Is That a Lion Coming My Way? Managing our Stress Responses

Imagine that you’re in the grassy plains a few thousand years back. You’re out alone, gathering plants, when you notice a looming figure in the distance – it’s a hungry lion! As you see it, it sees you. With no weapons on hand, in an instant, your body charges up and you’re sprinting to get back to your village. Your heart pumps faster to send more blood out to your arms and legs, allowing you to run more quickly and with more energy. Your respiration rate increases, bringing more oxygen into your body and powering you up further. You make it back to your village and find sanctuary with loved ones.  

This story is an example from a few thousand years ago and although we no longer have to run from lions, it illustrates how our nervous system evolved and the way our brain conceptualizes stress today.

What is the nervous system?

For starters, the nervous system is responsible for sending communications between the body and brain. It’s made up of miles and miles of nerve cells in our brain, spinal cord, and nerves extending throughout our body.

The brain sends signals through the nervous system to keep your heart beating, take a sip from your coffee cup, pet your dog’s head, and release different hormones throughout your body. The nervous system is how I am thinking of words to type and tapping my fingers on the keyboard right now!

With so many miles of nerves and a wide variety of functions, scientists organize the nervous system into many different subsystems. Only two of these are important for our discussion about stress today: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (NS) are a yin and yang of sorts. The sympathetic is responsible for activating the fight or flight response, while the parasympathetic sends cues to our body when it is safe to rest again.

What is the Fight or Flight response?

The sympathetic NS is often called the “fight or flight” system because it flips on the fight or flight response when a stressor arises. Whether you see a lion off in the distance or you receive a stressful text from your boss, your body responds with fight or flight.

In these moments, your brain signals to your body to either fight or flee. Your heart will start beating faster, your breathing rate will increase, and different hormones will start rushing throughout your body. All of this is a coordinated effort to send energy out to your muscles to fight or flee more effectively.

The fight or flight response was necessary to preserve the human race; we all need the help if we’re being chased by hungry predators.

The issue with fight or flight, however, is that it is still triggered in response to modern day stressors: receiving a hefty unexpected bill in the mail, having a difficult conversation with your partner, living in a 3-year pandemic, and more. 

In these situations, physically fighting or fleeing is rarely necessary or appropriate. When you have an intense text conversation with your boss, running away isn’t going to solve the issue, neither is challenging them to a duel.

Our bodies are constantly entering fight or flight mode, but we aren’t using the energy it supplies us. This “traps” many of us in fight or flight – our heart rates are increased, hormonal secretions are abnormal, and more. We are living with chronic stress and the myriad of poor health effects due to constant activation of the fight or flight response.

The situation isn’t hopeless, however. The good news is you can move yourself out of fight or flight without sprinting away from your stressors or entering into a fist fight.

How do I get out of Fight or Flight?

As I mentioned above, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for moving you out of the fight or flight response. The PNS is often called the “rest and digest” system because it sends the energy from your muscles back into your daily activities like digestion and normal hormonal secretions.

In our lion example, the fight or flight response was turned off by a few different factors (these factors also turned on the parasympathetic nervous system):

  1. Movement. The fight or flight response evolved to do exactly what it says – fight or flee.

Physical activity – whether that’s walking, yoga, or working out – is a powerful way to replace fighting or fleeing. Because we are not literally fighting or fleeing in modern day, we need to release the energy pent up by the fight or flight response and signal to our body that it is safe to enter into a state of calm.

  1. Positive social connection. In the example, you made it back to the village and celebrated with loved ones.

Connecting with others – through physical affection, laughter, and gatherings – literally soothes the nervous system. It’s a signal to the PNS that you are safe and the fight or flight response is no longer needed.

One specific nerve acts as the on switch for the PNS: the vagus nerve. When you can activate the vagus nerve through physical activity or social connection, you can signal to your body that it is safe to rest and exit fight or flight.

In my next blog, we’re going deeper into the vagus nerve, and the many different ways you can activate it. Check back for more!

PS: If you want to learn more about this topic, check out the first chapter of the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski!

The 5-Minute Morning Routine for a Fantastic Day

“How you wake up each day dramatically affects your level of success in every single area of your life.” – Hal Elrod, Author

I listened to an interesting podcast on a 5-minute morning routine that anyone can implement and follow. The routine framework is based on Dr. Rangan Chatterjee’s book: Happy Mind, Happy Life: The New Science of Mental Well-Being.

Do you have a morning routine that is consistent and positive to kick off your day? Even if you do, read on for tips on how to make the most out of your morning coffee (or walk)…

Here are the highlights:

  • If you struggle with being consistent in the mornings, the goal isn’t about the routine but taking time for yourself to start the day GROUNDED. And believe it or not, 5 minutes is all you need to transition into the day.
  • We all know that changing behavior is hard so an easy way to implement a habit that will stick is via habit-stacking. According to Dr. BJ Fogg, author of Tiny Habits, stacking a new behavior on top of old ones will provide the impetus to do them. For example – use the time for brewing your morning cup-a-joe or taking the dog for a walk to do your 5-minute self-care ritual.

Here are the 3 Ms of the morning routine to include:  

M1: Mindfulness – 1-2 minutes:

  • Practice being in the present moment. The past or future are only ideas in your head. Enjoy the power of NOW.
  • Mindful breathing for 1-2 minutes is sufficient. Close your eyes. Notice your breath coming in and going out. Let thoughts and sounds come and go. Come back to the breath. Try some deep breaths – hold it and then exhale out. If you need guidance, try this video to follow along.
  • Even a minute of ‘falling still’ makes a difference in our lives.  Another falling still practice to try is to get sunshine on your face for 1-2 minutes to center the circadian rhythm for the rest of the day. 

M2: Movement – 1-2 minutes:

  • Do some squats while coffee is brewing. Or push ups if you are motivated.
  • The key is to wake up the body and get not only your blood flowing but also your lymphatic system. Unlike blood, our body does not have a pump for the lymphatic system so the primary way to move it is through exercise. Try squats, jumping jacks, push-ups or even dancing.
  • Here’s an exercise you can try. Grab a chair and practice getting up and sitting down without using your hands. Then try getting up with no hand movement and balancing on one foot.
  • Once you’ve mastered that, then try sitting down on the floor and getting up without using your hands to assist. This type of balance is key to longevity. This video shows how:

M3: Mindset – 1-2 minute:

  • For a positive mindset, try practicing gratitude. You can do this with journaling.
  • Or if you are not a fan of writing in journals, you can send a text or a short note and give gratitude to others. How about a nice memory of your time with a loved one and reminding them how much fun that was? Or thanking someone for a job well done – no matter how small.  
  • You can also read scripture, books, or whatever gets you into the positive mindset.

If you are worried that doing squats while walking the dog is going to look weird, remember what Dave Ramsey of The Ramsey Shows says: “If being broke is normal, I want to be weird for the rest of my life”. Weird is how you get to health – most of us are sedentary and overweight.  Our  population is sick and unhealthy – so we need to be weird. Gosh – how many times have I heard that? People think I’m nuts and beyond weird for all the things I’m doing to stay healthy and young. But my goal is to live well so that I can focus on the priorities in my life – family, leadership in business, friends and community.  

Try these techniques – you will notice how much impact 5 minutes can make to your day.  Remember that you have to come first so you can help others. Don’t jump into social media or into the priorities of others UNTIL you’ve taken time for your 5 minutes to ground yourself.

Here’s the podcast on the 5-minute morning routine.

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.