Newsletters Archive

The Health and Wellness Letter - September 2007

September 2007, Vol. 1 No. 3

In This Issue:

Self-Care Action Steps for Maintaining and Improving Your Health (Part 1)
Health Stories in the News

 

Self-Care Action Steps for Maintaining
and Improving Your Health (Part 1)

Too many people in this country mistake health and wellness to mean simply the absence of disease. Health is far more than this, however. Derived from an ancient Anglo-Saxon word that means "to make Whole," health means wholeness.
To be whole means to have an abundant supply of energy and overall sense of satisfaction and contentment physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A person operating on this level bounces out of bed each day, refreshed from a good night's sleep and eager to be about his or her business. Such people not only have greater levels of energy, they also tend to be happier and to have fuller, more deeper relationships with their spouses or partners, families, friends and co-workers.
High a standard as that may seem, it actually is quite attainable. To achieve it, though, you have to be willing to take the necessary steps that will lead you to health's door. Remember, we are talking here not only of physical wellness, but also of emotional, mental and spiritual health. True health means:
  • Effectively and easily being able to manage stress
  • Accessing your innate levels of creativity to both solve the
    problems in your life and to create further successes and prosperity
  • More fully enjoying your daily interactions with others
  • Having a fuller, more intimate love life
  • Feeling connected to your community
It may surprise you to hear this, yet the keys to achieving all of the above characteristics of optimal health are well within your reach.
Practitioners of the healing arts recognize that our bodies, emotions and thoughts are all interconnected. Therefore, achieving improvement in one level of your life will create improvement in all the others. This makes it possible, by focusing on your physical health, for instance, to resolve emotional problems, as well. As an example, consider how easily a feeling of depression or anxiety can disappear simply by participating in an activity that you enjoy, such as golf, tennis, bicycling or taking a hike in a natural setting.
Nurturing health in "body, mind and spirit" is often referred to as holistic or integrative medicine. The primary emphasis of this type of medicine is on achieving and maintaining optimum wellness on all levels. To a large degree, holistic practitioners accomplish this by teaching their patients principles of self-care and prevention. What follows are the most commonly used guidelines recommended by holistic physicians for accomplishing this.
Health of the body means being well both physically and environmentally. From the perspective of holistic medicine, achieving this optimum state of physical health is largely due to an ongoing commitment to four factors: Diet and Nutrition, Exercise, Restful Sleep and Environmental Awareness (safeguarding against toxins and allergenic substances at home and work, including hidden allergies that can sap energy). Becoming familiar with these factors and following the guidelines below will help you improve your health and increase your resistance to disease.
Diet And Nutrition: The importance of proper diet in relationship to health was stressed as long as 2,500 years ago, when Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, proclaimed his famous dictum, "Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food". In the 12th century, famed physician Moses Maimonides echoed Hippocrates with the instruction, "No illness which can be treated by diet should be treated by any other means." This emphasis on diet is known in holistic medicine as nutritional medicine. Unfortunately, little training in diet and nutrition is provided in today's conventional medical schools and universities, meaning that many physicians, unless they have studied nutrition on their own, are incapable of recommending a diet and nutritional program that meets the specific needs of each of their patients. Fortunately, this trend is beginning to change.
The key to healthy eating can be summarized in two words: whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unadulterated, and free of hydrogenated oils, sweeteners, additives, or preservatives. These include all fresh and organic fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes), seeds and nuts, free-range meats and poultry, fish, and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese (use sparingly and avoid altogether if you are lactose intolerant). Healthy fats and oils should also be included as a dietary staple. Good food sources include olives, avocados, wheat germ, seeds, nuts, and wheat germ, while healthy oils include, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower, canola, wheat germ, and flaxseed (do not use for cooking). Fiber is another important component of a healthy diet. Besides fruits and vegetables, good sources of fiber include brown rice, whole wheat, and rolled oats.
All of the above food types provide an abundant supply of the necessary vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids necessary for good health. Eating at least 5 to 7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day will also provide you with a rich source of enzymes, which help digestion and assimilation. You can easily accomplish this by making salads or steaming or sauteing a variety of vegetables, and by snacking on fruits between meals. Alkaline-rich fruits and vegetables also help to maintain the body's proper pH level, something that many researchers point to as playing a crucial role in resisting disease
Also be sure to drink adequate amounts of filtered water throughout the day, in place of coffee, non-herbal tea, soda, and commercial fruit juices (which are usually laced with artificial sweeteners). Sufficient water intake is extremely important for good health, due to the fact that water is the medium through which all bodily functions occur. In place of the more common recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, many holistic physicians recommend that we drink half (healthy but sedentary individuals) to two-thirds (active individuals) of an ounce of water for every pound that we weigh. This means that a healthy, sedentary adult who weighs 160 pounds should drink about 80 ounces of water a day, while his more active counterpart should drink up to 112 ounces. People whose diets are already high in raw, fresh fruits and vegetables, may need less water intake, however, since such foods are 85 to 90 percent water. Herbal teas and natural fruits juices that are free of sugar are also acceptable water substitutes.
In addition to the recommendations above, none of the following ingredients belong in a healthy, whole foods diet: Sugar, commercially processed salt, hydrogenated oils (found in margarine, cooking fats, packaged foods, commercial cereals, and many brands of peanut butter), and refined carbohydrates (white bread, biscuits, cakes white rice, pastas made from white flour, and other processed foods). Caffeine and alcohol can also have a negative impact on your health and should only be used in moderation.
Remember that the quality of the foods you eat determines the quality of the "fuel" available to your body as it performs its countless functions. A healthy diet can dramatically increases your energy levels over time and is the primary preventive measure you can take to safeguard against disease. On the other hand, it is not necessary to become a fanatic about the foods you eat. For most people who are already in a reasonably good state of health, eating healthy 80 percent of the time, while satisfying a sweet tooth or craving for pizza the other 20 percent, is a good rule of thumb that most people can safely follow. Be aware, though, that if you are not used to eating whole foods, you may experience initial symptoms of headache, fatigue, and increased trips to the bathroom as you transition to a healthier diet. Such symptoms are simply signs that your body is finally feeling well enough to throw off toxins long stored in your tissues. Usually, such symptoms will pass within a few days as your improved eating habits start to take hold. If they persist or becoming too discomforting, it may mean that you are trying to do too much too soon. Increased water intake can often help during this time by flushing toxins out of the bloodstream. Be sure to get adequate rest, as well.
Nutritional Supplementation: Due to a variety of factors, including the stress of daily life, environmental pollution, and the diminished trace mineral content in the soil in which our foods are grown, for most people a healthy diet alone is not enough to ensure health. For this reason, holistic physicians recommend nutritional supplements as part of a daily health regimen. Once again, biochemical individuality plays a role in determining the proper dosages.
Every person requires the same nutrients for proper physiological functioning. The amount of each nutrient needed by each of us varies greatly, however, due to such considerations as genetic predisposition, stress level, the environments in which we live and work, and our type of lifestyle (active or sedentary).
People who smoke, drink alcohol, or suffer from illness or allergies all have higher nutritional needs, as well, as do pregnant women. Therefore, to get the best results from nutritional supplementation, it is advisable that you consult with a nutritionally-oriented health practitioner. In the meantime, the table below provides a suggested dosage range for the most common antioxidant vitamins and minerals that most people can use as part of their daily routine for maintaining their health.
  • Vitamin C (as polyascorbate) -- 1,000 to 2,000 mg 3 times per day
  • Beta-carotene -- 25,000 IU 1 to 2 times per day
  • Vitamin E -- 400 IU 1 to 2 times per day
  • B-complex vitamins -- 50 to 100 mg of each B vitamin per day
  • Folic acid -- 400 to 800 mcg per day
  • Selenium -- 100 to 200 mcg per day
  • Zinc picolinate -- 15 to 35 mg per day
  • Calcium citrate or apatite -- 1,000 mg per day
  • Magnesium citrate or aspartate -- 500 mg per day
  • Chromium polynicotinate -- 200 mcg per day
  • Manganese -- 10 to 15 mg per day
  • Copper -- 2 mg per day Iron -- 10 to 18 mg per day.
A number of nutritional formulas on the market contain all of these ingredients, making it easier to adopt such a program.
Exercise: Regular exercise can contribute more to optimal physical health than any other health practice, with the possible exception of diet. Adopting an exercise program at least three times a week can improve your energy level, aid in digestion, increase circulation, promote restful sleep, decrease stress, increase self esteem, raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increase longevity, enhance mental function, and decrease depression and anxiety. Ideally, an exercise program should incorporate a mix of activities that increase your aerobic capacity, while at the same time enhancing strength and flexibility. A routine geared solely towards strength conditioning, for instance, does little to increase aerobic capacity and can even diminish flexibility, so it's a good idea to add a stretching routine and an aerobic workout on alternate days to get the full benefits of an effective exercise practice.
Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise refers to any form of exercise that requires increased oxygen intake in order to supply energy to the muscles via the mechanism of fat and carbohydrate metabolism. Such exercise over time produces many benefits to the cardiovascular system and delivers oxygen throughout the body, resulting in greater cardiac efficiency, lower blood pressure, and a slower heart rate, along with an overall feeling of well-being.
There are a variety of aerobic exercises to choose from. Among them are hiking, swimming, bicycling, and jumping rope. Jogging is another popular form of aerobic exercise, although care should be taken to stretch before and after you jog, to wear good running shoes to support your arches and ankles, and to avoid the heavy impact of hard surfaces. Many sports also provide a good aerobic workout, such as racquetball, handball, basketball, and tennis. You can also try treadmills, rowing machines, and stairmasters.
An increasingly popular aerobic exercise among health enthusiasts is rebounding, which can be performed at home on a mini-trampoline (available at most sports stores). Rebounding only takes 15 to 20 minutes a day, and as little as ten minutes of vigorous rebounding has been shown to offer the same benefits as an hour of jogging, without the accompanying joint and ligament strain. Rebounding is also considered the best single form of exercise for keeping the lymphatic system healthy, which in turns boost immune function.
But far and away the safest and easiest form of aerobic exercise is brisk walking. Walking two miles at a brisk pace burns almost as many calories as jogging, as well as offering other similar health benefits. Swinging your arms when you walk will burn up to an additional ten percent more calories and can also provide an upper-body workout.
The key to a successful aerobic routine is to follow it consistently, which is easier to do if you select an activity that you enjoy. If you are not in the habit of exercising, consult your physician before beginning. You might also want to seek instruction from an aerobics instructor, who can help you determine and maintain you target heart rate (60 to 85 percent of your age subtracted from 220). If possible, exercise outdoors when convenient, since fresh air and sunshine provides greater health benefits than a workout indoors. Also make sure that you exercise at least half an hour before meals, or two and a half hours after you eat, to avoid indigestion. And never begin any aerobic activity in the midst of an emotional crisis, especially anger, as doing so can trigger a heart attack.
Strength Conditioning: There are three types of strength conditioning exercise: calisthenics, with aids, and in combination with aerobics. Calisthenics include sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, and swimming. Free weights and weight machines are examples of strength conditioning with aids, and strengthening in combination with aerobics refers to various forms of interval training, which can be performed while running, bicycling, or jumping rope.
The most popular form of strength conditioning in America is weight training. If you have never trained with weights before, it is advisable to consult with a trainer, who can help design a weight training program that is tailored to your specific needs and abilities. A typical routine is to use weights two or three times a week, alternating with aerobics and stretching exercises.
Building and maintaining muscle strength is an essential part of good overall physical health, and strength conditioning is an excellent way of doing so. It isn't necessary to lift a lot of weight to get results, however. In fact, to tone muscle you will get better results using less weight and performing more repetitions. But if you want to bulk up, you will need to increase the amount of weight you use and do fewer reps. Wear a weight belt during weight training to keep the spine aligned, and exhale as you exert effort. Working with a spotter when using free weights is also advisable, in order to avoid injury.
Flexibility Exercises: Maintaining a limber, flexible body is another essential component of optimal physical health. Flexibility enhances overall physical performance by allowing the various muscle groups to operate at peak efficiency, maintains good posture, and decreases the chance of injury. Improved circulation and increased tendon and ligament health are other benefits of muscles that are strong and flexible.
The most common method of promoting flexibility is to stretch. Stretching exercises are best performed before and after other types of exercise, after five minutes or more of movement, which improves circulation and makes stretching easier. As you stretch, you should feel tension in the muscle or muscle group you are stretching, but not to the point of pain. Breathe into the stretch as you perform it. This both elongates the muscle further, and relaxes it, enabling you to hold the stretch for thirty seconds. Repeat each stretch two or more times, which will increase your range. Over time, a few minutes of daily stretching will result in a noticeable improvement in how you feel.
Yoga is another popular form of stretching, which both improves flexibility and increases muscle strength. Proper breathing is essential to all forms of yoga and, in addition to enhancing flexibility, also results in improved concentration and mental and emotional well-being. There are many forms of yoga, with hatha yoga being the most popular form in the West. Yoga is increasingly being recognized by researchers as an optimum form of overall exercise, since it combines aerobics and strength conditioning with stretching to provide a total body workout. Ideally, it is best to spend a few months receiving instruction from a qualified yoga teacher in order to learn the proper way of performing each yoga pose.
Sleep: According to Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., a leading holistic physician and founding president of Bastyr University, one of the most important aspects of ensuring optimal health is adequate sleep. "It's while we are sleeping that the body's regenerative processes are at work," Dr. Pizzorno explains. "But in our society today, adequate sleep is becoming lost. We are averaging almost two hours less sleep a night than we got one hundred years ago. And even when we are getting the sleep, we aren't sleeping as deeply. We're sleeping later at night and bypassing the normal circadian rhythm that's created by nature."
Dr. Pizzorno's claims are borne out by the fact that 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. Lack of sleep results in depressed immune function, increased susceptibility to disease, stress, diminished mental acuity, depression and anxiety, poor job performance, and increased risk of accidents. While commonly prescribed sleeping pills can provide benefit in cases of insomnia and other sleep problems, they can also be fraught with side effects and possibly lead to dependency. A more holistic approach to promoting proper sleep is to establish a regular bedtime each night in order to reattune yourself to nature's circadian rhythms, which research shows has a definite counterpart in the human body, both neurologically and within the endocrine system. To improve your sleeping habits, consider retiring no later than 10 P.M. and establishing an early wake-up time of 6 to 7 A.M. every day, regardless of when you go to bed. If additional help is needed, consult with a holistic physician, who can help you determine and alleviate whatever other factors may be interfering with your ability to get a good night's rest.
Creating Healthy Home and Work Environments
Living in an environment that is free of environmental toxins and pollutants, breathing good quality air, and drinking pure, clean water, is essential for good health. Unfortunately, doing so is becoming an increasingly difficult task in today's modern world. Yet a variety of self-care measures are available that you can employ preventively and therapeutically to safeguard yourself from harmful chemicals and pollutants.
One of the most important aspects of environmental health is clean, fresh air. Sixty percent of all Americans live in areas where the air quality is unhealthy, according to EPA standards. In addition, many new, air-conditioned buildings suffer from 'sick building syndrome,'" and are breeding grounds for airborne bacteria and fungi. To combat such factors, consider supplementing with antioxidant vitamins (see above), following a healthy, whole foods diet, and drinking plenty of pure, filtered water to flush out toxins in your system. It's also helpful to create a setting of indoor plants in your home and at work. Plants oxygenate the air, create more moisture, which makes for healthier breathing, and some plants also filter out carbon monoxide and organic chemicals. Plus, they add beauty and can increase feelings of well-being.
Using natural products that emit no pollutants is another important step anyone can take to reduce indoor environmental pollution. Such products include wood, cotton, and metals, in place of synthetic particle board, plastics, and polyester. Other environmental self-care measures include avoiding second-hand smoke (if you smoke, get help to quit), using efficient furnace filters at home, reducing the use of coal- and wood-burning fireplaces and stoves, replacing commercial cleaning agents with nontoxic products (available in most health food stores), regularly cleaning carpets and rugs to prevent mold and bacteria build-up, keeping the bedroom window open during sleep to ensure a stream of fresh air, maintaining proper ventilation at home and at work, taking regular breaks away from your computer, and spending regular periods of time outdoors in a natural, unpolluted setting.
(Continued Next Month)
Health Stories in the News
The Mediterranean Diet Is Good for Your Heart - A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that the Mediterranean Diet (TMD) that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and olive oil helps to protect against heart disease and lower blood pressure levels. The primary benefit the study revealed was that regularly following the Mediterranean Diet helps to reduce levels of oxidized LDL (Bad) cholesterol. This is significant, since oxidation of LDL cholesterol can significantly add to the risk that elevated cholesterol levels pose for heart attack and other types of heart disease. In the study, 372 subjects with a high risk for heart disease (average age 67.8, 210 women, 162 men)), were randomly assigned to a low-fat diet or one of two Mediterranean Diets - one with added olive oil and one with add nuts. The controlled study then monitored each groups LDL and blood pressure levels for three months. At the end of this time, the TMD plus olive oil group had an average reduction in levels of oxidized LDL by 10.6 units per liter, while the nut-rich TMD group had a reduction of 7.3 units per liter. Based on these results, Ramon Estruch, from the Service of Internal Medicine at Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, stated that people who follow the TMD "will show in the long run a 50 per cent reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular complications."
Previous studies have shown that the Mediterranean Diet can also significantly reduce the risk of obesity, certain types of cancer, and lung disease.
Source: Archives of Internal Medicine 2007, Volume 167, Pages 1195-1203 "Effect of a traditional Mediterranean diet on lipoprotein oxidation: A randomized, controlled trial" Authors: M. Fito, M. Guxens, et. al.
Eating Right To Keep Your Brain Healthy - According to Lona Sandon, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, Texas, foods rich in iron, zinc, niacin, thiamin and vitamins B6 and B12 help keep the mind sharp, while deficiencies of these same nutrients can hamper brain function. To support brain health Sandon recommends that people eat the following foods that are rich in these nutrients:
  • Iron: Beef, fish, poultry, leafy vegetables
  • Zinc: Oysters, nuts, grains, beans, cereals, whole-grain breads
  • Niacin: Beef, fish, poultry, leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, tomatoes,carrots, milk
  • Thiamin: Beef, pork, nuts, grains, peas, spinach, some beans, breads
  • Vitamin B6: Liver, fish, poultry, green beans, bananas, nuts
  • Vitamin B12: Beef, liver, shellfish, eggs, milk, fortified cereals
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: found primarily in fish.
Source: Diet For A Healthy Brain. United Press International (UPI), June 29, 2007.
Eating Dark Chocolate Each Day Can Lower Your Blood Pressure - Here's a health story we all can applaud. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), eating 30 calories of dark chocolate each day (approximately 6 grams) can significantly lower your blood pressure. In addition, daily consumption of chocolate at this amount poses no risk of weight gain or any other health risks. This report is based on an 18-week study conducted by researchers at the University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, in which 44 patients aged between 56 and 73 ate 6.3g a day of either dark chocolate or white chocolate once per day. All of the study participants suffered from untreated upper-range pre-hypertension (blood pressure between 130/85 and 139/89) or stage 1 hypertension (BP between 140/90 and 160/100). At the end of the study, those who ate dark chocolate exhibited reduced blood pressure levels and an overall decline in the prevalence of high blood pressure from 86 to 68 percent, while no health benefits were found in the group who ate white chocolate.
Source: http://news.scotsman.com/health.cfm?id=1038602007

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