe’? There may be dangerous chemicals lurking in your makeup and personal care product so you need to take charge of what you’re putting on your skin, hair and nails. You can go to the EWG database to look up which products are safe to use. Alternatively, you can use the Redify app to scan any product barcode and determine whether it contains toxic ingredients.

How your snoring affects your well-being – “Healthy Attitude” podcast review

Bedtime may be the favorite time of the day for thousands of people, but it does not always represent rest time for everyone. Has the snoring of your relative or partner ever kept you awake at night? Yes, it has happened to all of us. But we must be aware of a reality: in addition to causing annoying noises, snoring can be an indicator that our companions are suffering from more than just a stuffy nose.

Dr. Ana Carolina Bassol, a graduate of Mexico’s National Institute of Respiratory Diseases, knows about this firsthand. The pulmonologist works at the Galenia Hospital in Cancun, in the south of her country, and has treated dozens of cases of sleep apnea, a condition related to snoring.

This sleep disorder, known in the medical community for being underdiagnosed by professionals and neglected by patients, affects a significant number of Latin Americans in the 21st century. According to this study (in Spanish), 20% of middle-aged adults have at least mild sleep apnea and 80% of cases remain unidentified.

Dr. Bassol is aware of these figures and the possible consequences of suffering from this condition, such as heart disease. That is why she participated in the podcast “Healthy Attitude”, produced by the hospital center where she works, to inform and educate Spanish speakers about snoring and sleep apnea.

Here is a summary of her intervention in the program.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is the total or partial blockage of the upper airway (of the respiratory system) for more than 10 seconds and sometimes even for minutes. It occurs specifically in the pharynx, a tube that connects the nostrils and the oral cavity. This duct is opened by muscle tone but can close when the tone weakens during deep sleep.

According to the doctor, there are several factors that can disrupt the passage of air through the pharynx and increase the likelihood of sleep apnea. Some of the most important are large tonsils, a long tongue, a small nose, and a small chin. She also emphasizes fat deposits, as they can cause the pharynx to collapse even when the individual is awake (due to the great weight they exert on the neck).

How do I know if I have sleep apnea?

To know if you suffer from this syndrome, you can pay attention to the intensity and frequency of your snoring when you sleep. This is one of the most frequent symptoms of the condition, as it occurs when the air causes vibration of the relaxed tissues of the throat.

Another sign that can reveal if you have this condition is the sensation of choking when you just wake up. In fact, sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing when you sleep. But do not worry: the brain is smart and will never let you die from lack of oxygen. The organ specializes in sending a signal of stress substances (such as adrenaline) that allows you to return to a light sleep and regain the muscle tone that keeps your pharynx dilated.

What else can sleep apnea cause?

According to Bassol, the problems associated with sleep apnea are not only limited to the pharynx but can also trigger negative consequences in the circulatory system.

Whenever there is an obstruction in the upper airway, oxygen in the blood can decrease, which generates inflammatory substances that increase the formation of clots. In addition, adrenaline injections from the brain increase blood pressure, increase heart rate, and change chest pressure. These last modifications place the heart in stressful situations. This is why sleep apnea is linked to cardiac conditions such as acute heart attacks, arrhythmias, heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.

What else can I do to detect sleep apnea?

Bassol comments that the clinical manifestations of sleep apnea when the body is conscious are drowsiness, anxiety, and depression. If you are overcome with doubts and you are not sure about what you have, there are two ways to achieve an accurate diagnosis.

The first option is to take a respiratory polygraphy test. Professionals perform at your home to gather information about your oxygen saturation, your chest and abdominal movements and your airflow in the airway. To get it, they need you to sleep one night with an equipment composed of nasal prongs, a chest monitor, two elastic bands (one on the thorax and one on the abdomen) and an oximeter.

On the other hand, the second alternative is to take a polysomnography test. It is more complete than the previous one and includes an electroencephalogram, an electrocardiogram, and the measurement of other arterial gases, as well as the muscle tone. This is performed only in sleep laboratories and requires observation of the patient for an entire night. It is the best choice if you are a person with previous diseases, such as heart failure.

If you want to listen to the complete podcast (in Spanish) and learn more about sleep apnea, you can click here.

Dr. Daniel Amen Podcast Review: Memory Rescue – How to Stop Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Dr. Daniel Amen is one of the leading authorities on brain health – he is a physician, founder of Amen Clinics and BrainMD, a double board-certified psychiatrist and nine-time New York Times bestselling author.  I found this podcast easy to listen to with great tips from his Memory Rescue book (published in 2018) on how to take control of your brain.

Here are the key highlights:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple in the next 35 years. What most people don’t realize is that this disease starts decades before symptoms appear. Based on imaging studies, a 59-year-old woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s most likely had negative changes to her brain in her twenties. There is also no known cure on the horizon and it is estimated that 50% of people 85 or older will be diagnosed with it.  This may be a cause for people not wanting longevity in their life!   
  • Depression has increased by 400% since 1987 and it now affects 50 million Americans. It is also a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
  • Another risk factor is diabetes. A study showed that 50% of the US is either diabetic or pre-diabetic due to poor diet. Two studies have shown that as your weight goes up, the physical size and the function of your brain goes down. With 2/3 of Americans overweight, including 1/3 obese, it is the biggest brain drain in the US and now considered a national security crisis. Up to 70% of people signing up for the military are now rejected because of their weight problems. 
  • What’s important to note is that diabetes/obesity, depression and Alzheimer’s are not separate disorders but different expressions of the same unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Dr. Amen scanned his own brain at the age of 37 and noticed damage; he played football in high school, had meningitis, and poor sleep with unhealthy habits. This spurred him to develop the brain program – 20 years later, his brain scan looks like a healthy 37-year-old. 
  • Dr. Amen is a fan of brain imaging (SPECT) – his philosophy is that you need to look because imaging will show you if your brain is healthy, injured, over or under-active or has Alzheimer’s. At his Amen clinics, the first thing they do is look at your brain scans.  The imaging looks at blood flow and brain activity to get a view of how well your brain is functioning.
  • He developed a pneumonic (BRIGHT MINDS) for his Memory Rescue book and it’s as follows:
    • B is for blood flow – low blood flow is a key predictor of Alzheimer’s and anything that damages the blood vessels will damage the hippocampus. Tips: Limit caffeine and treat high blood pressure, keep your heart healthy and be physically active. Eat foods like chili peppers, beets and ginkgo biloba to increase blood flow. Brisk physical exercise is also a must as is hyperbaric oxygen therapy which can be used to increase blood flow to the brain.  
    • R is for retirement and aging – the older you get, the more serious you need to be about keeping the brain healthy. Your brain can become less active with age but with the right plan, you can slow or even reverse the aging process. Avoid factors that accelerate aging; avoid being lonely, being in a job that does not require new learning or not challenging your brain. When your brain stops learning, it starts dying. To slow aging, it’s important to be socially connected, engage in lifelong learning and stay physically and mentally active. Dr. Amen also advocates taking vitamins (multi and C) 
    • I is for Inflammation – chronic inflammation is like a low-level fire destroying your organs and this increases dementia. At his clinic, he measures the C-reactive protein (level of inflammation) and Omega-3 levels. Symptoms like joint pain, rosacea and gum disease are all indicators of inflammation which will lead to memory loss. He recommends eating more Omega-3s (oily fish), and cooking with spices like turmeric. In a new study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the hippocampus was found to be healthier in people with the highest omega 3 levels.
    • G is for genetics – having a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s is a wake-up call, not a death sentence. If you think you are at risk, early screening is essential and be serious about prevention as soon as possible. Losing your memory and independence is hard and expensive. Alzheimer’s causes a build-up of toxic plaque in the brain and it’s been shown that vitamin D, blueberries, sage, turmeric and green tea can decrease plaque.
    • H is for head trauma – head injuries are a major cause of depression, addiction disorders and memory problems. A study showed that one third of people that played football had lasting brain damage. Head trauma affects the front part of the brain which affects focus and decision making. On Dr. Amen’s memory rescue program, 80% of NFL players showed improvement in blood flow, memory, attention, mood and sleep. In his podcast he shares case studies of an NFL player and a pro surfer, and their brain scans before and after the Memory Rescue program – it is quite impressive and worth a look.
    • T is for toxins and a common cause of memory loss in aging. Smoking (tobacco and marijuana), mold exposure, carbon monoxide exposure, cancer chemotherapy, radiation and heavy metals (mercury, aluminum and lead) will all lower blood flow to the brain. Lead is still found in 60% of lipstick and lead is also in airplane fuel. Dr. Amen recommends limiting exposure to toxins, buying organics and reading labels (Say NO to phthalates, parabens and aluminum). What goes on your body goes in your body and affects your brain. You need to support your organs of detoxification: kidneys – drink plenty of water;  gut – eat plenty of good fiber; liver – eat lots of brassicas (cruciferous vegetables) like broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts to support detoxification; skin – sweat and do saunas. A recent study has shown that people who took the most saunas had the lowest risk of memory problems.
    • M is for mental health – chronic stress, emotional trauma, grief and depression are associated with lasting memory problems. It is critical to get this treated. For example,  ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) affects 10% of the adult population. American Journal of Psychiatry studies indicated that nutraceuticals are a low-cost option that should be considered like Omega 3, saffron and SAMe (involved in the formation, activation, or breakdown of other chemicals in the body, including hormones, proteins, phospholipids, and certain drugs.) In addition, exercise, meditation, hypnosis and a vegetable-rich diet can help your overall mental health.
    • I is for immunity and infections – if you struggle with memory, infectious diseases need to be explored. Dr. Amen suggests keeping vitamin D levels optimal, taking probiotics and eating anti-viral foods like garlic.
    • N is for neurohormone deficiencies – without healthy hormones, you will be tired and foggy and your hippocampus will be smaller and weaker. A healthy testosterone for both men and women will improve mood. Optimal thyroid levels give you energy and mental clarity. The hormone DHEA helps to fight aging, and the right level and balance of estrogen and progesterone helps with blood flow. Dr. Amen suggests that you get tested annually once you reach your 40s to keep hormones strong. Avoid hormone disruptors like pesticides, BPAs, phthalates and parabens.
    • D is for diabesity which is being diabetic, overweight or both. As weight goes up, size and function of the brain goes down. Remember that the excess fat in your body is not innocuous; it disrupts hormones, stores toxins and increases inflammation. When obesity is combined with diabetes, the risk is worse as high blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels. 
    • S is for sleep – 60 million Americans have sleep-related issues and chronic insomnia, while use of sleeping pills and sleep apnea all increase risk of memory problems. You need adequate deep sleep to provide the opportunity for the brain to clean itself – when sleep is disrupted, trash doesn’t get taken out and builds up in your brain. Dr. Amen suggests that to sleep better, make the room cooler, darker and quieter. He also advocates use of magnesium, melatonin and 5-HTP to promote better sleep.
  • Dr. Amen’s 5 diet rules for the brain: 1. Eat high-quality calories (and too many); 2. Eat clean protein at every meal to balance blood sugar; 3. Focus on healthy fats including nuts, seeds and avocados; 4. Eat smart carbs that do not raise blood sugar like those found in colorful fruits and veggies. Stay away from bread, pasta, potatoes and rice as they are pro-inflammatory; 5. Liberally use spices and seasonings like pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, turmeric, and garlic to keep the brain healthy.

Here is Dr. Amen’s podcast on Youtube:

Introduction to Mindfulness | Part 3 Short Guided Practice

with Cara Bradley

Wholistics is pleased to present Cara Bradley for a short series on the what and how of mindfulness and why training your mind to pay attention on purpose is one of the most important things you can do to feel and perform your best.

Cara has been both an entrepreneur and body-mind teacher for over three decades and is currently focused on building a “future-ready” mental wellness business. As a performance coach, she trained Fortune 500 companies, CEOs and elite college sports teams with her signature strategies to access optimal flow states. Cara is the founder of Verge Yoga Center and the author of On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine. https://www.carabradley.net